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Tamagotchi and Other Virtual Pets That Defined Our Childhood

Do you remember your childhood virtual pets? Those little pixelated creatures that were always with you no matter where you went? They were the perfect companions, the best friends that never left your side – except maybe when the batteries were running low. Tamagotchi was the game-changer that started it all, but there were plenty of other virtual pets that we all loved. Let’s take a walk down memory lane and revisit the virtual pets that defined our childhood.

Tamagotchi: The Original Virtual Pet

Tamagotchi was the first virtual pet that made a huge splash in the toy market, debuting in Japan in 1996 and in the United States in 1997. Tamagotchi is a Japanese portmanteau word meaning ‘egg watch’. It was a small, handheld egg-shaped toy that had a small black and white LCD screen that displayed different pets. The idea of Tamagotchi was simple: to simulate the experience of pet ownership in a digital, portable, and low-maintenance way.

Tamagotchi owners started with an egg on their screen, which hatched into a small creature. They needed to feed, care for, and play with their virtual pet to keep them healthy and happy. When the Tamagotchi needed attention, the device beeped, and the caretaker would have to address the issue, whether it was food, medicine, or a game. If the Tamagotchi wasn’t tended to properly, they would become sick and eventually die. As kids, that was a hefty responsibility to bear!

Tamagotchi was wildly popular in its heyday, with over 44 million units sold worldwide. The toy was so popular that schools in the United States started banning them in classrooms, thinking they were a distraction!


Gigapets was a direct competitor to Tamagotchi, offering similar gameplay with their own unique twist. Gigapets were introduced in the late 1990s, and like Tamagotchi, they came in a small plastic case with an LCD screen. The initial launch of Gigapets included six different species of virtual pets, and each pet had unique abilities and traits.

One of the main differences between Gigapets and Tamagotchi was that Gigapets were marketed as a gender-specific toy. The original six pets included Barney (the Dinosaur), 101 Dalmatians, Nano Baby, Power Rangers, Beetlejuice, and Casper. Gigapets also had another unique feature that Tamagotchi did not: they could connect to one another, allowing friends to interact and play games together.

Nano Pets

Nano Pets were similar to Tamagotchi but on a smaller scale. The tiny devices were the size of a quarter, but despite their small size, they still offered a lot of gameplay options. Nano Pets were released in the early 2000s and offered a variety of animals for children to take care of, including dogs, cats, fish, and bugs.

Nano Pets had simple gameplay that still kept kids engaged. The screen would display the pet’s status, such as hunger or happiness, and caretakers would need to interact with them by feeding them or playing games. One of the most popular Nano Pets was the Butterfly, which would hatch from an egg and eventually become a moth.


Virtual pets for kids were a game-changer in the toy industry. They provided kids with an opportunity to experience the responsibility of pet ownership in a digital, low-maintenance way. Tamagotchi may have started it all, but there were plenty of other virtual pets that we all loved, like GigaPets and Nano Pets. Today, virtual pet apps are more prevalent than ever, and they continue to appeal to kids and adults alike. We may have grown up, but we can’t forget the little electronic pets that defined our childhood!

So what virtual pets did you have as a child? Did you prefer Tamagotchi, Gigapets, or Nano Pets? Share your memories with us in the comments below!