Joytoy’s Warhammer 40,000 Line
It’s wild that we’ve had to wait this long for proper Warhammer action figures beyond the plastic hordes of miniatures Games Workshop releases. And while we’re blessed with McFarlane’s more traditional line of figures in recent years, JoyToy–the excellent mecha model manufacturer from China–has knocked it up another notch with its collector-focused line of figures. Incredible detail, tons of accessories, and unrivalled articulation made the line a must-collect for Warhammer fans even when it was primarily just Ultramarines. But now with Tau, Chaos, Grey Knights, Sisters of Battle, and even Necrons and more on the way, JoyToy is delivering the action figure line the Emperor himself couldn’t have dreamed of.
Lego Icons Galaxy Explorer
It’s easy to pinpoint when exactly Lego went from being just a building toy to a toy room staple that would spark imaginations for decades to come. It was in 1978 when the company released its space-themed building sets, showing kids their wildest imaginations could be brought to life through plastic bricks. The most iconic set in that collection was the Galaxy Explorer spaceship, which Lego resurrected, and updated, this year to help celebrate the company’s 90th birthday. The new 1,254-piece Galaxy Explorer shares the retro charms of the original with a blue, gray, and yellow color scheme, more complex features, and those classic astronaut minifigures.
Bandai’s HG The Witch From Mercury Gundam Model Kits
A new series of Gundam means new Gundam model kits, but the High Grade Line accompanying The Witch From Mercury has married an excellent translation of the show’s mecha designs into some of the smartest engineering Bandai has ever done in this 1/144-scale series. Simple yet clever, each build is a joyful breeze while being packed with little details that make the final product a joy to pose and play with–all for an average cost of around $10-15. They might take a little effort, but they’re more than worth it.
Playmobil Star Trek Klingon Bird of Prey
It was recently revealed that adults, specifically “kidults,” as marketers like to call them, are responsible for a quarter of all toy sales, spending around $9 billion on items they never intend to hand off to kids. That’s why you see companies like Playmobil now releasing $300 incredibly detailed replicas of Star Trek spaceships, including the perfect addition to any desk or shelf: a Klingon Bird-of-Prey. It’s got lights, it’s got sounds, and it also brings us our first Klingon Playmobil figures which somehow manage to make the aliens seem both fierce and adorable with their little clawed hands.
NECA Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin Figure
NECA has long been a master of all kinds of TMNT figures, but their faithful recreation of the titular sole hero in the amazing IDW graphic novel spinoff The Last Ronin is one of their best Turtles figures in years. It’s a fabulous recreation of the comic’s art style in 3D form, with a surprising amount of articulation packed into its bulky turtle frame and comics with a ton of comics-faithful accessories to boot, most of which can actually be stored on the figure itself. Fans have been dying for Last Ronin to get its time in the plastic spotlight, and this was well worth the wait.
Lego Transformers Optimus Prime
It’s hard to imagine a more perfect and irresistible mashup of ‘80s pop culture and toys than Lego releasing a 1,508-piece Optimus Prime. It’s like something engineered in a lab to lure ‘80s kids back into toy stores, and while Lego could have totally phoned this one in with Prime limited to either robot or truck mode, the fact that this model actually transforms, with a step-by-step process that’s almost identical to the original Transformers toy, makes this one of the best Lego sets of the year.
Hasbro Marvel Legends Spiral
Hasbro’s Marvel Legends line has gone from strength to strength this year, but it saved one of its finest for almost last: the recently released Uncanny X-Men Spiral. A cult favorite, obscure X-Men-affiliated villainess getting a modern action figure release after years is already a surprise, but Hasbro putting the love and care into Spiral as if she was the biggest name in comics is just fantastic. Eight pinless limbs between her six arms, a ton of accessories, and incredible articulation in spite of her wild design. Even if you aren’t super familiar with Spiral, the action figure is a delight to pose. The icing on the cake? Spiral costs just as much as every other Marvel Legends figure does these days–there’s no premium price bump for what is an absolutely premium figure.
Lego Icons Knights’ Castle
It was a crime against several generations of kids when Lego decided to dial back the releases and updates to its medieval castle line. It was one of the best things to ever come out of the ‘80s, and this year Lego seemingly realized this gross oversight and tried to right the wrong with the epic 4,514-piece Lion Knights’ Castle set. Easily the largest castle-themed set Lego has ever released, it includes everything from drawbridges, to Lego horses (which have also been missing for a while), to even the beloved forest people minifigures inspired by Robin Hood.
Bandai S.H. Figuarts Star Wars: Visions Karre and Am
Bandai’s Star Wars Figuarts have been quietly keeping on in a post-Rise of Skywalker world mostly by giving us as many versions of The Mandalorian as it can think of, but stepping out of its usual Star Wars comfort zone to lean on its expertise in the realm of anime figures for Star Wars Visions this year gave us Karre and Am, the deuteragonists of Trigger’s epic Visions short “The Twins,” and in the process the best Star Wars toys in years. The faithful adaptation of the short’s aesthetic, the posing, it’s all well done on both figures–but a special shout out has to go to Am, not just for her wired cloth cape, but how her figure also incorporates her articulated extra lightsaber arms as an optional piece. Wild stuff for some suitably wild characters!
Lego Atari 2600
While it doesn’t have the amazing, game-playing TV that came with its classic Nintendo replica, Lego’s incredible Atari 2600 made up for it with just about everything else. Almost exactly the same size as the original, and featuring the same springy toggle switches, awkward controller, and faux wood front, the Atari is a wonderfully satisfying build, replicating the adorably primitive electronic guts of the venerable video game console, but also a hidden, perfect diorama of an ‘80s kid playing an Atari in his den. Plus, it comes with cartridges, an incredibly authentic cartridge case, and three small sets depicting 3D versions of the cover art of classic games Adventure, Centipede, and Asteroids.
Medicom MAFEX Spider-Man (Comic Book Colors)
Medicom’s long line of MAFEX Spider-heroes has given us so many Peters, and Mileses, and Gwens, and hell, even a Ben, but its latest Spider-Man brings it back to the classic look, bright blues and reds, with all the articulation and alternate accessories you’ve come to expect from the line. It’s the ultimate classic comics Spidey (albeit with a bit of that ‘90s style flare, especially in the giant mask eyes) in figure form, and the culmination of everything Medicom has done in the Spider-Verse so far put into a single figure. This year was Spidey’s 60th anniversary, and he got a lot of great figures–like Hasbro’s excellent Renew Your Vows set this summer–but this is the best of the best.