People who grew up in the 90s are pretty sure that their cartoons were the best. They might be right about that, as there were plenty of great animated shows throughout the 90s that really made an impression on the kids watching them. Sometimes they were fondly remembered, and other times they stuck in kids memories for just how bad they actually were.
While it's true that there were a lot of shows in the 90s (and, to be fair, in the 80s, too) that were designed to sell toys, there were also a lot of shows that had great writing, excellent voice-acting, and interesting stories. These shows live on in people's memories because they helped to form them into the people that they are today. Whether they loved Animaniacs or Gargoyles, Rugrats or Arthur or even Dexter's Laboratory, there was something for everyone on TV in the 90s. These shows ranged from funny, to dark, to educational. In many cases, the best shows combined all of those elements to create one, well-rounded show that managed to deliver thrills, laughs, and a good lesson.
Check out this list of great 90s animated shows, and give them a rating to reveal a favorite!
The Wild Thornberrys
The Wild Thornberrys was a Nickelodeon show about a girl named Eliza who travels the world with her parents, who are nature documentarians. After an experience with a witch doctor, Eliza is given the ability to communicate with animals. This show was a lot of fun to watch and also had some great insight into nature preservation. The show also featured Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers doing the voice of a boy who was found in the wild by the family and adopted.
Tiny Toon Adventures
Tiny Toon Adventures was a hilarious animated TV show that introduced new characters into the world of Looney Tunes. These included Baba and Buster Bunny (no relation), Elmira, and Plucky Duck. The show was about how these young cartoon characters learned all of their skills form the older generation of cartoon stars, like Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig. The show would often feature a real-world lesson, and was celebrated for its tendency to explore various cartoon tropes in new and interesting ways.
Ren & Stimpy
Ren & Stimpy was a classic 90s cartoon that really straddled the line between being for kids and being for adults. The show, created by John Kricfalusi, followed the adventures of chihuahua Ren and his cat friend Stimpy, as they got into all sorts of surreal situations. The show was known for its overly detailed, hand-drawn inserts and its bizarre humor. The show also featured appearances from characters like Powdered Toast Man, a superhero who was also a mascot for a food known as powdered toast.
Talespin was a Disney show from the 1990s that was truly unique in its own way. The show followed a group of bears (one of them being Baloo from the Jungle Book) who ran an airfield on a small island. The series followed their adventures as they would fly to different places, get into aerial fights with sky pirates, and deal with all sorts of problems that would come up in their line of work. The show was similar in format to DuckTales.
Angry Beavers was a silly Nickelodeon show about two beaver brothers who lived together in a dam. They were the more relaxed and laid back Norbert and his younger (by four minutes), more uptight and manic brother Daggett. Together, they would get into all kinds of trouble and adventures. The show was eventually canceled, but before it ended the creators took a swing at the executives by ending the show with the brothers starring in a movie that is constantly being changed by the producers.
Tales From the Cryptkeeper
Tales from the Cryptkeeper was an updated and animated version of a live action show that had existed in the eighties. While that program (simply titled Tales from the Crypt) was aimed at an adult audience, Tales from the Cryptkeeper was firmly for kids. However, it did still feature storylines that were based on more spooky themes. These stories featured werewolves, vampires, and other monsters. The show was an anthology, spinning a different tale in every episode. It was still hosted by the Cryptkeeper, though.
Rocko's Modern Life
Rocko's Modern Life was a Nickelodeon show from the 90s that followed the life of Rocko, an adorable little wallaby as he attempted to deal with the very strange world in which he found himself. Rocko was not along, though. Helping him out and joining him on his adventures were his friends, a cow named Heffer and a turtle named Filburt, as well as his trusty dog Spunky. Much like Ren and Stimpy, the show was known for its boundary-pushing humor.
Rocket Power was a Nickelodeon show that aired in the late 90s and followed the lives of four kids living in a beachside town who took part in various extreme sports like skateboarding, surfing, and BMX riding. The show was always trying to be really cool and appeal to a segment of the kids' audience that was into these sorts of sports. It was often fairly entertaining, but it could sometimes feel like it was trying a little too hard.
Rugrats was a popular Nickelodeon show that followed the misadventures and lessons of a group of four baby friends: Tommy, Chucky, and twins Phil and Lil. The babies would often find themselves getting into all sorts of trouble and trying to figure things out using their baby logic. They would also have to deal with three-year-old Angelica, Tommy's cousin who would often give the babies a hard time and insult them. The show eventually spun off into a series where the babies had grown up into teenagers.
