The dawn of the new millennium brought with it a plethora of some interesting toys that ranged from groundbreaking to outright lame; from sources of enjoyment to oddities, hazards, and pointless creations. The 2000s were particularly interesting when it came to toys, gadgets, and the culture in general, for a number of reasons. It was a blend of some nostalgic carryover and more archaic toys reminiscent of certain '90s products. Yet, at the same time, the decade ushered in a new era of more technologically advanced gadgets, powered by increasingly sophisticated AI, software, and digital media.
There was a hodgepodge of very different toys, games, and tech flooding the market at a seemingly rapid pace. You had new ways to listen to music and play video games, cutting edge DVD-based board games, and robotic creatures that had a touch of eeriness to them. At the same time, companies like Nickelodeon and Fisher-Price were still cranking out far more simplistic creations like odd variations of Play-Doh and giant fluffy gloves that giggled. With such a fast-paced market of new products hitting the scene at such a swift pace from all angles, it was only inevitable that there would be plenty of duds, oddballs, and all around bad ideas that didn't quite land. Yet at the same time, various companies struck gold with some enjoyable, useful, and sometimes even revolutionary products for just about all ages.
In this list, we will seek to distill this unique, bustling, and turbulent decade down to some of the best, and the best of the worst toys and games of this era, which left an impression on kids and teens, for better or worse.
30 Bad: Mighty Beanz
Somehow I had neglected to hear about these goofy looking collectible "toys," which is especially surprising considering they've very recently made a comeback. Though, the more I look into them, the more it seems I didn't really miss out on much.
Honestly, how much fun could kids get from these before getting bored?
These simple toys come in the form of plastic capsules with an assortment of various character designs on them. Beyond just collecting and admiring them, they seem rather useless. Oh, there are additional "accessories" like race tracks, which you can use to roll them and "battle" them with friends, but to me, this all just seems like a lame combination of crazy bones and Hot Wheels.
29 Bad: Heelys
I'm not quite sure who thought it was a good idea to take the idea of skating and mesh them with a traditional running shoe, especially given how susceptible kids can be to falling over. These essentially caused kids to even more easily annoyingly run into people when using them.
To their credit, the manufacturer advised wearing protective gear with these, but this mostly fell on deaf ears.
Young children can already have a tenancy to be uncoordinated and prone to spills, but add wheel-donning sneakers into the mix? You're just asking for trouble with these walking disasters.
28 Best: Pokémon Cards
Oh, do I have some fond memories playing with these... Pokémon cards were sort of like the kid version of the more elaborate and sophisticated Magic: The Gathering cards. But we didn't care. To us, they were still just as fun to collect and battle with as that game - maybe even more fun.
Despite the satisfaction I got in selling my collection for a pretty penny at my grandmother's garage sale, I can't help but regret that decision a bit now.
Pokémon fanatics like myself at the time certainly appreciated these, with their visually appealing artwork and the prestige that came with owning some of the rare varieties. Whether you were a collector or a dedicated card player, these were immensely satisfying.
27 Bad: Elmo Tickle Hands
I suppose Fisher-Price wanted to ride the wave of the massive success that Tickle Me Elmo built up over a decade earlier. This is odd, considering these big furry gloves were launched in 2009, well after the Tickle Me Elmo phenomenon.
In what's perhaps a move to sweeten the pot, Fisher-Price also included a dance DVD teaching kids to do the "Tickle Hands Groove Dance."
We've also essentially invented the idea/roles of that toy – instead of tickling an Elmo doll, the user now becomes Elmo; or at least a gigantic version of Elmo with even larger mitts, who tickles others. What the heck?
The gloves even vibrate and a slightly creepy Elmo giggle is cued every time these things touch a surface, which likely made for a lot of annoyed parents.
26 Bad: Tech Deck Fingerboards
Some of my most prominent memories in middle school involve a number of kids around me, including a few friends of mine, "skating" with these little-wheeled boards by riding them across surfaces with their fingers.
They would perform ollies, wheelies, and grind the sides of school lunch tables – and occasionally my arm – throughout the day with these odd toys. I always scratched my head at the sheer pointlessness of these things. Not only did they not look fun to play with, but they looked outright idiotic at times. But hey, at least you avoided serious injury with these skateboards unless you count finger cramping.
