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71 Iconic 80s Toys That 80s Kids Were Obsessed With

80s toys gameboy
Paul Allen
Written by
Paul Allen
Written by
Paul Allen
From train sets to Tamagotchis, Paul would spend hours as a kid playing with anything he could get his hands on. Nowadays, he researches the latest and greatest toys featured on TheToyZone, while dividing his free time between his Playstation and his Nintendo Switch.
Gisele Navarro
Edited by
Gisele Navarro
Edited by
Gisele Navarro
Gisele is the mother of an adventurous 2-year-old and a creative 5-year-old. When buying gifts for her kids, her number one focus is finding toys that they will both have fun with. Every toy she brings home is thought to be shared and enjoyed together - and that is no easy feat!
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Okay, I feel like I have to come clean right off the bat — I am not an ‘80s kid (gasp!) That’s right, I’m a ‘90s kid through and through. However, I do have an older sister and multiple older cousins that were ‘80s kids, so I think I’m qualified to talk about the toys of that decade. I’ve heard my sister sing the Care Bears theme song verbatim about a thousand times, I had a whole boxful of hand-me-down Smurf figures, and most of my LEGO sets and Barbies were also hand-me-downs from the ‘80s.

The ‘80s were the dawn of a new era. Women were entering the workplace in record numbers, computers were finally small and affordable enough to enter homes and offices, and a surge in mass manufacturing meant that more toys were available than ever before. Everything had to be bigger, faster, and more extravagant, and that was reflected in fashion, hairstyles, TV and toys alike. From teddy bears that told stories to the first handheld gaming consoles to dolls that caused riots, the ‘80s was an iconic decade for toys.

So ‘80s kids, come one, come all, and let me take you on a trip down memory lane. We’re going to cover all the most classic toys from the ‘80s — both ones you remember and ones you won’t believe you forgot. I hope you’ll let me be your guide and forgive me for being a ‘90s kid!

80s Plush Toys

1. Baby Glo Worm

Is it a worm or is it a baby? Who cares, it’s a Glo Worm! This Hasbro soft toy killed two birds with one stone by being both a cuddly companion to snuggle at night, and a glowing night light. It also went “to sleep” when you did, if you turned its head to reveal a sleeping face.

In hindsight, the wormy body with a human-like head complete with nightcap was a little creepy, but amazingly, the doll kept the same design from 1982 until 2005! If you want to bring Glo Worm back in a more adult way, you can buy the Funko! Pop Glo Worm for your desk.

2. Gremlins Gizmo Plush

The commercial for this plushie sings a jaunty song telling you not to get it wet, expose it to sunlight or feed it after midnight. If you’ve watched the classic horror comedy of the same name, you’ll know it’s because if you do so, they transform from cute pets to unstoppable destructive monsters. Come to think of it, I can’t believe they let kids watch this movie!

This plushie came out in the same year as the movie, and thankfully embodied the cute, non-scary version of Gizmo, the mogwai. As long as you remember not to feed him after midnight, that is!

💡TIP: Want to express your nostalgia in a wearable way? Then check out this adorable Gizmo graphic tee.

3. Pound Puppies

“The pound” is not such a familiar concept anymore, but back in the ‘80s, everyone understood it as an animal rescue shelter that was less than pleasant. So it was every kid’s dream to rescue a pet from the pound and give it a loving home. Pound Puppies from Tonka even came with a name tag and owner’s certificate to make it feel like a real adoption!

Pound Puppies really played into the “rescue” narrative, even giving the puppies sorrowful eyes and packaging them in boxes that looked like cages. You can still buy Pound Puppies today, but they’re a lot more cheerful!

4. Care Bears

If you didn’t have a Care Bear, were you even an ‘80s kid? Perhaps the most iconic ‘80s toy of all, Care Bears were so popular that they inspired their own TV show. But Care Bears actually started as characters in greeting cards, and were only given 3-dimensional form when American Greetings partnered with Kenner in 1983.

Did you have Wish Bear, Sunshine Bear or Cheer Bear? Or perhaps you were one of the lucky ones who got the whole collection! The genius of the Care Bears was the way each had its own character, while still being instantly recognizable as a Care Bear.

💡TIP: Care Bears can seem somewhat saccharine, but you can balance out all that cheeriness with Grumpy Bear.

5. Alf Plush

Alf (or Alien Life Form) was a lovable but mischievous alien who lived with the Tanner family on the 1986-1990 sitcom of the same name. He was soft, furry and unique looking, so it was inevitable that someone would make an Alf plushie, which Coleco promptly did in the same year the series debuted. 

Lumpy and odd looking, Alf was almost the anti-Care Bear. But ‘80s kids took to this friendly alien like a house on fire. As one kid says in the commercial, “my parents just don’t understand our relationship!” 

💡TIP: Feel like watching some Alf to remember the good old days? Check out ALFtv.

6. E.T. Plush

E.T. (the extraterrestrial) is another alien with an acronym for a name, but definitely claims the title of the original and most iconic of all. Steven Spielberg’s E.T. was one of the defining movies of the decade, so of course there was a plushie of this long-fingered, homesick alien. The original design can still be found on eBay, or you could go with the modern version from Amazon.

It’s hard to overstate the cultural impact of this iconic sci-fi movie, which premiered in 1982 and quickly became the highest-grossing film of all time. Naturally, it spawned plenty of toys and merch!

