Remember Tamagotchi? If you were a kid growing up in the ’90s, chances are you either had one or knew someone that had one. These little egg-shaped devices contained a small digital “pet.” There was no pause button, and these needy little critters demanded constant attention, making them notoriously difficult to keep alive. I recently bought one for nostalgic purposes, and it died within a week. I have two human children I have kept alive for several years, but the Tamagotchi did not last a full business week.

At the height of the virtual pet craze, many schools banned the toys because kids were sneaking them in and causing major distractions. I was one of these kids, and I remember my parents finally taking my little bundle of joy away after several incidents at school. They could not figure out how to turn it off, so they wrapped it up and hid it in the garage. I could always hear it beeping, calling to me, like a heart beating under the floorboards. Alas, I could never find it. To be fair to my parents, it had become a major distraction, and they had the best intentions.

A photo with the word "Tamagotchi" in multiple colors emblazoned on a white background with multiple animals underneath it.

Looking back, that is a lot of unnecessary responsibility for a young child, so thanks, Mom and Dad. All joking aside, Tamagotchi started a phenomenon and legacy that continues today. Please join me on this nostalgic journey through the world of Tamagotchi. 

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A Brief History

Tamagotchi was first released in Japan on November 23, 1996, and in the US on May 1, 1997. It was co-created by Akihiro Yokoi and Aki Maita and owned by the Japanese toy company Bandai. Yokoi was inspired to create the portable pet after seeing a commercial about a boy wanting to carry around his pet turtle. The name “Tamagotchi” is a combination of the Japanese word “tamago” or “egg” and the English word “watch.”

There is even a term for human attachment to artificial life called the “Tamagotchi Effect.” It’s often considered the world’s first handheld virtual pet and launched a successful franchise, including countless toys, video games and even TV shows. Often imitated but never duplicated, here are some of the Tamagotchis released over the last few decades.

Tamagotchi (1996-1997)

A photo of the Tamagotchi from 1996 in pale yellow packaging on a light pink background.

The original Japanese story says Tamagotchi are a race of aliens from a place described as “millions of miles from Earth” called Tamagotchi Planet. They lived peacefully until one fateful day when a disgruntled Oyajitchi (drunken uncle-type character) gets the Planet drunk on sake. With the Planet too tipsy to live on, the aliens escape in UFOs to find another planet while waiting for their home to sober up. Biology Professor Banzo happens upon one of these aliens, and he and his assistant Mikachu tend to their needs.

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Banzo creates an egg-shaped device that allows the aliens to be easily cared for with a screen and simple controls. Mikachu painted the Tamagotchi houses with different colors, which explains the endless rainbow of Tamagotchi shell designs. Eventually, more species were found, and the Professor sent devices across the world.

Tamagotchi Angel (1998)

A photo of the Tamagotchi Angel in a blue and white package on a white background.

Ever wonder what happened to the countless Tamagotchi we accidentally killed over the decades? Luckily, they all go to Heaven. Angels are the spirits of lost Tamagotchi, and they live in Tenshitchi Capital, which floats in the sky above Tamagotchi Planet. These Angels water the clouds to provide rain for the planet, grow their angelic
powers through prayer and help guide the living Tamagotchi.

Basically, the Tamagotchi Angel is the ghost of your dead Tamagotchi, who came back to hang out with you and thank you for giving them a good life. Alas, they cannot be away from the Tenshitchi Capital for very long and must eventually return. I’m not crying; you’re crying. Your job is to keep your Angel from becoming a Deviltchi by having it do enough good deeds. I wouldn’t mind one of these cuties being my guardian angel.

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Tamagotchi Ocean (1998)

A photo of four Tamagotchi Oceans in blue, purple, and pink packages on a wooden table.

The Tamagotchi Ocean was an ocean life-themed device featuring aquatic aliens called Sakanatchi. This one boasted a drastically higher difficulty than any other release. In fact, Bandai stated they had made it so difficult that players normally should not be able to raise their Tamagotchi beyond childhood — as if it was not already hard enough to keep them alive. Perhaps they made it too challenging because Bandai ceased production of these toys in America shortly after the Ocean was released, making the Tamagotchi Ocean the final English toy before the brand was rebooted with the Tamagotchi Connection in 2004.

Tamagotchi Connection (2004-2007)

A hand holds the Tamagotchi Connection, a small, circular game device in yellow and dark blue.

The Tamagotchi Connection was the first modern release of the virtual pet, making it the long-awaited Tamagotchi comeback. This was the first version to use Tamacom, an Infrared feature that connects two Tamagotchi pets, allowing them to play games, exchange presents and make babies. I remember this releasing and being so excited to
play with other people. I’m not sure why; I never really knew anyone else with one, especially at that time. It features characters from both versions of the classic Tamagotchi and several new characters.

Tamagotchi Music Star (2008)

A photo of the Tamagotchi Music Star, a small, circular pink game device on a pink background.

