Top 5 retro toys – a leap back to the 80s

An image reading "I love the 80s"

Hello Retro Lovers,

Following up on the retro board game list, here are the top 5 retro toys that I always enjoyed spending time with when I was younger. As you know, I was a kid of the 80s (born in 1977) and there was toys galore back then. As far as I remember, I never got to see the same toy commercials for 3 days in a row. They continuously changed. When my granny and I would watch TV together, our conversations were like:

Me: “Will you buy that toy for me?”

Granny: “Yes, I will!”

LOL, sweet days…

With that said, as a young boy, I did not really play with or know much about some of the toys targeted towards girls like Poochie, Monchhichi and -of course – Barbie, so they do not make an appearance on this list. It is not that they are not great toys, it is just that I do not have any experience with them.

I am trying to keep this list to what I know, but if there are others I have left out, do not hesitate to suggest them in the comments below.

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5. Masters of the Universe (Mattel 1982)

A clip art of He-Man

A clip art of He-man, Masters of the Universe’s superhero

It is hard to quantify just how much of a revolution for toys the Masters of the Universe lineup of figures was. Not only did it up the quality in action figures – dominated by GI Joe before this – but it also spawned the modern concept of a multimedia franchise. The team behind Masters of the Universe created a comic book, a television cartoon, and even a movie to help move plastic. And move plastic they did.

As one of the most popular lines of the 1980s, pretty much every young boy had He-Man in his collection. They have tried to bring back the magic multiple times but nothing has come close to that original spark from the early 1980s.

One of the most fun things that many people enjoyed doing was reenacting scenes from the show using the detailed figures. Armed with an array of accessories and even scaled replicas of things like Castle Grayskull, these toys were the must-have items on many holiday wish lists.

4. Simon (Milton Bradley 1978)

The revolutionary Simon

The back then revolutionary Simon

Before the advent of smartphones and electronics everywhere, Simon Says was the future-is-here-now toy that most kids wanted. It is a simple concept but it is also maddeningly difficult the further you go along.

You do what Simon says by pressing the colored buttons in the order the machine tells you to do. It is that simple. Of course, it gets faster, more complicated, and becomes one of the most fun, simple toys you have ever played with in your life.

While the physical Simon Says machine is obsolete by today’s standards (what it does can be easily replicated on a smartphone screen), the gameplay mechanic that underpins everything is timeless.

3. Transformers (Hasbro NA and Worldwide, Takara Tomy Japan 1984)

A life-size statue of Optimus Prime

A life-size statue of Optimus Prime

This franchise never really went away and probably needs less of an introduction than most on this list, but the initial sensation that was Transformer is hard to describe in words. For kids, these toys were serious gear. They were heavy, well-made, cool, and, best of all, transformed.

Everybody had their favorite and, like Masters of the Universe, this was backed up by a multimedia property in the form of a cartoon. And the hero Optimus Prime still holds up as a paragon of justice and goodness, even today.

Whether you were raised on the Michael Bay films or you grew up with the originals, the Transformers are a magical set of toys that hold up even now. Another thing that the Transformers shared in common with Masters of the Universe is the attention to detail and the general build quality of the products released under that brand.

They were serious, almost like models, and really hurt if you dropped one on your foot. Toys back then just were not like that. They were typically under-detailed, made from cheap plastic, and had little to no reticulation.

Transformers could not only move, they transformed into objects like a car or even a radio. It was a true revolution in toy making.

2. Slot Car Racing (Lionel Corporation 1912)

A slot car track

A slot car track

It is like Mario Kart, but old school style. You set up a track and you launch your car in its lane hoping it beats the competition. Just like that, but it is incredibly fun. This is still a hot toy even today, and it is no mystery why.

It is competitive without being destruction, because you do not actually have any control over where your car will end up. Basically you get the best of both worlds. You get to compete but you do not feel like a loser if you do not come in first. The only drawback to this toy is that setting up the tracks can take a while and the bigger ones do cost a bit of money.

Despite this, it is one of my fondest memories from childhood when my cousin would invite us all over to her house for a racing tournament on this absolutely massive track setup.

Honorable Mention: Subbuteo (Peter Adolph 1947)

Subbuteo's playing figures

Loved Subbuteo’s playing figures, I could spend hours looking at any single one of them. Differently from other toys, I also loved watching people play it.

A game that is way more serious than it might look at first glance, Subbuteo is basically football on a board. You move pieces, tap a white marble-like ball, and try to score a goal. It is simple, fun, and wicked addictive.

There are even competitions held around the world for the best Subbuteo players to get together and test their skills against one another.

That is probably why it is an honorable mention, because it is a game that spans all ages, genders, and is a professional event in some parts of the world. If you want something really different but addictively fun, look no further than Subbuteo.

Ready to find out my number 1 pick? Let’s go!

1. The Smurfs (Dupuis French and Dutch-speaking countries 1959, Schleich Worldwide 1965)

A Smurfs exhibition

A Smurfs exhibition

A set of toys as timeless as play itself, the Smurfs have their own personalities, their own styles, and are capable of an endless number of adventures. I said above that this list would not have toys for girls, but this is an exception. The Smurfs appeal to both boys and girls, and it is perfect for the family to play together.

Known from their cartoon and other properties, the toys are where the magic truly is, and it is the source of so many pleasant memories that even I am surprised. Being a kid with a lot of imagination, my smurfs could sing, act, play soccer, play baseball, wrestle, swim… Anything!
They could even fly, lol.

If you want something timeless with just a hint of magic, look no further than the lovely blue creatures. You will not regret it for even a moment.

Oh, I was forgetting… I still keep all of my smurf figurines in a special showcase, and get them out every now and then to let my daughter Melody play with. Truth be told, when this happens, I join her. 😀

Time to go back to the present retro folks, hope you enjoyed the ride.

As previously mentioned, I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts. Let us keep our childhood memories alive!

Till next time travel!


About Andrew A.

Andrew is the founder and owner of RetroGamingLoft. He considers himself a natural-born gamer and is on a mission to keep our gaming memories alive through the medium of Retro Stories. His event recount includes hopes, dreams, broken joysticks, magic, nostalgia and another final boss defeated.

4 thoughts on “Top 5 retro toys – a leap back to the 80s

  1. Marios Tofarides

    Hey there,

    I played almost all of these games. I love Subbuteo, used to play it semi-professionally in local leagues. I loved that game! I think that the only one I didn’t play was Simon. Smurfs is an all-time classic, as well as Masters Of The Universe (He-Man for the win).

    Thanks for the memories!



    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Marios, and thanks for your nice comment. 🙂
      I had a friend who played Subbuteo semi-professionally (actually he was trying to turn pro) and that is why I watched many games as a spectator (in addition to the ones I watched as a child when it was simply not my turn to play).
      I never ever thought it could be so entertaining. Much, much psychology behind it.
      Thanks again for stopping by, I am pleased that you enjoyed my post and I hope you keep coming back for more!


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