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    The Oregon Trail

    Game » consists of 6 releases. Released 1985

    One of the most well-known educational computer games, teaching students about the perils faced by cross-country migrants in the 19th century United States. Lead a wagon through the titular trail and reach Oregon, or die trying!

    Short summary describing this game.

    The Oregon Trail last edited by Nes on 04/26/23 11:21AM View full history


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    The Oregon Trail is an educational historical strategy-simulation game developed and published by MECC for Apple II computers in Autumn 1985. It was later released for DOS PC computers in 1990.

    A remake of the 1975 mainframe game Oregon, as well as its 1980 microcomputer game update, The Oregon Trail tasks players with completing an arduous 2,000-mile wagon trek through the titular Oregon Trail (from Independence, Missouri to the Willamette Valley in Oregon) in the year 1848. Along the way, they visit various U.S. landmarks and must maintain a healthy count of their supplies and health while preparing themselves for various situations (including river crossings, occasional animal hunting, and various random events and misfortunes).

    Rather than the turn-based interactions of the original game, this remake includes a more robust system where players can interrupt their journey to check their supplies, change their pace and rationing, trade and talk with other emigrants, and hunt for food. The game features an improved representation of the Oregon Trail, with players encountering real-life rivers, forts, and other landmarks at a more accurate pace. New features include river crossings (where players choose how to proceed across rivers in a risk-reward system), a new hunting mini-game (where players rotate their hunter around and shoot wandering animals), a scoring system, player professions (where they can start the game with less money for a bigger score boost), updated supplies (with spare wagon parts used for both trading and for certain encounters), NPCs (for chatting and supply trading), and a party system (where players can name each of their five party members and attempt to keep them all alive for score).

    The game later received an enhanced port for Macintosh computers in 1991, featuring a reworked interface for mouse controls, higher-quality graphics, revamped mini-games (with hunting now functioning similar to light-gun shooters), an updated profession system (with occupations that affect certain events, such as carpenters having more success with wagon repair), perishable vs. non-perishable food, a new weight system (where carrying too much supplies slows the group down), and a log that keeps the history of the player's travels. This version was later ported to DOS PC computers in 1992 (sometimes using the title The Oregon Trail Deluxe to differentiate from the original version) and Windows 3.x computers in 1993. The Windows and Mac versions were re-released together in CD-ROM format, adding new voice acting. SoftKey later re-released the original DOS version (in 1996 as The Oregon Trail: Classic Edition) and Windows/Mac version (in 1997, under the brand The Learning Company).

    The game later received multiple sequels throughout the 1990's from MECC and The Learning Company, as well as numerous reboots afterwards (most of which are from Gameloft). It also received multiple spin-offs in the 1990's (including The Yukon Trail, The Amazon Trail, MayaQuest: The Mystery Trail, and Africa Trail), received dedicated card and board games in the mid-2010's, and received a dedicated handheld electronic game in 2018 (which replicates the original game with limited controls in a device resembling a classic computer).


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    In The Oregon Trail, the player assumes the role of the head of a wagon party that has decided to attempt the difficult journey west in the hopes of starting a better life on some of the cheap and plentiful land in the newly minted state of Oregon. At the beginning of the game, the player chooses their character's name and profession as well as the names of the four party members. The profession one chooses effectively serves as the game's difficulty mechanic as these choices determine the player's starting cash, special ability, and score multiplier. For example, choosing the banker profession provides the player $1600 (the most starting cash) but provides no special ability or score multiplier while the carpenter, who starts the game with $800, is more likely to repair broken wagon parts, and receives a score multiplier of 2 (See the image for the complete list of professions).

    The player must then carefully provision their wagon with food, clothing, hunting supplies and spare parts, as well as selecting a team of oxen to haul the load. The trick here is to not overload the wagons by weighing everything's necessity. Overloading the wagons will slow the rate at which the party travels forcing them to survive on the trail for a longer period.

    Once on the trail, the player has to balance the morale and health of their family and beasts of burden against the need to travel quickly enough to reach Oregon before winter closes in, all while managing their dwindling supplies. This is done by selecting the pace at which the wagon party travels (Steady, Strenuous, or Grueling) as well as the size of the meals provided to the party (Filling, Meager, or Bare-Bones). There are few opportunities to re-stock equipment after setting off, barring a few Native American trading posts and some extortionate stores in forts and towns along the trail. The player can always supplement their food supply by playing a fun hunting minigame (providing they remembered to bring enough bullets).

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    As well as forts and trading posts, the trail is dotted with interesting landmarks and treacherous river crossings. When confronted with these crossings, the player must decide whether to caulk the wagons and float across, attempt to ford the river, or wait and pay the ferry to cross (each decision comes with it's own dangers and drawbacks). Along the way the player will be hit with (usually negative) random events, which can range from one of the wagon's wheels breaking, requiring a brief stop and a spare, to a member of the party being stricken with dysentery or cholera, usually leading to death not long after. Deaths in the party leave a tombstone by the side of the road which will appear as a landmark on following playthroughs, making repeat playings a grim reminder of those who have been lost on the trail (or a hilarious reminder of a clever epitaph).

    If the player makes it to Oregon, they must either take the Barley tole road or raft down the Dalles. Choosing the Dalles makes the player complete a white water rafting mini-game to reach their final destination, where they are awarded a score and rank based on how many members of their party survived the trip, the speed of their journey, the provisions they had at the end, and the difficulty of their starting profession (see image for breakdown). This score is then placed on a scoreboard and given a ranking depending on where it falls in the top 10.


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