4 things the classic oregon trail video game got right

4 Things the Classic Oregon Trail Video Game Got Right

If the sentence “You have died of dysentery” doesn’t trigger a strong sense of nostalgia in you, you’re probably not an 80s or 90s kid. Back then, the pixels were few, and the RNG was a merciless god.

By now, millions of people have played The Oregon Trail (1985) video game or one of its many sequels. While most of us probably remember things like the music and hunting minigames best, there was also some real history to the game’s narrative. Learn four things the classic Oregon Trail video game got right.

Dysentery Was a Bad Time

Three primary diseases killed pioneers heading west along the Oregon Trail: cholera, typhoid fever, and dysentery. They all stem from consuming contaminated food or drink, and they’re all highly contagious. One pioneer drinking bad water could end up causing the death of an entire family, or several. Since doctors were few and far between out on the trail, getting sick was one of the worst things that could happen to you.

Picking the Right Start Date Was Vital

Just like in the video game, pioneers had to think carefully about when to start out on their journey. If they started too early, they wouldn’t be able to hunt or forage on the first leg of the journey. However, if they started too late, they would have to face the hazards of winter weather. Picking the right time to start the trip and keeping a steady pace was crucial to surviving the journey.

Crossing the Snake River Was Dangerous

The Snake River was one of the last crossings to make before pioneers could reach the end of the trail. There were several places along the river where you could cross, all dangerous. The Snake River is notorious for its changing water levels, which is one reason why Hells Canyon was difficult to explore. The river also has pits on the bottom where wagon wheels, people, and animals could get stuck.

Money Was a Deciding Factor for Success

The original Oregon Trail video game didn’t give players much choice in starting jobs. If you wanted to play it safe, you’d choose to go as a banker and start with much more money than everyone else. In reality, being poor meant you probably wouldn’t choose to head west in the first place. The journey was very expensive, and a good wagon and team of oxen were pricey.

While it had some silly moments, these are four things the classic Oregon Trail video game got right. And if you’ve never played it before, it’s never too late to experience the game yourself. The original is available online for free, and we promise it’s still worth spending an afternoon playing.


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