Independence, MO


Cover art

Oregon Trail 5 is a video game released by MECC in 2001. It was published by The Learning Company.

It is a revised version of the original Oregon Trail computer game. It was redesigned with the help of American Studies PhD Wayne Studer. In contrast to the original version of the game, Oregon Trail 5 made an effort to include greater roles for women and racial minorities. It includes the Montgomery Children.

In addition to the regular edition, MECC released a 25th Anniversary Limited Edition Oregon Trail 5 Computer Game. The CD-ROM came with an official strategy guide and certificate of authenticity, all packaged in a commemorative wooden storage box.


1 Gameplay


Oregon Trail 5 includes far more detail than the original. For instance, rafting down the Columbia River is a much greater challenge than it was in the original game. Whenever an event (e.g. an accident or illness) happens, the game halts and the player must decide what to do in response, so it is much more interactive. Players are also able to talk with other settlers along the way and ask their advice when needed.

This version also allows the player to choose between 20 years of travel (rather than 1 in the original) from 1840 to 1860. Travel is much easier in later years, as there are more towns and trading posts along the way to resupply your party. The online guidebook resource alters its displayed help based upon the year of travel, but not with the target and trailhead ends chosen — hence to read the book, one needs wade past pages of useless information applicable to sub-scenarios (such as alternate routes over a local regional stretch) one hasn't chosen.

The beginning Edit

At the beginning ("New Game"), players may start a new game where they choose their name, occupation, level, date of travel, their starting point and destination, and type of wagon. Also, they may select how many others are with them in their wagon, along with their names and ages; this drastically added to the game's popularity as players could seemingly "live out" the journey with friends and family. Finally, there is a skills screen where players may spend 120 points on extra skills: medical, farming/animals, botany, and sharpshooting, to name a few. Automatic skills, based on the occupation, are free. If the player does not select any skills, they will be converted into bonus points at the end of the game. Each skill raises the chance of something happening or not happening. For example, players with the botany skill are more likely to find edible plants. Players with the cooking skill are able to increase the nutrition value in their food.

Outfitting the supplies and choosing the parties equipment of their journey becomes a possible point of player control leading to increased scoring chances. One has the option of taking a computer generated "package deal", ostensibly offered by the trailhead town's merchants and sized for five or six months of consumables. Or the player can shop the town and choose his own strategy, quantities, tools and so forth — or take the package then shop or trade in addition to that. One problem with the package is finding someone to trade you for something you want to get rid of or have less of, for something you'd rather take, get, or have. Conversely, some assets are only available by the package (e.g. Chains, anvils, plows) or by trading — though many of those can be purchased from merchants or blacksmiths farther down the trails.

Other options include loading a saved game, and the "quick start" option. Quick Start quickly generates options mentioned above for the player, with the only editable field being the name, and initiates a package deal with equipment.


In Oregon Trail 5, the player can choose from a number of different occupations, many with different skills that can assist you in your journey across the west. Such occupations include banker, doctor, merchant, pharmacist, wainwright, gunsmith, mason, blacksmith, wheelwright, carpenter, saddlemaker, brickmaker, prospector, trapper, surveyor, shoemaker, journalist, printer, butcher, baker, tailor, farmer, pastor, artist, and teacher. (Occupations listed in descending order in terms of cash on hand in the beginning of the game.)


Each occupation has different skills. For example, a banker has trading skills, a doctor has medical skills and so on. The player can also customize the skills after choosing an occupation. Players all start with 120 points. Each skill costs some points and if there is not enough points, the skill can't be chosen.


While some occupations have more money than others, the low income occupations get a greater final bonus, which proves crucial in getting a decent score in the end of the game. For example, a teacher may begin the game with only $500, but receives a 5.0x score bonus. A banker starts off with $2000, but does not receive a bonus. If the banker uses his abundance of funds, he can buy the essentials for the journey immediately, and would need to resupply very few times over the course of the trip. On the other hand, if so equipped, he must freight the weight of his supplies and tools the entire 1826-2122[1] mile journey to Oregon City.


Along with selecting an occupation, the player must also choose if they wish to be a:

  • Greenhorn - A regular member of the wagon party, having no authority.
  • Adventurer - Wagon train captain, elected to lead and choose different trails, but can be demoted to greenhorn if morale falls too low (and potentially re-elected in the future).
  • Trail guide - Navigator, paid well and allowed to choose paths at trail forks. The trail guide can be fired if morale falls too low, thus ending the game.

[1][2]Nauvoo at the beginning of the game. The Nauvoo Temple is seen in the background.

Starting townsEdit

There is a choice of starting points, including the classic Independence, and newer towns like St. Joseph, Kanesville/Council Bluffs, and Nauvoo.


