Toys R Us was my go-to place to buy video games in the 1990’s. In fact, it’s where I got the first games I ever bought - a Game Boy and a copy of Kirby’s Dreamland. The mall had specialty stores like Electronics Boutique, but Toys R Us had the advantage in both accessibility and advertising.
Toys R Us’s annual Holiday Toy Catalog was something I always anticipated when Thanksgiving rolled around. Getting the catalog was the start of my Christmas wish list planning. I’d circle items, write them down, and then try to decide in what order to ask for them. Rarely did I have to look outside of that catalog for what I wanted for Christmas. Often, I didn’t even know a game was coming out before I saw it in a Toys R Us ad.
Going to Toys R Us, though, was a completely different experience. Not only did they have aisles full of games, but they also had demo stations for all the consoles they sold. I could try new games for my Genesis, my Game Boy, or even play games for the Super Nintendo that I didn’t have. (I used this to influence what games my neighbor asked for.) The store even had demos for consoles that didn’t take off - I remember playing a demo for Tiger’s Game.com. If you don’t know what that is, it’s okay - it’s one of the worst, and worst selling, handheld video games ever.
Since then, Toys R Us has had a rough time of it. They lost their lead in toy sales to Walmart, and lost game sales to stores like GameStop. They remodeled and restructured several times, but last week, Toys R Us announced they were closing all their stores in the US and the UK. I admit, I haven’t been inside the store in years, but I’ll miss them all the same. I think I’ll play a Game Boy game tonight in tribute.