And, yes, I'm sorry to say to certain readers, the Thundercat's Lair will still not be on the list.
Honorable mentions in no particular order:
Always one of my favorite characters from the G.I Joe cartoon, the Zartan action figure was pretty unique. In the cartoon, Zartan had an allergic reaction to sunlight. For the toy, Hasbro made the figure's skin sensitive to heat so if you took Zartan out into the sun, his skin turned an amazing sickly neon green. This was by far my favorite action figure to take outside.
Sticking with G.I. Joe toys, I have to mention a personal favorite that may seem an odd choice. Alpine was by no means one of the major G.I. Joe figures but he came with possibly the coolest accessory of any action figure from the 80s. As you probably deduced from his name, Alpine was the Joe mountain infantry man. The action figure came with two plastic hooks connected by about a foot of thin nylon rope. Alpine's grip enabled him to hold the rope and zip back and forth or he could simply hang at the end of it. On a family road trip to Washington D.C., I entertained myself for hours by attaching Alpine to the clothes hanger above my door and watching him swing with the motion of the car. By the way, I was easily entertained.
This behemoth showed up late in my G.I. Joe collecting days. Still, I got a few good years out of playing with it. It didn't really do anything spectacular besides be a neat staging ground for my action figure battles. The coolest object it came with was the tiny red ship you can see there in the middle. It was absolutely huge and took up quite a bit of space. An interesting toy that I felt needed to be put on the list just for the audacity of it's size.
Next to the Millennium Falcon, the AT-AT from Empire Strikes Back was probably my most cherished Star Wars toy. I actually didn't get this one right away. My parents used some fiscal restraint and held off a few years until the price on this (admittedly) overpriced toy came down to a reasonable area. But, when I did finally got it one Christmas, I was overjoyed. First of all, The AT-AT in concept is amazing. It's a huge troop transport that looks like an enormous walking animal from another planet. It was very posable and had lots of fun accessories and things that detached. And, in what is becoming a theme for this list, I could hang Luke Skywalker from underneath it and reenact the scene where he slices open an AT-AT with his lightsaber.
Such a simple piece of molded plastic gave me untold hours of fun. This is a version of Yoda's house from Empire. Hasbro condensed the entire terrain of Dagobah seen in the film down to a few inches of plastic surrounding Yoda's hut. Whatever, it worked for me. It had little sponges that were supposed to be the swamp where R2-D2 sank. It had little action figure sliders where you could battle Darth Vader and Luke. It also had these horrible little plastic nubs that stuck out that you could put some boxes on. This was supposed to create the illusion of Luke using the force on the boxes. It was pretty funny in it's ineffectiveness but still pretty clever toy engineering.
The Ewok Village is a good juxtaposition to the Dagobah play-set in that it shows the evolution of Star Wars toys from the second to third movie. The village was a pretty nice play-set. It had a cage that you could wench up and down. There was a net for capturing your figures. It even had a hanging plastic boulder for smashing stormtroopers. I didn't learn about the hatred for all things Ewok until I was much older. When I got the Ewok village, I was in the height of my Ewok mania and absolutely loved everything that had to do with Endor whether it be speeder bikes or Wicket.
Looking at these two pictures, I can't help but think how very Japanese robot this looks. However, back in the day, Omega Supreme was the granddaddy of all huge Transformer Toys. When Omega Supreme showed up in the cartoon, you knew Autobots were about to seriously kick some Decepticon butt. The toy kicked major butt as well. As you can see, it was an enormous robot but then it transformed into an actual working train. It was quite the multifaceted toy and I really loved playing with it.
I got some flak from some of my female readers for not including any toys that girls liked to play with during the 80s. Of course, being the manly boy that I was, I didn't play with any girl toys but I was certainly aware of some of the major brands.
My sister had a nice little collection of My Little Pony. She liked to display them on the shelves in her room. I appreciated the collecting aspect of getting all the different ponies and how each one was unique and came with a different little accessory.
I actually really dug the Care Bears. I enjoyed the cartoon and really liked the two later animated movies. Once again, this tapped into the collecting gene that all little kids had by making each bear unique, with their own personality.
The Smurfs cartoon was actually appealing to both boys and girls but in my circle of friends, I didn't know any boys that collected the toys. They weren't action figures at the height of the action figure craze so they had that going against them. They were actually really small collectibles and I think this appealed to girls more than boys. Still, I loved the Smurfs and I wouldn't mind having a complete collection of all these vinyl figures from the 80s.
This was the huge one for my sister and most American girls in the early 80s. Tickle-Me Elmos, Nintendo Wiis, Zhu Zhu Hamsters, etc.— all these can't even come close to the craze that these dolls inflicted upon the general parenting public in the early 80s. Every girl wanted one for Christmas and no store could keep them in stock. When my sister finally got hers, I remember her loving it to death and it was always by her side. I have a special place in my heart for the Cabbage Patch Kids. The preschool/summer school I went to for most of my early years put on really elaborate plays every summer and one year they decided to do a Cabbage Patch Kids play. I was really young at the time but the director of the play must have seen something in me and she cast me to play the narrator of the the play, Colonel Casey the stork. It was quite the part with lots of lines and from what I remember and what people told me, I pulled it off quite well on performance night.
There you have it. The honorable mentions for 80s toys according to me. Feel free to comment with some of your favorites.