Everyone knows about Transformers and G.I. Joe toys. If you’re someone that was born in the last 30 years, you probably, at one point or another, played with a Transformer or G.I. Joe figure. However, odds are you might have also had a few other toys, as well. Some of those toys probably came from toy lines that were awesome and unique, but just didn’t have the crossover appeal, with TV shows, movies, or video games. But damn if they weren’t great toys!
This list is meant to celebrate those toy lines that didn’t get the massive exposure that some of the A-lister toys received. These toys were mainstays in your lineup of action figures to play with, but over the years, their profile has faded into obscurity. Some of these entries had short-lived TV series, which were obviously just rip-offs of more popular shows. Others were just gimmicks that were really cool at the time, but didn’t really last. Honestly, who thought that jets attached to rings would last forever? One entry is about toys that were given away in Happy Meals! Have we got your appetite up? Let's find out as we take a trip to the bottom of your toy box and dust off the 15 classic toy lines you totally forgot about!
Back in the late ‘80s, there was a little bit of a kid-friendly monster craze going around. Movies like Gremlins brought the idea of adorable, small (but a little scary) monsters to children all over. To capitalize on the craze, Mattel decided to make Boglins. Sold in little crates with bent bars on the front, Boglins were little hand puppets that were supposed to be used by children to scare their moms and little sisters.
Boglins became pretty popular after their release in 1987, but faded away over subsequent years. In 2000, Mattel tried to revamp the toy line by adding electronic aspects, however these Boglins never reached the same heights as before. Looking back, Boglins are a good example of what is missing from today’s toys – imagination. They didn’t need fancy lights or a video game, they were hand puppets that you had to work yourself, and they were awesome!
14 FOOD FIGHTERS
It’s sad that if you go to Google and try to search for “Food Fighters,” you’ll end up with a list of results about a rock band. However, in 1989, if you asked kids what the Food Fighters were, they would all know about the Mattel action figure line of fighting food. Yep, each toy was a separate food item with arms, legs, eyes, a backpack, and a gun. And yes, you guessed it, they fought each other.
With amazing names like Mean Weener, Major Munch, Private Pizza, and Burgerdier General, Food Fighters leaned heavily on the food puns for their figures. The design was simple, and yet incredible, with each fighter the shape of their respective food with arms and legs attached. Imagine Mr. Potato Head meets Rambo. They were the best!
13 CAPTAIN POWER
Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future was a short-lived TV show from 1987 that was probably way too mature for children. Telling the story of Captain Power and his group of soldiers fighting against machines in a post-apocalyptic future, the series touched on topics of nuclear war and pseudo-Nazism. Unlike other kids shows at the time that tackled war topics, this was live-action, making the violence that much more intense, and freaking parents out. However, the ill-advised kids show idea did spawn an awesome toy series.
The Captain Power toys were a line of ships and playsets that kids used during video segments, creating an interactive experience. Kids would hold the jet towards the TV and fire on enemies to score points. Of course, they might fire back and kill you. Imagine Duck Hunt but with jets and post-apocalyptic sci-fi. As a child in the late ‘80s, this was mind-blowing.
12 BARNYARD COMMANDOS
Barnyard Commandos is clearly a rip-off of the Food Fighters line of toys. The Barnyard Commandos were non-posable military toys based on farm animals. Just like how Food Fighters took popular foods and added guns, Barnyard Commandoes took sheep and pigs and added guns. Looking back, this might all sound incredibly ridiculous and stupid, but as a kid, they were fun as hell!
Who didn’t love to pit the forces of R.A.M.S. (Rebel Army of Military Sheep) against the evil P.O.R.K.S. (Platoon of Rebel Killer Swine)? With characters like Sergeant Woolly Pullover, Commodore Fleece Cardigan, and General Hamfat Lardo (which might just be the best name ever!), Barnyard Commandos was a perfect example of how ludicrous toys were in that era. Sadly, after the TV series failed, the toy series didn’t last much longer, but we all have fond memories of those fighting sheep.
