The 1980s brought some of the greatest toy lines of all time, many of which are still producing toys today. Join us as we explore the top 10 greatest action figures and toys from the 80s! There’s plenty of nostalgia, and we’re confident that you’ll say “I loved those!” about these classic 80s toys! Don’t miss our podcast where we cover all of these lines in depth! Check it out here!
So, what are the top 10 action figures and toys from the 80s?
Of course, these are all simply one person’s opinion, but in general these 10 would be considered the top in many lists.
10. Thundercats (LJN)
LJN manufactured the Thundercats action figures for only two years, spanning 1985 to 1987. Unlike many 80s toys, the Thundercats figures actually preceded the animated cartoon (most of the time toys are made after a show as established an audience as a means to generate additional revenue).
The Thundercats line was produced at a larger scale than most figures of the time, which certainly made them unique. In addition, the action figures featured some unique functionality, including Lion-O and Mumm-Ra’s eyes illuminating, as well as some electronic interaction between figures, accessories, and playsets.
9. Dino-Riders (Tyco)
Dino-Riders action figures, manufactured by Tyco, followed a much more traditional route for 80s toys – the animated cartoon was created solely as a means to market the figures. The Dino-Riders line lasted two years, spanning four series, released between 1988 and 1990. Series 1-3 focused solely on dinosaurs, while Series 4 featured Ice-Age themed mammals.
As a sci-fi fan, it’s hard not to instantly fall in love with this line. First, you’ve got dinosaurs and second, they’re got a variety of high-tech weaponry to accompany them. Really? Does it get any better? The correct answer is no. (Okay, technically it does, but you’ve got to admit… dinosaurs with rockets on them are pretty badass!)
8. Transformers (Hasbro)
The first wave of Transformers figures landed in the United States in 1984 and lasted through 1990, these first release action figures became affectionately known as G1 – or Generation 1. The popularity of Transformers has carried the line forward, with toys still being released today. Like many toy lines, Transformers are split between good and evil- the good guys are known as Autobots, and the bad guys as Decepticons.
The earliest of Transformers have stood the test of time and are incredibly desirable today. The ability to transform from figure to robot really makes these toys stand out as unique- even as an adult, these toys have a fair bit of impressive engineering behind them. One of my personal favorite G1 transformers is Megatron, who is able to transform in a scarily realistic looking Walther pistol… It’s pretty safe to say that no toy line would get away with that these days!
7. The Real Ghostbusters (Kenner)
6. Mini-Monsters (Remco)
Remco’s Mini-Monsters were incredible recreations of everyone’s favorite monsters from the Universal Monster crew, but this time in 3 and 3/4 inch format. The line consisted of Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman, Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Mummy, and the Phantom of the Opera. The figures are still quite popular today, due to the incredible sculpt detail. The line has even been revisited as a part of Super7’s Re-Action line, including additional new releases coming in 2018!
These figures are just classic. There are a number of variations to collect, including packaging variations (mostly based around the glow features included on them). In addition to the figures, Remco produced a Mini-Monster Playcase – a haunted house themed playset that doubled as a carrying case. The line featured one of the better monster playsets, in my opinion, that exists today- the Monsterizer (this was produced in very short numbers, making it very difficult to find today).
5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Playmates Toys)
To say that Playmates Toys’ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figure line was a success would be an understatement- the line stands out as one of the most iconic lines of toys from the 80s. Initially released in 1988, the line has continued to thrive even today. The success of the Ninja Turtles figures would eventually lead to an astronomical number of spinoff lines, all trying to capitalize on their own anthropomorphic inventions, including lines like Bucky O’Hare, Cowboys of Moo Mesa, Street Sharks, and many more.
There are an astronomic number of Ninja Turtles figures to collect and chase today. Between 1988 and 1998, Playmates had churned out nearly 400 unique action figures.
4. GI Joe 3 3/4 inch (Hasbro)
The GI Joe: A Real American Hero line was a continuation of the success seen by the 12 inch GI Joe figures produced in the 60s and 70s. Inspired by the new demand for 3 3/4inch figures, Hasbro looked to capitalize with their GI Joe action figure line. The figures made their debut in 1983 and have seen a fairly consistent presence on store shelves even through the recent movie releases.
If you were a child in the 80s, it’s quite hard to not love GI Joes. The line had a little something for everyone from classic military heroes, to neon-colored Eco-Crusaders, to monsters, all the way to space. Hasbro introduced an incredible array of vehicles and playsets, including some of the largest playsets of any toy line (the USS Flagg and Defiant, for example).
3. Masters of the Universe (Mattel)
After turning down an opportunity to make Star Wars toys in 1976, Mattel was looking to create their next big toy opportunity. If you’ve watched The Toys That Made Us (hint: if you haven’t, you should go watch it as soon as you finish this article) you’ll know that there’s a bit of debate with who should get credit for the creation of He-Man, but ultimately it is Roger Sweet, an internal designer at Mattel, who mocked up the earliest of He-Man action figures using a Mattel Big Jim figure as a base.
This line is one of the best vintage toy lines around- the figures feature a unique scale and design, and the box art is nothing short of incredible. There are such a wide variety of action figures, playsets, and vehicles, that it’s hard to beat the expansive offering of Mattel’s Masters of the Universe line.
2. Super Powers (Kenner)
When it comes to iconic 80s toys, it’s tough to beat Kenner’s Super Powers offering. The figures, the packaging, you name it- the line crushed it. The Super Powers line featured some of the most incredibly vibrant colors and some excellent vehicle and playset options.
In total, Kenner released 33 figures as part of the Super Powers line. Collectors have found many prototypes from this line, including
1. Star Wars (Kenner)
I know, if you read the Best toys of the 70s article, you’re probably groaning a bit that Star Wars made the #1 spot, but you can’t argue with facts. There’s no toy line that simply dominated the market like Kenner’s Vintage Star Wars action figures. The Kenner toys from the 80s were no exception to this, and I’d argue that some of the best characters in the line came from the Empire Strikes Back and the Return of the Jedi waves.
This rounds out our top 10 action figures and toys from the 80s. Make sure you check out our other top 10 lists, including our best toys of the 70s article!
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