Best ’90s Cartoons: Top 5 Animated Shows Most Recommended By Fans

Today we are throwing it up back to the time of Tamagotchi, Furbie, VHS tapes, and CD players as we give you the best ’90s cartoons the decade had to offer. From Nickelodeon to Cartoon Network to PBS and more, the ’90s were filled with some of the most nostalgic television networks had to offer. Before diving in, though, let’s look back at the start of these animated shows.

Cartoons have been delighting audiences since 1949 when the first animated series, “Crusader Rabbit,” premiered. Still, it wasn’t until the ’60s that the American animated sitcom first took off, with shows such as “The Flintstones” and “The Jetsons” taking the world by storm. These shows would later pave the way for more cartoon series to come. Then the ’80s and ’90s hit, which would later be coined as the renaissance for animated television. With shows such as “Doug” and “Arthur” gaining a large following from kids and more adult-oriented series like “King of the Hill” appealing to an older audience, cartoons were everywhere and were for everyone.

It’s hard to think back to the ’90s and not have iconic shows like “SpongeBob SquarePants” or “The Powerpuff Girls” jump into your mind. Even today, with a resurgence of nostalgia for the ’90s, people are seeking out apparel and merchandise for these shows they watched when they were younger. This not only shows how important these shows were to people but how good they must have been to still remain beloved by fans three decades later. 

Okay, enough jibber jabber, let’s dive into today’s list. As always StudyFinds has researched across multiple platforms to bring you this ranking, and as always, if you disagree, that’s okay. We would love to hear from you in the comments below and your favorite show. And now, without further ado, check out our list of the top five best ’90s cartoons.

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The List: Best ’90s Cartoons, According to Experts

 

1. “Batman: The Animated Series” (1992)

If your favorite Batman and Joker duo will forever be Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, then this pick is for you. “‘Batman: The Animated Series’ was created by Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, and Mitch Brian and follows the industrialist Bruce Wayne as he becomes Batman, the Masked Vigilante who brings all kinds of criminals to justice. The series also introduces many of the DC villains like Bane, Joker, Riddler, and Penguin. Two-Face, Poison Ivy, and more winning four Emmy Awards and loads of critical acclaim for the dark and film noir theme that was created,” notes Entoin

“Batman: The Animated Series” (1992)
“Batman: The Animated Series” (1992)

“Fans loved ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ for its darker tone that stayed true to the original comic books. Robin, Batgirl, Commissioner Gordon, and of course, the comic’s most famous villains all made appearances throughout the series,” describes CafeMom.

“This is one of the best-animated series ever made and is also ranked as No.2 of the greatest animated TV shows of all time. This 90s cartoon is known for its characters, darker tone, aesthetics, battles, and voice acting. ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ is still highly popular for its character portrayal of Bruce Wayne and the Joker. Needless to say, Batman still lives in our hearts as a superhero who fights evil and gives justice to others,” adds Pinkvilla

2. “SpongeBob SquarePants” (1999 – present)

Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete with the porous sponge who lives in a pineapple under the seas. “There’s no beating the goat. With the premiere of ‘SpongeBob Squarepants on Nickelodeon in 1999, the ’90s gave the world a parting gift that changed television animation forever. ‘SpongeBob’ fires on all cylinders, from the creative physicality of visual gags to the encyclopedia’s worth of iconic quotes that its viewers can instantly recite decades later,” writes Slash Film.

“Nickelodeon didn’t know what was coming when ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ premiered on the network right after the Kids Choice Awards in 1999. What would follow after the series’ pilot would be the longest-running series in Nickelodeon’s history. While many may argue that, like ‘The Simpsons and ‘Family Guy’, ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ has long outlived its shelf-life, the series remains just as popular today as it did back in 1999, and with good reason. While maintaining its appeal towards kids, the series also dips its toes into humor that can make older viewers laugh as well,” claims Collider.

“With close to 300 episodes, three feature films, and now several spin-off series under its belt, it’s hard to argue with the impact and legacy of Nickelodeon’s ‘SpongeBob SquarePants.’ ‘SpongeBob’ has become Nickelodeon’s equivalent to ‘The Simpsons’, and it seems like it may never end even though its creator, Stephen Hillenburg, has passed on,” CBR reports.

