Travel Back to 1996 With This Vintage Toys R Us Insert

Toys R Us had a massive footprint on kid’s lives in the 90s. It was the store version of the same excitement Nickelodeon brought to the TV. The retail giant started in 1948 as ‘Children’s Bargain Town’ in Washington D.C., and by 1957 changed focus to toys (rather than furniture) and it’s name to Toys R Us.

At its peak, Toys R Us had 739 stores in the U.S. and over 750 in other countries, with Japan being its largest overseas market.

Toward the end of the 1990s, however, Toys R Us faced major competition from stores like Walmart, Kmart, Target, and Costco. In 2000, they signed a 10-year, $500 million a year contract with Amazon to be the new online retailer’s exclusive toy and baby product seller. While initially successful, it stopped Toys R Us from building its own eCommerce business, which ultimately was a massive mistake. By 2017 they filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

But let’s forget about all that! It’s Christmas! It’s 1996! Let’s look at some toys!

1. “Where the Holiday Magic begins!”

A young blonde child, wearing a red shirt, sleeps on a table with their head resting on a "TOYS 'R' US" Wish List. The list reads, "I would really like a Basketball and a Skateboard." The image is a holiday-themed ad with offers and text about savings.

Wait, Toys R Us used to be open til midnight? That had to be a holiday schedule, right?

2. “Nintendo 64: The future is here!”

A vintage Toys "R" Us advertisement for the Nintendo 64 gaming console showcasing the console, controller, and the game "Super Mario 64." The text highlights features and pricing: $199.99 for the console and $59.99 for the game. Mario character appears in the bottom left.

Unfortunately, the full date on when the Nintendo 64 was available in the store is cut off, but we know that the console was first available in North America on September 1996, so we know that this was the first Christmas that it could have been gifted.

Also, that $199.99 price tag with inflation would be around $400 in 2024. The PlayStation 5 (current model) goes for around $450, so it’s in the same ballpark.

3. Sega Saturn

A colorful advertisement for the Sega Saturn gaming console, showcasing various game titles such as NBA Jam Extreme, WWF In Your House, and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. The ad highlights prices and features of games, consoles, and accessories, including a memory card and controller.

The Sega Saturn first became available in North America on July 8th, 1995, so while it was still very current, it was no longer the new kid on the block.

4. Sony PlayStation

A colorful catalog page showcasing various PlayStation items. It features a PlayStation console for $199.99, an analog joystick for $69.99, a controller pad and memory card each for $24.99. Also displayed are several PlayStation game covers with prices ranging from $19.99 to $47.99.

Ah, the original PlayStation. Also released in 1995, this was still selling really well, but was not the hot Christmas gift that it was the year before.

5. Sega Genesis

Advertisement for Sega Genesis video game console and peripherals including a 6-button arcade pad, and several game titles. Games listed include VectorMan, NHL 97, NBA Live 97, Madden NFL 97, Ultimate MK3, Arcade's Greatest Hits, College Football USA 97, Sonic 3D Blast. Prices vary by product.

Two things strike me about this Sega Genesis ad: It’s interesting to see a console (albeit a massive one) being advertised that was released 7 years before (1989), and that the games are so much more expensive than the Playstation or the Sega Saturn. At $59.99 in 1996, most of these games would be $118.80 in 2024!

6. Super Nintendo

A colorful Toys R Us advertisement showcases Super Nintendo and Game Boy consoles, along with various video games. The top right displays a Super NES system with Donkey Kong Country for $129.99. Surrounding it are images of popular games with prices, highlighting deals.

Another classic console that had fallen out of the Zeitgeist by 1996 was the Super Nintendo. Released in 1992 in North America, it was four years old at this point. Similar to the Sega Genesis, it’s really surprising that the games were so expensive.

7. Game Gear

A Toys "R" Us advertisement featuring various video games and a Game Gear system. The Game Gear, priced at $29.99, is displayed prominently at the top. Game titles shown include Sonic Blast, Pac-Man 2, Monopoly, and more, with prices starting at $3.49.

The Sega Game Gear, which landed in North American stores in April of 1991, was Sega’s answer to the Game Boy, AND it was in color!

8. Game Boy

An advertisement featuring various Game Boy consoles and games. Five Game Boy colors are displayed at the top: red, green, black, yellow, and a special edition. Below, several game titles and prices are shown: Tetris, Donkey Kong Land 2, Super Mario Land 2, and more.

The Nintendo Game Boy, which was six years old at this point, was still holding its own in the market despite Sega’s Game Gear having a color screen. You can see why it was still a viable option at 38% of the cost of a Game Gear and being a much more portable size.

9. “Strike Gold”

An advertisement for Toys "R" Us featuring Nintendo 64, Game Boy Pocket, and Tamagotchi products. Items include a Nintendo 64 controller, golden Tamagotchi, gold Game Boy Pocket, and Giga Pets. Prices listed range from $14.99 to $64.99. Promo slogan: "Strike Gold!”

About Author