The 90s were a weird time.
It was full of questionable cartoons, horrifyingly green sodas, Blockbuster video stores, and trapper keepers.
VH1 and MTV actually played music videos. You had to record songs off the radio using a tape player to make a mixtape.
I could go on for a while, but you get the idea.
Even board games weren’t safe from… well, the 90s.
As far as board games were concerned, the 90s was a time for experimentation. Some games struck gold and others hit septic tanks.
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Let’s take a look back in the way back machine and see what we can find. All of the games on this list made their debut in the 90s or were just popular during my formative years. Some of them are terrible and some are really good.
Let’s get weird!
#1 Catan (1995)
Did you know that the powerhouse known today as Catan was first published in 1995?
This classic board game was designed by Klaus Teuber in his basement to keep his children busy. Nobody expected it to blow up the way it did, but it’s safe to say that most of us are happy it did.
Catan is a fantastic game. It’s one of the best gateway games due to its popularity. It’s easy to pick up and learn, offers a variety of strategic options, has a social trading element, and it’s fun.
There’s a reason it’s sold millions of copies and has no sign of slowing down.
All-in-all, the 90s produced one of the most popular games in board gaming history.
- The incredibly popular, multi-award winning civilization-building...
- Players control their own civilization and look to spread across...
- Beware the robber’s nefarious plans as he steals resources and...
#2 Twilight Imperium (1997)
Whoa momma, the granddaddy of all space opera games was introduced in the 90s?
Well, yeah. The original Twilight Imperium was hand-assembled by designer Christian T. Peterson. That’s EVERYTHING by hand. He hand-punched all the tokens and cut every piece in every single box.
As the story goes, at the Origins Game Fair in 1997, Christian was set up in a well-trafficked hallway during the Con and sold out in under 2 days.
There’s a reason for that. For sheer scope, thematic gameplay, and strategy, it’s really hard to beat out Twilight Imperium.
The best part is it’s only gotten better with age. The newest 4th edition has fixed many of the rules that players had trouble with the 1st edition and updated all of the components and artwork.
There’s no reason to leave this classic in the 90s. It’s here to stay.
- Create your own galactic space opera with a massive game...
- With seventeen different races and a random board setup, no game...
- Ages 14+. Innovative game systems create strategic decisions...
#3 Tower of the Wizard King (1993)
FREAKING TOWER OF THE WIZARD KING!
Seriously, this game was so gimmicky but was one of the first major fantasy games I ever played.
Throughout the course of the game, players run around and fight each other and if you were lucky, you could put your hero into the WIZARD TOWER! It was a ridiculous 90s plastic monstrosity of a tower. In goes your player mini, you pull the lever, and BAM! Out pops a transmogrified new character.
It was a gimmick for sure, but it was so cool. My brother and I played with that tower and the minis until they broke.
It was my first fantasy skirmish-type game. It’s completely out-of-print and hard to find, but the wizard king’s tower can still be found on many 90s kids’ bookshelves.
For a more modern game that you can actually find in stores, check out Magic: The Gathering Arena of the Planeswalker for some fantasy skirmish action.
- Arena of the Planeswalkers game lets players create a 3-D battle...
- Includes figures, tiles, glyphs, dice and cards for a Magic: The...
- Play as one of 5 Planeswalkers: Gideon, Jace, Liliana, Chandra,...
#4 Tigris & Euphrates (1997)
Tigris & Euphrates was first introduced in 1997 and later won the 1998 German best family/adult board game award.
This is all very unusual because it’s a high-conflict strategy game in which players compete for territorial control. It’s strange because German designers in general, and especially during that time period, tended to shy away from direct conflict games, which is where the term Eurogame came from.
Tigris & Euphrates is probably one of those near-perfect games. It has a ton of strategy and can easily be played over and over without getting bored.
The fact that it didn’t stay buried in 90s nostalgia is a testament to how good it is. There have been numerous updates and reprints and you should be able to experience this gem without too much difficulty hunting down a copy.
- Updated version of a classic, award-winning game by Reiner Knizia
- New graphic design based on the art of ancient Mesopotamian...
- Clarified rules and new examples make it easier to learn the game
#5 Mouse Trap (1963)
Who doesn’t like Rube Goldberg machines, especially if they look they’re designed by Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone?
