When it comes to toys, no decade was more awesome than the ’90s. I’m not just saying that because I was a ’90s kid, but because there just aren’t any toys out there today that can compare to an official Home Alone Talk Boy, an N64, or the commercial for Crossfire. (I want to make it very clear I’m not talking about the actual game, only the commercial — which made it seem like you’d get sent to literal Hell if you lost to the pasty white boy who had flown out of nowhere to take you down nerd-style).
Because Christmas (or your preferred gift-getting holiday) is right around the corner and some of us (me) still haven’t gotten over the fact that we totally missed out on playing with the coolest would-be gifts on the planet, we’ve put together this fun and handy guide of awesome 90s toys. These are the toys you would have traded a sibling for — it wouldn’t have been your fault, either, because when the Bop It commands, you obey!
Based on Kevin McCallister’s electronic mischief maker, this glorified Walkman was an unwieldy monster that ate batteries like they were going out of style. The main reason we all wanted one of these bad boys was because it was able to take what we recorded on the included 30-minute cassette tape (that’s 15 minutes per side unless you wanted to use a non-branded cassette like a chump) and then slow it down or speed it up to make us sound like we were chipmunks or parents (which was perfect for c*ck-blocking our older sisters, just like in the commercial).
Where you can buy one now: eBay, where the listings range from $75 to $130. A high price to pay for movie tie-in nostalgia.
This furry talking robot was banned in every one of your elementary school classrooms. That’s not just because even the sight of one could drive any formerly docile group of children into a frenzy of kicking and screaming, but because these things never stopped talking. The commercials claimed that these toys learned to speak English with your help, but it turns out that, like most of the answers given to a polygraph on The Maury Povich Show, this was just a lie. The robot really did speak more and more English over time, but this was programmed right into its code. And while learning that as an adult does take a little of the magic away, you have to admit watching these things talk to you (and each other! They talked to each other! Like people!) was awe-inspiring.
Less awe-inspiring? The vision of a teacher or a parent trying to switch off these strange-eyed monsters by looking for a power switch or banging them against a hard surface (you were supposed to put some kind of cover over them to make them fall asleep), but that also taught us important lessons about life and loss.
Where you can buy one now: Basically anywhere on the internet due to two reboots of the toy in the mid and late 2000s. If you want an authentic ’90s version, however, you’re going to have to shell out $25 for a basic model or $150 for a Kid Cuisine-colored Furby on eBay.
If the Furby was a slow and reliable friend during your times of need, the Tamagotchi (which you will never learn how to spell, ever. Close your eyes and try it now. Congratulations, you are wrong!) was a relentless taskmaster that would curl up and die in a pile of its own filth (sounds like college?) if its every need was not attended to in a timely fashion. These toys were said to be banned in schools because of a spate of suicides that occurred after some children’s virtual pets died (at least that’s what my parents told me), but the reality is that they were like an early version of the smartphone, too distracting for kids to get any learning done due to their loud beeps and lack of a pause button.
Later versions of the Tamagotchi allowed for the pets to be placed in a state of suspended animation while their employee went to school or to sleep, but that took away a lot of the excitement that was found in forcing yourself awake at 3 a.m. to make sure your precious baby was still alive.
Where you can buy one now: You can get an original “Valar morghulis” version of the toy in time for Christmas for $40 on eBay.
Creepy Crawlers Bug Maker, 1992
This was like an Easy Bake Oven for kids who preferred to make bugs over cupcakes (or put bugs on cupcakes, I guess, if you bought the Queasy Bake Oven, which I found by googling “make poisons for kids ’90s toy”).
Unsurprisingly, these didn’t live very long due to the fact that most people realized that letting kids burn things under a hot light (even if it was safer than the 1965 version of the toy) was maybe not the best choice for an unsupervised activity.
Where you can buy one now: eBay for anywhere from $40-$90.
Skip-It, Mid 1990s
This thing was going to kill you, but you didn’t care. If you were going to go down, at least you were going to die knowing exactly how many more times you skipped the plastic death trap around your ankle than Susie down the street. (R.I.P.)
I have a theory that parents bought this ankle-based hula hoop only if they realized that they had made a mistake in choosing to be parent, or if you weren’t living up to their expectations as a child. The Skip-It, like Moon Shoes, would give them a plausible alibi for your demise and prevent any questions or suspicion. Today, Heelys serve the same purpose.
