Do you ever see something or hear a name and it instantly takes you back to a specific moment in time? For those of us who grew up in the 1990s, there’s a plethora of items and images that instantly bring you back to a time when things seemed much simpler. As such, this article will list the 15 things that will instantly make you miss the ’90s.
This list will sadly include many items which fizzled out in the ’90s or shortly after, but it will also include some entries which have withstood the test of time and continue to be popular to this day. Whether you grew up in the ’90s or not, we hope the nostalgia of this list will invoke pleasant memories in you and allow you to go back in time to the 1990s when all of these items reigned supreme.
Any stories or basic facts associated with the items are from the firsthand experience of the author and specific dates and numbers are taken from the products respective websites.
15. Crash Bandicoot
This list will naturally include many references to the Nintendo Corporation that reached its height in the early ’90s. However, we would be remiss to not include one of the most popular games from the revolutionary Playstation which debuted in 1996. While it was advantaged by the Playstation’s incredibly playable platform, Crash Bandicoot would have been a great game on any console. A big issue with video games in the ’90s was how frustrating they were, but Bandicoot was able to do away with this epidemic while at the same time keeping a challenging edge.
The original game would lead to several sequels (including one of my all-time favorite games Crash Team Racing) and even a short-lived cartoon program, forever immortalizing this incredible game as one of the most nostalgia-inducing ’90s items.
14. Razor Scooters
I write this entry with a heavy heart because I never got the Razor Scooter that I so ardently wanted for most of my childhood. To make matters even worse, my babysitters two kids each had their own so I got to routinely experience the Razor’s awesomeness without having the gratification of actually owning this integral part of a ’90s childhood. The sleek design guaranteed neighborhood coolness in the mid-’90s, and I can happily report that this is one of the ’90s trends that remains to this day, as my nephews were each thrilled (though not as thrilled as I was) to receive their own this past Christmas. Thereby, in many ways, the nostalgia created by the #14 entry on our list is one that I feel every time I see them riding on those slices of silver lightning.
13. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Of every ’90s item on this list, this is the one which has been replicated the most, though definitely not with the same magic that the first few films had. While I could tolerate the recent film adaption (the TMNT cartoon on Nickelodeon is despicable and I can’t even bring myself to talk about it here), it pales in comparison to the live action movies which first debuted in 1990. Following the traditional TMNT storyline which is centered around the evil Shredder terrorizing New York City before the turtles are forced to take on and defeat both he and his goons, these films (or at least the first two) are a great time and movies that you can watch again and again. Though there’s a lot wrong with the recent adaptions at least they can provide some nostalgia for us and perhaps lead the new generation to go back and watch this incredibly awesome film franchise.
In order to appease those concerned with all the video games and movies/TV shows on this list, here is a book franchise which is hugely nostalgic in relation to the ’90s. The Goosebumps books are a horror series written by R.L. Stine which was written with children as the intended audience. With over 60 books in the series, it is easy to assume that these books are the product of a publishing assembly line with no inherent value. However, the books are very well written and a fairly entertaining read. To add to the popularity of this series, a show was released which brought this franchise into even more homes. No matter which one was your favorite, we bet you can agree that Goosebumps was a huge part of many ’90s kids life.
11. The Chicago Bulls Michael Jordan Craze
If you’re talking about sports in the ’90s, there were several memorable franchises for you to discuss. The Cowboys reaffirmed their “America’s Team” moniker by winning three straight Super Bowls, the Bills went to (and lost) four straight Super Bowls, and the Yankees ended the decade by dominating MLB with their “Core Four” squad of all-star players. No sports team endeared themselves to fans in the 90’s, however, to the level that the Chicago Bulls and Air Jordan did. Unequivocally the best NBA player of all time, Michael Jordan did things on a basketball court that transcended sports and made him an American icon. I grew up outside of Washington DC four states away from Chicago but I remember growing up just about everyone you talked to was a Bulls fan. As a disclaimer, however, I should include that perhaps the greatest reasoning for the Bulls culture of the 90’s was due to the next entry on our list.
10. Space Jam
I think it’s impossible to argue that the Michael Jordan phenomenon in pop culture would not have been so gigantic were it not for a little film known as Space Jam. Not too long ago I stumbled upon a DVD version in the $5 bin at Wal-Mart and it instantly created in me huge feelings of nostalgia for the late ’90s. For those of you who haven’t seen the film, in it NBA legend Michael Jordan (now a struggling member of the White Sox baseball franchise) must make a basketball comeback in order to save Bugs Bunny and the other Looney Tunes from being enslaved by a nefarious alien and his goons. The premise of the film and the inclusion of the Looney Tunes made this an instant classic for kids, but its decent storyline and star-studded cast (including Bill Murray at his best) made this film an instant favorite and a memorable nostalgia-inducing thrill ride.
Another item which I just couldn’t con my parents into buying me, Moonshoes were able to dominate much of the ’90s due in large part to their ability to dominate early morning TV commercials. It seemed like every time you watched a commercial in the ’90s you were bombarded by ads telling you to buy this incredibly awesome toy. This, of course, led every kid who saw these commercials to place themselves at the mercy of their parents (my parents apparently being less merciful than others) in the hope of them buying it for them. Their commercial TV success paved the way for Moonshoes being one of the most memorable items of the ’90s. While you probably still aren’t using yours today, anytime you see these items stuffed in a closet it’s hard not to feel at least a little bit nostalgic.
