The Trail universe encapsulates a series of educational games, the most popular of which is The Oregon Trail. Being originally created in 1971, this makes it one of the earliest video game franchises. The first Trail game was created as a learning tool to teach North American frontier life to students, and its success led to over a dozen official remakes and spinoffs, most of which were developed by MECC, as well as many copycat games, fan games, and even traditional board and card games. Of the many ports and remakes, certainly the most well-known game in the series is the 1985 Apple II release.
My first experience with a Trail game was seeing someone play the 1985 Apple II port of The Oregon Trail, but the first Trail game I actually played was the 1984 Commodore 64 Oregon port in the game Expeditions, itself a port of the 1980 Apple II version. I remember after seeing the primitive UI and graphics around 1987 and thinking it was clearly an inferior knockoff of what I thought was the "original" game. I don't remember ever playing another version of The Oregon Trail throughout my early childhood. Around 1995, my cousin got a copy of The Yukon Trail which I enjoyed playing and beat. In 2019, in order to better familiarize myself with the series, I played and beat the 1993 enhanced edition of The Oregon Trail.
My overall opinion of the series is that each game is interesting for about one or two play-throughs, but they quickly become boring, and they don't do a very good job of teaching the player about the subject material. Other than giving the player a very general idea of what the journeys were like (landmarks, travel methods, hazards, etc.), most of the informative aspects of the game are entirely optional. I think the games would have been far more effective as a teaching tool if they actually had trivia questions which would require players to read and absorb the informative bits.
- The Oregon Trail: Journey to Willamette Valley (board game)
- The Oregon Trail: Card Game (card game)
- The Oregon Trail: Hunt For Food (card game)
- The Organ Trail (zombie-themed video game)
- died-of-dysentery.com - History of The Oregon Trail series.