Tamagotchi Music Star lets you raise your Tamagotchi as a musician and eventually start a band. They can practice different instruments, which will determine what genre of music they play. Help your Tamagotchi soar to stardom by practicing, playing gigs and earning trophies. Strangely, band manager Guitaritchi will find a mate for your Tamagotchi once you are famous. Two days later, the parents leave, and the new Tamagotchi inherits all of the parents’ items. This is one of the most unique and involved Tamagotchi.

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Unfortunately, they are difficult to find these days and go for several hundred dollars on eBay. This is too bad because I would love to start my own Tama band; they look so cute playing their little instruments.

TamaTown Tama-Go (2010)

A photo of the TamaTown Tama-Go, a small, circular purple and pink game device.

What is better than a virtual pet? A virtual pet and a figurine to go with it. This version included a Gotchi Figure, a physical figure of a Tamagotchi that connects to the top of the Tama-Go. These adorable toys unlock new games and food for the Tamagotchi and give you access to special shop items in Tamatown. Several Tamagotchi characters had figures, and even released cute carrying cases for them. The backgrounds on these Tamagotchi are much more detailed, and users can buy new house interiors with points.

After decorating their home sweet home, they can now leave their house to visit different places such as the arcade, park or possibly a place to find that special someone. You can connect with your friends to partake in games and play matchmaker with your Tamagotchi.

Tamagotchi On (2019)

A photo of four different Tamagotchi On in multiple colors on a pastel pink and green background.

The On was the first color-screen Tamagotchi to be released in North America. Each theme, like “Fairy” or “Magic,” determined the available characters and exclusive locations. This version also has an interesting genetic trait mechanic. Meaning after the first generation, the offspring will take on characteristics of its predecessors. At first, it would be something like body color, but it becomes more distinct as it grows. Some features can disappear and resurface in a later generation, and you can even have twins.

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Tamagotchi Pix (2021)

A photo of a small, circular pink game device, on a white background.

The Pix features a camera and touch buttons, allowing for new gameplay types. For example, you can use the Pix’s camera to cook. Take a photo of two different foods, and based on the color of the foods, they will combine into a new food for the Tamagotchi. In this version, to clean up the poo, you swipe your finger across the buttons. Aw, it’s like you are wiping their little Tamagotchi butt.

Find out if yours has a green thumb by planting seeds to grow trees that will give you items. When the Tamagotchi is ready to return home, you are asked to make an album of photos taken during his lifetime. Cooking, gardening, and scrapbooking with my Tamagotchi? Sign me up.

Tamagotchi Uni (2023)

A photo of a small, circular pink game device on a busy pastel background with animated characters.

Drumroll, please. Set to release July 15, the Tamagotchi Uni has a strap that allows you to wear it as a watch. It will keep up with your steps and reward you for walking with your Tamagotchi. Rewards include DIY recipes and crafting materials that you can use to create unique accessories. I cannot think of better motivation to get my steps in.

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Each one can now develop its own personality, such as shy, energetic or chill. This personality will determine how the Tamagotchi reacts to different situations and which items they prefer. You can connect with a friend to play games, share items and craft together. Two Uni devices can connect to play games, exchange items, create accessories and get married. We are also introduced to the Tamaverse, the Tamagotchi version of the Metaverse. This will allow you to meet new players, get special items and participate in arena events. The Tamagotchi Uni has some exciting new features, and I look forward to its release.

Collaborations 

A photo of the Hello Kitty collaboration with Tamagotchi, featuring two toys with Hello Kitty in the corner on a green and blue background.

Throughout the years, there have been many collaborations. While there are far too many to mention, a few include Gudetama, Hello Kitty and Eevee. Luckily, some of the later ones are available at most retailers for a reasonable price. If you see one you like, grab it because it will not be that price forever. Looking back, I wish I had purchased a few when they were released because I will probably never play them. 

Friends of Tamagotchi 

@Tamagirl327

As adorable as Tamagotchi are, some people have taken that cuteness to the next level. @tamagirl327 is a Japanese Korean mother of two with another bundle of joy on the way; she is also a miracle worker regarding Tamagotchi. She received her first English Tama in 1997 and has been a fan ever since, just like me. A self-proclaimed Tamagotchi cosmetic surgeon, she gives our favorite virtual pets a new life with breathtaking makeovers.

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Tamagirl has created over 350 custom Tamas, each more drool-worthy than the one before it. From The Nightmare Before Christmas to any Sanrio or anime character you can imagine, there is bound to be a
custom Tama for you. Check out her Instagram for quality Tamagotchi eye candy; she also has a YouTube channel with even more Tama content.

A photo collage of multiple Tamagotchis on a white background with vibrantly colored animated figures.

Panda Bunny

Check out Panda Bunny’s YouTube channel for more goodness. There are unboxings and reviews of all sorts of virtual pets. Our fellow Tama friend is even kind enough to play through the elusive Tamagotchi Music Star so you can experience it for yourself (well, almost).

Did you have a Tamagotchi when you were younger? What’s your favorite? Sound off in the comments below!

This article was originally published in July 2023. 

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