Transformers has long relied on one of the best concepts for a toy a kid can ask for: a robot that can change into another vehicle. For over 35 years, the battle of the Autobots and Decepticons has enthralled kids and the toys remain loved. While there have been cartoons, comics, and video games, it always comes down to the toys. Whether the it's classic Generation 1, Beast Wars, or some based on the movies, fans just can’t get enough of these Robots in Disguise and how great they are.
Sadly, for every terrific Transformer, there's a dud. A few just don’t work out with the designs and come off rather poor. Others are just confusing to start but the terrible coloring and far too many additions make it worse. There’s also a few Transformers so amazingly bizarre that it’s incredible they were ever put on the market in the first place. While there are scores of candidates, here are 20 of the weirdest Transformers toys ever made and remarkable how kids were expected to buy these.
20 Stranglehold Pretender
The “Pretender” line was one of the single worst mistakes in the entire G1 period. The idea was that these Transformers actually posed as humans— which wasn’t a bad concept. In execution, it was terrible as the “human” forms often looked downright stupid. Few were as bad as Stranglehold which looks like a poor man’s He-Man with the robot form turning into a weird rhino. This idea should have been strangled in the concept stage.
This makes no sense on multiple levels. The point of the Pretenders was that they were Transformers posing as human beings in order to live among them and understand them better. Who would think going around as a human with two heads would be blending in? It’s a truly stupid concept on so many levels and the fact the robot has just one head makes this the worst disguise for a Transformer imaginable.
18 Mickey Mouse
Yes, they really happened. The Transformers Wiki page has a grand time discussing how odd it is with the priceless line, “the wisdom of granting mechanized destructive power to a creature such as this is up for debate.” The design captures Optimus Prime’s colors and even the addition of a trailer to help it out. Still, there is something undeniably weird watching the world’s most famous mouse turn himself into this famous cartoon character. Incredibly, there’s actually a Christmas-themed version of this figure!
Did someone at the factory think they were making a He-Man toy? There’s a clever touch in that in his regular robot body, the man is a cool and savvy operator. When he gets into his “Pretender” persona, however, he turns into a thick-headed wild warrior. That would be clever if not for just how stupid the guy looks with the massive horned head and bad coloring making him look like he belongs in a completely different toy line.
First, he has hands down one of the stupidest names in the entire Transformers toy line. He’s actually supposed to be very intimidating as an undersea hunter and effective treasure hunter as well. Too bad his toy makes him look like the Creature from the Black Lagoon in bad armor and a ridiculous helmet. He actually got a pretty good upgrade later to a hovercraft model, but the original Pretender version belongs in the deep sea.
This is just... lazy. This Autobot was marketed for very young kids, the age where children may not be able to handle the more complex Transformers. Thus, Topspin is a weird robot with wings and barely movable arms. All one has to do is flip it forward onto a latch and it turns into a stranger flying jet of some sort. That’s all, one flip and the “transformation” is complete. This was meant to be the first wave of a new line but the unpopularity of it caused the company to pull back. It still stands as one of the poorer and odder Transformers out there.
A female Decepticon is already a bit freaky, but Thundeblast just adds to it. This power-mad lady is so obsessed with Galvatron that she actually colored herself to look like him. Her main robot form is already odd with a massive arm cannon, wings behind her and what looks like a cape. Her vehicle form is a strange missile-bearing boat which doesn’t fit seeing as how Cybertron has no water.
His own Transformers Wiki page calls this guy a “bad allotment of resources.” He’s a brilliant hacker who could easily crack Autobot security systems but the Decepticons waste him on a small group of idiot flame-throwers. His toy is even worse as the robot form has no arms and just huge blocks. His “beast” form looks like a bizarre insect crossed with a forest creature. The terrible colors don’t help either so this guy is just a mess from top to bottom.
This veteran Autobot was a fun character, introduced in the big-screen animated movie and wonderfully voiced by Robert Loggia. He talks of his “seen it all” experience and serves as a mentor to other Autobots. Sadly, the toy version just doesn’t look right. It’s not clear if Kup is meant to be a pick-up truck with no bed or some sort of battering ram vehicle but in either case, this otherwise fun Autobot just looks stupid.
