#1 The Oregon Trail

Posted: 1st April 2016 by Jeroen in Games
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500th played so far


Genre: Edutainment
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 1971
Developer: MECC
Publisher: Broderbund

Do you see that number up there? Game 500 indeed. This more or less marks the halfway point – there’s a bit of wiggle room from expanded lists and the one part of 1001, but we have pretty much made it there.  It feels like a major victory, and a sign we’re going to be able to do this (but more on that in four days time).

So for the halfway point, we’re playing a game we’ve reserved for this spot from the start. As explained before, Pong is game two on the list – it mostly made for a catchier title and started our trend of not doing a game on the same time as its list-assigned number. The Oregon Trail, today’s game, is that first game (although it’s mostly known from later rereleases with graphical and other updates anyway, so perhaps that’s a good enough reason?). It still predates Pong by a year, and everything else by five, so with its basic concept, The Oregon Trail is clearly the first.

Our Thoughts

So I was told this game would probably take a few attempts to beat. As with the real life trail, there were plenty of dangers, and it would be difficult to make it through. So yeah, I made it through first time – only two of my travellers survived, so it’s not exactly a great success, but I felt I at least managed. Not bad for a first try!

Even so, The Oregon Trail makes for an interesting simulation. I don’t think I’ve worked out all the variables yet, but it all felt sensible, how the game is meant to fit together. From that, it feels vaguely balanced and mostly a lot of fun.

The game’s graphics can’t really be discussed here. The original would have been text only, even if our version had them (which presumably helped me play anyway). I do wonder whether other changes happened – balance changes and such – but the core seems to stand, and that’s what is fun enough. Each step offers plenty of options, choices of routes, and plenty of risk vs reward gambles.

The edutainment aspect is possibly (the book claims) limited to its planning elements, as the actual trail isn’t quite as accurately represented. There’s probably some overlap, and might give some indication of what happened, but it isn’t fully there. It still feels like a pretty entertaining way of educating.

Final Thoughts

The Oregon Trail is a good game. Having been working on this list for five years now, it’s something I’ve been coming up with – both by Peter’s comments and because it was the game I did some trial runs on to see whether things were working okay. Even then, this will really make the top of our list go entirely green and done.

Soon: The summary of the past fifty… and then the next 500!