25 Best: Bratz Dolls
Think of Bratz Dolls sort of like Barbies, but a little edgier, and laced with more modern fashion and sensibilities for a new generation of girls. Sure, some still preferred the old school nature of Barbie, but many millennial girls opted for this more detailed, diverse, and makeup-wearing line of dolls. They certainly must have struck a chord, considering the brand blew up into a series of movies, TV, music, and even video games. What began as a new line of toys for girls ended up as one of the most notable cultural trends of the 2000s.
24 Bad: Geospace Kickaroos Anti-Gravity Jumping Boots
Keeping up the '90s trend of both weird and potentially dangerous toys, the 2000s had its share of crazy stuff as well. Exhibit A? The so-called "Anti Gravity Jumping Boots."
I'm glad I reached my teenage years by the 2000s, otherwise, I might have been tempted to lace these things on and possibly seriously injure myself.
These plastic shoe contraptions were similar to Moon Shoes, in that the bottom of the shoe consisted of elastic material that would bounce quite easily and essentially propel the child skywards. The difference is, moon shoes had a good deal more leeway and elasticity, compared to these slimmer, stiffer, and more hazardous boots.
23 Bad: Hit Clips Micro Music
Talk about a far cry from the iPod. Enter "Hit Clips" – a sort of introductory music player for kids that somewhat bridged the gap between a toy and MP3 player.
Kids sure got the raw end of the deal getting stuck with these things, while their older siblings were rocking iPods and portable CD players...
While the tiny plastic "clips" perhaps made neat collectibles, they didn't exactly make for convenient or high-quality music sources. You had to slip separate song clips into a cheap plastic-encased "mp3 player", which played mere 1-minute clips of low-quality audio files of mostly basic pop tracks. What exactly was the point of these, again?
22 Best: Beyblades
I'm not sure what rock I was living under when these hit the scene, but apparently, these were all the rage for a while in the 2000s. I feel like I would have enjoyed fidgeting around with these, in the same sort of therapeutic manner that I enjoy messing with fidget spinners - but that's a story for another decade.
Let it rip!
Beyblades come with a variety of "stats" useful for battling, including stamina, attack, and defense. These things not only look cool but manage to do a lot with a little considering how simple they appear. Beyblades serve as amusing collectibles, but also come with varying characteristics that allow them to be "battled" in an arena setting. There was even an anime that coincided with the release of these glorified spinning tops.
21 Bad: Harry Potter Vibrating Broom Stick
Naturally, an array of Harry Potter related toys, games, and memorabilia was churned out to ride the magical success of the hit books in the 2000s. While there were some amusing toys, this broomstick wasn't exactly one of them.
Come on, you knew there was going to be at least one Harry Potter-related toy on this list, given the massive popularity of this fantasy series in the 2000s.
The lame brown plastic design just rings cheap and uninspired, and anyone over the age of about 7 riding one of these would look ridiculous. It also contains the odd, out-of-place ability to vibrate, which I suppose was a desperate effort to spruce up an otherwise boring plastic toy.
20 Bad: Bop It Extreme
No, apparently the original Bop It stick, with its three actions, wasn't enough. This is the 2000s, and everything has to be bigger and crazier! Cue the introduction of this next level Bop It; Bop It Extreme.
This thing not only looked ridiculous and felt needlessly excessive, but it also made you look quite silly when playing. Its bulky nature meant it took up a decent amount of space in the ol' toy chest, too. Also, accidentally pulling the "flick it" stick in the heat of a match brought the potential to break the thing right off.
19 Best: Robosapien
In an era where technology was advancing at an accelerated pace, robots and AI-mania were at an all-time high. One only need look at the abundance of toys that fit this mold, one of the most notable of which was Robosapien.
These guys were so advanced that in 2005 2 German Universities arranged a soccer match between teams of Robosapiens.
This seemed in many ways to use the idea of the Furby and run full throttle with it, introducing elements like remote-controlled commands that totaled a whopping 67. These bots could really be a window into a technological future brimming with advanced AI and robotic technology.
18 Bad: ZhuZhu Pets
Here we have another variety of a toy mixed with a mechanical robot laced with AI – albeit some very basic AI. Its list of functions is about as lame and bland as the outward appearance of these strange looking hamsters.
Their functions essentially boil down to a couple of states; adventure mode where they aimlessly walk around, and nurturing mode, where you tend to them like a lesser version of a Furby. "Dud" is certainly a sufficient description of these things, especially considering one variety even came with a potentially hazardous metalloid.
