Skip to main content

Pixel party like it’s 1999 with the best screen savers from last millennium

best screensavers from the 90s matrix screensaver header
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Today, a screensaver may seem like a novelty,  but it once served as a way to prevent “screen burn” in cathode ray tube monitors. While screensavers are no longer necessary for that purpose, the nostalgia element will forever tie the programs into the fabric of a quondam age. In the era of bottomless add-ons and a regular rabbit hole of Easter eggs — we’re looking at you, Google — it’s difficult to conceptualize the rustic days of home computing and the dusty wild wild web. Thankfully, the best screensavers from the ’90s make it a little easier to do so.

Let’s take a trip back to a simpler time, when Chip challenged and Rodents revenged, shall we? Just sit back, relax — perhaps bust out the BonziBuddy for added ambiance — and enjoy some of the most memorable screensavers from yesteryear.

The Maze

best screensavers, 90s screensavers, old screensavers

It would be preposterous to have a roundup of the best screensavers and not mention perhaps the most recognizable program of them all. The 3D Maze originally came with Windows 95 and 98, and the Doom-esque first-person thriller gave millions of individuals a real hoot. Who needs virtual reality when you can plop down in front of an HP Pavilion and behold this?

You can alter speed and even add some shoddy graphics to go full-on bad batch at Bonnaroo, or even upload images from your media library and have a regular “this is your life” walkabout through a phantasmagoria of low-res images.

Starfield

best screensavers, 90s screensavers, old screensavers

This spacefarer screensaver was ubiquitous at the turn of the Willenium, because nothing says “warp speed ahead” quite like a dial-up connection. You can watch 10 hours of Starfield here, if you’re so inclined. Note: If you watch long enough you will eventually collide with a portion of a debris field in a galaxy far, far away. Trust us — wait for it.

Flying toasters

After Dark is a series of screensavers released by Berkely Systems, and the early packages included the popular Flying Toasters screensaver. Later variants even came loaded with all sorts of special features, like, you know, bagels.

Johnny Castaway

best screensavers, 90s screensavers, old screensavers

Johnny Castaway was a staple in many repurposed “computer rooms” of the mid-’90s. The screensaver illustrates a day in the life of Johnny Castaway, who is marooned on a deserted island with only a palm tree to hear his woes. We get to watch ol’ JC  fish, exercise, build sand castles, and enjoy an oddly-formal dinner with a merbae, but is he ever rescued? You’ll just have to buy one of the original, 3.5-inch floppy disks (or download the screensaver) to find out.

MOPy Fish

best screensavers, 90s screensavers, old screensavers

MOPy Fish was the result of both screensaver fever and the short-lived digital pet craze of the late-’90s. With our lanyards and keychains already loaded with digital pets in varying degrees of neglect and malnourishment, we needed yet another for our desktop machines. Behold MOPy fish, a blood parrot cichlid that individuals could feed and cherish — or not.

Ocean floor

best screensavers, 90s screensavers, old screensavers

As it turns out, this screensaver, much like the vast majority of the ocean floor, is relatively void of life. With this digital aquarium, you can experience the same ephemeral, emotional benefits of a pet fish without the cleanup or a constant, electric drone echoing through your lonely apartment.

Lost in space

This gem stands as a true testament to the seemingly boundless joy human beings once experienced at the mere sight of just about anything glinting off of their monitors. Splice in a couple of galaxies, some nebular remnants, add a dollop of two-dimensional goodness to taste and, my friend, you’ve got yourself a regular desktop hit. Time to get Microsoft on the phone.

The Matrix

best screensavers, 90s screensavers, old screensavers

The 1999 smash hit, The Matrix, inspired this cryptic “digital rain” screensaver. Remember, the Matrix is a system and that system is our enemy, and that system may or may not run on Windows Millennium. Here’s hoping those potential Matrix spinoffs actually get off the ground.

Dallon Adams
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Dallon Adams is a graduate of the University of Louisville and currently lives in Portland, OR. In his free time, Dallon…
Time for a second monitor? Get up to 25% off top computer monitor deals at Dell
A woman using a 38-inch ultrawide Dell monitor.

You probably spent a lot of time choosing or building your computer, and who wouldn’t? Especially if you’re a gamer, content creator, developer, or you work with AI. You want something suitably powerful to handle those tasks with ease. But while doing so, you might have forgotten to choose a top computer monitor. A model that includes high-resolution support, high frame rates, and an overall excellent design. Maybe you reused an old monitor. Or, perhaps you’d like to upgrade to a multi-monitor setup?  Thanks to top computer monitor deals at Dell, you can do precisely that. Expect to save up to 25% more on top deals with phenomenal options. Dell UltraSharp monitors, curved gaming monitors, and even portable monitors are all on sale. Head over to Dell to shop before these deals are gone, or keep reading to see some of our top sales picks.

 
Why you should shop Dell's top computer monitor sale
Whether you're looking to replace an old monitor, upgrade to a curved or high-resolution option, or need a new monitor for your laptop or computer, there are plenty of options in this Dell sale. How about an incredible

Read more
The best cooler for the 7800X3D isn’t as powerful as you’d think
AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D held between fingertips.

The AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D is the best CPU for gaming, and it's incredibly efficient, which means for most PC users who aren't looking to transcode video or create 3D renders, it's the best CPU overall. As efficient as it is, though, you do still need to cool it, and if you want it to run cool and quiet, you need a relatively capable one. But which is best?

You could just buy the best air cooler or AIO cooler available, and that will work absolutely fine. Really well, in fact. But you don't need to. Thanks to its relatively modest TDP, the 7800X3D doesn't actually need a monster cooler to run quietly and run well. You can save a lot of money by going with something more modest.
A single tower is all you really need

Read more
Common mistakes to avoid when building a mini-ITX PC
Product image of the Fractal Meshify 2 Nano mini-ITX case in white on top of a desk.

Building a mini-ITX PC can be an exciting challenge offering the promise of a compact, yet powerful computing solution. However, amid the excitement of assembling your system, it's crucial to tread carefully and avoid common pitfalls that can derail your build.

From compatibility issues to space constraints, navigating the intricacies of building a mini-ITX PC requires attention to detail and a keen eye for potential stumbling blocks. In this guide, we'll explore the most common mistakes to avoid while building a compact PC.
Poor component compatibility
This Gigabyte RTX 4060 graphics card comes with a low-profile design that makes it suitable for small form factor builds. Gigabyte

Read more