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The PT History Lesson Vol. 8 - Tamagotchi spin-off games

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the iconic early 2000s virtual pet, we’re chronicling the history of Tamagotchis outside of their egg-shaped homes.

Tamagotchi game history: Mametchi in his original pixel form and his 3D Adventure Kingdom form, plus an angel and evil Tamagotchi pair, pasted on a mango PT background

Every so often, something reminds me that Tamagotchis exist, and suddenly, I’m transported back to my youth and reminded of how much I love these little guys. The most recent case of this was the launch of Tamagotchi Adventure Kingdom on Apple Arcade, which, like last year’s Hello Kitty Island Adventure, immediately hooked my kawaii-mascot-loving heart.

So today, as the Tamagotchi fandom is celebrating the 20th anniversary of Tamagotchi Connection toys hitting the US market, I’m here to give you a run-down of the history of Tamagotchi spin-off games. While the humble Tamagotchi is technically a handheld gaming device if you think about it, we’re all about the videogames here at Pocket Tactics, and Mametchi and his friends star in a surprising number of them.

If you somehow missed the craze back in the day (or you were born post-2005), a Tamagotchi is a small electronic device, traditionally featuring a black and white LCD screen, that acts as a virtual pet. You hatch, play with, feed, and raise your virtual pets until they get married and lay an egg, or you inevitably forget about them while you’re at school and they die of hunger or ‘too much poop.’ The name Tamagotchi is a portmanteau of the Japanese words ‘tamago,’ meaning egg, and ‘uotchi,’ meaning watch. You could also slot ‘tomodachi,’ meaning friends, in there somewhere too, but that’s not part of Bandai’s official etymology for the brand.

Such a simple concept has evolved many times over the years to varying levels of success both in Japan and worldwide. Undoubtedly, the western Tamagotchi boom spanned from around 2005 to 2008, so during this window, Bandai worked hard to release a plethora of spin-off games. While this era, characterized by the Tamagotchi Connection: Corner Shop series of games for the Nintendo DS, is the most memorable in my opinion, it’s not the start of the story.

The first spin-off title of the series came out for the Nintendo Game Boy in 1997, simply titled Tamagotchi or Game de Hakken!! Tamagotchi in Japan. The Tamagotchi Connection, which many of us in the West think of as the ‘original’ Tamagotchi, was several years away from release, but the original model had been around for a couple of years at this point.

According to the incredible Tamagotchi wiki – an invaluable resource for anyone trying to revive their childhood love of these eggy boys – Tamagotchi for the Game Boy is essentially just a port of the virtual pet with a few more features, which makes sense as the dot matrix screen of Nintendo’s handheld is very similar to the Tamagotchi’s LCD screen in appearance and aspect ratio.

Tamagotchi game history: The box art for the US version of Tamagotchi for the Game Boy, pasted on a blurred pastel Tamagotchi art piece

Tom Create Co. is the developer behind 1997’s Tamagotchi, and the studio continues to make games with Bandai and other companies to this day, including several SD Gundam G titles and another Tamago title called Runny Egg for the 3DS. Game de Hakken!! Tamagotchi got a couple of sequels in Japan, but these never made it to the West. While the Tamagotchi’s home country continued to get new titles for the Nintendo 64, Playstation, Sega Saturn, and Super Famicom, fans in the US and Europe wouldn’t experience the joy of a Tamagotchi game again until the Connection boom of 2005.

Enter Tamagotchi Connection: Corner Shop for the Nintendo DS, or Tamagotchi Connexion as it was known in Europe, for some strange reason. I guess we just thought putting an X in the names of things made them cooler? This game is burned into my brain and shaped a lot of my childhood memories of hanging out with my cousins. My aunt and uncle, to this day, remind me that I’m the reason their daughters were obsessed with Animal Crossing and Tamagotchis, and I don’t regret a thing.

