10 toys from the '90s that definitely drained both batteries and parents' patience
How many AAA batteries does it take to get to the center of your kids' world?
"Batteries Not Included" is possibly most dreaded toy label for a parent to discover on Christmas Day, especially parents in the '90s. It rendered even the best, most wished-for gifts as completely unusable, especially so if it required a specialty battery you didn't normally keep around the house. For that reason, the most paranoid parents started stocking a variety of batteries, just to make sure everyone was happy on the holiday morning.
It wasn't just being overly cautious, though. In the 1990s, some of the biggest trends in toys required the most batteries to keep your kids content, and that kept parents running errands for extra batteries until these memorable toys finally died or the children's interests mercifully waned. It was a time when Tiger Electronics dominated, with a neverending string of hand-held games and huge hits in unique toys like the Talkboy and Furby.
Here, we present some of the most popular toys that plagued '90s parents, with ongoing battery needs that seemed to last a lifetime. See how many you remember had you running to the store, time and again.
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Required: Six AA batteries
One of Nintendo's few hiccups in their successful run of video game consoles, the Virtual Boy was supposed to be the next big thing, with a visor that let you play your favorite games in 3-D! It was discontinued in 1996 because it just didn't catch on, possibly in part because it required parents to shell out for six AA batteries for four measly hours of gameplay.
Electronic Dream Phone
Required: Four AA batteries
This game from 1991 tried to help young girls connect to their dream boys, by dialing an electronic phone to get clues to identify which dude likes you. It's like if the board game Clue was about crushes instead of murder. The batteries actually lasted for a decent amount of time, but the main issue kids and parents had was that the round battery cover on the back of the phone was frequently lost, which caused batteries to go missing, too. For parents already ponying up for the real phone bill, replacing fake phone batteries was likely not the priority.
Required: Four AA batteries
This was one of many genius Tiger electronics that captivated '90s kids, with a huge help from Home Alone 2 for the surge in popularity after the Talkboy was prominently featured in the film. The biggest problem parents had (other than the annoyance of hearing their conversations recorded with the slow-back feature) was how quickly it ate through batteries, and many kids suffered the fate of shelving the favorite toy, simply because they couldn't reliably power it up often enough.
Required: 4 AA batteries
Tiger Electronics' most successful '90s talk-y toy, though, was undeniably the Furby. They originally sold for $35, but by Christmas, they'd go for as much as $300 for any desperate parent turning to internet resalers to acquire 1998's trendiest toy. Of course, anyone who ever owned one knows what happens when the Furby runs low on those AA batteries the toy monster ate up day and night. They start talking real slow and go right to sleep. Another pain for parents dealing with battery replacement fatigue? The Furby couldn't take rechargeable batteries, or else it wore them out way faster, which meant the high-maintenance toy required an endless cycle of brand-new batteries.
Required: One 6V battery
Power Wheels were on pretty much every '90s kids wish list, to the point where parents today are probably still jolted from sleep by the toy's often-repeated jingle, "Pow-Pow-Power Wheels!" Although the small cars definitely drained their single 6V batteries at a racecar's pace, the larger issue was the focus of a couple recalls in 1998. Apparently the battery connector on many Power Wheels were faulty, so even if you had plenty of "Pow-Pow-Power," your kids' "Wheels" were stuck. Mattel's suggestion? Just drive it on down to your local, friendly authorized Power Wheels Service Center.
Talkback Dear Diary
Required: Two 3V button-cell batteries
Talking diaries were definitely a '90s Christmas craze parents will remember well, with popular models like the Talkback Dear Diary and My Super Magic Diary (pictured here). Not only did these toys require the super-inconvenient button-cell batteries that were easy to lose because they were so dang small, but the toys had irritating features where alerts would sound constantly. That meant many parents were removing the batteries themselves, before they even had a chance to die.
Required: Four 1.5v button-cell batteries
In the same club as the talking diaries was the Yak Bak, which had the power to send kids to the moon if they were lucky enough to unwrap one on Christmas Day. They were that popular. For parents and siblings, though, they were among the most trying on your nerves, since the little electronic recorders took down just 6 seconds of audio at a time for playback. Unlike most of the toys on our list, the Yak Bak actual came with batteries included, but from that point on, it was on parents once they finally died to decide: Replace the batteries or make that the last of you ever hear of the Yak Bak.
Required: 1 CR2032 specialty battery
Another massive toy fad of the 1990s was the tiny Tamagotchi, a pampered digital pet that required a specialty battery. Parents who purchased the original Tamagotchi know the toy for the trouble it made, because at first, they were designed to die in less than 12 hours if kids weren't taking care of them. Clingy kids brought them to school, where they were labeled a major distraction, and less obsessive kids left the pet to their parents' care (which sounds an awful lot like adopting a real pet!). Tracking down the original batteries (and remembering what they were called) was annoying, but dealing with the headache of a fake pet was the part that was overkill for most parents.
Darth Vader Power Talker
Required: One 9V battery
Hasbro released an adjustable Darth Vader helmet for kids in 1995 that was designed to alter your voice to sound like the Star Wars villain. It sounds awesome, but unfortunately, it was a bit of a letdown for kids because the effect missed the mark on capturing that iconic voice. That's probably why the toy also included recorded Vader clips kids could activate instead while wearing the mask, including his trademark heavy breathing. For kids who did love the toy, though, the pricier 9V battery extended the parents' ongoing investment in the toy well beyond Christmas.
Required: Three AG13 button-cell batteries
Taking us out of the 1990s is another Tiger Electronics toy that hit in 1999: HitClips. Some say the device, which played minute clips of hit songs, was swiftly killed by the iPod, but for kids who loved the miniature players, they were kept on a keychain for constant replay access. Like other button-cell battery-powered toys, replacing the batteries meant the minor inconvenience of an extra errand. Unique to HitClips: There was no volume control, and by default, these things were loud enough to convince any parent to conveniently forget to replace its little bitty batteries.