80s Action Figures

7. Alf Action Figure

Alf was a cultural phenomenon, so of course the toys didn’t stop at plushies — there were action figures too. Although many versions have been released since, the original Alf action figure was released by Coleco in 1986. You could even get additional figures of his alien family, such as Skip and Curtis, who had a surprisingly funky style!

Unfortunately, while vintage figures of the other aliens are available on eBay, figures representing Alf himself are trickier to come across. You might have to settle for this modern version from Amazon, which includes a whole lot of adorable accessories too.

8. Ghostbusters: Marshmallow Man Action Figure

Who you gonna call?” 

Ghostbusters is another iconic and wildly popular ‘80s film, which naturally came with its own extensive cohort of action figures. Of these, the Marshmallow Man was one of the most sought after, with his massive puffy body and cutesy sailor outfit. He looks friendly, but he’s really a paranormal monster and he’s more than a match for our heroic trio of Ghostbusters!

Today, many iterations of the Marshmallow Man figure can be found on eBay and Amazon, including the 1984 original and more modern versions – if you dare bring such a powerful paranormal force into your home!

💡TIP: Who better to face up against Marshmallow Man than Winston Zeddmore?

9. The Snorks Action Figures

The Snorks were the underwater stars of the NBC cartoon that ran from 1984-1989. Their name comes from the snorkel-like appendage they have on their heads, which they confusingly use to propel themselves along, and not to breathe with. Like any good cartoon, there were action figures to be had of each of the Snorks, and as there are so many different characters, they make great collectibles!

Despite essentially being created as a rival for The Smurfs, the Snorks were fascinating in their own right. With names like Allstar Seaworthy, Casey Kelp and Lil Seaweed, they swept kids up in their undersea adventures.

10. E.T. Action Figure

When E.T.: The Extraterrestrial premiered in 1982, a whole host of merchandise including an extensive line of E.T. toys came out with it. With bigger figures that talked, smaller wind-up ones and additional toys such as Eric and E.T.’s spaceship, there were so many options for alien-loving kids! 

Today, movie merch is par for the course, but back then it was really exciting that you could bring your favorite characters home with you. If you’d like to relive those moments, check out this Bendyfigs E.T. display figure that was released for the film’s 40th anniversary.

11. The Smurfs Action Figure Set

Though The Smurfs have their origin in a 1950s comic series, it wasn’t until the cartoon debuted in the 1980s that they really began to take over the world. However, the iconic Smurf figures actually predate the show, with the first ones released by German company Schleich in 1965. Since then, over 400 different figures have been released, which are still zealously collected today.

Though The Smurfs are a cultural phenomenon spanning from the mid-20th century till today, the 1980s were their heyday. If you were a kid then, it’s almost guaranteed that you had a few of these little blue guys!

12. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Action Figures

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were a defining feature of kids TV in the late ‘80s, so I’m sure a lot of you reading this article had a couple of the OG action figures. The toy series was introduced by Playmates Toys in 1988, and continued all the way until 1997. In that time, they produced over 400 figures, many of which are still to be found knocking around eBay!

You can also buy a rerelease of the classic 1989 TMNT figures from Playmates Toys, if you’d like the authentic design in a brand new 12 inch, fully articulated figure. Cowabunga, dudes! 

💡TIP: More into the bad guys? No problem! You can find a set of TMNT action figures, including Shredder, Krang, Bebop and Rocksteady. 

14. R2-D2 Action Figure

Along with Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Chewbacca, R2-D2 was one of the first Star Wars figures released by Kenner in 1978. As possibly the most iconic droid in the history of Star Wars, demand for R2 did not die down and Kenner included him in their 1985 droid collection too — just in time for all the ‘80s kids!

If you’re going to have one Star Wars action figure as an adult for nostalgia reasons, you can’t go wrong with R2-D2. With his iconic shape and cute design, he’s the perfect nerdy chic ornament to add to your display shelf!

15. He-Man Action Figure

As a cartoon series created by Mattel, it’s no surprise that Masters of the Universe spawned a whole host of toys and action figures! The first figures came out in 1982 when the series debuted, and depicted the two main characters — the muscular hero He-Man and his arch nemesis, Skeletor. Other key characters, including Man-At-Arms, Beast Man and Battle Cat followed soon after.

With its comically exaggerated heroes and villains, Masters of the Universe was the perfect media franchise for playsets and action figures, which kids could use to reenact dramatic battle scenes. It’s almost as if it were designed that way…

16. A-Team Action Figures

As the defining rebel-hero team of the 1980s, of course The A-Team had their own action figures. First released in 1983 by Croner Toys, Hannibal, Faceman, Murdock and B.A. Baracus were sold separately, but how could you only buy one when “Team” is literally in the name? It was together that these soldiers of fortune saved the day time and time again.

Just like the A-Team themselves, each one of these action figures was an ace! Those who had them remember playing for hours with siblings, cousins and friends. The figures even came with their own tiny rifles and gear.

💡TIP: Were you a big A-Team fan? You might appreciate adding this cute Funko! Pop to your desk: Funko POP Ride: A-Team Van with B.A. Baracus 😍

17. SilverHawks Action Figures

Another iconic ‘80s cartoon series seemingly made for action figures was SilverHawks, the planet-hopping heroes called upon by Stargazer to help protect the entire Limbo Galaxy from crime and evil. These cosmic crime fighters were “partly metal, partly real”, and each had their own “weapon bird” and “power wings” to help them on their quests!

