42 years on, The Oregon Trail gets free DLC

The Oregon Trail cowboys with some cows.
(Image credit: Gameloft)

The Oregon Trail is a pioneering videogame, first conceived of by teacher Don Rawitsch as a means of getting across the realities of 19th century pioneer life to schoolchildren. Alongside two colleagues and some students, Rawitsch's game arrived pretty fully formed: It was used by the class, before Rawitsch deleted it from the machine and saved one paper copy of the code. Three years later, when working for an educational software company, he re-typed The Oregon Trail, and the rest is history.

The game became a classroom fixture and much more, because the truth is this is a great game: Resource management, adventure, peril, and the black humour of watching your little pioneers die in various manners. Its success has seen countless new versions over the years, and in 2022 Gameloft released a faithful but spruced-up version.

Amazingly enough, The Oregon Trail is getting some DLC: And for a short while, it's free. The new Cowboys and Critters DLC brings a wagonload of content including a whole new journey to make: The Chisholm trail, where you have to drive cattle from Texas to Kansas.

"Traverse 10 all-new locations from the Spanish architecture of San Antonio to the river-dense trail in Oklahoma, to the prairies of Kansas."

Well, it's nice to see Gameloft keeping it thematically appropriate. The DLC also adds a cooking system whereby you can create healthy meals to keep your cowboys in good condition, new ingredients, and the new character class of cook to go with it. Cookies as they're called come with the "Spice Set" as a starting item, so they're welcome in my party.

There are a couple of new quests added, and a new waypoint on your travels where you can listen to stories about "fearsome critters from folklore", read by the author Sarah Winnemucca from her own writings. The "venemous Hoop snake" is among them which doesn't sound like a nice thing. TThere's also new achievements, new artwork, and new characters.

The DLC is free for all owners of the Oregon Trail until 8 May, after which it'll have a price. I just like the idea of the Oregon Trail getting DLC at all. I've played versions of this game so much over the years and always enjoy the journey: I know certain incarnations so well it's almost a meditative experience now. I'll never be a 19th century pioneer but, thanks to Rawitsch and his successors, I've played as one more times than I can count: And it's time to saddle up once more.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."