Nintendo vs. Sega! Transformers vs. GoBots! These Rivalries Defined The ’80s And ’90s.


When it comes to pop culture rivalries, nothing is more fun than rooting for a person, product, or company that you feel is far superior to its most direct competition.

I could go on and on with examples: iOS vs. Android, LeBron vs. Durant, Wolf of Wall Street vs. American Hustle, and the Coke vs. Pepsi rivalry, which, for most of us, has lasted decades. Other rivalries, however, have faded away over time, either because we stopped caring or because the products became obsolete. But that doesn’t mean we can’t reminisce.

Here are the 10 best rivalries that meant the most to us as kids:

10. Transformers vs. GoBots

We start our countdown with a beatdown. You may not be familiar with GoBots because, well, GoBots sucked. Introduced by Tonka in 1983, they were supposed to compete with Hasbro’s Transformers in the robot toy space, but they fizzled out after a few years. Transformers, on the other hand, eventually became a billion dollar movie franchise starring Megan Fox.

Huge advantage: Transformers.

9. Kool-Aid vs. Wyler’s

Most people, when referring to flavor aid, simply refer to it as Kool-Aid. But for kids whose moms couldn’t afford Kool-Aid’s extravagant $.25 per package pricing to Wyler’s $.10, well, we also called it Kool-Aid, but we also knew better. We didn’t mention to our friends when they came over that they weren’t drinking the popular brand out of fear of being made fun of, but looking back, Mom made the right choice. The two brands tasted the same, and with the savings made by going with Wyler’s, she could maybe buy us something at the checkout line.

Advantage: Wyler’s

8. Trapper Keeper vs. Tabs

Mead’s Trapper Keeper was way ahead of its time. With its heavy-duty material, you could pretty much do anything you wanted to it, and it wouldn’t break. Everyone wanted one, and pretty much everyone got one, which made it one of those rare fads that actually matched the hype. Tabs is known mostly for its jingle, which went, “Whatcha’ keepin’ tabs on? [Whatcha’ keepin’ tabs on?]” I can’t find it anywhere on YouTube for some reason, which means I may be making it up in my own head. Is this a fuzzy memory, or did it actually exist? Go to work, commenters. Find me that commercial.

Advantage: Trapper Keeper

7. Topps vs. Fleer

Roger Clemens
Getty Image

Throughout the 1980s, there were three major trading card companies: Topps, Fleer, and Donruss. By the late 1980s and early 1990s, a few smaller companies like Score and Upper Deck joined the market, and by the mid-1990s, there were so many companies making trading cards that the entire market crashed and everyone’s collectibles became practically worthless. But for a short time, collecting baseball cards was a lot of fun, and for most of us, we were glad we were there before capitalism came and ruined it. Thanks a lot, adults. In my opinion, Topps will always be the gold standard for trading cards, so…

Advantage: Topps

6. JanSport vs. Eastpak

Most people gravitated towards JanSport backpacks due to their popularity, but if comfort and superior styling was what you wished for, you’d go with Eastpak. Of course, the argument became moot about a decade ago after the two companies merged when Eastpak was bought by the same company that owned JanSport, but for 10 solid years in the late 1980s and early 1990s, these two brands made for one heck of a rivalry. I think I owned a couple of each back in the day, so this one gets a push.

Advantage: None

5. Nike vs. Reebok

For those of us with moms who bought most of our shoes from Payless, No. 5 on this list could just as easily have been XJ900 vs. Pro Wings. But for the purposes of this exercise, we’ll go with the two top dogs. Nike had Michael Jordan and Mars Blackmon, Reebok had Shaq and John Wooden. Nike had air, Reebok had the pump. Nike had the swoosh, Reebok had… whatever it is that logo is called. Because we don’t know for sure, this one’s easy.

Advantage: Nike

4. Classic Concentration vs. The Price Is Right

Summer mornings or sick days off from school always meant the same thing, watching game shows. For me, the best of the bunch were Classic Concentration and The Price Is Right. Being that both shows had legends as hosts in Alex Trebek and Bob Barker, you knew you weren’t simply wasting away your morning. I think I enjoyed Concentration more, but because TPIR is still going strong, I’m giving it the nod.

Slight Advantage: The Price Is Right

3. Gatorade vs. Powerade

I debated putting Sunny “D” vs. Purple Stuff here, but because that rivalry never made it very far, we’re going with Gatorade vs. Powerade. To me, this was really the Nike vs. Reebok of sports drinks (and All-Sport was Fila?). I remember when Powerade first came on the market in the late 1980s, and people were confident that it would be Coke’s answer to Gatorade in the sports drink space. Some of my friends even claimed to like it. I think they were just being nice. This one’s my easiest choice so far; I want to be like Mike.

Advantage: Gatorade

2. Hot Wheels vs. Micro Machines

Hot Wheels had the market share, but Micro Machines had the fast-talking pitch man. Hot Wheels had the cool accessories, but Micro Machines had the fast-talking pitch man. Hot Wheels were more fun to play with, but Micro Machines had the fast-talking pitch man.

Advantage: Hot Wheels in every discernible way, except, well, that pitch man

1. Nintendo vs. Sega

The No. 1 rivalry is in the top spot because it spawned a number of sub-categories within the cartridge gaming space. For instance, once NES vs. Sega Master System got underway, it eventually led to Game Boy vs. Game Gear, Mario vs. Sonic, Nintendo Power vs. Sega Power, and the Nintendo 64 vs. Sega Dreamcast. This was truly the iOS vs. Android of its day, with Nintendo getting the market share like iOS, but Sega getting the street cred like Android. It was a back-and-forth rivalry that lasted for more than a decade, probably until Sony came out with its original PlayStation and blew them both out of the water. But damn if it wasn’t fun while it lasted.

Advantage: Nintendo

Honorable mention: MTV vs. VH1, which didn’t make the cut because they weren’t technically rivals, although we treated them as such; and Betamax vs. VHS, but only because Betamax has been through enough. R.I.P., Old Friends.