Action Man is back, and he isn’t the only retro action figure you’ll see on the shelves of toy shops in the lead-up to Christmas. Stretch Armstrong and Thunderbirds are among the other blasts from the past that will bring nostalgia to grown-ups and fresh joy to a whole new generation. Our round-up includes the best of them, along with all our favourite action figures that have no connection with the past whatsoever. While some are reassuringly basic, encouraging imaginative play, others are exceptionally advanced.
1. Star Wars Interactech Imperial Stormtrooper Figure: £34.99, Argos
Stormtroopers have made popular action figures since 1977, when they appeared in the first Star Wars film. But we’ve never come across one quite as advanced as this, with over 50 sound effects, including spoken phrases. Our mini testers also loved the built-in sensor which makes it respond to your movements. If you want true play value from your action figure, this is fantastic.
2. Danger Mouse Talk & Pose Action Figure: £18.99, Tesco
The wonderfully bizarre adventures of secret agent Danger Mouse and his sidekick Baron Greenback have returned to children’s telly for the first time since the Eighties. This action figure celebrates his comeback and has an eyepatch that glows in the dark, a voice that repeats phrases from the series, a removable jet pack and a button to raise his arm.
3. Stretch Armstrong: £19.99, Argos
This is hands-down the stretchiest action figure of all time, stretching to four times his normal size. Kids will love extending and pulling him, as well as tying him in knots, then marvel when he uses his super strength to return to his original shape. Meanwhile, adults will enjoy the nostalgia of remembering him from the first time round.
4. Disney Frozen Northern Lights Elsa Doll: £28.49, Tesco
Disney film Frozen seems to live on and on, with the main character Elsa having become one of the most popular Disney characters of all time. New for this year, this doll says 40 phrases, as well as singing and lighting up - you certainly get your money’s worth when it comes to extra bells and whistles.
5. Stargazer Lottie Doll: £20, Natural History Museum
Lottie dolls were launched as an antithesis to Barbie, with an age-appropriate body shape and clothing, rather than some warped perception of femininity. There have been various versions, including lighthouse keeper and fossil hunter, but we love the new stargazing version, inspired by a real six-year-old girl and is the first doll to have entered space (on a mission with British astronaut Tim Peake). You can collect extra outfits for her too.
6. Bob the Builder Action Figure, Assorted: £7.99, John Lewis
Bob has been a much-loved part of children’s television since the late 90s, with most people being more familiar than they’d like to be with his theme song. This action figure is one of three in the range – Lumberjack Bob with a chainsaw, Repair and Build Bob, with a drill, and Rock Splitting Bob with a ground drill. You can’t request which one you get sent but they’re all great fun to play with anyway.
7. Batman vs Superman Superman Figure: £34.99, Early Learning Centre
Standing at 31 inches tall, this is one of the largest action figures we’ve come across, making littluns’ eyes light up all the more when they see it in real life. We love the real fabric cape and there’s also a Batman version available. It’s very well made too, so will act as a great hand-me-down toy.
8. Marvel Super Hero Mashers Basic Action Figures: £12.99, Early Learning Centre
You get one of your favourite Marvel characters in the pack, and if you buy more than one, you can combine parts from both to create your very own super hero. As that’s the aspect that our little testers told us they liked best, be warned you’ll probably need to spend double bubble to make this really worthwhile.
9. Action Man 50th Anniversary Edition Footballer: £34.99, Amazon
Action Man has returned, and while there is of course the obligatory soldier version, we rather like the footballer. Look out for his signature scar and if he’s a hit with the kids, watch out for others in the range launching later this year, including scuba diver, paratrooper, ski patrol and British infantryman.
10. Thunderbirds Brains and Max Action Figures Twin Pack: £14.97, John Lewis
You’ll have spotted the retro theme for action figures this year, with this toy providing yet more nostalgia for parents (and even grandparents), while giving youngsters hours of fun with Brains and his robot helper Max, taken from the TV programme that was first launched in 1965.
11. Rogue One K-2SO Big Figure: £14.99, Amazon
Another big’un, this action figure – which comes from Star Wars Episode Rogue One - stands at 20 inches tall and has a huge amount of detail, making it a fabulous collector’s toy, with a lot of play value for children of all ages.
The Verdict: Action figures
For an all-singing-all-dancing action figure, kids will love the Star Wars Interactech Imperial Stormtrooper and Disney Frozen Lights Elsa Doll. For retro-fun, we think Stretch Armstrong and Action Man 50th Anniversary Footballer are fabulous. And if you want a toy that breaks old-fashioned gender stereotyping, our vote goes to the Stargazer Lottie Doll.