Nostalgia is a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for a return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition, according to Merriam-Webster. It’s also the state of being homesick. Since memories are elusive, we often embody nostalgia in physical form, and perhaps no other object can hold as much instant recollection as our favorite childhood toys. Vintage toys and games are treasured, and no wonder — it’s as close to an irrecoverable condition as possible!
Some old toys are so popular that they hold a collective memory usually saved for flashbulb moments. Naturally, this led us to ask, which toys from the last fifty years are the most popular today? We unboxed that answer by gathering data on award-winning and best-selling toys from retailer Argos, market research company NPD Group and The Toy Association to find the toy from every decade shoppers search for the most today.
These are the best toys and games of the last half-century that have withstood the test of time! How many do you recognize from your childhood? Here is a breakdown of everything you will find on this page:
- The Best and Most Popular Old Kids Toys Since The 70s
- Runner-Up Vintage Toys & Games for Kids Since 1970
Wishlisted used data from retailer Argos, market research company NPD Group and The Toy Association to compile a list of award-winning or best-selling toys for the last fifty years. Wishlisted then used Ahrefs, an SEO software suite with keyword research capabilities, to estimate the average monthly Google searches for each toy in the U.S. in the last year. This data allowed Wishlisted to find the best-selling or award-winning toys from every decade that are currently Googled the most. Wishlisted gathered monthly search estimates on 11/18/22.
Toys were bracketed by decade and ranked by monthly search estimates. The toy from each decade with the highest average monthly searches won.
The reader should understand that monthly search volume does not equate to verified purchases because of several factors, but primarily that not all searches result in clicks, and not all clicks result in purchases. Ahrefs search volume is a traffic estimation that Wishlisted used as a proxy for gauging toy popularity. Due to the pervasive nature of Google search in consumer buying habits, this proxy is a fair derivative of sales data.
Here, you can download the complete CSV spreadsheets containing the analysis behind this work. Please feel free to use or share this data with whoever may find it helpful — Wishlisted asks that your purposes are noncommercial and that you link back to this page so its contributors can receive proper credit for their work.
The Best and Most Popular Old Kids Toys Since the 70s
1970s Toys: Shrinky Dinks - 35,000 Monthly US Searches
Coming up on its 50th birthday, Shrinky Dinks are still a popular arts and crafts toy in the U.S. These activity kits make for great stocking stuffer Christmas presents for 5 to 12-year-olds. Shrinky Dink Instructions are pretty simple: Kids can decorate Shrinky Dink paper sheets and cut them into shapes. Then bake the sheets with an adult and watch as the magic happens! Kids can make the crafts into charms, keychains, ornaments, jewelry, toys or anything!
1980s Toys: Rubik’s Cube - 175,000 Monthly US Searches
Every year, people of all ages mull over how to solve a Rubik’s Cube since Hungarian Design Teacher Erno Rubik invented the toy in 1974. Although the cube is a must-have for any puzzle lover, it’s a great Christmas gift idea for anyone three years old and up! Even more, it’s a great way to reduce screen time while improving concentration, memory and problem-solving skills. The current Rubik’s Cube world record is held by Yusheng Du, who completed it in 3.47 seconds in 2018. You never know; you or your kid might be next!
1990s Toys: Tamagotchi - 208,000 Monthly US Searches
Beating the original Gameboy, Tamagotchi is currently the most popular 90s toy in the U.S. But the Tamagotchi of today is far from the Tamagotchi of your childhood. Sure, you can find the original Tamagotchi to revel in this nostalgic toy from the past. You will also find newer versions like Tamagotchi On or Tamagotchi Pix that take this toy into the next generation by adding cameras, touch buttons and compatible apps while still adhering to the nurturing and caring premise of the original design. Whether to gift a memory from the past or introduce a young one to your favorite childhood toy, the Tamagotchi is a fantastic item for anyone’s Christmas list.
2000s Toys: Beyblades - 202,000 Monthly US Searches
With over 100 million units sold, the Nintendo Wii is one of the best-selling toys this century. However, one toy from the 2000s remains more popular today than even this popular home video game console — the Beyblade or Beyblades. That’s right, those spinning-top toys you might vaguely remember launching into a Beyblade Stadium to battle your friends during recess receive over a quarter more monthly Google searches today than the game-changing Wii!
