The Oregon Trail: A Nostalgic Journey on Nintendo Switch | FinalBoss (2024)

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If you were an American student from the 1980s to the 1990s, chances are you played one of the original versions of the game Oregon Trail.

An educational game where you took the role of a party of settlers who journey from Independence, Missouri towards Willamette Valley in Oregon, it was one of the most memorable aspects of elementary school for countless students of the time. Who doesn’t remember their characters dying of dysentery or drowning trying to ford a river?

The new Oregon Trail by Gameloft offers lots of what made the original game (and its many remakes) special while adding tons of other content to play through.

It also brings another, even more, significant change to the series: it features playable Native American characters who were developed alongside scholars from different tribal backgrounds and, at least to an extent, acknowledges that for the indigenous people who originally lived in the land the real Oregon Trail passed through, this period of time involved genocide and land theft.

The Oregon Trail: A Nostalgic Journey on Nintendo Switch | FinalBoss (1)

At least their frozen corpses will be adorable.

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The Scenic Route

For a game about a bunch of dirty travelers sleeping in carts pulled by even dirtier oxen, the game is very cute. The majority of the game is 2D, although it’s accompanied by 3D character portraits and short clips of the villages and forts you visit when you first arrive.

The 2D art is lively and colorful, and it manages to hold your attention as you watch hours of your party slowly moving along the trail. It feels like you’re traveling through the real Black Hills, but with fancy Super Nintendo goggles.

The Oregon Trail: A Nostalgic Journey on Nintendo Switch | FinalBoss (2)

I’ll trade you 40 hardtack for whatever you’ve got in that pot right there.

The 3D cinematics help make the trade hubs feel more lively. You get to see the forts and trade outposts lined with wagons and Native American dwellings that change depending on which tribes are present in the area, like Tipis when you’re in Lakota country.

The animation helps the game show you parts of the story instead of relying solely on text. Whether it’s the gleeful jump your character does when reeling in a fish or the hunching over, about-to-have-diarrhea motion that accompanies catching dysentery, there’s constant movement in the best of ways.

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The Oregon Trail: A Nostalgic Journey on Nintendo Switch | FinalBoss (3)

Trading her dress and bonnet in for a more rugged look.

The only real complaint visually is that there’s a set number of models and portraits that repeat throughout the game. There are also minor things like your characters, male or female, turning into the man above when they go out hunting.

More Content Than Can Fit on a Wagon

This is the most comprehensive version of the Oregon Trail yet.

The main game contains forking paths that give you different trails to explore each playthrough. You run into NPCs who give you missions that play out differently depending on the choices you make, like helping reunite a group of Union soldiers called the Dragoons or befriending a little girl on her way west with her family.

You can also play through different Journeys, scenarios containing specific game conditions, telling stories using premade characters. For example, you can play Bitter Winter, a Journey where you take the role of a settler named Thompson as he tries to find his companions who were lost in a horrible snowstorm.

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The Oregon Trail: A Nostalgic Journey on Nintendo Switch | FinalBoss (4)

One of the best side quests: Knives Out, Oregon Trail-style.

There are even weekly challenges you can play together against the rest of the community. Particularly good at the rafting mini-game or fishing? Now you can go online and rank #1 on a leaderboard.

On top of all of this, there are achievements and unlockables as well as an encyclopedia.

As you play the game, you unlock currency to buy songs, artwork, and even filters that can change the look of your trek on the next playthrough. Being bitten by a snake looks even better in sepia.

You also unlock achievements depending on the actions you take in the game. Considering the Switch itself doesn’t have its own achievement system, it’s a really nice addition that adds extra life to the game.

The encyclopedia achieves the same effect by helping flesh out the backgrounds of the characters you meet, sharing historical information about the Oregon Trail and the peoples who lived on the lands it passed through as well as the settlers who traveled it, and more.

The Oregon Trail: A Nostalgic Journey on Nintendo Switch | FinalBoss (5)
Time for the serious business part of the review.

