Hall of Fame special: the 11 best toys of Christmas past

Remember these? The Stuff team celebrates the forgotten stars of its childhood Christmas mornings...
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As a kid, Christmas is always the highlight of your year.

And while Madcap Marathon sessions and ill-fitting jumpers play fine supporting roles, the main event is always that one big toy. 

Usually spotted in the Argos catalogue, it was undoubtedly a pile of plastic tat - and all the better for it.

In fact, if it didn't have whopping great labels on the box shouting "Real FX noises!", "Flashing lights!" and "Die-cast parts!" then it wasn't a proper present at all.

So, grab a mulled wine, curl up by the fire and prepare to reminisce: here are some of the Stuff teams's all-time festive favourites.

Tomytronic 3D, 1983 (Richard Purvis, Production Editor)

Christmas 1983. The Flying Pickets were on Top of the Pops with their smash hit ‘Only You’. Superman was about to start on ITV. But I wasn’t really there with the rest of the family, in the front room. No, I was a fearless space captain fighting off legions of baddie aliens. In 3D.

A full 33 years before Oculus Rift and HTC Vive introduced a new generation to virtual reality, the Tomytronic 3D cast a spell across young gamers everywhere. Alright, so this wasn’t virtual reality - it was a sort of pseudo 3D. But it sure felt real enough to eight-year-old me.

A sort of binocular-style handheld, you looked through the Tomytronic 3D’s two lenses and it served up a stereoscopic 3D images. This was 1983, remember, so with hindsight the games were incredibly limited - but then that was true of most games back then, and at least with the Tomytonic you felt properly immersed.

I say games, but each device only came with the one built-in option; if you wanted another game, you’d have to buy another handheld. But I didn’t care. I had Planet Zeon to conquer and on Christmas Day 1983, neither Top of the Pops or Superman was going to tear me away from it.

Star Wars AT-AT, 1981 (Fraser Macdonald, Consulting editor)

Probably in an attempt to encourage sibling co-play, my brother was given an AT-AT and me a Rebel Snowspeeder.

I don’t recall it working. I think we just stayed opposite sides of the room, conducting troop training scenarios and releasing propaganda about our readiness for a decisive offensive.

It was a kind of Hoth Cold War. Of course, I quietly craved that AT-AT, despite the fact that it was a slightly poor toy.

Hulking but largely static (like my brother), it often ended up as a centrepiece around which you based more dynamic activity.

M.A.S.K Boulder Hill, 1985 (Mark Wilson, Features editor)

Yes, Transformers was great, but there was something a bit cooler about M.A.S.K’s Bond-inspired morphing vehicles.

I was lucky enough to get both Raven (a black Chevy that turned into a seaplane) and Condor (a green motorbike with secret helicopter skills) for Christmas '86. And yet neither of those were a patch on M.A.S.K’s HQ and quite literal peak, Boulder Hill.

By day, it was a humble mountainside gas station. Nothing suspicious about that. But any hint of an attack by V.E.N.O.M (who could have kept a lower profile by not calling themselves the Vicious Evil Network of Mayhem) and you could get Buddie Hawks to engage ‘defence mode’.

Thanks to a series of levers, this meant the storefront flipping down to reveal a bunker, gas pumps turning into freeze cannons, and a neat trapdoor which saw figures falling into a little jail cell.

Despite all of this technology, Boulder Hill’s party trick was, naturally, a giant boulder that could be triggered to fall down onto armoured attack vehicles (or anyone unlucky to be filling up their truck with unleaded at the time).

Yep, my cousin's Boulder Hill was one of the few 80s toys I’d have gladly traded my A-Team van for.

Screwball Scramble, 1979 (Chris Rowlands, contributor)

Hit the timer. Up and down the ramps. Round the pivot. Across the crocodile lake. Along the platform. Hop, hop, hop up the steps. Through the mouth. Through the maze. Spin around. Into the catapult. DING, you’re done.

Screwball Scramble was a plastic challenge of adrenaline thumping pressure that didn’t need batteries, a screen or anything more than your fingers, small orange joysticks and a little metal ball.

And boy was it fun. If you've never tried to complete the dastardly thing whilst the click-clack timer was running, you’ve never felt true fear.

Anyone who’s played will be familiar with the angst of getting almost to the end, only for the catapult to fling the ball beyond the bell – not to mention that pesky maze.