If I were to ask you how many different G.I. Joe characters there are, how many would you guess? When I first began researching the article, I found a list that said something like 163, which I found to be ludicrous. There is no way there can be that many Joe’s and Cobra members, no toy company puts that much effort into plastic beings that you clumsily clank together. In a way, I was right, there aren’t 163. Turns out the list I was looking at was exclusively of the Joe’s, and exclusively from the Real American Hero toy line. In reality, there is something around 528 different characters from multiple lines, including characters from the Joes and Cobra, and sometimes, the elusive third party member.
When there are this many Joe characters, it is going to be hard to narrow down just exactly which one’s make for the worst toys. Some guys, like Ship Wreck, seem like the low hanging fruit, and besides, that dumb idiot has already been in enough lists of dumb idiot toys. I’ve combed through as many Joe’s as I could before I went toy blind, and through my harrowing journey, I’ve come up with a comprehensive list of some of the stupidest toys to ever be released under the banner of G.I. Joe. If you are a devout Joe fan you might want to gird yourself, because even fan favorites aren’t safe from me criticizing them. And on that ominous note, away we go…
26 Hard To Beat
I honestly didn’t want to put any other toys on this list once I found Gristle, he’s so wonderfully awful. He is easily my favorite on this list, which means I should have put him at the other end of the list to make sure you keep scrolling, but I didn’t want to run the risk of you not seeing this abomination.
Nothing else properly encapsulates all the poor toy decision making of the 90s so much as Gristle.
He seems to be sporting more than one ponytail, which is how they let you know how much crime he commits. He also has those square sunglasses that people still insist are cool, but those people are fools. The painfully neon yellow gun that is bigger than most of his body is classic 90s overcompensation.
Bonus points for the dangerous fact that the gun genuinely shot its’ projectile over ten feet.
25 The Glamor Of Hiking
If you thought that the character named Outback would be a survivalist from Australia, congratulations, you are smarter than the people at Hasbro. While also a survivalist, he is just a shmuck from Wyoming. His whole claim to fame is that he teaches the Joes to survive in any harsh climate, which is super important and also super boring. Foraging through roots and rocks just so you can eat a half dead lizard isn’t something you do at playtime.
And in classic G.I. Joe subtlety, he simply wears a white t-shirt (scientifically hotter than a black shirt, so maybe don’t wear one in the dessert) with nothing but the word “SURVIVAL” on it, just in case it wasn’t clear what he was in charge of. And just to make sure that kids would never be able to enjoy this toy, they made sure his backpack contained nothing fun, and in fact didn’t even open.
24 There's So Much Wrong Here
There’s more stuff wrong with Banzai then there are things right. He’s a white dude who has decided to go with a Japanese codename, while also calling himself a ninja warrior. He also has a blonde ponytail, and this won’t be the last time I say that these things do not age well. They make him more like he’s having a midlife crisis than a hardened warrior that needs to be taken seriously. Let’s not overlook the fact that he is also pointlessly shiftless, especially for someone who seems to be especially proficient at close quarters combat.
The thing that bothered me the most, and this might just be because I’m a pretty devoted Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan, this is a transparent rip-off of Casey Jones. Yes, I’m basing this off the fact that they are both white dudes who are great at martial arts and wear off brand hockey masks.
23 Who Thought This Was A Good Idea?
If you can’t see why it was massively inappropriate to call an aboriginal personal “Spirit” then it is not the place of a writer for a comedic video game website to change your mind. Suffice to say, it isn’t the most open-minded approach as to the portrayal of a Native American person. Things get even worse when you realize that Spirit had access to a gun, but the gun was only capable of firing arrows, as if he couldn’t be trusted with a regular gun that fired regular bullets. Fur lined boots, long hair with a braid and a headband bring the whole stereotype together, and despite all of that, this was still a popular toy and character.
While I do believe that Native American’s don’t get enough representation in popular media, that doesn’t mean that I think it is ok to give them unfair representation. I guess progressiveness is a lot to ask from a toy brand.
