Games That Will Launch '90s Kids Into Nostalgia Overload

By Jake Schroeder
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Photo Courtesy: Kamil S/Unsplash

If you grew up in the 1990s, then you may have forgotten how many cool games were around back in the day. Before virtual reality and consoles became the norm, games were either played on boards or super-early gaming machines. Are you ready for a heavy dose of nostalgia? Take a trip down memory lane as we check out some of the coolest video and board games that the 1990s had to offer. You'll definitely recognize some of these classics!

Mouse Trap

Let's face it. Mouse Trap was one of the coolest games of the '90s, whether you even knew how to play it or not. The fun was mostly in building the super-complicated trap, which utilized everything from windy stairs to what looked like a bathtub perched atop a bunch of exposed piping.

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Photo Courtesy: Hasbro/YouTube

Mouse Trap was not without its perils. Each player had the duty of getting their mouse to safety without being captured by the huge trap that covered the board. Whether you won or not, the biggest thrill was watching the trap in all its glory when it actually managed to work correctly.


Back in the '90s, you didn't have to look further than your board game collection to find a little trouble. Rather than relying on players to keep up with the dice, Trouble flipped the script by encasing them in a cool little plastic bubble.

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Photo Courtesy: Fat Brain Toys/YouTube

When it was your turn, you'd just press down on the bubble and watch it make a cool popping motion that rolled the dice for you. If you were lucky, you’d get numbers that let you move all your pieces around the game board without getting stuck or caught by another player.


Ah yes, the game that inspired a thousand childhood nervous breakdowns. A favorite of budding surgeons everywhere, Operation put the fate of a cartoon patient into your shaky little hands. The objective was to use a pair of tiny tweezers to remove various bones from the patient through insanely small openings in the game board.

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Photo Courtesy: Smartnick100/YouTube

The catch, however, was that if you touched the side of the opening as you tweezed, the game alerted you to your failure via a loud buzzer. Not only was the buzzer the stuff that nightmares are made of, but the patient's nose would even light up like Rudolph's on Christmas Eve.


Guess Who?

Among the best road trip games ever created, Guess Who? is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Each player got a little game board full of tabs that you pulled up to reveal a collection of characters with different hairstyles and accessories.

Photo Courtesy: Triple S Games/YouTube

To start, you selected a card with the face of one of the characters on it. The goal was to guess the other player's character by asking a series of "yes" or "no" questions. Based on the answers, you could flip down the tabs of any characters who didn't fit the bill. The first to guess the other player's character based on the context clues scored the win.

Eat At Ralph's

Remember this guy? He was basically a fun way to teach '90s kids everywhere about the dangers of gluttony. In order to play, you took turns competing to see how many pieces of food you had to feed Ralph.

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Photo Courtesy: SpeechFairies/YouTube

Even as you shoved all sorts of tasty-looking foods into his mouth, you knew there was one catch. You see, Ralph could only take so much before deciding he'd overdone it. At this point, he’d proceed to throw up all the food and cost you your chance at glory. Gross? Totally. But what kid didn't love it?

The Oregon Trail

Meet the reason that pretty much every '90s kid you'll ever meet is well aware of the dangers of dysentery. Before the super high-tech video games of today, kids everywhere sat around traveling the Oregon Trail on huge 1990s desktops.

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Photo Courtesy: DavetheUsher/YouTube

The game transported you back to the Oregon Trail, where you were forced to make your way through the wilderness by covered wagon. Along the way, you'd hunt, gather strength and make all kinds of death-defying choices in search of a better life. Most of the time you'd still end up dying from dysentery anyway, but it was a fun ride while it lasted.


Hungry Hungry Hippos

As it turns out, hippos really dig the taste of marbles, and boy are they hungry. Such was the premise of Hungry Hungry Hippos, a game in which each player took control of a large hippo on their side of the game board.

