What in the world can touch lives from childhood all the way to adulthood better than toys? The 1990s were a boom period for many things, and for many people toys would be on the top or near the top of that list. The 1990s were a great time to be a kid as toys were a lot more prevalent than they are today. If you were to walk through the toy aisle at Target in the present day, you would notice how few toys are stocked on the shelves compared to 20 years ago.
Lack of variety is a common problem with today’s toys. Instead of playing with a tablet or phone, kids in the 90s had a wide variety of choices as KB Toys and Toys ‘R’ Us had prominent retail outlets. If you didn’t grow up during the 1990s or don’t remember much of them, these toys will give you an idea of what it was like to be a 90s kid. For those that did experience childhood in the 90s, these toys will be very familiar to you.
These were simply the hottest must-have toys that were frequently sold out at stores. If you had one of the toys from this list then you were the envy of other kids at the playground and usually had a small crowd around you that would want to see or play with it. The toys on this list can bring back strong feelings of nostalgia which for many adults today would involve running from to aisle to aisle with sensory overload. Here are 13 toys of a generation.
Based on the famous green slime used on the Nickelodeon network to slime everyone, Gak is a sticky, putty-like substance sold in a star-shaped container. While it was easily moldable, the most common use was to throw it at your friends when they weren’t looking. The original Gak was green with no distinct odor. Later varieties changed color when exposed to sunlight or glowed in the dark, and some even had a unique scent. Immensely popular among kids was the flatulence noises Gak would make when squeezed back into its container. If you’re feeling nostalgic or want to try Gak for yourself, it is still sold and easily found online.
12. Yak Bak
Released two years after Home Alone 2, the Yak Bak was a cheaper, smaller, scaled-down version of Kevin McCallister’s famous Talkboy. With only a play and record button, Yak Bak was easy to use. The big drawback was that recording time was limited to a handful of seconds with no storage for multiple recordings. Later versions added more features such as pitch control, sound effects and the ability to play a recording backwards. If you were to ask anyone who was a school teacher during the 90s which toy they confiscated most, Yak Bak would be tops on many lists as many a child had theirs taken away during class.
11. Socker Boppers
What person doesn’t want to punch their friends in the face? Besides getting you in a lot of trouble, one less friend is the least of the possible outcomes. Socker Boppers were released in 1997 and became a hit with kids, both physically and sales-wise. Inflatable boxing gloves didn’t seem like much fun at first, but nothing can take away the joy of two kids punching each other in a relativity safe manner. Like all good things, they had to come to an end due to potential influence of violence. For any child of the 90s, many good times were had by inviting friends over and whaling away on each other with Socker Boppers
10. Taco Bell Talking Chihuahua
In 1997, Taco Bell unveiled new commercials featuring a talking chihuahua who wants Taco Bell. The talking dog became an overnight sensation which led Taco Bell to produce more commercials and kids meal toys. The stuffed dogs originally came in four variations that spoke different catchphrases when squeezed. Just like the commercials, the talking dogs were another home run for Taco Bell. They were frequently seen in the backs of cars and in the hands of kids. Taco Bell struck while the iron was hot and made the talking chihuahua their official mascot, then released more varieties of talking dog toys. To anyone that remembers this time period, the Taco Bell chihuahua will bring back fond memories.
9. Skip It
When you wanted to jump rope but only had a short rope and no friends to swing it, then Skip It was a great alternative. Originally released in the 1980s, Skip It had a re-launch to bigger success in the 1990s. While simply being a jump counter attached to a hoop by plastic, it played into the competitive human nature to keep improving. What can be more fun to a 7-year-old than trying to beat your high score and bragging to your friends that you got to 100 jumps without messing up? Later varieties had flashing lights and streamers to make colorful patterns as you hopped, but the premise stayed the same. Its simple and addictive nature made Skip It a popular toy in the 1990s.
Made famous by Macaulay “Kevin Mccallister” Culkin in the movie Home Alone 2, the Talkboy is a cassette player and recorder. Its main feature was the ability to slow down the speed of audio being played back, making it a rudimentary voice changer. Originally used as a non-working prop in Home Alone 2, the Talkboy became a possibility thanks to write-in campaigns by children. Once released it was hugely popular because, after all, who wouldn’t want to disguise their voice for hijinks and prank calls? The fact that it was also a cassette player was only a bonus. From prop to actual product, the Talkboy could not be ignored and left an impact on many children.
