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The 1990s were a magical time. The Cold War was finally over; smartphones hadn’t completely taken over our lives yet, and this new ‘World Wide Web’ phenomenon was pretty cool. Kids also had it better than ever, thanks to a fresh wave of toys that were hyped to the max during wild and exciting commercials that surprisingly still kept our eyes glued to the screen in between Saturday morning cartoons.
If you, like me, are nostalgic for the ’90s—or if you missed out on that inimitable decade—the good news is that many of those wild toys that made childhood “da bomb dot com” exist again today. Frankly, as much as we hate to say it, many modern versions of classic ’90s toys are even better than what we had back when Nirvana, C+C Music Factory, and Lisa Loeb songs (or should I say song, for Loeb) filled the airwaves.
While some toys simply can’t be improved upon, like a Frisbee or a Rubik’s Cube (OK, actually, they did improve on that one—all official Rubik’s Cubes are now made from recycled plastic, which is cool), others are arguably now in what we might call their finest state.
Which means your state of play will be better than ever.
The Original Supersized Gel Blaster Surge XL
The 1990s saw kids playing with all sorts of toy weapons, from guns that fired those orange sticky darts to foam ball blasters to paintball guns to a veritable arsenal created by Nerf. Had Gel Blasters been around back then, though, we’re willing to say a lot of those other options would have faded away fast. These blasters—which don’t look at all like real guns, and that’s a good thing—fire out soft, water-based spheres (AKA “gellets”) that won’t injure, won’t cause damage, and won’t leave any messes, either.
Lego Icons Atari 2600 Building Set
Sure, Legos long pre-date the 1990s, but that decade saw the brand really expand its catalog with more complex, moving sets with the SYSTEM line, with movie tie-ins, and more. Ironically, today one of the best Lego kits for adults (or kids who are serious builders) that has come out recently is this one that sees you constructing a retro gaming system.
Super NES Classic
When the Super Nintendo console came out in 1991, it was an instant global hit. Many of the games were so good that they’re still fun to play today. Chances are good that your ’90s-era Super NES is long gone, though, so instead, grab this modern remake of the classic system, which comes pre-loaded with 21 games and connects to a TV or monitor with an HDMI cable.
Pokemon Trainer Guess Legacy’s Edition Toy
Down From $25
It seems like Pokemon has been around forever, but the brand actually dates just to 1996, the year the first Pokemon cards came out. Flash forward to the 2020s and you (and the kids) can put all your Pokemon knowledge to the test with this interactive talking trivia game.
Ninja Warrior Obstacle Course
’90s kids had ziplines. And, often enough, zipline-related injuries. Today’s youth can have safer, more exciting, and more fun experience with a customizable slackline set. This one features everything from a swing to rings to a trapeze to climbing hardware. It can be configured for kids of many ages and of differing physical abilities.
Incog Water Gun
The best thing about the Incog Water Gun from Team Magnus is arguably the fact that these things don’t look like guns at all. The other great thing is that they blast jets of water a solid 30 feet, giving you a serious edge in any water fight. Sure, Super Soakers are awesome and all, but these sleek, subtle water blasters
American Girl WellieWishers 14.5-inch Camille Doll
While the first American Girl dolls came out in the late ’80s, they were a staple of the ’90s. You most likely kept your American Girl dolls to share them with your own kids, but if not, or if you just want to introduce your children to some new great dolls, the American Girl WellieWishers are a great choice.
Catan Starfarers Board Game
Did you realize the beloved board game The Settlers of Catan is from the year 1995? Yep, it’s almost 30 years old. This recent addition to the Catan lineup takes the gameplay into space, and the challenges and the fun are greater than ever. Just note that gameplay can take between an hour to a full two hours, so be ready for that.
Lite-Brite Mini-X Connect
OK so the first Lite-Brite actually dates to the 1960s, but few ’90s kids will have forgotten the ad jingles from that decade. Lite-Brite is back and better than ever with this travel-friendly, battery-operated mini set that comes complete with multiple pattern guides. What’s even cooler is that each Mini-X is designed to connect with up to three other units, thus making a large four-panel display or one large image.