Oregon Trail Floppy Disk

Let’s ford the river!  I was in the 4th grade at my school in Illinois, and the memories are so fond. Our classroom had a Commodore 64 computer, and I spent hours upon hours playing The Oregon Trail game with its beautiful 8-bit graphics. When I discovered that you could play an online emulated version of the original game, my adult heart leaped for joy.

A Brief History of The Oregon Trail Game

As early as 1971, there was a very early version of the game developed by an 8th-grade teacher in Minnesota. He wanted a learning aid to teach his class about what life was really like on the trail from Independence, Missouri, to The Dalles, Oregon, in the 1850s.

By 1984 the version that I knew and loved as a kid was published, and a year later, it was developed for the Apple II computer. There have been subsequent updates up to 2021, but the original is still the most nostalgic for many people.

Classic Gameplay, Educational Purposes

On a black 16-color VGA background, your job was to guide your wagon from Missouri to Oregon, braving the dangers of rattlesnake bites, dangerous river crossings, and attacks by hostile tribes. It was immersive. If you left too early in the year, flooding was a concern. Leave too late, and your wagon could end up snowbound before ever reaching Fort Dalles. Along the way, kids would learn about famous Oregon Trail stops, landmarks, and ever-present dangers. Many things could mean instant death, from broken bones and accidental gunshot wounds to perhaps the most memed of The Oregon Trail game deaths: DYSENTERY.

Where To Play The Oregon Trail Game Online

If you’re feeling nostalgic (or maybe you’ve never played before), click the emulator below to begin playing the Oregon Trail game online. Will you die of cholera or make it to Oregon?

The New Oregon Trail Game Online

There’s a newer version of the Oregon Trail game by Gameloft available to Apple users on Apple Arcade.  Check out the trailer for the new game below:

The Oregon Trail Card Game

If you’re not into playing this classic online but still want to play, there’s a card game version of the Oregon Trail game you can try.  Check out the instructional video on how to play below to see if it’s something you want to add to your board game collection for game night.

History Of The Real Oregon Trail

Early Americans believed in the concept of ‘Manifest Destiny’ or “the divinely ordained right of the United States to expand its borders to the Pacific Ocean and beyond.”

To expand our borders to the Pacific Ocean, the US government offered up free land to those willing to travel to ‘Oregon Country.  Pioneers going west to claim land faced a long and dangerous journey overland by foot on routes like the Oregon Trail.

Pioneers sold everything they had to buy a wagon and supplies, left their homes and families behind, and set out west with groups of other pioneers for a trip that could take up to a year.  Many people didn’t survive the journey, and the Oregon trail was littered with dressers, pianos, and other furniture pioneers had to offload and leave behind because they couldn’t be hauled uphill.

When Pioneers got to their destination in the Pacific Northwest, they faced wilderness that had to be tamed. They had to work and improve their land for four years to keep the homestead that had been given to them via the Oregon Donation Land Act.

Oregon Trail Ruts sign. Photo by Ken Lund via Flickr CC2.

The Oregon Donation Land Act initially offered 320-acre parcels of land in 1843, though only to white male citizens.  A woman could only claim 320 acres if she were married, meaning a married couple could claim a 640-acre parcel of land for their homestead.  The law changed in 1850 to offer up half the land, so married couples could only claim 320 acres.  Once a person had lived on and made improvements to the land for four years, they were given legal title to the property.

Learn more about the Oregon Trail and Great Emigration of 1843 here.