The 1980s saw a new wave of toys that took the world by storm. Both adults and kids alike could enjoy emerging technologies and innovative, imagination-inflating options that were fun and creative. Take a trip down memory lane while we look back on some of the most popular toys of the 80s—did they stand the test of time?
Perhaps the most iconic toy ever, the Rubik's Cube was introduced in 1980. It was originally designed as a 3D teaching tool but quickly became a fun challenge for people of all ages. Solving a Rubik's Cube is still seen as hugely impressive today, and there are now plenty of variations on the original 9x9 cube of colors. You can find different sizes and shapes and even sudoku cubes, if you're looking for something more challenging.
While you're now more likely to think of the movie franchise, Transformers were actually popular toys long before the movies and video games. In 1984, Hasbro produced the Transformers toys. Each figure could transform from a robot into a car and other objects. The toys became an instant hit, and comics, cartoons, games, and movies quickly followed. Thanks to its popularity, in 2011, Transformers became the highest-grossing media franchise of all time.
In 1982, Cabbage Patch Kids were the must-have toy for kids. Parents would line up outside toy stores to get their hands on what became one of the longest-running doll franchises in the U.S. The brand actually started out as "Little People" which were "adopted" rather than sold. As such, each doll was made to feel even more unique with its own name and birth certificate.
With their cuddly bodies and plastic heads, Cabbage Patch Kids became a cultural icon and are now a lucrative collectible.
The year 1982 was an excellent one for toys. Alongside the Cabbage Patch Kids phenomenon, My Little Pony was born—and is still incredibly popular to this day. The franchise even grew into a comic book line with its own child-friendly movies and video games. Initially designed to ignite little girls' imaginations, the plastic figurines had brightly colored manes and pretty icons called "cutie marks" stamped onto either haunch.
The brand has been revamped several times, and the 2010 rebrand garnered a cult following from nostalgic adult fans.
Another fan favorite of 1982, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe quickly became one of the most popular toy sets of the era. Inspired by the "Conan the Barbarian" comics, Mattel launched the He-Man figurines to encourage boys into imaginative play. He-Man was a barbarian with superhuman strength, attempting to defend the universe from his archnemesis, Skeletor.
Still popular today, the franchise now includes comics, video games, and more.
Today, G.I Joe remains a popular choice for Halloween and costume parties. Despite being introduced back in 1964, the toy didn't become a pop culture classic until the 80s. Designed by Hasbro, the G.I Joe toys were developed to teach kids about the military. As with most popular toys, G.I Joe has adapted to modern entertainment and is now a popular video game series.
There are also G.I. Joe movies featuring Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis.
No 80s list of toys would be complete without the Care Bears. Hugely popular in the decade and a big collectible now, Care Bears were designed to teach kids about caring for other people and identifying different emotions. Originally, the Care Bears were illustrations for greeting cards, but two years later, they were turned into plushies. Care Bears were bright, colorful, and adorable. The cuddly toys remain a pop classic and are featured in cartoons, games, and even fashion.
The Nintendo Entertainment System, also known as NES, was a hugely popular video game console. Designed for the whole family, Nintendo brought gaming into the mainstream. The NES was home to the original "Super Mario Bros," "Legend of Zelda," and "Mega Man." Nintendo is still popular today, making some of the most iconic consoles of all time.
After the popularity of the NES, Nintendo went on to release the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), the Nintendo 64, and the Gamecube. Now, the company has success with the Wii and Switch ranges.
Polly Pockets—the compact dollhouse and figurines that could fit in a pocket—were introduced at the very end of the 80s. The designer originally created a single doll house from a makeup powder compact for his daughter.
The British toy company, Bluebird Toys (now part of Mattel), found such success with their original release that they relaunched the range in 2010. The toys were perfect for playing alone or trading with friends. The company later launched a larger version of the toys with interchangeable outfits and accessories.
Although originally launched in 1939, it wasn't until the 80s that the View-Master gained the popularity we remember today. The bright red, handheld device was the first glimpse of virtual reality and allowed users to view 3D scenic images through the lens using thin cardboard discs. Created by Sawyers and now part of the Fisher-Price brand, the toy still appeals to kids and adults alike.