22 So Close To Being Cool
There are a lot of elements at play here when we unpack why Big Boa is a dumb toy. On the surface, he has a spiked helmet, which is incredible. He’s also super buff, and wears boxing gloves. Some people might think that wearing boxing gloves can do nothing but protect Big Boa’s opponents, but the truth of the matter is, science now finds that the only thing that boxing gloves enable is for the person doling out the punches to be hit you in the face more times without damaging their hands.
He looks like he’s actually fairly afraid of being hurt.
Then the weird elements start to come into play, like the spiked chest straps, or the kneepads. The addition of those two things make him transition from an intimidating hard boiled muscle man, and a dude who desperately wants you to be afraid of him, so he googled “tough things” and strapped them to his body.
21 Sometimes Combining Two Cool Things Isn't A Good Thing
He’s part man, part machine, all soldier. That’s the same formula that worked for Robocop and I’m sure thinking that formula works across the board is all the thinking that went into designing Robo-Joe. Unfortunately, he looks more like a puffy steroid abuser with a Steampunk cosplay leaning. I couldn’t tell you why Robocop works and Robo-Joe doesn’t, but I can make a few guesses.
Robo-Joe, on paper, should be the coolest of the Joes.
The color scheme doesn’t exactly scream bleeding edge technology, unless he was made out of some lying around construction equipment. Also, why use metal and black materials for most of him, but suddenly gold for the face? There’s also the massive issue that with how swollen Robo-Joe looks, giving him the underwhelming, tiny weapons for him to hold make them look wildly out of place. A dude that big should be holding something that no non-robot would be even able to lift.
20 Full Of Holes
The villains before this were already over the top, so turning them into aliens felt just a little like desperation. That being said, aliens are fun, so they won’t be on this list because even the worst alien is still going to fun to play with in some way. No, Ozone makes the list because he was a guy that was supposed to operate in space, and his function was to clean the air.
The Star Brigade run of toys for G.I. Joe was a weird time.
The more science inclined readers might notice of all the things that is abundant in space, air is not one of them. But let’s say that this particular adventure was taking place on earth, where we have precious little air. Does this one bearded goofball have the lifesaving technology needed to remove pollutants to the air? And if so, why is it contained in one, ridiculous looking gun?
19 A Master Of Hypnosis, Not Shirts
Doctor Mindbender is one of the higher ups in the criminal organization that is Cobra. He’s actually pretty integral, helping brainwash influential figures all over the world. He’s been embroiled in some of their more successful plans, including something taking control of the free-will of their enemies, the G.I. Joes. But having a cool description card, and being accomplished in some of the comics or cartoon does not a fun toy make.
This is a guy who wears a monocle, which is more associated with the Monopoly guy and less with organized crime, despite what Oswald Cobblepot would have you believe. He is also doing that really creepy thing of wearing a duster without a shirt, which is a common sight in European dance clubs, but shouldn’t be the kind of outfit you see on a respected man of science. To cap it all off, he has that mustache, which is actually making me start to believe he might actually BE that Monopoly guy.
18 Burn This Bridge Behind You
This guy's name is Tollbooth, and I can’t think of something funnier I could say about him other than that. He wears a construction helmet, which isn’t the most fearsome hat out there. He also comes with pylons, and that is hilarious to me for reasons I can’t fully explain. Pylons are kind of funny on their own, but when someone is running around with the title Real American Hero and he’s whipping pylons all over the place, warning civilians of construction danger, that’s incredible.
Tollbooth is also pretty much only described as building bridges for the Joes, which seems useful, until you realize that almost all of them come with either grappling hooks or jetpacks. Or just flat out jets. That being said, as hilariously bad as this toy is, I would love to see Tollbooth run on the scene armed with nothing but a sledgehammer and knock out Cobra Commander.
17 Not Much Of A Disguise
You can put as many Zeds as you want into his name, it won't make up for the fact that he wouldn’t blend into crowd if his plastic life depended on it. Sure his face is interchangeable, but his hood isn’t, and he goes everywhere with that metal chest plate. And what purpose does the eyeshadow makeup add to his ability to disguise.
