Skylanders Characters 101: For Kids, Collectors, and Adults
Who is This Guide For?
This guide is for anyone who is or who is thinking about collecting, buying, selling, and/or trading Skylanders figures.
This guide is for kids looking to collect all the Skylanders characters.
This guide is for parents buying Skylanders figures for their children.
This guide is for adults buying figures for themselves.
Even if you know everything there is to know about Skylanders, I hope that you’ll give this guide a quick read and SHARE it with someone who might find it useful. There are a lot of Skylanders characters out there and more being added each year with each new game. It can get confusing very quickly.
PRO TIP: If you want to link to a particular section of this guide; CLICK on that section in the Table of Contents below, THEN copy the link from the address bar of your browser.
Let’s start at the very beginning. Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure is actually a reboot of the Spyro the Dragon series from the late 90’s.
Skylanders first launched in October of 2011. Little did anyone know just how successful this franchise would become. Even Activision, the game’s producer, was not prepared. By the end of the year there was a massive shortage of Skylanders figures worldwide.
Enough history though. Let’s jump into the figures.
All Skylanders characters are divided into one of eight “elements”. These elements are:
These elements, along with the number eight (8) will play a recurring role in the world of the Skylanders.
You can easily tell which element each of the Skylanders belongs to by looking at the base of their figure. Each base will have one of the following:
- Clouds (Air)
- Mound of Dirt with Prisms/Crystals sticking out (Earth)
- Flames (Fire)
- Pile of Leaves (Life)
- Bronze Base split into triangles with various symbols in the triangles (Magic)
- Pile of Gears (Tech)
- Skull (Undead)
- Splashing Water (Water)
Each base corresponds to one element (in parentheses above).
When shopping for Skylanders characters, especially in retail stores, there are a few things that you should be aware of.
Skylanders ship in waves. This means that not all new Skylanders characters are available on the same day the game is released. This also means that as you get further away from the release date, many of the early releases become hard to find and some even go out of production.
Generally there are 5-6 Waves per game. These Waves are not officially announced by Activision or the stores. So it is often hard to identify which Skylanders characters belong to which Wave and when each Wave actually begins. The shipping containers that stores receive are marked with a Wave number, but these are usually removed before they reach the sales floor and therefore are not usually seen by the general public. To make things even more confusing, Activision has been known to sneak in extra Waves (i.e. Wave 5.1).
Due to the unpredictability of these Waves, fans and collectors always need to be on the lookout for new characters when visiting their local stores.
If you visit the Skylanders aisle in any store, you will immediately notice that there are a variety of different packages available.
If you’ve never played Skylanders before this is what you’re looking for. It will include the game, the magnificent Portal of Power, and a few Skylanders to get you started.
We were introduced to the Portal Owner’s Pack with the release of Skylanders: Giants. The original Portal was still compatible with the new game so if you owned there first game, there was no need to purchase a second Portal.
This Booster Pack included the game and just one figure. So some people opted to buy the Starter Pack just to get the extra figures.
There will be no Portal Owner’s Pack option with Skylanders SWAP Force. The technology of the figurines has advanced and the older Portals are no longer compatible. So if you wish to play Skylanders SWAP Force, you will need to purchase a Starter Pack.
These packs simply contain one playable Skylanders character to add to your collection. Most (but not all) characters will be available in a Single Pack at one point or another. However, Triple Packs actually offer a more affordable solution.
Double Packs first made an appearance for Skylanders SWAP Force. These two-packs include two of the featured swappable SWAP Force characters. These packs were initially a Target Exclusive and the only way to get your hands on Nitro Magna Charge. In later waves, though, more double packs were released to all retailers.
At this point only SWAP Force members have been seen in Double Packs. I would expect it to stay this way.
These are similar to the Single Packs, but instead of one figure, you get three different Skylanders characters. The best part about the Triple Packs is that they retail for less than the price of three Single Packs.
Unfortunately, not all the Skylanders characters will make it into a Triple Pack. So if you’re trying to collect one of each figure, then you will still have to purchase some singles.
There were four Adventure Packs released with Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure. These packs included one figure (exclusive to the Adventure Pack), a new level to play through in the game, and two “power-up” items to aide you throughout the game.
