The Oregon Trail (video game)

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The Oregon Trail
The Oregon Trail cover.jpg
DOS Cover art
Developer(s) MECC
Publisher(s) Brøderbund
The Learning Company
Series The Oregon Trail Edit this on Wikidata
Platform(s) Android, Apple II, Atari 8-Bit, iOS, Macintosh, BlackBerry, Commodore 64, DOS, Facebook, Java ME, Windows, Mobile, Phone 7, TI-99/4a, ColecoVision
Release December 3, 1971
Genre(s) Adventure
Mode(s) Single-player video game Edit this on Wikidata
Screenshot from the Apple II version

The Oregon Trail is a computer game originally developed by Don Rawitsch, Bill Heinemann, and Paul Dillenberger in 1971 and produced by the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (MECC) in 1974.[1] The original game was designed to teach school children about the realities of 19th-century pioneer life on the Oregon Trail. The player assumes the role of a wagon leader guiding a party of settlers from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon's Willamette Valley via a covered wagon in 1848.

The game is the first entry in the Oregon Trail series, and has since been released in many editions by various developers and publishers who have acquired rights to it, as well as inspiring a number of spinoffs (such as The Yukon Trail and The Amazon Trail) and the parody/homage The Organ Trail.



The game includes several landmarks along the trail where players can make decisions, shop for supplies or rest. These landmarks include: Kansas River, Big Blue River, Fort Kearney, Chimney Rock, Fort Laramie, Independence Rock, South Pass, Fort Bridger, Green River, Soda Springs, Fort Hall, Snake River, Fort Boise, Grande Ronde Valley in the Blue Mountains, Fort Walla Walla, and The Dalles. When approaching Oregon's Willamette Valley, travelers can either float a raft through the Columbia River Gorge or take the Barlow Road.[citation needed]


An important aspect of the game was the ability to hunt. Using guns and bullets bought over the course of play, players select the hunt option (#8) and hunt wild animals to add to their food reserves. In the original version, there were no graphics and players were timed on how fast they could type "BANG," "WHAM," or "POW," with misspelled words resulting in a failed hunt. In the first full-graphics version, players controlled a figure who could aim a rifle in one of eight directions and fire single shots at animals. In later versions, players hunted with a cross-hair controlled by the mouse or touchscreen.[a] While the number of wild game shot during a hunting excursion is limited by only the player's supply of bullets, the maximum amount of meat that can be carried back to the wagon is 100 pounds in early versions of the game. In later versions, as long as there were at least two living members of the wagon party, 200 pounds could be carried back to the wagon. In the later version, players could hunt in different environments. For example, hunting during winter would result in graphics showing grass covered in snow. In later versions, the over-hunting of animals would result in "scarcity" and reduce the number of animals that appeared later in the game. Some versions also allow the player to go fishing, with the 40th-anniversary version released on Wii and Nintendo 3DS using motion controls to cast the fishing rod.[2]


Throughout the course of the game, members of the player's party could fall ill and not rest, causing further harm to the victim. The party could die from various causes, such as measles, snakebite, exhaustion, typhoid, cholera, and dysentery.[citation needed] People could also die from drowning or accidental gunshot wounds. The player's oxen were also subject to illness and death. In Oregon Trail II for PC and later releases, when a member of the player's party dies, the player has the option of conducting a brief funeral; if the player elects to do so, the player may write a tombstone epitaph for the party member before continuing down the trail.[citation needed] However, the player may also choose to have the remaining party consume the deceased member if their amount of food is low, thus keeping the members alive.


At the conclusion of the journey, a player's score is determined in two stages. In the first stage, the program awards a "raw" or unscaled number of points for each remaining family member (weighted by party health), each remaining possession (weighted by type), and remaining cash on hand (one point per dollar). In the second stage, the program multiplies this raw score depending on the party's initial level of resources determined by the profession of the party's leader; for example, in the Apple II game, a banker starting with $1600 receives no bonus, the final score of a carpenter starting with $800 is doubled, and the final score of a farmer starting with $400 is tripled.[citation needed]


Aggregate score
Metacritic66/100 (iOS)[3]
Review scores
AllGame3.5/5 stars[4]
GameSpot3/10 (Wii)[5]

