Gone are the days of writing Christmas lists by hand. With the internet enabled on seemingly every device, kids only need to take to Google to track down the exact URL of their desired toy in time for Santa’s visit — and let’s be honest, they’re probably better at it than grown-ups.
Toys aren’t just for kids, though: one study found that 58% of adults in the U.S. have bought a toy for themselves. And whether those grown-ups are battling it out on a console or zooming around the block on a scooter (does anyone else’s back hurt thinking about it?), one thing’s for sure: play is good for us.
No matter your age, there may be one toy that has a very special place in your heart. But which toys, in particular, are the most popular in every country?
Last year, our clever elves at TheToyZone analyzed Google Search volumes to track down the exact toy that each country had searched for the most online in 2021. We’ve crunched the numbers again this year to map the most uniquely popular toy in 161 countries in 2022. Here’s what we discovered…
What We Did
TheToyZone began with a seed list of toys, and using the Ahrefs Keywords Explorer tool, we calculated how many times each one was googled per month on average in 161 countries. To find each country’s most uniquely popular toy, we used a ‘location quotient’ method to determine how much more popular a toy is locally than globally.
- Four of the top five most searched-for toys in the world are video game consoles, and of those, the PS5, gets the most monthly searches on average (15 million).
- The only non-console toy among the five most searched is Lego, which is searched globally over six million times a month on average.
- Counting 1.35m searches on average per month, the most searched-for board game globally is Ludo.
- Barbie is the most uniquely popular toy in 32 countries — more than any other toy.
Barbie Is the Most Popular Toy in 32 Countries
Drumroll, please… according to our research, Barbie is the most uniquely popular toy in 32 countries, more than any other toy in our analysis. She’s popular on every continent, particularly Africa, where 17 countries search for her online more than any other toy.
Barbara Millicent Roberts — Barbie, to her friends — was launched in the U.S. in 1959 and has been sold in 150 countries worldwide. She’s a workaholic, too: in her time on toy store shelves, Barbie’s enjoyed over 200 careers, including veterinarian, astronaut and even presidential candidate.
Most Countries in North America Prefer Simple Toys Over Consoles
North Americans know a thing or two about toys — in fact, they spend more money on toys than anywhere else in the world. But which toys exactly are the most popular across the continent? While simpler joys like board games and dolls take the crown in most countries, two countries (Antigua and Barbuda and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) prefer video gameconsoles (the Xbox Series X and PS5, respectively).
The video game industry is huge, and it’s expected to grow even bigger: experts predict that by 2026, the industry will be worth a staggering $321 billion. Behind China, the U.S. spends more money on video games than any other country.
South America Loves Dolls
In five countries in South America, Barbie is the most uniquely popular toy. While Barbie’s appearance has been criticized for not being very realistic, over the years, special edition dolls have been furnished with colorful outfits and accessories that honor other countries and cultures, including Latin America.
Barbie’s not the only doll on the block, though: in Brazil, L.O.L Surprise dolls are the most searched online, and Funko POP dolls take the crown in Chile. Dolls are one of the oldest types of toys in the world, and in South America, you can find colorful and traditional handmade dolls.
Europe Loves to Build, and Not Just With LEGO
In 17 countries in Europe, building and construction toys are the most uniquely popular category. But while the hugely lucrative LEGO brand might be the first building toy you think of, Knex, Playmobil and Geomag playsets are, in fact, more popular across the continent.
Lego was first created in Denmark in 1932 and can now be found on the shelves of toy stores in 130 countries worldwide. The iconic Lego brick was once patented, but after the patent’s expiration in 1978, rival companies started to make Lego clones.
It’s no wonder that some consumers may prefer clones and other building kits over Lego-branded products; depending on where you live in the world, Lego prices can be very expensive due to factors like import costs.
Board Games Dominate in The Middle East and Central Asia
Of all the categories of toys on the market, board games seem to be the most popular in the Middle East and Central Asia. In seven countries in the region, board games like Pictionary, the Game of Life and Rummikub are the most uniquely popular toys, according to Google Search volumes.
