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The Complete Transformers Action Figure Line Synopsis

Transformers Action Figure Lines

transformers toys releases per year
Keeping track of all the different Transformer Action Figure and lines can be a daunting task. This Transformers chronology timeline chart should help. The bar chart estimates the total number of unique Transformer toys released per year; the trend in transformers popularity over time is quite evident. While TF were released all over the globe, only three regions are necessary to form a comprehensive list of all Transformers ever released--the US (North America), the UK (Europe), and Japan.
  • US Transformers Toys
    • Generation 1: 1984-1990
      • This is where it all began. For myself and a great deal of Transformers collectors, Generation 1 (aka G1) are the only real transformers. The first incarnates of Optimus Prime and Megatron appear in G1. Transformers allegiances include autobots (good guys) and decepticons (bad guys). G1 subgroups include such familiarities as the minispies, dinobots, TFTM (Transformers the Movie) characters, headmasters, targetmasters, powermasters, pretenders, micromasters, action masters, the cassettes for Soundwave and Blaster, etc. Popular characters include Jetfire, Soundwave, Shockwave, Fortress Maximus, Scorponok, Rodimus Prime, Hot Rod, Ultra Magnus, Wheeljack, Bluestreak, Bumblebee, Brawn, Starscream, and combiners (aka gestalts) like Devastator, Superion, Menasor, Defensor, Bruticus, Predaking, Computron, Abominus, Piranacon, and Monstructor. If you're looking to start a collection, I highly recommend starting with Generation 1 Transformers.
    • Generation 2: 1992-1995
      • After a lengthy absence from the main stream, the Transformers returned as Generation 2 (aka G2) was released. G2 Transformers were a failed attempt to bring back to popularity of the G1 line that began to wane around 1987. Optimus Prime and Megatron metathesized into different forms more than one time in G2. The early days of Generation 2 consisted of repainted, gimmicked-up versions of popular G1 Transformers characters. Transformers allegiances again include autobots and decepticons; the allegiance icons are beefed-up versions of the G1 allegiance symbols. Some G2 Transformers subgroups include the laser rods, rotor force, cyberjets, go-bots (which may sound familiar to some of you old-timers), and autorollers.
    • Beast Wars: 1996-2000
      • Beast Wars Transformers took Transformer toys in a whole different direction. None of the figures transformed into vehicles, rather, they transformed into beasts or insects. Optimus Primal is the new rendering of Optimus Prime, and as you might guess, he is a gorilla, while Megatron has become a T-rex. Beast Wars Transformers alliances include Maximals (good guys) and Predacons (bad guys), and the alliance icons have changed completely. Some Beast Wars Transformers subgroups include the fuzors, transmetals, transmetals 2, dinobots, and mutants.
    • Machine Wars: 1997
      • The Machine Wars Transformer toy line was short-lived with only 12 figures released. Robots transformed into vehicles, and the Transformers allegiance icons resembled G2 allegiance symbols. Good guys and bad guys are again called Autobots and Decepticons.
    • Animorphs: 1999
      • Another short-lived Transformers toy line, and not even considered true Transformers by most. Animorphs is lifted from a kids television show. Good guys are known as Animorphs (creative as it is), and the whopping two bad guys are known as Yreek.
    • Beast Machines: 2000-2001
      • Transformers are gaining in popularity, and the Beast Machines seemed to cater to the masses and return vehicular transformations--the good guys (Maximals) still mostly transformed into beasts, while the bad guys (Vehicons) transformed into vehicles. The allegiance icons go though another transformation and loosely resemble those of the Beast Wars toy line.
    • Robots In Disguise: 2001-2003
      • Combined with the activity in Japan, Transformers popularity reaches another golden era, with the number of Transformers toy releases surpassing the most popular years in the 1980s, and is growing at an exponential rate. The popularity trend seems to follow that of the internet--forums bringing transfans together, online transformers toy stores and trading communities make shopping a cinch. The name 'Robots in Disguise' (RiD) comes from the original G1 slogan made ubiquitous by the original 80's Transformers cartoon. RiD Transformers once again have robots transforming into vehicles, with just a select few still transforming into beasts. The G1 influence is quite apparent. Many toys from this line are re-issues or repaints of 'Car Robots' Transformers from Japan. Autobots are the good guys and Predacons are the bad guys. The original G1 Autobot symbol makes its triumphant return, as does the predacon allegiance icon.