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Photo Courtesy: Dave Fischer/Wikipedia Commons

After you launched the collection of marbles into the middle of the board, everyone began banging wildly at the switch that made their hippo's mouth move. The player whose hippo managed to eat the most marbles by the end of the game won. It wasn’t insanely complicated, but that was part of its allure.

Don't Wake Daddy

Somewhere along the line, some genius out there decided to make a board game out of something that kids do all the time in real life. In Don't Wake Daddy, each player chose a sneaky kid character and took turns moving it around the board.

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Photo Courtesy: Sandaroo Kids/YouTube

As you attempted to get your stealth on, you'd run into a number of noisy obstacles along the way. If you didn't have the right cards, you'd be forced to hit daddy's alarm clock a certain number of times and hope you didn't wake him up. If you accidentally roused him from his slumber, he'd pop up in his bed, terrify everybody and force you to start all over again.

Duck Hunt

Back in the early '90s, every kid in town had an orange plastic gun lying somewhere near their TV. Everybody knew that if you were in the mood to do a little duck hunting, all you'd have to do was plug that gun into your NES and pop in your trusty Duck Hunt cartridge.

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Photo Courtesy: GamevideosTV/YouTube

As soon as the game began, you were transported to a virtual world where your pixelated dog would appear and pick up a scent. Moments later, a series of ducks flew across your screen and you had to shoot them before they flew away. When you failed, the dog popped up and laughed at your lack of aim.


Mall Madness

Though it was technically released in 1989, Mall Madness was a favorite that lasted well into the 1990s. This was probably due to the fact that it was based on a fantasy that's still just as tantalizing after you grow into adulthood.

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Photo Courtesy: 80sThen80sNow/YouTube

Basically, you and your friends were unleashed upon the mall, armed with credit cards that you never even had to pay off. The fact that the game electronically spoke was also a big deal back in the early '90s, and winning was as easy as being the shopper to collect all the items on your list before anyone else.


Having cooties wasn't always a bad thing back in the day, as long as you were referring to this classic kids’ game. A long-time favorite, especially among younger kids, the game is pretty much like building a Mr. Potato Head but with rules.

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Photo Courtesy: SandarooKids/YouTube

The goal was to win a collection of creature parts that you'd use to build your own cootie. The first person who successfully got enough pieces to bring their cootie to completion won the game. Okay, so it wasn't the most challenging task in the world, but it was awesome for helping little kids develop their motor skills.


Though it was much like other board games in many respects, Splat! came up with one feature that completely upped the satisfaction factor. Whenever you got ready to play, every player had to craft their own bug character out of squishy dough.

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Photo Courtesy: Lucky Penny Shop/YouTube

You then had to attempt to get your bug across the board to win the game. If you managed to lose, however, your opponent got to use a huge plastic hand to squash your bug into oblivion. Basically, the game gave kids permission to revel in the joys of being a sore loser without having to worry about lectures from disapproving parents.



"Put the pieces into the slots, make the right selection! But be quick you're racing the clock! POP goes Perfection!" So went the 1992 commercial that's still stuck in many of our heads decades later. Fortunately, the game was fun enough to make the jingle worth it.

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Photo Courtesy: CartoonCritter1985/YouTube

In order to play, you tried to get a bunch of different shapes into their matching holes on the gameboard before the timer ran out. If you weren't quick enough, the whole board popped the pieces back out, so all of your work was ruined. As the first experience many of us had with adrenaline, this was one game that '90s kids couldn't get enough of.

Crocodile Dentist

Uh oh, looks like the croc has been hitting the candy a little too hard again... Time for a trip to the Crocodile Dentist. If you were bold enough to step up to the plate, then you and your friends competed to see who could give him some totally world-class dental care.

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Photo Courtesy: Toys For Kids/YouTube

The idea was to take turns pulling his teeth with little plastic pliers. But beware! If you pulled the wrong tooth, the croc's mouth snapped shut. While some more adventurous kids even played with their fingers, they were generally the first to learn that crocodiles are truly terrible dental patients.


