Gold Rush!

aka: Gold Rush! Classic
Moby ID: 440
DOS Specs
Buy on DOS
$59.99 used on eBay
Buy on Windows
$2.99 new on Steam
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Special Edition

Description official descriptions

In Gold Rush!, Jerrod Wilson (the player character) receives a letter from his long-lost brother (who fled the city years before when was hastily accused and convicted of a crime he didn't commit) asking him to join in Sacramento, California. If that's not enough for Jerrod sell everything and give his hometown Brooklyn a fond adieu, under the stamp was one of the first nuggets of Californian gold seen in the Atlantic shores of the United States. So, Jerrod bids farewell to his peaceful life as a newspaper editor, and becomes a fore-runner in the the great Gold Rush of 1849, hoping to find his brother and "strike gold" (literally).

Released late into the lifespan of Sierra's AGI engine, Gold Rush! features some tricks not seen before the more advanced SCI engine, such as enlarged characters, but it is best known for the three routes available to reach California: by land, travel by boat to reach the Atlantic shore of Panama, cross the isthmus, and then get a second boat in the Pacific shore, or making the dangerous all-boat trip by Cape Horn. Each route has its dangers: Cholera might strike as you make your way across the Northern states or your boat might sink. As usual with Sierra adventures, instant killing happens if the player is careless, but will also happen at random. Other important (and innovative) concept is the game being timed. If Jerrod takes too long to leave Brooklyn, passages to California increase in price, and his house devalues.

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Credits (DOS version)

6 People

Interpreter / Development System
Graphics / Artwork



Average score: 69% (based on 9 ratings)


Average score: 3.5 out of 5 (based on 70 ratings with 4 reviews)

This is my alltime favourite Sierra AGI game

The Good
The feeling of freedom, actually believing that you could basicly do anything. Pick the route myself to California. There storyline held all to the end, the graphics are the best I have seen when it compared to other games developed with the Sierra adventure game interpretor.

The Bad
The nasty disk error that i got when taking the boat to the West. Has nothing much to do with the game tho, more on how I treated my floppies in the 80s.

The Bottom Line
Is you liked the other Sierra games with the text input (Larry 1, Space Quest 1,2 etc) you'r gonna love this one. The puzzles and the adventure in this game kicks ass, I had more fun with this when I first played that I have with Quake 3 today.

DOS · by Mats Rade (29) · 2000

Would you be able to abandon your everyday life?

The Good
"Gold Rush", along with the "Manhunter" (mini)series and the AGI version of "King's Quest IV", was one of the last AGI games. Therefore it already has decent graphics - it still has resolution-related limitations, but certainly isn't as ugly as some of the earliest Sierra adventures. When first looking at the screenshots from this game, I didn't even notice it was AGI...
An aspect very often praised is the liberty the game offers, more precisely in its middle part - three routes you can use to get to California. It doesn't, however, have any influence on later gameplay - the only difference from the player's point of view is that the Panama route yields five points more. However on all routes you will get a Bible (which is later used to solve a code left by Jake) and on all routes you will lose all your money anyway, apart from a golden coin cleverly hidden in a pocket.
Some parts of the game are timed - the gold rush starts 14 minutes into the game and some things have to be done before, otherwise you won't be able to afford the trip to California since everyone wants to strike it rich and transport prices skyrocket. However, when you know what to do it isn't difficult to complete all necessary tasks - you can only have problems if you decide to read all epitaphs in the cemetery, as you can do in a few other games (I recall "King's Quest IV" and the AGD Interactive enhanced remake of "King's Quest II"). They aren't as poetic, chilling ("Reader, take warning by my fate, / Lest you should rue your case too late") or sometimes actually funny ("John Brown is filling his last cavity") like in "King's Quest IV", but still interesting to read. However, the timer can be cheated in an extremely simple way - by changing speed settings to something other than "Normal". It's often hard not to do it because character movement is so slow at normal speed...
However, what I find really captivating in this game is its emotional value. While still remaining a relatively simple adventure game (in terms of storyline), it offers a possibility to identify with the main character. Underneath his well-organized life he is hiding a deep yearning for his dead parents and lost brother. It makes his sudden decision to go to California more plausible - just one letter from his brother, awaited for many years, is able to make him abandon everything.