Gaining Different Perspectives

When launching the game, one of the first things you’re presented with is the screen shown above. From this moment forward, through nearly every step of the game, you’re presented with a more diverse Oregon Trail experience – there are both White and Black settlers alongside Native Americans from various tribes, like the Lakota, Crow, Shoshone, and Pawnee.

While the previous games had Native American characters in them, they were portrayed stereotypically and more like game events than people. Now you can play as them in the main game as well as in Journeys like Pushed West, where you play as John and Annie Halfmoon, a Lenape father and daughter, who are looking for their son/brother as they get pushed out of their ancestral lands by White settlers.

The Oregon Trail: A Nostalgic Journey on Nintendo Switch | FinalBoss (6)

Likely a subtle reference to the purposeful mass killing of buffalos (tatanka) led by the U.S. government to deprive the Lakota and other plains tribes of one of their main food sources.

For those that don’t know much about the history of the real Oregon Trail, it was a major part of Manifest Destiny, the idea that it was the destiny of White, Christian Americans to expand throughout North America and take the land from the indigenous people who inhabit it by God’s will. Many of the reservations of today were built on the removal of the tribes from their land in this time period, placing them into small allotted lands that only got smaller over time as the U.S. government broke treaty after treaty and shrunk the size of reservations.

There is some dissonance between playing this game in its more respectful form and knowing the actual history of the Oregon Trail. Even if it acknowledges the tragedies these tribes went through during this period, you’re still playing a game that turns this period of history into a fun adventure. As Dr. T.J. Tallie puts it, you’re still “cosplaying conquest.”

That being said, the devs and the scholars who worked on the game deserve credit for the work that was put into it. They made the tribal characters feel human, they incorporated tribal languages into the game, and they centered this aspect of the history right from the start of the game instead of shying away from it in fear that some aspects of the gaming community might feel like it’s “too woke” to acknowledge what happened to the people who were here first.

The Oregon Trail: A Nostalgic Journey on Nintendo Switch | FinalBoss (7)

James doesn’t sound like a very good friend, to be honest.

The developers also incorporated some of the treatment Black people faced along these trails. At the time, Oregon was ironically progressive in the sense that it made enslavers free enslaved people once they reached the territory, but it was also illegal for them to live there and punishable by lashing and, basically, enslavement once more. This is touched on a little bit in the game through character dialogue.

The game When Rivers Were Trails deserves a shoutout if you want to play something similar to the Oregon Trail but completely from the perspective of an Anishinaabeg (Great Lakes area tribes) in the 1890s. It was made by an Indigenous creative team, overseen by the Indian Land Tenure Foundation, and supported by the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.


All in all, unless you’re feeling particularly nostalgic and want to play one of the original versions to relive your childhood, this is the go-to version of the Oregon Trail and will provide you with hours and hours of replayability, whether it’s by playing the main game over and over to explore each forking path, by playing the Journeys to live through the stories of characters like John and Annie Halfmoon, by trying to reach the highest score on the leaderboard, or by trying to unlock every last filter, song, and piece of artwork the game has to offer.
It also gives an important platform for lesser-heard perspectives that weren’t represented in previous iterations of the game.

That does it for this review of the Oregon Trail for the Nintendo Switch. What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with my verdict? While you’re here, you should check out my recent Kandria review for another solid game to play.

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The Oregon Trail: A Nostalgic Journey on Nintendo Switch | FinalBoss (2024)


How to beat the Oregon Trail? ›

Stay overstocked on bullets and bait and toss it out when necessary, you should be able to keep plenty of food this way. Always restore your character's stamina before fishing or hunting to maximize the catch. Traps aren't necessary but fish traps are great for making more money when you sell them off.

Does Oregon Trail have an ending? ›

Oregon City, Oregon

The official end of the Oregon Trail! After making the long and exhausting journey west, pioneers would file their land claim at the Government Land Office in Oregon City.

