What is Skylanders?

More and more video game publishers seem to be hopping on the 'toys-to-life' bandwagon these days, allowing kids and adults alike to spend their disposable income on plastic toys that interact with their favorite video game, but it's easy to to forget that Skylanders is where it all started. With a handful of plastic monsters, a Portal of Power, and a vibrant, family-friendly video game, Skylanders became an unstoppable toy/video game-hybrid juggernaut. But if you or your kids are just getting started, it can be difficult to sort through five years worth of toys. This beginners guide should get you caught up to speed in no time.

What is it? The first toys-to-life game is still one of the most popular, and for good reason - it's a pretty decent kid-friendly action-RPG with loads of colorful characters and interesting puzzles and minigames.

Who is it for? People looking to play a Saturday morning cartoon, and maybe bash a few cutesy creatures with their friends.

What do the toys do? When you buy a starter pack, you get the game, a variety of figures, and the "Portal of Power", which is that plastic base that plugs into your console of choice. The reason why you'd want to buy different Skylanders is that their particular element determines what they unlock - for example, you can only access the content behind a water gate if you have a Skylander of the water element. They also represent your 'lives' - should your Skylander run out of health, simply switch to another one, and you can continue where you left off. Certain elements are also stronger against enemies in specific areas, so you want a decent roster of figures to switch out while you play - at least one of each element is ideal.

How many entries are there in the series? The Skylanders series has been around for five years now, starting with Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure. This is the most basic entry in the series, introducing many aspects of its core gameplay. Then came Skylanders: Giants, which took the same game and added larger figures to the game. Then there's Swap Force, which allowed certain figures to be broken in half allowing you to mix and match them at will. Trap Team came next, which introduced plastic crystals that you can place in the portal to capture on-screen enemies. Superchargers is the most recent entry, which introduces land, air, and sea vehicles. All of the games in the series are on virtually every console and handheld device you can think of, though Spyro's Adventure and Giants are not available on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One.

What should I buy? Skylanders Superchargers is a pretty good place to start, as you don't need to buy a ton of figures to see everything it does. The starter set gets you a couple of characters and a car, and the only thing you'd really need after that is an air and sea-based vehicle to get everything out of the story mode.

From there, you can flesh out your collection with additional Skylanders or vehicles of different elements. Previously released figures from other games will work on Superchargers, too, but keep in mind that it doesn't work the other way around. The Racing Packs are pricey, but they add additional race tracks to the game if you're looking for more to do. Additionally, you could go back and pick up starter sets for prior entries - Trap Team and Swap Force are both pretty fun in their own ways, though they also have their own unique sets of toys to go with them.

Are they rare? Not really. Occasionally stock will run low on certain figures and sets, but they're usually replenished in a reasonable amount of time. The only time Skylanders get hard to find is when they're phasing out last year's figures for the new entry, or if there's some kind of collectible variant.

David Roberts
David Roberts lives in Everett, WA with his wife and two kids. He once had to sell his full copy of EarthBound (complete with box and guide) to some dude in Austria for rent money. And no, he doesn't have an amiibo 'problem', thank you very much.