3. “South Park” (1997 – present)

Remember those adult-themed cartoons we mentioned earlier? Well, there is no greater example of this than our next pick. “‘South Park’ has undeniably only gotten smarter and funnier since its introductory seasons in the ’90s. Still, the program would still be a monumental achievement if it had ended with the release of 1999’s theatrical feature film, like what was intentionally intended at one point. The first three seasons of ‘South Park’ are the crudest in many respects, but it’s remarkable what this groundbreaking adult animated series is still able to accomplish. The absurdist exploits of Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny inspired countless imitators during the 2000s, but none have been able to accomplish the same success or longevity as ‘South Park’,” says CBR.

“Creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker first brought the world’s attention to the kids of ‘South Park’ through a 1995 animated short where Jesus fights Santa Claus. Two years later, they had their own show on Comedy Central. Since then, they have produced 23 seasons and 308 episodes about four kids growing up in South Park, Co., who deal with every pressing issue from gun control and celebrity to bullying and drugs. The show has earned five Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Animation Program and generated millions of dollars in revenue with toys, games, and movies,” describes Stacker.

“If one thought ‘The Ren & Stimpy Show’ was a cartoon more geared toward adults than kids, ‘South Park‘ took that concept and went all-in on its adult humor. You know the premise by now: the show revolves around four friends growing up in the small Colorado town of South Park and all the hilarity that ensues. From the start, ‘South Park‘ strove to be a cartoon that was made for adults, with humor that definitely isn’t kid-friendly. That didn’t stop kids from watching it, and to this day, ‘South Park’ remains a cultural icon for both adults and kids alike,” writes Collider.

4. “Animaniacs” (1993-1998)

“‘Animaniacs’ epitomizes ’90s culture, and yet is simultaneously timeless. Its Chaplin-esque slapstick comedy is as classic as animation can get. These antics, along with a supporting cast of memorable characters, from Pinky (Paulsen) and the Brain (Maurice LaMarche) to Slappy the squirrel (Sherri Stoner), make ‘Animaniacs’ a series for the ages,” says Slash Film.

“Animaniacs” (1993-1998)
“Animaniacs” (1993-1998)

“What happens when characters are too zany, even for cartoon studios? Well, they wreak havoc on everything and everyone around them — all for our pure enjoyment. Yakko, Wakko, and their sister, Dot, are the characters in this cartoon that gave us ‘Pinky and the Brain’ and one epic theme song,” CafeMom reports. 

“’Animaniacs’ is, essentially, a variety show with each episode usually comprised of three mini-episodes, each starring a different set of characters. And although ‘Animaniacs’ is a kids’ cartoon, the creators didn’t shy away from using pop culture references, satirical social commentary, and even innuendos directed exclusively at adults. And this inclusion of the whole family was what probably made this series so appealing for the audiences – now you could watch morning cartoons together with your kids and have a great laugh yourself,” raves BoredPanda.

5. “Rugrats” (1991-2006)

To say ‘90s kids were raised on a show about a bunch of babies sounds weird, but “Rugrats” took the world by storm in 1991, resulting in a movie trilogy and numerous spin-offs, including “All Grown Up.” “The show is told from the perspective of Tommy Pickles, a curious toddler who spends his days investigating various mysteries around the house, all while trying to avoid the wrath of his older cousin, Angelica,” writes PureWow.

“Rugrats” (1991-2006)
“Rugrats” (1991-2006)

“‘Rugrats’ is a work of comedic genius that’s deeper than we realized back in the day. The characters are all babies, yet their commentary on life is witty, meaningful, and funny as heck. Most ’90s cartoons only had a few seasons, but ‘Rugrats’ was so good that it lasted for nine, and there was later a reboot called ‘All Grown Up! depicting the Rugrats as teenagers with five more seasons,” says FamilyMinded.

Running for 16 years, “’Rugrats’ not only showed life through the eyes of babies but also captured the essence of parenting during that time. It spawned three movies and will go down in history as one of the best cartoons ever,” CafeMom describes. All three films in the trilogy, including “The Rugrats Movie,” “Rugrats in Paris: The Movie” and “Rugrats Go Wild”, which is a crossover with “The Wild Thornberrys,” can be streamed now on Paramount Plus!

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.

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About the Author

Jilly Hite

Janelle is a freelance writer from New York. Her writing focuses on parenting, tech, business, interior design, education, and telling people’s inspiring stories. Janelle has written for Mustela and Newton Baby and has bylines in Pregnant Chicken, Syracuse Woman Magazine, the Baldwinsville Messenger, and Family Times Magazine. She holds a master’s degree in literacy from the State University of New York at Oswego.

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