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Before They Were Cool: A Millennial’s Favorite 90s Apps, And Their Modern Day Replacements - Antsy Labs

Before They Were Cool: A Millennial’s Favorite 90s Apps, And Their Modern Day Replacements

Modern day culture comes at us fast and furious (almost as fast and furious as Fast and Furious movie sequels). With new phones, new apps for those phones, and new ways to communicate between phones, it feels like we’re ever more splintered than before.

On my phone alone, I can message people on Instagram, Whatsapp, regular text messages, through email, through Slack, through… well, probably through apps I didn’t even know had messaging features.

Whereas before?

It was AIM. Plain and simple. One screen name. One app. One way of communicating with everyone.

So for everyone who shares that feeling of accomplishment that comes from surviving the 90s - or those Gen Z-ers who’d like new material to mock us with - we’ve compiled a list of some of the most influential 90s apps (and where to get the modern-day equivalent).

The Throwback Apps


Before there was Spotify, before there was iTunes, before there was Limewire… There was Winamp. It was *the* way to play back music you had just ripped from your CD player.

Imagine being able to play MP3s MP4s, QuickTime, and Windows Media files all from the same application.

Now imagine being able to dress up your application in whatever theme your heart desired. This is how we expressed ourselves.

The modern day Winamp? Well, it might be Winamp… someday. Until then, you’re probably just stuck with your favorite streaming service.

3D Pinball for Windows – Space Cadet

Real gamers know that this is where it all began. 3D graphics (basically), iconic arcade sound, broken left and right arrows from mashing them too hard.

(I’m sure with all the quarters we saved playing on our PCs, our parents could have afforded to replace them).

If you’re feeling particularly nostalgic and hoping to play the game as it originally was, you might be out of luck. Licensing agreements are conspiring to keep Space Cadet Pinball out of our hands.

The modern-day Space Cadet Pinball? It might actually be… IRL Pinball, TBH. With huge amounts of retro arcades opening, and most of them stocked with pinball, you can get your fix for e-pinball nostalgia at the real thing.


Dubbed by TechRadar the most successful game ever (a slight exaggeration), Minesweeper still holds a special place in the hearts of millennials who grew up with the Windows OS.

Those cursed mines. One wrong click, and the prehistoric equivalent of an emoji went from smiling to crossed-out eyes in a millisecond.

Modern-day Minesweeper? There’s an app for that. Both Apple and Android have plenty of solutions if you’re looking to get an old-school fix on your modern-day device.

AIM and MSN Messenger

Good old AIM Messenger. The service which thankfully didn’t require you to sign up using one of their infinitely available free CDs changed our childhoods. 

With moody, subtweet-y Away messages, being invisible (even when you were right there!), and that dastardly Warn button, so much about AIM Messenger remains ingrained in the hearts (how could it not, after we spent all our time talking to our crushes) and minds of those who used it.

Modern-day AIM? I guess Facebook. Or DMs. Or… who even knows. It’s all been downhill since AIM (and I am a diehard original Gchat supporter).


While not an app in the strict it-has-to-be-on-your-computer way, the Tamagotchi was, for many, their first exposure to a portable digital device.

And a cute one, at that! The idea was simple - take your virtual egg and raise it to be a virtual pet, paying strict (okay, maybe obsessive) attention to its Hunger meter, Happy meter, Discipline meter, and Training meter.

And the modern-day Tamagotchi? The Tamagotchi. That’s right. They’re still making them. So what’re you waiting for?

What Apps Made Your Top 5?

Of course, this list is far from complete. I’m already feeling bad about having left MSN Messenger off the rankings.

So let us know - what are your top 5 apps or games from the 90s? Are there some we forgot?


These IRLAs are for those of us who’ve been blamed for all of the bad over the past decade without getting nearly enough of the credit for the good. We survived the worst economic crash since the Depression, so excuse us if we post a selfie. Housing prices are impossible (thanks, Boomers), so let’s just get a rideshare to go out tonight. Go ahead. Indulge yourself, and let Gen Z take the blame.

Because avocado toast won’t eat itself.

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