With years of history and structure to abide by, name-brand sets can get a little tiresome. Considering the fact that they can also be extremely expensive too, there’s no harm in looking out for the best LEGO alternatives and off-brand sets that will provide just as much, if not more, brick-building fun.
Best LEGO alternatives
When it comes to my top five off-brand toys like LEGO, the brands I’ve listed below have the strongest collections:
- Mould King
There’s a whole range of variety when it comes to brick building sets. Many are cheaper alternatives to LEGO, while the others are unofficial compatible brands. Personally, I’m not so much into LEGO rip offs, and I rather see alternative brands take the core fundamentals and put their own creative spin on it. Here’s a breakdown of what I think are the best.
MEGA: The manufacturer of my favourite toys like LEGO
MEGA, a brand owned by Mattel, a merger between the MEGA Construx and MEGA Blox sub-brands, produce slightly larger building block toys that are licensed alongside some incredibly recognisable house-hold names.
Fancy building an Xbox 360, Master Chief, a Pikachu, or a massive sculpture of Snake Mountain from Master of the Universe? MEGA has all the sets you could ever have dreamed of. Thanks to Mattel’s licensing, MEGA has collaborated with some of pop-culture’s most impressive names. It’s even fought against Nanoblocks to win the rights for Pokémon.
There’s even a Cybertruck licensed by Tesla.
As a huge toy brand, MEGA doesn’t lean too far into the systems that LEGO has implemented. Blocks are bigger, curvier, and most of the time, a lot cuter. The only thing I’d complain about with MEGA’s models is that removing pieces from each other can be a little tricky. Without as many sharp corners to latch onto with a fingernail or piece remover, it can be a bit of a pain to get any purchase to separate curved blocks from each other.
The plus side to this is that MEGA blocks sit firmly against each other with as much tension and compactness as LEGO, and compared to some less reputable alternatives you can really feel the difference here.
Nanoblocks: These will spruce up your desk nicely
If you’ve been around brick building toys for a while, you’ve heard of Nanoblocks. Like MEGA, the brand has allied with some impressive IPs to create licensed toys. This includes LEGO-style Pokémon sets, among a few other partnerships. We’ve recently compared MEGA and Nanoblocks too.
Nanoblocks are – as the name obviously suggests – a much smaller alternative to LEGO. While the miniature pieces aren’t going to be compatible with LEGO’s blocks, this isn’t an issue especially as the form offers a different set of qualities.
Most Nanoblocks are going to act as brilliant desk tidies and decorations, with Jujutsu Kaisen and Naruto models sure to attract anime fans too.
You might need to pick up a pair of Nanoblocks compatible tweezers to build some of these sets, and again, pulling apart some of these pieces can be a bit of a moot point. If you’re an accomplished, experienced builder – try Nanoblocks. And if you’re not, try it anyway. Soon you’re going to be pretty good at building micro LEGO-style models.
JMBricklayer: The best LEGO compatible brand by far
JMBricklayer is one of the leading LEGO alternatives. Based in China, the Shenzhen company is manufacturing extraordinarily creative sets touching on mecha, architecture, and nautical exploration.
One set that I’ve been particularly lucky to build is the Ghostship: The Flying Dutchman, a tactfully lit sea explorer that puts most knock-off LEGO sets to shame.
Thanks to the now expired LEGO patent, JMBricklayer bricks fit cleanly into LEGO bricks. This means you’re going to be able to use some of its unique pieces to spruce up any official LEGO sets that are held back by the fear of illegal LEGO building techniques.
You’d expect to find LEGO sets with over 1,000 pieces to cost you anywhere above £100, though JMBricklayer has priced its sets adequately with affordable prices. You won’t be sat staring into an empty wallet if you decide to pick up JMBricklayer sets – instead you’ll be gazing at expertly lit sets that are going to put quite a few LEGO displays to shame.
Cobi: Tackling military brick-building sets with historical accuracy
Show me a LEGO set that recreates military vehicles with as much accuracy as Cobi’s does. Ranging between the World Wars, and touching upon Maverick’s F14 Tomcat from Top Gun, this brand looks to fill a vacuum long ignored by LEGO: War.
