10 best Lego sets for adults who need a nostalgia fix

With the brand’s ever-expanding range of sets for grown-ups, we’ve found the ones you should try

Peter Jenkinson
Tuesday 16 March 2021 17:32
<p>Prices vary hugely for mature builds, from the low tens right up to £500 plus</p>

Prices vary hugely for mature builds, from the low tens right up to £500 plus

There’s a well-established network of adults who can’t get enough of the Danish brick. Their online groups share the same acronym – AFOLs – Adult Fans of Lego. They collaborate across hundreds of online groups, build epic structures of their own, share them with others and take inspiration from each other.

Lego has an ever-expanding range of sets with 18+ on the box, aside these its Creator, Technic and Ultimate Collector sets are the more detailed and intricate builds with the latter certainly in the upper-echelons of pricing.

Over the past year Lego has certainly concentrated more efforts on its grown-up sets, but never in its history has Lego put so much effort into appealing to its more mature audience.

These sets aimed at this growing market do command higher prices but do offer completed sets that these kidults will be proud to have out on display, very shelf-worthy builds indeed.

Over at company HQ in Billund, Denmark they take this category of Lego fan, whether it’s those with a cast of thousands of pieces in a dedicated room to those just after the occasional nostalgia fix, seriously. Altough the range of sets aimed squarely at adults has grown plenty of late, though, of course kids are allowed to join in the build, remember children, these sets ultimately belong to us.

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Graham Hancock, editor of Blocks Magazine told us: “Lego as a hobby for adults continues to be popular for a few reasons – the main one is that it is a physical, tactile way to create with no need for tools or special knowledge. Anyone can pick up a box of Lego elements (basic bricks) and create something. It also has that connection with childhood, allowing us to slip back to a time when we were a little more imaginative”.

Choosing the sets to put to test was no mean feat, but we wanted to look at the widest price ranges on offer and show the variety and complexity of builds too. We tested ten sets; from the nostalgic to the ones that, once built, we’d enjoy seeing on-the-shelf every day. Prices vary hugely, from the low tens right up to £500 plus, and there’s certainly a set to be found for all budgets.

We’ve had huge fun and many long sessions of putting these together, we did use the included paper-based plans for ours but you can download build-instructions to your tablet or phone should you prefer. These are some of the most outstanding sets for the kidults among us.

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Lego Creator expert bonsai tree set for adults

With a commitment to make all of its packaging non-plastic by 2025 and every single brick the same by 2030, Lego is certainly leading the toy market in the sustainability play. These plant-based bricks are created from sugar-cane and one of its ranges that celebrates a foray into this non-oil-based future is the botanical range.

We’ve built one of its flower bouquets (£45, Argos.co.uk) which are superb and of course last longer than a normal bunch from the petrol station. This one took us four hours to build, 878 pieces in total, lots of the elements quite small yet these give it the dramatic final effect. It also comes with a spare set of leaves for an alternative cherry blossom look. We especially enjoyed putting together the pot and highly effective slatted wooden base. We’re going to need more shelf space, perhaps those wedding pictures should finally come down.

Lego Ghostbusters set

Among the list of delayed film releases is “Ghostbusters: Afterlife”, now set for June2021, so in the interim might we suggest you revisit the classic 1984 version and build the ride of this trio of eccentric parapsychologists. We were enamoured with the box immediately, and its 2,352 pieces split into 23 bags.

We were a little disappointed at the absence of any mini figures in the set and the sticker pack includes too many rust-details for the car panels but, overall, it looks great. It is now proudly sat upon our shelf for anyone who goes near it to utter “Who you gonna call?” – the set that keeps on giving.

This is certainly an adult build, some parts are repetitive as they should be to give structure but there are lots of smaller elements, which we love, as they give this ride an absolute edge but make it too intricate for unaccomplished kids. We enjoyed putting together some of the moving elements in this build namely the gunners chair which is one of the few areas this ECTO-1 varies from the original, a swing out seat, manually operated, to get closer to the ghosts whilst travelling at speed.

Lego Star Wars Stormtrooper helmet display set

With the help of an 11-year-old Star Wars nut, we finished this in less than four hours, enough time to enjoy at least a couple of your favourite deep-space franchises. It can be a tad fiddly at times and the finished build isn’t really as big as we would’ve liked, but the detail and the overall look take top marks.

We were a little disappointed that the end result wasn’t, as stated, 18cm high – the dimensions displayed are for the box and not the finished model. This range of helmets includes a Tie Fighter and Boba Fett, all the same dimensions, this one by far the best of the trio. Not a complicated build at all, one they’ve pushed into their 18+ range to grab that kidult coin we think.

Lego Architecture Trafalgar Square

Forming part of an ever-expanding Architecture category from Lego, we chose to build this one as it used to form part of our daily work to work. The Architecture collection is well worth a look as there are lots of other landmarks and city scenes available to ease your lockdown/not-getting-on-an-aeroplane blues.

