(Pocket-lint) - It seems like every year there's a new fad toy that's come to market just in time for Christmas and with high demand and limited stock, the shops are full of parents fighting to get the last one off the shelf. 

Over the last 40 years, there's almost always been a range of popular toys that have been as much torment to parents as they have been a joy to the children.

The happiness that comes when that present is taken from under the tree and unwrapped is undeniable, but the hassle of getting it there might have broken more than a bank account. 

Join us as we take a tour back through the last four decades to show you the most popular toys for the Christmas period. 


1977 - Star Wars Toys

41 years ago this year, with the release of the original Star Wars film, came a wave of merchandising that included these Kennar action figures. Over 100 of these Star Wars toys were made between 1977 and 1985, but in the first year of release, they were flying off the shelves. Action figures are known for their popularity and untouched boxed models have fetched insane prices at auction since. 

National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

1978 - simon

In 1967, the first prototype for a multiplayer, multiprogram video games system was developed by Ralph Baer and his colleagues at Sanders Associates Inc. 11 years later, that same inventor would go on to create one of the most popular children's games of the time - "Simon" was the result. This will game was inspired by the children's game "Simon Says" and had a simple premise - each of the four coloured buttons needed to be hit in sequence to match the tune played by Simon. Get it wrong and you lose. In 1978, this simple game took the world by storm.

Courtesy of Chess.com

1979 - Atari VCS

Although originally released in 1977, it wasn't until two years later that the Atari Video Computer System (later known as the Atari 2600) began to prove popular. The Christmas of 1979 saw this console selling like hotcakes thanks to its exclusive content and that year it sold one million units. Popularity continued to grow in the years that followed too, with this Atari console selling 10 million copies by 1982. 


1980 - Rubicks Cube

In 1974, a Hungarian sculptor and architecture professor by the name of Ernő Rubik invented a 3D puzzle that would eventually become known as the Rubik's Cube. This humble little toy proved insanely popular in 1980 when it began being marketed in earnest. By 1983 it is estimated that 200 million Rubik's Cubes were sold worldwide. 

Interestingly, the original Rubik's Cubes had 11 edges that could be flipped independently, resulting in 43 quintilllion possible combinations. In 2007, University researchers found a way to solve the puzzle in just 26 moves - an impressive feat. 


1981 - Smurfs

The Smurfs were smart little blue creatures who lived in wild mushrooms in the forest. The Smurfs began life in 1958 and originally appeared in comic books, but later made their way on TV and into video games, dolls and more. It was the television shows that began the merchandising barrage in earnest and Smurf toys were high on Christmas lists across the world in 1981. 

Shleiderbmx [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

1982 - Bmx

BMX was a fad that started in the early 1970s when children began racing their bikes in a style inspired by motocross sports stars of the time. The phenomenon of BMX racing was born and the BMX bike grew and grew in popularity. 

Original Appalachian Artworks, Inc.

1983 - Cabbage Patch Kid

Cabbage Patch Kids were the must-have kids toy of 1983 and perhaps the first toy on this list to result in several fights breaking out in stores across the United States. The Cabbage Patch Kids had humble beginnings at the hands of Xavier Roberts, a 21-year-old art student who started hand-stitching these dolls in 1978. Originally, the dolls weren't sold, they were "adopted" with their own names and birth certificates to boot. 

2013 existing toys

1984 - Transformers

In 1984, Hasbro toys started a venture with Takara of Japan to create toys and merchandise for the Transformers animated series. This mission to create a line of toys for the robots in disguise, essentially resulted in the longest-running and most popular toy franchises of all time - at least for these two companies. Initial sales proved a massive success and these Transformer toys were highly sought after around Christmas time. They improved with each coming year that followed with bigger, bolder designs and improved transforming abilities. 


1985 - Carebears

Care Bears began their life on greeting cards but proved so popular that they were eventually turned into toys, TV programs and more. In the 1980s a number of TV shows pushed the popularity of Care Bears into the mainstream, but with The Care Bears Movie in 1985, these plush teddies began selling like crazy. Care Bears were top of the pile on many a Christmas wishlist across the world. 

Backpack Toys/Amazon

1986 - Teddy Ruxpin

Teddy Ruxpin was one of the first talking teddy bears and the Grandfather of hundreds if not thousands of similar toys since. This little bear had a cassette tape attached to its back that allowed him to tell stories with mouth and eye movements that were synchronised to the audio. 


