We love Lego, but when it comes to brick-based building toys, the Danish brand is not the only game in town. There are plenty of Lego alternatives and many of them offer cheaper prices or innovative designs. Lego doesn’t cover every theme or cater to every taste, so if you want to explore the world of Lego alternatives, we’d be happy to help.
If you’re not able to stomach another expensive Lego set, you can still get plenty of fun out of a cheaper brand – or you can check out the best cheap Lego sets, of course. But there are many solid toys like Lego, building block brands with kits just as good as the best Lego sets. If you’re not finding the model you want among Lego’s wide range, pop on your hipster glasses, and get ready to explore the best Lego alternatives.
It’s worth noting that there are plenty of less-than-ethical Lego-like brands that rip off official Lego kits past and present, or use designs stolen from Lego Ideas. We’ve written more about this below, but for the record, we’ve avoided anything that doesn’t seem above board for this list.
- Cobi – the best military Lego alternatives
- Mega Construx – The best licensed Lego alternatives
- JMBricklayers – The most varied Lego alternatives
- FunWhole – Lego alternatives with lighting
- Nanoblocks – The best miniature Lego alternatives
- Are Lego alternatives legal?
The best military Lego alternatives
A Polish Lego alternative with a particular focus on historical, and especially military builds. At the Cobi store you can find tanks and fighter planes galore, as well as an impressive Titanic replica that’s 64cm in length. Recently, Cobi partnered with Relic Entertainment, to produce a range of licensed Company of Heroes 3 builds (check out our Company of Heroes 3 review here). We find its figures fairly ugly though, it has to be said.
The best licensed Lego alternatives
One of the best-established Lego alternatives, Mega Construx is owned by Barbie and Hot Wheels maker Mattel. Its claim to fame is licensed builds, so it’s the place to go if you want to build Pokémon models or structures from He-Man or Halo. The Mega Bloks brand is also a good Duplo alternative, for younger kids. Don’t expect to see mega-bargains though, these kits are only a little cheaper than Lego.
The most varied Lego alternatives
JMBricklayers is one of the best high-end Lego alternatives, with a wide range of themes and some really unique models. From a dozen or so excellent pirate ships and islands to medieval and modern streets; from a retro typewriter to a miniature bonsai tree, there’s something for everyone in this product range. It has model trains, cars, and military vehicles, as well as more out there builds like life-sized anime katanas, or a mechanical chameleon.
The only downside to JMBricklayers is that the price is higher than some other Lego alternatives, and it doesn’t produce any kind of minifigure you can use to play with their great builds. You’d have to pick up some Lego minifigures to get the most fun out of these models, unless you use them as display pieces.
Lego alternatives with lighting
FunWhole is a Lego alternative with awesome builds that have a particular focus on lighting. All of its models come with light up bricks, so they look superb in the dark. You’ll see lots of cozy lodges and medieval cottages among their range, and recently a lot of influencers covered the brand’s wooden cabin build. We’re particularly sold on their steampunk series, however, which has everything from a train station to airships.
You have to install the lighting yourself, tucking wires away behind blocks, so FunWhole’s models are circuit building kits as well as alternative Lego sets. Whether that’s a fun new extra aspect of the building process or a total headache will depend on your outlook. It could be a fun way to get your kids engaged with science, but the extra fiddle factor may preclude young children from enjoying these builds.
Best miniature Lego alternatives
If you’re anything like us, Lego kits are starting to take over every free surface in your house. If that’s the case, you may find Nanoblock is the best Lego alternative for you. As its name suggests, this brick-building toy’s claim to fame is the small size of the blocks. You can build highly detailed models of architecture or animals, without running out of shelf space. This Japanese brand has also got a lot of licensed kits, with Pokémon and other anime like My Hero Academia and Naruto.
Are Lego alternatives legal?
Most popular Lego alternatives work with Lego – meaning it’s possible to combine them with Lego’s own bricks. Lego’s patents for the classic brick designs expired in the 1970s, so companies are legally permitted to produce blocks which are compatible with Lego. But not all bricks are fair game, as Lego managed to win a case in 2021, regarding a specific type of brick, registered for patent protection in 2010.
Explicitly labeling Lego alternatives can also land companies in legal hot water, as the brand Zuru discovered in 2023. Just as DnD third party publishers have to use euphemistic language to sell their work as ‘5e compatible’, so too do Lego alternatives – if they’re looking to indicate their blocks’ compatibility with the leading Lego brand, that is.
There are also some seedier players in the world of Lego alternatives. There are lots of bootleg Lego brands that rip off existing or old Lego designs, or copy them completely. There are also plenty that make use of popular franchises like Marvel or Star Wars, without obtaining the license to legally do so.
The most well-known example is the Chinese knock-off brand Lepin, which was shut down in 2019, but soon returned under a bunch of new names. We’ve done our best to steer clear of these less legitimate products in our guide.