The Oregon Trail was extremely successful, selling over 65 million copies,[6] after ten iterations over forty years.[7] It was included in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die.[8] It was a hallmark in American elementary schools in the 1980s, 1990s, and early-mid 2000s as many school computers, including the Apple II, came bundled with the game.[9][10] Smithsonian magazine observed, "The Oregon Trail is still a cultural landmark for any school kid who came of age in the 1980s or after. Even now, there remains a constant pressure to revive the series, so that nostalgic Gen Xers and Millennials can amble westward with a dysentery-riddled party once again."[11] In 2014 it inspired a parody musical, The Trail to Oregon![12]

The game's popularity in school computer labs lead to the terminology Oregon Trail Generation to describe people born during the Millennial/Generation X cusp years. The video game has been described as an identifying experience for these cuspers, typically described as those born during the late 1970s to early 1980s.[13]

The game spawned many remakes, which received average to poor receptions. The Wii version obtained a 3 out of 10 from GameSpot, citing bland graphics, awkward controls and a confusing interface. Despite this, the reviewers stated that it could be a good educational tool.[5] The game's iOS remake received a better reception, with a Metacritic score of 66/100.[3] Multiplayer claimed the game was fun at first, but soon went downhill. They gave the game a 65/100.[14]

Polygon described it as one of the most successful games of all time, calling it a cultural icon.[6] IGN (in 2009) described the game as a "fond memory that will not let you down."[15] Due to its widespread popularity, “The Oregon Trail” was inducted into World Video Game Hall of Fame in 2016.[16][17] In 2012, The Oregon Trail was listed on Time's All-TIME 100 greatest video games list.[18] In 2016, Time placed the game 9th on its The 50 Best Video Games of All Time list.[19]

Notes and References[edit]


  1. ^ or the Wii Remote pointer in the Wii version


  1. ^ Lussenhop, Jessica. "Oregon Trail: How three Minnesotans forged its path | City Pages". City Pages. Retrieved 2017-08-16. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b "The Oregon Trail: American Settler". Metacritic. Retrieved October 27, 2014. 
  4. ^ Hunt, Drew. "Oregon Trail Review - Allgame". Allgame. Archived from the original on December 10, 2014. Retrieved May 18, 2017. 
  5. ^ a b Venter, Jason (December 16, 2011). "Oregon Trail Review". GameSpot. Retrieved October 27, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Campbell, Colin (July 31, 2013). "The Oregon Trail was made in just two weeks". Polygon. Future plc. Retrieved October 27, 2014. 
  7. ^ Rosenberg, Eli (January 21, 2011). "Sally Has Diphtheria: Is Oregon Trail the Greatest Video Game of All Time?". Retrieved August 29, 2015. 
  8. ^ Mott, Tony (2010). 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die. Universe Publishing. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-7893-2090-2. 
  9. ^ sources, KTVZ.COM news (27 October 2017). "'Travel Oregon: The Game' builds on 'Oregon Trail' legacy". 
  10. ^ "'Minecraft: Education Edition' Brings 21st-Century Students Back to the Oregon Trail". 27 September 2017. 
  11. ^ "How You Wound Up Playing The Oregon Trail in Computer Class". 
  12. ^ "'The Trail to Oregon' musical review: A new kind of Starkid show". 14 July 2014. 
  13. ^ "The Oregon Trail Generation: Life Before and After Mainstream Tech". Social Media Week. 2015-04-21. Retrieved 2018-04-09. 
  14. ^ Pugliese, Tommaso (December 15, 2011). "The Oregon Trail: Pionieri d'America" (in Italian). Retrieved October 27, 2014. 
  15. ^ Buchanan, Levi (March 5, 2009). "Fond Memories: The Oregon Trail". IGN. Retrieved October 27, 2014. 
  16. ^ 'Oregon Trail' officially inducted into the Video Game Hall of Fame 
  17. ^ Minnesota-made 'Oregon Trail' is inducted into Video Game Hall of Fame 
  18. ^ Aamoth, Doug (November 15, 2012). "All-TIME 100 Video Games". Time. Time Inc. Archived from the original on November 18, 2012. Retrieved September 20, 2016. 
  19. ^ "The 50 Best Video Games of All Time". Time. Time Inc. August 23, 2016. Archived from the original on August 26, 2016. Retrieved September 19, 2016. 

External links[edit]