In memoriam, Donald Sutherland

The Oregon Trail

aka: The Oregon Trail: Classic Edition
Moby ID: 746
Apple II Specs
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Description official description

As a covered wagon party of pioneers, you head out west from Independence, Missouri to the Willamette River and valley in Oregon. You first must stock up on provisions, and then, while traveling, make decisions such as when to rest, how much food to eat, etc. The Oregon Trail incorporates simulation elements and planning ahead, along with discovery and adventure, as well as mini-game-like activities (hunting and floating down the Dalles River).

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Credits (DOS version)

21 People



Average score: 68% (based on 3 ratings)


Average score: 3.8 out of 5 (based on 95 ratings with 2 reviews)

A classic of its period and genre.

The Good
Oregon Trail (OT) is a classic game. Not just classic in the sense that it is an artifact from a bygone era, but also in the sense that it is well-designed and still fun to play today. The different aspects of OT--the economic, decision-making component; the arcade component; the educational, informational component--are all well-designed and well-integrated. It may not rise to the overall level of quality exemplified by Sid Meier's Pirates!, but it still resembles Pirates! as an extremely impressive hybrid game.

You have important decisions to make from the very start, like: Who do I want to be? Choosing between banker or farmer doesn't just affect your final score. It determines the amount of money you have to spend in the game, and if you're a true gamer, it will also shape your whole mindset for your game. You might even give the other members of your party (wife, children, etc.) names that seem appropriate to your social status. A little role-playing goes a long way, folks!

Once you get out on the Trail, there are all kinds of approaches you can take. Go early and get there late. Leave late and get there early. Pay for tolls, or go it on your own. Buy lots of food and supplies and never stop, or hunt for food constantly along the way. Or just wing it, letting the Trail itself influence your decisions as you make them. For a game with a pretty strict path to follow and one main objective to reach at the end, there are certainly a lot of ways to play it!

The Bad
The music/sound of OT is a bit grating as far as I am concerned, even for a game from this time period. Fortunately, it is easily turned off. Also, I feel that the random (mostly bad) events are more annoying than enjoyable. However, I do not know how this game could be as challenging or historical as it is without those random events, so even this criticism is nitpicking.

I loathed the hunting sequences when I first discovered OT in grade school, because they seemed silly and pointless. Revisiting them now, I can see how they add to the game. Hunting provides a little arcade action, and it also drives home the a key historical point: food didn't just magically appear on the frontier. We modern city-slickers take the convenience of grocery-store food on our dinner tables for granted!

The Bottom Line
Along with the Carmen Sandiego series, OT flat-out made the edutainment genre. You aren't a true fan of Apple II games, 1980s games, or educational games until you've played Oregon Trail.

Apple II · by PCGamer77 (3158) · 2003

A fun game, but it doesn't feel like you're really traveling the trail

The Good
This game has a very easy learning curve. It doesn't take very long to figure out how to get from your starting point to the Willamette Valley successfully. Trading is easy in this game, and many times the other characters will be willing to trade for food, which is easily had in this game. Hunting is how I kept many of my wagon trains alive until the end. Much of the game is simplified, which I don't think is a bad thing, because when someone gets a broken arm or bit by a rattlesnake, you don't have to worry about them too much. River crossings seem to be the biggest deal in the game, as this is where you can lose supplies and kill people for the most part during the game. I don't know if anyone else has ever tried this, but I took two years to complete some of my crossings, I sincerely doubt if that happened in real life, but it enabled me to build up my score to the highest level possible by the end of the game. The pictures present a fairly good ethnic mix, which would have been present at the time. The arcade sequence can be skipped if you choose to take the Barlow Toll Road instead of going downstream. The Dalles arcade is fairly easy anyway, so taking it is no big deal--this was the first time I didn't mind an arcade sequence that much.

The Bad
The fact that it is not very realistic. It's hard to get people to die when they get sick, unless you're going at a breakneck speed and never stop to rest, which is unnecessary in this game. As I mentioned before, you shouldn't be able to take two years for the crossing without some kind of penalty, and yet I have done this several times. Illnesses not being a big deal in this game strike me as being odd--someone who has cholera or just broke a leg is no big deal, you don't have to treat them or even worry about them. Again, this may be due to the fact that I stopped often to hunt, so my people were getting plenty of rest. You always start at the same year from the same place. There really aren't an awful lot of decisions to be made along the trail in terms of where you are planning to go. The graphics are repetitive, though fairly good for the time. Some of the animation is a bit odd, like the rabbits and squirrels as they run across the screen in the arcade sequence. Another thing I didn't understand is why they were running in the first place--wouldn't they run AFTER you fire your gun, but not before you have tried to shoot at them? The only way to make high score is to start out as a teacher.

The Bottom Line
Despite its flaws, I thought this game was a blast. I had lots of fun playing it. My school never had this game, so this was my first experience of it as an adult. It's a fun game, but it's still just that--a game. I didn't find it to be totally realistic, though I believe the route you take and the guide entries were accurate and fairly well done. Still, for a first attempt at this sort of thing, it was really a good first try--I don't know if there were any other games like it when it first came out, but I could name a whole slew of them now!

DOS · by OceansDaughter (106) · 2002


Subject By Date
Notes for later submissions... Pseudo_Intellectual (66546) Dec 7, 2011


1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die

The Oregon Trail appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by Octopus Books (ISBN 978-184403-681-3).

The book's summary (p.22): The Oregon Trail has seen countless ports and remakes since its 1971 debut, but the canonical version is probably the 1985 version for Apple II computers. It's this edition, with color graphics that were remarkably detailed for the time, that most players remember as their first encounter with that strange beast known as "edutainment".

Young Sheldon

The game can be seen in two episodes of the Big Bang Theory prequel TV series Young Sheldon, being played and discussed by both Sheldon and his twin sister Missy.


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Related Sites +

  • On the Oregon Trail
    A short story inspired by this game, authored by Caitlin Horrocks and published in the Jan '09 edition of the Hobart literary journal.

Identifiers +

  • MobyGames ID: 746
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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 Peter Hall.

Windows, Apple II, Windows 3.x added by PCGamer77. Dedicated handheld added by Lampbane. Macintosh added by Scaryfun.

Additional contributors: Martin Smith, Pseudo_Intellectual, formercontrib, Patrick Bregger, Hello X), Matthias Günl.

Game added January 13, 2000. Last modified April 19, 2024.