Many look back at the 90s as sort of a Golden Age of entertainment. This is especially true for those such as myself who grew up in the thick of the era and was fully immersed in the culture. As a kid, obviously too young to drive, I was always looking for fun, and for the next crazy fad to keep me entertained. I looked to get my hands on just about every toy, game, and collectible that I could. I still hang onto a few dusty old holdouts which rest underneath my bed or stuffed in the back of my closet, simply because they're so strangely unique.
Though this appeal isn't limited to 90s kids alone. There seem to be those who didn't grow up during this decade yet are looking more favorably - or at least more curiously - at the unique toys and general culture from this era. It's not surprising, as the 90s were, for my money, a peak and culmination in terms of the level of diverse, creative, wacky, and at times, laughably bizarre toys and games. From odd technological experiments, to seemingly pointless substances, to cheesy board games, there was an abundance of weird and sometimes hilarious entertainment.
Yet, this is part of what makes this decade so charming, along with the toys it produced. In this list, we will attempt to cover at least a significant portion of this amusing, sometimes nonsensical culture of 90s toys and games. So without further ado, here are 30 of the most hilarious toys that we loved as kids, but in hindsight, just don't make much sense.
When one thinks of 90s kids toys and games, "random wackiness" is a description that often comes to mind. This is definitely the case for this plastic version of Simon, called Bop It. The objective is to engage in the random commands spoken by a voice playing through a cheap speaker, which include twisting, spinning, and yanking plastic objects.
Games would start simple enough but get deceptively tricky as the game sped up.
The person playing was prone to plenty of heckling even if their run was successful, just from how ridiculous they looked fidgeting with this odd, ambiguously looking device.
Who would have thought playing with milk caps could make for a good time? The outsider might scratch their head at such a hilariously simple concept for a kid's toy, but for whatever reason, these things caught on to us 90s kids. Perhaps it was the fact that there was an absurd amount of variety of POGs, all with unique colorful artwork, logos, or designs.
Or maybe it was the satisfaction of throwing down metal "Slammers" onto stacks of POGs, and reeling in our winnings after victoriously flipping our opponents' POGs. It was like a basic introduction to gambling for children, and we enjoyed every second of it.
It's funny - on the one hand, I can think back to my days fidgeting, squishing, and tossing this gooey, stretchy putty around, but in hindsight, I can't help but wonder, what was the point of this stuff? I suppose its purpose was just to enjoy the sensations of fidgeting around with it when bored. It was almost therapeutic - like a 90s version of the Fidget Spinner. Oh, there was also the amusing ability for this stuff to take on imprints from ink when pressing down on newspapers, which allowed you to distort and stretch images on the putty to your liking.
The golden era of Nickelodeon in the early 90s helped usher in a wave of popularity for gooey and gross stuff for children, along with paranoid parents watching over their shoulders making sure their rugrats didn't eat the stuff. Among the leaders on this front were Slime, as well as Gak, which was distributed em mass to kids drawn to weird substances. It was a young child's dream - it was simplistic, colorful, messy, and most importantly, made sounds of flatulence which were guaranteed to get a chuckle out of them.
Mark this one under the category of "neat in theory, poor in execution." Mouse Trap was a convoluted mess which required tons of tinkering with small plastic objects, set up to trigger a chain of traps ultimately leading to trapping an opponent's mouse. It made for a pretty fun experience if you actually had the patience to assemble, reassemble, and dismantle everything. It also made for an amusing several seconds while watching the sequence of weird, random traps going off.
One has to wonder though, just where are these mice lurking that contains a mess of cranks and gears, a bathtub hanging from the ceiling, and a giant swinging boot?
While girls got the easy bake oven, boys got a "molding" oven which formed colorful crawling critters out of an industrial "goop". Unlike the Easy Bake Oven though, these things couldn't be eaten, though they did sort of resemble gummy worms.
This was an odd creation to say the least, but for whatever reason, this toy resonated with a lot of kids, particularly boys, who like things that are both creepy and a bit cringe-worthy. They at least made for a great way to prank family members by slipping a handful of them under their sheets or in the bathroom sink.
A number of toys tried to cleverly trick kids into getting a helping of physical fitness while also having fun. This outdoor toy by Tiger Electronics is a key example of this, though it also can serve as an example of a hazardous device that seemed to invite the potential for falling flat on your face. You basically fastened the loop around your leg while flinging this thing around and tediously hopping over it.
Use with caution, or you'll soon be "tripping it" rather than skipping it.
The device also comes with a counter, showing you the ever-useful, universal measurement of "skips." It was no Wii Fit, but Skip It was an admirable attempt to make fitness a bit more exciting.
Baby Alive, from Hasbro, was a doll that came in a number of varieties, but in the 90s they stepped up their game, creating dolls that not only needed feeding and wet themselves, but warned you about it by speaking to you. I suppose they saw it fit to get girls used to tending to babies at such a young age, they were barely removed from toddlers themselves. An even stranger decision, though, is that they figured that tending to these babies by medicating, feeding, and dealing with constant crying and wetting, would somehow be enjoyable. This seems less like a fun toy for little girls, and more like a way to punish them with tedious chores.
