The Best 80s LEGO sets

The Best 80s LEGO Sets: Radical Bricks

Latest posts by Logan Boese (see all)

The eighties were a time of neon lights, loud music, and changing perceptions. Where the seventies were a time of pastels and abstractions, the eighties were about the angles and electric shades of otherwise typical colors. At least, that’s the impression I get from old cartoons. 

I just barely missed out on the eighties. 

However, my mother was going through her twenties then, and she was fond of telling me, “They were so much better!” I don’t know about that, (but if the fashions were anything to judge by, I highly doubt it). However, many of the Hand-Me-Down Lego sets I played with came from that time.

In retrospect, my mother was a nerd who proudly bought LEGO in her twenties, so maybe I didn’t need the quip about fashion. 

I’m kidding. I’M a nerd who proudly buys LEGO in my twenties and into my thirties. The only difference between then and now is that it wasn’t considered socially acceptable in the eighties. Nerds make the world go around. We proudly enjoy our hobbies, and we make no bones about it.  

Also read: The Best 70s LEGO Sets: Snapping to the Groove


So what makes a LEGO set from the eighties totally tubular? The answer comes down to about four things.


LEGO sets are unique; the more you have, the more complex you can make your designs. If a set has more pieces, it will get a higher place on the list. 


The eighties were a time that was all about reinvention. LEGO had the same spirit. If the set was more inspired or inspired by the builder to create something better, then it’s gonna get a higher place on the list. 


LEGO turned fifty in the eighties. Five decades of business meant that it had released hundreds of LEGO sets, and they’d covered a wide range of topics. Sets that still pushed the envelope or otherwise assured their place in the LEGO history books will get the recognition they deserve. 


This category is much more challenging to define. Essentially, if I like something, it’s gonna get rated higher. I’m opinionated and not afraid to share any of them. I’m also writing the list, so I will do what I want with it. If you don’t like that? Gag me with a spoon! …I shouldn’t use slang.  

Bottom Line Up Front: The Robot Command Center is one of the most eighties things I’ve ever seen. It’s colorful. It has a lot of bricks and minifigs with it. It makes absolutely no sense and is incredibly overdesigned. It would have been hard for LEGO to create a more eighties LEGO set if they had tried. 

Now, onwards to the past!

The Best 80s LEGO Sets

20.) Santa with Reindeer and Sleigh

LEGO Santa with Reindeer and Sleigh
  • Theme: None
  • Year Released: 1989
  • Pieces: 63
  • Minifigs Included: 0
  • Approximate Skill Level: Beginner

This isn’t the most realistic portrayal of Santa that LEGO has ever done, but what would the fun in that be?

I think the Santa in this build is cute, with his little circled mouth. There’s something that feels very appropriate about building him out of LEGO bricks rather than using a minifig to make the jolliest elf.

Santa’s a cheery fellow representing a much grander ideal, so it makes sense that his LEGO set would do the same. 

It’s a comparatively simple design, but there’s nothing wrong with that. It does what it needs to. The reindeer wearing a Santa hat is just some icing on the cake!  

19.) Galactic Peace Keeper

LEGO Galactic Peace Keeper set 6886
  • Theme: Space
  • Year Released: 1989
  • Pieces: 121
  • Minifigs Included: 2
  • Approximate Skill Level: Beginner

Here we see some top-quality eighties cheese in action. 

Science fiction wasn’t created in the eighties, but the eighties was when it really blossomed. The eighties gave us many quotable lines from movies that are referenced and memed constantly. Low-budget space flicks with titles like The Ice Pirates, Galaxina, and Space Police were churned out by the dozens. 

The fact that that last one was also the name of a LEGO line is probably a complete coincidence. 

Regardless, this design indulges in all the best eighties tropes. It’s got a spaceship that skirts the line between believability and nonsensical.

It has cannons, though fewer than the nineties would have given it. It also indulges in Star Wars’ tradition of making the mundane magical with lasers by having laser beam prison bars! 

