I love a good road trip. The feeling of freedom from the open road. The hours watching the world go by. The excitement of travelling towards a new destination. There really is something cool to me about a journey where you are in control of your own movement like that.

But that’s the ideal scenario. What if it’s hammering down with rain, or you’re stuck in a traffic jam. Or what if you’re not driving with that feeling of control but instead you’re stuck in the back seat, feeling helpless and bored. What then? Well that’s where games and distractions come in. Parents around the world will have a list of simple games like eye spy or the game where you guess the colour of the next car to overtake you, or try to make fun acronyms from the registration number plate of the car in front of you.

Or you can go one step higher and bring questions from a board game to quiz people in the car, or use some road trip trivia games to entertain your fellow car riders.

I used to enjoy all the above methods of entertainment when I was a kid in the back seat of long car journeys. But there was also another option that I particularly enjoyed. The toy or gadget. Some classic ones are listed below, and I think they are still as relevant now as they were then. So read on if you are needing some inspiration for retro toys and gadgets to keep you occupied on your next long journey.

Travel Yahtzee
I’m going to start with one that I had in my youth but never really played properly. I still to this day have no idea what the rules are for Yahtzee, but we had a Travel Yahtzee and it was very cool. Not the game itself but the dice holder. I assume you need five dice in Yahtzee, and it’s hard to use five dice in a car or when travelling, so they made this very cool dice holder that you could pop and click the dice to make them pick a new number. It was like a forerunner to the fidget spinner. I used to click away happily on this thing and it was so satisfying.

Top Trumps
I’ll be totally honest. I don’t think Top Trumps is a great game. I feel it can be very one-sided, where one player wins nearly every card in the game, and then the other player will eventually get to use one of the two or three hero cards and they’ll win a turn and subsequently that person will then win nearly the whole pack back, until the first then uses his hero card and it goes back and forth like that. But, I loved the packs of cards. They were both educational and also very cool. Ones I remember included, footballers, cars and military vehicles like aeroplanes and ships. My favourite packs of Top Trumps were the two Horror packs, and my favourite non-Top Trump pack was the Marvel Super Hero card game. Amazing artwork on both of them.

Rubik’s Snake and Rubik’s Magic
Obviously the Rubik’s Cube is an absolute icon of toys in general, but I never really used to play with it much because it was just too hard unless you took the time to remember algorithms, and that seemed to spoil the fun for me. I much preferred the Rubik’s Snake as you could be artistic with that. It wasn’t just a puzzle. And somewhere in-between was the Rubik’s Magic. This thing was a puzzle but you could also make shapes out of it. Quite a curious thing and I never used it as much as the snake, but both are great to have in the car as they don’t take up too much space (especially if you got one of the small snakes) and they obviously didn’t need batteries.

Speaking of toys that didn’t need batteries, Pocketeers, from Tomy, were the perfect companion for being out and about anywhere. They were the perfect size to actually be a pocket toy, hence the name. And they were often wind-up powered so you had no battery concerns. There was a huge variety of games as well, including golf, fruit machine, football, car racing, smurf games and many more.

Pocket Simon
Now onto ones that did require batteries. And this first one also requires a great short term memory. Simon, an absolute classic game that offered hours of fun under such a simple premise. This pocket version isn’t exactly small enough to fit into a pocket, but it’s certainly small enough to chuck into a travel bag to take it in the car. Although I feel for the driver of the car who has to hear the beep sequences over and over again whilst driving. Simon says switch the game off!!

Tomytronic 3-D
I have distinct memories of playing my Thundering Turbo Tomytronic in the car on long car rides. When you played it whilst being in the car, it really did make the experience of driving a car even more visceral. All the real car and traffic noises in the outside world almost made playing this game like a complete VR experience. I absolutely love this game, and it would be the perfect escapism whilst on a long car journey. As long as your brothers don’t keep putting their hands over the light panel above the game. But they’d never do that now would they? No, of course not.

Game & Watch
Give me Donkey Kong or Mario Bros Game & Watches and I would be happily entertained for hours on end. These things are beautiful. The normal single screen Game & Watches are nice enough, but these two double-screen clam shell versions are just gorgeous. And the games still play well today. Definitely any child who could have one of these to while away the hours on a journey should have counted themselves lucky. I would still be very happy having one of these today to keep me occupied.

Game Boy
Perhaps the daddy of all portable gaming. Everything changed after this. It was the first proper device to offer a high quality multi game experience. It’s competitors, the Sega Game Gear and the Atari Lynx may have had colour screens and arguably better games in some cases, but the fact that they ate through batteries like no-one’s business really makes them not that great for travel unfortunately. The Game Boy, however, despite having a ‘black and white’ screen had a much longer battery life, and that made it the king of portability. And I just think it was, and still is, the perfect design for a hand-held games console. I would, and I do, take this on journeys. I would even plan a journey just so that I can play the Game Boy. That’s how much I love it. And that’s the sign of a true legendary travel gadget.