    • Re-Issues: 2002-2003
      • Originality takes a back seat to the bottom line, just like pop culture. Why use ingenuity when you can just go with what's worked in the past?
    • Heroes of Cybertron: 2002-2003
      • Simply put, Heroes of Cybertron (HoC) are Transformers action figures. These action figures have many points of articulation, but no transformation capability. Only popular characters show up in this line, e.g. Optimus Prime, Megatron, Soundwave, Starscream, etc. The TFTM female character Arcee is finally released as a toy.
    • Armada: 2002-2003
      • Transformers Armada is fairly similar to Robots in Disguise with robots transforming into vehicles. The gimmick here is micromaster-like figures known as 'minicons' fit into the larger figure to unlock certain features--not unlike the powermasters of G1 Transformers days. Unicron is finally issued as a Transformer toy, 17 years after his initial appearance in TFTM. Of this, I definitely approve!
    • Transformers Alternators: 2003-?
      • Transformers Alternators will be released between the Armada and Energon lines. These toys have been designed more for collectors than kids, with attention to detail in both robot and alternate modes that hasn't been seen since the early years of G1. Find out more about Transformers Alternators.
    • Transformers Energon: 2004-?
      • Transformers Energon was announced as the next Transformers installment after Armada. The name, Energon, comes straight out of the G1 cartoons--Autobots and Decepticons being fueled by small glowing boxes called 'Energon Cubes'. Find out more about Transformers Energon
    • Exclusives: 1994-Present
      • A number of exclusive Transformers have been issued over the years. The most notable are those released at the annual Transformers collectors' convention known as Botcon. These exclusive Transformer toys are almost always repaints of toys released during the particular year of the convention, based on available Transformers toy molds.
  • European Transformer Toys
    • Generation 1: 1984-1993
      • Up through the late 80s, all of the Generation 1 Transformers toys released were also issued in the US. The Transformers lines begin to really merge around 1991, with the introduction of some new action masters, action master elites, and exo-suit action masters, as well as the 'Motorvators' who were re-issues of the 'Brain Masters' from Japan who merged to form 'Road Caesar'. Other European Generation 1 Transformers subgroups include the turbomasters (aka cannonmasters), rescue force, predators, aquaspeeders, obliterators, lightformers, stormtroopers, and skyscorchers, oh my!
    • Classics: 1990-1991
      • The Classics were Re-Issues of classic G1 characters such as Optimus Prime, Wheeljack, Sunstreaker, the Aerialbots, Combaticons, Stunticons, Protectobots, among others. Be careful when trying to purchase original G1 Transformers, a less scrupulous transformers dealer might try to pass these off as originals.
    • Generation 2: 1993-1996
      • Many of the European Generation 2 Transformers releases were also released in the US Generation 2 Transformers line; in fact there were very few unique releases. Some of the Transformers subgroup names have changed--Laser Rod to Illuminator and Rotor Force to Rotorbot to name a few.
  • Japanese Transformer Toys
    • Generation 1: 1985-1992
      • Fight! Super Robot Life Transformers (1985)
        • The Japanese were a bit better about numbering systems on their Transformers Toys, and matching the releases up with the cartoon series of the time. All the toys released in Japan during this segment of Generation 1 were also released in the US Generation 1 Transformers toy line. Throughout the Japanese Generation toy line, the good guys are known as 'Cybertrons' and the bad. guys as 'Destrons'. Some Transformers names differ between Japan and the US toy lines, for example, Optimus Prime is known as Convoy.
      • Transformers: 2010 (1996)
        • Transformers released during this year were also released in the US Generation 1 Transformers toy line. This follows the sequence of events of TFTM.
