The Best 90s Cartoons: Top Animated Shows for Kids and Adults

The 90s were great years for TV. Some of the best cartoons from this decade are among the funniest and strangest that you’ll find. Among the great 90s cartoons are also where you’ll start to find shows that appeal to both kids and adults alike.

Maybe only 90s kids will truly understand how awesome it was to grow up then. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t experience the glory of 90s cartoons in 2022. 

90s cartoons are endlessly popular, which means with streaming services offering old cartoons, new kids can get into the classics and older kids can relive the glory days of Sunday morning cereal and slapstick. We’re going to list our top five picks and show you how you can watch them right now. 

Our top 5 90s cartoons and animated series

These are among the very best 90s cartoons in our professional opinion. Some lists will include shows like The Fairly Oddparents or Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends in their 90s cartoons list but listen closely: those came out in the 2000s. 

90s cartoons had a very distinct style and subject matter, and they’re very different from the cartoons of the 2000s. Take a look at our list, and see if you can spot the similarities.

1. SpongeBob SquarePants

You genuinely can’t go wrong with SpongeBob SquarePants, which is why he tops the list here. SpongeBob has been running since 1999, and they’re still making new episodes today.

The story of SpongeBob

SpongeBob SquarePants is a cartoon that follows the adventures of SpongeBob, who lives with his friends in the town of Bikini Bottom. He works flipping burgers for a money-grubbing crab and spends his free time annoying his neighbor with the help of his best friend Patrick. 

Cast of SpongeBob

  • SpongeBob – An innocent, fun-loving sea sponge whose favorite activity is jellyfishing and having fun with his friends.
  • Patrick – SpongeBob’s best friend, a dumb yet endearing starfish who lives under a rock – literally!
  • Squidward – SpongeBob’s cranky neighbor who also works at the Krusty Krab as the cashier. He loves to play clarinet and hates being involved in SpongeBob and Patrick’s games.
  • Mr. Krabs – Their money-obsessed boss at the Krusty Krab, Mr. Krabs is a business success whose greedy schemes are always good for a laugh. 
  • Plankton – Mr. Krabs’ only competition, Plankton runs the Chum Bucket, a failing restaurant he will stop at nothing to prop up. He’s the “villain” character, but his evil plans are always hilariously foiled.
  • Sandy Cheeks – SpongeBob’s crush is Sandy, a karate-loving squirrel from Texas. Yes, you read that right.

Who would love SpongeBob SquarePants

We could answer this question with “everyone” and move on, but where’s the fun in that? 

There’s something in this show for everyone. The characters and settings are colorful, the situations are episodic and entertaining, and the jokes and situational comedy always hit the right notes. 

The show really plays to its theme in many clever ways, and there are many different kinds of humor represented.

What’s great about SpongeBob SquarePants?

Unlike many shows, which rely on a few characters or a certain style of humor, SpongeBob has something for everyone. It’s one of those shows that bundles jokes within jokes, so parents can enjoy watching along with their kids.

SpongeBob has held up incredibly well and remains one of the best cartoons to come out of the 90s.  

SpongeBob is admittedly a little strange at first, but his innocence and wonder when it comes to just about every situation is incredibly refreshing. It’s hard to watch an episode and not feel better than you did when you started. He’s got an optimistic outlook on life no matter what, and that certainly sets him apart from the other shows on this list.

Where to watch SpongeBob SquarePants

Paramount+ is the best place to watch SpongeBob SquarePants since they have the past 12 seasons available. It’s also currently airing new episodes on Nickelodeon. Fubo TV has two seasons available, and Prime Video has 6 seasons. 

2. Angry Beavers

The next show on our best 90s cartoons list is the Angry Beavers, a 1997 cartoon about another set of brothers who move out on their own to try and make it in fictional Wayouttatown, Oregon. 

The story of The Angry Beavers 

The Angry Beavers is a story of two young brothers, twins born four minutes apart, living the bachelor life in their dam in the forest. There is a large cast of rotating characters, but the show’s main arc typically involves brotherly competition and the kind of shenanigans you and your siblings would get up to if your parents weren’t around.

Cast of The Angry Beavers 

  • Dag – the younger brother, Dag is goofy and childish, and his emotions often get out of hand. He has a child-like way of speaking, often being blunt and mispronouncing things.
  • Norb – the older brother by four minutes, he is the “smart” character who often acts as the straight man to his brother’s craziness. He tends to be a little selfish and a little lazy, often at Dag’s expense. 
  • Stump – their best friend and a literal tree stump, Stump never does or says anything on-screen, but the brothers are very close to him and treat him as if he is alive.
  • Treeflower – Norb’s love interest, she’s a hippie beaver who lives in the forest.

