'Hey, I Played That!': A Nostalgic Trip With 1980s Most Popular Toys


Everett and Danika have both reached the stage where they are fascinated by what I was like as a kid, and what were the things that I enjoyed and played. I occasionally go down the Google and YouTube trail to try to show them the cool cereals, awesome movies, buzzworthy shows, and killer toys that shaped me into the ultra-cool and rocking man that dominates the world today. 

It is my obvious that my ability to have a vivid imagination hasn't changed with age. But what has changed is what toys are cool and popular. It was fun finding this video and reliving the 1980s a bit. The channel Rhetty for History is amazing if one wants a nostalgia trip into various decades, and Most Popular Toys of the 1980s is a fun blast of a nostalgia video. Just like the works ripped off by Star Wars video from Monday. I'll post the video for you to watch, but also will provide the list along with some of my own thoughts.


It should be noted the video is sticking to toys that debuted in the 1980s, so extremely popular toys like Star Wars, Barbie and GI Joe were on previous decade toys videos. If this turns out to be popular, I might do posts for the videos on those decades too.


Trivial Pursuit: My introduction to this game was in either my Grade 3 or 4 class, where we were allowed to play board games when all our work was done, or it was an indoor recess. My guess is that our school had the original version or one of the early ones, because all the pop culture questions were from the 1960s and 1970s, so we got frustrated with it because either we didn't know the answer or the answer on the card was now dated and inaccurate. The new strategy was to read all the answers and start memorizing them, so we came off as a wizard of knowledge. I ended up growing into a bit of a trivia junkie, so I've owned various copies of the game through the years, and I still own a version, but no one ever wants to play with me. This is such a simple but perfect concept, and a classic game.


Glo Worm: One of my brothers owned this glowing stuffy toy that sort of played the role of night light, but I think, they still begged for the hallway light to stay on. I also remember the animated segment based on this toy that was part of the My Little Pony 'n' Friends animated series that would rotate with other animated segments, including one about Mr. Potato Head.



My Little Pony: It seemed like every girl in my school owned a version of this toy, and I think, there was roughly one billion different iterations of a pony with a fruit tattoo on her butt. I do confess that I sometimes watched the cartoon based on the toys, because I mostly would try to watch anything animated, but also it actually was a fun little adventure series. This is one of those cases that it was extremely hot one decade, and then several decades later, it became huge again. Though now it is more the animated series than any toys, but Danika has gone through stages of gobbling up the new version of the series.


Care Bears: This is a stuffy that even the 'tough boys' in my class owned and proudly showed off in school. This was a huge phenomenon for a few years. I actually never owned one, but I remember being really excited for the movie and being pumped when I could finally rent it. I definitely tuned in weekly for the Saturday Morning Cartoon. To show that this was the 1980s, the animated movie about cute stuffies that was targeted to young kids had a villain that was pure nightmare fuel, because if we weren't traumatizing kids then we weren't in the 1980s.


Masters of the Universe: This is the toyline that kicked off my trip down nostalgia with my kids. As I was asked what toy was my favourite and what did I have the most, and this was an easy tie with Star Wars, and as the 1980s progressed, this probably surpassed Star Wars for number of toys I owned. I not only probably had over 50 action figures, but I also had three of the castle, various vehicles, and the mighty slime pit (because if we weren't covering our toys in goops, then were we really playing?) Everett reminds me constantly that I should have kept them and passed them on to him, but my dad was all about chuck it out the moment we were done with it. I was also all in on the TV series, the He-Man fan club, and the Master of the Universe magazine (yes, these were real things in the 1980s), and I remember being over-the-moon hyped for the live-action movie that was going to be the greatest cinematic experience known to humankind. Oddly enough, the movie marked the end of my interest in this universe.


Cabbage Patch Kids: This was a bigger phenomenon than Care Bears, and another case of where I remember the 'tough boys' coming to school and proudly showing off their dolls. These were the guys that would mock me for having sissy toys, but somehow, Cabbage Patch Kids was a big enough deal that one could keep their schoolyard cred intact. My mom thought these dolls were ugly, and she didn't want to play the contact sport to get them, so I never owned one. But that didn't stop me from watching the Cabbage Patch Kids: First Christmas TV special, because if there was a toyline, then there needed to be a Christmas special on Network TV.


Stomper: I was not a big toy car kid, actually I outright asked not to get toy cars as presents. So, not only did I not own any toys from this line, but I have absolutely no memory of this toy.


