The Migrant Trail

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
The Migrant Trail Game Poster Image
Thought-provoking game tackles plight of Mexican migrants.

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The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Educational Value

Kids can learn about current social and government issues in this timely and engaging educational game. Players examine the financial and familial problems that drive Mexican migrants to risk their lives and liberty to cross the border into the United States via short text biographies that accompany each character. They also see the situation from the perspective of border patrol officers who don't just apprehend migrants but also rescue and treat those who are dying from exposure, dehydration, and injury resulting from their dangerous journeys. The Migrant Trail is at times unsettling, but it successfully communicates a contemporary social issue in a fresh and engaging manner.

Positive Messages

This game communicates how Mexican migrants often suffer and sometimes even die as they attempt to cross the border into Arizona. It presents the situation from the sides of both the border patrol officers who apprehend and treat migrants and that of the migrants themselves, allowing players to interpret what they see and draw their own conclusions. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The patrol officers discuss their duties and in some cases their empathy for the people they search for and apprehend. It's up to the player to choose whether they help or ignore any suffering migrants they run across. The migrants, meanwhile, present stories of the financial problems and family heartache that lead them to risk crossing the border. Placed in their roles, players must often make hard decisions about whether to leave behind any companions who suffer injuries or dehydration along the way. 

Ease of Play

Actions involve only simple clicks and the dragging and dropping inventory items. But while the interface is straightforward, successfully getting your migrants from Mexico to their pick-up point is hard. Expect to fail far more often than you succeed. 


Violence isn't visually depicted, but text describes wounds such as scorpion stings and debilitating thorn infections and discusses the deaths of migrants by dehydration, exposure, and untreated injuries. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know The Migrant Trail is an educational browser-based game that tackles some unsettling situations involving migrants who try to cross from Mexico to the United States. It shows players the suffering faced by these people, but also explores the roles of the border agents whose job it is to search for, apprehend, and medically treat undocumented migrants. There's no violence, but players will read text descriptions of people becoming injured and weak during their travels. Some succumb to exhaustion and dehydration. In one instance it's suggested that a man might beat a woman out of anger and frustration after having failed to cross the border – just one of many disturbing but realistic scenarios.

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What's it about?

Developed alongside the hard-hitting documentary The Undocumented, THE MIGRANT TRAIL explores the subject of Mexican migrants who hire people called 'coyotes' to lead them across the border through rough Arizona country. Players will see this controversial problem from two sides: the border patrol officers who scour the desert for migrants and the migrants themselves, who risk capture and death due to exposure, exhaustion, and injury to find better lives on the other side of the border. The three officers whose boots players inhabit have slightly varying views about and reasons for doing their job. Players have the opportunity to choose whether these officers help and apprehend suffering migrants or leave them behind in the desert to keep looking for able-bodied travellers. But the bulk of the experience is spent as a dozen different migrants, all of whom have stories relating reasons why their perilous journey may be worth the risk. As migrants players start by purchasing supplies for their trek, then head out on the trail -- presented as a top-down map of a desert with branching paths -- where they run into one trying and potentially lethal situation after another.

Is it any good?

The Migrant Trail isn't the sort of game you play for fun. Rather, it’s the sort of game you play to better understand a social problem. Games, unlike other forms of media, have the unique advantage of being able to put the player in the shoes of someone else. This lets them see other people's problems from a fresh perspective, and -- to at least some small degree -- experience a taste of others' suffering. In the case of The Migrant Trail, players assume the roles of people in desperate situations willing to take a great risk for a better life. And these people are forced to make some very hard decisions along the way.

The choices start out easily enough: Which unknown desert path should you take? How long should you risk going without food or water? But eventually you'll be forced to make much harder decisions. Should you eat prickly pears that will help hydrate you but cause physical injury? Use the last of your ointment to help a companion stung by a scorpion? Leave behind someone slowing your party down in order to improve your chances of survival? Seeing the situation from the perspectives of the law enforcement officers trying to find these people and send them back to the situations they're attempting to escape only makes this already thorny issue even more complicated. It may not be a truly fun experience, but it's certainly a compelling one. And it might just help some players get a better handle on a pressing problem.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what they would do were they faced with circumstances similar to those of the migrants featured in the game. Does the possibility of making more money or being reunited with loved ones make it worth risking capture and perhaps even death?

  • Families can also discuss border and immigration policy. What would you do about this troubling situation if you were an elected leader? How might the United States better help Mexican migrants while still protecting the economic wellbeing of its citizens?

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