There are four possible destinations. However, some destinations are available in different years: Oregon City (in earlier years, the Willamette Valley), Sacramento (in earlier years, the Sacramento Valley), Jacksonville, (in earlier years, the Rogue River Valley), or Salt Lake City.


Especially in large towns, the game offers players an immense selection of supplies. Dozens of medicines, clothing items, food items and other miscellaneous essentials (and not so essentials) are available for purchase. During the beginning of the game, package deals are available up to six months of provisions. However, many perils in the game will cause many provisions to be lost or used for trade. Some feel it is prudent to purchase the largest package deal offered, but others challenge themselves to make it to Oregon without buying any food at all.

Another factor that plays into the game is the weight of your wagon. The more supplies, the heavier the wagon. After you reach your wagon's weight limit, you will not be able to continue on the trail and may have to dump goods.

Many items are potentially useless. An example is furniture, which serves no purpose and adds weight to the wagon. Such items include a grandfather clock, hope chest, and a kitchen cupboard.


Various animals are available during the game to bring along in your trek across the western territories, such as oxen, horses, mules, chickens, and milk cows. Different animals provide different uses: oxen are necessary to pull your wagon to your destination, chickens lay eggs for consumption, and so on. In the end of the game, the more draft animals you have, the better your score in that category.

On the trailEdit

Trails and landmarksEdit

On the trail, players will encounter many historically accurate landmarks, rivers, forts, and trading posts. The landmarks will change with time, as they did in real life. Also, famous trails other than the Oregon Trail are part of the game. These include the California Trail, Applegate Trail, and Mormon Trail.


Inside the game is the original hunting sub-game. In Oregon Trail 5, the player can choose between three firearms for hunting: the pistol, the shotgun, and the rifle. The pistol is the most basic hunting weapon and is generally only effective against rodents. Killing larger animals, such as deer and bear, take multiple shots. The shotgun is (realistically) effective against birds and other animals at close range, but does not have the range or power to take down buffalo, as well as being somewhat unrealistically unsuccessful at long to medium ranges. Overall, the rifle is the best firearm in the game, as it usually kills an animal, close or far, with one shot. Different ammunition must be purchased for the separate firearms in the stores. Without it, the guns cannot be used. Each weapon is correctly represented in technology, separate loads and powder being necessary, though the weapons are correctly single shot breech loader varieties. Unlike in the first Oregon Trail, the hunting mini-game is played in a first-person perspective. The loud report of the firearms also causes animals to run away (if not hit), thereby making the game much more difficult.

Random eventsEdit

During the course of the game, many random events may occur which may require a decision and impact the progress of your party, supplies or health. An incomplete list of these events include:

  • Injury (Animal bite, Snakebite, Sprained Muscle, Sprained Shoulder, Concussion, etc.)
  • Disease (Cholera, Mountain fever, Dysentery, Measles, Gangrene, etc.)
  • Buffalo Stampede
  • Wildfire
  • Strangers Approach
  • Abandoned Wagons
  • Severe Weather
  • Theft
  • Quicksand Ahead
  • Obstructed Path
  • Meadow (to gather hay)
  • River Crossing
  • Death of Companion
  • Hill/Mountain Climbing
  • Desert
  • Mosquitos
  • Dust From other wagons
  • Starvation
  • Locusts
  • Thirst
  • Wagon accident (Tipped Wagon, Swamped Wagon. Wagon stuck in mud, etc.)


Some other unique aspects of the game include the California Gold Rush after 1848 and your ability to prospect for gold. The prospector occupation will typically find more gold than any others.

Besides getting kicked off the wagon train as a trail guide, there is another way the game can end prematurely for your character, regardless of position. If health drops too low, the player's character can die just as easily as his/her wagon party members. The main character usually will not get sick or injured unless the other party members have died, with the exceptions to this being an accidental gunshot, animal bite/mauling while hunting.

At the destination at end of the game, you can also read a "What Lies Ahead" section which describes what happens to the player's character after they settle. Also, the player is able to save his diary, kept by the computer that highlights the events of the journey. The player may also write in this diary himself. Finally, an extensive glossary and guidebook are available for players who want to learn more about the historic sites on the trail. The glossary gives information about the medicines, locations and famous people along the trail; while the guidebook comes in handy for wagon captains or trail guides who decide which route the train takes.


A remake of this game, entitled Oregon Trail, 5th Edition, adds various new features to the game. The plant gathering feature was carried over from editions 3 and 4. This feature involves identifying which plants are edible and which are poisonous. Updated graphics have been provided for river crossings. A cartoon has been added which plays at certain points in the game. The conversation pictures are no longer animated. The soundtrack of Oregon Trail II has also been removed, replaced with a single repeating audio loop.


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