This ridiculous game falls into the nostalgia trap. The game itself was absolutely terrible, but watching a cartoon mouse get trapped in an elaborate cheese trap made me want it SOOO badly.
The game is definitely not going to win any awards, but it’s a ton of fun to set up the trap and spring it. I think I actually had more fun with board setup and tear down than I actually did with the game.
- CLASSIC MOUSE TRAP GAMEPLAY: Do you remember playing the Mouse...
- FUN AND EXCITING KIDS' BOARD GAME: Scurry to the finish. This fun...
- BUILD THE MOUSE TRAP: Take turns building the Mouse Trap while...
#6 Paths to Glory (1999)
At the end of the decade, board games were really starting to hit their stride.
Paths to Glory barely snuck into the 90s, hitting it in the last possible year. This is another game on the list that was originally designed and distributed in the 90s, but has been on players’ shelves and tables every since.
It’s one of the best examples of a war game and achieves some incredible goals.
It’s not overly long. Players can still finish a game within a day and still have time for other things.
The scope of the game is the entirety of WWI. If you’re a history buff or just a fan of history you’ll appreciate the full gamut of WWI information. You could spend entire months playing out the entirety of WWI if you were so inclined.
The end of the 90s was an end of an incredible time, but it also help usher in the possibilities of the 2000s, and Paths of Glory exemplifies this in the war game sphere.
#7 Tikal (1999)
Tikal is another game on this list that survived the 90s.
It was originally released in 1999 and won the Spiel Des Jahres that same year.
Grab your Indiana Jones hat, because you’ll be exploring temples of a lost civilization in Central America.
In the game, players will explore and excavate ancient ruins. But one does not simply walk into the ruins. It takes careful planning and some strategic backstabbery.
Tikal is very simple, yet offers an immensely strategic experience. Where players place tiles and use their limited amount of actions determines the winner. Players could end up creating a chokepoint that blocks off other players from getting to those sweet victory points, or they may end up walling themselves into a corner.
It’s an excellent game for beginners and experts, and a brilliant showcase of board game design from the 90s.
- Each player is the director of an expedition intent on exploring...
- Ages: 10 and up
- Number of Players: 2 to 4
#8 Tortoise and the Hare (1993)
This is actually a pretty cutesy game that survived the 90s.
In Tortoise and the Hare, players relive the classic fable by… gambling on the race!
- German-style board game
- David Parlett in 1974 and first published by Intellect Games
- Players 2–6
It’s a well-thought-out game and each animal has a different ability that will help it get across the finish line, so it’s rarely the same winner every game.
It’s even been remade with an adorable book cover box that fits perfectly on the shelf.
#9 Manhattan (1994)
Manhattan, not to be confused with The Manhattan Project board game, is a city-building game in which players try to build the tallest buildings on the island of Manhattan.
It was originally introduced in 1994 and actually won the Spiel Des Jahres that year. It’s a highly-strategic game that can seem simple at first but requires a lot of planning and foresight.
You didn’t think civic engineering was easy, did you?
It’s another game that survived the 90s and is still going strong today.
- Reprint of a timeless classic with new visuals.
- Race to build skyscrapers around the world. A simple area control...
- Award-winning game: 1994 Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year),...
#10 13 Dead End Drive / 1313 Dead End Drive (1993)
Here’s a bit of classic 90s nostalgia. One of Kendra’s favorite childhood games, 13 Dead End Drive has players controlling the inheritors of ol’ Auntie’s vast fortune. The only problem is that she left equal shares to everyone. There’s nothing for it, other than to murder everyone else.
It’s pretty dark if you think about it, but the ways you get to kill your fellow nouveau rich relatives, servants, and family pets, are just way too fun to pass up.
Here’s the trick though, everyone is rooting for a different inheritor to make it out alive and all of the players can move any character.
Only need one more turn to make it out? Oops! Somebody triggered a trap and dropped a chandelier on your head. SPLAT!
Speaking of traps, that’s the main draw/gimmick of 13 Dead End Drive. There are traps ready to spring on every corner of the board, and they’re really fun to play with.
Fling your opponent off the stairs, drop a suit of armor on them, throw ’em off a ladder. It’s like a weird Scooby-Doo episode if they all went homicidal instead of being meddling kids.
The great thing about 13 Dead End Drive, is that it can still be found relatively easily today. The original and the remake, 1313 Dead End Drive, are still kicking around some second-hand stores and board game shops if you look hard enough.