8. Scooby Doo
Admittedly Scooby Doo (in some form) has been around since the ’60s, however, it hit its peak in the ’90s with the debut of its first feature-length movie Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island. The movie itself was pretty great, and the perfect culmination of a show that had dominated many people’s childhood. The success of the film would lead to several subsequent less than stellar films, but it doesn’t change the nostalgia associated with Scooby and Shaggy and the gang. The success of this cartoon has continued into the present day, including having some spin-offs where Scooby interacts with some WWE Wrestlers like John Cena!
If this list is about nostalgia causing items, then this entry is perfect as in 2016 a large portion of the country experienced this effect with the monumental success of the PokémonGo game. Basically a virtual reality version of the original games, this smartphone app brought countless people back to the glory days of the Red and Blue Version games; which was arguably America’s first widespread introduction into electronic role-playing games. Not to mention the fact that they had a great cartoon series (and outstanding theme song).
Pokémon became a nationwide (and eventually a worldwide) phenomenon placing it behind only Mario on Nintendo’s Mount Rushmore. The PokémonGo craze has died down a little bit, but for those first two months in the summer, so many of us were transported back to 1996 to a time when little colorful creatures ruled the world.
6. Wrestling’s Monday Night Wars
You know what’s better than one big time wrestling organization doing their best to provide the best show possible for their fans? Two wrestling shows doing their best to provide the best show possible for their fans. Such was the paradise created for wrestling fans in the ’90s as WCW (owned by Ted Turner and Turner broadcasting) went to war with WWE (principally owned by Vince McMahon) for rating supremacy. Many critics have cited the recent drought of compelling WWE programming to a sense of complacency within the company. The fact is that WWE has no real competition in the nationwide pro-wrestling industry (TNA top to bottom is just a mess) so there’s simply no force driving them to better themselves. However, with WCW (driven by the NWO stable) nipping at their heels in the ’90s, WWE was forced to develop its “Attitude Era” and provide some of the most compelling pro wrestling storylines we had seen up to that point (and since). For that reason, I think the “Monday Night Wars” will forever be a golden era of pro wrestling and the #6 nostalgic moment on our list.
5. Light Up Shoes
In an attempt to get away from a list only including video games and action cartoons (I was a nerdy kid what can I say), I tried to think hard about more everyday items that create that incredible nostalgia from the ’90s. The thing that came to mind almost immediately were light up sneakers. While the hip hop industry has recently modernized this phenomenon with LED-filled Nike’s, the original light-up sneaks were a simple set of flashing red lights that lit up in your heel when you stomped your foot on the ground. The epitome of cool, these things were perfect in the ’90s with the sleek silver body of the Razor scooter. This is one item from the list which I suggest we try to bring back, I’m sure they sell them in adult sizes right?
4. Nintendo 64
How could the greatest gaming system of all time, which debuted in 1996, not make our list. The Nintendo 64 is the only system from my childhood which I have kept, and to this day it is constantly brought out at parties for some 4-way Super Smash Bros. action. The list of great games for this system is endless, with franchises like Mario Kart, Mario Party, and Banjo Kazooie all getting their start here. The shape of the controllers, the compatibility with the Gameboy Color and the incredible playability of most of its games made this system an integral part of my childhood and the #4 entry on this list.
3. Sock’em Boppers
“Sock’em Boppers, Sock’em Boppers, more fun than a pillow fight.” The fact that I can still recite this song at will when I haven’t heard it for ten-plus years shows how much these awesome toys were affiliated with a ’90s childhood. Those of you who don’t know about these toys (or may simply not remember them due to concussions received from an older sibling mercilessly pummelling your face with them) really missed out as they were good for about fifteen minutes of fun before they popped or became seriously underinflated. Of all the items on this list, I think this is the one that I remember being the most widespread. No matter whose house you went to they always had a pair of these (usually severely flat) tucked away in some playroom. It’s amazing that something you hardly noticed as a child can cause so much nostalgia in you once you get older.
2. Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers
Not always do these articles contain entries which are so incredibly relevant as the next nostalgia creating ’90s phenomenon, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Just this past weekend I saw a trailer for the new film remake that stated the new film will be based on “The worldwide phenomenon”. Once I started thinking about this, I realized how popular this franchise was in the early ’90s. Far from being your typical kid’s show, everyone in the ’90s knew what Power Rangers was and for those like myself who were children at the time, we watched the weekly episodes with religious fanaticism. Every couple years a new watered down season of Power Rangers pops up on TV, but with any luck, the new feature-length film will take the Rangers back to their ’90s roots.
1. Game Boy Color
As I stated earlier the 1990s could easily have been called the era of Nintendo. The Nintendo 64 console and Pokemon franchise have already been featured on this list, however, there is only one Nintendo item deserving of our top spot and that is the Game Boy Color. Following the monumental success of the original Game Boy handheld device, Nintendo debuted the Color in 1998 and it became an instant hit. Not only did it roll out with dozens of hugely entertaining and popular games, but it also debuted right before the Christmas season making it a must have for any kid that year. I know a good amount of people who still have their Game Boy Color (including some who got there’s that 1998 Christmas) making it the #1 most nostalgia-inducing item of the 1990s.