2010s Toys: L.O.L. Surprise! - 293,000 Monthly US Searches
The product-reveal or unboxing toy, L.O.L. Surprise!, took the world by storm in 2016 and, despite all the digital distractions, is retaining immense popularity six years later. LOL dolls are tiny and brightly colored and, most importantly, hidden from view at purchase, so the experience comes from unwrapping the dolls and revealing their styles and accessories. Because it’s an unboxing experience, these are great Christmas presents, especially as toys for girls ages 4 to 14-year-olds, but there is even a boys’ series, so they are really for anyone!
2020s Toys: L.O.L. Surprise! - 293,000 Monthly US Searches
The popularity of LOL surprise dolls has grown through the pandemic to rank as the most popular, best-selling toy of the 2020s. LOL dolls stand for “Lil Outrageous Littles;” MGA Entertainment Inc. makes them. But how prevalent are these toys? LOL doll sales outpace Barbie, Pokémon, Nerf, Marvel action figures and even Star Wars! In a world where everything is connected, online and somewhat predictable, LOL dolls deliver the mystery everyone needs, especially kids.
The Runner-Up Vintage Toys & Games for Kids Since 1970
1970s Toy Runner-Up: Stretch Armstrong - 30,000 Monthly US Searches
While an average of 35,000 people Google search for the contracting magic of Shrinky Dinks every month, another 30,000 are Googling the expanding charm of Stretch Armstrong. The original Stretch Armstrong toy is made of latex rubber filled with gelled corn syrup created by reducing corn syrup to remove moisture. The result is an action figure that can stretch and retain its shape before shrinking to its original size. There is even a recently released Netflix series based on the toy, “Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters.”
1980s Toy Runner-Up: Cabbage Patch Kids - 112,000 Monthly US Searches
The Cabbage Patch Kids are runners-up to the Rubik’s Cube as the most popular best-selling toy from the 80s. You can still find the original Cabbage Patch Kids doll in vintage, retro style or a variety of new fashions, with many specifically for children as young as one. Cabbage Patch dolls are a great gift for a nostalgic 80s kid or even as new toys for kids three years old and up!
1990s Toy Runner-Up: Gameboy - 74,000 Monthly US Searches
The original Gameboy came out in mid-1989 but soared to be one of the hottest toys of the 90s. You can still find refurbished Gameboys online. Although they seem pricey, their value increase hasn’t even beaten inflation! Some of the most recognized video games were initially released for this handheld game console, including Pokémon Red and Blue, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening and Super Mario Land — all available refurbished, though supplies of some appear to be dwindling.
2000s Toy Runner-Up: Nintendo Wii - 158,000 Monthly US Searches
The Nintendo Wii changed the nature of gaming when it came out in November 2006 by giving gamers the ability to interact physically with a virtual world. Refurbished consoles are available on Amazon for $250, and you can still buy a new Wii for as much as $600. Most of the Wii games are still available and refurbished as well! Although the console’s popularity hasn’t withstood the test of time as Beyblades have, it’s still a great nostalgic trip to the aughts.
2010s Toy Runner-Up: LEGO Friends - 73,000 Monthly US Searches
Lego is one of, if not the best, toys ever, according to Nostalgia Central. While your feet might say otherwise, the impact Lego has had on the world since its inception in 1932 is undeniable. In 2012, The Lego Group launched LEGO Friends, a female-oriented product series to replace the dated Belville line from 1994. The Lego Friends sets were an immediate success, enshrining Lego as a staple toy in the 21st century. Although it only gets a quarter of the monthly Google searches compared to L.O.L. Surprise!, it’s the second-most popular toy from the 2010s.
2020s Toy Runner-Up: Barbie Dreamhouse - 155,000 Monthly US Searches
Although Barbie Dreamhouse stacks a little higher than Lego does against LOL dolls, it only gets just over half the monthly Google searches. Still, for a toy that has conceptually been around for the better part of the last half-century, #2 is alright! The latest edition of the dream house series was released in 2021, and the 2020 Barbie dream house was the top-selling U.S. toy of the year, according to NPD Group. If you already have the house of your dreams, you can always pick up some Barbie dream house accessories!