11 RING RAIDERS
Hot off the success of G.I. Joe, Matchbox wanted to desperately jump on the military toy bandwagon. The result is the Ring Raiders toyline and short-lived TV series. The premise of the series is horribly convoluted and completely ridiculous. Basically, they just had to figure out a way to make a G.I. Joe rip-off where everyone flew jets.
Judging by the name, you’d imagine rings have something to do with the toys, and you’d be right! Each miniature fighter jet was attached to a ring that kids would wear and use to fly their jet around. The toys were sold in groups of four, so your hands would just be littered with Ring Raiders. Now, if you were lucky, you probably got a “Battle Blaster,” which is a big piece that attaches to your wrist, and when you press buttons, plays jet engine and blaster sounds to add just that extra touch of awesome to your imagined war.
10 SKY COMMANDERS
Much like Ring Raiders, Sky Commanders is an example of a toy line that was a much cooler idea than the TV series. The Sky Commanders TV series is clearly another G.I. Joe rip-off, with a detailed history of two warring factions fighting over a special mineral and world domination. Honestly, odds are you probably had the toys, but never even watched the TV series.
The toys were great…when they worked. The idea is pretty simple, take your vehicle, and the accompanying string, and attach the string across a part of your room. Your Sky Commander would then ride his vehicle across the string, almost like a zip line. However, the toys were almost always too heavy, and attaching the string incorrectly would result in the whole thing crashing down. After some practice, when you got the hang of it, the toys were a ton of fun.
Holograms were all the rage back in the late ‘80s. So, why not combine holograms with Masters of the Universe and create an awesome line of toys? That was the thinking process behind Hasbro’s Visionaries. These figures were warriors with staffs, and their chest and staff were decked out with pretty awesome holograms indicating their special magical powers.
The toy line wasn’t the most popular, and apparently pretty expensive to produce, so it didn’t last long. However, if you were a kid around that time, you probably would sit and stare at the Visionaries figures forever and be mesmerized by the sweet holograms. Nowadays, there’s been talk of rebooting Visionaries into a movie franchise, so we might be on the cusp of a Visionaries rebirth!
The Centurions toys were some of the most fun toys of the ‘80s. Since there were only half a dozen individual action figures, it was easy to get all of them. However, only getting the figures was half the battle, so to speak. The main fun was all the accessories you could buy to make your figures even more badass.
Centurions was a TV series about soldiers fighting an evil cyborg. They used their special suits to attach wings, guns, underwater gear, or whatever they needed at that time to fight their battles. So, the toy line had all these special accessories to buy to add on to your figures. You could mix and match, and buy special vehicles for your Centurions. They may not be the most original toys on the market, but they were like G.I. Joe meets Lego, which was awesome.
Exosquad was a toy line that shared a lot of inspiration from the G.I. Joe and Centurions toy lines of the ‘80s, but also with a dash of Japanese anime like Robotech. Much like Centurions, the action figures themselves were secondary to the vehicles and accessories. Each figure came with their on exo-suit that was used to battle the forces of evil. To describe the toys easily is to say that it was basically putting G.I. Joes inside of Transformers, or like a really small scale Pacific Rim.
Eventually, as the TV series and toy line started to lose popularity, Playmates decided to purchase the license to distribute Robotech toys as well. They ended up combining Robotech with Exosquad, which made a pretty great combination. However, that didn’t last long, and by the mid ‘90s, the toy line, TV series, comic book, and all other Exosquad media was cancelled.
6 SUPER NATURALS
Remember Visionaries from earlier in the list? Remember how we said that holograms were all the rage, and that it was pretty great combining the holograms with action figures? Well, Tonka thought it was great too, and created Super Naturals. Yes, sadly, Tonka just ripped off Visionaries for their Super Naturals toy line, but even still, these toys were still pretty great.