1987 - Koosh ball

The extremely popular Koosh ball was invented by Scott Stillinger in 1986 when he was having trouble teaching his young children how to catch and finding normal balls were far too bouncy. He created the Koosh ball, that was intended to be soft enough not to hurt or bounce when thrown and easier to catch than a normal ball too. He was so confident in the design of the original Koosh ball and how well it worked that he quit his job to begin manufacturing. It was a good choice too and the Koosh ball became the best selling toy of 1987. 

Evan-Amos, via Wikimedia Commons

1988 - NES console

Nearly a decade after the Atari 2600 made its way into people's homes, Nintendo released the first of its successful gaming consoles to the world market. With the likes of Duck Hunt, Super Mario Bros and more being first released on this system, the NES shot Nintendo to the forefront of the gaming industry and turned them into a household name.

In 1988, NES was the console of choice and it Nintendo managed to sell seven million systems by the end of the year out-selling home computer competitors by a million miles. 

Wikimedia Commons

1989 - Game Boy

In 1989, one of the first eight-bit handheld consoles was released to market by Nintendo. This fantastic little grey slab was a cartridge-based gaming system that allowed kids across the world to take their games with them, wherever they went. It wasn't the first handheld console, but its release was perfectly timed and the games that were available at the time made it a sensation. On its first release in the United States the Game Boy sold 40,000 units on the first day and, along with the Game Boy Colour, went on to sell over 118 million units worldwide in its lifetime. 

In Christmas 1989 though, the Game Boy was the most popular toy around and a gaming classic that would live in nostalgia for years to come. 


1990 - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

In 1990, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film took the cinemas by storm - clocking up $200 million at the box office and quickly becoming the highest-grossing indie film of the time. The action figures were just as popular and kids everywhere were fighting over who was the best turtle and demanding the collection for Christmas. 

Wikimedia Commons

1991 - Pogs

The history of POGs actually dates back to the 1920s in Hawaii when milk bottle caps were used as a game among children. Decades later, the simple game made its way into the mainstream when POG discs began to be sold and the Hawaiin game took the world by storm. Kids everywhere were battling it out in the playground to see who could get the biggest POG collection. 


1992 - Talking Barney

Barney was the main star of runaway hit children's television show "Barney & Friends" that started life in 1992 and kept on running until 2009. Talking Barney toys were the most popular toy on sale in Christmas of that first year and showed just how much children loved the show. Barney was also the second popular talking teddy bear-like toy to appear after Teddy Ruxpin. 

Onetwo1 [CC-BY-SA-3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

1993 - Talkboy

Talkboy was a cassette player and recorder that actually started life as a prop for the Home Alone films but proved so popular that a working model was made in the run-up to Black Friday that year. By Christmas time, everyone wanted one and they were selling like hot cakes. The deluxe model featured a slow playback mode that allowed kids to manipulate their voices and they loved it. 


1994 - Power Rangers

When a band of ethnically diverse kids with superpowers were on TV fighting aliens, every child thought they too could be superheroes. The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers were a smash hit and so were the toys and merchandise that were released that year and sold by the thousands in the years that followed. In 1994, the action figures were flying off the shelves in time for Christmas. 


1995 - Beanie Babies

Beanie Babies were a popular line of stuffed toys made with beans rather than the traditional stuffing from other toys of the time. The way they were stuffed meant they could be easily posed and kids loved them. 1995 was their most popular year of sale and these toys have continued to sell creating a well-known brand name in the years that followed. 

Tyco Toys

1996 - Tickle Me Elmo

Thanks to a wave of marketing, Elmo, from popular kids show Sesame Street was in high demand as a Christmas present in 1996. Demand outstripped supply and a shopping frenzy broke out during the holiday season that saw parentings fighting in stores to get their hands on the latest craze. Tickle Me Elmo even got some parents arrested while they fought it out. It's also rumoured that one desperate shopper paid $7,100 for a single Elmo in a desperate bid to keep their child happy on Christmas day.  