Whether you had one of your own or not, you couldn't make it down the hall of any school in America in the late '90s without seeing one of these. The Tamagotchi was a cool little virtual pet that you could raise and care for without ever having to shovel any actual poop.

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Photo Courtesy: Arterra/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

While more convenient than the average pet, these things also required a lot of work. You had to feed and play with them every day or they died. While they were quite the commitment without the reward of any actual cuddles, they were one of the biggest fads every ‘90s kid remembers.


13 Dead End Drive

13 Dead End Drive is one of those games that you don't realize is actually a tad gruesome until you get older. The game's setup began with the death of an old rich lady who left behind a fortune, which everybody tried to win.

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Photo Courtesy: The Retro Demon/YouTube

Getting ahold of it wasn't without its perils, because all the other players were also attempting to bluff their way into winning. By springing traps and killing other characters off, you could stay alive long enough to strike it rich. Though it wasn't much for teaching valuable moral lessons, it had sort of a Clue-type feel that made it super-fun.

Gooey Louie

Kids love gross stuff. If you ever need proof, look no further than the fact that this '90s game managed to become as popular as it was. It revolved around the cartoonish Louie, who had an unfortunate head full of boogers.

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Photo Courtesy: Sandaroo Kids/YouTube

Given that he had no hands for doing the job himself, it was up to the players to successfully pick all the boogers out of his nose. The only catch? Louie had some serious medical issues going on, and if you overpicked, his brain could pop out of his head and cost you the win.

Shark Attack

If you want to find out just how steely your nerves are, look no further than a round of Shark Attack. Though the game came with a cool motorized shark that chomped his way around the board, unfortunately, you had to play the role of a fish.

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Photo Courtesy: JordChannel/YouTube

The players took turns rolling the dice in order to see whose fish got to move ahead a spot. You had to roll fast though, because the shark was no slowpoke. If he reached your fish before it was your turn to move, then it was lights out.


Ants in the Pants

People everywhere have been getting ants in the pants for generations now, thanks in part to this popular game. One of the coolest things about it was that it came with a pair of actual plastic pants, complete with suspenders.

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Photo Courtesy: Lucky Penny Shop/YouTube

The goal was to get all the plastic ants you could into the pants by pressing down on their tails to make them jump. Though this game has been around for quite some time, pretty much every ‘90s kid can relate to having the ants scattered across the bottom of their toy box — and the agony that came with accidentally stepping on one.

The Baby-Sitters Club Board Game

Once upon a time, in a fictional '90s world, a group of enterprising young teenage girls created their very own business. Known as The Baby-Sitters Club, they had their very own book series that no '90s girl could resist.

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Photo Courtesy: GRJ9007/eBay

The Baby-Sitters Club Board Game allowed you to join in the fun of wacky babysitting adventures and test your knowledge of trivia from the books. While every girl out there was sure the game was training her to open her own babysitting business as soon as she turned 14, most of us lost our passion somewhere along the way.


"Crossfire! (You'll get caught up in thaaa) Crossfiyaaah!" Even if you never so much as saw this game in real life, the odds are that you remember it for having the catchiest commercial of all time. It featured two punky looking boys who flew into an arena of screaming Crossfire fans.

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Photo Courtesy: ArcadeUSA/YouTube

As they faced off, firing a bunch of marbles at little spinning targets, the background music managed to make you think you were watching the two most legendary gamers of all time. As far as actually playing the game itself went, few kids seemed to really care.


Mr. Bucket

If you had a little brother or sister back in the '90s, then you probably recognize this guy. He was pretty much exactly what his name suggests: a motorized bucket that waved his hands over his head in an attempt to throw off your aim.

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Photo Courtesy: flippin_bored_y/eBay

Your job as a player was to scoop up as many balls as you could with a little plastic shovel and get them inside of the bucket first. He managed to become so popular with younger children that he's still challenging toddlers everywhere to beat him at his own game today.