7. Hasbro The Lost World: Jurassic Park Stegosaurus Figure
Anyone who remembers when The Lost World: Jurassic Park came out in 1997 will easily remember the stegosaurus toy with removable torso. Even if you didn’t own one, you knew someone that had 1 or maybe 3 of them. Whether it be a cousin, sibling, friend or fun uncle, you played with the stegosaurus at one point in your life. It was that common, regardless of where you lived. Sure, there were other Jurassic Park dinosaur toys, such as the allosaurus, triceratops and tyrannosaurus rex, but for whatever reason the stegosaurus is the one that became the most popular. It sure wasn’t the removable torso, as other dinosaurs also had removable parts and the stegosaurus wasn’t exactly a charismatic dinosaur. The toy didn’t do much other than lose its torso and whip its tail so it remains a mystery as to why it was so popular. If you were to show any 25+ year-old adult a picture of the stegosaurus, they would instantly be familiar with it and will remember playing with one, which is a testament to how ingrained the toy is in our past.
6. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Action Figures
The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers are already one of the first things that comes to our mind whenever the subject of the 90s comes up. However, the action figures for the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers brought an even bigger craze, being released in the winter holiday shopping season. To any adult, these were the must-have toy for children, especially the green and red rangers. Stores just couldn’t keep them in stock which lead to many unhappy kids getting a blue or yellow ranger for Christmas. Bandai wisely expanded the lineup to include morphing figures that had two heads on a rotating swivel. These quickly became sought after which pressed Bandai to produce figures of minor and supporting characters. Even today these Mighty Morphin Power Rangers figures are highly collectible and regularly sell for big money on auction sites.
5. Beanie Babies
If you were to ask anyone what THE toy of the 1990s was, Beanie Babies would often be the answer. Every decade it seems like there is one toy that instantly becomes all the rage and causes mass hysteria. For the 90s, Beanie Babies were those toys, equal only to Beatlemania in magnitude. Okay, maybe not, but close. Released in 1993 with only nine babies, the craze picked up steam thanks to new designs and artificial scarcity. McDonald’s would only add fuel to the fire by releasing miniature Beanie Babies as a Happy Meal toy in 1996. Anyone who remembers that time period can tell you about those babies and the hysteria they caused. Some might even still own some Beanie Babies. For being simple stuffed animals, the babies made a considerable impact in pop culture.
4. Tiger Electronics Games
Tiger Electronics became synonymous with kids in the 1990s thanks to their handheld LCD games. Priced between $15 and $20, these games were affordable for parents when compared to an $80-plus Game Boy. The majority were licensed games based on Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Jurassic Park, X-Men and Sonic the Hedgehog. The games were simpler than a comparable Game Boy game, with most of them having two or three gameplay buttons and running on two double-A batteries. The LCD was set against a static background with limited player movement. These may seem like setbacks for any adult gamer but for any kid they were perfect. The games were designed to be played in short bursts with huge replay value. They were easy to master and easy to pick up and play. These qualities made them great for younger children and to trade among friends. In their 90s heyday these toys were as common as cellphones among teenagers today.
3. Virtual Pets
A simple formula seemingly became an overnight success in 1997 when both major virtual pet brands, Tamagotchi and Giga Pets, launched their respective products. For those unfamiliar with the phenomenon, virtual pets are small egg-shaped pet simulators with black and white LCD screens. As the name implies, you take care of a virtual pet which is either based on a real animal or complete fiction. Sure there were other competitors, but the most popular were the Tamagotchi alien eggs that changed into different forms based on how often you fed and cleaned your Tamagotchi. Giga Pets were sold in wide varieties of realistic animals and even some based on TV characters such as the Tazmanian Devil. Regardless of which brand you got, they both involved feeding, bathing, cleaning up poop and playing games with your pet, all done with 3 or 4 buttons. Anyone who grew up in the 90s will let you know just how annoying the persistent beeping was, especially at school.
2. Micro Machines
Debuting in the 1980s, Micro Machines had their heyday in the 1990s. The stamped-sized cars quickly became a hit due to their small stature and wide variety. Besides the usual cars and trucks, you could purchase airplanes, ships, hot air balloons and submarines. Not enough variety for you? How about figures and cars from Terminator 2, X-Men, Predator and Star Trek? The crown jewel of Micro Machines and the most common ones today were the Star Wars figures. Available as small, inch-tall figures or disembodied character head play sets, the Star Wars products were huge sellers. What child didn’t want to tape Darth Vader on top of a Ferrari F40 or have police chases with a Ford Mustang? The possibilities were only limited by your imagination and what your parents were willing to buy you.
Coming out in 1998, Furby took the virtual pet formula and made it real. The little robotic ball of fur would listen and talk in its own Furbish language. Getting two or more of the furballs would result in a jumbled Furbish chat room. Because Furby had a computer chip, one of its most infamous and scary features was that a Furby could continue to speak after it was turned off. To any child that left a Furby anywhere in their room, this “feature” made the Furby seem like it came out of a horror movie. Though it is now easily explainable with the Furby being powered by a hidden CMOS battery, in the 90s a child’s toy with a computer battery was unheard of. Those that had a Furby in their childhood can laugh it off now, but no amount of time can erase the fear you’d experience when your Furby would turn itself on in the middle of the night. Much more so when you slowly realize you took the batteries out.