I also was always partial to the angles of the cockpit hatch as well as the color scheme of the spaceship. 

18.) Smuggler’s Hayride

LEGO Smuggler's hayride set 6077
  • Theme: Castle (Forestmen)
  • Year Released: 1989
  • Pieces: 49
  • Minifigs Included: 2
  • Approximate Skill Level: Beginner

I’ve made it no secret that I’m a big LEGO’s Castle theme fan. It’s my absolute favorite. It has everything! Swords, knights, dragons, wizards, and friendly outlaws who like to hide in hay bales every so often. 

That may sound niche. That’s because it is. But to be fair, Robin Hood stories had been told for five-hundred years, so finding something niche about them was an accomplishment in and of itself. 

This set includes two minifigs and a horse. The rest of it comprises the pieces for the cart, most of which are unique to this set. That’s part of what I find so interesting about it. The only standard LEGO bricks used in it are the yellow bricks that are supposed to represent hay bales.

It’s so bizarre for LEGO, especially at the time, that I can’t look away. 

17.) Renegade

LEGO Renegade set 6954
  • Theme: Space
  • Year Released: 1987
  • Pieces: 313
  • Minifigs Included: 2
  • Approximate Skill Level: Advanced

If Batman had built a spaceship, it would probably look like this. 

The Renegade is LEGO diving straight into the realm of Science Fantasy. Where the Galactic Peace Keeper straddled the line between believable and not, the Renegade gleefully jumps over it and doesn’t look back. 

It’s the first in a subtheme called “Blacktron,” a line designed to take their popular cops and robbers themes into space. Blacktron were the robbers, released a little while before their rivals, the Space Police. 

Blacktron establishes some patterns that would be followed for a decade and a half. Namely, it features a modular design that can be taken apart and recombined.

Now, that’s LEGO’s bread and butter, but what’s interesting about this line is that they aren’t just designed to combine with themselves and other sets in the line. 

LEGO may not have released a Voltron set (yet! Fingers crossed), but they were clearly paying attention to how popular that was.  

16.) Knight’s Joust

LEGO Knight's joust set 383/6083
  • Theme: Castle
  • Year Released: 1981
  • Pieces: 211
  • Minifigs Included: 6
  • Approximate Skill Level: Beginner

This set is me cheating just a little bit.

This is a rerelease of a set that emerged in the late seventies. It only has a few updates to the design. There’s like two or three extra pieces in the collection. The colors are also a little brighter in the bricks themselves, but that could be my memory literally coloring reality.

Still, both releases are solid. It depicts two knights squaring off and preparing for a good old-fashioned joust.

This is before the introduction of the horse minifigs, so the horses are made of more common bricks, except for one of the caparisons. (That’s the word for the livery horses worse at the time.) The black horse has common brick shapes but with unique designs printed on them. 

Meanwhile, the great king sits and- 

Okay. So that’s not a king, but he’s sitting in the king’s place. He looks more like his name is Bill or Steve. Regardless, hopefully, the excellent King Steve is enjoying the show. 

15.) Guarded Inn

LEGO Guarded inn set 6067
  • Theme: Castle (Lion Knights)
  • Year Released: 1986
  • Pieces: 230
  • Minifigs Included: 4
  • Approximate Skill Level: Beginner

Knights had to travel many leagues to compete in tournaments. Many of them didn’t have friends or relatives to stay with. Those that didn’t have other options would end up lodging in an inn. 

Such is the case with this common house. 

It’s small enough that it’s more representative than accurate, but it does the job admirably. It has a main building and a stable for the knight’s horse. It also has two staff members in livery carrying weapons. That’s how you know the inn or its owner is particularly prominent. 

I also love that the inn is made up of colorful bricks. It really makes it pop in a way you might not expect. 

14.) XT Starship

LEGO XT starship set 63780
  • Theme: Space
  • Year Released: 1986
  • Pieces: 201
  • Minifigs Included: 1
  • Approximate Skill Level: Moderate

LEGO was never a company content to rest on its laurels. 