Why we love The Angry Beavers 

The fun, flashy colors in the animation are exciting, especially in the opening sequence. The Angry Beavers is simply a fun watch. The action is funny and exciting, and the situations are just the right kind of childishly absurd. 

Another reason we think The Angry Beavers is one of the best cartoons from the 90s is the dynamic between the brothers. A sibling rivalry is a classic choice, and you’ll see it everywhere, but Dag and Norb don’t have stereotypical “dumb” and “smart” archetypes. Though Dag often has crazy ideas and Norb is more level-headed, it sets itself apart by not playing to popular stereotypes.

Check out this awesome YouTube video of some of the best scenes from The Angry Beavers.

Who would love The Angry Beavers

The Angry Beavers is a really great show for families to watch together. It has wackiness, and the jokes are pretty straightforward. Unlike some of the other shows on this list, the tone is very lighthearted and off-the-wall, so its great for audiences looking for a quick, fun romp.

Where to watch The Angry Beavers

Season 1 is available on Paramount+. 

3. Catdog 

Catdog is one of the best cartoons of the 90s, but it doesn’t often get the love it deserves. It ran for 3 seasons in 1998 and is often cited as both the best and worst cartoon of the 90s, depending on who you ask. A show that controversial has to be good, right?

The story of Catdog

Catdog follows the story of a cat and a dog that share a body. One end is Cat, and the other is Dog. Sounds simple, but it’s anything but! The brothers both have unique problems and have to figure out how to live together in the gross and gritty backdrop of city life.

Cast of Catdog 

  • Cat – the smart brother, Cat is always hatching schemes and manipulating his brother. He often has to learn his lesson by the end of the episode
  • Dog – the happy-go-lucky, carefree brother who just wants everyone to be happy. He’s friendly and outgoing, really playing to the dog stereotype. 
  • Winslow – the wisecracking Brooklyn mouse that lives in their wall. He always pops out to try and pull one over on Cat even though he’s afraid of him. 
  • The Greaser Dogs – the show’s bullies, this gang picks on Catdog constantly.

What makes Catdog unique 

People love to hate Catdog. It’s one of those polarizing cartoons from the 90s that some hold up as the best – like we do – or put it down as the worst. The show didn’t pander to kids, showing them tough situations, oddball characters, and a weirder, meaner side of life. 

Lots of people think Catdog was too mean, too rough, and the villains in the show far outweighed the heroes. Even Cat is something of a villain and often the cause of their own problems. We love Catdog for that very reason. It shows us that not every hero has to be good, and not every story needs a moral lesson.

Catdog’s setting runs on absurdist rules, and the people who live in it all have a rough and tumble outlook on life. The animation has that classic, cartoonish look from the 90s and an uncharacteristically smooth animation style that other shows of the time couldn’t match.

Who would love Catdog

Catdog is great for audiences who love a little more punchiness in their humor. The jokes trend pretty sarcastic, so people who love that sparring-style humor will love Catdog. 

Where to watch Catdog

All three seasons are available on Paramount+. 

4. Courage the Cowardly Dog

Next on our list is the gem that is Courage the Cowardly Dog. You’ll never find another show quite like it, which is why it’s one of the best cartoons of the 90s. It first aired in 1996 and ran for four seasons.

The story of Courage the Cowardly Dog

Courage follows the story of a little pink dog named Courage, who ironically is terrified of almost everything. He lives in a town called Nowhere with his adopted parents and has to battle all sorts of terrifying things. Mysterious things happen in Nowhere, so there’s no shortage of villains and apocalypse scenarios for Courage to freak out about.

Cast of Courage the Cowardly Dog

  • Courage – a pink dog who unwillingly fights the forces of evil to protect his found family. 
  • Muriel – Courage’s adopted mother, an old granny who is entirely too ready to trust the evildoers that come knocking on her door. 
  • Eustace – Muriel’s husband, a crotchety old man who is always picking on Courage. 

Who would love Courage the Cowardly Dog

Courage the Cowardly Dog is a great show for people who like black humor. It’s known for its macabre and supernatural themes, so if you’re the kind of person who loves being a little freaked out, you’ll love the disturbing situations in Courage.

This one might require a bit more adult screening and supervision, and it’s probably not a great choice for younger, more timid viewers.

What’s Great About Courage the Cowardly Dog?