By the way, both games are basically the same thing. There’s a slightly different ruleset in 1313, but I would go with the one that tickles your aesthetic funny bone.
- The Game of Relative Danger
- Can you survive the traps and inherit millions from your rich...
- Beware of Aunt Agatha's house's traps and those that may not want...
#11 Atmosfear (1995)
Oh, the VCR!
Looking to capitalize on in-home entertainment, board game companies saw the VCR as brand new territory ready to be explored.
There was something magical about the first dual-media board games. They were so weird and brand new, that you couldn’t help but be a little intrigued.
Atmosfear is a horror-themed board game run by the ominous Gatekeeper. Back in the day, he was confined to a videocassette and ran the board game. You’d pop in the tape before starting the game and the creepy special FX goon would pop up on the tv and ominously explain the rules of the game and then you were off, searching for some kind of McGuffin while Halloween music played in the background.
Throughout the tape, the Gatekeeper would pop up and scare the crap out of you while altering the different phases of the game.
It’s a really cool concept and to this day, feels super thematic and just seemed to work with the game. Luckily for us, there have been a few newer versions of the game if you want to relive the nostalgia. Atmosfear evolved with DVDs, allowing for a variable game experience by putting the disc on shuffle.
There’s even a brand new version that came out in 2019 that revamps the original using an app instead of DVD or Tape.
#12 Cranium (1998)
Not just a random trivia game, Cranium has players making clay sculptures, drawing pictures, and making weird noises, which is much more interesting than Trivial Pursuit.
All of these concepts were done before in many other games, but Cranium was able to slam all of them together into one absurd game. It appealed to such a wide variety of interests and age groups that it was usually pretty easy to get the family together to play.
I actually have nothing bad to say about this one. It may not be the most innovative game in the world, but it’s an all-around solid family game.
- Object of the game: To circle the board victoriously - sketching,...
- 3-in-1 Foldout Game Board: Quick Game - A 30-minute experience...
#13 Goosebumps: Terror in the Graveyard (1995)
Every 90s kid had at least one Goosebumps book. Whether they actually read them or just collected them for the cool book covers is a different story.
Goosebumps was every 90s kid’s first experience with the horror genre. It was immensely popular and spawned a ton of spinoff materials that are apparently still going strong. There was an awesome TV show and a less awesome movie, starring Jack Black (What are you doing dude?).
Players controlled a team of 2 survivors that ran around the graveyard. The main draw of the game was 3 movable crypts on the board. If you moved a crypt, it would change the symbols of the board. You could end your turn completely safe, and watch in horror as the crypt swallowed up your survivors.
Understandably, it’s no longer in print, but if you’re looking for some tabletop scares and some good old-fashioned campy horror, check out Betrayal at the House on the Hill.
#14 Forbidden Bridge (1992)
Can you pass the Forbidden Bridge?
Forbidden Bridge was another forerunner in mixed media. They took a small electric motor that would rattle a plastic bridge that players would have to move their pawn’s across.
Players needed to enter the forbidden temple, steal gems, and return them to win. It wasn’t always easy because whenever you pressed the button on the temple, the entire bridge would rattle from side to side.
The best part about it though was the explorer pawns. These weren’t meeple people, they were actually molded plastic pieces with little arms.
The little arms were key! Every so often you’d get super lucky and your player’s arm would latch onto the bridge as it rattled around, and they’d hang on for dear life.
It’s a simple game, but it’s pure nostalgic gold.
#15 Mr. Bucket (1991)
I don’t know who the marketing guy was on the Mr. Bucket project but I know he’s probably on a list somewhere.
If you’re feeling froggy you can still find the original commercial with the catchy lyrics of, “I’m Mr. Bucket. Put your balls in my mouth.”
- The original, racing bucket chasing game
- Includes simple snap-together 2-piece motorised Mr Bucket with...
- 2-4 players
Yup, that was a real thing in the 90s.
If you want to try a newer game that forces you to move around or do ridiculous things, why not try Spaceteam, the cooperative shouting game? You’ll still get some exercise while running around (just like with Mr. Bucket) but far less shame and inevitable therapy.
- Chaotic and cooperative card game for people who are into...
- Printed on 100% plastic anti-gravity space-ready playing cards.