By 1986, it had been in business for over fifty years and wanted to give its tried and true building system some flash. It wanted to compete with other electronic toys on the market and, if they were lucky, teach kids a little about how wiring worked. 

It wasn’t extravagant (Minecraft has the option for much more complexity), but it WAS functional. There was a switch that could be flicked to change the polarity (bonus points if you get why that’s funny,) and if you repositioned a particular brick, it would do the same thing. 

This set has the Space-themed version of the light and sound bricks. The lights didn’t differ, but the sounds varied between the two themes. 

It only loses points because it’s a standard design if you ignore the extra bells and whistles. It makes sense, you don’t want to get TOO experimental, or people might have thought they’d returned to the seventies. 

13.) Town Square Castle

LEGO Town square castle set 1592
  • Theme: Town
  • Year Released: 1980
  • Pieces: 471
  • Minifigs Included: 11
  • Approximate Skill Level: Beginner

This set is called “Town Square Castle,” As a child, I was baffled why there was a castle with knights and a turn-of-the-century car. It wasn’t until I saw modern-day London on television that I understood why. 

I grew up in rural Kansas. It had tons of farms but no buildings older than two hundred years. (At least, none that were advertised or recognized.)

Now, as a grown-up, I understand the difference between a country colonized a few hundred years back and one with millennia of history that could still be seen through the modern trappings, as this set demonstrates. 

It could also be a secret Renaissance Faire set.

12.) Little People

LEGO Little people set 1066
  • Theme: DACTA
  • Year Released: 1982
  • Pieces: 138
  • Minifigs Included: 36
  • Approximate Skill Level: Beginner

By the eighties, LEGO had truly embraced the minifig as one of the central points of their designs. Most builds were scaled to their size. There were accessories for the different figures to hold that increased their immersion potential, and most sets included at least one. 

This one includes ONLY minifigs and the accessories that went with them. 

It included characters in many different outfits, with different hair pieces and different helmets. There were chefs, police officers, firefighters, and all manner of other professions in this set. It was basically every minifig a person needed to populate the average town. 

11.) Cosmic Cruiser

LEGO Cosmic cruiser set 6890
  • Theme: Space
  • Year Released: 1982
  • Pieces: 115
  • Minifigs Included: 1
  • Approximate Skill Level: Beginner

Earlier in the eighties, LEGO hadn’t decided to get quite so “out there” with their space line yet. The builds at this point weren’t quite so specialized or experimental, but that didn’t make them any less.

I wanted to give this set some attention because it might look a little more “boring” than others on this list. It doesn’t have lights or sounds. It doesn’t have flashy colors or a modular design. It doesn’t even have many specialized bricks. I don’t consider that a bad thing, though. 

All of the other stuff IS very cool. It’s also pretty fun to play with. But this set uses common bricks to build something extraordinary. It takes standard elements and makes a neat little spaceship. 

That’s what LEGO is all about, and it’s elegant in its simplicity. 

10.) Galaxy Commander

LEGO Galaxy commander set 6980
  • Theme: Space
  • Year Released: 1983
  • Pieces: 443
  • Minifigs Included: 5
  • Approximate Skill Level: Advanced

This one is very like the one above, except bigger. 

The most unique piece in this set is the hinged hatches for the cockpits and the circular satellite piece. The rest is just blue and white pieces making something that looks like it could have a home in any number of science-fiction franchises.

I’m not much for asymmetrical designs for spaceships from Earth. I don’t like the aesthetics, and most of our real-life spacecraft have been pretty symmetrical to be aerodynamic enough to escape the atmosphere. This one splits that difference. 

It’s got two cockpits equidistant from each other on a symmetrical design. I don’t know what benefit a second cockpit has, but it doesn’t matter if it looks cool and fires up the imagination. 

