Sometimes, dear readers, you arrive. All of the hard work you’ve put forth in honing your craft, expanding your horizons, and putting your nose to the grind finally pays off. This is one of those times.
I get to write about cartoons. Better yet, I get to write a definitive top 10 list about the best cartoons of the 90s.If there’s one thing I know, it’s cartoons. Every Saturday morning, my routine looked like this: wake up, find the biggest bowl in the cabinet, fill it with Cinnamon Toast Crunch, top it with 2% milk, and watch cartoons in quiet bliss. My plans always worked out perfectly. I was a weird kid that went to bed at my bedtime, and I woke up at 7:00 without an alarm clock every day. Since I was upright after dawn on Saturday, I had a good three hours of solitude before my parents and sisters woke up to change the channel.
Saturday cartoons were what I lived for.
What I’m trying to say is that this article is a dream come true for me. All of my quirks, interests, and highly dependable circadian rhythm led to this moment: writing about what I love for the best readers in the world. Here’s your 100% perfect list of the best 90s cartoons.
I always felt a personal connection with Arnold. This show came out when I was in 4th grade. Arnold was in 4th grade! I had a weird shaped head. Arnold had a weird shaped head! It seemed like this show was made for me. Everything about it oozes cool. Arnold’s swank loft bedroom was so smooth. Gerald was the best friend a kid could ask for. Stinky could roll a sleeping bag like no other. Helga was a trip. This is one of those rare shows that has no weak spots. Even Mr. Lee wrote a banger of a single! This show has it all, which is why it’s #1 on my list--and in my heart.
Some shows have legitimate cultural clout, and SpongeBob is one of those shows. Even though they’ve stopped making new episodes, kids still watch practically every day. Adults make memes about Bikini Bottom. The truth is that basically every character is absurd, yet at the same time relatable. I’ve found myself gravitating more and more towards Squidward’s point of view in my older age, which would make middle school me cringe in shame. Whatever middle school me, I’m an adult and I can like what I like.
Dragon Ball Z
Girls, sorry to say, but this is my list, so I can rank cartoons how I want. I know you’re already rolling your eyes. That’s OK. I stick by my ranking. Dragon Ball Z played a huge part in my upbringing. Goku is an inspiration to anyone, and Vegeta proved that everyone can find a redemption arc. Little boys everywhere collectively screamed in excitement when Goku went Super Saiyajin. I’ll admit it: I still go back and watch DBZ videos on YouTube from time to time.
Dexter’s Laboratory got its start in what was basically Cartoon Network’s Renaissance. Winner of the What a Cartoon! Challenge, it was one of the first shoot-offs of that legendary series. Other classics like Cow and Chicken, Courage the Cowardly Dog, and Johnny Bravo earned their chops on this segment, but Dexter’s Lab is the most iconic.
Created with sugar, spice, and everything nice--and a healthy serving of toxic sludge--the Powerpuff Girls were superheroes with flair. Bubbles was my favorite, but Blossom was a great leader. Mojo Jojo was a hilarious foil, and the devilish Him was hilariously androgynous.
It’s hard to believe that South Park was on the air in the 90s, but it’s true. In fact, Cartman, Kyle, Stan, and Kenny burst onto the scene in 1997, and the world would never be the same again. Even though the show is about 3rd-grade kids, there’s nothing childish about it. I actually had to hide the fact that I watched this show from my parents for a good seven years.
The Angry Beavers
While short-lived, The Angry Beavers was a show that you could sink into. From the fraternal friction between Norby and Dag to the smooth jazz attitude of Barry, this show about critters in the woods was a romping good time. Even though Dag won’t ever match Norby’s charisma, he still occupies a soft spot in my heart.
Darkwing Duck had all of the allure of a caped crusader, the mystery of a noir detective, and fun jokes because he’s literally a duck that dresses up and fights crime. Darkwing Duck’s intro song was legendary, and I still find myself singing it from time to time. Let’s get dangerous.
The most controversial ranking on the list, I wasn’t a huge fan of Rugrats. I found most of the characters annoying and, well, babyish. Stu was a solid rescue for what would otherwise be a rather bland cartoon. It should be said that, even though I wasn’t the biggest fan, Rugrats was a hugely influential show. That’s why it’s on the list.
Some might be disappointed to see Rocket Power so far down the list. The problem is that the 90s pumped out too many amazing cartoons. What’s crazy is that I couldn’t squeeze Pinky and the Brain on here, even though I watched it all of the time.
For anyone that disagrees with my ranking, I get it. 90s cartoons are a personal subject. While we millennials don’t have much to hang our hats on, cartoons are something we can really savor. I honestly struggled to make this list--more than I’ve struggled with anything in a while--but this is my list, and I’m sticking to it. These are the 10 best cartoons of the 1990s.