This world region has a (very) long history with board games: the first ever playable board game was created 4,600 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia, which in modern times is located across Syria and Iraq.
In four other countries, Barbie is the most uniquely popular doll. Elsewhere in the region, Barbie has been banned either temporarily or permanently over the years. For example, in 2003, she was banned in Saudi Arabia because of the doll’s “revealing clothes and shameful postures.”
Consoles Not So Popular in the Rest of Asia and Oceania
Over in the rest of Asia and Oceania, the most popular toys include yoyos, Buckaroo and toys from TV shows, like the Power Rangers. Video game consoles don’t appear at all on our map — not even in Japan, where the local video game industry is one of the biggest in the world.
The Japanese Nanoblock brand is the most popular toy in three countries. Similar to Lego, Nanoblocks can be pieced together to make all kinds of structures, from Pokémon to castle replicas, with the smallest pieces measuring just millimeters across.
Board Games and Dolls Are Popular in Africa
In Africa, board games and dolls are the most popular types of toys. While no other doll but Barbie appears on our map, national tastes in board games are a little more varied: Ludo is the most popular, but old favorites like the Game of Life, Monopoly and Scrabble also come up top.
Since Monopoly was first marketed in 1935, over 1,500 licensed versions of the iconic board have been released. However, it was only back in 2012 when Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, became Africa’s first city to have its own Monopoly board.
The World’s Favorite Toys in 2022… by Category
Similarly to last year’s report, we also analyzed search volumes for toys in each category. Keep reading to find out who took the title of most-searched for videogame consoles, classic toys, dolls, ‘90s toys, construction toys, family board games, TV toys, and superhero toys in every country.
Video Game Consoles
As much as the world loves dolls, board games and building blocks, it seems we can’t resist the siren call of shiny tech. Our overall analysis reveals that four of the top five most searched-for toys online are video game consoles, with the PS5 taking the ultimate top spot. The Nintendo Switch, however, is the most uniquely popular toy in most countries (69).
So why might the Nintendo Switch be more widely popular? For one thing, the Nintendo Switch is cheaper and easier to buy than the PS5, thanks to an ongoing global shortage of PS5s. Animal Crossing: New Horizons, exclusively available on the Switch and one of the console’s all-time best-selling games, also gained millions of new fans during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Next up, we wanted to find out which classic toys are the most popular in each country. These are the kinds of toys you probably have collecting dust in the back of your closet, but they’re just too old-school cool to part with. Barbie takes the crown for being the most popular in most countries (54), but the likes of the iconic Rubik’s Cube, Hot Wheels and the yoyo also appear on our map.
The Rubik’s Cube had humble beginnings: Hungarian architecture professor Ernő Rubik set out to make a device that would help explain geometry to his students and ended up creating the best-selling toy of all time. As for why the colorful cube was such a success, Rubik thinks it has something to do with the fact that — yes, we admit it too — it’s so pretty to look at.
It’s a Barbie world, and we’re all living in it… in 75 countries, Barbie is the most uniquely popular doll, which isn’t surprising given that 99% of the world recognizes the Barbie brand. In 38 other countries, the sassy Bratz brand of dolls is the most popular, and L.O.L Surprise takes the crown in 10 others — a win either way for MGA Entertainment Inc., the manufacturer of both brands of doll.
Since Bratz dolls first burst onto the scene in 2001, everything from their fashion to their dating lives has stirred up controversy, and even Barbie had a bone to pick with Bratz. Surprisingly, Bratz is the most uniquely popular doll in eight countries in the Middle East and Central Asia, a region where, depending on the country, dolls like Fulla are more popular.
Millennials, rejoice: some of your favorite toys from childhood are still going strong and available to buy “ironically.” The most popular across the world are Polly Pocket and the Game Boy, which are both favored over any other ‘90s toy in 24 countries each. Meanwhile, in 13 countries, Tamagotchi is the most uniquely popular.
Sky Dancers are the most popular toy in four other countries, including Kenya and South Africa. If you’re not familiar, this toy involves pulling a string to make a winged doll shoot off into the air and fall not-so-delicately to the ground. One country you won’t be able to find Sky Dancers is in the U.S.: the toy was pulled off the market in 2000 after causing more than a few poked eyes.