What’s great about Courage is it goes where other shows won’t. It’s funny, and it’s disturbing. The first time I watched the King Ramses’ Curse episode, the bad guy showed up in my dreams for months.

The best part about the black humor and disturbing themes in Courage is it never takes away from the hopeful message of the show. Love and family always win in the end. 

Where to Watch Courage the Cowardly Dog?

You can stream Courage the Cowardly Dog on HBO Max and Amazon Prime. 

5. Rocko’s Modern Life 

To round off this list, we thought we’d include one for the adults in the room. Because, as we all know, cartoons are not just for kids anymore.

Rocko’s Modern Life is another wacky, off-the-wall 90s cartoon. It’s a surrealist comedy that’s infamous for its adult themes, and it isn’t necessarily for the whole family.

The pilot first aired in 1992 and ran for four glorious seasons.

The story of Rocko’s Modern Life 

Rocko’s Modern Life follows an Australian wallaby named Rocko as he navigates the tricky world of adulthood. He goes to work, deals with annoying neighbors, and handles adult problems. 

Seriously, Rocko is legendary for how it manages to turn boring adult stuff into total hilarity. He literally goes to the DMV in one episode. It’s one of the best shows of the 90s because it doesn’t pull any punches and can make even the mundane really, really funny, and that’s why it’s one of the best cartoons from the 90s.

Cast of Rocko’s Modern Life 

  • Rocko – an Aussie immigrant adapting to life in O-Town. He’s a bit innocent and very polite, which makes it tough to deal with the wackos in his life.
  • Heffer – Rocko’s best friend, a goofy steer who joins him on his misadventures. 
  • Filbert – Rocko’s other friend. Filbert is an awkward turtle with a nervous disorder who always seems upset about something.
  • Ed Bighead – Rocko’s surly neighbor who is always causing trouble and getting under Rocko and friends’ skin. 
  • Spunky – Rocko’s dog, a loving and loyal dog who is nonetheless a huge troublemaker, doing generally disgusting things and always destroying Ed Bighead’s bushes.

What’s great about Rocko’s Modern Life 

Rocko was a controversial show while it was airing because it overtly deals with adult themes, but that’s what makes it so great. There’s an episode where Ed Bighead’s wife tries to seduce Rocko. There are jokes with names, like a rhino named “Mr. Horny”, and at one point Rocko even works for a phone sex line. 

Who would love Rocko’s Modern Life

You’ll love Rocko’s Modern Life if you love innocent little double-entendres snuck into your cartoons. They make for fun, one-off jokes without distracting too much from the main drive of the show. 

Where to watch Rocko’s Modern Life

Rocko’s Modern Life is available on Paramount+ and Fubo TV. You can rent it on platforms like Google and Amazon, too. 

What makes a 90s cartoon show so special? 

Were you able to spot the similarities between all of these awesome shows? 

90s cartoons look very different from newer shows. Owing in part to the technology of the time, the animation and colors all have a distinct look to them. Watching a show drawn between 1996 and 1999 is a very different experience than it is with early to mid-2000s cartoons. Many adults who grew up with those shows have a pronounced nostalgia for them. 

You can also blame a certain amount of the similarities on the creators themselves. Mitch Schauer was responsible for The Angry Beavers, but he also did storyboarding for Rugrats, Rocko’s Modern Life, Ren and Stimpy, and so many more. Stephen Hillenburg created SpongeBob and wrote for Rocko. 

When you look into it, there’s a lot of double-dipping that goes on in the cartoon world, and that’s as true today as it was back in the 90s.

The best cartoons and animated series from the 90s on Paramount+

Here are some honorable mentions that didn’t make our top five but are still absolutely worth your time. The best part? They’re all available on Paramount+. 

  • Doug
  • AAHH!!! Real Monsters
  • Hey Arnold!
  • Rugrats
  • Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog
  • Daria
  • Ren and Stimpy

Best 90s cartoons and animated series for kids and adults – Final thoughts

The 90s were a golden age for cartoons. It was a simpler time when you parked yourself in front of the TV and watched the hilarity unfold. Instead of being able to stream an entire season of a show in one sitting, you had to consume slowly, with long ad breaks, and submit yourself to lots and lots of reruns. 

Not all the things we have nostalgia for were better. I’m sure a lot of people would agree that streaming technology is a better value than traditional cable programming, but is it more fun than waiting and anticipating a new episode of a classic cartoon or tuning in right when your favorite show was coming on? 

No matter what you think, we can all agree that 90s cartoons were in a league of their own, and watching them now can be an awesome experience for nostalgia-seekers and new fans alike. 

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