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  • John Fiorella

INARGUABLY THE 20 BEST TOYS EVER MADE

Updated: Jan 13



Even though the world's gone digital, when it's time to play, there's simply no substitute for a toy. Check out our list and get busy playin'!





PLAY FAMILY CASTLE - FISHER PRICE TOYS, YR 1974


Who needs arms when you're living in style? These limbless royals occupy a fortress that comes complete with a towering throne, a hidden chamber, and a trap door that drops you into a watery stockade. All it's missing is the Mother of Dragons.




THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN - KENNER PRODUCTS, YR 1975


Sure, the Lone Ranger was packin' heat, but the Bionic Man had an eye you could freakin' see through! And when he took on battle damage, you could go full-on Frankenstein with him and replace his mechanical innards!





WELL OF SOULS ACTION PLAYSET - KENNER PRODUCTS, YR 1982


Snakes, corpses, and a golden box of annihilation?! To quote everyone's favorite French mercenary, “IT'S BEAUTIFUL!”




PARA-MEDIC TOY EMERGENCY KIT - OHIO ARTS, YR 1972


My cousins have a fireman for a father. In 1978, their attic was loaded with old firefighter helmets and a beat-up mattress we'd pretend was a cement wall, before toppling it over onto one another. Braving imaginary flames, we'd pull our brethren from the rubble and resuscitate him with this lunch box-shaped defibrillator. And we'd do it over and over again. CLEAR!





THE MANGLER - MEGO CORPORATION, YR 1976


So much for bringing the bad guy in for questioning. This toy encouraged you to punch your enemies into a mechanical pulverizer! While the adult in me would now look for a less gruesome way to bring evildoers to justice, at the age of five, I gleefully sent my share of villains to their doom.





STAR TREK COMMUNICATORS - MEGO CORPORATION, YR 1974


Why use a cell phone when you can struggle to comprehend your pal using a real walkie talkie?! These things are tons of fun and will never go out of style. In fact, on a warm summer night, we'll gather the neighborhood kids, equip them with a few flashlights and a walkie talkie, and send them into the botanical garden across the street – where the occasional scream will echo over the receiver as they brave the dangers of the dark.





MONSTERIZER - REMCO INDUSTRIES INC, YR 1979


Remco made the coolest monsters. Their dolls not only glowed in the dark, but with a push of a button, they could grab their victims and render them powerless in what my sister deemed “The Hug of Death.” I think she was mocking me, but the name took. And when things got perilous for our lovable band of baddies, the Monsterizer would resurrect them! They even made a smaller one to revive action figures!!




BATBOT - MATTEL / FISHER PRICE / IMAGINEXT, YR 2014


The Imaginext toyline is responsible for some wicked-cool vehicles, everything from shark-snouted pirate ships to monster-hunting hotrods, but their greatest invention is the Batbot. This remote control tank fires discs, talks like a vintage Cylon and transforms into a humongous robot! And it even comes detailed in the classic '66 red pinstriping!!





SPACE LEGOS - THE LEGO GROUP, YR 1978


Long ago, Legos were boring, colorful bricks. That all changed in 1978 when Space Legos took flight. Ray guns, rocket boosters, and happy Spacemen transformed Lego into the international toy empire that it is today. And nowadays, you can wipe that welcoming grin off their little faces and build yourself a squadron of Space Zombies!!




HOT WHEELS RACE TRACK - MATTEL INC, YR 1968


Cars are fun, but cars that can race down your steps, through the kitchen, and out the back door via a twisted orange channel of plastic = is pure awesomeness!




NAVARONE GIANT PLAY SET - MARX TOYS, YR 1977


I loved setting up plastic army men and then waiting for my dog to saunter into an ambush. This play set magnifies the fun, or so I could only imagine. I never actually got to play with it, but the box alone inspired playtime to go vertical. After stacking the couch pillows into a towering army base, I'd pepper it with soldiers, bury my dog's squeaky toy beneath it all, and see who survived the canine rampage.



BATMAN SURVIVAL KIT - HENRY GORDY INTERNATIONAL, YR 1982


Batman has survived the unfriendly edge of many a bladed weapon, but in the 80's, he got a matching set of his own. Holy blue Bat Blades, these things ruled!!



GI JOE HEADQUARTERS COMMAND CENTER - HASBRO INC, YR 1983


Timmy Shafer had this sprawling command post. We'd set it on top of his red-carpeted staircase and deploy Cobra's armies to infiltrate it - but the fort was impenetrable. On the off chance that Storm Shadow managed to find a way in, he always got thrown into the ironclad prison, from which there was no escape (despite it not having a roof).




STAR BIRD - MILTON BRADLEY COMPANY, YR 1978


This gem did away with you having to make silly space noises as you flew your toys around the room. Depending on how you angled it, it would ascend with a high-throbbing frequency or wind the engines down as it came in for a landing. To add to its awesome factor, it came apart in pieces, which meant if you wanted to use it as a space gun, you could fire it like a rifle or conceal it in your sleeve for covert space attacks!





LIONEL TRAINS - LIONEL CORPORATION, YR 1945


Back in the day, my dad hunted down old Lionel trains. He'd tune them up, get them running like new, and let me unleash locomotive fury! These trains weren't for looking at, they we're built for serious, seven-year-old playtime - and I put them through the gauntlet. Hours were spent ramming them headlong through Lincoln Log barriers and the scores of plastic knights that guarded them.



BATMOBILE - MEGO CORPORATION, YR 1972


The Mego Corporation made toys that could take a beating – and the Batmobile took the ultimate off road challenge. Sure, Batman drove it down the basement steps on a daily basis, but when Robin took to the wheel, watch out! The reckless Boy Wonder once drove it out my bedroom window and off the roof!!





GALAXY GUN II 2001 - KNOCK-OFF OF MATTEL INC, YR 1978


Han Solo's pistol made for an epic toy, but the Galaxy Gun II 2001 was king. This phallic space-blaster didn't just make one sound, no... it had 12 uniquely awesome laser tones that you could control with a rotund dial. Twelve sounds! Freeze Ray, Mind Control, Death Reverser... the possibilities were endless!





GODZILLA - MATTEL INC, YR 1977


Mazinga may have had rockets, but Godzilla launched his fist! He could knock down any cardboard citadel and set it ablaze with his fiery tongue. So freakin' cool... it's enough to make a Shogun Warrior cry.





UNDERSEA ADVENTURE PLAY SET - MARX TOYS, YR 1979


Marx made its share of fun toys, but none were more epic than the Undersea Adventure Play Set. Below the safety of the boat, three sharks swam precariously around a rather exposed shark cage. If a diver could make it to the ocean floor, he could operate a sea tank and look for hidden treasure. But beware! Somewhere along the seabed, there lived an ill-tempered octopus whose sole purpose was to strangle intruders deep within the darkness of his lair. Not even Boba Fett could survive its wrath!!





AT-AT - KENNER PRODUCTS, YR 1981


Kenner elevated playtime to unfathomable heights with the AT-AT: the pinnacle of Star Wars vehicles. This thing was huge and could endure some wildly rough play – getting knocked to its side every hour, on the hour. My fondest memory playing with this thing was when we got our new refrigerator and, more importantly, the colossal pieces of styrofoam that it came packaged with. Armed with a cheese grater, I shaved that styrofoam into a zillion tiny pieces, transforming our living room into a wondrous, wintery battlefield. FYI: that stuff is really hard to get out of shag carpeting.