Where you can buy one now: A vintage ’90s version will cost you $45 on eBay. If you’re looking to introduce your own kids to the joys of falling over in a tangled bloody mess, however, you may want to consider purchasing a newer off-brand version for $10 on Amazon. The toy was also turned into a set of Twister spin-offs in the 2000s. These come with lights and the ability to play your own music.
NOTE: I just bought one. For real.
Game Boy, 1989
Nintendo’s Game Boy technically came out in the late eighties, but it was one of the hottest Christmas presents of the year in 1990. Commercials for the thing were everywhere and while kids today would be horrified by a video game machine that was in “black and white,” had no backlight, and wasn’t rechargeable right out of the box (you either had to use regular batteries, buy a rechargeable battery pack, or harness the power of the sun to keep your Mario game going). But that didn’t matter because suddenly all your favorite games were portable. And unlike the embarrassment that were Hit Clips (which were rudimentary versions of MP3 players that allowed you to listen to up to a minute of your favorite songs via specially-packaged cartridges), these were full-length games that you could enjoy at home, at school, and at family functions when all the adults were sitting around being boring. God, old people, am I right?
Where you can buy one now: eBay. Sensing a theme? They range from $20-$50 (and beyond…) and some come with a whole bunch of games. Looking at the toy now, though, that screen sure seems tiny. You can also recapture the magic of the games, without the eye strain or frustration of having the thing slowly die on you (remember how it would just fade out, making you wonder if this was the end every.single.time?) by purchasing some of the most popular games on Nintendo’s eShop for the DS or Wii/Wii U consoles.
Lite Brite, 1967
Man, dude, you really have a counting problem, you must be thinking right now. You’re right! But it’s also true that the Lite Brite was a very popular toy to get in the ’90s, when commercials for it were everywhere and thousands of them lined the shelves at your local K-Mart. And, unlike many of the other toys on this list, they still hold their appeal today. For adults.
2000s kids won’t understand the joy of having to reach in and unscrew the actual bulb that illuminated the colored plastic pegs you punched through paper-printed designs (making them basically useless as color charts after the first time), but they’re still fun and I always mean to buy one when I’m at all the major retailers where they’re sold. Plus, those pegs were both non-toxic and delicious. I don’t know about you, but there were several patterns I couldn’t finish because I had gnawed the pieces into tiny plastic nubs by the time I needed them. I’m pretty sure I thought I was dying when I accidentally swallowed one while home alone (remember when your parents would just be all “you’re 10, you can hold down the fort?”), but everything came out all right in the end.
Starting with Welcome to Dead House, no other series of books (okay, maybe Animorphs) was as universally acceptable to read in public. These books — some of them with foil covers! — appealed to all demographics and parents loved them because at least you were reading, okay? Sure they could give you nightmares, but R.L. Stine’s smart writing and (sometimes) incredibly unexpected twist endings made you forget that you were doing something in your free time that you had to do during school hours as well. They even spawned a TV show, video games, and a movie. Especially precocious children also enjoyed the Fear Street series, which was ostensibly for high school kids, but really read at the middle school level (although they featured a lot more violence).
Where you can buy them now: All major retailers, any number of ebook stores, and on eBay, where a collection still goes for a pretty penny.
Spice Girls Dolls, 1997
Forget what your mom said, you knew these were totally going to be worth something someday. Also, the Spice Girls were never going to break up, Geri Halliwell was never going to release a tell-all (which was surprisingly very good, by the way), and Baby, Sporty, Ginger, Scary, and Posh were going to remain friends forever. Haha, you dumb baby! Viva Forever!
Where you can buy them now: eBay. You were right, they were going to be worth something someday. Unfortunately, that something is either original retail price at best and drastically reduced at worst.
Beanie Babies, 1991
Second only to Sweden’s days of Tulip Speculation when it came to inexplicability and price-gouging, these actual bags of plastic pellets transformed into small animals were the !@#$%&* bane of every parent’s existence when it came time to go Christmas shopping. But you were a kid, so what did you care if your mom and dad had to meet some guy behind the mall to purchase a massively overpriced toy just so you wouldn’t cry? And woe be to any parent who cut off the toy’s heart-shaped tag before they handed them over to you. That was the whole point! They were official toys and the tag proved that. Otherwise, you were just carrying around a toy made out of pellets that couldn’t really do anything except get dirty when clipped to your backpack. And like, uh, who wants to do that?
Where you can buy them now: Nowhere. They no longer exist because they held too much power. I don’t care if you don’t believe me, that’s the story we’re sticking to here.