Gooey Louie is 90s kid culture and entertainment in a nutshell; zany, humorous, and gross. The concept was not only cringe-worthy but nonsensical. The goal was to yank strings of snot out of Louie's nose, while trying to avoid the wrong string, which caused his eyes and brain to pop.
Maybe this was a way to stop kids from picking their own noses?
Clearly, Louie needs plenty of tissue, and a thorough examination at the hospital wouldn't hurt either. Exactly what kind of medical condition causes your brain to pop out of your skull from the mere act of picking one's nose too aggressively?
The 90s seemed to be the peak era for a couple of toy and game trends - bizarre concepts, and burdensome, convoluted messes. Mr. Bucket took on both of these attributes, as it featured the amusing and slightly creepy open-mouthed grinning face that spat out plastic balls every which-way, all over your floor.
The goal was to scramble to collect them and return all the balls to the bucket, which wasn't always easy as the balls were prone to rolling under couches and being chased around by pets.
Just in case kids were looking for something even more bizarre and cringe-worthy than Gak, Nickelodeon and Mattel had them covered. Enter Floam, a mushy, gunky substance that had shades of Gak, but with tiny micro-beads that made the product feel like some sort of creepy, amorphic sea creature.
They also saw fit to release a version of this substance designed to be crafted into sports objects like balls and clubs, as well as a Floam Factory to make other random shapes with rollers and pockets.
When the late 90s rolled around, companies were beginning to push the boundaries of kids toys, injecting them with a dose of increasingly sophisticated technology and electronic workings. In the case of this massive fad, known as Furbies, they were perhaps hyped up to be a bit more sophisticated than they actually were.
Still, they made for some fun and hilarious moments. They would begin speaking mostly gibberish and eventually pick up more of the owner's langue, the more they heard. They could sing, purr when petted, respond when "feeding" them by touching a finger to their lip, interact with other Furbies, even belch and release Furby flatulence.
Crossfire is a prime example of the marketing being too good, to the point where it made the product itself look funny and cheap. While 90s kids remember that epic commercial, the game itself was rather lacking, though it provided its moments of laughter and trash-talking.
The name of the game was basically to rapidly fire off marbles at two larger randomly shaped marbles and knock them into your opponent's goal. It was a far trickier (and less exciting) task than it sounds. It also made you at least temporarily hate your friends.
In the latter part of the 16 bit era, it was primarily Sega, as well as a slew of other companies, churning out failed gaming experiments, but Nintendo certainly wasn't left out on this front. As a sort of bridge between the SNES and N64, the company, spearheaded by Gameboy designer Gunpei Yokoi, came out with this strange device.
This thing was so poorly designed and strained eyes to the point that it actually caused gamers to get headaches.
It provided a very basic and crude version of "virtual reality", which boiled down to squinting into a cumbersome goggle-like device which showed Gameboy-esque black and red graphics. The design was less than ideal for lounging, as you had to hunch over a table to look into it.
Yeah, there's really not much to say about this Hasbro toy, as it's about as basic and pointless as it looked. This could honestly be a toy for your dog or cat as much as your child. It was obviously meant to cater to the toddler demographic I suppose, but anyone over 6 didn't have much to do with these or than toss them around or just get lost in their multicolored, psychedelic imagery. They certainly were fun to look at, as well as feel, with their wiggling protruding rubber strings.
Apparently recording devices were all the rage in the 90s. While the Talkboy had at least utilized a cassette player (remember those?), this device was about as bare-bones as you could get. It simply came with a play button, and a record button which only allowed you to record your voice or a sound for a handful of seconds.
What was the point of this, other than to annoy parents by making it even easier for kids to repeatedly shout things to them?
You could then playback what you captured, complete with a gritty and crude sound quality that quickly got even worse as it aged. This thing truly made the Talkboy look like a sophisticated piece of technology.
No, it wasn't just boys that had an array of strange and hilarious toys to reminisce about, but girls had their share as well, not the least of which was this "sleepover" game from Milton Bradley.
Because getting attention from fake dudes over the phone is fun!
The game was like a simulation or playing out of fantasies of girls giddily talking on the phone with the dreamy guy they had a crush on. The actual gameplay was similar to Guess Who with a tinge of Clue, as you were given cards of various guys, who you'd call up to get clues regarding which one was into you.
Twister is that game that everybody in the 90s seemed to own, but few dared play, with how awkward it made you feel. It was quite easy to set up and play; just spread the multicolored dotted mat across your floor, have someone strain to reach for the plastic spinner while sprawled across the mat, and you were good to go! Though it certainly wasn't easy on your body, as limbs would soon be aching and trembling the more you contorted, and an inevitable collapse would bring down the whole group.
Most people around in the 90s remember this toy, likely as a result of the unprecedented coverage it received in the media, commercials, and even news segments. Stores reported massive shipments of these weird laughing Elmo dolls being wiped clean during the holidays. This toy helped spark the whole Black Friday phenomenon with swarms of customers practically trampling over one another to get the hot new toy or gadget at a budget price for their loved ones. It's still difficult to understand the charm in such a seemingly simple doll, though clearly consumers were "tickled" by this Sesame Street icon.