Building & Construction Sets
Whether you’re putting together a simple but fun Lego set for kids or going for a world record (we believe in you), building with toys can be a rewarding activity. But Lego isn’t the only building block brand on toy store shelves — it may be the most popular in 57 countries, but elsewhere brands like Geomag, Knex and Playmobil are searched the most online.
We also discovered that Lincoln Logs are the most popular building toy brand in the U.S. — and nowhere else.Invented by the son of one of the finest architects in the States and named after the country’s sixteenth president, these wooden playsets are as American as apple pie — but it was only in 2014 that their manufacturing was brought home from overseas.
Family Board Games
Shall we play a board game? The very words that can strike fear in your heart if you’re one of the 20% of people in the U.S. who often see game nights descend into anarchy. But game night tensions aside, most people have a favorite board game, whether it’s a hot new release or a time-tested classic. Our research reveals that Ludo is the most uniquely popular board game in 29 countries, 18 of which are in Africa.
In the grand scheme of things, Ludo was only patented fairly recently in 1896, but the game it’s based on (Pachisi) was created in India in the sixth century CE. Nowadays, over in Ludo-mad Africa, Ludo teams can battle it out at the Africa Ludo Cup of Nations (AL-CON), which was won by Uganda in 2021.
Our analysis reveals that Paw Patrol is the most uniquely popular brand of TV toy in 19 countries, which is more than any other TV toy. In an interview with the Financial Times, the show’s creator Keith Chapman highlighted how important merchandise was to building the show into a global brand. And global it’s gone: Paw Patrol has been sold to TV networks in over 160 countries.
With TV toys, it’s a chicken or egg situation: sometimes a toy line is based on a TV show (like Paw Patrol), while other times the TV show was made specifically to sell toys. The Transformers TV series is one such example of the latter, and their toys are the most popular in 13 countries.
In recent years, superheroes in every color leotard have burst from the pages of comic books and are now saving the world in movies, which audiences are paying billions to watch. When it comes to toy versions of superheroes, Spiderman is the clear favorite in 24 countries.
A previous study found that Spiderman — aka Peter Parker — is the most popular superhero in the world, and he’s even one of Stan Lee’s favorite creations. Meanwhile, Batman is the preferred superhero toy in six other countries (including three in South America).
Which Toys Are Popular Where You Live?
Whether it’s a sold-out Christmas must-have or a rare collectible, sometimes tracking down a toy is a game in itself (but not always a fun one). Fortunately, the internet has changed the game: not only do search engines make it easier to find toys, but the majority (60%) of American parents also buy toys online.
Check out our interactive table below to find out which toys are the most popular in a country of your choice, based on how often they’re searched online.
Methodology & Sources
We first collected a list of toys from categories outlined by the Toy Association and Wikipedia, then cross-referenced them with popular toy round-ups such as this verywellfamily.com article. Using Ahrefs Keywords Explorer, we then found the average monthly number of Google searches over a 12-month period made for each toy in each country.
Toys were deemed the most uniquely popular in a given country using a method similar to location quotient (a measure of how much more popular the toy is locally than globally). For example, Playmobil had a 13.6% share of Greece’s search volume for all toys — a % 7.81 times higher than the 1.74% of search volume Playmobil had among all the toys globally. Playmobil’s location quotient was, therefore, 7.81, and as that figure is the highest of all toys searched in Greece, it was deemed Greece’s most uniquely popular toy.
For our world and continent maps of each country’s favorite toy overall, toys with fewer than 100 monthly searches in a country were excluded. For our world map of favorite toys by category, toys with fewer than 50 monthly searches in a country were excluded. For our category map of consoles, we removed any consoles older than six years from our list.
The data was collected in September 2022.
Fair Use Statement
You are free to share the findings of this study in part or whole. We only ask that you please credit TheToyZone by linking back to this page so your readers can explore the findings of the full study, whilst the original creators of the report are properly credited for their work.