This may ruffle a few feathers to suggest something like this, but Zartan kind of sucks as a toy.
Even the toy itself knew that he couldn’t disguise himself all that well, and added the ability for him to change color when you add water to his skin. But do not think he turns into something cool; he instead simply turns a gross shade of green. The kind of green doesn’t make you think that he is trying to blend into foliage, but more that he just got some serious food poisoning.
16 Irrelevant In So Many Ways
There are probably a lot of our readers who don’t even know what a Dial-Tone even is. Simply put, it was the sound your phone would make when you picked it up off the hook. It’s how you would know it was one and working. It’s kind of a dated concept now, so it’s hard to imagine that anyone would name a toy after something that was so briefly relevant. I have no answer for that, nor do I have an answer as to why a toy maker would think kids would want to play with a soldier who basically just connects phone calls.
This isn’t to say that making radio contact isn’t an invaluable skill out on the battlefield, but it doesn’t seem like the kind of position which appeals to kids. Being a chef is an important job for armies too, but you don’t see kids clamoring for a food themed Joe.
15 That One Weird Cousin
Darklon here is the cousin of famed Cobra head honcho Laird James McCullen Destro XXIV, and while he has kept up the family tradition of wearing a mask to cover his family’s shame, he did so in the least cool way possible. His backstory tries to make up for his impossibly silly design by claiming he is the evil ruler of his own country, creatively named Darklonia. If you can think of another evil despot who rules their country while looking like they just finished cleaning out their basement of rats via fumigation, I’d love to hear it.
It isn’t just the silly mask, it’s the fact that he looks streaked with filth.
I love a good camouflage, but camouflage works because it has consistency. In what world does looking like you lightly rolled in some leeches equate into blending into your surroundings? And how would bright red pants help with that disguise?!
14 And You Thought Ship Wreck Was Bad
Keel-Haul is a fairly well respected member of the Joe team, despite looking like if young Tom Selleck let himself go. They can say on the box that he is an Admiral all they want, but this is not a fellow who climbed the ranks of a military institution properly. He seems to have a fairly flippant regard for the authority that has been given him.
Even the toymaker seems to regard this guy as more of a laid back kind of leader, because they thought it was important to his character that one of his accessories included when you buy him is a mug. I’ll leave it up to you to figure out what might be inside that mug, I’m just going to say that he doesn’t look like he’s about to ace a sobriety test. Like, how important can it be to bring a waving flag onto a battlefield?
13 Nothing Says Good Guy Like Being Named For A Crime
A lot of my complaint about this toy is the fact that the character is named Hit & Run. I am very aware that he is named that way because he know doubt enters the scene of conflict in a barrage of bullets, eliminating his targets, and then flees. The questionable heroics about fleeing a scene aside, he is totally named after a serious vehicular crime. If we name a hero after a crime, are we not kind of telling kids that the crime is cool? Am I the only one that considers that problematic?
Aside from the name, he also carries a duffle bag, which is kind of nerdy and super shady. It is also incredibly boring when in toy form, not only because duffle bags are never a sign of something fun, but because the toy’s duffle bag didn’t actually open. So really it just took up space and made Hit & Run look more conspicuous and awkward.
12 Betrayed By His Own Name
OK, let me be the first to admit that this guy looks kind of cool, and since he is usually used to pilot a jet, he might actually be a really cool toy. I was a little prejudiced with judging this toy, I can admit that, but once you hear my reasoning, I’m hoping you see where I was coming from. The toy is cool, but the packaging betrays and coolness the toy earns for itself.
For whatever reason, Hasbro decided to name what should have been one their most popular toys Wild Weasel.
Weasel. Let that sink in. What is usually described as the lowest mammal, one know for being treacherous and sneaky and not all that brave, that was the name they applied to one of Cobra’s top pilots. It was almost as if they knew the toy might be TOO cool and would over shadow all their other merchandise, so they handicapped him with a ridiculous name.
