15 Popular Toys From The 1980s

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Let’s take a nostalgic trip back to the 1980s and talk about some of the most iconic toys that defined the decade. Whether you were there to experience the 80s firsthand or have only heard stories from your parents, these toys will surely spark a bit of joy and curiosity. Here are the 15 popular toys from the 1980s, each with a story of its own.

Rubik’s Cube

Mike Gonzales – Wikimedia Commons

The Rubik’s Cube is a colored puzzle cube that was either the delight of one’s brain or frustration on the table. Ernő Rubik invented it in 1974. It gained incredible popularity in the 1980s. Participants held competitions to solve it as quickly as possible. To this day, the Rubik’s Cube is a symbol of that time’s pop culture.

Cabbage Patch Kids

Bernard Gotfryd – Wikimedia Commons

Who could forget those one-of-a-kind soft-bodied dolls with a strange, almost odd-shaped vinyl face? Cabbage Patch Kids was a sensation in the 1980s. These dolls were “adoptable,” meaning they came with their birth certificate. Customers would purchase every available doll in stock as soon as a new shipment arrived.


Prayitno – Wikimedia Commons

Transformers are still a big deal to this day. It all started with hero and villain action figures that could change from cars or planes into a robot and back. It was a fantastic idea, two toys in one. Plus, there was a television series with a plot involving the Autobots and the Decepticons. It was more than just play; it was truly novel.

Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

MKFI – Wikimedia Commons

Before PlayStation and Xbox, there was NES. When it hit America in the mid-80s, you would find one in every American living room. NES was home to a plethora of one-of-a-kind games. Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, and many others set the standard for gaming. It was the magic door to a new form of entertainment.

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero

DiC – Wikimedia Commons

With the introduction of the 3.75-inch G. I. Joe action figure line in the 80s came with a whole universe of characters, each with a complimentary background story and accessories. The figures led to a popular TV series and a Marvel comic book, all making the G. I. Joes the rulers of the boy’s toy domain for the most part of the 80s.

My Little Pony

RyC, Behind The Lens – Wikimedia Commons

These colorful ponies with distinctive manes and unique “cutie marks” managed to charm their way into the hearts of countless children. It was not only about the countless ponies to collect, which were launched in the early ’80s but also the magical world they represented. Each figurine came with its backstory of friendship and magic.

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe


“By the power of Grayskull…. I have the power!” If you ever found yourself shouting these words, you probably had a He-Man action figure. With a large collection of characters hailing from planet Eternia, He-Man was heralded as a cultural hit. The toys were accompanied by a TV show that was as much about morality lessons.

Care Bears

Banej – Wikimedia Commons

Stuffed with feelings and ready for cuddling, the Care Bears were a group of adorable bears, each of them colored differently and with a unique belly badge to represent their personality and duty, like Cheer Bear or Grumpy Bear. Created in 1983, they soon became comforting companions and teachers of life lessons related to caring and emotional expression.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT)

Veethika – Wikimedia Commons

Debuting in the late 1980s, the impact of TMNT was nothing short of explosive. Four teenage ninja turtles, named after Renaissance artists and trained by a rat sensei in the New York sewers, cannot be more one-of-a-kind. The toys themselves were just as colorful and diverse, with a great variety of villains and allies to make sure every kid picked their favorite ones.

Garbage Pail Kids


Released in the mid-80s, these cards were intended as parodies, featuring babies similar in appearance and name to Cabbage Patch Kids who bore atrocious comical abnormalities or met some grisly fate. Garbage Pail Kids were a statement against the sweet cuteness of the era’s toys, a kind of satire that quickly became cult among the enthusiasts who appreciated things a bit edgier.

Sylvanian Families

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The very first Sylvanian Family collection was released in 1985, featuring adorable anthropomorphic figures of a variety of animals, usually everything from rabbits, mice, and bears to hedgehogs, squirrels, and cats. Each figure was expertly detailed, had a collection of changeable outfits, and came complete with a plastic’ forest home’ with a variety of small amenities, such as stoves and bunk beds.


Dhscommtech – Wikimedia Commons

Lite-Brite allowed kids to make glowing art by sticking small colored plastic pegs to a lighted board. It combines simplicity and appeal by adding a magical element to one’s creative expression. This toy was not only entertaining, but it also encouraged children to express themselves in art and develop fine motor skills and planning.

Etch A Sketch

Etcha – Wikimedia Commons

Despite being first commercially produced in the late 1950s, Etch A Sketch remained a popular toy well into the 1980s. The easy-to-remember red frame and gray screen contrast became a near-constant feature in children’s bedrooms. Etch A Sketch added some complexity with an exciting task, using two knobs to draw lineographic images.

Pound Puppies

Ray or Jane Schumin – Wikimedia Commons

These soft, sad-eyed dog plushies were impossible to resist. Debuting in the mid-80s, Pound Puppies were a line of plush dogs that were portrayed as rescue dogs in need of a home to adopt them. Each puppy came in its own house, which was a cardboard kennel with an adoption certificate. The bond between the children and the toys was powerful when the children rescued the dog and then cared for their new pet, which was emotional.

Jem and the Holograms

Ryan Quick – Wikimedia Commons

Released in the mid-80s, these dolls were part of an animated TV show that included music, trends, and a lot of drama. All the figures were members of the band Jem and the Holograms, characterized by their vibrant, multicolored hair and similarly bright outfits. These dolls were intended for slightly older children who wanted to embrace an adult’s more mature and stylish versions of playing with dolls.


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