Hunting buffalo along the trail. Trading clothes to Indian guides to cross the Snake River. Death by dysentery. Since its release in 1974, the Oregon Trail has earned itself a prominent place in American video game nostalgia. Crafted by the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (MECC) to serve as an edutainmental game for students, the Trail exploded in popularity when a simple graphic interface was released for the Apple II in 1978. Since then, it has continued to be repackaged and re-released to people of all ages, from nostalgic players who remember it from grade schools to modern players visiting the delightful game for the first time.
There is enough love for Oregon Trail that it is offered for free on multiple platforms. These free versions are often fairly direct copies of the Apple version, with the same simple graphics and general concept of trying to get to Oregon alive. Later versions have replaced the spin-and-shoot hunting platform with first-person techniques, but these are the type that charge for their programming efforts.
Those seeking to emulate the game in its purest form can download an emulator—a program that duplicates an operating system for PC, console, etc. Playing Oregon Trail on the PC for free thus requires both an Apple II emulator and the game itself. In order, this is what must be done to play it:
- 1) Download an emulator such as Apple Win.
- 2) Download the Oregon Trail disk image.
- 3) Run the emulator.
- 4) Load the disk image. On the Apple Win emulator linked above, this is accessed through a button on the right side of the screen which is decorated with an old floppy disk drive and the number 1. Clicking that opens a pop-up window that can let you browse for the disk image, a *.bin file.
- 5) Start the game. On Apple Win, this is done by clicking the apple symbol.
- 6) As you play the game, you will need to “change disks” by repeating step 4.
In addition to the PC emulation, Oregon Trail is also available as a free iPhone app. Unlike the PC emulated version, the iPhone app features a drastically updated interface, with toggled buttons and animations rather than the simple text-and-graphic approach of the original Apple version. The animation is cartoony and functional: a fitting remake of the original.
No special requirements restrict use of Oregon Trail for the iPhone. The game is downloaded from the iTunes website complements of French publisher Gameloft.
A third option for free Oregon Trail can be found with Thule Road Trip. Designed as a promotional toy for the Atlantis Music Festival, it replaces the wagon and oxen with an SUV, turbo wagon, or hybrid sedan. Players then purchase CDs, magazines, bags of food, and gas to carry them to the festival. The reskinning of the game is great for a laugh, and it stays true to the original format with surreal accuracy.