- For 3-6 players (add more players with 2 decks or expansions).
#16 Bop It! (1996)
Ok, so maybe it’s not really a board game, but Bop It! was the shit.
I still remember asking my parents for one when they came out. They were just a stupid amount of fun, especially back in the day when stressed-based tasks were fun instead of anxiety-inducing.
Bop Its are still alive and kicking well after the 90s and they’ve even made some giant deluxe monstrosities where you have to flick and pull things…
- The classic game of bop it, twist it, pull it: hear the commands...
- Fast-paced electronic game for kids: the game unit commands...
- Play solo or with multiple players: the bop it! Electronic game...
I can’t believe they still make these things but I’m so glad they do.
#17 Don’t Wake Daddy (1992)
In this questionably-themed game, you’ll play as hungry kids who are trying to sneak into the fridge to steal food at night.
Every time you make a noise, you’ll have to hit Daddy’s snooze alarm and risk setting it off.
If daddy wakes up, he’ll jump out of bed in a Vietnam War flashback frenzy and scare the kids back to bed.
And that’s the most times I’ve written/said the word ‘daddy’ ever…
It’s an oddball game that’s only redeeming quality is nostalgia and that awful commercial that gets stuck in your head. If you really want a fun racing game from the 90s, maybe check out another game on this list: The Tortoise and the Hare.
#18 Don’t Tip the Waiter (1990)
This horrifying game is something straight out of a horror movie. Stack your plates on Stretch Out Sam’s tray and then watch as his arm raises, elongating and warping into a horrifying nightmare.
Ah, the 90s.
Weird mutant arms aside, there were a lot of physical mechanic games in the 90s as different uses for technology were tested. The original came out in 1979 and was a balanced cardboard waiter. The 90s looked at cardboard and said, “Nah, eff that. Let’s make a mechanical elongating arm.”
It’s horrifying to watch now and reminiscent of John Carpenter’s The Thing, but I was a kid and it was entertaining to watch things fall.
If you’re looking for a modern take, check out a dexterity/stacking game like Beasts of Balance. You’ll get all of the stacking fun and it uses an integrated AR app along with the game.
- Update Alert!** now includes the all new 'battles' 2-3 player...
- The multi award-winning connected stacking game for all ages that...
- Beasts of balance gets better and more challenging than ever...
#19 Toxic Crusaders (1991)
If you’re a fan of the weird, then you may be familiar with the Toxic Avenger and Troma Films. They’re ridiculously violent and campy and for whatever reason, became immensely popular. I remember seeing a cartoon Toxic Avenger when I was a kid, but never saw the original movie.
It’s a weird bit of 80s cinema that leaked into the 90s pop culture. There were spin-off movies, comics, cartoons, toys, trading cards (the ones with gum), and of course the card game.
It’s an awful memory card game where you match up cards. I was glad that we left this bit of pop culture in the 90s, but apparently, they’re making a reboot of the movie. Cool.
Instead of the ultra-violent, ultra-weird Toxic Avenger and its card game, maybe try out Hanabi. It’s a much better memorization card matching game that doesn’t involve toxic sludge monsters disemboweling mobsters.
- For 2-5 players
- 2013 Spiele des Jahres game of the year
- Takes about 20-30 minutes to play
#20 Monopoly Jr. (1990)
The 90s were a time of experimentation for the Parker Brother as well. This was basically the beginning of the neverending remakes and variations of the game we all love to hate.
I actually don’t completely hate Monopoly. When taken in its historical context and what the designer intended, it’s actually pretty interesting.
That being said, did we actually need a Monopoly Jr? Isn’t childhood precious and fragile enough without introducing kids to the horrifying world of bills and debt? What monster would inflict this on children?
I do, however, like some of the weird variations that Monopoly has to offer. Monopoly Deal is pretty fun and lasts about 10 minutes and if you want a full game of Monopoly, try Wineopoly. 90s kids are old enough to drink now and you get to learn about wine. Win-Win!
Oh, the 90s.
They brought us so many classic things that helped form us into the weird people we are today.
It’s hard not to look back on your formative years with a little bit of nostalgia, but luckily for us, the 90s was an age that lives on. Many of our favorite things are still around and there’s been a huge resurgence in popularity for all things 90s.
What do you miss about the 90s? What kind of games did you play? We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below.