The game follows you in 1897 as you set off to the Yukon to make your fortune in gold. You start in Seattle, where you take a ship up to Alaska, travel by foot to the Canadian border, travel down to Bennett Lake in British Columbia, build a boat to traverse the Yukon River itself, and arrive in Dawson City. And with the information you acquired during the trip and a fair bit of luck you might just strike it rich.
Like in The Oregon Trail the challenge comes from properly planning your journey to deal with problems both expected and unexpected. You got to time your journey correctly and make sure you have the right supplies. The difference is in the level of interactivity you have on the trail. Each town you visit has several characters you can click on and talk to, all with their own stories and advice on how to reach Dawson. Some of them you might even run into multiple times. The game teaches its players all about the hardships of the Klondike gold rush, the preparations that were needed, the problems stampeders faced, famous locations, and historical figures who were involved.
The Yukon Trail contains examples of the following tropes:
- Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: Food (and everything else) is more expensive in Alaska than in Seattle, and yet more expensive further up the trail. The reason for this is obvious, but it also means you have to decide whether to buy the whole load early and haul it up north yourself, or buy a light outfit early and then buy more at a markup right before the Canadian border.
- Betting Mini-Game: There is an addictive card game you can play in Dyea, and a three-card monte game in Skagway which is a scam.
- But Thou Must!: Picking a partner is required and the game won't let you buy an outfit or a ticket until you've done so.
- Cash Gate: The border to Canada functions in a similar way. If you have not brought enough food to the border by the time you reach it you are sent back to the last camp you visited to buy more.
- Gold Fever: A real life version, and everyone you meet has it. One person you talk in Seattle complains the town is practically empty because of it.
- Good Bad Bugs: On occasion, you'll have some of your food stolen by thieves on your journey by foot. It's possible for the stolen amount to be negative, thus resulting in you gaining food due to the theft.
- In the Past, Everyone Will Be Famous: On your one journey to the Yukon you just happen to run into Jack London, Sam Steele, and Nellie Cashman.
- Jerkass: Two sailors on the ship to Alaska will throw your bicycle or folding boat overboard if you bring one and mock you for it.
- Joke Item: The salesman on the Seattle docks has one useless item for sale each game. Some of your partners will suggest buying them while the savvier ones will advise against it. The useless item varies, but is always one of the following:
- The bicycle gets thrown off the side of the ship you travel on to Alaska by two sailors, who laugh at the idea of using a bike on the trail.
- The folding boat gets thrown overboard like the bicycle does since it's too flimsy to survive the rapids ahead.
- The gold-sniffing gophers run off instead of sniffing out gold for you.
- Karma Houdini: The two sailors who throw the player's bicycle or folding boat overboard never get punished for it and the game never says whether or not they got their comeuppance.
- Lighter and Softer: There's no risk of death in this game like in Oregon Trail. If you run out of food, you just return home rather than dying of dysentery.
- The Load: Midas T. Golden, one of your potential partners, is a portly Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense businessman who is practically worthless for the journey as he gives bad advice and is prone to injury.
- Naturalized Name: One of the four partners you can take with you is a native woman who goes by the name Linda for (your) convenience sake.
- Prospector: You play as one, and along the trail you meet many others. The one who introduces the game looks the most stereotypical.This here is The Yukon Trail, another excitin' product from MECC!
- Random Event: The player can be impeded by several problems which happen randomly during the trip, such as blizzards, food thieves, and broken ankles, and there's no way to prevent them.
- Snake Oil Salesman: You encounter one on the Seattle docks. While he does sell food and kittens you can resell later at a markup, he also sells bicycles and folding boats (which are useless on the actual trail) and special gold-sniffing gophers (which of course do not work).
- Wretched Hive: Skagway is portrayed like this. You can be scammed in three-card monte, and the authority figure you report it to is in on the scam.