There were no Adventure Packs associated with Skylanders Giants, but there will be two coming soon for SWAP Force.
In Skylanders Giants, the Battle Packs took the place of the Adventure Packs. These packs included two playable Skylanders characters and a brand new battle arena.
Battle Packs will also be making a second appearance in Skylanders SWAP Force.
How to Identify
The easiest way to to tell if a figure is from Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure is to look at the base. All figures released with Spyro’s Adventure will have a translucent (see-through) green base.
In the beginning all of the Skylanders (except Spyro) were brand new characters. So Activision did the smart thing and kept it simple. There were 32 figures to collect, four Skylanders characters for each of the eight elements.
Although there were no subsets of characters in Spyro’s Adventure, there were plenty of variant figures to chase after.
Some of these variants were randomly inserted into Single and Triple Packs. Others were exclusive to a particular retailer. And yet others could only be found at industry trade shows and conventions.
While some variants are harder to find than others, they are all typically more rare than any regular figure. Most of the variants are only produced once, so once they’re all sold out you’re probably going to have to pay someone a lot of money to get your hands on one.
Over time, the Skylanders characters market has become very lucrative. This, in turn, has attracted the attention of scammers.
Some variant figures have sold for hundreds of dollars, so naturally this is where the scammers gravitate. Some of the earliest legitimate variants were simply painted gold or silver.
With time and a little bit of skill, this is something that scammers were easily able to replicate. This is why many of the later variants include translucent (see-through) resin. It is much harder to fake.
On the other hand this is a big reason why Skylanders Character List (SCL) exists. I could not find a decent list of all the Skylanders characters online, especially the variants. I work hard to make sure that the lists here are kept up-to-date and that only true figures and variants are added to the list. Thus, if you do not see a particular figure on my list, you can be quite certain it is a fake.
However, if you ever have doubts or questions, please feel free to contact me. I will gladly help as best I can.
The Legendary Skylanders are exclusive to Toys R Us. Aside from receiving a new blue and gold paint job, these characters come with an in-game advantage.
Each Legendary Skylander has one or more of its stats boosted from the time they are first placed on the Portal. So not only are these figures a nice addition to your collection, but they can be very useful when playing through the game.
The Giants are a subset of Skylanders characters that easily stand out from the rest. The Giant figures are nearly twice the size of the original Skylanders figures. In total, there are eight Giant characters (one for each element).
The easiest way to identify a Skylanders Giants figure is to look at the base. All figures that were released with Skylanders Giants will have a translucent (see-through) orange base.
Activision really wanted to keep us on our toes for this one. Now that we are already familiar with a number of Skylanders characters they were able to start branching out. The Skylanders Giants release included a total of 48 figures (if you don’t count any variants). These 48 consisted of:
8 Skylanders Giants
8 LightCore Skylanders
8 New Skylanders
24 Returning (Series 2) Skylanders
Every time you get a new game in a franchise like Skylanders, there will be a question of compatibility. Thankfully, I think Activision got it right.
Any character from Spyro’s Adventure (Series 1 figures with a green base) can be used in Skylanders Giants.
Any of the 24 Returning Skylanders characters (Series 2 figures with an orange base) can be used in Skylander Spyro’s Adventure.
The remaining figures (8 Giants, 8 LightCore*, and 16 New Skylanders) can ONLY be used in Skylanders Giants. *See exceptions.
Each time a new Skylanders character is brought into the game, it is (by default) known as a Series 1 figure.
In Skylanders Giants, some of the original figures received a new pose and were released again. Since this is the second game they have appeared in, this is classified as a Series 2 figure.
Skylanders Giants also gave us 16 new Skylanders characters. For these 16, it is their first appearance in a Skylanders game. Therefore, like the originals from Spyro’s Adventure, these are Series 1 figures.
This is an important concept to keep in mind moving forward because it will expand each time a new game is added. All figures start as a Series 1 figure. Each time they are reposed they advance one Series.
Since only 24 of original 32 Skylanders characters were reposed for Series 2, that means there are eight left over. These eight have affectionately been dubbed, the Forgotten 8.
However, just because we didn’t see them in Skylanders Giants, doesn’t mean that they are gone forever. Many are hoping that the Forgotten 8 will receive a repose in SWAP Force, but it’s looking rather doubtful at this point.