11 Literal Cannon Fodder
Unlike other entries on this list, which have color schemes so bright and gaudy as to be offensive, Grunt actually suffers from the exact opposite. This is a character so bland that his nickname is actually the name of soldiers lowest on the rung. Grunt are the basic soldiers that do most of the fighting, are on the frontlines, and are, for the most parts, not considered specialists in any way. I’m not here to besmirch how important it is to have soldiers on the frontlines, or how integral their job is, I’m just saying that being the most common type of soldier doesn’t make for an interesting soldier.
There’s also the fact that when this toy was being made, the people in charge didn’t think it was all that important to even give him any kind of facial features. I think I can make out pupils, and nothing else, so at least he will have a clear vision of Storm Shadow laughing at home right before he chops him in half.
10 I'm Rooting For The Bomb
Lightfoot is a bomb disarmer, which is an incredibly awesome and stressful job. For whatever reason, while he was in the middle of working on said bomb disposal, he would also need to wear a helmet that made him look like Ant-Man. Maybe he was commanding armies of insects to defuse the tiny mechanisms inside the bomb, and passing it off as his own work? That’s a new fan theory I’m adding to the Internet right now.
What bothers me about Lightfoot is not just that he seems kind of boring to play with, but because of what he is wearing, outside of the plagiarized helmet. The last thing you want strapped to your chest while you are defusing a bomb is more bomb, but this guy goes everywhere with no less than three grenades right in the middle of his pectorals. Next thing you know is that the fireman Joe would be sporting a paper cape.
9 Boring AND Ugly
Zap suffers from the same terminal blandness that Grunt does, but also has the face of a half-melted Peter Lorre. He has the kind of balding creepiness to him that makes me think he’s not an American hero but more of a usual suspect when girls go missing. I know it isn’t fair to judge people solely on their looks, but it isn’t like he’s a real person. A team of toy creators designed him, so clearly someone thought this face would appeal to kids. That person is wrong, and I refused to be argued with about that.
Even his name is barely cooler than Grunt’s.
Zap is what you sarcastically tell someone is their nickname while you secretly resent how much they are slowing down the team. He even seems to get like one third of the number of weapons that most of the other Joes get, which seems to imply that even they consider him expendable.
8 Enough With The Swords, Already
If Budo was a member of any other team, I would say he makes an ok addition. I mean, Samurai are genuinely regarded as fairly cool, and those big, spooky antlers would genuinely freak people out on the battlefield. I mean, if the battlefield wasn’t regularly filled with guts already sporting chrome helmets and, you know, actual guns. I don’t know if you know what happened to actual Samurai from history, but it didn’t end well for them once armies actually started using guns.
At least guys like Snake Eyes have the added benefit of being able to jump around, climb, hide, sneak up and of course, use the guns they come with. Budo would be stuck kind of bobbling around while he’s stuck in what is essentially a not bulletproof hurt locker. So arguably this could be a fun toy to play with, so long as the other toys aren’t armed to the teeth.
7 Sweep This One Under The Rug
At first glance, if you saw the dude Cleansweep, you might assume he was working for Cobra. I mean, I remember the movie E.T. and those shady government employees all looked exactly like this. And the ominously mysterious suitcase doesn’t help matters at all, and the packaging does little to explain what that suitcase is actually for. If left to my own devices, I might assume that it was some kind of chemical bomb, and Cleansweep was the only person dressed appropriately for a chemical warfare attack.
Despite what first impressions tell you, Cleansweep is actually just a dude who cleans up the environment.
So not only do you have a guy who looks like a villain without actually being one, but he’s also a glorified janitor. Which is cool for The Toxic Avenger but kind of falls flat when you are going to be doing a crossover with The Transformers.
6 His Skill Is Shouting
Bullhorn has an actually important job in the scheme of things. The battling Joes get called in when words have failed, but we actually skip over the actual words part. That;s where Bullhorn comes in, to try and negotiate a tense situation to make sure as few people as possible get hurt. That’s an actually noble profession, but doesn’t translate into action and, well, they are called action figures.
The lack of adventure aside, why would he need to be wearing both a gas mask and operating a Bullhorn?