The cool spaceman design and opening “power wings” of the SilverHawks made them awesome action figures. They were released by Kenner when the series came out in 1986 and were popular around the world. Today, you can get intricate vintage-inspired modern versions of the heroes on Amazon.

18. She-Ra Action Figure

In the ‘80s, there weren’t that many toys out there that showed that girls could be powerful too, but She-Ra was an exception — she was no less than the Princess of Power! Introduced in 1985 in her own animated series, She-Ra is He-Man’s twin sister and just as formidable as him. Especially with her flying unicorn Crystal Swift Wind, this heroine is unstoppable.

With her magic silver cape and headdress, She-Ra showed girls that they didn’t have to choose between style and strength- they could have both! The She-Ra figure even came with a sword and a comb to drive this message home.

19. Darth Vader Action Figure

With a story about resisting an evil empire, Star Wars has become something of an empire itself, or at least a global cultural phenomenon that shows no sign of waning after 45 years! While there have been many Star Wars action figures throughout that time, the ones released by Kenner in the late ‘70s and ‘80s are where it all started, as they coincided with the very first Star Wars movies.

For ‘80s kids, Darth Vader was probably the most sought after Star Wars action figure after Luke Skywalker himself. After all, who was Luke going to fight it not his father, Mr Vader?

💡TIP: Darth Vader needs someone to fight — so why not assemble the full Rebel Alliance team?

80s Vehicle Toys

20. Autobots

They may look like ordinary cars, but The Transformers are more than meets the eye — they are in fact robots in disguise! I’m not sure if these belong in the action figure or vehicle section, because they are both. These iconic Autobots start out as cars, but transform into robotic battle machines when it’s time to fight the evil alien robot Decepticons. 

Interestingly, this is another one where the toys came before the TV show. Hasbro and Japanese company Takara Tomy released the first Autobot toys in 1984, and followed it with the animated series later in the same year.

21. Ghostbusters Ectomobile Ecto-1 

If you had the Marshmallow Man figure then you needed something to help the Ghostbusters take it on in battle, and the Ecto-1 was the perfect option. The Ecto-1 is the perfect franken-car to suit our ragtag heroes, a 1959 limo-style endloader Cadillac converted into an ambulance and converted again into a gadget-loaded ghost destroyer!

The toy version of this iconic car was released by Kenner in 1984 and impressively contained (almost) all the gadgets featured in the movie version. I mean, it doesn’t get cooler than a classic Cadillac kitted out with ghostbusting gadgets – today’s action movies could never!

22. Micro Machines

According to the 1980s Micro Machines commercial, “the smaller they are, the better they are.” And true enough, there’s something absolutely magical about these itty-bitty cars and playsets. Micro Machines were introduced by Galoob (now part of Hasbro) in 1987, and offered every vehicle type you could think of as well as people and pocket playsets for them to drive around.

Despite being so teensy, each car was mind-bogglingly detailed, and the playsets even had tiny functional elements like opening garage doors and elevators. Plus, you could take them with you anywhere! Though they were extremely easy to lose…

💡TIP: Don’t need the tracks? You can get a 20-pack of just Micro-Machines vehicles here.

23. M.A.S.K.

M.A.S.K. is another example of a media franchise created by a toy company — this time by Kenner. Short for Mobile Armored Strike Kommand, M.A.S.K. is an underground task force fighting evil in the form of another acronym, V.E.N.O.M. or Vicious Evil Network of Mayhem. If only the bad guys in real life labeled themselves with such transparency!

The first M.A.S.K. toys came out in 1985 in the same year as the TV show. The highlights were the gadget-packed jets, monster trucks and other vehicles the heroes used in their endeavors!

24. T.M.N.T Party Wagon

Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without a TMNT vehicle, like the Turtle’s main vehicle above ground, the iconic Party Wagon from 1989. This bodacious “wacky attack van” was kitted out in classic Ninja Turtles style, complete with various blasters, Whacko Bombs, Armored Windshield Visor and best of all, the swinging Foot Tenderiser! 

Quintessentially Ninja Turtles and quintessentially ‘80s, this thing will give you all the nostalgia feels even if you never had one yourself. You can find vintage versions on eBay or Amazon, or go for a Hot Wheelz version if you want a more subtle form of nostalgic decor. 

💡TIP: Even Hot Wheels launched their own cute little version of the Ninja Turtles’ Party Wagon.

25. Tron Light Cycle

Tron began as a groundbreaking sci-fi movie about a video game, which of course spawned a series of real video games, but also novels, theme park attractions, comic books and of course — toys! The Light Cycles are futuristic motorcycles that create walls of colored light in a high-stakes game played between humanoid computer programs. 

The original toy Light Cycle was produced by Tomy Toys in 1981 as part of the merchandising for the upcoming film. Today, there are lots of collectible originals to hunt down as well as modern versions modeled after the later Tron movies.

26. K.I.T.T. (Knight Rider)

Starring The Hoff himself, the legendary drama Knight Rider revolved around Michael Knight, a Bond-esque crime fighter, and his artificially intelligent, self-aware, robotic automobile. This (literally) smart car was called K.I.T.T. or Knight Industries Two Thousand. But despite being so futuristic, from the outside, K.I.T.T. looked just like a 1982 Pontiac Trans Am!