The Bad
Despite its emotional depth, the game is clearly lacking in terms of dialog. I don't think it would have been difficult to add some more... This part stops being plausible at once - such as in the scene when Jerrod suddenly quits his job and doesn't seem to offer any explanation.
Like many other Sierra games, "Gold Rush" also has its share of annoying random deaths. When sailing the Cape Horn route for the first time, I had to restore the game about five times since "we" finally managed to cross the treacherous waters. Sometimes you need to restore the game to a point before the departure from Brooklyn and then, when you have already seen vistas and read messages which appear during the journey, it would have been better if you could skip yet more of those parts. Non-interactive sequences on the ship or wagon last for several minutes - of course they aren't completely boring, they have some educational value, but after some time they aren't interesting anymore and strongly limit the game's replay value.
On the Cape Horn route there is a short scene when the timer really becomes a pain in the... The ship is running low on supplies and Jerrod catches some fish with his makeshift equipment. However, he has to gather all items and start fishing before he is too exhausted to do anything and it means you really have to be ultra-quick. It's not that easy in an AGI game which doesn't pause when you type...
The timer could have also been done better. The game would be more realistic and plausible if checking the timer wouldn't show time spent playing the game, but instead a time of day - for example if the game's beginning would be 4:15 pm and the gold rush started at half past 4.
Unfortunately, the game isn't bug-free - at least in my version it had a big bug which prevented me from completing the game shortly before the ending. The game just crashed shortly after entering the mine. However, at least in my version this bug can fortunately be bypassed by running the game in Scumm VM and not DOSbox. Scumm VM also seems to implement its own solutions in some way, which for example means that you have more save slots available.

The Bottom Line
Any adventure game satisfies some emotional needs by making the player identify more or less strongly with a character put in a situation which he or she is not likely ever to experience. "Gold Rush" appeals to a yearning which remains present in culture in some way: "if I could abandon all my life, start everything anew, just pursue adventure instead of living my boring everyday life...". Jerrod Wilson does it indeed in a fairly realistic game: he starts the day as a smart journalist in Brooklyn and finishes it on a ship or wagon bound to a faraway destination. It's not easy to imagine being in such a situation and I think many people wouldn't dare make such a decision - the game lets us do it through a "proxy" when we aren't likely to be put before such a choice.

DOS · by Nowhere Girl (8680) · 2013

Entertaining AND a historically accurate learning experience!

The Good
This game threw me off when it first came out because they had it at my school and of course any game they had at school for kids to play wasn't going to be fun but I was already an experienced Sierra game player so I knew it was probably fun. To my surprise, it was much like the older King's Quests in the sense that you wander around exploring and solving little puzzles. But it took place in early America which was kind of a breath of fresh air.

The game has 3 main different paths you can take to add to the replayability of the game and in addition to that, it makes you think that there are actually events that could have happened but didn't due to the choice you made, unlike strict-linear-games that don't let you feel that.

The game takes you through all sorts of twists and turns all the way to Cali and many events take place along the way.

A wonderful change of pace from the rest of the Sierra adventure series and loaded with enough game play to last you a long time.

The Bad
There wasn't really anything I didn't like about this game.

The Bottom Line
An excellent adventure game to experience. If you liked the King's Quest and series alike, you will definitely want to give this one a try.

DOS · by OlSkool_Gamer (88) · 2004

[ View all 4 player reviews ]


Subject By Date
Running the game in Dosbox Nowhere Girl (8680) Jul 26, 2012


Alternative Routes

Gold Rush! has an - for an adventure game - unusual replay value, as there are three different routes you can take to get to California. Each one of them offers its own puzzles and scenes.

Copy Protection

The game uses text from the manual to prevent software piracy. If the wrong word is entered, the player will be arrested and hanged on grounds of claim jumping.


The designers re-released the game in 1998 as California Gold Rush!.


Although not the last Sierra adventure to use the AGI engine, Gold Rush! certainly tried pushing the old EGA technology to the limit. Certain scenes involve a much larger character walking around, something used much more convincingly in later SCI titles such as King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella.

Information also contributed by game nostalgia, nicholas mccolm and Ricky Derocher.


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Related Sites +

  • Crapshoot
    A humorous text on PC Gamer which talks about weird aspects of some games; including this one.
  • ScummVM
    supports the DOS, Amiga, Atari ST, Apple IIgs versions of Gold Rush under Windows, Linux, Macintosh and other platforms.
  • Sunlight Games
    The independent game developer Sunlight Games re-released Gold Rush! News and media.

Identifiers +

  • MobyGames ID: 440
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Are you familiar with this game? Help document and preserve this entry in video game history! If your contribution is approved, you will earn points and be credited as a contributor.

Contributors to this Entry

Game added by MajorDad.

Amiga added by POMAH. Apple IIgs, Macintosh added by Kabushi. Atari ST added by Martin Smith. Apple II added by Terok Nor. Windows added by LepricahnsGold.

Additional contributors: uclafalcon, Macs Black, Renat Shagaliev, Patrick Bregger, Karsa Orlong.

Game added November 16, 1999. Last modified December 3, 2023.