Nickelodeon on a TV

Nickelodeon on a TV (Photo by monticello on Shutterstock)

Ah, the days when our biggest worry was whether our favorite team on “Legends of the Hidden Temple” would get caught by a Temple Guard. Or maybe you preferred watching the adventures of the citizens of Bikini Bottom on “SpongeBob Squarepants.” Whatever the case may be, no one can deny, since its inception, television has been gifted with the best Nickelodeon shows the network has to offer. 

Launched in 1979 as the first-ever television channel marketed specifically towards kids, Nickelodeon, often shortened to “Nick,” redefined what television could be. It even spawned multiple spinoff channels starting with the pre-school aimed network in 1988, Nick Jr. Soon after, Nicktoons was introduced, Noggin, and TeenNick. And once the ’80s hit, Nickelodeon took over kids’ television with sketch comedies, game shows, cartoons, and live-action media. 

Nickelodeon also expanded far past television when it started releasing movies as well! Certainly, everyone remembered their bright orange VHS tape that harbored the reel for “The Rugrats Movie” or “Harriet the Spy”. Put simply; it’s hard not to think about Nickelodeon and be hit with nostalgia for your childhood. No matter what show or medium you consumed it in. 

Did someone say Nickelodeon? We have researched across multiple sources to bring you the top five best Nickelodeon shows of all time. And please don’t worry if you don’t see your favorite on the list; we would love to hear from you about your favorites in the comments below!

Family watching TV
Family watching TV (© Monkey Business – stock.adobe.com)

The List: Best Nickelodeon Shows, According to Fans

 

1. “SpongeBob SquarePants” (1999 – present)

“Dive into a pineapple under the sea and follow the adventures of a lovable, yellow sponge and his quirky friends. With its iconic humor, unforgettable catchphrases, and relatable life lessons, it’s no wonder this show has captured the hearts of millions. Get ready for endless laughter and underwater shenanigans that’ll keep you coming back for more,” explains Ranker

“‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ is nothing short of a pop culture (and social media) juggernaut. Created by the late marine biologist Stephen Hillenburg, SpongeBob was introduced to the world following the 1999 Kids’ Choice Awards. The character never looked back; SpongeBob is now the fifth-longest-running American animated series and has been developed into comic books, feature films, theme park rides, video games, theater productions, and more. It’s hard to remember a time when we didn’t know who lives in a pineapple under the sea,” says Complex.

“The one-of-a-kind series is absolutely Nickelodeon’s biggest hit by far, with its porous inspiring lead brimming with imagination and relentless optimism. ‘SpongeBob’ has transcended basic television programming and evolved to become a colossal worldwide phenomenon,” writes Looper. With its undoubted effect on pop culture, “SpongeBob Squarepants’ being the first pick on the list is a surprise to no one, except maybe Plankton. 

2. “Avatar: The Last Airbender” (2005 – 2008)

“‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ was one of those shows that knew exactly what it had to offer to its audience. Not only did it allow its characters to develop well, but it also mastered the technique of setting up a plot for its subsequent seasons. Thriving on its original concept, outstanding humor, and standout animation, the storyline of the series unfurled in a mystical world that had its own set of rules and guidelines,” notes Entoin.

“Avatar: The Last Airbender” (2005 - 2008)
“Avatar: The Last Airbender” (2005 – 2008)

CBR went on to add that the series was “truly Nickelodeon’s crowning achievement, and fans constantly revisit episodes to relive the nostalgic adventure. The series follows Aang, the last airbender, as he and his friends embark on a harrowing journey to defeat the Fire Nation and restore world peace. With a diverse slate of characters and wonderfully mature themes, ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ became a timeless classic for anyone who watched it.”

“‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ is a show that little can be said about and do justice. It has well exceeded being simply a Nickelodeon cartoon and has become one of the most beloved animated shows of all time. The show is filled with humor but is better known for its heart and hard-hitting storylines. This is the kind of show most other shows strive to be. Avatar is more than a simple kid’s show; it is a full-blown experience,” adds NerdStash.

