My Favorite Tamagotchis of All Time

My Favorite Tamagotchis of All Time

Ranking the strengths and weaknesses of the best virtual pets I've ever hatched.

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A photo of Tamagotchi
Tamagotchi remain the best way to waste your time, even decades later.
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

I am the self-professed Tamagotchi expert here at Gizmodo, and I’ve been tasked with ranking all the Tamagotchis from best to the best.

Tamagotchis recently came back into the cultural zeitgeist thanks to the movie Turning Red, which reminded us how virtual pets were a quintessential part of Millennial upbringing. The Tamagotchi “fad” never quite faded away, and the community is still thriving in Japan. Bandai introduces new ones to the U.S. every year, including the Tamagotchi Pix and varying nano-sized Tamagotchi, most branded with characters you love, like Hello Kitty and R2-D2.

So which ones are worth owning? I started collecting these things in recent years, and I’ve managed to amass quite a few different Tamagotchis dating back to the early 2000s. (Sadly, I do not have a 1996 original Tamagotchi.) Here are my picks for the best Tamagotchi of all time. Note that this isn’t a definitive list of every Tamagotchi, because there are dozens I’ve yet to collect. But if you are in the U.S., you can buy any of the Tamagotchi I mention here.

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The Best New Tamagotchi: Tamagotchi Smart

The Best New Tamagotchi: Tamagotchi Smart

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Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

The Tamagotchi Smart is one of the latest releases overseas, and it’s one of the smallest. It’s billed as a wearable, but that’s because of the included wrist-wearing accessory, which is sized for kids and not for grown adults. I’ve been using the Tamagotchi Smart as a standalone device, and if I want to track my steps with the built-in pedometer, I place this thing in my pocket.

I’m still having fun with the Tamagotchi Smart because it doesn’t take alkaline batteries. Instead, when the battery peters out, the game pauses, and I can plug it into MicroUSB and pick up right where I left off when I’m ready.

I will say that the Tamagotchis featured in this version are a bit needier than some of the other color models I’ve used. But I keep importing those TamaSma cards from Japan to unlock new items and try to raise the cutest friend, so it’s clearly not enough to keep me away.

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The Easiest to Hack: Tamagotchi On/Meets

The Easiest to Hack: Tamagotchi On/Meets

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Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

One of the stories I had the most fun writing in my tenure here at Gizmodo is a piece on how I hacked the Tamagotchi On using a fan-made Windows app. You can use the app called MyMeets to upload different items, foodstuffs, backgrounds, and even games, so you don’t get bored of the same programming. It’s a color version worth playing because you can hack it to your heart’s content.

You might have to consider going that route, anyway, since Bandai has shut down the companion smartphone app that syncs with the Tamagotchi On via Bluetooth. It’s already shut down in Japan, and it’s being deprecated in the U.S. on Aug. 31, 2022.

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The Most Customizable: Tamagotchi ID/ID L

The Most Customizable: Tamagotchi ID/ID L

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Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

I searched far and wide for this 2011-era Japanese release, the Tamagotchi ID L. I finally found this one through eBay. I even imported an older Japanese Android phone with a built-in IR blaster so that I could send through graphics and essentially construct my own custom Tamagotchi. The result is what you see here: a fake Isabelle from Animal Crossing on screen. I buy assets from artists on Etsy.

I also like the game featured in this particular model. One of the defaults is essentially a 30-second, side-scrolling adventure where you have to hop over rocks and collect coins. It’s the simplest way to rack up Gotchi points—the in-game currency within the franchise.

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The One I Really Want: Tamagotchi P

The One I Really Want: Tamagotchi P

Unfortunately, I don’t have time to fully get into why I want the Tamagotchi P. Let’s say there’s a bustling hacker community associated with this particular model that I want to engage with! If only these vintage models weren’t going for $150 a pop.

The Tamagotchi P was the first version of the virtual pet to offer a slot for an attachable pin. Think of it as a precursor to the Tamagotchi Smart and its insertable TamaSma cards. You can find after-market “deco” pieces that unlock additional characters and items.

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The Best Black-and-White U.S. Release: Tamagotchi Connection

The Best Black-and-White U.S. Release: Tamagotchi Connection

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Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

The Tamagotchi Connection launched in the U.S. in 2004 and went on for years. I managed to snag an original version of this Tamagotchi back in 2005. It remains one of my favorites because it was the first to introduce Tamacom, the infrared communication ability between two Tamagotchi models. At the time, my friend and I both bought companion devices to sync together.

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The Best Small Tamagotchi: Take Your Pick

The Best Small Tamagotchi: Take Your Pick

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Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

Bandai was on to something when it started partnering up with anime studios and other franchises to make branded Tamagotchis. These “nano” sized virtual pets feature fewer menu options than the latest Tamagotchi, as their emphasis is mainly on carting around a cute little character in your back pocket.

I am still trying to chase down the elusive Eevee Tamagotchi nano. If you’re in the U.S., you can currently check out the Hello Kitty Tamagotchi and the R2-D2 Tamagotchi. There are also Gudetama and Pac-Man versions still available. And Toy Story appears to be the next major Tamagotcfhi nano release from Bandai later this year.

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Simply The Best: The Original Tamagotchi

Simply The Best: The Original Tamagotchi

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Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

You can’t go wrong with a classic. If you have an original Tamagotchi from back in the day, I salute you for holding on to something for decades. But if you missed out on that one, check out the reprised 25th Anniversary edition of the Tamagotchi. It comes in various colors, but the software remains the same across the board. It’s the same virtual pet you fell in love with way back when you were young.

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