Of course, Tonka might say, “Well, our toys don’t just have holograms in the chest, they have holograms for their face too!” Yeah, sure, that does make them marginally different, but honestly, as a kid, you probably mixed up Visionaries and Super Naturals all the time in your imaginary battles. There’s nothing wrong with that either, as both lines were practically the same. However, as an adult, it's funny looking back at how obviously toy companies ripped each other off, but we didn’t even care when we were kids.
5 DC SUPER POWERS
The DC Super Powers Collection might be the greatest superhero toy line ever made. No, these aren’t super detailed Hot Toys, but as a kid, they were easily the most fun superhero toys to play with. You can probably close your eyes and imagine how Batman or Superman’s little fabric cape felt like, or how happy you were to finally get to play with toys based on your favorite characters.
As a kid, what made the DC Super Powers Collection even better was that each came with their own comic book. So, after you read the comic, you could re-enact the comic with your toys. Think about how much fun it was to squeeze their legs together and watch them do their special movement. Let’s see your Hot Toys do that!
4 CRASH DUMMIES
The Crash Dummies are probably the only toys ever created based on a public service advertising campaign. Remember those commercials with crash test dummies showing how badly mangled they were after not buckling their seat belts? Well, why not make a toy line based on them! That way, when you’re a kid, you are taught that when you are in a car accident, your arms, legs, and head just pop right off, but you'd probably be fine. Good times!
We’re not sure how many lives were saved by the Crash Dummies toy line, but they were still a lot of fun to play with. That is, until you lost a few pieces. The vehicles and the dummies themselves would just basically explode into various pieces each time you crashed them, and as a kid, it was inevitable that you were going to lose a piece or two. Even still, it was a lot of fun torturing the poor Dummies.
Imagine Transformers that could fit in the palm of your hand. That’s the basic idea behind Micro Machines ZBots. Much like standard Micro Machines, the Zbots toy line wasn’t about each individual character, but how many you could collect. As a kid, you wanted to have all the different varieties of Zbots.
Of course, since it’s an action figure toy line, Micro Machines also released the big playsets and vehicles, but mostly, kids just loved having tons of the little figures. Your parents probably hated them because, inevitably, the Zbots would be left on the floor, and you would hear your parents curse as they stepped on the little sharp toys. These were never as popular as other robot toy lines, but to this day, there are plenty of people with Zbots collections.
2 MCDONALD’S FOOD CHANGEABLES
McDonald’s is never a company that will be left out of a trend. So, it comes as no surprise that way back in 1987, they jumped on the Transformers bandwagon with their Food Changeables line of Happy Meal toys. Each toy resembled a different McDonald’s food, but with a hidden surprise – they were actually robots in disguise!
These toys aren’t the most complicated transforming robots ever, and definitely not as interesting as regular Transformers. However, if you were a child of the ‘80s, you probably remember being super excited getting these in your Happy Meal. As we discussed earlier with Food Fighters, there’s something fun about pitting your favorite fast foods against each other in battle. The Food Changeables toy line actually lasted three years, ending with a line of dinosaur-inspired transforming food.
1 MONSTER IN MY POCKET
Monster in My Pocket is a series of little monsters that were created by Matchbox. Similar to Zbots, these were small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and were aimed at kids who liked to collect toys. They had zero points of articulation, one-color paint style, and no elaborate backstory. So, as a toy, they weren’t all that fun. However, they were definitely popular, with well over 200 figures produced in the early ‘90s.
Believe it or not, Monster in My Pocket spawned a TV series, multiple comic books, a board game, and even a Nintendo video game made by Konami. Over the years, they even branched out to include other figures that weren’t monsters. You could get dinosaurs, aliens, insects, and other types of figures.
What are your favorite totally forgotten toys? Let us know in the comments!
** Special thanks to the following websites for images: littleweirdos.net, captainpower.com, plasticandplush.com, carcrushing.com, nothingbutnostalgia.com, bluemaize.net, www.horror.land, popculture.mearsonlineauctions.com, 16bit.com **