9.) Wind-Up Motor

LEGO Wind-up motor set 890
  • Theme: None
  • Year Released: 1981
  • Pieces: 10
  • Minifigs Included: None
  • Approximate Skill Level: Beginner

This is an earlier attempt to tap into the same vein as the lights and sound system. 

It’s a small motor, but it’s powerful. The wind-up gears inside could power a locomotive built on top of it and pull a small train behind it. It would give out if you expected too much of it (I burned out the two my mother gave me in a couple of years). 

It also lets you build a car on top of it that would move and drive. The steepled design of the brick base is awkward, but that could be mostly worked around or built upon. 

The real value of this is the kinds of builds it lets you make. It was aspirational in the same way that many other automotive toys were. It allowed a child to create something that reliably moved other LEGOs around. 

8.) Basic Building Set 5

LEGO Basic Building Set 599
  • Theme: None
  • Year Released: 1982
  • Pieces: 782
  • Minifigs Included: 3
  • Approximate Skill Level: Any

Something important to remember is that LEGO was built upon the idea of building. Lights, sounds, and motors are all charming compliments, but they don’t make LEGO a great toy. 

LEGO is a great toy because it lets people use their imagination to build their toys. It allows people to make creations that are only limited by their creativity and the number of bricks they have on hand. 

So what’s the easiest way to expand someone’s versatility with LEGO? Give them more bricks! That’s what this set did. 

It gave you more than seven-hundred LEGO bricks of all shapes, sizes, and colors (and 3 minifigs) to make whatever your heart desired. Honestly, this set would take the number one slot if I wasn’t so biased toward other things. 

7.) Knight’s Challenge

LEGO Knight's Challenge set 1584
  • Theme: Castle (Lion Knights)
  • Year Released: 1988
  • Pieces: 132
  • Minifigs Included: 8
  • Approximate Skill Level: Moderate

Interesting fact: This set inspired me to learn about heraldry. 

I had dozens of LEGO sets growing up. Some had been bought for me, and some that my mother had handed down to me.

This was most definitely the latter, but it was only after I’d played with a more modern set that something struck me about the two. The other LEGO knights had shields and flags emblazoned with a dragon design. 

These had a lion. 

I asked my mother why they’d changed the designs and, true to form, rather than just saying something like “Things change” or “to sell different sets,” she said, “because they’re from different kingdoms.”

That blew eight-year-old Logan’s mind! The next time I was at the library, I dove into books about medieval history and learned all about the different symbols and patterns that kingdoms used to separate themselves from each other. 

The set itself is delightful. It shows not just a surprisingly accurate tilting field but also some of the other features that would be prominent in a medieval tournament. 

6.) Knight’s Castle

LEGO Knight's Castle set 6073
  • Theme: Castle (Black Falcons)
  • Year Released: 1984
  • Pieces: 408
  • Minifigs Included: 6
  • Approximate Skill Level: Moderate

This is one of the smaller castle designs that LEGO has put out. At least, it’s one of the smaller sets that makes a “complete” castle. 

A few knights and horses can ride over the working drawbridge as they go out to war on their neighbors, the Lion Knights. This is LEGO playing with heraldry, as I discussed earlier. The soldiers in this castle have black and white birds on their shields, marking them a part of the Black Falcon faction. 

The castle they guard is a very small example of a stone keep the design, and the bricks it’s comprised of are in standard shapes and colors. Not every soldier in this set is a knight, however. The folks manning the walls are more “common” soldiers (probably archers or crossbowmen). 

It also has hinges built into the design to let parts of the walls swing out. Not great for defense, but excellent to open the castle up and allow for more accessible play inside.  

5.) Black Monarch’s Castle

LEGO Black monarchs castle set 6085
  • Theme: Castle
  • Year Released: 1988
  • Pieces:  702
  • Minifigs Included: 12
  • Approximate Skill Level: Advanced

This set has a lot in common with the Knight’s Castle above. 

