What was old is new again when it comes to gaming and toys. Not every classic toy from generations past is going to make the big comeback, but there are those ones that are just timeless. Parents who remember them from their youth bring them home for the kids, and voila — the whole family’s having a great time. Put it this way — your kids have a much better shot at enjoying Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots than you do at playing Eldenring.
Retro cool is going to be all the rage this holiday season, and we’ve gotten a jump on the trend with this list of 10 great throwback games and toys that will be big hits guaranteed to bridge the generation gap. Check these out and prepare for a night of fun for the entire family.
1. Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots
BEST OLD-SCHOOL BRAWLING
What is the ultimate retro toy? There’s really no one answer to that question, but Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots absolutely has to be in the conversation. It doesn’t get simpler than this: Pick a robot, grab the control, and throw haymakers until you knock your opponent’s block off — literally. Then push the head back down and go another few rounds. It’s old-school, loud-clacking fun, and it’s highly addictive, so don’t blame us for your sore thumbs.
2. Rubik’s Cube
The Rubik’s Cube is the Eighties personified in 54 maddening colored tiles. Yes, this is the same Rubik’s Cube that took the world by storm 40 years ago. No, it has not gotten any easier. Solve one side, then two, maybe three, then…..uh-oh. Fun fact? This iconic puzzle toy also makes a truly great fidget object. Just keep it out of camera range during those long awful work meetings on Zoom.
3. Hasbro Gaming Trivial Pursuit Game: Classic Edition
BEST BOARD GAME
Eggheads and trivia nerds of the world, unite! Bar trivia nights, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, and basically every other trivia craze can be traced directly back to the days when Trivial Pursuit ruled the gaming world. Play as individuals or form teams, and have at it in six different categories. Fill your pie and move to the center for one last question to win. This game spawned a million spinoff versions, like this 2010-2020 version, but this is the classic edition.
4. Lite-Brite Ultimate Classic Retro Toy
We seriously considered going with the vastly underrated Spirograph as the best retro artistic toy, but there’s just something about the original Lite-Brite we could not refuse. The classic Lite-Brite has been slightly updated and improved — instead of the old-fashioned lightbulb, it’s now illuminated by LED lights which last far longer and won’t scorch your fingers. Other than that? Same templates, same colorful plastic pegs (definitely do not forget your refill templates and pegs) and same wholesome family fun. It may look like it’s just for kids, but it’s fun and relaxing for all ages.
5. Hasbro Gaming Bop It!
You do remember the Bop It!, right? It’s the rapid-fire Simon Says-type game powered by three seemingly simple commands. But when the speed turns up, it’s anything but easy. How cool can you stay under pressure? This awesome handheld game is fun solo and a true riot in multiplayer mode for a party. Speaking of which — and you did not hear this from us — when the kids go to bed, the Bop It! makes for a hellacious drinking game.
6. View Master Marine Life Bundle
No blue light, no downloads, no batteries — handheld educational visuals used to come courtesy of the timeless View Master. All you need is a View Master disk and a light source, and you’re treated to very cool 3D images with informative captions. You’ll be stunned at how well this goes over as a road trip or long-flight source of amusement with the little ones. And there is still a near-endless supply or refill discs available online. Start with this Marine Life bundle from Discovery Kids, which comes with carrying cases for the discs and the View Master itself, and a set of cool sea-creature discs that encourage curiosity and learning.
BEST PRIMITIVE LIFE FORM
If you’re of a certain age, the comic-book ads for Sea-Monkeys are burned into your brain. The drawing of the “cute” (ahem) Sea-Monkey family, and all those promises: they do tricks! They live for years! Sea-Monkeys are, in fact, tiny living creatures. But they look nothing like the picture, and no, they do not do tricks. They’re brine shrimp delivered in freeze-dried egg form, and they hatch more or less instantly in water when the “special water purifier” (basically, salt) is added. Basically, they’re harmless fun. And don’t tell the kids, but if you have marine fish, they love brine shrimp.
8. Retro Classic Game Console
BEST NES-ERA GAMING CONSOLE
If you were a Nintendo gamer in the Nineties, think for a minute how much money you would have had to shell out to have 620 separate games. Today, they’re all yours for $35 bucks, courtesy of this Retro Classic Game Console from Z-Boyouth. The NES-inspired console is pure plug-and-play too, provided your TV has an AV input port. (If not, this AV-to-HDMI converter will do the trick.) For sheer volume of games, including Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros, Yeti Brothers, Contra, Bubble Dragon and more, this is the best throwback gaming console.
9. TV Games Atari Emulator
BEST ATARI CLONE
Wind the clock back another decade from the NES and you’re back in the days when the Atari 2600 ruled the home gaming world. One joystick and one button was all you need to tackle Atari’s versions of Centipede, Missile Command, and many more. Ten of those games are captured here in this simple plug-and-play emulator — no console or software required. The controller is a duplicate of the Atari 2600 joystick. Like the Retro Classic Game Console, you will need either an AV input port on your TV or an AV-to-HDMI converter.
10. Pac-Man Couchcade
BEST ARCADE THROWBACK
Many words come up when you think of retro-arcade gaming, but “comfy” is seldom one of them. Arcade1Up has changed all that with their Pac-Man Couchcade, which also plays nine other arcade-accurate games like Galaga and Dig Dug. This wireless arcade emulator is literally a laptop game, complete with a plush Pac-Man-themed cushion at the bottom. Pull up a seat on the couch, lay this across your lap, and return to the Eighties. Watch the kids try to apply their advanced PS5 skills to classic 8-bit gaming, and then watch how quickly they’re hooked.