The Oregon Trail games are brutal. Characters that you grow to love always die, your wagon is prone to breaking down, and there are always bandits ready to attack you at your weakest. The Oregon Trail was originally released to teach students about the life of 19th-century pioneers with the number one lesson being: it was tough.
Starting with a handful of supplies, the game asks you to help a group of settlers survive the dangers of the road. You need to hunt for food, manage resources, and rest to make it to the end—that's if your party doesn't die of dysentery first.
The educational game has had a surprising number of editions since it's initial floppy disk release in the 80s. The 5th edition was released in 2005 but re-releases of the original have been released as recently as 2011.
The Oregon Trail is a part of classic PC gaming history and its influence has trickled down through the years. The original is difficult to come by these days, but there are plenty of modern takes on the survival road trip genre. These games all teach the same lessons as The Oregon Trail and on the road your actions can have deadly consequences.
Organ Trail: Director's Cut
The Oregon Trail but with zombies. This parody follows many of the same features as The Oregon Trail, but it's set in modern times. You're tasked with protecting four of your friends as you try and survive a zombie apocalypse and search for a place where the wretched undead haven't taken over.
The 2D pixel art graphics stay true to the original, and your rickety wooden wagon has been replaced with a metallic busted up station wagon. Organ Trail also incorporates 'pick your own adventure' style choices as your group tries to make their way across a decimated America.
You'll be fighting against motorcycle bandits, hordes of zombies, and you might have to put down one of your own party members if they get bitten. And don't worry, dysentery is around and can, of course, kill all your characters.
Overland's group of travelers are up against the dangers of the post-apocalyptic world in their road trip. Through turn-based action, you need to scavenge for resources and explore environments for items as fast as you can before the alien creatures get to you. Overland's unforgiving landscape is built from small-scale 3D levels, making battles with enemies and looting a short but intense encounters.
Overland throws in some tough decisions—is there time to rescue a stranger from a burning wreck and pick up extra gas for the car? It's either one or the other, and your car is running dangerously low on fuel. Behind those pleasant visuals is a bleak game.
The Banner Saga
Forget a small group of settlers, how about trying to save a whole civilisation? The trilogy of The Banner Saga series follows the trials of a Viking caravan group on the move after their civilisation becomes endangered from ancient stone-like enemies called Dredge.
Your caravan has a core team of characters that range from giants, mages, archers, and fighters that take on any threats to your journey. Battles play out on a gridded board and when characters die they stay dead.
The hand-drawn RPG is an epic journey that fuses Norse mythology with brutal turn-based battles but it also emphasizes the importance of looking after your caravan as your journey progresses.
Death Road to Canada
Death Road to Canada replaces careful decision making with bloody, messy brawling. Recruit weird people to your party and watch them viciously attack sprawling armies of zombies on the most chaotic road trip on this list.
Grabbing any weapon you can, you are your team must cleave your way through zombie hordes to search for supplies as piles of dead zombies growing around your group. Characters are completely customizable and you can raise certain stats so they become stronger. A character with amazing strength can pick up heavy objects like sofas, or even your own truck, and throw them at enemies.
Events and stories are randomised in each play-through so in one game you could receive a wish from a truck stop toilet genie and in another, you could be playing as a pug wielding a shotgun.
Super Amazing Wagon Adventure
The journey in The Oregon Trail would have been less than ten minutes long if it went as fast as the wagon on Super Amazing Wagon Adventure.
Leaving careful inventory management in the dust, Super Amazing Wagon Adventure is a chaotic 2D shooter that consists of short mini-games that change every ten seconds. It's comically fast-paced and has no time for checkpoints as you rush through a bunch of random events. One second you'll be trying to maneuver as fast as you can through a herd of buffalo, the next you're in a dark cave fighting against a group of giant bats. It's stupidly fast and brutal fun.