It’s a little bigger, and it includes some more minifigs. However, absolutely everything I said about that one is also true with this set. 

This one gets a few bonus points because it’s more extensive, and, honestly, because it’s painted black, which makes my little goth heart happy. 

4.) Forestmen’s River Fortress

LEGO Forestmen's River Fortress set 6077
  • Theme: Castle
  • Year Released: 1989
  • Pieces: 357
  • Minifigs Included: 6
  • Approximate Skill Level: Advanced

Robin Hood movies are nothing new, but the two that modern audiences are familiar with are still far in the future. 

That didn’t stop LEGO from creating something that looked like it would have been at home in Men in Tights

Six merry men sit in their forest keep as they wait for Robin to return (probably from hiding in some hay bales). The Sheriff of Nottingham has found them, but they won’t go down without a fight!

The trees are made up of large, singular pieces, so they can only be used for large trees. The good news is that large trees are pretty common sights, so they’ll fit in many builds.  


LEGO UNICEF Van set 106
  • Theme: Town
  • Year Released: 1985
  • Pieces: 59
  • Minifigs Included: 1
  • Approximate Skill Level: Beginner

I didn’t even have this LEGO figure growing up, but I included it because this is a really cool thing for LEGO to have even created. 

It celebrates the workers of UNICEF, a nonprofit that has done many great things. Is UNICEF perfect? Gods No! It’s had many controversies in the seventy years it’s been active. Recent years have brought a lot of problems with the organization to light. 

Much of that wasn’t known to the average person in the eighties. UNICEF was considered by many to be an outstanding organization. Growing up, many of my VHS tapes had advertisements for “Trick or Treat for UNICEF” and other ways kids could help the nonprofit. 

In short, it’s very eighties.

2.) Solar Power Transporter

LEGO Solar Power Transporter set 6952
  • Theme: Space
  • Year Released: 1985
  • Pieces: 317
  • Minifigs Included: 5
  • Approximate Skill Level: Beginner

Now we’re talking about aspirations. 

This doesn’t exactly look like anything. In fact, it’s pretty confusing overall. It might have just had the name attached when they couldn’t think of anything better for the design. 

But I don’t want to believe that. 

I want to believe that this is meant to represent a machine that collects power from the sun, then carries it back, and offloads it at an energy station in a renewable energy chain. Because that makes me happy to believe.

LEGO should be about optimism. 

1.) Robot Command Center

LEGO Robot command center set 6951
  • Theme: Space
  • Year Released: 1984
  • Pieces: 295
  • Minifigs Included: 3
  • Approximate Skill Level: Advanced

When it comes to science fiction, there are a few subcategories. One of the main differences is “How believable is the science involved?” 

That applies to the science that runs the universe and all the ship and robot designs. If something hews pretty closely to observable, believable principles, that’s called “hard science fiction.” Ringworld is an excellent example of this.

If something is still concerned about making it at least SOUND believable but allows for artistic license, that’s the kind of “science fiction” that most people are familiar with. It’s where you have your Star Trek, Babylon 5, and Stargate.  

If something has no regard for science but still wants the trappings, that’s where you get “Science Fantasy.” Things like Star Wars and Doctor Who. 

Then you have things like this. Which goes beyond even that and straight to a realm of silliness that’s difficult to comprehend. This “robot” command center can roll, has highly movable arms, a bunch of different ships, and is humanoid-shaped for some reason. 

It makes no sense and is just the pinnacle of eighties cheese, and I love it. 


The eighties didn’t always make sense. They were loud, obnoxious, and starting the trend of magnifying everything that would lead to the “EXTREME” Nineties. 

The difference is that the eighties’ loudness and obnoxiousness had a point. It was a celebration of being able to get loud. It was revelry in the ability to be as obnoxious and eye-grabbing as possible after the drabness of the sixties and the abstraction of the seventies. 

LEGO understood that and made sets that perfectly captured a society that was just starting to understand the word “Zeitgeist.”

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