20 Schoolyard Games from the ’90s That Would Never Fly in 2024

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People have fond memories of many schoolyard games from the ’90s. However, some games that were once considered harmless or fun may no longer be acceptable or safe today. Let’s take a nostalgic look at 20 schoolyard games from the ’90s that would likely raise eyebrows or be deemed inappropriate in 2024.

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Red Rover

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Once a beloved recess activity, Red Rover involves teams linking arms and attempting to break through the opposing team’s line. However, its physical nature raises concerns about potential injuries such as broken bones or sprains, prompting many schools to prohibit it. 


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Dodgeball, a classic for gym classes, involves throwing balls at opponents to eliminate them from the game. Once considered harmless fun, it’s criticized for promoting aggression, bullying, and excluding less athletic students. Many schools have banned dodgeball to protect students from bullying and create a safer environment for them.

Smear the Queer

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This offensive game involves singling out one player, derogatorily referred to as the “queer,” who is then targeted by other participants. The name itself perpetuates harmful LGBTQ+ stereotypes and discrimination. As awareness of LGBTQ+ issues grows, games like “Smear the Queer” face rightful condemnation for their hurtful language and exclusionary nature. 

Cowboys and Indians

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Rooted in harmful stereotypes and cultural appropriation, “Cowboys and Indians” perpetuates outdated and offensive depictions of Native American culture. Often involving one group portraying cowboys and the other mimicking Indigenous peoples, it reinforces harmful narratives of conquest and superiority. 

British Bulldog

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Similar to Red Rover, British Bulldog entails players attempting to run past a line of defenders without being caught. However, its physical nature poses safety risks, including collisions and falls. Concerns about liability and student safety have led many schools to prohibit games like British Bulldog, opting for safer and more inclusive alternatives. 

Crack the Whip

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In this game, players form a line and hold hands, with the front player attempting to “crack” or whip the rest of the line by abruptly changing direction. While seemingly harmless, Crack the Whip can lead to players being forcefully thrown off balance, resulting in falls and injuries. 

Tag with Physical Contact

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While tag itself is a classic and innocent game, versions that involve physical contact, such as tackling or forcefully tagging opponents, can lead to injuries and discomfort. In today’s environment, games that encourage physical aggression or non-consensual touching are rightly discouraged or prohibited. 

Simon Says with Commands That Could Be Harmful

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Simon Says is a popular game that challenges players to follow the commands of the designated leader, “Simon.” However, commands that involve potentially harmful actions, such as jumping from heights or touching hot surfaces, can pose serious safety risks to participants. 

King of the Hill

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King of the Hill is a game where players compete to maintain control of a designated area, often a hill or raised platform. At the same time, it may seem harmless fun, but the hierarchical nature of the game can lead to exclusion and hurt feelings among participants. 

Red Light, Green Light with Pushing

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Red Light, Green Light is a classic game that challenges players to freeze when the leader calls out “red light” and move forward when they say “green light.” However, versions of the game that involve pushing or shoving other players can lead to injuries and conflicts. 

Tug-of-War without Proper Supervision

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Tug-of-War is a traditional team-building game where opposing teams pull on opposite ends of a rope, aiming to drag the other team across a designated line. However, without proper supervision and safety measures in place, this seemingly harmless game can result in serious injuries, such as rope burns or even broken bones. 

Steal the Bacon

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Steal the Bacon is a game where players compete to grab an object (often a ball or beanbag) from a central location and return it to their team’s designated area without being tagged by opponents. While it may seem harmless fun, the game’s competitive nature can sometimes lead to aggressive behavior and potential injuries, such as collisions or falls.

Butts Up

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Butts Up is a game where players throw a ball at others’ butts, often as a form of punishment for losing in another game or as a means of asserting dominance. Apart from being potentially painful and humiliating, this game promotes aggression and bullying behavior,

Red Ass

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Similar to Butts Up, Red Ass involves throwing a ball at other players to hit them and eliminate them from the game. This aggressive and potentially painful game promotes bullying behavior. There is a real danger of physical and emotional harm among participants. 

Cherry Bomb

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Cherry Bomb is a game where players throw balls at each other’s legs, aiming to hit their opponents and eliminate them from the game. Apart from the risk of causing physical injuries, such as bruises or sprains, this game promotes aggressive behavior and can lead to conflicts among participants. 

Wall Ball with Excessive Force

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Wall Ball is a game where players throw a ball against a wall and must catch it on the rebound. While it can be a fun and engaging activity, using excessive force or aggressive play can lead to injuries, such as bruises or collisions with other players. 

Kickball with No Boundaries

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Kickball is a popular playground game similar to baseball, where players kick a ball and run around bases to score points. However, playing without defined boundaries or designated areas can lead to chaos and increase the risk of collisions or accidents, especially in crowded or unstructured environments. 

Capture the Flag in Unsafe Areas

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Capture the Flag is a classic outdoor game where players compete to capture the opposing team’s flag and return it to their territory. However, playing in unsafe areas with hazards or traffic can pose serious safety risks to participants, such as falls or collisions with obstacles. 

Jump Rope with Dangerous Techniques

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Jump Rope is a popular playground activity that promotes physical fitness and coordination among students. However, performing dangerous techniques such as double Dutch or high-speed jumping without proper supervision can lead to injuries, such as tripping or rope burns. 

Spin the Bottle

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Spin the Bottle is a game often associated with romantic or sexual connotations, where players take turns spinning a bottle to determine who they will kiss or perform other intimate actions with. This game is inappropriate for a school setting, as it promotes unhealthy attitudes towards relationships and boundaries among students.

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