New retro: a look at how the Eighties inspire the toys of today

Triggered by Netflix’s latest hit show - the Eighties-throwback Stranger Things - Richard Heayes looks at how the world of toys and games continues to source inspiration from a decade that brought us shoulder pads, mullets and Duran Duran.
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I know I’m not the only one who has been enjoying a retro Eighties trip watching Stranger Things on Netflix.

This carefully crafted story combines all the best the Eighties had to offer. Inspired by films like The Goonies, Alien, Close Encounters and Poltergeist, it does a great job of giving anyone who grew up in the late Seventies and Eighties a fresh story but one that draws on their fondest memories. It also appeals to a younger audience who have ‘discovered’ that period through classic film and games.

Retro inspired entertainment has proven to be a very powerful of late. Pretty much all of the big action movies from Transformers to Marvel have their roots in that period. Star Wars continues the story that began then and where film goes toys quickly follow. Music has also jumped on the Eighties revival with artists like Rick Astley and Duran Duran launching new music. It’s been building for a few years now but I think we could be seeing shoulder pads on a high street near you very soon.

Re-telling a classic but with modern twist is a often a recipe for success. The toy business was extremely prolific in delivering innovation and creating brands that are still strong today. Look through catalogues of that time and it is incredible the amount of new product that appeared year after year.

Re-imagined Retro can deliver both freshness and nostalgia, get the blend right and you have potential for a seriously exciting product. I’d love to see Big Track make a comeback but with a twist. This was one of the first coding toys letting kids program the moves of the robot truck in a similar way to Fisher Price Code-a-Pillar. 

3D Action games like Fireball island and Ghost Castle would also be great to bring back with some new innovation, they both provided experiences you just don’t get digitally.

As both parents and kids long for some quality time together away from screen, the 1980s toy and game treasure chest could hold the key to some really exciting brands that appeal to the parents and with the right innovation can appeal to the kids as well. 

All I need now is a talking car that can drive itself...oh hold on a minute!



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