1997 - Tamagotchi

Tamagotchi is fondly remembered as "the original virtual reality pet". This little toy had kids in charge of a digital pet that they had to feed, wash and generally look after or risk having them die and have to start all over again. The pocket-sized toy sold in insane numbers and 1997 was the year to own one. By 2010, over 76 million Tamagotchi had sold worldwide and it's even made a reappearance this year

Unique and Funky Gifts

1998 - Furby

Furby is the "electronic friend" released in 1998 and a furry toy that could talk and blink its eyes. Furby was so popular that demand outstripped supply and price skyrocketed in the run-up to Christmas. Over two years after release, Furby had sold 40 million units across the world. 


1999 - Pokmon

In 1999, the Pokémon animated series made its way into a trading card game that was the top-selling toy of that year. Pokémon toys and merchandise have proven popular in various guises in the years that followed and this otherwise obscure Japanese cartoon has taken the world by storm. 


2000 - Razor Scooters

The humble scooter has been a popular toy for kids across the world for years, but in 2000 the Razor Scooter was especially popular after Dan Green landed a backflip using one. In 2000 alone, the Razor Scooter sold over five million units and many children found one unsubtly wrapped up under their Christmas tree. 

MGA Entertainment

2001 - Bratz

The Bratz were a product line of fashion dolls that flew off the store shelves in the run-up to Christmas 2001. The heavy made up fashion dolls caused various controversies especially when it emerged that they were being manufactured by underpaid Chinese workers but sold at a high markup. In 2008, Mattel won a $100 million copyright suit against the manufacturers of Bratz because of the similarity to Barbie dolls. 


2002 - Beyblades

Beyblades were another Japanese toy sensation that came about thanks to a popular anime and manga series. These spinning top toys were used by kids around the world as they had "Beybattles" in the playground to see who would be crowned champion. Official Beyblade competitions even started up drawing in thousands of spectators. Popularity slowly dwindled in the years that followed, but in 2002 the Beyblades took the world by storm. 

WowWee Toys

2003/2004 - Robosapien

In 2003 and 2004, Robosapien was the height of high-tech toys. A remote-controlled toy robot with 67 different pre-programmed actions, movements and noises. The 21 button remote control had kids in fits of excitement as they made the little bots dance, fart and burp at their very whim.  Over 1.5 million Robosapiens sold during the Christmas season of 2004. 


2005 - Xbox 360

2005 was the year of the Xbox 360, the insanely popular new console from Microsoft that started selling just in time for Christmas. With supply shortages, the Xbox 360 quickly found its way onto eBay with people re-selling the console for more than twice the retail price. Despite this, the Xbox 360 did not originally sell as many units as Microsoft was expecting, but still managed to sell six million units in Europe alone by 2008. At least they one-upped Sony though. 

Evan-Amos (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

2006 - Sony PlayStation 3

Xbox might have ruled the Christmas season in 2005, but 2006 would be Sony's year. The Sony PlayStation 3 was met with crowds and queues as people desperately tried to get their hands in one in time for the holidays. One pre-sale PS3 even sold on eBay for $3,000 which shows just how insanely passionate people were about the new gaming machines. The PlayStation 3 also lead to several incidents of crime as people tried to get their hands on one. Some customers were shot, others were robbed and others still fought to be the first to own one. There's a rumour that one fan even poisoned his fellow queuers with laxatives when he heard they were going to run out of units before he got to the front of the line. Consumer chaos at its finest. 


2007 - iPod Touch

In 2007, the first generation of Apple iPod Touch reached the market just in time for Christmas. Apple's "Revolutionary Multi-touch Interface & Built-in Wi-Fi Wireless Networking" bought video, music and more to people everywhere.  Steve Jobs once referred to the iPod Touch as "training wheels for the iPhone" and this little device was the must-have gadget of Christmas 2007.

Fisher Price

2008 - Elmo live

Once again, Elmo makes his way onto our list as the most popular Christmas toy for 2008. This time, the little red chap could wave his arm, sit, stand and move around with just a simple tickle or squeeze. Elmo Live was also voice capable and was even able to react to individual children's voices. 

Barnes & Noble

2009 - Nook

Before the Amazon Kindle became the goto e-book device, the Barnes & Noble Nook eReader was the must-have electronic device for curling up with a good book. For Christmas 2009, the Nook beat Amazon's Kindle sales simply by having an extra screen and Wi-Fi capabilities making it user-friendly and a delightful way to read in front of the Christmas fire. 


2010 - Apple iPad

Since its initial release in 2010, the Apple iPad has become synonymous with tablet devices. The first slim tablet that allowed users to watch movies, browse the web and play games all from the comfort of their sofa. Despite releasing at the start of the year, the Apple iPad was still the must-have device of the Christmas period that year. 

