The Oregon Trail” is still worth playing 51 years later


Graphic by Maliah White

“The Oregon Trail” is remembered as one of the earliest and most iconic computer games in history. The game is still a joy to play 50 years later.

Tegan Ruhl, Assistant Lifestyle Editor

Do you love computer games? Or history? Oregon, perhaps? Well, have I got the game for you.

“The Oregon Trail” is remembered as one of the earliest and most iconic computer games in history. The original concept of “The Oregon Trail” was created by Bill Heinemann, Don Rawitsch and Paul Dillenberger. Their intention was to teach schoolchildren about what life was like on the Oregon Trail in the 19th century. Officially created by the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium in 1971, “The Oregon Trail” has held onto a beloved reputation for generations with many remakes, sequels and spinoffs on the market today. 

I have played “The Oregon Trail” before, but my interest in the game reignited over Fall Break after buying a shirt that said, “You have died of dysentery” from Goodwill. I can honestly say I forgot how simple, yet outstanding, this game is. 

Here are some reasons why the game withstood the test of time and is still so enjoyable today. 

It’s a game that requires strategy.

I love a good challenge when I see one. “The Oregon Trail” is no exception. While the character you choose to play as affects the overall difficulty of the game, “The Oregon Trail” can be as tricky as you want it to be. Whatever your strategy for racking up the most points at the end of the game is, “The Oregon Trail” welcomes it. Want to go without buying food and only hunt it? Go for it. Want to stay at a grueling pace and never rest? Be my guest. Whatever challenge you want to undertake, the game is begging you to do so. 

Nevertheless, playing the game normally requires a certain amount of judgment as you manage your supplies, your travelers and your own sanity when you contract cholera for the third time and a thief steals all of your clothes in the middle of the night. Regardless if you’re coasting through or praying that you’ll make it to the next landmark, “The Oregon Trail” will challenge your thinking skills and your understanding of survival. 

It’s fun to play with friends.

Although this is not a multiplayer game, the single-player mode doesn’t mean you can’t play “The Oregon Trail” with friends. There are ways to get your friends involved. You can choose to play and make decisions together as your party departs on its journey. If your friends aren’t interested in playing with you, I highly recommend getting better friends. Kidding! By naming your party members after your friends, it can make the game feel more collaborative and fun. Oh no, Ian has died. Man, Quinton has Typhoid again! Make sure you tell your friends what happened to them too. They’ll either laugh or be offended. Either way, involving your friends makes “The Oregon Trail” 10 times more fun than it is originally. 

You actually experience a piece of history.

Let’s not forget the original purpose of the game was to educate children about the hardships of the Oregon Trail. I’m sure many of us playing get caught up in the endless cycle of survival, but we cannot forget it  is what the pioneers experienced too. While it seems irrelevant to modern-day society, the Oregon Trail represents the risk-taking, innovative spirit that brought about the contiguous United States of America we know today. If it wasn’t for those pioneers willing to take a chance on a new life, who knows how long it would’ve taken for the USA to develop, if it would have ever developed at all. 

“The Oregon Trail” is a memoir of the pioneers who made it to the end of their journey, and the ones they lost along the way. In the midst of all the gameplay, anyone can stop and realize, “This was real.” “The Oregon Trail” thanks the pioneers for all they gave up for the future of America. Everyone else thanks the pioneers for being the inspiration for making one of the most iconic computer games ever. 

Although “The Oregon Trail” is over 50 years old, its relevance in pop culture today is still evident. With spin-offs such as the zombie survival-horror game, “The Organ Trail” and Apple Arcade’s new remake of the original “The Oregon Trail,” it’s no wonder that people still love the game today. 

If you’ve never played “The Oregon Trail,” please do it. You’ll laugh and feel stressed at the same time. Nevertheless, if you make it to Oregon City at the end of your journey, it’s all worth it. If you die before you get there, nothing’s stopping you from picking back up at Independence, Missouri, and trying all over again. 

Click here to play the game for free.