Oregon Trail Game History: Which Oregon Trail Game Is The Best?

The phrase “You have died of dysentery” rings a bell for a generation of Americans. Inducted in 2016 to the Video Game Hall of Fame, the Oregon Trail remains a classic even after almost fifty years since its inception. This is Oregon Trail Game History; have fun checking out the best game.

oregon trail game history which oregon trail game is the best

But did you know that the 1985 version isn’t the original one? We’re going to take you through a trip down memory lane and explore the origins of this beloved video game classic.

The Original 1971 Teletype Version

In 1971, three seniors from Carleton College came up with the core concept for what would be one of the most successful educational computer games for decades to come. The trio of Don Rawitsch, Bill Heinemann, and Paul Dillenberg was about to start their work as student teachers. Rawitsch was tasked to teach American history to 8th graders and wanted to come up with a way to make the class more interesting rather than go with the usual chalk talk lecture.

Rawitsch originally wanted to come up with a tabletop game for his class. But Dillenberger and Heinemann suggested a better idea – to develop the concept into a playable computer program. While none of them was an expert computer programmer, they were able to come up with the program in two weeks.

The trio’s original 1971 version was played on a teletype computer (which means players just played a text game). The game became popular with students, coming in early and staying late at school just to play the game. For students at that time, not only was it their first time to play a computer game, but it was also their introduction to computers.

When Rawitsch’s stint as a student teacher came to an end, Oregon Trail was almost lost forever because he deleted the program from the computer system. In 1974, he joined the Minnesota Educational Computer Consortium (MECC). He typed an updated version of the program into MECC’s computer system and became accessible via teletype throughout the state’s school districts.

The More Popular “Original” 1985 Version

Unlike most games at the time, Oregon Trail endured through the technological boom because it was able to migrate from mainframe computers to the newly emerging microcomputers. In 1978, the company partnered with Apple to sell educational hardware and software packages to school districts across America.

Porting the game to the Apple II, players were now able to hunt and shoot at graphics of animals on their microcomputer screens. The game rapidly expanded its popularity across the country. It became so popular that by 1985, MECC released a redesigned version of the Oregon Trail to the public. Even to this day and so many iterations after, players still look for emulated versions of the 1985 Oregon Trail game online.

Can you still play the original Oregon Trail game?

Unfortunately, you can’t play the original 1971 teletype version. But if we’re talking about the 1985 version of the game, it’s still available and playable on many websites like Classic Reload. 

Succeeding Editions of the Game

The main reason why the Oregon Trail was able to endure the test of time was its ability to adapt. It was able to keep up with the innovations of its time. With numerous iterations over almost five decades, it looks like the Oregon Trail is here to stay.

The Oregon Trail1971Don Rawitsch, Bill Heinemann, and Paul DillenbergerNot publishedHP 2100
OREGON1975Don RawitschMECC (timeshare system)CDC Cyber 70
OREGON1978John Cook (ported from timeshare version)MECC (download)Apple II
OREGON (Part of Elementary Volume 6)1980Same 1978 versionMECC (floppy disk)Apple II
Oregon (part of Expeditions)1983MECC (ported from 1980 Apple II version)MECCAtari 8-Bit
Oregon (part of Expeditions) 1984MECC (ported from 1980 Apple II version)MECCCommodore 64, Radio Shack TRS-80
The Oregon Trail1985R. Philip Bouchard, MECCMECCApple II
The Oregon Trail1990MECC (direct copy of 1985 Apple II version)MECCDOS
The Oregon Trail1991MECCMECCMacintosh (B&W)
The Oregon Trail Deluxe1992MECCMECCDOS (with mouse support)
The Oregon Trail1993MECCMECCWindows 3.x, Windows
Oregon Trail II1995Wayne Studer, MECCSoftKeyDOS, Windows 3.x, Windows, Macintosh
The Oregon Trail 3rd Edition1997The Learning CompanyThe Learning CompanyWindows, Macintosh
The Oregon Trail 4th Edition1999The Learning CompanyThe Learning CompanyWindows, Macintosh
The Oregon Trail 5th Edition2001The Learning CompanyThe Learning CompanyWindows, Macintosh
The Oregon Trail2009Gameloft Shanghai, Gameloft New YorkGameloftDSiware
The Oregon Trail HD2010GameloftGameloftWindows Phone
The Oregon Trail: American Settler2011GameloftGameloftiOS, Android
The Oregon Trail2011DoubleTapGames LLCCrave EntertainmentWii, 3DS
The Oregon Trail Card Game2016Pressman Toy CorporationPressman Toy CorporationCard game sold at Target
Handheld Oregon Trail2018Basic Fun!
Originally sold exclusively at Target
The Oregon Trail: Journey to Willamette Valley2018Pressman Toy CorporationPressman Toy CorporationBoard game sold at Target

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