The 1990s were a virtual golden age of televised animation… at least as far as the people who grew up during that decade are concerned. Nickelodeon was no doubt the principal force in churning out quality cartoon programming during the ’90s, giving us generation defining entertainment in its slate of original Nicktoons. But which of these memorable entries are our favorites and least favorites? Check out our complete ranking of ’90s Nicktoons, and chime in below with your own preferences!
“What if… a cat and a dog were Siamese twins?”
“Oh, yeah! I guess… I guess that could be something.”
It wasn’t. It was nothing.
This anthology series is easily the least memorable entry from the ’90s Nicktoons slate, but escapes the last place slot for introducing the world to some of the next generation’s stronger entries, most notably The Fairly Odd Parents.
Despite an interesting premise and the whimsy that is Tim Curry’s voice over work, The Wild Thornberrys never felt quite like it was on our level. Unlike some of its favorable company, the series always felt like a show that some displaced adults thought that kids would like, but never quite understood why they should.
10. Rocket Power
Call it my lasting aversion to bro culture, but Rocket Power always seemed a little much. Never proving itself particularly clever, funny, or original, the show banked way too hard on just trying to be cool. It was, I guess, but not that cool.
Once in a while, Aaahh!! Real Monsters was enjoyable enough to check in on. A wide variety of weird, crudely drawn creatures living beneath the Staten Island’s Fresh Kills Landfill, surfacing only to scare the wits out of humans (not out of malice, but out for the academic merit in the trade) is good for an occasional chuckle, but wore thin pretty quickly.
For the blossoming comic book fan, KaBlam! had a special appeal. But while the anthology series had a few consistently delightful shorts (like Action League Now!) it was very clear why most members of its ensemble never earned their own series proper.
Though really a cartoon belonging to the post-’90s youth, SpongeBob‘s debut in ’99 makes it viable for ranking. In truth, the show has evolved into something relatively impressive, even if its unfathomable giddiness can deter viewers brought up on the darker fare of Nickelodeon’s earlier days (as you’ll see below…).
The only real fault of the technically stellar and remarkably earnest cartoon is that we got too old for it. Sure, Rugrats never talked down to its audience, nor did it insinuate that a young slate of stars entailed a young demographic of viewers. But the show, a very funny exercise in embracing new perspectives on the day-to-day, just didn’t do quite enough to keep us hooked as we went onto more mature fare.
Easily the most divisive show on the list, Ren & Stimpy can be respected even by those who find it disgusting for its sheer ambition… and weirdness. Though heavy-handed and abrasive in its comedy, the show had no shortage of imagination.
Required viewing for anybody growing up with a double dose of anxiety, Doug has earned a very special place in the heart of most children of the ’90s. The original Nicktoon was sweet, ethical, and effectively wacky while maintaining unmatched sincerity. Though a viable contender for the top tier of this list, Doug is given the No. 4 spot for not quite managing to escape the myopic, claustrophobic feeling that its superior brethren were able to dash to pieces. But still one of the greats.
3. Hey Arnold!
In a way, Hey Arnold! was the precise complement to Doug. Whereas Arnold’s Bluffingtonian predecessor struggled with the neuroses within him, the football-headed stoic played the sane man in a world of crazy. Cool, calm, and good-hearted, Arnold navigated a New York City filled with abject lunacy, charged with maintaining justice and order throughout each of his journeys. Colorful and funny, though always a bit melancholy, Hey Arnold! is Nickelodeon’s answer to beat poetry.
A dark horse No. 2, but truly the most clever and mature cartoon to air on Nickelodeon. Riddled with whip-smart dialogue and ahead-of-its-time pop culture parody, as well as unparalleled devotion to continuity as far as these series go, Angry Beavers is an overlooked gem among the more flashy or earthy Nicktoons.
There are many programs on this list that rival Rocko’s Modern Life in weirdness, that come close in mania, that top it in empathy, and that give it a run for its money in wit. So why, then, does it stand out in our minds as the very best work of art to come out of Nickelodeon’s animated community to date? Why is some small-scale, scatterbrained show about a mild-mannered wallaby dealing with mundane qualms like laundry, food shopping, recycling, romance, and breaking his pal out of Heck the most piercingly lovable title that the network has to its name? We don’t know what gives Rocko that wow factor, but we can guess.
Which is your favorite Nicktoon?