For the extremely casual gamer who lacked the time, money, energy, and inclination to seek out entertainment anywhere else, the simple but often addictive video games that came bundled with Microsoft’s ubiquitous Windows operating system were a godsend. A pixelated, low-res godsend to be sure, but a boon to cubicle drones and desk jockeys nevertheless. A few quick rounds of SkiFree or WinRisk could provide a much-needed respite, a sort of ultra-cheap vacation, for a bored student cobbling together some mind-numbing book report in Microsoft Word or a beleaguered employee trying to assemble a decent-looking graph of quarterly sales figures in Microsoft Excel.
In the early 1990s, back when the first George Bush was still president, Windows games might have been one of America’s guiltiest pleasures. And now, thanks to Archive.org, those glory days of Windows games can now be relived via The Windows 3.x Showcase, which bills itself as “a collection of curated Windows 3.x software, meant to show the range of software products available for the 3.x Operating System in the early 1990s.”
Here they all are, ’90s nostalgia addicts: Gopher-It, Video Poker, Taipei, Brickbuster, and more, each one playable via an emulator and ready to once again rob people of time and productivity. Other than their now-dated appearance, most of the games have a timeless quality to them, but some of the titles in this collection do reflect the time in which they were made. Election ‘92, for instance, recalls the heated, three-cornered presidential campaign of 24 years ago, pitting Bush The Elder against Bill Clinton and H. Ross Perot. The Windows 3.x Showcase also includes Desert Storm: The Air Campaign, a relic of America’s first war with Iraq. Also on display here is a game based on TV’s Wheel Of Fortune, a program still chugging along decades later with the same exact on-air personnel as it had in 1992.