How Sweet It Was – Nostalgic for the 90s

Ellen Appelbaum December 6, 2020

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Board games can really take you places – including back to the kinder, gentler past.

If you feel this way, you’re in good company. A lot of the games you loved as a kid have the staying power to still be on store shelves – and on screens – today.

Wouldn’t it be cool to sit down to play a game with your little guys and know the rules before you even start!? You’re going to be the family expert – take a look.

1. Pretty Pretty Princess

$17, Ages 5+

Oh, the drama! Who doesn’t want to pretend to be royalty, with bowls full of gems to share out with their guests? Players collect fancy (okay, plastic) necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and rings as they move their pieces around the board. She who gets the black ring must ditch it in order to win. First player to get the crown wins the game. The kit contains 22 pieces, including one crown. No batteries needed.

2. Operation

$18, Ages 6+

Poor Cavity Sam! You’re the doctor, can you help him? He has all kinds of trouble – water on the knee, a broken heart, writer’s cramp, butterflies in the stomach, and more. In 2003, players voted him a new ailment: Brain freeze.

Your job is to cure Sam by delicately tweezing out 12 Funatomy parts from the game board without touching any metal edges. If you make a wrong move, you’ll know – Cavity Sam’s nose will light up and a buzzer will sound.

This game is bound to bring some laughs, while at the same time honing players’ fine-motor skills and eye-hand coordination.

You’ll need a cool head for this one – and batteries.

3. Mouse Trap

$24, Ages 6+

The genius of Rube Goldberg is the key to this game’s success. As you roll the die and move your colorful plastic sharatzim around the board (eew), collecting pieces of cheese (eew), you’re also building the most convoluted mouse trap ever.

There’s no strategy to worry about here, only fun – because in your race to the finish, where you land depends entirely on luck.

When the ridiculous structure is finally set up, and one of the playing pieces lands on the space that says “Turn Crank,” the action really begins. The crank:

  • moves a stop sign,
  • that hits a shoe,
  • that kicks a bucket,
  • that sends a ball zigzagging down a maze,
  • that jiggles a pole,
  • that makes a ball fall,
  • that hits a see-saw,
  • that somersaults a diver into a bucket,
  • that jiggles a pole,
  • that makes the mouse trap slide down.

And if your mouse is inside, you’re out.

So the motto of the game is, “Get the cheese but don’t get trapped!”

You can take a lot of life lessons from a good session of Mouse Trap.

4. Don’t Break the Ice

$15, Ages 3+

If you know the original version of this game, you might also remember this poem printed on the box: “Take your time and do some thinking to keep the polar bear from sinking. To win, the bear must stay on top. One wrong block, he’ll go ker-plop!”

And really, that’s all you have to know.

This very vintage game is good for preschoolers, but older kids and adults can have fun with it too.

You can now get the game with Philip the Penguin, or with an “Ice Man” to stand on the one large ice block that is at the center of the game. And yes, you can buy replacement ice cubes and mallets.

5. Connect 4

$12, Ages 6+

Ooh, Connect 4. A seemingly simple game that grows with the players. You need strategy to win this game, and that comes with practice. The object is to get four of the same-colored pieces in a row, and that row can be horizontal, vertical, or diagonal. There are big versions of Connect 4 at places like the Queens Farm Museum, so it’s clear that this pastime has caught on in a big way.

6. Battleship

$17, Ages 7+

No batteries? No problem. This war game, made in the USA, pits two opponents against each other, and the object is to figure out where their ships and weaponry are. You can’t see each others’ boards; you figure it out as you go.

It’s geared for players who enjoy strategizing – with a fair amount of guesswork thrown in. (Kids also like it because it’s fun to move the pieces around.)

7. Hi Ho! Cherry-O

$15, Ages 3-6

This game, geared to younger children, has new, updated design and play options. Players try to fill their baskets by picking cherries, blueberries, apples, and oranges.

It’s great for number recognition, because the spinner tells you how many pieces to take or put back. Painless addition and subtraction! Players learn to take turns, and they can work together to pick all the fruit before the birds eat it.

8. Hungry Hungry Hippos

$18, Ages 4+

This is another classic game that is fun for all ages. Four kids, four hippos, and it’s whack-a-mole on steroids. If your hippo gets the most marbles, you’re the winner. The game is fast-paced and easy to learn, and it comes with clear instructions for set-up.

9. Twister

$20, Ages 6 to Adult

Okay, enough sitting down – “the game that ties you up in knots” is an energetic way to spend a winter afternoon indoors and get a fair workout in the bargain. (And of course you can play it outside, too.) The players themselves are the playing pieces, and the mat is the game board. So all you need is a flat surface to stand on.

Twister is a game of physical skill that challenges you to put your hands and feet where the spinner tells you to, which can lead to some amazing contortions. And if the spinner lands on “Air,” then the player must put a hand or foot in the air! Until whenever.

Last player standing is the winner.

This game is definitely an ice-breaker.

10. Bop-It!

$19, Ages 8+

“Bop It!”

“Twist It!”

“Pull It!”

“Pass It!”

This award-winning game is fun for older kids – one mom of four remembers playing it on her 8th-grade graduation trip. It’s a noisy game, but not annoying.

You hold the game like a bar and pass it around, with each player taking a turn and following its commands. It makes noise and plays music, and, while it looks super easy, it gets more and more challenging as it speeds up. The round ends when someone is “out.”

Bop-It! was first released in 1996, so if you loved it as a kid, you were part of the game’s First Wave.

Why are games great? They’re fun ways to hang out, and even to pick up new skills. They add laughter and decrease stress, and save your eyeballs that are weary from too much screen time.

Go for it!