Take a look around and you’ll notice that most younglings these days are glued to their iPads or smartphones, playing games like Roblox or watching Cocomelon on loop. Given that most of the beloved kids toys millennials used to play with were released in the late 90s and 2000s, it’s completely normal for many of us to have forgotten about some of them. Heck, some of them are more than 20 years old. Gosh, way to make us feel ancient.
If the slight mention of toys like Beyblades, Polly Pocket or Tamagotchis have got you going “Oh yaaa, my fave!”, strap in for a whole lot of nostalgia as we reminisce about the best 90s toys from the good ol’ days.
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Image credit: Carousell
Remember the thrill of catching crazy fast toy cars with your bare hands, only to suffer a stinging sensation and even a red mark on your fingers? If that self-punishing but oh-so-exhilarating experience sounds familiar, you were probably a fan of Tamiya Cars.
These battery-powered toy cars were so popular back in the early 2000s that toy shops would even set up tracks for enthusiasts to race their cars.
Alongside the toys, Tamiya also had its own anime series such as “Bakusō Kyōdai Let’s & Go!!” which helped boost the popularity of the hobby. Although Tamiya cars are no longer as popular as they were before, you can still find specialised Tamiya car hobby stores in Singapore such as Stargek.
If you remember shouting “3, 2, 1, let it rip!” while pulling the ripcord as hard as you could, you were likely the proud owner of a Beyblade toy. Of course, I’m talking about OG Beyblades that are actual spinning tops of destruction capable of scratching marble floors, unlike the modern ones with smooth and rounded edges.
They were so popular that you could find plastic arenas in pasar malams or shops for enthusiasts to battle each other. Even now, I still remember witnessing a boy cry in Compass Point (now Compass One) when his stock Beyblade got smashed into pieces after clashing hard against a customised Beyblade with a powerful and deadly spark ring.
If a Beyblade and a Tamiya car had a baby, you would get a Crush Gear. Released in 2001, these fighting car toys were meant to crash mercilessly against each other and played much like Beyblades: switch them on, throw them in a ring and watch the violent battle unfold.
Image credit: Carousell
Whether you like to walk the dog, rock the baby or go around the world, you can’t deny that having a Super Yo-Yo in hand made us feel cool. Some of us went the extra mile of customising yo-yos with special axles and strings. It was even rumoured that having an orange string would make the yo-yo spin better, for reasons only known to the yo-yo gods.
While most of us soon grew tired of the toy, one Singaporean took it to the world stage and even won a couple of world championship titles. He is none other than Marcus Koh, who is renowned for his intense and risky yo-yo performances.
Image credit: Flickr
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would’ve at least heard of Polly Pocket, the tiny dollhouse toy that you could carry around. Many were designed to mimic makeup kits, while others were big enough to be disguised as bags.
While many would think “bigger = better”, these pint-sized dollhouses and their intricate details were a joy for young girls to collect. It also made for great portability when parents need to stow some toys in their bag to keep their little one entertained on-the-go.
Image credit: Carousell
A long time ago, Mighty Beanz were all the rage when it came to collectible toys you couldn’t really do much else with. If you were one of the lucky ones who got a glow-in-the-dark version, you would be one of the “cool kids”. And even more so if you got the elusive Mighty Moose bean, each being resold for several hundreds of dollars on eBay to this day.
While these were just bean-shaped toys that could tumble endlessly down a slope, they were somehow really fun to fiddle with, collect and trade with your schoolmates down at the canteen.
Those of us who were bored during tuition might’ve smuggled in a couple of little toys to play with, including the cheap and easily available Ring Toss game. These were commonly sold at mama shops around Singapore, and were our stand-in “smartphones” during a time when parents weren’t too keen on letting us have mobile devices just yet.
Image credit: Carousell, Pinterest
While they may look super creepy in hindsight and whisper things like “me love you” before turning on their glowing eyes, Furby was an insanely popular toy series throughout the late 90s and early 2000s.
Image credit: Digital Trends
Fun fact: there’s actually a modern remake called Furby Connect which has gone through quite the cutesy makeover. The creators probably took all the creepiness feedback to heart…but now that we see the new version, we can’t help but gravitate towards the OG – droopy eyelids and all.
