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What's the Difference between Mahjong and Mahjong Solitaire?

Written by: Benjamin Hartley

Mahjong and Mahjong Solitaire are two captivating tile-based games that have captivated players around the world for decades. Although their names might sound similar, they each offer unique gameplay experiences. In this article, we'll delve into the intricacies of both games, exploring their origins, rules, and cultural significance. By the end, you'll have a clear understanding of the differences between Mahjong and Mahjong Solitaire.

Origins and History

Mahjong originated in China during the Qing Dynasty and is often played with four players. It involves a complex set of rules and strategies, focusing on the collection of sets of tiles based on suits and honors. Mahjong Solitaire, on the other hand, is a single-player game that emerged in the 1980s. It was designed as a digital adaptation of the traditional game, with a simplified goal of matching pairs of tiles to clear the board.

Gameplay and Rules

In Mahjong, players compete to form specific combinations of tiles, such as sets of three or four tiles with the same suit or sequences of consecutive numbers. The game requires strategic thinking, as players must balance offense and defense to win. Mahjong Solitaire, however, is a solitaire game where the player's objective is to clear all the tiles from the board by matching pairs of identical tiles. The tiles must be free on at least one side to be eligible for a match.

Number of Players

Mahjong is typically played with four players, each taking turns drawing and discarding tiles to form winning combinations. Mahjong Solitaire, as the name suggests, is a solitary game played by one person.

Strategy and Skill

Mahjong is renowned for its depth of strategy, involving intricate calculations and decision-making to outwit opponents. Players must consider their tile combinations, opponents' discards, and potential hands to build their winning strategy. Mahjong Solitaire requires a different kind of strategy, focusing on observation and pattern recognition to clear the board efficiently.

Cultural Significance

Mahjong holds cultural significance in many East Asian countries, often played during social gatherings and family events. It has deep-rooted traditions and is associated with strategic thinking and social bonding. Mahjong Solitaire, while not as culturally ingrained, gained popularity through computer and mobile platforms, offering players a casual and relaxing puzzle-solving experience.

Accessibility and Platforms

Mahjong requires physical tiles and a group of players, making it more suitable for in-person interactions. Mahjong Solitaire, on the other hand, can be enjoyed on various digital platforms, making it easily accessible for solo play anytime and anywhere.

Learning Curve

Due to its intricate rules and strategies, Mahjong has a steep learning curve, requiring time and dedication to master. Mahjong Solitaire, with its simplified mechanics, has a shorter learning curve, making it more approachable for beginners.

Time Commitment

A game of Mahjong can take a significant amount of time to complete, especially with four players. In contrast, Mahjong Solitaire offers quick sessions that can be enjoyed during short breaks.

Social Interaction

Mahjong is inherently social, promoting interactions and camaraderie among players. It's an excellent way to bond with friends and family. Mahjong Solitaire, being a solitary game, lacks the social element but offers a sense of personal accomplishment.


Is Mahjong Solitaire a variation of Mahjong?

No, Mahjong Solitaire is not a variation of Mahjong. It's a single-player tile-matching game inspired by Mahjong but with different rules and objectives.

Can Mahjong be played online?

Yes, Mahjong can be played online through various gaming platforms and websites. It allows players to compete with others from around the world.

Is strategy important in Mahjong Solitaire?

While Mahjong Solitaire doesn't require the same level of strategy as traditional Mahjong, it still involves pattern recognition and strategic thinking to clear the tiles efficiently.

Can I play Mahjong Solitaire on my mobile device?

Yes, Mahjong Solitaire is available as a mobile app on various platforms, making it convenient to play on smartphones and tablets.

Are the tiles used in Mahjong Solitaire the same as in Mahjong?

Yes, the tiles in Mahjong Solitaire are typically the same as those used in traditional Mahjong. However, the rules for their arrangement and removal are different.

Is Mahjong Solitaire suitable for beginners?

Yes, Mahjong Solitaire is a great choice for beginners due to its simple mechanics and shorter learning curve compared to traditional Mahjong.


In conclusion, Mahjong and Mahjong Solitaire may share a similar foundation of tile-based gameplay, but they cater to different preferences and playstyles. Mahjong is a traditional multiplayer game rich in strategy and cultural significance, while Mahjong Solitaire offers a solitary puzzle-solving experience. Whether you're drawn to the social dynamics of Mahjong or the casual enjoyment of Mahjong Solitaire, both games have something unique to offer. So, the next time you're in the mood for tile-based entertainment, you'll know exactly which game suits your preferences.

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