Recess was a fantastic Disney show from the 1990s that followed a group of friends as they attended school and got into all sorts of fun adventures during recess. The show was incredibly creative, particularly with the cast of characters that populated the school, which included a playground king, two brothers who loved to dig holes, and kindergarten kids who were more like a wild group of natives with their own culture and rituals. The show was made into a movie called Recess: School's Out.
ReBoot was definitely a series that could only exist in the 90s. the show was computer animated, which was a huge feat in itself. The show followed Bob, a Guardian who finds himself in the city of Mainframe. There, he protects its citizens against villains like Megabyte and Hexadecimal. Every so often, the "User" would upload games to the city, which the characters would have to win in order to survive. The show took place inside a computer, and the games were often based on popular movies.
The Powerpuff Girls
The Powerpuff Girls was a Cartoon Network show from the late 90s that followed three superhero sisters, who were created when a professor combined sugar, spice, and everything nice, but also accidentally added something called chemical X. This created three perfect girls who also had amazing superpowers. the three sisters protected the city of Townsville form villains like Mojo Jojo, the Rowdyruff Boys, and a villain so bad, that he was referred to only as "Him." The show was also made into a movie.
Pinky and the Brain
Pinky and the Brain was a spinoff from another 90s animated show, Animaniacs, and it followed the adventures of two lab mice who, every single night, attempted to take over the world. Brain was the genius, and Pinky was his dim-witted accomplice who never was pondering what the Brain was pondering. The show was critically-acclaimed and is still fondly remembered by the kids who watched it growing up. The mice never did succeed in their plans to take over the world.
PB&J Otter was a kids' show made by Disney in the 1990s. This pleasant show followed the lives of three otter siblings named Peanut, Butter, and Jelly. The kids would get into all sorts of situations where they would have to figure out solutions. They would figure out a plan by doing the noodle dance, which helped them to use their noodles to figure things out. The kids had plenty of friends that were also animals, and the series was entertaining and educational.
Pepper Ann was yet another Disney animated show from the 1990s about a seventh-grade girl just trying to be cool and fit in with her peers. Along with her friends, Nicky and Milo, Pepper Ann would get into all sorts of trouble and have to find her way out of it while learning valuable lessons about life. Pepper Ann never even realized that she was already cool enough, and the theme song for the show is still one of the best out there.
Mummies Alive! Was yet another of those weird animated 90s shows that didn't really last all that long, but nonetheless made an impression. Presley, a boy living in the modern world, discovers that he is actually the reincarnation of a pharaoh from Egypt. Thus, he is to be protected by a team of mummy warriors, who, by using their magic, can transform themselves into battle ready fighters. The show was clearly made to sell the accompanying toys, but it at least had some interesting characters.
The Magic School Bus
The Magic School Bus was practically every kids' favorite animated educational program. The show would find a classroom of kids going on bizarre field trips with their teacher Miss Frizzle, who would use her titular magic school bus to take the kids to outer space, deep underwater, and even inside the human body. The show was based on a series of children's educational books, and it was praised for its educational content, as well as the fantastic voiceover work from Lily Tomlin.
Aaahh!!! Real Monsters!
Aaahh!!! Real Monsters! was an animated show from Nickelodeon about young monsters who attended school in order to learn how to scare people. The show was incredibly creative and featured some truly macabre visuals. It was very dark but maintained a tone that was still relatively appropriate for kids. The young monsters would often learn lessons from their adventures in the world of monsters that were applicable to real life. There were some truly weird choices in the show, however, such as having toenail clippings be a form of currency.
Life With Louie
Life With Louie was an animated show that aired on the Fox network in its Fox Kids lineup on Saturday mornings. Life with Louie was created by comedian Louie Anderson (who has gone on to play a major role in the FX series Baskets). The show was about Anderson's childhood, and many of the characters were voiced by Anderson himself. This included Anderson's tough-as-nails father, who was constantly irritated by one thing or another. The show was a big hit at the time but is mostly forgotten now.
Johnny Bravo was a Cartoon Network show about a musclebound but dim-witted man by the name of Johnny Bravo. Johnny was obsessed with himself, even going so far as to say in the show's opening "man I'm pretty." Always seen wearing a black t-shirt and blue jeans, and sporting an impressive blond pompadour, Bravo would do anything he could to try and pick up women, with very little success. He lived with his momma and was constantly getting into confrontations with a girl named Susie.
Home Movies was a show created by comedian Brendon Small (who went on to create Metalocalypse) and Loren Bouchard (the creator of Bob's Burgers). Home Movies was about a young kid named Brendon (based on Small) who would spend his days making movies in his basement with his friends Jason and Melissa. The show also starred H. Jon Benjamin as Coach McGuirk, the bitter soccer coach who could never seem to win at anything he tried. The show was incredibly creative and often featured musical numbers.