Growing up building Airfix models of Spitfires and HMS Warships has long influenced my interest in vehicle models, and Cobi is one of the few ways that I can experience that through brick building.
From afar, though, Cobi’s vehicle sets hardly even look like they’re built with knock-off LEGO bricks. Thanks to detailed printed blocks, stickers, and camouflage colour schemes, these sets are going to really elevate your model collection.
The Minifigures included in Cobi sets also set themselves apart from what you’d expect from LEGO minis. They usually sport slightly more realistic proportions, better likened to what you’d expect from LEGO Duplo.
This is far from a bad thing, as it allows them to fit into the slightly more serious nature of warfare and military combat.
Mould King: Giving LEGO Technic a run for its money
When it comes to LEGO Technic, there’s no denying that it’s one of the name-brand’s most impressive and desirable themes. That comes with a cost, though. A pretty literal one. Finding cheap Technic sets generally means a compromise in complexity and design, though Mould King will not be doing that.
Emerging from the shadow of Lepin, Mould King is a huge step-up from its previous attempts at recreating the magic of LEGO. Its Technician sets in particular are a great alternative, offering up an extremely affordable and viable option for anyone not prepared to spend the couple of hundred you’d expect to sink on a Technic set.
Its sets range between mythology, industry, iconic pop culture collaborations, and space warfare. There are even knock-off Star Wars sets that can be built for much cheaper than what LEGO charges, though there are slight design and appearance differences that any fans of the franchise will recognise immediately.
Many of the Technician sets are motorised, alongside recreations of the Millenium Falcon and military war vehicles.
The build quality of Mould King LEGO sets is not quite at the level of LEGO’s own sets. A few pieces here and there are going to sit slightly funky, though it’s a lottery really.
Wange: The LEGO Architecture rival with the funniest name
I’ve got to include Wange purely for the name. It’s just funny, and you don’t need me to explain why. A childish humour isn’t the only reason it’s included in my choices of the best LEGO alternatives, but rather the approach it takes to Architectural sets.
Architecture is one of the most attractive and desirable LEGO themes for adults, and Wange sets offer a far cheaper entry point to experience this.
With sets creating The Roman Colloseum, the Arc du Triomphe, and the Burj al Arab, investing in Wange sets will let you circumvent the cost of an expensive sightseeing holiday pretty nicely.
Pantasy: Adults and collectors will flock to this brand
For adults interested in collector’s items and such, Pantasy is the brand that you’re going to want to look at first. As an avid gamer, it’s really enticing seeing retro computers, graphics cards, and arcade systems turned into detailed and articular brick building sets.
One set that I think deserves a resounding highlight is the Pantasy Astro Boy building kit. Extremely detailed and honestly quite stunning, the Astro Boy set creates a deconstructed sculpture of the character with exquisite attention to detail.
The set measures 12-inches tall when built and displayed, alongside 1,258 pieces. While it’s not as budget friendly as some LEGO rip-off brand sets, it deserves this price thanks to its unique and innovative aesthetics and original piece designs.
There’s even a version available in pure white, which looks just as stunning.
Outside of raving about the Pantasy Astro Boy, there’s also licensed Sherlock Holmes sets and Popeye dioramas.
I’d only really recommend Pantasy sets to accomplished and experienced brick-builders. Sets are complex, articulate, and will require a really acute attention to detail. By no means a bad thing, Pantasy are doing wonders for the world of LEGO alternatives.
burgkidz: The best LEGO alternative for kids
LEGO alternatives are a great cost-effective option for kids too. burgkidz happen to be the best brand for that, offering up creative and in-expensive options for anyone who’s not prepared to cash their entire wallet for Duplo bricks.
Sets are designed to encourage creativity and problem solving – with STEM and activity influences driving the builds of many sets.