17 Bad: Cybiko
This strange Russian gaming handheld device seems to be largely forgotten when it comes to 2000s culture, but in my inner circle at least, the Cybiko was actually a heavily used gadget, at least briefly. But then the Gameboy Advance came out, and we quickly moved on to greener pastures.
The neatest aspect of Cybiko was you could download newly released games almost daily on their website, but most were mediocre.
This weirdly shaped, convoluted device was sort of a glorified calculator, (very) basic computer, and gaming device all in one. But similar to the N-Gage, it didn't do anything particularly well, sporting some archaic graphics and basic apps.
16 Best: Scene It
Despite making its debut well over a decade ago, you could make the argument that Scene It is still the pinnacle of movie trivia games. Essentially, combine a board game with movie trivia, and movie watching, and you've got Scene It.
The awesome part about this game was that the bulk of it allowed for you to kick back on your couch and watch clips from major films released when playing. Because of this neat feature, the game managed to be pretty simple while still being fun and captivating with its wealth of diverse movie questions and amusing film clips.
15 Bad: N-Gage QD
Remember when this thing was supposed to give Nintendo a run for their money in the handheld market and reign supreme as the "next big thing" in handheld gaming? If you grew up in the 2000s, you probably do.
It's true what they say, hindsight is 20/20...
Nokia took the "Jack of all trades" approach, but unfortunately, this also meant they were a "master of none." The device was both a smartphone and a handheld gaming console, but it didn't really manage to do either very well. Its phone functions were limited, its graphics were crude, and its game library was lacking in quality and quantity.
14 Bad: Razor Kick Scooters
What is it about the 2000s and weird modes of transport for kids and teens? You had skateboards, roller blades, Heelys, and these so-called Razor Scooters. In all fairness, at least these get some more points in the safety department compared to some of the other similar manifestations.
Though this wasn't the case when people decided to ride them in the streets, which was often, at least in my experience. You typically tended to look quite goofy riding these things. Sure, a skateboard heightened your risk of breaking several bones, but at least you looked cool riding one.
13 Best: iPods
Ok, so this isn't a toy as much as a "gadget," but you could certainly look at this handy device as a toy for grown-ups. It certainly made things a degree more entertaining for me walking around the hallways in-between classes.
I remember picking up my first iPod in high-school; it truly felt like a technological revolution. Finally, I had a convenient way to carry my hundreds of hours of music without lugging a giant CD case around like I was a DJ. This device revolutionized how we listen to music, marking the introduction of the leap from the prone-to-skipping Discman to MP3 players.
12 Bad: Gundam Mini-Kits
I suppose if you were a big fan of the Mobile Suit Gundam anime, you may get a kick out of these little guys, but they didn't offer much else to the rest of us. These just never did it for me, despite my friend excitedly bringing over a few kits to my place one day, eager for us to assemble them.
Each Gundam kit came with an assortment of plastic bits, which had to be dislodged from plastic frames they clung to. Then you had to squint at a vague visual instruction manual detailing how to put it all together. Once you finally finished, there really wasn't much to do with them besides display them on your shelf and move on.
11 Bad: Nickelodeon Smatter
Yes, apparently Nickelodeon was still in the business of making weird and somewhat gross "substances" during the 2000s. Their efforts never quite took off like their Slime and Gak varieties, perhaps in part because the network was taking a dip in popularity.
Though it also didn't help that their 2000s products were even weirder, and potentially more hazardous, than those in the 90s. And no, we're not simply referring to the risk of a child eating some of the product, but from an actual physical hazard of the bottle exploding with forceful projectile spray foam. Yikes...
10 Best: Nintendo DS
Who would have thought this odd dual-screen handheld, which many initially criticized as being too unorthodox, would go on to sell like hotcakes (especially in Japan) and dominate the gaming market for nearly a decade? Not only did this device push technological boundaries with its touchscreen, but its library was brimming with enjoyable titles.
The DS boasts perhaps one of the strongest and most diverse libraries to date, with games ranging from Mario platformers to pet simulators; grueling Castlevania sidescrollers to basic brain games.
9 Bad: Poo-Chi Robotic Dog
Apparently, in the 2000s, robots were all the rage. You had the iDog, ZhuZhu Pets, FurReal Friends, Robosapien, and this odd, slowly moving robotic dog named "Poo-Chi." While Robosapien at least came with some decent bells and whistles and sported a cool look, this little guy was somewhat of the haphazard version of that slick gadget.