The Constructions were always loved by fans for their cool green coloring and, of course, the fact they combined into the awesome Devastator. Leave it to Michael Bay to ruin that as the big-screen versions of the group looked terrible. Demolisher was the worst of the bunch as the red and white coloring didn’t work for his shovel form. But worse was his robot form which looks like two huge tires attached to shovels as legs. No wonder many fans loathe the Bay films so much.
10 G1 Ironhide
The problem with some G1 Transformers is that the technology to make them really work wasn’t there in the early 1980s. Thus, some Transformers ended up bearing little resemblance to the cartoon versions. A great example would be Ironhide who in the cartoon easily goes from a van to robot form. This, however, just turns into a very messy blocky form that’s barely mobile and shares no real resemblance to a robot. Later versions would fix it, but the original Ironhide was a blow-out.
The Beast Machines could be hit and miss with the design work as some were awesome while others... not so much. Siverbolt is a good example as his form becomes a bizarre bird of sort that looks like it was dipped in a vat of rainbow paint. The color is terrible and doesn’t match his fellow Autobots, not to mention how he’s much smaller than most others on the show. Later versions would be better but this looks like a terrible bird in flight.
Most Autobots are cars of some sort with a few jets and other types thrown in. Cosmos was a spaceship who looks like a classic UFO with a saucer design. It just looks downright weird and doesn’t seem to fit the rest of the Autobot line. When he transforms, his robot form looks stocky, like a guy who’s been hitting the buffet table too much. A later “Legends” version actually pulled off a cool redesign, but the original Cosmos should have been lost in space.
The concept of Sideways wasn’t bad as his name refers to how he’s a double agent who switches sides constantly and has no loyalty but to himself. Thus, his toy has a bit where it can switch between Autobot and Decepticon labels. It sounds good but it makes the toy feel weird as swapping personas can be a bit complex to handle.
This guy is notable for being a “toy-only” character, meaning he never showed up in any of the cartoons. It may be no shock why when you see him. His robot form is bizarre as it’s hard to make out his face and he has way too long arms and legs. His beast form is way overdone as the otherwise cool hammerhead shark design is ruined by too many additions trying to make it look like a gun. Maybe a bit of subtlety might have served this better.
Introduced in the big 1987 animated movie, Wheelie was meant to take the place of the beloved Bumblebee. To say that failed was laughable. The character was annoying enough but the toy barely looks like the movie version and the form is just weird. Fun trivia: The guy’s page on the Transformers wiki is all in rhyme, rapping about what a cool Autobot he is. As if you needed more reason to hate him.
4 Pretender Cloudburst
This was the first of the “Pretenders” line and instantly showed why this entire thing was going to be a mess. It looks like a very large human in over-sized armor with a whip of all things as a weapon. The side robot was smaller and just looked lamer with no real push to it (and that’s without the odd placement of the Autobot insignia near its legs.) No wonder the entire line was so hated by fans.
This Revenge of the Fallen character is meant to be sinister and dark with its appearance. It’s supposed to be threatening with the pincers. In reality, it just comes off nowhere near that bad. It even looks downright cute at times which is hardly the label a Decepticon wants. There’s also how its transformed form is a microscope which looks rather off. It’s just an odd choice for a disguise and not as evil as it should have been.
2 Shoe Optimus Prime
Just...why? Who thought having a shoe Transformer was a perfect idea? Nike seemed to by putting out an actual tennis shoe that could transform into Optimus Prime and another for Megatron. It’s just utterly baffling as they’re too complex to wear without worrying about breaking them somehow. All it takes is stepping into a nasty puddle and the entire thing is ruined. In the annals of “what were they thinking” toys, this has to be a topper.
It’s almost an unspoken rule for a long-running toy line that sooner or later, they have to have a ninja version. GI Joe went all in and Transformers did the same with Team Ninja. Ninja robots may sound awesome but the actual results were not pretty. Sensuimaru has a very weird robot figure that hardly screams out “stealth warrior.” Weirder is that his vehicle mode looks like some sort of shark-whale hybrid. He can also join with his two fellow ninjas into a more bizarre fighter that shows ninja robots don’t really work.
Sources: transformerswikia.com, Team Flawless, cracked.com