3. “All That” (1994 – 2020)

You didn’t think we were going to forget a live-action Nick show, and what better one to make the list than the king itself, “All That.” “Think ‘Saturday Night Live,’ but for a younger audience. Kenan Thompson, Jamie Lynn Spears, Amanda Bynes, Drake Bell, and more starred in a variety of fun sketches, from ‘Ask Ashley’ and ‘Miss Piddlin’ and ‘Good Burger (which led to the big-screen spinoff named, you guessed it, Good Burger),” describes PureWow.

https://twitter.com/DITREnt_/status/1651769562847670273

“A groundbreaking sketch-comedy series that opened the door for Nickelodeon’s diverse and long-lasting live-action entertainment. The series also excelled at showcasing their stars’ individual sensibilities, such as Lori Beth Denberg’s random but vital advice or Amanda Bynes’ easily irritable Ashley,” explains Looper.

“The wacky sketch comedy show created celebrities out of cast members Kenan Thompson, Amanda Bynes, and others, and it led to spinoff shows Kenan & Kel and The Amanda Show as well as a 2019 revival. It was Nick’s version of SNL and included recurring gags that somehow never got old, although our parents probably hated them. Now BRING IN THE DANCING LOBSTERS!,” writes Tom’s Guide.

4. “Rugrats” (1991 – 2006)

At the start of the ’90s, three babies, one toddler, and one severely moody preschooler took over children’s viewing everywhere. “‘Rugrats’ is one of Nickelodeon’s most beloved shows that soon became one of the most popular classic cartoons of all time. While it might seem like a simple kids’ show, ‘Rugrats’ actually has important messages and some of the greatest and most hilarious role models in animation. The story follows a group of babies who get into all kinds of fun and sometimes spooky adventures while their clueless parents aren’t watching,” describes GameRant

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

“Besides maybe The Simpsons, there was no cartoon more popular in the 1990s than Rugrats. Unless you were alive to witness it, there really isn’t any way to compare the craziness of Rugrats fever. The program lasted over ten seasons, produced three films, a spinoff series, and was marketed on everything from popsicles to Band-Aids. So it was popular, but the real question is how good the quality of Rugrats really was: does this show still hold up today? Absolutely it does,” adds ScreenRant.

“Rugrats delved into the world of babies and childhood from the perspective of the children themselves. This unique point of view catered to younger viewers but provided enough self-awareness and adult humor for older audiences. Rugrats opened up a world that audiences of all ages could find joy in, even if they didn’t entirely understand all the baby talk,” remarks CBR.

5. “Hey Arnold” (1996 – 2004)

“’Stoop kid’s afraid to leave his stoop!’ The characters in ‘Hey Arnold!’, the students of PS 118, were likely most kids’ first introduction to what life in New York is like. For kids who didn’t live in a big city, it offered a glimpse into how much different growing up outside a small neighborhood or town is. In addition to its core cast, there was no shortage of outlandish supporting characters who made the world Arnold inhabited feel that much more rich and diverse. But despite its large-feeling setting, the thematic focus stayed on friendship, young love, and growth, cementing it as a cartoon to be remembered for years to come,” writes Tom’s Guide.

“Arnold, the football-headed fourth grader with the glass-ceilinged bedroom and the posse of downtown friends is probably the coolest character on this list. His big-city life – relaxing hangs with best friend Gerald, daydreams of Lila and Ruth, feuds with secret admirer Helga, unhinged life lessons from Grandma and Grandpa – is still worthy of envy,” adds Complex.

“It would only make sense for a network whose target demographic is aimed at kids that most of Nick’s shows are about a teenager and the complications of growing up. The great thing about these Nicktoons, however, is that they aren’t just for children. Most of them transcend the term ‘kid’s show’ for their clever writing and three-dimensional characters, and that never rings more true than their 1994 cartoon, ‘Hey Arnold!’ Creative, funny, and featuring some of the most memorable characters of any Nick show, Arnold and his classmates have cemented their place in Nickelodeon history as one of the very best Nicktoons,” moves ScreenRant. “Now move it, football head!”

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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.

About 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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1 Comment

  1. Bill Hampton says:

    I’m an older fan and just loved the whacky stuff from ‘You Can’t Do That on Television’ the cast was awesome and the things they got away with made the narrative now possible. Miss that bunch of crazy Canucks