The 1990s were wondrous years that made way to the 2000s and beyond, with many staples that saw a leap in technology and were basically the prelude for what was to come. Games from from the international scene that their way to our childhood right here in the MENA region.
We decided to get a bit nostalgic and take a dip into the past as we look back at all the things that we had fun with at a younger age, and if you feel a bit old reading this, we’re sorry in advance.
There were many gaming consoles before the 1990s, such as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and the SEGA Genesis that made waves near the end of the 1980s, but these devices really saw a huge boom during the later years.
Games like Super Mario Bros. and Sonic the Hedgehog were easy favorites for many, their theme songs were so iconic that they got ingrained into our minds, leading some of us to still use them as the ringtones for our phones to this day.
The world of gaming was truly unique as it also evolved and saw a significant leap forward with the introduction of the PlayStation and the Nintendo 64, which transformed the 2D gaming world into 3D.
Games like Spyro The Dragon and Crash Bandicoot saw so much success at the time that we witnessed them getting remastered on newer consoles recently; even a game like Mario Kart 64 had a couple of new entries released in 2018 and 2020.
The world of portable gaming also saw its heyday in the 1990s; with the Game Boy released in 1989, it would dominate the gaming landscape thanks to its engaging games and portability. The 1990s also saw it evolve even further with the Game Boy Color in 1998, releasing a version of the device that can play games in vivid colors on the go, popularizing Pokémon to a wider audience throughout the Middle East.
At the time, you could see kids huddled together using the Game Boy Color Link cable to play together and have several memorable Pokémon battles.
Mislabeled as BB Guns, they were all the rage for a lot of boys in the 1990s, especially in Egypt. Unlike actual BB guns that shot metal balls, these were essentially plastic guns that shot small plastic balls many people mistakenly called BBs. Most of the guns available at the time had coil spring-loaded piston air pumps, which needed to be manually cocked to shoot the small BBs.
A lot of kids liked the guns because they worked similar to the real thing, had moving parts, and looked like what they watched in action movies.
Even though the guns were safe to use recreationally in the right conditions (while wearing safety gear like goggles) and didn’t hurt as much over long distances, several reports and stories started to spread, where people got injured because of them.
Most of the reports included instances where children either fired at somebody while at close range or accidentally shot them in the eye. This situation led to a public outcry to have them banned, which did happen, and they slowly disappeared from the market.
The Tamagotchi, or Tamagogo as they were known in several Middle Eastern countries, was a must-have if you were a kid in the late 1990s. Created in 1996, they were a Japanese creation that means “Egg Watch” and was a small egg-sized device with a small screen, three buttons, and a metal loop so you could attach it to your keychain.
The Tamagotchi was basically a video game that featured a virtual pet, which you had to take care of by using the three buttons on the device. Upon activating the device for the first time, the game would ask the player to set the time, after which an egg would appear that would start to wiggle and open to reveal the player’s new pet.
The game’s premise is to teach children responsibility by providing the pet with three levels the players had to maintain for the pet to survive; one for the pet’s hunger, the other for their training, and the last for happiness.
Over time, the virtual pet could be played with, fed, and disciplined according to its needs, but if the player doesn’t take care of it properly, the pet could “die” in the game. It was a great way for parents to test their kids’ ability to handle responsibility in a virtual setting before getting them a real pet.
The Tamagogo was a huge hit in the late 1990s in several countries in the MENA region, including Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Egypt, where kids talked about their pets and what they could do. With the rise of Pokémon, the game resurged as Pokémon-themed Tamaogtchis started to appear, where the pets were some of the famous characters in the anime like Pikachu and Charmander.
A mix between cute and creepy, the Furbies were one of the biggest fads of the late 1990s, with kids from different age groups asking for one. Created in 1998, the Furbies were, at their core, small robots that looked like a cross between an owl and a hamster, with big emotive eyes, a small beak, a furry body and long ears.
They came in all kinds of different colors and quickly became one of the must-have toys to get. They were so successful that a smaller version of them was given away with kids’ meals at some fast-food restaurants. Many attributed the toy’s success to the Furbies’ resemblance to other characters like Gizmo from the “Gremlins” movie and Yoda from “Star Wars.”
Once you turned the Furby on, they would start emoting and talking in their language dubbed “Furbish.” However, with time, the creature would start talking in English (or other languages according to where you got it in the world) to resemble the ability to learn the owner’s native tongue.
The creature could also emote and ask questions, giving it a level of depth that made people who owned them bond with them as if they were real creatures. At the time of the Furby craze, you could see kids playing with the toys everywhere, even at sporting clubs and malls; most kids were almost inseparable from them.
Like the Tamagochi before them, parents took the opportunity to teach their kids to be responsible and take care of their Furbies as a way for them to be ready before getting a \pet.
Cabbage Patch Kids
Even though the Cabbage Patch Kids were initially released in 1982, it was still going strong in the 1990s as kids kept wanting one of their dolls to have as a companion.
While some people found them a bit creepy, the dolls were one of the most quintessential additions to any girl’s roster of toys in the MENA region. The 40-cm doll was extremely huggable thanks to their fabric body, the dolls were customizable too that’s because of their yarn hair which could be braided or brushed into different styles as well.
Purchasers or “adopters” as the company used to call the owners, even got a birth certificate that included the doll’s first and middle name along with the toy itself to make getting the doll relatable.
Another thing that made the dolls unique was the different looks they had, so many of them had slightly different looks due to the company using different molds for the faces, along with the changes in their cloths colors and design; this made sure that almost no two children would have the same doll and relayed that thought that it was made specifically for them.
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