When the popularity of videogames exploded with in the 1980s and early 1990s, it seemed like a no-brainer that toys would quickly follow. Characters like Pac-Man, Mario and Sonic were as familiar to kids as Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny. However, aside from the occasional PVC figurine, there were hardly any good toys of video game characters for many years.
Things started to change around 1997, when a company called Resaurus produced an action figure of Duke Nukem (back when he was still kind of cool). Resaurus was a pioneer in the video game action figure arena, nabbing the licenses for Sonic the Hedgehog, Street Fighter and Quake 2, among others. Its success led other toy companies to take notice and the video game toy revolution began. Nowadays, we have action figures based on nearly any modern video game property you can name. But because companies were so slow to catch on, there are some classic video games that were passed by and still have no toys. Here are ten games whose characters are perfect for toy lines.
Battletoads was the incredibly difficult NES classic that frustrated players worldwide. It was an early offering from powerhouse Rare. The key to its difficulty was that it changed gameplay genres level to level. At its core it was a beat ’em up starring three anthropomorphic toads named after skin conditions — Rash, Zitz and Pimple — whose punches and kicks made their limbs expand into enormous boots and battering rams to knock enemies off-screen. It remains a classic today, and Battletoads action figures would still appeal to both nostalgic gamers and kids. The core Battletoads deserve super articulation as well as interchangeable limbs, so you can change Pimple’s fist into the giant hammer, as well as jet-bikes so you can relive the endless frustration of slamming your bike into a wall over and over. And of course we’d need a figure of the bodacious Dark Queen, who rivals Sin‘s Elexis Sinclaire and Soulcalibur‘s Ivy for sheer cleavage. There were some Battletoads bendy toys, but everyone knows bendy toys don’t count because they suck.
9. Star Fox
Fox McCloud and his group of anthropomorphic animal pilots became staple characters in Nintendo after first appearing in the SNES classic Star Fox. The follow-up (more of a semi-remake if we’re honest) Star Fox 64 didn’t have quite the same impact, but those characters remain beloved. Fox is a prominent character in Nintendo’s cross-franchise brawler Super Smash Bros alongside teammate Falco, and Peppy Hare’s enthusiastic “Do a barrell roll!” is so well known in popular culture that a Google search will make your screen follow the instruction. Ideally we’d get a line of 3.75″ figures with in-scale ships for them to pilot.
8. The Secret of Monkey Island
Before Captain Jack Sparrow flounced his way through his adventures involving undead pirates, there was the dashing-but-hapless Guybrush Threepwood (Mighty Pirate) and his cantankerous arch-nemesis, the Ghost Pirate LeChuck. Possibly the greatest point-and-click adventure game series of all time, the Monkey Island games are full of characters tailor-made for toys. Now that Disney owns LucasArts and is reportedly reaching its Cthulhu-like tendrils toward Hasbro, a Monkey Island toy line could be closer than we dare dream.
7. Commander Keen
PC gamers from the early 1990s will have fond memories of Commander Keen, a.k.a. eight-year-old child genius Billy Blaze who took to space in his own Bean-with-Bacon Megarocket and ended up fighting aliens to save the Earth. Wearing his older brother’s yellow Green Bay Packers football helmet with a purple shirt, jeans and red Chucks, Commander Keen would make an excellent action figure alongside figures of creatures like the Vorticons and Robo Red. And who wouldn’t want a toy of the infamous Dopefish, who still makes cameo appearances in games to this day?
Better known in the U.S. as Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!, this is a popular series of boxing videogames. It introduced many memorable characters such as the lightweight Glass Joe, the aptly-named Bear Hugger, and the large menacing King Hippo. They’ve all become part of the pop culture lexicon and Nintendo villain staples. Punch Out!! saw a resurgence in 2009 with a Wii reboot, featuring the same beloved characters. Toys seem like a natural fit, especially if they had some sort of punching feature.
5. Killer Instinct
The second Rare entry from this list, Killer Instinct was a popular arcade fighting game that later appeared on Nintendo consoles. Known not just for its gorgeously rendered 3D models fighting on a 2D plane, the gameplay hook that separated it from the competition was an unusually deep combo system that involved lengthy combo attacks that could only be broken with a rock-paper-scissors combo breaker system. It also featured one of the most amazing and varied cast of characters ever to grace a fighting game, including the Native American Chief Thunder, the demonic skeleton Spinal, fiery criminal Cinder, the killer cyborg Fulgore and the vicious velociraptor-hybrid Riptor. Everyone in the main cast would make for spectacular toys, complete with their memorable accessories and blast effects.
4. Wolfenstein 3D
This is a game whose final boss is a giant robo-Hitler with four chainguns. That should tell you all you need to know about the sort of game it is and whether it has action figure potential. Wolfenstein 3D popularized the first-person shooter in 1992. You play William “B.J.” Blazkowicz, a soldier on a quest to destroy the Nazi attempt at creating an army of zombies. The series was a tremendous hit and every FPS since owes its existence to its popularity, and yet we’ve never seen toys of B.J. Blazkowicz nor his (mostly undead mutant) Nazi enemies.
3. Final Fight
Mike Haggar. That’s all you need to know. Back when SOTA Toys was making its impressive Street Fighter action figures, fans inundated them with requests for Final Fight toys. A predecessor to Street Fighter but supposedly taking place in the same universe, action figures of Cody, Guy and Haggar would are glaring omissions in everyone’s Street Fighter collection. Sadly, it was not to be, but fans hold out hope that one day we’ll see toys — especially of Mike Haggar, mustache aficionado and despiser of two-strap suspenders.
2. Silent Hill
You’d think this would be a no-brainer. Whereas Japan’s other popular survival horror series Resident Evil has had countless action figures and a surprising number of terrible movies, Silent Hill, alas, has only had the bad movies (despite being an arguably better series of games). Fans are crying tears (of blood) for figures of disgusting and memorable characters like Pyramid Head and the infamous Silent Hill nurses.
1. Doom/Doom II
If Wolfenstein 3D is the grandfather of first-person shooters, Doom and its even-better sequel, Doom II, are the twin fathers of the genre. They popularized the first-person shooter format. It’s mind-boggling that no toy company has seen fit to pay tribute to its legacy with a line of action figures. Yes, we want the Doomguy, but we also need figures of every damn monster in the games, from the Imp to the little pinky demons to the red flying balloons (Cacodemons) to the Cyberdemon (pictured above) to that giant crazy spider-y thing that looked kind of like Mojo from X-Men. The third game eschewed the bullet-spraying madness and was more of a survival horror title, but there’s a fourth Doom in development that reportedly gets back to basics. Maybe when that game comes out, we’ll finally get the Doom action figures we’ve always wanted.