The 5 best '90s Nickelodeon game shows
From 'Double Dare' to 'GUTS,' we're taking a look at the wild and crazy action
Children of the ’90s have no shortage of pop culture gems, and Nickelodeon game shows are firmly planted among the nostalgia.
GUTS premiered 25 years ago — Sept. 19, 1992 — on the children’s programming channel, introducing viewers to the Extreme Arena and the Aggro Crag.
It was just one of a host of Nickelodeon game shows in the 1990s that featured kids (and sometimes their families) competing in tests of physical and mental skill for game show glory and a wide array of prizes.
In the 25 years since, Nickelodeon has tried numerous spin-offs and reboots of these kid-centric game shows. While nothing quite captures the obstacle course and slime-tastic magic like the original series, the network produced some wild and crazy TV action. Here are our five favorite ’90s Nickelodeon game shows.
Nickelodeon GUTS (1992-1995)
In the early 2000s reality shows that pushed contestants to their physical limits were all the rage (Fear Factor, Amazing Race, etc.), but Nickelodeon GUTS did it first with its “extreme arena” that pitted three teenagers (blue, red, and purple) against each other in extreme versions of popular sports. Taking the Olympics as its model and even handing out gold, silver, and bronze medals, GUTS put kids in harnesses and asked them to do things like jump off an aerial bridge and try to make a slam dunk. The most famous GUTS challenge was its fifth and final task — the Aggro Crag. Contestants raced up a fake mountain, activating targets along the way and fighting their way to the peak. The challenge was essentially the Golden Snitch of the competition — 725 points went to the first successful finisher, which virtually guaranteed victory regardless of the score going into the task. Mike O’Malley (yes, Kurt Hummel’s dad on Glee) made a memorable impression as host. Nickelodeon changed the show to Global GUTS, featuring kids from all over the world, and in 2008, the network attempted to reboot it with a family-focused team version called My Family’s Got GUTS.
Figure It Out (1997-1999)
Nickelodeon and getting slimed are synonymous with each other. The highlight of the network’s annual Kid’s Choice Awards started here. A panel of Nickelodeon celebrities, which frequently included All That cast members Amanda Bynes, Lori Beth Denberg, Kevin Kopelow, and Danny Tamberelli, try to guess a fill-in-the-blank phrase describing the contestant’s secret talent or skill. Each round the contestant made it through without the panelists guessing their talent earned them bigger and better prizes. The show is well-remembered for its “Billy the Head” game board and the “Secret Slime Action” feature — a randomly selected member of the studio audience competed for a prize which required a member of the panel to perform the “Secret Slime Action.” If a panelist inadvertently performed the action, they would be slimed by the end of the round. Nickelodeon revived the series from 2012-2013, but nothing compares to watching some of your favorite Nickelodeon stars get covered in green slime as they struggle to fill in the blanks.
Wild & Crazy Kids (1990-1992)
Part of what made Nickelodeon game shows great was the hokey uniforms the competitors were asked to wear — one of our favorites is the simple colored T-shirts bearing the Wild & Crazy Kids logo. On this show, teams of kids identified by their shirt color competed against each other (and sometimes their parents) in wacky games involving bizarre rules and messy twists. One example: Red Pie/Green Pie, a take-off on “Red Light, Green Light” in which kids had to hit themselves with a pie if they moved on a “red light” or pie their parents once they reached the finish line. Though the art of sliming contestants was perfected on Figure it Out, it likely has its origins in the games on Wild & Crazy Kids. The competitive nature of the contestants paired with the ridiculous rules of the games made for hilarious television aided by the antics of hosts Omar Gooding, Donnie Jeffcoat, Annette Chavez, and Jessica Gaynes. Nickelodeon produced a 10-episode revival in 2002, but we’ll always want one of the original neon T-shirts for ourselves.
Double Dare (1986-1993)
Nickelodeon’s very first game show, Double Dare was also its longest running, officially entering syndication in 1988 and spurring two spin-offs: Family Double Dare and Double Dare 2000. Long-time comedian warm-up host Marc Summers took on hosting duties and went on to build himself a brand as a Nickelodeon host. The show combined the best of both game show worlds, interspersing physical challenges with trivia rounds in which teams could dare and double dare each other to answer the questions for double and quadruple their value. Physical challenges were often messy, over-the-top stunts, such as catching meatballs while standing in a giant bowl of spaghetti or racing to catch pies in your pants. Double Dare’s signature set piece, however, was always its bonus round — a giant, gross-out obstacle course renamed the “Slopstacle Course” in Double Dare 2000. Teams raced over and through an obstacle course filled with oversized items, like a Sundae Slide covered in chocolate syrup and ice cream, to find flags hidden under various substances. Most memorably, the course included “Pick It,” a giant nose with a flag hidden inside — contestants had to root around in the nostrils to win. The show remains so popular that it continues as a live show at Nickelodeon Suites Resort in Orlando and is rumored to be returning to the network sometime in the future. ABC’s The Goldbergs devoted a 2016 episode to the show in which Adam hunts for the perfect Double Dare teammate.
Legends of the Hidden Temple (1993-1995)
Legends of the Hidden Temple allowed every kid to indulge his or her fantasies of being Indiana Jones. Six teams of two competed in physical challenges and answered history, mythology, and geography trivia to enter the temple and retrieve a legendary artifact. The teams — the Red Jaguars, Blue Barracudas, Green Monkeys, Orange Iguanas, Purple Parrots, and Silver Snakes — have gone on to inspire popular T-shirts and Halloween costumes. The show featured Olmec, a giant talking Mayan statue, which told the legends of the temple and instructed contestants on gameplay.
Most famously, the show concluded with a temple run where teams entered the titular temple and had to solve puzzles and evade Mayan temple guards to retrieve the show’s lost artifact in under three minutes. Many otherwise worthy contestants were bested by their inability to assemble a three-piece statue in the Shrine of the Silver Monkey. The show is so beloved and continues to feed so much nostalgia that Nickelodeon produced a live-action TV movie in 2016 about three fictional siblings competing against a real-life obstacle course inspired by the show.