The 90s Cartoons We Really Miss

All of us 90s babies out there often look back on our childhoods fondly, and one thing that always seems to come up in the conversation is the shows we watched. I don’t know whether it’s because we’re all grown up now, but it just seems like the shows that kids watch today are nowhere near as good.

Are we those old people now spouting off, “Back in my day…”? Or is there some validation to the argument that us 90s babies just had it better? If you ask me, the kids today are being robbed! The cartoons of the 90s were so much better, and there are a select few that stand out above the rest. What are those nostalgic cartoons of the 90s that you feel your kids are missing out on? Well, let’s dive right on in.

#10. Tiny Toon Adventures

Release: 1990

About: Tiny Toon Adventures is about a group of younger cartoon characters attending Acme Looniversity to learn how to be funny, and eventually make their way to Looney Tunes.

Some of our favorite Looney Tunes characters exist in this rendition of the world most of us came to love, including Bugs and Daffy and all the rest. The younger characters are meant to be representations of the older characters we know. Just like many of the more popular cartoons of the 90s, the show was created by Tom Ruegger and eventually was brought together by Steven Spielberg into a tv series.

Reason: Tiny Toons brought some of our favorite characters from Looney Tunes into a fresh rendition and added in these younger renditions to relate to the youth of that day. The show tackled humor, self-esteem, crime and so much more in its short time on air. Plus, it kept Looney Tunes alive on tv which is still one of my favorite shows of all time.

#9. Batman: The Animated Series

Release: 1992

About: Its Batman. Need I say more?

The caped crusader who dresses like a bat and swings around Gotham at night fighting a myriad of bad guys. Heath Ledger? Ringing a bell? Well, if you aren’t a Batman fan, then I highly recommend starting here. While the live actions are awesome, this animated series was, and is still considered by many, to be one of the best Batman concepts and even one of the best animated shows of all time. It even won a Primetime Emmy in 1993! For a kid’s cartoon, what set it apart was its animation style and the dark tones

Reason: I kind of already gave some reasoning in the plot. Sorry about that! I was a huge Batman kid, and this show brought that darkness that gave Batman his edge while still being appropriate for kids.

Christopher Nolan brought that same darkness, though I wouldn’t consider it necessarily appropriate for the same age groups. This darkness is something that separated this particular superhero from the pack and the animated series fully exploits that separation. To this day, this is still my favorite Batman to watch.

#8. Powerpuff Girls

Release: 1998

About: Coming in the latter half of the 90s, The Powerpuff Girls was about three young girls with superpowers that live with their highly intelligent father, the Professor, and protect the fictional Townsville. Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup were produced and debuted on Cartoon Network, a channel which many of you know became an icon for some of the major cartoons we remember so fondly.

Reason: While this was not necessarily my favorite show, I have to add it for all those that I knew that loved it. There were t-shirts and backpacks and lunchboxes galore with the dynamic trio and it would be unfair of me to say that this wasn’t probably one of the most popular shows in the back half of the 90s.

Even my own sisters were infatuated with the mini heroes, from watching the show daily to owning the merchandise to dressing up as them on Halloween. 

#7. Freakazoid

Release: 1995

About: Freakazoid was about a superhero that was just a bit manic. Okay, maybe he was insane, but that’s what made him one of the most lovable superheroes of my childhood. The show followed him fighting just as equally crazy villains, and even had a series of shorts with other odd superheroes.

Freakazoid aired on WB for two seasons before ultimately ending. Though it struggled with the ratings, reruns eventually proved that Freakazoid was a cult classic.

Reason: This show wasn’t as popular as some when it came out but, then again, neither was I.

I remember finding this character highly relatable both in his high energy nature and the fact that he just wasn’t as popular. It was that hidden gem that only appreciated the older we all got. With how well the reruns did in the years that followed, I’m honestly amazed that no one has brought the show back for another go. But who knows, in the age of reboots, we may see Freakazoid and his friends hit the streets soon. 

#6. Pinky and the Brain

Release: 1995

About: Who didn’t love these two classic mice that originated from Animaniacs? For those of you who don’t know, the show follows the two genetically enhanced mice aforementioned as they attempt plots to take over the world.

They live within the Acme Labs, and sometimes even take place throughout history in the labs of the likes of Merlin or H.G. Wells. While the Brain is, well obviously, the brain behind the operation, Pinky is the simpler yet sweet of the two. It was a simple show that had quite a bit packed into it.

Reason: These two mice were classic morning fare over a bowl of cereal in my time. To this day, I still find myself humming the theme song from time to time for no apparent reason other than that is how much influence it had in my childhood.

Pinky and the Brain not only showed us history, but revolved around genetic splicing, animal testing, and the episodic vocabulary with its definition in the credits.

Even today, I find humor in the show as an adult, 25 years after it first aired, and I can find humor in things that I never noticed as a child. The parodies and pop culture references very much pull in adults as much as children, something I think lacks in today’s shows.  Kids movies are a different story to the point where I wonder if they might have gone too far. But the shows today, I feel, do nothing for adults the way that the shows in the 90s did.

We may be seeing a reboot of this in the coming months with Animaniacs on Hulu. However, the show will be a skit cartoon within Animaniacs which is how the show originally started. As far as we know, they are not getting their own show back just yet.

#5. Spider-Man: The Animated Series

Release: 1994

About: Again. It’s Spider-Man. His alter ego is Peter Parker. He fights crime. No, in all actuality, I can understand some confusion in this series as there are several renditions over the years taking place at various points and with different main characters.