It also supported a pretty weak list of "functions," surpassed even by the Furby. It came with basic touch sensors which it responded to by letting out bark-like beeps, whines, growls, and could "sing" a handful of stock songs to you.
8 Bad: Nickelodeon Zyrofoam
At least this Nickelodeon toy didn't come in a potentially hazardous spray bottle that threatened to shoot your eye out, but that doesn't make this stuff much better. Zyrofoam is described as essentially a blend of a previously manufactured Nick "substance" called "Floam" and Play-Doh.
This seems a bit redundant and pointless, however, considering Floam was already similar to Play-Doh, and even contained a similarly high concentration of synthetic balls. Like Floam, you probably want to keep this stuff away from young kids, as it's probably the most candy-looking substance Nick has released.
7 Best: Cranium
There are few board games that managed to contain such a diverse palette of activities and styles, but Cranium definitely fits the bill. The game is simply brimming with creativity, and is particularly appealing to the artistically-minded player.
The game is both simple and tricky, as your goal is to get your teammate to guess a topic through activities that include molding clay, sketching, trivia, acting, and whistling tunes. Cranium truly has something for everyone; it's a massively fun and stimulating game to play with the family
6 Bad: Camouflage Water Bomb Kit
I know, "they're just water balloons... What's your beef with these?" Well, nothing really, except for the fact that this particular brand of water balloons seems to invite kids to whip these as hard as possible at their unsuspecting friends. You've got the appearance of grenades, and the very name, "Water Bombs," all of which implies their intention to be tossed at people. There was even a variation of this package released with a slingshot, further ramping up the injury potential.
5 Bad: Folkmanis Golden Retriever Puppets
Company Folkmanis has been cranking out different animal varieties of hand puppets for decades now, but for whatever reason, the Golden Retriever seemed to be their star attraction in the 2000s.
It was reported as being one of the top-selling toys in the mid-2000s.
Lord knows why though; it's doubtful these serve much of a purpose or provide much enjoyment to any kid old enough to walk. And in an era where even small kids are glued to their screens and video games, would many really be entertained by an amateur entertainer parent trying to amuse their kid with a dog puppet?
4 Best: PlayStation 2
Sony entered the gaming industry with a bang in the mid-'90s, and they looked to continue their momentum rolling into the 2000s. With their followup to the breakout hit console PlayStation, they delivered in a big way, and even surpassed it, with the 2000 console, the PS2.
The machine was a simply a powerhouse; in terms of its horsepower, relative versatility, and sheer quantity of great, memorable software. DVD support was greatly valued, being a relatively new medium at the time, and its library, which included hits like GTA3, Metal Gear Solid II, and Kingdom Hearts, is unmatched.
3 Bad: Geomag
Sure, magnets can be fun, but there's only so much you can do with them before it gets rather boring. Take these construction pieces, known as Geomag, for instance. They relied on the selling point of magnets for the bulk of their appeal, but aside from this, they were essentially another bland variation of an Erector Set, Legos, or Lincoln Logs.
Their stripped-down and simple build meant they were fairly limited in terms of what or how you could actually "build." Oh, and they were a pretty significant choking hazard, as the box itself boldly indicates.
2 Bad: Crocs
Ok, it may be a stretch to brand these as "toys," but they certainly look like toys, with their bright colors and cheap appearance thanks to the plastic/rubber makeup. These funky looking shoes are still around, of course, but for some unknown reason, they seemed to take off in popularity during much of the 2000s.
What began as a sort of practical beach or boating shoe to help deal with water and sand actually evolved into a sort of fashion statement for hipsters, beach dwellers, and lazy people. You started to see people walking the streets with these, and they sort of acted as a strange replacement for sandals, sneakers, and slippers alike.
1 Best: Nintendo Wii
In an era when the game industry seemed to be going heavily in the direction of horsepower and often complex gameplay, the Nintendo Wii was a breath of fresh air. Its emphasis on couch co-op, and ease of play thanks to the tactility and intuitive nature of the 3D motion controller resonated with many.
There were more than a few HDTV casualties from gamers losing control in unfortunate Wii Remote accidents, but we had so much fun we hardly cared.
Playing Wii Sports for the first time in late 2006 provided a feeling of "newness" to me, unmatched since picking up an NES controller as a toddler. While it was no graphics powerhouse, its lineup of simple and addictive games made it one of the most memorable devices of the 2000s.