Don't Break the Ice

Not only was Don't Break the Ice all the rage back in the '90s, but it's also still on the market today. It's sort of like a game of Jenga but with less balancing involved. The whole setup comes with a platform that you place all the "ice cubes" into.

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Photo Courtesy: Sandaroo Kids/YouTube

Once they're all in, you can turn the platform right side up and the pieces stay in place due to the wonders of tension. Next, you place a little character in the middle of the rink and take turns hammering out individual blocks of ice. The goal is to hammer out pieces that won't cause all the others to collapse in one big plastic avalanche.


After the movie Jumanji became a huge hit in 1995, it only made sense that Milton Bradley turned it into an actual game you could play. Though the movie was based on two kids who accidentally unleashed the havoc of a magical board game into their own world, the real version was a bit tamer.

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Photo Courtesy: Refresh Play/YouTube

The objective was pretty much the same as in the movie and involved making your way across a jungle-themed game board. Some rolls were luckier than others and could either leave you stuck or give you the option of blocking another player with a plastic rhino.


Sonic the Hedgehog

Though the Sega Genesis was originally launched in Japan in 1988, it didn't become a household name in the USA until the early '90s. Sonic the Hedgehog instantly became one of the console's most popular games and featured a little blue hedgehog who zipped and rolled around your TV screen with supersonic speed.

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Photo Courtesy: ZloolS/YouTube

Many people still think this is the greatest classic video game of all time, and its title character is still very much alive and well. The feisty little hedgehog has enjoyed plenty of follow-up games, a TV show and even the starring role in his own movies.


If you were a fan of the PayDay board game back in the '90s, then you may be amused to discover that a young Lindsey Lohan starred in its commercial. As far as how to play, it was actually one of the few games that gave kids an unknowing peek into their horrible futures as adults.

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Photo Courtesy: Nathanolson/YouTube

As you moved around the board, you came up against various bills and expenses you were obligated to pay. Whoever managed to amass the least amount of debt by the end won. So basically it was your exact grown-up life, but with all the fun of being able to return to childhood at the end.

Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?

Seriously, did anyone ever find out where she was? We may never know, as Carmen Sandiego was the notorious thief that every amateur sleuth was after back in the day.

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Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

The wily Carmen became the head of a criminal organization called V.I.L.E. and roamed the world stealing priceless treasures with her henchmen. In these old computer games, you could use the almanac and your geography knowledge to help track her down and recover the stolen goods. Little did any of us realize back then that this game was actually super educational. Who would have thought?


Mortal Kombat

Though it may not sound like a big deal today, back in the '90s the thought of being able to play your favorite arcade game at home was music to every kid's ears. So, in 1992, when Acclaim Entertainment released a version of Mortal Kombat you could play on your Super Nintendo, young gamers everywhere rejoiced.

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Photo Courtesy: mateush998/YouTube

The game featured characters who all gathered to take part in a super-secret martial arts tournament. The game was so popular that it was even made into a movie — a movie so outdated that it's accidentally hilarious today (but nostalgia-inducing nonetheless).


If you recognize this game from the '90s, then you may be surprised to learn that its origins actually go back even further. Making its original debut all the way back in the 1960s, it's managed to become so popular that you can still buy it today.

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Photo Courtesy: TTPM Toy Reviews/YouTube

The premise is actually pretty simple and involves sticking a bunch of plastic straws through the center of a large tube. Then you toss a bunch of marbles down the tube and the straws keep them from dropping all the way through. Each player takes turns removing straws. The one who manages to make the fewest marbles fall wins the game.

Girl Talk

Although in hindsight it may have been one of the most questionable games of the '90s, it was also one of the most popular among teenage girls. Girl Talk was basically a glorified version of truth or dare but with cards that inspired crazy antics such as calling a boy and telling him something gross.

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Photo Courtesy: *_*red*_* /eBay

If you could never bring yourself to do such a thing, then you could always opt-out by applying one of the zit stickers to your face. The next time you and your girls are up for a night of dishing about your first kiss, a wild and crazy game of Girl Talk is sure to get the party started.