While action figures have been a mainstay of toy aisles for many years, not every toy line has had playsets. In the modern era, playsets have become a rarity due their shelf space usage and tooling costs.
To this end, we decided to pull together a panel of experts with a variety of backgrounds. Our panel included:
- Dave – host of the GI Joe podcast Flag Points and vintage toy aficionado
- Rich – host of the Planned Banter podcast and toy & movie reviewer at PlannedBanter.com
- Newton Gimmick – all around toy expert and editor of InfiniteHollywood.com
- John Vanover – Editor of TvAndFilmToys.com and co host of the Action Figure Blues Podcast
- Howie Decker – editor of UnderScoopFire
A highly scientific method was used to analyze everyone’s selections. A list was brainstormed with all of the popular playsets that seemed worthy of being in such a list. There were no restrictions here, anything could be added by anybody. Everyone then ranked their top ten from the list. These values were weighted and tabulated to get the final rankings.
A little side note on vehicles: The line between playset and vehicle is sometimes a bit blurry. For the purposes of this list a vehicle is something that could be actively and easily moved around. Some playsets could be a representation of a vehicle, but once you set it up, you typically wouldn’t move it.
25. The Defiant
This G.I. Joe playset depicts a Space Shuttle and its launch complex. Due to its immense size and number of pieces, it was almost mythical in the pre-internet days. Even today among G.I. Joe collectors, a complete Defiant set is rarely seen.
image courtesy ToyFusion.com
24. Mego Wayne Foundation
While sometimes called a ‘glorified Barbie Dream House’, this Mego playset was huge for its day. Instead of the vinyl and printed cardboard of the Batcave, this tall tower incorporated great Neal Adams comic art that gave each floor a purpose. Paired with cool accessories like the Batcomputer and a bookcase with a hidden compartment, this vintage set gave a lot of 70s kids a homebase for their Megos.
image courtesy BAT-BLOG.COM
23. Daily Bugle
Spider-Man is a superhero that really doesn’t have a homebase. He is known for climbing up buildings and fighting baddies high above the streets. The Daily Bugle playset rightly focuses on the outside of the building to give ol’ webhead a place to do what he does best.
image courtesy ActionToys.com
22. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Technodrome
Half tank and half Death Star, the Technodrome was the main hang out for the TMNT baddies. The playset version brings it to life with an opening design that features a ton of features from traps to a number of levels. Kowabunga! This was the set that ever kid wanted when it came out.
image courtesy 90smovies.net
21. Buffy Library
One of the signs of a great playset is when non-fans buy it to display other figures with. While one of the mainstay sets of the Buffy series, this library playset has been a stand in for a number of different scenes from the Avengers Mansion to Xavier’s School. And it doesn’t hurt it’s the perfect place for the Buffy Scooby Gang to hang out.
image courtesy toynewsi.com
20. WWF Backstage Brawl
There have been a number of wrestling playsets over the years, but a ring is a ring (or an octagon, or cage). However, if you want play out scenarios- backstage is where it happens. With a breakaway wall this set gives your wrestling figures an excellent backdrop when they aren’t in the ring.
image courtesy MrDandy.com
19. Ewok Village
Depending on when your Star Wars collecting began this might be the playset you most remember. Folks that were kids when Jedi came out tend to remember the Ewok Village with fond memories. With two levels and hero roasting fire, the village had the detail collectors love as well as fun features for kids.
image courtesy theswca.com
18. Playmates Enterprise D Bridge
When Playmates Toys was running strong with Star Trek TNG, they realized a lot of the action happened on the bridge. To that end, they created a figure-sized playset that had a 360° environment. The set contained all of the chairs and computer consoles depicted on the show. It even had levers that opened doors that could lead to the linkable Engineering Playset from ST: Generations. This playset is a fantastic display for your Playmates figures.
17. Super Powers Hall of Justice
The Hall of Justice is the mother of all superhero bases. The meeting house for all of DC’s heroes is loaded with fun. Who doesn’t love a computer and jail cells?
image courtesy antiquehelper.com
16. Masters of the Universe Fright Zone
With a name like Hordak, you need somewhere horrifying to hang out. In this case, the Fright Zone. While the spooky tree and prison cell add to the creep factor, the puppet dragon makes this set a classic.
image courtesy mastersunbound.com
15. Masters of the Universe Snake Mountain
Contrary to what a number of folks think, Snake Mountain is Skeletor’s lair, not the other castle (with the skull on it that looks like his face). This playset is a purple double-sided fold up affair. There are tons of creepy heads and faces sculpted into this thing, including the large demon head on the side of the set that combines with an “echo” microphone to let kids talk evil-ly through the castle.
image courtesy he-man.org
14. G.I. Joe Training Center
While not part of Joe’s soldier phase, this set has everything you need to train a soldier. Reminiscent of various war film training montages, this 12” Joe playset had everything from tires to run through to an awesome tower with a zip line. Everything a boy needed to train his Adventure heroes.
image courtesy Plaid Stallions
13. Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back Imperial Attack Base
This is one of those misnamed toys. Everybody knew the Rebels fought from the trenches that this set represents. Kenner probably didn’t want to show the good guys base being blown up. However, because of the great base nature of this playset, it was a favorite for kids. With action features and detailed ice and footprints, the Attack Base is frozen in collectors memories.
image courtesy StarWarsToyBox.com
12. Mego Star Trek Bridge
For young 70s sci-fi fans, the Mego Star Trek Bridge was the toy every kid wanted. While the set wasn’t screen accurate with very stylized art, the Transporter Room fascinated kids and adults alike on well-remembered TV commercials.
image courtesy Plaid Stallions
11. M.A.S.K. Boulder Hill
It’s a gas station by a mountain right? Nope! It’s Matt Trakker’s secret base. Like all of the MASK Items, Boulder Hill switches to an armored defensible base. The gas pumps even become guns! This playset probably would have cracked the top ten if it had been in 3.75” scale.
image courtesy Matt-Trakker.com