1980s Toys: What Toys Were Popular in the 1980s?


This the the era in which the owners of RetroWaste grew up! And we still have most of these toys in a box somewhere! Ah, who are we kidding? We still play with them!


The early 1980s had a bit of a 1970s hangover, where most of the toys where very similar to toys that already existed in the 1970s. The smaller-sized Star Wars action figures of 1978 were so popular that almost all action figures changed to the smaller size by 1982.

Remote controlled cars and trucks were getting much better in quality and they were getting cheaper too. But all heck broke loose in 1984 when toy manufacturers figured it all out. The key to toy sales, they discovered, was licensing. Licensing was nothing new, but seemed to lose some of its power in the seventies.

1984 saw an explosion of new toys like Cabbage Patch Kids, Masters of the Universe, Transformers, Care Bears and many different kinds of awesome talking robot toys. The handheld electronic game was also providing hours of fun for kids of all ages.

Video games in the 1980s grew from basic Atari games all the way to the Nintendo NES video game system. The progress video game manufacturers made in the 1980s is impossible to explain in words.

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Let’s start off with over 200 pictures of 1980s toys.

Pictures of 1980s Toys



List of Popular 1980s Toys

What toys did kids play with in the 1980s? The most popular toys in the 1980s were:

  • Teddy Ruxpin
  • Masters of the Universe (He-Man)
  • She-Ra, Princess of Power
  • Big Wheel
  • Breyer Horses & Stables
  • Bristle Blocks
  • CHiPs Toys
  • Child-Sized Appliances
  • Speak & Spell
  • Doll Houses
  • Fisher-Price Playsets
  • Handheld Electronic Sports Games
  • LEGO & Duplo
  • Radio Controlled (RC) Cars, Trucks, Airplanes, Helicopters & Boats
  • Sesame Street Toys
  • The Talking Robot
  • Wolfman, Dracula, Frankenstein & Godzilla Action Figures
  • Amplifier Helmets
  • Dukes of Hazzard
  • Simon
  • Littles
  • Mattel Fresh ‘n Fancy
  • Video Games (ie: Atari, Sega, Nintendo & many more)
  • Crossbows & Catapults
  • Handheld Arcade Games (ie: Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Q-bert, etc)
  • Tonka Trucks
  • A-Team & Mr. T Action Figures
  • Barbie
  • Cabbage Patch Kids
  • Care Bears
  • Charmkins
  • Get Along Gang
  • G.I. Joe
  • Glo-Worms
  • Action Games (ie: Gotcha, Cooties, Hungry Hungry Hippos, etc.)
  • See ‘n Say
  • Maxx Steele
  • Michael Jackson Action Figures
  • Garfield
  • Gremlins
  • Knight Rider
  • Mickey Mouse Toys
  • Poochie
  • Rainbow Brite
  • Rose Petal Palace
  • Snoopy & Peanuts Toys
  • Smurfs
  • Snorks
  • Star Wars Action Figures
  • Strawberry Shortcake
  • Superhero Action Figures
  • My Little Pony
  • Pedal Cars
  • Power Wheels Battery Powered Vehicles
  • Robo-Force
  • Robotix
  • Tomy Omnibot 2000
  • Transformers
  • Alphie II Robot
  • Casey Robot
  • Golden Girl Action Figures
  • M.A.S.K.
  • Voltron
  • Go-Bot
  • Wuzzles
  • My Child Dolls
  • My Buddy Dolls
  • Pound Puppies
  • Talking Mother Goose
  • Air Raiders
  • Board Games (ie: Trivial Pursuit, Murder Mystery Games, etc.)
  • Bravestarr Action Figures
  • Ghostbusters Action Figures
  • Disney Playsets
  • Willow Action Figures
  • Winnie the Pooh Toys
  • Playskool Toys
  • Star Rider
  • Electric Train Sets
  • Matchbox Die-Cast Cars & Trucks
  • Hot Wheels Die-Cast Cars & Trucks
  • Sectaurs
  • Photon & Lazer Tag
  • Sweet Secrets
  • Popples
  • WWF Wrestling Superstar Action Figures
  • Starting Lineup Action Figures
  • Talking Computron

Toys in 1982

Donkey Kong on the Atari 2600 (1982)

Donkey Kong on the Atari 2600 (1982)

Traditional toy sales rose slightly in 1982. It was generally a year of spotty sales, company acquisitions and several bankruptcies. However there were a few bright stars, including video games and licensed playthings.