Although the K.I.T.T. in the Knight Rider Impossible set couldn’t talk, he could drive on a looping track set upside down! Though it had little to do with the show, this was a must-have set for any car-obsessed ‘80s kid.

27. AT-AT

The Star Wars movie that kicked off the ‘80s was The Empire Strikes Back, and it featured some awesome robots and vehicles. The AT-AT (All-Terrain Armored Transport) was both, and it looked like a giant animal, making it doubly cool! The AT-AT released by Kenner in 1981 was the holy grail of Star Wars toys, with its movable legs, battle lights and sounds and opening cockpit.

To reflect its size in the movie, Kenner’s AT-AT was massive, making it all the more desirable and all the more out of reach. If you had one, you were definitely envied by the other kids!

💡TIP: Star Wars nerds will also love this Millennium Falcon building set from Bandai.

28. Pow-R-Trons

Released in 1985, Pow-R-Trons were a line of robot toys by ERTL. These toys were a mix of robots and vehicles on rubber wheels. Pow-R-Trons had a friction flywheel motor that allowed you to push them at high speed, and they had a little trick up their sleeve: whenever your Pow-R-Tron vehicle would collide with a wall or an obstacle, it would transform into its robot form.

This was made possible thanks to a little button on the bumper of the vehicle form of the Pow-R-Tron, which would be pressed when crashing against obstacles to cause the vehicle to spring into the robot form, driving back in the direction in which it came from at full speed. Pretty cool stuff!

29. Big Trak

While today there are endless programmable wheeled robots that kids can use to learn coding, Big Trak was the original programmable car. Released by MB Electronics all the way back in 1979, Big Trak was designed to look like a futuristic Sci-Fi tank that wouldn’t be out of place on the moon, but of course today it looks unmistakably late ‘70s / early ‘80s!

For a toy released before the ‘80s even began, the fact that it could remember up to 16 commands was very impressive. As one of the first programmable toys ever, this is a piece of history!

80s Dolls and Doll Houses

30. Polly Pocket

The very first Polly Pocket was designed by Chris Wiggs in 1983 for his daughter, and fitted inside makeup powder compact. By 1989, the first commercial versions hit the shelves via Bluebird Toys, and were an instant success. I’ve said before that there is something magical about tiny things, and Little Polly in her various compact, enclosed worlds was absolutely enchanting.

I’ve been talking in the past tense, but Polly Pocket is still alive and well in case you want to introduce her and her pint-sized playsets to your kids. Though the sets are a little bigger these days to prevent choking!

31. Cabbage Patch Kids

The story of the Cabbage Patch Kids is a long and bizarre one. It starts with the Doll Babies of craft artist Martha Nelson, which eventually became the Cabbage Patch Kids released by Coleco Industries in 1982. These cute but strange dolls which supposedly grew inside cabbages became so popular that they led to a series of riots by parents desperate to lay their hands on them!

Though they’re no longer selling inspiring riots, Cabbage Patch Kids are still being sold. You can even still visit Babyland General Hospital, which is designed to look like a real hospital where the dolls are “born”!

32. Rainbow Brite

Almost as iconic as the Cabbage Patch Kids, Rainbow Brite was a magical girl who lived in Rainbow Land, where all the world’s colors are created. Both the dolls and animated series came out in 1983, and Mattel produced various iterations throughout the decade. With her cute appearance and rainbow and star motifs, Rainbow Brite brought together everything little girls were expected to love in the ‘80s.

If you were a Rainbow Brite girl, you didn’t just want the doll — you were after the mini figures, bedroom decor, stationery and more. Quite impressive for a character that started as a Hallmark card!

33. My Little Pony

My Little Pony has gone through multiple “generations” (the ones I played with were from Generation 2) but the 1980s My Little Ponies were the very first. Released by Hasbro in 1982, these cute ponies featured colorful bodies, lustrous manes and little symbols on their flanks, such as hearts, flowers, planets, ice cream or raindrops, among many others.

All the unique but instantly recognizable varieties of My Little Ponies made collecting them a must — for kids in the ‘80s and ‘90s and for adult collectors today. I can’t tell you how hard I wished for these magical ponies to be real!

💡TIP: These days, you can find My Little Pony with a brand new design and loads of cute accessories kids will love.

34. Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake entered the world in 1979, along with her friends Raspberry Tart, Purple Pieman and Apricot. From then until 1985, Kenner introduced even more yummy characters, reaching a total of 21. Each one had its own delicious scent that went with its name and appearance, but Strawberry Shortcake was definitely the queen bee of the pack!

Miss Shortcake and her friends were so popular that they became the center of a whole universe that included video games, sticker albums, clothes, movies and more. She was reintroduced in 2002 with a slightly updated look and you can still buy her today!

💡TIP: Feel yourself getting won over by the adorable world of Strawberry Shortcake? Perhaps you need a coloring book to really wallow in the nostalgia. There is also a super cute Funko! Pop figure you should check out.

35. Jem and the Holograms

Way before Miley and Hannah Montana, there was Jerrica and Jem, Jem being the holographic rockstar alter ego of Starlight Music manager Jerrica. The animated series about her life debuted in 1985, and Hasbro released the dolls of Jem and her bandmates the Holograms the very same year. So if you were an ‘80s kid who didn’t watch Jem and the Holograms, that’s truly outrageous!

