The Oregon Trail

Game review by
Mark Raby, Common Sense Media
The Oregon Trail Game Poster Image
Classic history game now fun on Wii and 3DS.

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids can learn about history and the sacrifices that real American families had to make nearly 200 years ago. Because this game is based on historical reality, it instills in kids the message that life was rough in previous generations, and gives them a sense of how much better things are today. The Oregon Trail also presents concepts like financial and resource management, giving kids complete control over the destiny of their historic in-game family.

Positive Messages

Players have to make smart decisions and work to keep their entire family safe and healthy in order to win this game. It encourages players to keep moving forward despite whatever adversities may come their way, and shows that no matter who you are, you can accomplish seemingly impossible goals.

Positive Role Models & Representations

If players are able to appreciate the historical context of this game, it allows them to envision the real men and women who made some or all of the 2000-mile trek across the United States at a time when cars and planes were not even a thing of dreams yet. Players may have ancestors who went on this grueling adventure, and that thought alone is enough to imbue visions of some of the most positive role models there can be.

Ease of Play

This game requires little in the way of traditional gaming skills and instead relies heavily on players' ability to make smart decisions. Among the factors players have to consider is when to spend money and when to save it and whether to take risky shortcuts or go the long way around to ensure safety.


As a necessary component of survival in this game, players will occasionally hunt animals ranging in size from rabbits to bison. The hunting mini-game includes realistic gunfire sound effects and a crosshair on the screen that allows players to aim. The depiction is from a first-person perspective, but players are acutely aware that this is required only to keep themselves and their family alive and not for sport or any sort of gratuity. When you shoot a realistic-looking animal, stars appear over its head and then it disappears. No death is shown and there is no blood. There are also circumstances in the game which can cause family members to die, which is denoted in text (e.g., "You have died of dysentery.")

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Oregon Trail is set in 1800s America, at a time when passage through the fateful 2000-mile stretch of land was a lofty ambition for citizens throughout the Midwest. The original version of this game was first released in 1971 and became distributed in classrooms as a learning tool to help teach students about the real-life Oregon Trail. This version takes the education factor to the next level by providing players with storylines and context about the trail's storied history, but it also increases the realism when it comes to hunting, presenting players with a first-person shooting mini-game that renders animals motionless and with stars appearing over their heads when shot. While this version is presented with more realistic graphics than earlier versions, it is nevertheless, an engaging game representing a time in American history.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 7-year-old Written byAnechka August 28, 2014

NOT Educational, BUT fun!

I remember playing this game as a child and although it was quite fun (not sure how much my kid would like it now with all the other, more sophisticated options... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byabbacus June 6, 2012

What's it about?

THE OREGON TRAIL puts players in 1800s America, through one of the most challenging and exciting real-life adventures the country has ever faced. This game itself has had a very storied history, being remade numerous times over the last 40 years. This latest version, presented with more realistic graphics, encourages players to go through the adventure multiple times, with multiple storylines to play through. One storyline is presented as a sort of race to get through the trail as fast as possible, while others focus on stories that are representative of the real issues from the 1800s, including the thrill of gold and riches on the West Coast and the struggles of family life on the trail.

Is it any good?

The Oregon Trail is the latest version of the game that has, for 40 years, provided insight to players about the trials and excitement of crossing the real-life Oregon Trail. Players can play through multiple versions of the trail with different background storylines, each representing one facet of the impacts of and reasons for embarking on the arduous journey. There is also an added gameplay element in that players actually control the driving of their wagon and must avoid obstacles along the way. It is a very well made re-invisioning of the classic computer game, and although its graphics, soundtrack, and gameplay mechanics would hardly stand up to any other modern video game, the presentation of human emotion and the adrenaline of making it to the end of the trail live up to what anyone who has played a previous version of The Oregon Trail has come to expect.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the hunting mini-game. Do you consider this an act of violence or a required means of staying alive?

  • Do you think you would have been able to survive if your family went across the real Oregon Trail in the mid-1800s?

  • Did this game teach you about history? Was it a fun way to learn?

Game details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love learning while gaming

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