Pound Puppies: Now, this is a stuffy that I owned, and I am fairly sure we had a few of them. This is another stuffy that boys and girls proudly brought to school to prove they were cool. I remember a group of my friends were really into these stuffies, and to a point where they declared dogs were awesome but cats were the worse. I am not sure if that were based off these toys, or something else in pop culture convinced them they couldn't like cats if they liked dogs. This same group of friends for some reason where also really into Garfield, who one may notice is a cat. I also to this day have not seen the feature film based off these toys, and I've lived a lesser life due to that fact. 



Koosh Ball: This was a stocking stuffer regular, and usually just as quickly, I proceeded to lose it and forget about it until the next year.


Rainbow Brite: I definitely remember a few girls in my class being all in on this doll and bringing her to school. I have no memory of ever watching the TV series or the movie. Once again, I am sure I have lived a lesser life for missing them.


Teddy Ruxpin: Man, did I ever want a Teddy Ruxpin, and I was jealous of the few friends that had one. This was a toy of the future. He talked to us! Sure, it was just the doll moving his mouth while a cassette tape that had been inserted in his back played the recording, but my He-Man needed me to move his arms and do his talking for him. I loved the cartoon series because my memory is it was serialized with the events building to the next episode, which was super rare for a kids show in the 1980s.


Garbage Pail Kids: If my mom thought the Cabbage Patch Kids were too ugly to own, then there was no chance I was ever going to be allowed to collect these cards. I also have been robbed of ever seeing the cinematic masterpiece based off this line of collectible cards.


Micro Machines: My brothers had oodles of these, and it was inevitable we would always step on one during the weekend or in the middle of the night going to the bathroom. I never owned any due to my complete lack of interest in toy cars. Or cars in general.


Power Wheels: Despite my disinterest in cars, I was in all in on the idea of owning one of these. But my mom reminded me that I already had a bike, so I had to keep peddling that like a sucker.


Go-Bots: I owned a few of these, but usually only due to an aunt, uncle or a friend's parent confusing it for a Transformers. I assume that is how it became a successful toy. I did see the movie for this, and at the time, I think my assessment was that this was a thing I watched for 90 minutes.


Transformers: After Star Wars and He-Man, this was the toyline that I had the most figures. This was also the most popular among my friends, so I think part of the appeal for me was that I owned the stuff that my friends were playing. I watched the series every day along with G.I. Joe, and like many kids of the 1980s, I got traumatized by the movie that killed off half the beloved characters. I didn't realize at the time that this was due to Hasbro cynically wanting to refresh the toyline with new figures, and not realizing the backlash it would get from kids and parents. It stands as one of the more infamous movies targeted towards kids. Despite my annoyance over the killing of Optimus Primes, I still probably rented the video about a hundred times.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: My brothers gobbled up these toys like they were Masters of the Universe. The craze took off around the time I decided I was getting too old for toys, so I didn't get a lot of these. I do remember playing with my brothers, so I was too old to ask for them but not too old to play with them. I also was a huge fan of the live-action movie, and it was one of the first VHS tapes that I remember actually owning rather than just renting every other week.



The Nintendo Entertainment System: True story, while I did eventually get an NES, what I got first was the Sega Master System, and this wasn't a case of my parents opting for the cheaper console, I actually asked for it for Christmas. I think, it was a case of two of my friends owning this system, so I was more aware and enticed by these games. Now, almost everyone knows that NES is the console that revived video games in North America after the great video game crash of 1983, but did you know that they initially downplayed the video game aspect and put more promotion in Rob the Robot that came packaged with it? America was all about robots in the mid-1980s (remember Transformers and Rocky IV?), and that was initially the major selling point. The robot for the NES was mostly useless, but it got people playing the great games and thus proving video games were hot again. They were so hot, that this is largely the reason that traditional action figure and similar toys are no longer near as popular as they were in the 1970s and 1980s, because kids now wanted to play video games instead of toys. Also speaking of trying to not look like a video game console, the reason the cartridges were inserted inside like a VCR was to not make people associate it with past systems like ColecoVision and Atari 2600.


Game Boy: Despite my dad being a technology nut, and thus loved buying us video game systems, we never got this one. Or at least, I never did. I can't remember if my brothers did. I did get the Sega version, the Game Gear (I considered myself on team Sega in the 1980s and early 1990s, even if I also liked Nintendo).

Hey, I just realized this video didn't mention My Buddy! How do you go through the '80s without a My Buddy reference? It even inspired a horror movie in Child's Play. Plus, I must mention that my replacement for my Master of the Universe obsession was WWF wrestling, so I had tons of LJN WWF wrestling figures. 

What were your favourite toys from the 1980s?

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