The build takes a few hours – with 1,197 pieces in total, and some a bit tricky – but it is a fun one as the details are fantastic. The waterfall fountains are among our favourites, but when you turn the set around you’re offered a glimpse into the artwork inside the National Gallery which is the main building at the back. We’ve been showing this off on Zoom calls recently to many “oohs” and “ahhs”.

Lego Ideas ship in a bottle collectors building set

Created as part of its ever expanding Ideas catalogue where fans submit builds then Lego considers them after they reach 10,000 votes. This was one of the early ones to make it to production.

The build takes 987 pieces, which sounds plenty to create a finished 10cm high build, but 284 of those pieces are little blue dots that make the water at the bottom of the bottle. It took us about a day to complete, featuring three masts with crows’ nests and printed sails, cannons that stick through gun ports and, best of all for us, the buildable cork with a red printed wax seal.

Lego Nintendo entertainment system

Inspired by the first outing of the mushroom bashing plumber, this collaboration between Lego and Nintendo is one of the best yet. The 2,646-piece build isn’t so challenging, our excitement at seeing this retro set complete meant it was one of your quickest finishes at about two hours. The final reveal gives you a revolving TV screen surface which you wind from the side to see the eight-bit Mario jump around on the screen. You also get to load a Lego game into the retro console unit, even the TV itself is styled on a 1985 set. In essence, it all comes together perfectly.

There is another set you can buy with an interactive Mario inside – when this is placed on the top of the TV set adds sounds and other effects. This set sits proudly on display and it’s hard not to pass it by without giving the screen a twirl.

Lego Creator porsche 911

You may well, as we did, hanker after one of these speed machines back in the day. A true classic, where its early shape is celebrated here with the visible engine build in the boot, rubber spoiler detail and loads of stuff to see inside the so-called cockpit.

Overall it is an interesting build, took a couple of days in total for the 1,458 pieces to get put together. What we love is that you can see it coming into shape almost from the first brick and each element such as building a seat, engine or the spoiler is really motivating. We had to slow ourselves down as we weren’t keen on it coming to an end but very glad when we did, the results are one of the best vehicles Lego has ever created.

Lego Ideas NASA Apollo Saturn V

Among the first ever Lego sets we can remember are from a few decades past when Lego released its first line-up of space related sets. This used to be where almost all brick-based adventures took place. These recent creations include a bigger Apollo landing module and an International Space Station – both great but not as impressive as building this metre-high rocket. 

At 1,900 pieces, we built each of the three rocket sections then pieced them together. Each one has different detail, so wasn’t at all tedious to build despite it all being largely white bricks. We’re looking to display this one on the wall to show off each section and then the mini lunar lander and mini figures can live beside it, such a delight to build and impressive in its final state.

Lego Creator colosseum

No doubt this is a fair chunk of change, but what we have here however, is the biggest set Lego has ever made. At 9,036 pieces it took us almost three weeks to build – a couple of hours each evening. If you sit down and fully focus you might manage it in under a week.

The end result is epic, so it is surely worth it. Some of the outer wall building can be a little arduous, and this is where you may call for assistance. Overall the detail is quite superb, our favourite bit being the hypogeum – an intricate labyrinth which runs beneath filled with tunnels and cages where they kept the gladiators and animals before contests. It certainly deserves its space on our front-room shelf, though we’re not sure we can watch any more repeats of Ben Hur or Gladiator, which we used to set the scene during the building shifts.

Inside the large box are four smaller boxes, building the base, which is very sturdy, as it should be to hold the amphitheatre in place. Then it is on to the inner-sanctum where most of the detail lies. We found this a tad tricky and scratched our heads at times as we tried to quicken our progress, finding that you really can’t with this set. Remember to pace yourself as it is a long way back if you make an error.

Lego Beatles wall art

We’re no huge Beatles fans but as part of another new category range from Lego, we  just had to give its wall art a try. And we must say, the fab four looked, well, fab. These sets allow you to create pixelated imagery of each of the members of the band. It’s quite fiddly to put together, one pixel at a time, with 2,933 pixels in total.

We went for George, who took over three hours, with the finished result turning out pretty well. When you get bored with one face, the same pixel stud Lego pieces re-combine to build any of the other members, making this a set with serious longevity. You can also buy sets to create your own face the same way, but we’re keen to try the Marilyn Monroe version.

The verdict: Adult Lego

We found it tough to choose between the Apollo Saturn V, an amazing display piece, and the bonsai tree that is just so stunning on display, very different indeed and appealing to different audiences. But, for us, the bonsai tree just pipped it to the post, thanks to its interchangeable leaves that are subtle yet stunning.

Keep yourself busy with the hardest jigsaw puzzles to complete while stuck at home

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