Vatos: an eco-friendly choice
While LEGO DREAMZzz is doing wonders for promoting enhanced creativity and storytelling in official sets, Vatos takes up this mantel for LEGO alternatives.
Sets are complex and intricately lit with LEDs, making for an engaging and immersive building experience for younger builders.
On top of that, they’re not going to cost anywhere near as much as what you’d expect from actual LEGO sets. This is a great budget alternative to LEGOm and you’re going to be able to click Vatos pieces into LEGO pieces thanks to shared compatibility.
Alongside that, they’re an eco-friendly option as they offer non-toxic and BPA-free production materials.
I’d consider the following when choosing a LEGO alternative:
- Price: The cost is a significant factor, especially when searching for a cheaper alternative to LEGO. I look for options that offer a balance between affordability and quality, ensuring I get a satisfying experience without breaking the bank.
- Complexity: The complexity of off-brand LEGO sets is key. Whether I’m purchasing for myself or as a gift, particularly for adults, I consider the skill level required. Some LEGO like brands offer intricate designs for advanced builders, while others cater to novices with simpler models.
- Compatibility: Compatibility with original LEGO pieces is a game-changer for me. I prefer LEGO compatible brands that allow me to integrate new pieces with my existing LEGO collection, broadening my creative scope.
- Articulation: Particularly in knock-off LEGO sets, articulation adds a crucial dimension. I look for sets where pieces move and interact smoothly, essential for realistic and engaging builds.
- Customer Support: This is crucial, especially when dealing with fake LEGO brands. Responsive and helpful service is a must for issues like missing parts or assembly help, marking the sign of a trustworthy company.
- Build Quality: This is non-negotiable. I seek out LEGO alternatives that match LEGO’s snug fit and durability. Poor quality, often seen in some rip off LEGO brands, can lead to a frustrating building experience.
- Creativity: This is at the heart of all brick building sets. I’m drawn to LEGO rip-offs that spark imagination, offering unique themes and colors. The best alternatives should inspire builders, just as LEGO does, but perhaps with a unique twist or new perspective.
Chinese LEGO alternatives have some major advantages over the name-brand
Chinese LEGO alternatives offer some significant advantages over their name-brand counterparts. One of the most notable benefits is affordability. These alternatives often come at a fraction of the cost of genuine LEGO sets, making them accessible to a wider audience. This price difference is particularly appealing for large sets or collections, where the savings can be substantial.
Additionally, Chinese LEGO alternatives frequently showcase a diverse range of themes and designs, some of which are not found in traditional LEGO sets. This variety sparks creativity and offers builders unique building experiences. Often, these sets cater to niche interests, providing options that LEGO hasn’t explored.
Another advantage lies in their compatibility with LEGO pieces. Many Chinese brands manufacture their blocks to fit seamlessly with LEGO, allowing builders to integrate them with their existing collections. This compatibility expands creative possibilities without the need to invest exclusively in name-brand products.
Overall, Chinese LEGO-style toys stand out for their affordability, unique themes, and compatibility, offering a compelling choice for both casual builders and avid collectors.
Are rip-off LEGO sets even considered legal?
The legality of rip-off LEGO sets, specifically referencing brands like LEPIN, is a matter of significant legal scrutiny. LEPIN, a Chinese manufacturer, became infamous for producing sets that were near-exact copies of LEGO’s designs. These sets weren’t just similar in terms of the bricks used, but often replicated LEGO’s unique set designs, artwork, and even packaging.
LEGO’s designs are protected under copyright laws, and their distinctive sets, minifigures, and unique pieces are also covered by various intellectual property rights. By replicating these specific elements, LEPIN and similar companies engage in copyright infringement, which is illegal.
LEGO has taken legal action against similar manufacturers. In these cases, courts have often sided with LEGO, recognizing the infringement of intellectual property rights. This has led to crackdowns on LEPIN’s manufacturing and distribution, emphasising the legal stance against such direct copycat practices.
While manufacturing generic interlocking bricks might be permissible within the bounds of expired patents, the replication of LEGO’s specific designs and sets, as practised by LEPIN, is illegal and constitutes a clear violation of copyright laws.