Man, if you thought the Gameboy was crude and backward technologically, you clearly haven't experienced these basic handheld "gaming" devices. While they sported some neat artwork on the frame of the device itself, the actual gameplay and graphics taking place on the tiny screen was about as archaic and clunky as you could get. It all essentially boiled down to fixed images on a screen, which were lit up like a sort of glorified digital clock, cued by your limited controls. Games ran the gamut from Sonic he Hedgehog to obscure movie/TV references like Home Alone and Full House.
About the most notable thing regarding this strange mess of plastic was that they were featured on the classic CG movie, Toy Story. They certainly looked silly, though they didn't serve much purpose outside of this. I suppose kids who favored fidgeting with and assembling their toys could get a kick out of them, as their basic "hook" (pun not intended) was that they could be strung together by the arms to form chain links. Parents must have loved these too, as they were sure to provide a barrel full o' clean up.
I guess parents who didn't want to deal with the hassle and potential safety hazards of getting a trampoline opted for these cheaper, more convenient, but equally hazardous bouncy shoes. Or perhaps for some, they were an alternative to roller skates, for those who preferred hopping over gliding.
Not exactly a simulation for walking on the moon, but better than nothing, right?
While these initially bounced onto the scene in the 50s, a Nickelodeon brand came decades later, which were constructed with a supposedly safer plastic material and bungee style springs.
These things were truly ahead of their time. Nowadays the virtual pet, sim-type games are all the rage, but back in the 90s, this was a relatively new concept. And looking back, it certainly shows, with how archaic the graphics and features of these Japanese toys were.
Yet, somehow these crude, basic handheld games kept us coming back...
Tomagotchis were basically virtual pet capsule devices that represented various animals like rabbits, mice, and frogs. You started with an egg, and eventually had to grow your creature into digital adulthood, by feeding them, petting them, and even tending to their, erm.. "mess". These things certainly captured both the joy and frustration of caring for pets.
These were always a blast, at least until you took a spongy nerf-bullet in the eye, and you had to inevitably embark on a burdensome scavenger hunt in your basement as you located all the stray ammo.
Nerf guns came in many varieties, though one of the weirdest had to be the slingshot model, which contained a mere 3 shots, and felt particularly cheap. These came in the form of 3 light ballistic balls that usually ended up getting lost behind your couch. With Nerf, you usually got several seconds of enjoyment followed by minutes of tedious search and rescue.
Welcome to Poké-mania, circa the late 90s, when just about everything Pokémon related was considered cool and/or fun! These cute pocket monsters could apparently even make a simple bouncy ball a fashionable, enjoyable toy. This was the mentality of myself and my friends as kids, at least.
These made for some cool collectables, provided you didn't end up losing them, which was easy to do...
There wasn't much point to them, aside from the fact that you could simulate being a Pokémon trainer by tossing one of these onto the ground (and pretending Pokéballs somehow bounce several feet). Unfortunately, this would often lead to them getting scuffed and/or losing them in the bushes or on your roof.
I still remember the happy-go-lucky jingle playing over a commercial of grinning children socking eachother with these things. This seems odd in hindsight, since, despite the pleasantries, they essentially encouraged you to engage in fist fights with your buddies.
Punching others relentlessly is fun, kids!
Socker Boppers were basically balloons meshed with boxing gloves meshed with punching bags. While the fact that they were filled with air obviously softened the blow, they didn't exactly feel like pillows as the marketing claims, especially when kids on a sugar high socked their opponents with enough force.
When it comes to odd marketing decisions, this has to be near the top of the list in terms of 90s toys. It's as if somebody in marketing posed the idea, "how can we make wearing bracelets fun? Oh and how can we also make them hurt when putting one on?"
As any kid in the 90s knows, these things could really sting - especially when having a friend or sibling jokingly slap one onto your wrist without warning. Since they were essentially like spring-loaded steel bands, the force they generated could be a bit much. But hey, at least they looked kind of cool, right?
For whatever reason, the 90s was the decade of shows and toy crossovers featuring odd-looking creatures who appeared to be from another dimension. Not to be outdone from the likes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mattel and DIC Entertainment teamed up to release a short lived cartoon show and toy line of these bizarre sharks-on-roids, known as Street Sharks.
How exactly are these sharks able to live on land?
Despite having some neat designs and a somewhat entertaining show, obviously this never quite caught on like various other 90s action heroes of their ilk. It's not surprising, as they look a bit nonsensical, and borderline creepy in hindsight...
These toys were a bit like the plastic toy version of Pokémon, with gameplay resembling jacks or marbles. Yes, believe it or not, these aren't merely kiddie collectables or knick knacks, but there was an actual game involved, sort of... There was even a magazine released, which showed the "statistics" of these basic plastic figures, laying out the supposed power, bounce, and other attributes when playing with them.
I am curious as to the science behind these stats, however...
There was something satisfying about breaking into one of those candy-looking bags of these random plastic creatures, not knowing which Bones you were going to end up with. You could even score big with rare gold varieties!