Wouldn’t the mask just muffle his voice while he’s shouting down a tense situation? And why is he already wearing camouflage, what is he blending in to while screaming out negotiations? I mean, I respect that he also brought in some tear gas in case things start to go south, but I doubt that you get taken super seriously by the person you are supposed to be establishing a relationship with if you have smeared grease paint all over your face.
5 Care To Explain That Nickname?
I realize I might sound like a boring record by pointing out how humdrum Footloose might be, but it isn’t really my fault. If they were going to crank out so many bland characters, the brain trust behind G. I. Joe should have just stuck with that one scheme. Instead, they decided to keep ramping things up, making everyone bigger, and louder, and scarier, and more ostentatious, so by comparison, the more basic characters end up coming off as boring. I mean, if I didn’t have the option of choosing between this guy and Roadblock, I might actually think this guy was kind of cool. Outside of being named Footloose, which I know meant something before that beautiful Kevin Bacon movie. But we are all living in a post Kevin Bacon movie career world, and Footloose will forever be associated with teaching stuffy old folks to accept the new generation through the magic of dance.
4 Too Many Ninjas
If youy look closely, you’ll see that this figure is in fact supposed to be Quick Kick and not Bruce Lee. This is another super ninja that the Joe’s apparently needed desperately on their team, despite the fact that they have worked with both Snake Eyes and Stormshadow. Why you would need another ninja, not to mention one that doesn’t even use guns, is beyond me. I have trouble justifying the existence of a single ninja on a team where the opposition routinely uses tanks and rocket launchers, but then I see Snake Eyes in action and I get it.
The same could not be said of Quick Kick, who looks like he borrowed a leftover Karate Kid outfit before running off to play soldier. Even his name bothers me, since anyone who gets a rhyme for a name must not be taken very seriously on the Joe team, even less respected than Snow Job.
3 Complete With Life Jacket
Cutter actually had one very awesome thing working in his favor, and that was the fact that he was mostly put in charge of driving the Joe’s massive and deadly hovercraft. Hovercrafts are insanely cool at the best of times, so you can imagine how dope I think they are when you strap hundreds of guns on to them. But no matter how cool I believe that machine is, that doesn’t give the pilot the excuse to look like an incredibly embarrassing dad.
Cutter may have the face of Jesse “The Body” Ventura, he is also completely decked out in garb that makes him look like a regular on Bassmasters. If you don’t know what Bassmasters is, I envy how clean your mind must be, but trust me, it is as boring as it sounds. It is a bunch of aging men comparing the most tried and true methods of catching bass, and then somehow turning that into a competition.
You need to be made aware of the fact that this guy’s name is Chuckles. I know I pick on the ridiculous naming conventions of a lot of the characters, so that is the last time I’ll mention that this hardened warrior against street crime goes under the code name of Chuckles.
I will mention the mullet; I’m not above picking that low hanging fruit. Or that, for some reason, idiots always picture people in Hawaiian shirts as undercover police officers. Wouldn’t that insinuate that most criminals are also wearing Hawaiian shirts, and the cops are picking up on that fact to blend in? There’s also the barely noticeable fact that Chuckles is running around with a huge machete strapped to his leg like this is normal for genuine people, let alone criminals. Everything about this toy missed the mark so hard that I kind of wished I owned one as a kid.
1 The Most Basic
This atrocious doofus is known as Headman. His basic M.O. was that he pushed a lot of illicit substances, which is obviously villainous, but not so evil as to merit a position on Cobra. I mean, there are enough people shilling illegal stuff in your local high school, you don’t need some head honcho on your group of international terrorists. At least when your neighborhood thug tries to peddle his wares, he tries to do it with a small modicum of discretion.
What really makes this dude one of the least fun action figures to play with is the fact that he’s dressed like the Hamburlgar. He’s got a silly hat, a Halloween burglar mask and he tries to rock stripes, which he ultimately fails at. I also understand that the 90s were a different time, but that kind of greasy ponytail has not aged well, even for one of the bad guys.