Hey Arnold! is a Nickelodeon show that aired in the 90s. It was about a kid named Arnold who grew up raised by his grandparents in a boarding house located in the inner city. The show followed the typical life events of a seventh grader but with a more urban twist. The other main character of the show was Helga, a girl who was outwardly mean to Arnold, but was actually secretly in love with him. She would often insult him by calling him "football head."
Freakazoid! was a Warner Bros. animated series produced by Steven Spielberg, similar to Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain. The show followed the adventures of the titular superhero as he saved the city from various supervillains. However, he would also get into cartoonish situations where his goofy antics would be used to get him out of trouble. the show, like many other superhero stories, featured a variety of hilarious side characters and interesting and creative villains. Freakazoid was also a pretty wild guy.
Ed, Edd, n Eddy
Ed, Edd, n Eddy was an animated show about three friends who all had similar names, and would always be trying to come up with some kind of schoolyard scheme in order to get money. These were usually concocted by Eddy, who was the group's unofficial leader. The kids would want to make money in order to buy jawbreakers. However, they would often not succeed in their attempts. The show was a creative look at the social interactions of kids when adults were not around.
Eek! The Cat
Eek! The Cat was an animated show that aired on Fox Kids during the 90s, and followed the adventures of the titular cat as he tried to stay out of trouble, impress his girlfriend, and steer clear of the shark dog that lived next door. The show also featured other animated segments, including one about a team of dinosaur soldiers who were tasked with wiping out the threat of prehistoric humans (who somehow never succeeded in this plan). The show was retitled Eek! Stravaganza in later years.
Based on the video game of the same name, Earthworm Jim followed the adventures of an Earthworm who, through the power of a super suit, is able to talk, fight, and go up against a variety of strange villains. With the help of his friend, Peter Puppy (who, when he gets mad, turns into a giant monster), Jim flies into space, embarks on wild journeys, and sometimes just performs everyday tasks. The show, much like the game itself, had a surreal and satirical sense of humor.
Doug was a Nickelodeon show that was eventually picked up and made by Disney as well in the 90s. The show followed the titular character through his everyday life as he navigated life in the seventh grade, including hanging with his best friend Skeeter, pining after Patty Mayonaise, and avoiding Roger. Doug had a big imagination, and would often draw himself as a comic book character named Quailman. The show was known for being colorful, silly, and yet still down to earth in its storytelling.
Digimon was a show that aired in the 90s that was incredibly similar to Pokemon. The show followed a group of kids who inadvertently end up in the digital world, which is populated by monsters: some of them friendly, some of them dangerous. The kids each end up with their own Digimon companion. These digital monsters could evolve (or "digivolve") to stronger forms in order to keep the kids safe as they made their way back to the real world.
Goof Troop is an absolutely classic 90s Disney animated show. the series took a look at the home life of goofy and his son Max, as well as their neighbors Pete and PJ. The show became immensely popular, enough so that Max became canon with the world of Disney. The show was later adapted to make A Goofy Movie. It remains one of the most endearing and memorable of Disney's animated TV shows, particualrly for its focus on family and togetherness.
Darkwing Duck was a Disney animated series that followed the adventures of the titular superhero. He didn't actually have any superpowers, but he was brave and would fight against plenty of interesting villains in order to defend the citizens of Canard City. Darkwing Duck was one of Disney's most creative and story driven shows. It featured plenty of memorable characters and drew plenty of inspiration from various comic book characters in order to tell its stories and make the world more expansive.
Dexter's Laboratory was a great Cartoon Network show in the 90s about a boy genius named Dexter who had built his very own secret laboratory undernath his family house. There, he could escape and work on various inventions and experiments. At least, he thought he could, but instead he was constantly interrupted by his sister Deedee, who would run amok in the lab and cause all sorts of problems. the show would also feature separate segments about a team of superheroes as well as a secret agent monkey.
Daria was an animated show that aired on MTV. IT was actually spun off of another famous 90s series on MTV, and it followed the life of teenager Daria as she attended high school and tried to navigate suburban life. Daria was incredibly sarcastic and often would not find pleasure in anything. She and her friend Jane would mock their classmates and spend their time watching strange TV shows or hanging out alone, away from the popular kids whom they greatly disliked.
Courage the Cowardly dog
Courage the Cowardly Dog was a unique animated show about an elderly couple and their dog, Courage. Courage would constantly have to protect the homestead from all kinds of supernatural beings, some of which were actually quite scary. Courage was not an accurate name for this dog, who happened to be afraid of almost everything. The show was very dark and often featured storylines that were quite morbid. Courage the Cowardly Dog remains a favorite among people who grew up in the 90s.