At a glance, Jem looks like Barbie’s rebellious rockstar cousin, with a mullet-adjacent hairstyle and neon wardrobe that couldn’t be more ‘80s if it tried. The doll version of her even had light-up earrings!

💡TIP: If you watched Jem just so you could sing along with Pizzazz and The Misfits, you will like this Pizzazz doll — and you won’t want to miss the Funko! POP version!

36. Crystal Barbie

The ‘80s were awash with iconic Barbies, but none was more glamorous than Crystal Barbie. With an opalescent gown, bejeweled necklace and earrings and giant glimmering boa, this Barbie shone from head to toe! She was the absolute epitome of a modern princess, so it’s no wonder she captured the hearts of so many girls (and probably a few boys too.)

Crystal Barbie came out in 1983, and quickly became one of Mattel’s most sought-after Barbies. She came with a brush and comb plus a necklace for you to wear to get an ounce of the glitz she exuded with her whole being!

37. Peaches and Cream Barbie

The only Barbie that could give Crystal a run for her money was Peaches and Cream Barbie, released the following year. Though she didn’t glimmer as much, she made up for it in spades by being as frilly, poofy, soft and peachy as can be. Her long peach chiffon gown with metallic bodice and ruffled stole was the height of glamor and the ‘80s motto “the bigger the better!”

Peaches and Cream Barbie was so iconic that it was released as a Funko Pop and as part of Unique Vintage’s Barbie collaboration collection. If you had one, you had a piece of history!

38. Day-to-Night Barbie

Definitely one of the most iconic Barbies of the ‘80s, Day-to-Night Barbie was such a cultural touchstone that she got a shoutout in the recent Barbie movie. This hotshot Barbie reflected women’s shift into the workplace, with her snazzy briefcase and extremely ‘80s two-piece. But at night, she could still be as glamorous as the rest of the Barbies in her sparkly dress!

Mattel released Day-to-Night Barbie in 1984, the same year as Peaches and Cream Barbie. For parents who worried that Barbie taught girls that you just had to be pretty and look for a rich Ken, she was the perfect rebuttal!

39. Castle Grayskull

Castle Grayskull is a terrifying fortress located on the planet Eternia in the Masters of the Universe cartoons. Home to the Sorceress and situated on a pedestal of bones, it was the perfect contender for an action-packed playset! After being released in 1982, it soon became one of Mattel’s bestsellers, and it remains one of the most iconic playsets of all time.

Featuring a “Jawbridge”, throne room, elevator and trap door, this awesome playset was the perfect location to play out epic battles between He-Man and his foes. I’m willing to bet many playsets since I have used this as an inspiration!

80s Consoles and Electronic Toys

40. Simon

Way before Dance Dance Revolution and Bop It there was Simon, the electronic game that created a series of tones and lights which the player had to repeat by pressing the right buttons. The game was simple – do as Simon says! At the same time, it could get devilishly difficult, as the sequence would get faster and more and more complex as time went on, until you failed.

Simon was released by Hasbro in 1978, and remained popular throughout the ‘80s. It was extremely addictive, because you couldn’t help wanting to try again and again until you got further than last time!

41. Lite-Brite

Lite-Brite hit the market way back in 1967, but was re-released in the ‘80s and became extremely popular. Though it seems high-tech, the concept is actually very simple – it’s a backlit box with holes for plastic pegs, so that whatever shape you make out of the pegs is illuminated. The rest of the light is blocked by black paper, so the image emerges clear and glowing like Christmas lights!

Lite-Brite has been re-released in various iterations over the years, and you can buy today’s bigger and brighter version on Amazon. But if you’re feeling nostalgic, there are loads of vintage versions on eBay!

42. Speak & Spell

Though it was released by Texas Instruments in 1978, Speak & Spell has the feel of an ‘80s toy. With its speech synthesizer, keyboard and little display screen, this educational console was a herald of the computer age. In fact, it was one of the first handheld electronic devices with a visual display that used interchangeable game cartridges!

Speak & Spell was the start of a grand tradition of using electronic games and toys to sneakily make learning fun for kids. Relive your spelling glory days by snapping one up from eBay, or go for double nostalgia with the E.T. 40th Anniversary Edition!

43. Atari 2600

Before Nintendo and Sony Playstation began to dominate the gaming market, Atari Inc. ruled the whole roost of home video gaming. Technically a ‘70s toy, the Atari 2600 came out in 1977 and was the first console to popularize microprocessor-based hardware and games stored on swappable ROM cartridges. By 1982, it was the most popular game system in North America!

The Atari 2600 had a decent time in the limelight before it began to be pushed out by Nintendo. It’s only true early ‘80s kids who can remember playing things like Star Ship, Street Racer and Space Invaders on the Atari!

💡TIP: If you decide to snap up this vintage video game system, you’ll need at least a game or two to play on it.

44. Nintendo Game Boy

With its release at the other end of the ‘80s, this one’s for those who straddle the divide between being ‘80s and ‘90s kids. The Game Boy came out in 1989, and although it was Nintendo’s second handheld console, it was the first one that really took off. Now, video gaming wasn’t something you could only do at home or at the arcade – you could do it anywhere!

Full disclosure: I’m a ‘90s kid. But if you were quick on the uptake, you probably have many memories like mine of huddling together with a friend so you could connect your Game Boys with the cable!

45. Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

By 1985, Nintendo was already dominating the video gaming market, and when they came out with the Nintendo Entertainment System, it was game over for the other competitors — at least now. Thanks to its ease of use and the fact that it offered everyone’s favorite arcade hits, it quickly became one of the highest selling video game consoles ever!

Because Super Mario Bros. often came free with the system, it became one of the most popular video games of all time. So you can thank the NES for Super Mario’s ascendancy to global icon status, which he still enjoys today!

46. SEGA Genesis

Also qualifying as an ‘80s toy by the skin of its teeth, the SEGA Genesis was released in 1988 in Japan and 1989 in the U.S. With a particularly grandiose TV advert that presented it as coming from the heavens, the Genesis fared well in America and Europe. This was thanks in large part to its library of arcade game ports and the popularity of a certain hedgehog named Sonic!

The SEGA Genesis was marketed explicitly towards youths as the ‘cool’ video game console for adolescents, so for many ‘80s kids, it was the console they begged their parents for. 

47. Fisher-Price Tape Recorder

With home videos and tape recorders becoming more widespread, of course kids had to get in on the action. Fisher-Price came in early to snap up this niche market, and their Classics Play Tape Recorder remained in production for an impressive 20 years! Not only could kids record themselves and things in the world, but the toy also played nursery rhymes to sing along to.

Whether you used your tape recorder to record yourself singing, playing piano or doing funny voices, or even your cat’s meow, chances are if you had one of these it gave you many hours of fun.

48. Tabletop Mini-Arcade Pac-Man

Sure, you could play Pac-Man on the Atari 2600, but if your parents were too broke to get you a full home video game console, the Tabletop Mini-Arcade Pac-Man was the next best thing. Plus, it had the novelty advantage of looking and working exactly like a real arcade Pac-Man in miniature, so you didn’t lose any of that arcade atmosphere! 

Coleco released this diminutive arcade game in 1981, just a year after this game hit the real arcades. It’s hard to think of a more iconic arcade game, which makes the mini-arcade feel all the more nostalgic!

49. Teddy Ruxpin

In the ‘90s we may have had the Furby, but ‘80s kids had Teddy Ruxpin, the equally creepy animatronic teddy bear. Though it didn’t “learn” anything over time, this talking bear could tell stories, and with moving eyes and mouth it seemed incredibly lifelike. So much so that it scared many kids, which wasn’t helped by the Frankenstein-inspired TV commercial!

Teddy Ruxpin is another one of those toys that seemed more high-tech than he was — besides his animatronics, he was basically just a cassette player in teddy bear form. But he was a godsend for busy parents way before the iPad!

50. Walkman

As the OG portable cassette player, the Sony Walkman turned music from something you could only listen to at home to something you could listen to as you walked down the street. It came out in 1979 but remained popular throughout the decade, so anyone who was an older kid in the ‘80s is sure to have fond memories of it.

The Sony Walkman was so popular that “walkman” became the unofficial term for portable cassette players of any kind. They remained hugely popular until CDs took over from cassettes in the ‘90s, making them one of the defining products of the ‘80s!

💡TIP: You’re gonna need some cassettes of classic ‘80s hits to really get into your groove with your Walkman!

80s Activity Sets

51. Fashion Plates

Fashion Plates were first released by Tomy in 1978, but rose to the height of their popularity in the ‘80s. They consisted of a set of plastic plates with various outlined shapes of wardrobe pieces, which you would then place drawing paper over to trace the outline in black crayon. Then, you could use colored crayons and one of the pattern plates to decorate them.

As kids mixed and matched items and added patterns and colors, they could feel like real designers. Plus, there’s no better way to trace ‘80s fashion than looking at the Fashion Plates released each year!

52. Rubik’s Cube

Although the Rubik’s Cube was invented by Hungarian architect Ernő Rubik in 1974, it only started filling the shelves in 1978-80 when it was bought by Pentangle Puzzles in the UK and Ideal Toy Corp in the USA. Since then, it has continued to confound, mystify and stump kids and adults alike, and score real admiration for anyone who can solve it.

While the Rubik’s Cube is still an iconic puzzle, the Rubik’s craze of the ‘80s has never been matched. Around 200 million were sold worldwide between 1980 and 1983 alone, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you had one in your toybox!

53. LEGO Space Supply Station

While the LEGO sets of the ‘70s primarily consisted of houses, cars and other familiar buildings, the ‘80s were a whole new frontier for LEGO. In the early 1980s, LEGO released its first space-themed sets, and the Space Supply Station from 1983 was one of them. As well as the supply station itself, the set included two buildable rovers and two hovercraft, plus four spaceman minifigs.

In the ‘80s, growing up with parents telling them about the moon landing, kids were obsessed with space and a huge percentage of them dreamed of becoming astronauts. The LEGO space sets fit right into that world!

💡TIP: If you have your own kids who are into space, check out the LEGO City Mars Research Shuttle, which shows how far both LEGO and space exploration have come!

54. Waterfuls

For many ‘80s kids, Waterfuls from Tomy were a mainstay of long car journeys and trips to the doctor’s office. They were essentially arcade-style games that involved no electronics and instead relied on mechanics created by air and water. You filled them with water, and then pressing the buttons caused air bubbles to whoosh inside. This formed the basis for scores of games from Tic-Tac-Toe to Pinball and more!

