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If you’re still on Windows 3.1, Windle is the best way to get in on the Wordle craze


<em>Windle</em> is a clone of <em>Wordle</em> meant to fit in with old Windows games like <em>Minesweeper</em> and <em>Chip's Challenge</em>.
Enlarge / Windle is a clone of Wordle meant to fit in with old Windows games like Minesweeper and Chip’s Challenge.

If you thought that Wordle was old news, here’s something even older: Dialup.net has created and released Windle, a Wordle clone designed to run on Windows 3.1 and the early ’90s PC hardware that would have been running Windows 3.1. 

You could run Windows 3.1 and its apps on modern hardware within a virtual machine or DOSBox, but to maximize its authenticity, Windle was built and run on period-appropriate hardware with period-appropriate tools. The PC used was a Gateway 2000 4DX2-66V with a 66 MHz Intel 80486 DX2 CPU, Windows 3.11 for Workgroups, and the very first version of the Borland Delphi development environment. Running on the original hardware helped expose issues that may not have been evident in a virtualized copy of Windows 3.1—like a system hang that would occur as the entire dictionary was loaded into memory by a 66 MHz processor, for example. 

Playing <em>Windle</em> works great in a virtual Windows 98 SE environment, just like the other Microsoft Entertainment Pack games.
Enlarge / Playing Windle works great in a virtual Windows 98 SE environment, just like the other Microsoft Entertainment Pack games.

Andrew Cunningham

Windle was designed to fit in with Microsoft Entertainment Pack games like Chip’s ChallengeJezzBallMinesweeper, and Rodent’s Revenge, making its aesthetic instantly recognizable to anyone who grew up surrounded by the bulky beige PCs of the early ’90s. Like those games, it also runs well in early 32-bit versions of Windows like Windows 95 and 98—I tested it using a Windows 98 Second Edition installation I set up in DosBox-X to run old games and other software. 

If you want to run Windle without unearthing an ancient PC or setting up a virtualized ’90s Windows environment, Dialup.net also provides a 32-bit build of Windle that will run on modern 64-bit versions of Windows 10 and Windows 11, though it “won’t look as classic as it does on Windows 3.1.” The 64-bit versions of Windows can’t run 16-bit software without some kind of virtualization or emulation.

Windle isn’t the only retro Wordle clone that exists—the game has also been ported to the original Game Boy and various Palm PDAs. Hardware limitations keep these ports from using the same dictionary and UI as the web-based version, but the core gameplay is simple enough that even the Game Boy’s monochromatic screen can get the basics across.





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