      • Transformers: The Headmasters (1987)
        • With popularity of the Transformers saga waning in the US, interest is still booming in Japan. As a result, the two lines begin to diverge. We see a number of Transformers released in Japan that were never issued in the US Generation 1 Transformers toy line, including Stepper and Artfire (repainted, targetmaster versions of Jazz and Inferno, respectively), several new cassettes (Gurafi and Noizu who merge into Decibel, as well as Zauru and Dairu who merge to form Legout), a new gestalt combiner (the trainbots who merge to form Raiden), Twincast and Soundblaster (repaints/remolds of Blaster and Soundwave, respectively), and a number of headmaster figures who were packaged individually (Kirk aka Kaku or Kark, Loafer aka Rofa or Rover, Rodney aka Lodoni or Lonony, Shuffler aka Shafler, and Trizer aka Trizor). Note the different spellings arise from the different interpretations of the Japanese pronunciation.
      • Transformers: Masterforce (1988)
        • Transformers popularity is still booming in Japan, while it has all but come to a halt in the US. Several new figures are introduced this year in the Japanese Transformers Generation 1 toy line, such as Overlord who's powermasters are 'Mega' and 'Giga', the husband and wife team from the Japanese cartoon. the powermasters are known as 'Godmasters' in Japan, and a handful of powermaster engines are packaged individually for sale (Aquastar, Borretto, and Zetoca). A few new Pretenders are also issued during this time, including 'Minelba' (aka 'Minerva') and 'Metalhawk', the short-lived Cybertron leader. Fortress Maximus undergoes an overhaul into 'Grand Maximus' who now includes a pretender shell for 'Grand' who forms the giant head. Some originals pretenders are repainted and remolded and the subgroup renamed to 'Crossformers'--'Black Shadow' and 'Blue Bacchus' are souped-up versions of Thunderwing and Cross-Blades, respectively.
      • Transformers: Victory (1989)
        • The Japanese Transformers Saga reaches its climax as the Transformers toy line is ending in the US. Almost all of the Transformers issued this year in Japan were original. Several new gestalt combiners are introduced--the Multiforce who combine to form Landcross, the Brainmasters who combine to form Road Caesar, the Dinoforce who combine to form Dinoking who is a repaint of Monstructor, and the Breastforce who combine to form Liokaiser (aka Liocaesar or, Leokaiser, or Leocaesar). The new hero of the Cybertrons is 'Star Saber' who can combine with 'Victory Leo' to form 'Victory Saber'. The leader of the Destrons is 'Deszaras' (aka Dezaras, Deathsaurus, or Death Czar). Most Transfans consider this to be the pinnacle of the Transformers cartoon epic.
      • Transformers: Zone (1990)
        • The popularity of Transformers even in Japan begins to wane, as can be seen in the resulting quality of Transformers released at this time. The neatest toy released during this era is 'Big Powered' who is a motorized base, formed from the Cybertron leader, Dai-Atlas (aka Dai-Atlas', 'Diatlas' and 'Dia Atlas'), Road Fire, and Sonic Bomber. Metroplex has been repainted and switched over to the Destrons, and is now known as 'Metrotitan'. The Trainbots are re-issued, and the Micromasters from the US Generation 1 Transformer toy line are also released. Zone is the last of the Japanese Generation 1 Transformers cartoons.
      • Transformers: Battlestars (1991)
        • The Transformers saga lives on in TV Magazine, but is no longer shown in cartoon form. During this time, several new Transformers toys characters are introduced, including Sky Garry, Grandus, and the Cybertron leader Star Convoy (packaged with micromaster Hot Rodimus). A number of micromaster team repaints are also issued during this time, and a new gestalt, formed from micromasters is released--Sixliner.
      • Transformers: Operation Combination (1992)
        • The Protectobots and Combaticons have been repainted (Defensor is know 'Guard City', and Bruticus is now 'Battle Gaea'. Five new micromaster gestalts combiners are released--Sixbuilder, Sixwing, Sixturbo, and Sixtrain. The Turbomasters and Predators are released in versus sets as well. Thus ends the Japanese Generation 1 Transformers Toy line.
    • Generation 2: 1993-1996
      • All of the Generation 2 Transformers issued in Japan were also issued in the US, so no commentary is necessary at this juncture.