The first Waterfuls came out in 1976 and were mostly carnival-style games like ring toss. The ones released in the ‘80s took inspiration from arcades and even recreated games like Pac-Man and Space Invaders!

55. Slinky

The Slinky is another toy that goes way back, but today is associated with the ‘80s. It was invented by naval engineer Richard T. James in the 1940s, who created his own company to sell them. They were popular from the start, but they ballooned in popularity in the 1960s and again in the 1980s via a series of TV adverts, which used the same jingle for decades!

In the 1980s, the plastic Slinky became more popular than the classic metal one, for safety reasons. Despite this, I had a metal one which I played with so much I eventually tangled it beyond repair!

💡TIP: Find the more kid-friendly, colorful and plastic Slinky here.

56. LEGO King’s Castle

While some kids were looking to the future and dreaming of becoming astronauts, others were looking to the past and dreaming of being knights defending the King’s Castle. This LEGO set, released in 1984, was perfect for those little Arthurians! Featuring a huge medieval castle complete with turrets, a drawbridge and portcullis, it was a fantastically detailed set for the time.

This classic LEGO set also included knights, archers and soldiers and their little horses. Add to that the fact that it could open up in multiple ways, and you’ll agree it was one of the coolest LEGO sets ever!

57. Madballs

Madballs were a series of foam bouncy balls created by AmToy in 1985. Depicting ogre heads, monster heads, veiny eyeballs and more, that were designed to be as gross and obnoxious as possible. Guaranteed to give your parents a fright and creep out your younger siblings, these grotesque balls were a pioneer of the “gross out” toy trend that would dominate the late ‘80s and ‘90s.

Madballs were a flash in the pan, but boy were they popular during that brief flash. Though their popularity didn’t last long, they had enough time to expand into a franchise with comic books, cartoons, and a video game!

58. View-Master

The View-Master system was introduced in 1939, four years after the Kodachrome color film allowed for small color photographs. Back then, View-Masters mostly showed tourist attractions, but by the ‘80s, it was situated firmly in the realm of kids toys. These new View Masters were smaller, lighter and showed images of cartoons and other kid-friendly subjects.

Many reels sold in the ‘80s told stories in the form of a series of images, which kids could bring to life using their imaginations. I’m not sure why these static images were so exciting during the TV era, but they definitely were!

59. Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine

When it comes to culinary toys, none is more iconically ‘80s than the Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine — despite the fact that Hasbro released it in 1979 and it remains popular to this day. This Peanuts-themed toy soon became a mainstay of summer birthday parties, as well as the front yards of enterprising kids who sold Sno-Cones instead of Lemonade!

Thanks to its enduring popularity, the Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine was named one of the 100 best toys in history by Time Magazine. If nothing else, it taught kids the value of hard work, as it took minutes of arm-burning effort to produce one small Sno-Cone!

80s Board Games

60. Pictionary

Pictionary is up there with the most iconic games of all time, along with games like Clue and Monopoly. This charades-like drawing game was published in 1985 by Angel Games, so only ‘80s kids can remember when it was a hot new game instead of a classic! Since then, it has changed hands twice, first to Hasbro and then to Mattel, which is a testament to its universal appeal.

To many ‘80s kids, Pictionary means memories of endless hours at family holidays spent trying to decipher your uncle’s scribbles. Recreate those memories with your own kids by buying a brand new Pictionary set!

61. Kongman

A less enduring ‘80s game is Kongman, which you may not have thought about in years but a single glance will immediately take you back in time. A dexterity game in the style of Pinball or Screwball Scramble, in Kongman players had to navigate a metal ball across various obstacles to reach the top of a mountain presided over by a giant gorilla. 

The difference with Kongman was that it was battery operated, so the obstacles actually moved, increasing the difficulty and excitement! As the text on the box says, “the perilous path to Kongman’s kingdom isn’t easy!”

62. Bed Bugs

Another somewhat frantic dexterity game, Bed Bugs involves trying to catch plastic “bugs” from the “bed” with tweezers, as the battery-powered bed shakes and the bugs jump all over the place. To make it more difficult, you must only catch bugs of the color that corresponds to the round you’re playing. Most bugs caught at the end wins!

Bed Bugs was released in 1985 by Hasbro. With its bizarre premise, bright colors and battery-powered action, it is just wacky enough to be an ‘80s game! It was also way harder than it looked, which made it all the more addictive.

63. Shark Attack!

Shark Attack! works via the simplest of game mechanics – roll the dice and move that number of spaces, aiming to get ahead of your opponents. What adds tension, laughter and excited shrieking to the game is the motorized shark head that is always snapping at your tail, and will gobble up whatever little fishy is trailing behind. Last one not gobbled up wins, so swim for your life!

Shark Attack! came out in 1988 from Hasbro – close enough to Jaws for that still to be a familiar cultural reference, but far enough away that the shark wouldn’t seem too scary!

💡TIP: Got a shark-obsessed kid? Then they need this National Geographic Kids Ultimate Book of Sharks.

64. Taboo

Since its release, Taboo has become an absolute classic, so it may be a surprise to learn that it only came out in 1989. First published by Parker Brothers and later bought by Hasbro, Taboo is another guessing game, this time in which you can describe the item with words, but you must not say any of the “taboo” words. 

Taboo’s simple premise makes for an extremely versatile game, as you can play with any number of people and everyone from your 8-year-old cousin to your 80-year-old grandma can join! It’s definitely another one of those long-extended-family-get-together games.