This particular rendition takes place after Peter Parker has gained his powers, is in college and working for the Daily Bugle, all the while facing the villains that plague his storyline.

Reason: This rendition of the story of Peter Parker is one of my favorites. I enjoyed the fact that they delved much more into the story of Peter Parker as a person as much as delving into his life as Spider-Man.

It was a healthy reminder that there is a person under the costume that is going through much of the same things that any normal person goes through, plus a few extras. This made this rendition not only that much more relatable, but also allowed us to associate a normal individual as a hero, something that I think every kid hoped was a possibility growing up. 

#4. Hey Arnold

Release: 1996

About: Hey Arnold! is about a boy named Arnold, who is in the fourth grade and his life in the inner city with his friends such as Gerald and his long-time bully who secretly loves him, Helga. He lives with his grandparents in their boarding house and often helps the tenants there or his friends in their various problems. 

Reason: This show is a perfect relation to kids actually living in the inner city and gives them someone on the television that they can see themselves in. It shows a variety of kids from all different backgrounds living together in harmony, which is as important a lesson in this modern world as it ever was.

Arnold is a caring kid, living with his grandparents which, again, can be highly relatable to many kids. He helps out his neighbors and shows great compassion to his friends. In a world so torn, maybe Hey Arnold! needs to come back. 

Despite Netflix best efforts, the reboot just didn’t scratch that itch.

#3. Rocko’s Modern Life

Release: 1993

About: Rocko’s Modern Life is probably one of the weirdest, funniest shows I remember watching growing up. It was just odd. It was about a Wallaby named Rocko that came to the States from Australia. He befriends a steer named Heffer and a turtle named Filburt. Plus, who can forget the faithful canine companion, Spunky. The story is about his normal life and some odd situations that arise in his otherwise boring existence.

Reason: This show was just weird enough to make the cut for us as a kid, and as an adult it more than meets the challenge. Rocko’s Modern Life is another one of those shows that truly allows for the family to enjoy it, although at times it might go a bit overboard. Its satirical approach to society is just downright hysterical, and almost too real to contemplate.

The relationship of Ed and Bev Bighead is simply brilliant and extremely relatable. I think most of us have those neighbors. In fact, most of the characters, while highly exaggerated, are easily seen in society, even today. 

That theme song!

#2. Doug

Release: 1991

About: Doug was about a student named Doug Funnie, told in context through the journal he wrote through his middle school years and the trials he faced during that time. He has his sidekick canine Porkchop, his best friend Skeeter and the love of his life, Patty Mayonnaise right by his side throughout the series as he faces what it means to grow up. And of course, he must always face his arch nemesis and longtime bully, Roger Klotz!

Reason: Doug was one of the only animated shows I can recall that actually dealt with real world issues. In a sillier and kid-like kind of way, it was similar to Boy Meets World in the sense that it tackled common issues among kids such as bullying, making friends and crushes.

We even see coverage of dealing with bad haircuts and learning to dance. I mean, if ever there was a show that kids needed today, I would say this is it. This show was one of my all-time favorites, and looking back on it, I realize that I was taught many valuable lessons from it as well. Not the Disney version, though. We aren’t even going to discuss that here. 

#1. Rugrats

Release: 1991

About: This iconic show follows Tommy Pickles and his toddler companions through a day of their wildly imaginative lives as they get into all sorts of mischief. I mean, we can all relate to kids getting into trouble, but this group definitely was on another level. Tommy, Chuckie, Phil, Lil, Susie and, of course, Angelica were some of the craziest infants and toddlers of our time. 

Reason: I left the about section short for this show because, in all honesty, it was a very simple show.

There wasn’t much to it, and yet, the depth of what was happening is the reason this show needs to come back. I fell in love with this show on so many different levels that it will be incredibly hard to describe them all here and keep you interested.

I think my biggest admiration towards the Rugrats would have to be their use of imagination in the world around them. As we grow older, many of us lose this ability to see the world around us in different ways, to divine the possibilities which is a characteristic that makes childhood magical.

The imagination of these kids throughout the show inspired me to further my own imagination, and ultimately, I would like to think it is one of the main reasons I am a writer today. In fact, I wrote an entire paper on exactly that! In addition, the show once again teaches kids many real-world life lessons, from Angelica’s bullying to being a good older sibling when characters like Dil Pickles and Kimi are introduced.

Rugrats shows the problems of neglect from parents with Angelica’s mother constantly working, and maybe even introduces adults to something they have long since forgotten: the perspective from a child’s eyes.

I won’t keep rambling, but this show definitely deserves the top place.

Honorable Mentions

  • Bobby’s World
  • Superman
  • The Tick
  • Rocket Power
  • Pokémon (Still on in different renditions)
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy
  • Dexter’s Laboratory
  • The Angry Beavers
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog
  • Johnny Bravo
  • Gargoyles (This one killed me)
  • X-Men: The Animated Series

I felt the need to add these to the list in some way. There were just so many amazing cartoons in the 90s and it has been incredibly difficult to compile this list and not offend someone, including myself.

I have found myself putting together the top 10 and then suddenly remembering another favorite that tears it all apart. If you want honesty, I’m pretty sure I’m balding at this point from just a few hours of this stress, and I’m sure I will continue to do so as the comments start rolling in telling me that I’m insane for not putting ___________ on it! It’s a lot harder than one would think to sum up a decade of childhood nostalgia.

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