Adults are turning to off-brand LEGO sets because it’s much more affordable
In recent years, there’s been a notable trend of adults gravitating towards off-brand LEGO sets, primarily driven by their affordability. As LEGO has become an increasingly popular hobby for adults, the high cost of official LEGO sets can be a significant barrier. This is where off-brand LEGO sets shine, offering a budget-friendly alternative for adult enthusiasts.
These off-brand sets often come at a fraction of the cost of official LEGO sets. This price difference is particularly attractive for larger and more complex models, which are popular among adult builders. These models often replicate the sophistication and challenge of LEGO’s own adult-focused sets, but at a price point that doesn’t strain the wallet.
The affordability of off-brand sets allows adults to indulge in their hobby without financial guilt. It enables builders to tackle larger projects or build a more extensive collection. For those who enjoy the therapeutic and creative aspects of brick building, the lower cost means they can engage in this pastime more frequently and expansively.
Moreover, off-brand sets often explore themes and concepts not available in the official LEGO lineup. This variety can be particularly appealing to adult builders looking for something different or more aligned with their specific interests.
Cheaper alternatives to LEGO will diversify your collection nicely
Diversifying a LEGO collection with cheaper alternatives is an excellent strategy for both avid collectors and casual builders. These alternatives not only ease the financial burden but also introduce a variety of styles and themes that might not be available in the LEGO catalogue.
One of the joys of building with LEGO is the vast array of themes and styles available. By incorporating cheaper alternatives into your collection, you broaden this range even further. These brands often take creative liberties, offering unique sets that you wouldn’t find from LEGO. From historical landmarks to experimental designs, these sets can add a fresh dimension to any collection.
Additionally, many of these alternative brands offer sets that are compatible with LEGO bricks, ensuring that integrating them into your existing collection is seamless. This compatibility allows for a mix-and-match approach, fostering creativity and individual expression in building projects.
Cheaper alternatives also tend to be more experimental with colours and piece types. This variation can be particularly appealing for those who love custom builds or who want to add a splash of diversity to their creations.
LEGO alternatives are a great way to introduce kids to LEGO
Introducing children to LEGO through its alternatives can be an excellent start. LEGO alternatives offer the same educational and developmental benefits as LEGO but often come at a more accessible price point. This makes them a practical choice for parents and educators.
For young children just starting with building blocks, the lower cost of these alternatives means less risk if the child loses interest or is still developing their motor skills. These sets can serve as a test run to gauge a child’s engagement and aptitude for this type of play.
LEGO alternatives are also often designed with younger builders in mind, featuring larger pieces that are easier to handle and less complex assembly processes. This can be more appropriate for younger children, providing them with a sense of achievement and encouraging their creativity and problem-solving skills.
Furthermore, starting with alternatives can be a practical way to build a foundation of bricks and pieces. As the child’s interest and abilities grow, parents can then gradually introduce them to official sets which might have a little more complexity, alongside recognisable themes such as LEGO Star Wars.
In summary, LEGO alternatives offer an affordable and practical gateway for kids to enter the world of LEGO. They provide a low-risk introduction to the joys of brick-building, nurturing creativity and fine motor skills in young children.
Frequently Asked Questions
KNEX, though a construction toy, isn’t really an alternative to LEGO. While you’re oging to be able to build models by connecting together pieces, there’s little cross-over between bricks.
The cheapest LEGO alternative has to be Nanoblocks. The brand manufacturers miniature toys like LEGO, though their scale keeps manufacturing costs down. In returm, the prices of Nanoblocks sets is far lower than what you’d get from the Danish brand.
Amaar began Bricka after a lifelong passion for LEGO.
His time building and collecting LEGO has influenced every aspect of his life, and he’s not stopped creating since.
Having played too many games growing up, Amaar is also a writer for Videogamer, where he reviews hardware and talks about handheld consoles.
When he’s not writing about nerdy things, he’s drawing graphic novels and tattooing at his Manchester studio.