    • Beast Wars: 1997-1999
      • Beast Wars I (1997)
        • The Beast Wars Transformers issued in Japan were basically the same as those released in the US Beast Wars Transformer toy line during 1996-1997, with some name and spelling differences. Optimus Primal is still known as 'Convoy' in the Japanese Beast Wars line. The good guys and bad guys are still called Cybertrons and Destrons, as they were in G1. Beast Wars toys were also packed in Versus sets.
      • Beast Wars II (1998)
        • Again, the Japanese Beast Wars toy line mimics the US Beast Wars Transformers line. A couple additions to note include the Cybertron ally known as 'Moon', and the re-painted Piranacon known as 'God Neptune'.
      • Beast Wars Neo (1999)
        • Lots of repaints of the US Beast Wars toy line were issued in Japan in the Beast Wars Neo series, and the toys are given different names. An interesting side note is that a prototype Unicron was actually planned and developed during this toy line. Rumors abounded about a Unicron release, but it never materialized.
      • Beast Wars Metals (1999)
        • Beast Wars figures issued in Japan, were the same as those issued in the US (where they were known as Transmetals). One Japanese exclusive Beast Wars Transformer issued was Jaguar, a reincarnation of Ravage, the cassette from G1.
    • Metalforce: 1999-2000
      • The Metalforce series was not much of a toy line, and consists merely of 2 different poseable but non-transformable Optimus Prime issues. I include the Metalforce line for completeness, as it is a name that pops up fairly often.
    • Car Robots: 2000
      • This line slightly predates the Transformers Robots In Disguise line from the US, but many of the toys issued are identical in both lines. Around this time, the Transformers are making a comeback all over the globe. The good guys are still known as Cybertons, but the bad guy name has been modified slightly from 'Destrons' to 'Destrongers'. Popular figures from this Transformers line are 'Super Fire Convoy' and 'Gigatron'. One popular figure that was never issued in the US Transformers RiD line is 'Brave Maximus', a repaint of the G1 Fortress Maximus.
    • Re-Issues: 2000-2003
      • Re-issues are more numerous in Japan, where the toy line has always been more popular. Subgroups for these re-issues include 'Collectors Edition', 'New Years Specials', and 'Dreamwave TF Collection'.
    • Miscellaneous: 2000-2003
      • Super Collection Figures: 2000-2003
        • With the popularity of Transformers growing exponentially, Transformers manufacturers came out with more toy lines than you could shake a stick at. Super Collection Figures were on such line. Super Collection Figures (aka SCF or PVC figures) are tiny (approximately 3 inch) poseable but non-transformable figures. The figures released are mainly popular figures from the G1 Japanese Transformers toy line, including some that were never released as toys, such as Arcee. SCF Transformers were released in a variety of numbered 'Acts'. Each package came with 12 boxes, containing different figures, which for the most part, could not be known until the box was opened. In each act, between two and four rare figures, known as 'chase' figures were made. The odds of finding one of these chase figures was significantly lower than their standard counterparts. Some of the newer acts contain figures from the 'Micron Legend' Transformers toy line.
      • Chrono Q: 2002
        • Only a few Transformers toys were issued in this line, it is only included for completeness. Chrono Q Transformers were transformable superdeformed versions of some of the G1 leaders--Optimus Prime, Megatron, and Rodimus Prime.
      • Mega SCF: 2002-2003
        • Mega Super Collection Figures (or Mega SCF) are basically the same line as the US Heroes of Cybertron line. These figures are similar to the standard SCF figures, only larger, and less numerous. Again, the early releases were of Generation 1 Transformers characters, while the later released characters were taken from 'Micron Legend'.
      • Myclone: 2002-2003
        • This Transformers toy line can be summed up as superdeformed SCF figures. These were also released in 'Acts' in unlabeled packages--you don't know who you're gonna get.
      • Smallest Transformers: 2003
        • The Smallest Transformers (aka Ultra Small Transformers) are tiny versions of the popular Generation 1 Transformers characters. They are fairly well detailed, and do transform!
    • Micron Densetsu: 2002-2003
      • The Micron Densetsu (which roughly translates to 'Micron Legend') toy line is the Japanese equivalent of the US Transformers Armada toy line. The good guys are still known as Cybertrons and the bad guys are once again known as Destrons, and of course, the little guys are known as the Microns.
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