Image adapted from: Youtube
Baby Alive is a toy doll that mimics a real baby, from its realistic size and appearance right down to being able to be fed fake “milk”. Even if you didn’t own the toy, you’d probably be familiar with this 2006 Baby Alive ad.
It was often broadcast during Kids Central commercial breaks, and the “Baby Alive, a baby so real!” jingle would get stuck in our heads without fail.
Image credit: Pinterest
In the 90s, Tamagotchis were the ultimate craze as virtual pets requiring constant attention. You could either feed and care for your pet till it reached a ripe old age, or be faced with the digital death of the little critter if you ignore its beeping notifications and pleas to be fed, played with and cleaned up.
For those who want to relive their Tamagotchi days, Bandai has recently released new Tamagotchis in Singapore, complete with the original three-button setup but in a smaller size and chic pastel colour schemes.
Fans of Digimon would know that the Digivice was the home for your virtual pet slash partner in crime, which you’re supposed to take care of and “digivolve” to its final form. Then, you would take it out to battle with your friends to see who had the best Digimon of them all.
It was a great way for fans of the cartoon to make-believe that they were in a universe with Digimon, and go on duelling adventures around the neighbourhood playground. Fast forward in time and you can still buy Digivices from places like Gamemartz for around $30-$40.
Image credit: Reddit
TY Beanie Babies were another major fad in the late 1990s, with many kids pleading with their parents to buy new ones, and even adults who invested in them as valuable collector’s items. You can easily spot a beanie baby by its huge red “TY” heart-shaped tag.
Besides the iconic teddy bears, the range of plushies covered pretty much the entire animal kingdom, from mammals to reptiles and insects. There would also be special design series such as gradients, sequins and holographic prints, plus limited edition ones like a Kobe Bryant design with only 10,000 made.
Hot Wheels has been a staple in almost every boy’s childhood. And for some of us, adulthood too. These die-cast cars were sent down Hot Wheels tracks with the iconic loop-the-loop, ramps and other unique mechanics to send our cars flying, crashing and even changing colours – if you remember the colour shifter series.
These days, Hot Wheels cars have become much more expensive, about $3-$10 depending on the model, up from just $1.50-$2.50 per car back in the day. Luckily, this toy series is still quite popular and you can get back into the Hot Wheel craze easily at most toy shops or department stores in Singapore.
When given proper care, sea monkeys can live up to two years.
Image credit: Pinterest
Probably the only toy that features actual living creatures to take care of, Sea Monkeys are mini fish, or rather shrimp, tanks where we could raise small brine shrimps by feeding them over time. They were easy to keep, as you’d only need to feed them with powdery substances provided in the feeding packets once every five to seven days.
Somehow, we were obsessed with watching things grow – as evident from our keen interest in toys like Sea Monkeys and Tamagotchi. In the 2000s, water babies, a.k.a. water beads or Orbeez balls, became an “in” thing when school kids would bring in packets of small jelly-like balls and “grow” them water.
Some even used their water bottles if they had no other receptacle. Once the jelly-like orbs were fully grown, taking them out from the water and just feeling them in your palms made for a strangely satisfying experience.
If you’ve had a crush during your primary school days and owned a Magic 8 ball, you’ve probably asked “Does [insert crush’s name here] like me?” before shaking it to reveal your destiny.
Even though we knew as kids that these devices weren’t fortune tellers, it still gave us that sense of reassurance nonetheless. Or, a harsh wake-up call if the answer was cruelly negative.
Image credit: Pinterest
If you’re a competitive person as an adult, chances are that you probably have a Hungry Hungry Hippo set at home. The game is simple: be the player with the most balls “eaten” from the centre of the circle.
It may seem like casual fun, but don’t underestimate how heated the games would get when the competitive spirit kicks in. Nothing spells wholesome fun like four players straight-up smashing into the levers in a desperate bid to swallow up hard-to-reach balls.
From an almost prehistoric era when technology was still in its infancy, playing with these toys were the highlights of our childhood. From racing toy cars and battling violent spinning tops to collecting otherwise useless beans and plushies, it’s a little sad that the new generation of kids will not get to fully experience the same simple joys that we so fondly remember.
Nevertheless, some of these toys are still available for us to relive our childhood or gift to our own kids. Nothing like taking a trip down memory lane and showing our littles ones what it was like when mama and papa were kiddos too!
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