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Hungry Hungry Hippos

Hungry Hungry Hippos

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Hungry Hungry Hippos is a tabletop game
Tabletop game
Tabletop game is a general term used to refer to board games, card games, dice games, miniatures wargames, tile-based games and other games that are normally played on a table or other flat surface...

 made for young children, currently produced by Hasbro
Hasbro is a multinational toy and boardgame company from the United States of America. It is one of the largest toy makers in the world. The corporate headquarters is located in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, United States...

, under the brand of its subsidiary, Milton Bradley
Milton Bradley Company
The Milton Bradley Company is an American game company established by Milton Bradley in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1860. In 1920, it absorbed the game production of McLoughlin Brothers, formerly the largest game manufacturer in the United States, and in 1987, it purchased Selchow and Righter,...

. It was published in 1967 and introduced in 1978. The purpose of the game is for each player to collect as many marbles as possible with his or her 'hippo' (a toy hippo model).

The game is currently being marketed under the "Elefun and Friends" banner, along with Elefun
Elefun is a popular children's game from Hasbro. The object of the game is to use your net to catch as many butterflies as possible as they fly from a plastic elephant's metre-long trunk, a plastic chute through which the paper butterflies travel, propelled up by a motor in the elephant, called...

and Gator Golf
Gator Golf
Gator Golf is a children's miniature golfing toy from the American game company Milton Bradley. It was released in 1994. In the game, children take turns putting into the mouth of a motorized plastic gator figure, which then flings the ball off its tail and spins around, creating a new challenge...



The game is playable by two to four players and is recommended by the manufacturer for children ages 3 and up. The object of the game is to cause the player's hippo
The hippopotamus , or hippo, from the ancient Greek for "river horse" , is a large, mostly herbivorous mammal in sub-Saharan Africa, and one of only two extant species in the family Hippopotamidae After the elephant and rhinoceros, the hippopotamus is the third largest land mammal and the heaviest...

 to "consume" as many of the twenty white plastic marbles
A marble is a small spherical toy usually made from glass, clay, steel, or agate. These balls vary in size. Most commonly, they are about ½ inch in diameter, but they may range from less than ¼ inch to over 3 inches , while some art glass marbles fordisplay purposes are over 12 inches ...

 on the playing field as possible. The player presses a lever on the back of their hippo which causes the hippo's mouth to open, extend towards the center of the board, close and retract. Marbles are drawn back into a depression within the hippo, so they do not drift back into play once properly consumed. Play ends when all of the marbles have been consumed by the hippos.

The shaking of the lightweight playing field during play, particularly when children are pounding on the levers to make their hippos capture marbles, introduces a strong random element to the game. The game also is very loud, with the constant slamming of the hippo levers, and bouncing of marbles on the plastic board.

In a 1990 short story published in The New Yorker
The New Yorker
The New Yorker is an American magazine of reportage, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons and poetry published by Condé Nast...

(and sarcastically named after the game), Edward Allen wrote, "The object of the game [is essentially] to press your handle down again and again as fast as you can, with no rhythm, no timing, just slam-slam-slam as your hippo surges out to grab marble after marble from the game surface...."

Similar children's games popular in the U.S. include Don't Break the Ice
Don't Break the Ice
Don't Break the Ice is a children's tabletop game for two to four players ages 3 and up. Originally marketed by Schaper Toys in 1968, the game is presently manufactured by Hasbro subsidiary Milton Bradley....

, Don't Spill the Beans and Ants in the Pants.


Television ads for the game memorably featured a series of brightly-colored cartoon hippos dancing in a conga line
Conga Line
The conga line is a Cuban carnival march that was first developed in Cuba and became popular in the United States in the 1930s and 1950s. The dancers form a long, processing line. It has three shuffle steps on the beat, followed by a kick that is slightly ahead of the fourth beat...

 and singing, "Hungry Hungry Hip-pos!" to the beat. The older theme offered a mini song:
"It's a race, it's a chase, hurry up and feed their face!
Who will win? No one knows! Feed the hungry hip-ip-pos!
Hungry hungry hippos! (open up and there it goes!)"

The 1970s-era advertisement featured a different song:
If you wanna win the game you've gotta take good aim
And get the most marbles with your hippo
Playin' Hungry Hungry Hippos
Hungry Hungry Hippos


There are four hippos in the game: Lizzie Hippo (pink), Henry Hippo (orange), Homer Hippo (green), and Harry Hippo (yellow). In some versions of Hungry Hungry Hippos, Henry is replaced by a blue hippo of the same name. A later edition of the game replaces the purple hippo, Lizzie, with a pink one named Happy. The most recent edition of the game (purchased in Fall 2009) has a lighter blue base with pastel colored versions of the Hippos: Sweetie Potamus (pink), Bottomless Potamus (yellow), Picky Potamus (orange), and Veggie Potamus (green).

Arcade Version

In 1991, ICE created a redemption arcade
Redemption game
Redemption games are typically arcade games of skill that reward the player proportionally to their score in the game. The reward most often comes in the form of tickets, with more tickets being awarded for higher scores. These tickets can then be redeemed at a central location for prizes...

 version of the game, a supersized resemblance of the board game version. The amount of marbles consumed was displayed at the top of the dome for each player. The more marbles a hippo consumed, the more tickets that hippo's player received.

In Popular Culture

The game has left a legacy of related content in its wake with those growing up who played it. One of many examples is the comic Board Game Movies by Web Comic Up Up Down Down which satires the creation of movies based on board games.

In the Simpsons fourth season episode Mr. Plow
Mr. Plow
"Mr. Plow" is the ninth episode of The Simpsons fourth season, which originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on November 19, 1992. In the episode, Homer buys a snow plow and starts a business plowing driveways. It is a huge success, and inspired by this, Barney Gumble starts a...

, Homer starts a snow plow business, but has trouble attracting customers. He records his own commercial, and after it runs on TV, he says, "Now, we play the waiting game." A few seconds later, he says, "Aw, the waiting game sucks! Let's play Hungry Hungry Hippos!"

The animated series Robot Chicken
Robot Chicken
Robot Chicken is an American stop motion animated television series created and executive produced by Seth Green and Matthew Senreich along with co-head writers Douglas Goldstein and Tom Root. Green provides many voices for the show...

has parodied Hungry Hungry Hippos on two occasions, including one showing the standard toy hippos rapidly consuming the marbles until the orange hippos suffers nausea and vomits all his marbles back onto the game board. The green hippo eats one of the regurgitated marbles, to the discomfort of the others. Another sketch shows a trailer for a Hungry Hungry Hippos movie, depicting the hippos as leather-jacketed gun-toting vigilantes "hungry... for justice!" in a crime-ridden town.

In the film Donnie Darko
Donnie Darko
Donnie Darko is a 2001 American psychological thriller film written and directed by Richard Kelly and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, Patrick Swayze, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Noah Wyle, Jena Malone, and Mary McDonnell...

, Donnie admits to his psychiatrist that he is regretful that his parents did not buy him Hungry Hungry Hippos as a child.

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