Take Us Back! Best Nostalgic Toys of 2020
2020 hasn’t been, uh, very good. You know it’s not great when a year inspires an extensive range of “dumpster fire” products (including hundreds of Christmas tree ornaments) to commemorate it!
It’s really not surprising that there are a lot nostalgic toys coming out right now. Here are some of the best that will not only bring out your inner child, but will let you pretend, even if for a moment, that you’ve gone back in time.
Best ’80s Throwback Toy
Transfomers on their own are already pretty nostalgic, but the new Transformers Vintage G1 Autobot Blaster takes it a step further by adding the ultimate retro symbol into the mix: the boombox.
Inspired by the original 1985 release, the G1 Autobot goes from boombox to robot mode in 4 steps and just looks super cool (or should I say rad?). They’ve even recreated the original packaging, making it extra fun for gifting. It’s a Walmart exclusive–expect it to sell out before it drops too much in price.
Also worth mentioning (but unfortunately not releasing until January), is the awesome looking Transformers Collaborative: Back to the Future 35th Anniversary Mash-Up Gigawatt ($30; preorders only). It converts from robot to time machine mode in 17 steps–just don’t accidentally go back to 2020!
MSRP: $30 / Lowest Price on Ben’s: N/A
Best Nostalgic LEGO Set
Again, LEGOS on their own already take it back to a time when toys didn’t need batteries or WiFi or other fancy tech. But the new LEGO Ideas 123 Sesame Street also brings all the feels with a recreation of the street so many of us “grew up” on. The best part is the collection of minifigures you get with this set: Elmo, Cookie Monster, Bert and Ernie, Big Bird and an Oscar the Grouch (that pops out of his trash can!).
This is a LEGO Shop Exclusive, meaning you’re not gonna see deals on it at Amazon or other stores. At $120, it’s not cheap, but my guess is it’ll hold onto its value as a collectible set.
- MSRP: $120 / Lowest Price on Ben’s: N/A
Best Throwback Toy Update
Before there was Animal Crossings, there was the Tamagotchi. If you grew up in the ’90s, chances are you had one of these “virtual pet” keychains hanging from your backpack at some point.
The Tamagotchi On is an updated version for a new generation of kids. They’ve kept the concept and design quite similar, but the technology has come a long way. Not only are the graphics better, you can now connect to friends’ devices (have your pets go on “playdates”), plus access games and additional content on their free app.
Reviews have been very good so far–on Amazon it averages 4.6/5 stars with almost 2,800 reviews.
- MSRP: $60 / Lowest Price on Ben’s: $37
Best Old School Arcade Game
The gaming scene is interesting right now. On one side of the spectrum we have the release of the Playstation 5 and more advanced consumer-friendly VR sets, and on the other, we have a surge in popularity of old school arcade games/systems. Clearly people want the tech advances of the former yet crave the simplicity and nostalgia of the latter.
Of the brands that are out there, Arcade1up is definitely the best when it comes to officially licensed retro arcade game machines. Because I can’t pick them all, I’m going with the Pac-Man 40th Anniversary Countercade as the best gift option. Takes up less space than a full size cabinet and it comes with not one but four really good games: Pac-Man, Pac & Pal, Galaga and Dig Dug.
There’s no release date or price yet, but also keep an eye out for the Atari Mini PONG Jr. portable gaming system to come out later this year or early 2021–looks pretty sweet.
- MSRP: $150 / Lowest Price on Ben’s: $100
Best Mighty Morphin’ Build-a-Figure Toy
Big nerds Power Rangers fans everywhere were super excited when Hasbro announced a new Megazord for 2020. You can’t actually buy a figure on its own–there are three separate sets that go together to build it: the Triceratops Dinozord / Sabertooth Tiger Dinozord 2-Pack ($15), the Mastodon Dinozord / Pterodactyl Dinozord 2-Pack ($15) and the Tyrannosaurus REX Dinozord ($15).
Could make for a fun Christmas morning if each set is wrapped and opened separately!
- MSRP: $45 / Lowest Price on Ben’s: N/A
Best Vintage Star Wars Toy
Pretty much all of the 2020 Star Wars “Vintage Collection” Toys look awesome. I’m picking the Empire Strikes Back Carbon-Freezing Chamber Playset because a) I just have a weird obsession with anything having to do with Han Solo in Carbonite, and b) because it’s a great display setup for any of the other 3.75″ action figures in this series.
MSRP: $50 / Lowest Price on Ben’s: $37
Best Classic Toy
Before I was even working on this list, I was looking through Amazon’s 2020 Toy Gift Guide and was surprised to see Lite Brite pop up. I clicked on it thinking they must have added some smartphone app component or something, but nope! It’s just a less clunky LED update to the classic light-up pegboard that first became popular in 1967.
Not a lot of bells and whistles here, but that’s exactly what makes it great.
MSRP: $20 / Lowest Price on Ben’s: $11
Best Nostalgic Doll Toy
Polly Pocket, the tiny doll that lived inside what looked like a makeup compact, has endured a lot of drama since her original release in 1989. There was a redesign in 1998, a widespread safety recall in 2006, a complete (mostly failed) relaunch in 2010, and finally another try in 2018. By 2020 it seems they have finally done right by this poor girl!
The current sets are getting fantastic reviews. The Polly Pocket Unicorn Party Large Compact Playset has everything a little girl (or boy) could possibly want: confetti, surprises to unwrap, and well unicorns. Looks like they’ve crammed a lot of fun into a such a small package.
- MSRP: $25 / Lowest Price on Ben’s: NA
Best Bonus Nostalgic LEGO Set
It felt wrong to end this list without including the LEGO 1989 Batwing. I mean, it’s a Batwing, and it’s from the best Batman movie there is (arguably the best superhero movie there is) so it’s cool no matter what. But what makes this 2,363-piece set really amazing is that it can be mounted on the wall after it’s built. A challenging build that ends in a sweet piece of art for the wall! You can even find lighting kits for it on Etsy.
Ok, I think I’ve thoroughly convinced myself Santa needs to bring this one for
my kids me this year!
- MSRP: $200 / Lowest Price on Ben’s: N/A