Cow and Chicken
Cow and ChickenCow and Chicken was a ridiculously weird animated show from the 90s about a cow and a chicken who were, inexplicably brother and sister (they also had human parents). These two would get themselves into all sorts of weird situations. However, Cow was also secretly a superhero named "Supercow." Yeah, it was a very strange show. It also featured segments about two animals named I.M. Weasel and I.R. Baboon. The show pushed the envelope with its humor, and sometimes got in trouble for its out-there content.
CatDog was a Nickelodeon animated show from the 90s that followed the adventures of the titular hybrid animal, which was a dog on one end and a cat on the other. While Dog was a happy-go-lucky optimist, Cat was more of a straight-laced pessimist. Together, they would end up getting into all kinds of trouble, with Cat usually using his smarts to try and manipulate Dog into doing what he wanted. these plans rarely worked, however, and would often blow up in his face.
Bonkers was an animated show made by Disney in the 90s about a world where people and cartoons coexisted. It did not, however, take place in the same world as Who Framed Roger Rabbit? However, there were some parallels. The show followed an animated bobcat cop named Bonkers and his human partner as they attempted to keep the peace in Hollywood where they worked. Bonkers was very clumsy, and would often get hurt while doing his job, but he could always count on his partner to help him out of a jam.
Caillou was an animated children's program in the 90s that followed the life of four-year-old Caillou as he learned various lessons about growing up, sharing, and being nice to his baby sister. The show was based on a series of children's books and had a very simple animation style, similar to the illustrations in the books. The show was often criticized by parents for the behavior of its main character, which would often include him throwing tantrums and generally being disobedient.
Arthur is a classic and beloved children's animated show that was based on a series of popular books by author Marc Brown. The series followed the life of eight-year-old Arthur Read, an anthropomorphic aardvark who lived in a world populated by human-like animals (though that was never really touched on that much in the show). Arthur had a healthy imagination, and would often have to learn hard lessons about growing up and being a responsible person. He also had to put up with his annoying little sister, DW.
Bobby's World was an animated show created by comedian Howie Mandel in the 90s. The show followed the life of Bobby Generic (pronounced JEN-er-ic), a young boy with a big imagination. The show would often find Bobby disappearing into his daydreams and escaping from his family, particularly his older brother and sister. Mandel provided the voice of Bobby as well as the voice of his father. The show often took opportunities to teach lessons and show how Bobby could grow by making mistakes.
Angela Anaconda was an animated show that followed the adventures of its titular character, a girl with a big imagination who often had to put up with way too much in her everyday life. Angela Anaconda was one of the most creatively animated shows to come out of the 90s. Instead of utilizing traditional animation techniques, it instead featured photos of people's faces, which were then animated into an almost collage-like cut-out style. Angela would have a daydream in every single episode that revolved around what was going on in her real life.
Animaniacs was one of the most popular shows of the 1990s, and it still endures as one of the best animated shows ever made. The series, which was brought to life in part by Steven Spielberg, followed the adventures of the Warner brothers (and the Warner) sister, cartoon characters who lived in the WB water tower but would escape and run around the studio. the show also featured other segments about various different animated characters. It made plenty of references to show business and was a smartly written series for kids and grown-ups.
Beast Wars was a computer-animated continuation of the Transformers story. The show was about two warring factions of robots: the Maximals and the Predacons. When they crash land on a prehistoric Earth, the robot groups scan for lifeforms and take those on as their alternate forms. The Maximals are comprised of mammals and birds, while the Predacons are mostly reptiles and insects. the show lasted for several seasons and featured some truly compelling stories, as well as some great early computer animation.
The Tick was a satirical superhero show (that has also been turned into a live action show twice) about a giant blue superhero who goes by the name The Tick. This bumbling, but ultimately good superhero works with his sidekick, a guy named Arthur (who wears a moth suit) to protect the city from villains like Chairface Chippendale, Ottoman Express, and Uncle Creamy. The show was supremely weird but truly hilarious in its own special way, especially when the Tick would shout his signature battle cry, "Spoon!"
Street Sharks was a cartoon based on a series of toys (as many of them were back in the 90s). The show followed four extreme sport loving brothers, as they were taken by a mad scientist and given an experimental serum that altered their DNA, turning them into human-shark hybrids. these sharks had big appetites, strong jaws, and huge muscles. They teamed up to save the world from the creations of the mad scientist, which were often humans mixed with other sea creatures.
Gargoyles is a classic Disney animated show from the 90s that followed the adventures of ancient Gargoyles as they sought to fight crime in modern day New York. While the gargoyles had previously existed in medieval times, a curse trapped them in stone for hundreds of years. They awoke in the modern world and vowed to protect humans. The show was unlike any other Disney show in that it covered some serious topics and could get fairly dark in its storylines.