The first game reached the West in 2006 when I was around nine years old. I didn’t get a DS until my tenth birthday, but this was one of my first purchases for the handheld. The gameplay is simple: you choose one of the three main mascot Tamas – Mametchi, Memetchi, or Kuchipatchi – and complete a series of minigames where you essentially do work experience at various jobs. I believe I referenced this game in my Princess Peach: Showtime! review because the cake decorating minigame is crystal clear in my memory, as is the takoyaki shop and the dentist. This game was so powerful that it made a ten-year-old English kid want to try takoyaki, a dish made with octopus tentacles.

Tamagotchi game history: Three screenshots from Tamagotchi Connection Corner Shop showcasing (from left to right) the dentist, the bakery, and the takoyaki shop

Tamagotchi Connection: Corner Shop spawned two international sequels, which came out in 2006 and 2007 respectively. Looking back, Bandai was smart to release them so quickly, as the Tamagotchi craze died out surprisingly fast in the West, possibly due to the sheer number of schools banning them like Pokemon cards or Beyblades. Another fun fact is that NanaOn-Sha developed all three of these games, the creative mind behind Parapa the Rapper, another cult-classic title.

The Tamagotchi western boom also brought us Tamagotchi: Party On! for the Nintendo Wii, which is exactly what it sounds like – a Tamagotchi party game. For me, however, the true highlight of this era was the inception of TamaTown, the franchise’s first foray into what we now call the metaverse. TamaTown was a website and kids’ online world that you could visit using Tamagotchi Connection Version 3s onwards, using a combination of IR and internet connectivity. Kids’ online worlds are a whole other fascination of mine, as well as the toys-to-life genre, so TamaTown is the perfect marriage of these concepts for me.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and Tamagotchis fell off hard towards the end of the oughts. While Bandai made a few more Tamagotchi Corner Shop titles in Japan for the DS and 3DS, none of them made it past domestic release. As the mobile game market grew, Tamagotchis started to appear in app stores, but to limited success. Tamagotchi ‘Round The World, a God Finger-style premium mobile game, came out in the US in 2009, Tamagotchi L.i.f.e and Tap and Hatch arrived in 2013, targeting the lifestyle and puzzle game markets respectively, and Tamagotchi Classic finally ported the original virtual pet concept to mobile in 2015, complete with Apple Watch functionality, but none of them really stuck.

Tamagotchi game history: Three screenshots from My Tamagotchi Forever (2018) showing (from left to right) a sad Tama in the main room, a Mametchi next to a poop, and a Tama in bed snoring with the heading 'Time to sleep!'

2018’s My Tamagotchi Forever is arguably the most successful Tamagotchi mobile attempt in the West, which makes sense as it was designed specifically for an American audience. It shed the premium price tag of the past, went free-to-play with in-app purchases, and merged several mobile game concepts into one. This success is what I believe led Bandai to create Tamagotchi Adventure Kingdom for Apple Arcade, bringing us up to the present day.

From what I’ve seen online, the Tamagotchi franchise seems to be on the rise once more. The trend never really left in Japan, but Western fans of kawaii culture and retro nostalgia are jumping on the bandwagon once more. The Tamagotchi Uni is the brand’s answer to a smartwatch, suitable for both rambunctious kids and decora enthusiasts like myself who don’t mind a chunky accessory if it also contains a little creature. TamaTown seems to have a spiritual successor in the TamaVerse for the Tamagotchi Uni, as well as the fan-made revival project that’s currently underway.

Personally, I think that 2024 is the perfect time to jump back into the world of Tamagotchis or join us if you’ve never experienced it before. Play those old games, bust out your old virtual pets, or grab yourself a brand-new toy, as Bandai has rereleased many of the old models from the 90s and 00s. Let’s have the ‘tama’ of our lives!

If you’re suddenly feeling a wave of nostalgia, check out our guides to the Tamagotchi original and Tamagotchi Pix to learn more about the evolution of the brand. Alternatively, take another deep dive into videogame history with our Animal Crossing history piece.