Back in the 90s, corporations didn’t have access to our internet data in order to laser-target the advertisements they showed us. Toy companies had to do the legwork themselves and run advertisements during children’s television programs. They actually had to put some effort into the ads as well, to make sure that they held the attention of the easily-distracted kids who probably knew how to work the remote well enough to change the channel. They accomplished their goal, perhaps too well. To this day, many of the following commercials play back beneath my eyelids as I fall asleep at night.
50. Mr. Bucket
Okay, so this is a game for children, but guess what? I was a child in the 90s, and I really wanted a Mr. Bucket. I still think about this commercial whenever I see a bucket. I bet I would destroy those kids at this game.
When I first encountered K’NEX, they seemed like knock-off LEGOs for nerds. Their marketing division deserves a ton of credit for showing that these plastic beams and connectors could do things that bricks couldn’t, like building a functional freakin’ roller coaster. My freshman year science teacher had one and it was just as cool as you would imagine.
48. Loopin’ Louie
Apparently Loopin’ Louie is still popular in Germany as a drinking game. That actually makes a lot of sense.
47. Nerf Super Maxx
It was really difficult to narrow this pick down to just one of the countless iconic Nerf gun commercials from the 90s. I defaulted to some old advice I received from my grandfather: “If you’re struggling to pick a Nerf commercial for a listicle about 90s ads, always choose the one with a terrible CGI dragon.” Thanks, Poppa.
46. Power Rangers
Sure, I had plenty of Power Rangers toys as a kid, but I never had any Zords. My cousin did, though. Whenever I watched this commercial, I burned with indignation and jealousy as I awoke to the fundamental unfairness of life.
45. Gator Golf
It’s been 30 years, and I still don’t know what could be greater than playing a game of golf with a gator. The question haunts me.
44. Mall Madness
Even as a kid, I thought it was kind of weird to have a game based around the idea of how fun consumerism is. Okay, that was a lie. I was a pretty dumb kid. I do remember thinking that the fake credit card reader was neat, though.
It’s kind of weird how much they focus on the fact that it’s got a counter in it. That thing never lasted more than a week. The numbers got jammed before the plastic ring had even rubbed all the skin off of your ankle.
42. Moon Shoes
Man, I thought this commercial was engineered to convince my parents to buy me Moon Shoes. They were very anti-trampoline, so this was the perfect counter! My undeveloped brain couldn’t see that if they didn’t like bouncing confined to one spot, they certainly wouldn’t be thrilled about unrestricted bouncing.
41. Ask Zandar
I stole my sister’s Ask Zandar crystal ball to ask for its advice pretty often. Sure, I could have just used my crummy old Magic 8-Ball, but I trusted the tinny, electronic voice of this strange old man more than a chunk of plastic floating in opaque blue liquid.
40. 13 Dead End Drive
The 90s were a wonderful decade where you could make a children’s board game where the goal was to murder your fellow players and no one batted an eye.
The game itself may be a lot older, but this commercial is pure 90s. I think I remember the exact tone and cadence of, “Perfection’s the race to beat the clock,” better than I know my own mother’s voice. I relate to the commercial even more now, since I feel like giant game pieces are exploding out of my torso whenever I eat dairy.
38. Mighty Max
I had a couple of these, but I wasn’t a huge fan of them. It just never made sense to me. If Max is supposed to be mighty, why is he so small? Small things aren’t mighty; big things are.
37. Littlest Pet Shop
Now here’s a toy that’s supposed to be small. To this day, it remains the tiniest pet shop I’ve ever seen. See how far a bit of honesty in marketing can go? The makers of Mighty Max should take note, unless they’ve been out of business for decades.
36. Beast Wars
What’s cooler than a robot who can turn into a gorilla? A robot who can turn into a hoverboarding gorilla.
35. Easy-Bake Oven
The Easy-Bake Oven has been around forever, but the 90s were probably the last decade when it was, like, good, right? There’s no way they’re letting kids play with a toy that gets hot enough to bake dough these days. Do they just sell you a plastic oven with pre-cooked brownies inside it?
34. Dream Phone
A lot of things marketed toward girls in the 90s focused on whether or not boys liked them. That really sucks!
33. Yak Bak
The poor man’s version of the Talkboy, the Yak Bak was still a fun way to while away a lazy afternoon in the days before the internet. I know what a fart sounds like in slow motion thanks to this device. I shudder to think where I would be today without that knowledge.
32. Stretch Armstrong
I never had a Stretch Armstrong, and I never really understood how it would be fun to play with for more than five minutes. I mean, he just stretches. I had access to essentially infinite rubber bands that could do the same thing and also be used as a weapon. The commercials were always memorable, though.
Look out! This isn’t some boring, old, wooden yo-yo you got at a souvenir shop. It’s made of transparent plastic in cool colors! The guy in the commercial has spiky hair! Your parents certainly wouldn’t approve of this yo-yo.
30. My Little Pony
I miss the days when the words “My Little Pony” just made me think of the boring horse toys my sister played with. Those were simpler, better times.
Let me tell you something about 90s kids. They didn’t want to play with a cuddly bear like Teddy Ruxpin. They wanted to play with an immobile plastic robot with red eyes. The fact that it was much cheaper to manufacture than Teddy Ruxpin was just a fortunate coincidence for the suits at Tiger Electronics.
28. Crocodile Dentist
I’m not sure why game designers in the 90s were so obsessed with alligators and crocodiles, but it worked out for them. This game usually devolved into leaving your hand in the croc’s mouth and intentionally triggering it to close, thus proving you weren’t a baby.
In hindsight, it’s pretty conspicuous how they never show the kids playing with Gak on a carpeted floor.
26. LEGO Castle
There’s a million LEGO commercials I could have chosen, but for some reason, the glowing ghost always stuck with me. Like, I get it, but it just felt weird for some reason. Aren’t ghosts usually, like, see-through? I don’t know. I guess it’s spooky.