The Oregon Trail Isn’t Just a Game – It’s an American Legacy

It’s proven that playing retro games helps people feel connected to their friends and family. So if you’re looking for your next encounter with video game nostalgia, going back to play Oregon Trail is an excellent idea.

The game is worth playing even if you haven’t tried it in the past. You can find it online and play it on any browser on your computer. Some developers have also made it possible to play the game on your phone.

We get into the plot and discuss how to play for those revisiting and trying the game for the first time in this post.

Oregon Trail Game: History, Plot, and Game Mechanics

While MECC first brought the game to market in 1974, it was developed three years earlier in 1971. The simple role-playing game was initially developed for children to teach them geography and history. 

However, the game’s distinctive style and amusing tone made it feel less like an educational experience and more like a fun pastime activity. 

Since its release in 1974, it’s been picked up and re-released several times by multiple game development teams that acquired the rights. Besides playing the Oregon Trail game online free, you can also find and play many of its spinoffs and parodies online. 

The Plot

Set in the 19th century, the game involves leading a group of chosen settlers from east to west. The group faces several trials and tribulations along the way, and the player must help them reach their destination as smoothly as possible. 

When the game begins, the player can choose a settler profile. You can be anything from a yoga teacher to a skiing professional. After picking the profile, the player can name their companions and begin their journey westward.

You have an option to buy supplies at the beginning of the journey, but this is optional. Players can buy supplies as they progress through the game. 

What makes the game enticing is that it incorporates simulation elements and makes them a core part of the game. You must make critical decisions: what to buy, when to rest, where to stop, and what to do. 

In this way, there’s a sense of adventure to the game, which is supported by the many mini-games that are a part of the journey.

Furthermore, the player’s party can get shot, drown, fall ill or die if they don’t make the right decisions. The game raises the stakes as the player progresses – there’s no mistaking this game for an unchallenging repetitive experience.

When the journey comes to an end, the score is calculated in two stages. First, the game awards a score according to the number of remaining party members, cash, and items on hand. 

This “raw” score is then multiplied depending on the player’s resources at the beginning of the game. In modern Oregon Trail game apps, you can compete with other players for a high score.

Key Game Mechanics: Hunting and Death

Hunting is a big part of the game, and players must purchase ammunition throughout the game. As you move towards the destination, you will encounter wild animals to hunt for food.

In the initial versions, the player would need to type “wham,” “bang,” or “pow” quickly to hunt. The hunt was a failure if you spelled the words wrong or typed too slow.

However, in newer versions of the game, players control a man on the screen. The man can point the gun in eight directions and shoot at a button-press. Some versions of the game provide players with a mouse-controlled crosshair for hunting.

There are many different animals you can hunt in the game:

  • Bison: Slow-moving animals that provide the most food.
  • Squirrels and rabbits: Swift animals that don’t provide much food.
  • Elk and deer: Moderately fast animals that provide decent amounts of food.
  • Bears: Vary in size and speed and provide different amounts of food.

It’s important to remember that ammunition is limited to how much you purchase. 

In the original version, players could only carry 100 pounds of ammo. However, newer versions allow carrying 200 pounds of ammo as long as there are at least two members in the party.

Players must kill several hundred animals throughout the journey. However, they can only carry 100 pounds of animal meat to the wagon when the hunt ends. In this way, the game paints a realistic picture of how things worked in the wild west.

As mentioned earlier, the party members can fall ill, get injured, and die. When a party member dies, a brief funeral is held in-game. Players can choose to write an epitaph, but many choose to skip this and continue down the trail. It is also possible for your oxen to die along your journey.


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