Skylanders! Disney Infinity! LEGO Dimensions! Amiibo! Which Toys To Life Franchise Reigns Supreme?

Skylanders! Disney Infinity! LEGO Dimensions! Amiibo! Which Toys To Life Franchise Reigns Supreme?

Interactive figures let you scratch your gaming and collecting itches at the same time. But which is the best deal for the money? Which is most fun? Our comprehensive breakdown.

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The Costs, Compared

The real question, of course, comes down to this: How much is it going to cost me? The answer is "a lot," but there are many different degrees of "a lot"! All prices are MSRP, and you can easily find decent discounts this time of year. These prices don't take into account variant figures, like the Infinity Light FX Jedi characters or the Skylanders Dark Edition toys.

Skylanders SuperChargers

  • Starter set: $74.99
  • Figures: $12.99
  • Vehicles: $14.99
  • Racing packs: $34.99

The base set ($74.99) nets you the game, a portal, two figures, and a land vehicle. At a minimum, you'll also want to buy an air and sea vehicle ($14.99 apiece), which will grant you access to the air and sea challenges in each stage. Racing fanatics will probably want to consider the racing packs (one of each element at $34.99 apiece).

Note that the game does include element-specific vehicle challenges; these are not essential and only dole out minor rewards, but completists will need a total of 10 vehicles in unique elements ($14.99 apiece, with a minimum of seven vehicles in addition to starter and racing sets) in order to see it all.

  • Core game access cost: $104.97
  • Racing fanatic access cost: $209.94
  • Content completist access cost: $279.88
  • SuperChargers set completist cost: $600+

Disney Infinity 3.0

  • Starter set: $64.99
  • Figures: $12.99
  • Play sets: $34.99
  • Toy Box takeover sets: $19.99
  • Power disc packs: $9.99

The Infinity base set is surprisingly inexpensive ($64.99), costing barely more than a standard AAA console title. It comes with the Toy Box mode and the Star Wars: Twilight of the Republic storyline, plus two figures: Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano, plus the mandatory portal. However, to unlock the full game, you'll also need four playsets: Inside Out, Star Wars: Rise Against the Empire, the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens set, and the announced Avengers: Age of Ultron set ($34.99 apiece).

To get the most out of the Toy Box, players will also want to grab the Toy Box Takeover (which adds a crossover story mission to the Toy Box) and Toy Box Speedway (which adds a pretty decent Mario Kart clone) ($19.99 apiece). The Power disc packs are inessential and can be ignored, and no individual figures are required to unlock specific content.

  • Core game access cost: $204.95
  • Full game plus Toy Box access cost: $244.93
  • Infinity 3.0 completist cost: $600+

amiibo

  • Figures: $12.99 each
  • Mega Yarn Yoshi amiibo: $39.99
  • amiibo cards: $6/random 6-pack
  • amiibo Festival bundle: $59.99

amiibo are generally simpler to sort out than other lines, as aside from the cards and the Mega Yarn Yoshi, they all exist simply as figures. No vehicles, no play sets, none of that. Things can be slightly tricky here in the U.S. in that Nintendo offers many figures as retailer exclusives or in bundles. However, aside from the amiibo Festival twosome (Isabelle and Digby), all the bundled amiibo have shown up at retailers as standalone figures. All amiibo are available individually carded in other regions and all amiibo are functionally region-free, so as long as you don't insist on American packaging you can easily find amiibo without buying a console or game bundle.

The real challenge, of course, is actually getting hold of the more sought-after amiibo. Nintendo's distribution has gotten better in the U.S., but it's still practically impossible to find certain chase pieces here: Marth, the Animal Crossing Villager, the Mega Yarn Yoshi, etc. Thankfully, few amiibo are actually required for unlocking game content (the most unfortunate exception again being the hard-to-find Splatoon three-pack).

The prices below include the early 2016 wave of figures and cards.

  • Full Smash Bros. set: About $690.00
  • Full Animal Crossing set: About $215.00
  • Full Animal Crossing set with cards: About $415
  • amiibo completist cost: About $1350

LEGO Dimensions

  • Starter set: $99.99
  • Level Packs: $29.99
  • Team Packs: $24.99
  • Fun Packs: $14.99

Time to take out that second mortgage. LEGO Dimensions starts with the most expensive core pack by far (at $99.99, it's 1/3 more expensive than Skylanders) and the costs just keep adding up from there. This is perhaps to be expected, given the astronomical costs of LEGO toys, but it definitely puts Dimensions into its own price tier. The game's reliance on add-on packs doesn't help (there are six available or announced at $29.99 apiece, with in-game hooks that suggest several more may be on the way).

Thankfully the Team Packs ($24.99) and Fun Packs ($14.99) are wholly optional; while they add new playable characters and vehicles to the in-game toy box, they don't unlock new content. Still, the completists in the audience will need to dig deep, as there will be 27 Fun Packs as of May 2016.

All costs cited below are based on announced or available products through May 2016's Wave 5 releases; WBIE may announce further additions to the line.

  • Core game access cost: $279.93
  • Completist cost: About $780.00

Advantage: amiibo

Despite having the highest total potential cost, amiibo gets the nod here for their low cost of entry and Nintendo's a la carte approach. Only a handful of amiibo are required for games, with most simply offering small bonuses. As such, it's easy for players to buy in only as deeply as they feel like going, picking up a few favorite characters or focusing on a specific game or two. Otherwise, the nod goes to Infinity 3.0, which offers full access to in-game content (including Toy Box add-ons) for less than the equivalent costs in Dimensions or Skylanders.

Final Verdict: Disney Infinity 3.0

Our recommendation for the best toys-to-life product of 2015 is Disney's latest offering. While each brand has its share of both strengths and weaknesses, Infinity offers the most strengths and the fewest weaknesses. Skylanders offers a polished experience but lacks memorable characters; amiibo gives players great selection and freedom to invest, but lacks a strong unifying product; and Dimensions offers amusing takes on a ton of pop culture franchises with great LEGO toys, but it's incredibly expensive and the actual game that holds it all together is by far the worst of the bunch.

Disney Infinity 3.0 can be a hefty investment, but the inclusion of the open-ended Toy Box mode helps make up for it by providing a truly open-ended play space. As such, the game works for all ages: Kids, very young kids, and their patient parents as well. Its continued commitment to female characters as a matter of course is a breath of fresh air, too, and the women of the Star Wars sets in particular are every bit as tough and capable as their male counterparts. With racing, action, and plain ol' goofing around with a panoply of Disney-owned characters, it really is hard to go wrong with Infinity.

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