Several other companies joined Atari, the leader in the video game arena. Many of them specialized in game cartridges that could be played on a home TV screen! The most popular games were those licensed from coin-operated arcades, like Donkey Kong and Pac-Man.

For the first time, board games slowed as people preferred the sophisticated video games. However one board game, Pente, was hailed as the biggest rage since backgammon.

Licensing continued to make its mark on the toy industry. E.T. toys were unbelievable popular. Some equally stellar licensed performers were Smurfs, Garfield and, again, Pac-Man.

Deely bobbers — squiggly antennae attached to a headband with glittering balls, stars or pinwheels bobbing on the ends — became a nationwide sensation.

GI Joe re-enlisted after a 7-year “rest and recuperation.” The totally redesigned GI Joe action figures were much smaller and did not have removable clothing.

Miniture die-cast cars and trucks sold extremely well in 1982. I mean, what little boy in 1982 didn’t have a Tonka truck? Several toy manufacturers followed Strawberry Shortcake’s lead and produced aromatic playthings.

Toys in 1987

For the second consecutive year, there were no hot-selling items or new product trend. Lack of consumer interest in new products and late shipments of some of the new high-tech toys had a negative effect on the industry.

PoGo Bal Advertisement (1987)

PoGo Bal Advertisement (1987)

One of the few best-selling new toys in 1987 was PoGo Bal, a variation on the pogo stick, made by Hasbro. PoGo Bal is a circular disc that has a rubber ball attached to the top and to the bottom. A person stands on the platform, hugs the top ball with his or her feet and hops.

Traditional toys, such as stuffed animals and board games fared well in 1987. Two of the year’s most popular products were Barbie and G.I. Joe. Barbie became the lead singer in her own rock band and G.I. Joe became a space traveler with his own space vehicle launch complex.

One cool toy I had when I was a kid that was from 1987: Captain Power. Designed by Mattel, “Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future” toys were made to interact with the television show. During a segment in the show, children shoot light beams at characters on the TV from handheld spaceships and the characters appear to shoot back.

Other high-tech toys introduced in 1987 included the PXL-2000 kiddie camcorder, and Jill, a doll that can pose multiple questions to a child.

Holograms appeared in the toy industry in 1987. They were incorporated into shields of action figures and any other place that needed that extra modern look.

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In-Depth 1980s Toys Profiles

1980s Video Games | NES

Video Games in the 1980s »

Video games evolved immensely from 1980 to 1989. By the end of the decade most of the games could be played at home instead of the arcade. NES & Atari time!

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22 thoughts on “1980s Toys: What Toys Were Popular in the 1980s?

  1. Vince

    I am trying to identify a toy I had in the 80s that I want to try and find for my son. I believe it was from a Scandinavian country and was similar to Legos. There were several different scenes that could be constructed like a circus, carnival, airport etc. according to the instructions. They used primary colors and I believe were plastic. The figures had cone shaped bodies I believe with round heads. Any help would be appreciated.

    1. πŸ‘½πŸ˜Ž 𝐁гπ“ͺ几Ⓓ𝓸𝓃 πŸŽ―πŸ‘Š

      laymobil began to be sold worldwide in 1975 and has remained a popular toy ever since. Playmobil has been a successful toy line for more than 40 years and they have been a major competitor to Lego toys. Examples of directly competing toys in both their product line are not hard to find.