Business Wire

2011 - Let's Rock Elmo

Let's Rock Elmo came equipped with a mic, tambourine and drum set. As if children's toys didn't already make enough noise! Let's Rock Elmo could sing six songs as well as interact with a variety of related toys and musical instruments that were, of course, sold separately. The really lucky children even had the Cookie Monster on Keyboard too, for the full muppets rock experience. 


2012 - Wii U

The Nintendo Wii-U was the eighth generation video game console from Nintendo and released to compete with the Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One. The Wii-U met with a positive reception and was a popular purchase for Christmas in 2012. After release the Wii-U went on to sell 13.56 million units worldwide. 


2013 - Big Hugs Elmo

Once again, Elmo appears on our list as the must-have toy for Christmas. This soft plush toy was capable of returning children's cuddles, singing lullabies and playing various games too. This version of Elmo could also say 50 different sounds and phrases to keep children entertained and help them learn. 

10 best Lego sets 2021: Our favourite Star Wars, Technic, City, Frozen II sets and more


2014 - Elsa Doll

Frozen might be most well remembered for the "Let It Go" song that drove parents to distraction, but Disney's hottest movie of the time was also followed by a wave of must-have merchandise. The Snow Glow Elsa Doll was highly sought after around Christmas 2014 and much to parents dismay, it did, in fact, sing the song as well as recite various lines from the film. 

Bryan Rowe/Sphero

2015 - BB8

Star Wars has always been popular, Star Wars toys equally so. So when Disney joined up with Lucas Arts everyone knew there would be some pretty special toys on the market that year. Star Wars droids are cute and amusing, they're also a cash cow when it comes to toys and merchandise. The BB-8 droid was no exception. This voice-controlled bot made by Sphero was the most popular toy about in the Christmas period of 2015 and was packed full of features and functionality that kids and adults alike loved. 

We also gave it our Editors Choice award that year as well. 


2016 - NES Mini

The Nintendo NES console system was just as popular the second time around in 2016 as it was when it was first released back in 1983. The new and improved mini system brought nostalgic joy to all the grown-ups who were desperate to relive their gaming youth. Though we're sure plenty of parents bought it for their "kids" or at least used them as a good excuse. The NES Classic Mini came with a superb collection of classic 8-bit games, an authentic feel and a fantastic price. But high demand made it a bit tough to get hold of in time for Christmas. 


2017 - Cozmo

For 2017, the toy of choice is Anki’s Cozmo robot, a fully-customisable and programmable robot that helps kids learn to code. Cozmo is small in size, but hefty in price, so it might take some convincing, but it's a clever little droid that kids and adults alike will love. 

This little bot looks like something out of a Pixar film and is as cute as it is clever. 

Spin Master

2018 - Boxer AI Robot

Robots are here to stay it seems. Following on from the success of Cosmo, this Robot isn't nearly as clever, however is certainly appealing to many. Although the final best selling toy of 2018 is yet to be decided, many believe it will be a Boxer Christmas with the robot selling well on Amazon and being one of the top 12 toys for Christmas at this year's Dream Toys event as voted by independent toy retailers. 

He has an expressive dot-matrix face that offers expressions and interactions with the player. He can detect movement in front of him and respond to it in a variety of ways. Following fingers or kicking a small ball around are just the tip of the iceberg. A range of cards can be scanned to set him playing a wide variety of games. Best of all you don’t need a smartphone to play with him. 

L.O.L. Surprise

2019 - L.O.L. Surprise! 2-in-1 Glamper

With an honourable mention to the Nerf Fortnite SP-L Blaster, this has to be 2019's most anticipated toy, although both are on the list of DreamToys' top picks for this Christmas. The Glamper (yes, that is a word now) is certainly much anticipated; unboxings of it have racked up more than nine million views on YouTube. There are 55 elements to the set, while the trailer folds completely out as you can see. For ages 6 and above. 


2020 - PS5 and Xbox Series X

No matter which camp you're in - PlayStation or Xbox, there's no denying that both these consoles have been in high demand in 2020. 

The sheer demand has lead to stock being sold out and scalpers and resellers using bots to make hefty profits. If you managed to get one of these consoles in 2020, you were one of the lucky few for sure. 

Writing by Adrian Willings.