How long does it take to beat the Oregon Trail? ›

Main Story115h 29m
Main + Extras715h 48m
Completionist119h 38m
All PlayStyles1910h 2m

Can you still play the old Oregon Trail game? ›

Can you still play the original Oregon Trail game? For those interested in playing the original game, you'll need to head over to Here, you'll be able to time-travel to the good old days of sitting at the family desktop desperately trying to keep your wagon party from drowning or dying of dysentery.

What was the main killer of the Oregon Trail? ›

The majority of deaths occurred because of diseases caused by poor sanitation. Cholera and typhoid fever were the biggest killers on the trail. Another major cause of death was falling off of a wagon and getting run over. This was not just the case for children; many adults also died from this type of accident.

What is the highest score on the Oregon Trail? ›

8. The current record-score on the game is 53,350. A player's score on the game was determined by many things: how your party fared, the supplies you had at the end of the game, and how much money you were able to hold on to.

Where does Oregon Trail end game? ›

The game ends when the party reaches Willamette Valley by either the Columbia River or toll road, or when all five members of the party have died due to illness or injury.

How many people made it to the end of the Oregon Trail? ›

Only around 80,000 of the estimated 400,000 Oregon Trail emigrants actually ended their journey in Oregon's Willamette Valley. Of the rest, the vast majority splintered off from the main route in either Wyoming or Idaho and took separate trails leading to California and Utah.

Who finished the Oregon Trail? ›

In 1842, Elijah White led an organized wagon train of 100 people with an experienced guide. Two thousand miles later, across prairies, towering mountains and parched deserts unfamiliar to eastern farmers, they completed the trek. About half settled in Oregon, while the other half moved further south to California.

What is the best job in Oregon Trail? ›

Choosing your profession as the Oregon Trail traveler played a role in success. A banker, a teacher, a farmer, a carpenter — each choice could influence breaks within the game. A farmer rarely ever lost his oxen to injury or death, and this was a big plus.

What does caulk the wagon mean? ›

There were also a variety of methods for fording rivers. Some emigrants simply caulked their wagon boxes, making them watertight, and floated them across.

Is the Oregon Trail game hard? ›

The catch, however, is that there is no real catch. The Oregon Trail is about as simple of a survival game as can be, with the bulk of your tasks being easy to complete but passively difficult to master.

What are the death options on the Oregon Trail game? ›

Along the way, they need to purchase supplies, hunt for food and make myriad choices. The game ends when the player reaches Oregon, or if they die along the trail; death can occur as a result of such things as disease, starvation, lack of clothing in cold weather, snakebites and hunting accidents.

Can you make money in the Oregon Trail game? ›

You can hit trade button when available on trails or Fort and trade various things, to include medicine, but only with what is highlighted. If greyed out you need more of those items unless you can haggle a lower price. As far as making some extra money it seems it is pelt and fish only.

Is it possible to beat the Oregon Trail card game? ›

I have come to realize that there is certainly no way to win this game without modifications, especially if you have a small party. Perhaps six players could win, but two cannot. The real problem seems to be that the game simply does not allow players enough supplies to make it to the end.

What was the hardest part of the Oregon Trail? ›

Stream and river crossings, steep descents and ascents, violent storms, and the persistent threat of disease among large groups of travelers were the most common challenges. Disease was the greatest threat on the trail, especially cholera, which struck wagon trains in years of heavy travel.

What made the Oregon Trail so difficult? ›

The route of the Oregon Trail was littered with cast off belongings as families struggled to lighten the load and save the health of their draft animals. The most dreaded danger was cholera. It could spread rapidly among wagon trains.

How to get the highest score on Oregon Trail? ›

Max Score Oregon Trail Deluxe Guide by DSteves If going for TRUE max score (16,383 = 2^14 - 1) points, you must be a FARMER (not Teacher because the max you can get without overflowing to a negative score value is 16,380 as a teacher). To get to the max score: Independence: Buy 19 Oxen, 1 Pound of food. Leave in March.

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