  2. bethany craig

    Growing up in the late 70’s to early 80’s, I had a bean bag stuffed doll with plastic face. He had brown hair and a mustache. He had a baby with a yellow hooded outfit on. I don’t know the name of the doll or the manufacturer either. Can you help me find out info? I would be interested in purchasing if found. Thank you!

  3. Jed

    I am trying to find a toy I had as a kid but do not remember the name of it. It was a battery powered vehicle that was made of 4 separate vehicles that linked together to make one long multi wheeled vehicle. It was red (it may have come in other colors, that was the only color I ever saw) with a black roller on the front of the lead vehicle. It was flexible vertically at the joints where the vehicles connected. The premise was that it could drive over what ever it came across. I remember letting it drive from the floor and crawl in the couch all the way to the top. I’m sure someone has one for sale on eBay but I don’t remember the name.

  4. Robert

    I need to ask folks here, as I cannot find it anywhere: does anyone remember an led toy that was a black stick/ baton with a handle, kind of flat on both sides, about a foot in length, that you programmed a message into and waved, and it would display the message in the air as you waved? I recall this when I was a kid back in the late 70’s or early 80’s but cannot be sure. If anyone remembers it, pics or a name would be kindly appreciated. Thanks!

    1. Jason

      Robert, did you ever find out what this was called? I’m racking my brain here. I recall it very well but forgot the name.

  5. Brenda Teter

    I am look for a game. It is a clear tower with a small ball. You have I think 4 levels to get the ball to the bottom. One level you have a lever to pull. Another level you turn. Please help me.

  6. Steve

    Trying to find a Knight Rider toy I had as a kid and it is proving impossible. It was Kitt, and a remote control car of sorts. You did not have a hand held controller, but instead you popped the hood and there was a key pad with buttons like straight, left, right, figure 8, horn etc.. You would select a bunch of them and hit go and the car would drive how you just programmed it. Ideas anyone or am I going nuts?

  7. Marianne Peters

    Does anyone remember Talking Mrs. Applebee? and her little student apples? Smarty Marty Apple, Allen Artist Apple? ETC…. Who made it? Where can I get one?

  8. Libby Conwell

    Wasn’t That Bear Toy In The 1980’s, The One That Plays VHS Tapes From It’s Back? And, No, I’m Not Talking About Carebears. Like Mama From Tattletail And How he Plays That One VHS Tape Explaining About Her ‘Babies’.

  9. Kathleen Riggins

    I want to find the Hasbro Fisher-price riding horse with wheels and you could open up his seat and toddler would put toys in it I bought it in 1983 and his name was Buckey my Daughter was 10 months old and she loved that horse forever. What happened to it ?

  10. Lyn Hutt

    Does anyone remember a fierce looking dog with a snarling face. It was grey with a red spiked collar and chain. I think it was called Marmot or Marmut. Made in hard plastic with movable legs. I would be grateful if anyone can tell me what programme it came from. Would have been in the late eighties or early nineties. Thought it might have been a Tasmanian devil figure but can’t find it. Can anyone help please?

  11. James Grigsby

    In the 80’s…I had a toy that was mail order…It was a build it yourself western town…I came with a machine that you hand cranked that did like 6 different things , instructions , and all the wood you needed and figures needed to build a western town…You would crank it with a T handle on the top then push the piece of wood into the correct slot to cut the wood / punch a hole / split it / or grind it..Maybe a couple other things I can’t remember…I don’t think it was that popular , but it was vary dear to me…It was lost in a house fire when I was 13…I have tried every google search I can think of to find at least some info on it with no luck…This sight is my last hope…Please help!

  12. Louise Cooke

    I remember playing as a child with a town set which had dog as a policeman in a car and a car that was a nurse I can not remember what it was called it slotted together and had bit on the end to let the vehicles come off like the end of the drives.it was not lego,or little people or sylvania as I had those too any help please?


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