The Oregon Trail

Common Sense Media says

Classic history game now fun on Wii and 3DS.

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

Learning(i)

What parents need to know

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

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.

Violence

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.")

Sex
Not applicable
Language
Not applicable
Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable
Privacy & safety
Not applicable

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.

What kids can learn

Subjects

Social Studies

  • events
  • geography
  • history

Skills

Responsibility & Ethics

  • fiscal responsibility
  • learning from consequences
  • making wise decisions

Engagement, Approach, Support

Engagement

Kid-friendly and fun design makes for long-lasting gameplay. The Oregon Trail's pioneer journey has been engaging kids for many years, and the app is no different.

Learning Approach

Role-play actively engages kid and adaptive gameplay shows them the consequences of their choices. Some of the learning is layered on top, and game lacks a diversity of perspectives on historical events.

Support

Tips and guidance are all in text, making gameplay less accessible to some kids. Teachers can use official game website for ideas on connecting gameplay to curriculum goals; in-app teacher tools would be a helpful addition.

What kids can learn

Subjects

Social Studies

  • events
  • geography
  • history

Skills

Responsibility & Ethics

  • fiscal responsibility
  • learning from consequences
  • making wise decisions

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.

This Learning Rating review was written by Mark Raby

Parents say

Kids say

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?

QUALITY
 

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.

Families can talk 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

Platforms:Nintendo Wii, Nintendo 3DS
Price:$19.99
Available online?Not available online
Developer:Crave Entertainment
Release date:December 9, 2011
Genre:Strategy
ESRB rating:E10+ for Mild Violence (Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Wii)

This review of The Oregon Trail was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 17 years old Written byabbacus June 6, 2012
AGE
10
QUALITY
 
LEARNING

Really good!

What other families should know
Too much violence
Parent of a 7 year old Written byAnechka August 28, 2014
AGE
8
QUALITY
 
LEARNING

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) it is really not an educational game. In fact, I am pretty disappointed in the kind of "educational" games kids have these days considering the tech capabilities.
What other families should know
Easy to play/use

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Essential Apps Guide