65. Dark Tower

Only an ‘80s board game would think to combine medieval themes of brigands, dragons and plague with computer-facilitated gameplay. Published in 1981 by Milton Bradley, Dark Tower was extremely technologically advanced and highly immersive. I’m not sure why more board games today don’t keep track of things electronically (maybe something to do with cost), but in 1981 it felt like a brave new world!

Today, working copies of Dark Tower are tricky to attain because the computer often stopped working from wear and tear, and because it didn’t stay on the market very long as Milton Bradley was sued for intellectual property theft!

66. Axis & Allies

After it was published in 1984, Axis & Allies soon became the most successful of Milton Bradley’s Gamemaster series, a title it still holds today. In this classic game of WWII strategy, the game board is a world map, and rolls of the dice allow you to move your battleships, bombers, submarines, fighters and all the rest around said map. 

Axis & Allies is all about cooperating with your teammates to coordinate offenses and defend against enemy forces. For many ‘80s kids, it was how they learned about WWII – but it could provide a pretty warped conception of history depending on the outcome!

67. Guess Who?

For the last item on our list, cast your mind back to your younger days. Released by Milton Bradley in 1979, Guess Who? has become one of the most popular kids’ games ever. The aim is to guess which of a lineup of people your opponent has chosen, only by asking yes/no questions. The more people you can eliminate with a question, the closer you are to winning!

Guess Who? Makes use of a classic guessing game formula, and helps kids practice strategic thinking and communication. It was also extremely satisfying, to flip down the faces of the people you have eliminated!

80s Outdoor Toys

68. Skateboards

Not a toy vehicle but an actual way to get around, skateboards may have been invented in the 1950s, but it was in the 1980s that they really took off. Dubbed “The Golden Age of Skateboarding”, the ‘80s was the era of the first skateboarding competitions, the rise of vertical skateparks, and the growth of a skateboarding culture emanating from central California.

eBay is your best bet if you want to relive the nostalgia of rad ‘80s skateboarding without actually hopping on the board. These vintage boards will tug at your memory strings but aren’t usually safe for kids or adults to use!

69. Power Wheels

The original Power Wheels were advertised for kids from 1-7 years old, which is pretty wild in hindsight, considering they were battery-powered and actually drove! Nevertheless, they were one of the most coveted toys of the ‘80s, the type of toy you dreamed about and got to drive just once when you visited your rich cousins. They were launched in 1984 by Pines of America, and are still pretty coveted today!

While today you can get a Jeep Wrangler or Barbie Dream Car Power Wheels, the ‘80s ones came in High Rider 4×4, Classic Convertible, and Raider (a three-wheeled motorcycle) designs.

70. Roller Skates

With a kid-friendly, wholesome aura to contrast against the counterculture connotations of skateboarding, roller skates are just as representative of the ‘80s. Interestingly, the origins of roller skating go all the way to their invention in 1735, and they have experienced a number of booms since then. But in the ‘80s, roller skating transformed once again, with roller rinks becoming a favorite venue for kids to hang out.

You can relive your roller derby glory days with one of the excellent rink skate options on Amazon. Though they aren’t in neon colors, they will take you right back to the disco rink!

71. Fisher-Price “1-2-3 Grow With Me” Adjustable Roller Skates

While the older kids were at the roller disco, in 1984, the little kids were making their first moves on wheels with Fisher-Price’s “Grow With Me” skates. These colorful plastic contraptions went over your shoe and could be adjusted for a range of foot sizes. They even had a beginners’ setting that made it almost impossible to fall — or, let’s be honest, to skate properly!

These may have been clunky, uncomfortable and loud, but for littlies, they were the coolest thing since sliced bread. If you had these as a kid, chances are your friends wanted to borrow them at every playdate!

Are 80s Toys Worth Any Money?

When you’re a kid happily playing with your toys, you don’t stop to think, “Oh, I better be careful with this because it might be worth a lot of money one day.” But when it comes to toys from the ‘80s, that may well be the case.

The ‘80s were an important decade for toys – they saw the rise of specialized action figures, movie merchandise, and video games, all of which make for prized collectibles 40 years later. And thanks to eBay, the ‘80s toy market is booming!

But before you get your hopes up, keep in mind that it’s only select ‘80s toys, such as Teddy Ruxpin and classic He-Man action figures, that can rake in the big bucks, and even then, a lot depends on the toy’s condition.

How to Determine the Value of Your 80s Toys

Look out for these factors when trying to determine whether it’s worth trying to sell your old collection of Star Wars figures and Polly Pockets or not.

1. Packaging. If, for some bizarre reason, you kept the box your ‘80s toy came in, congratulations — there’s a high chance you’ll be able to sell it for a pretty penny.

2. Condition. Similarly, the more clean and pristine your old toys are, the more you’ll be able to sell them. Toys that are in mint condition and still in their packaging go for top-tier prices.

3. Rarity. If a toy was recalled soon after being released, or only very few units of that particular edition were made (think limited edition Cabbage Patch Kids), it will be worth a lot more than mass-produced items.

4. Edition. If your toy was the first of its kind (like the very first range of Ninja Turtles action figures), it’s likely to be worth more later editions.

5. Type. For whatever reason, some toy types are more sought after than others. The top categories include action figures, building toys, model vehicles, Barbies and toys that move.

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