The studio execs are aware that fans want to see the Forgotten 8 again and have even suggested that we will see them in the future. Perhaps in Skylanders 4…
Skylanders Giants variants worked much the same way as in the Spyro’s Adventure release. Many are simply inserted into random store shipments, some come from special promotions or store exclusives, and a few super rare figures can be found at trade shows and conventions (like E3 and Toy Fair).
For the most part, Activision does not announce these variants. It is up to the fans to find them and bring their existence to light. Naturally, this does cause some confusion when new variants are found, but eventually we get it all sorted out.
Just remember, when you’re out shopping and see something a bit out of the ordinary, you probably want to buy it.
Just like in Spyro’s Adventure, Skylanders Giants brings you more Legendary Skylanders characters. These special figures (still exclusive to Toys R Us) will give your character an immediate stats boost in the game.
This time around though, the Legendary figures aren’t the only ones who receive a “bonus”.
Each LightCore Skylander comes with a special power that their regular counterpart does not have.
Also, each Series 2 character can gain a special “Wow Pow” power. So while you can use your Series 1 characters in Skylanders Giants, your Series 2 characters will still have an advantage.
Like the Giants, the SWAP Force brings a new twist to the game. However, in the case of the SWAP Force, it’s a pretty big twist.
When all is said and done there will be 16 SWAP Force Skylanders. Each of these SWAP Force members will actually come in two pieces. They will have a top half and a bottom half that are held together by a special magnet. This is necessary because, as their name suggests, each figure is swappable. You can combine any top half of a SWAP Force member with any bottom half of a SWAP Force member.
If you do the math you will quickly see that you have a lot of options to play with. If you can get your hands on all 16 SWAP Force Skylanders characters you will be able to create an amazing 256 different characters.
The easiest way to identify a SWAP Force figure is to look at the base. All figures released in association with the SWAP Force game will have a translucent (see-through) blue base.
While the SWAP Force members should be easy enough to identify since they come in two halves, you can be absolutely sure by looking for the gold hexagon.
On the base of each SWAP Force figure there will be a small gold hexagon with a symbol on it.
This symbol identifies what special movement this character is capable of performing. There are eight different movement types which include (from left to right):
These types are divided evenly amongst the characters. So this means that only two characters will be assigned to each movement type. At various points in the game, a specific movement type will be required to gain access to new areas.
As I mentioned above, there will be 16 brand new SWAP Force characters. However, these are not the only new Skylanders characters to look for. In total there will be 56 new figures (not including variants) to collect. They are divided into the following groups:
16 SWAP Force Skylanders
16 New Skylanders
16 Returning (Series 2 and Series 3) Skylanders
8 LightCore Skylanders
Following in the footsteps of the Giants, all pre-existing figures will be compatible with Skylanders SWAP Force.
The same basic compatibility rules we saw with Skylanders Giants are in effect for SWAP Force. This means that if a character was present in a previous game, you can use a newer version of the character in an older game. *A note about LightCore figures.
For example, when you get your Series 3 Ninja Stealth Elf with the Starter Pack, she can play in Skylanders Giants as well as Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure. If you pick up a Series 2 Blizzard Chill, she can play in Skylanders Giants, but will not be available for Spyro’s Adventure.
If you read the section on the Series 2 Repose for Skylanders Giants, then this will make more sense. In any case, I know this is going to confuse a lot of people so just take your time and read carefully.
Each time a new character is brought into the Skylanders world, it is considered a Series 1 figure. It does not matter whether it was first introduced in Spyro’s Adventure, Giants, or SWAP Force. Each game has a set of Series 1 figures.
When a character makes an appearance in a second Skylanders game, this is considered a Series 2 figure.
Similarly, when a character makes an appearance in a third Skylanders game, this is considered a Series 3 figure.
As expected the SWAP Force variants can be found in all the same places. During this release it appears that Activision has strengthened its relationship with Frito-Lay. So always be on the lookout for new promotions.
Stop by your local retailers often to check for new stock. Watch for new Skylanders promotions and if you’re able, hit up shows like E3 and Toy Fair. Going into year three, I’m sure Activision has plenty of surprises for us.
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