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During its heyday, Nickelodeon cranked out its own special brand of cartoons called Nicktoons. It seemed like every single one the network cracked out was a gem. Particularly during the mid to late 90s, Nintendo could do no wrong.
That’s why we’re going to dig in and count down the 10 best 90s Nickelodeon cartoons and see which sits atop the throne.
In order to qualify, a show must have had its debut episode air at some point in the 1990s. Sorry Invader Zim, but you’re not going to qualify here.
10. The Wild Thornberrys
The Wild Thornberrys is a weird show that follows a very unconventional family as they embark on all sorts of safari-based adventures. While the show’s main character is Eliza, it’s really her dad and wild-boy traveling buddies that carry the comedy.
9. SpongeBob Squarepants
Personally, I think SpongeBob Squarepants is a little overrated, but you can’t argue with the show’s incredibly long run. It’s been on for a staggering 12 seasons, and it shows no signs of stopping. The tales of Bikini Bottom are certainly charming, and the cast of characters revolves enough to keep each episode fresh and interesting.
8. AHH, Real Monsters
Aaahh!!! Real Monsters is such a gem. The show has so much heart and it does things differently from every other Nicktoon. Rather than focusing the story on a child (or a childlike character), it’s about a group of monsters and the trials and tribulations they face as, well, monsters. The premise is ridiculous, but Nickelodeon pulls it off.
7. Rocket Power
Rocket Power is the most underrated Nicktoon in my opinion. The show was all about a bunch of kids getting outside and being a bunch of badasses. As a kid who preferred to stay inside playing video games, Rocket Power definitely made me want to try surfing and skating. Did I ever learn to skateboard? Not well, but I had plenty of cuts and bruises from trying.
6. The Angry Beavers
Dagget and Norbert are two beavers who venture out into the big scary world to live on their own. Obviously, that doesn’t go as smoothly as they plan, and hilarity ensues. Like all the best Nicktoons, the show is absolutely ridiculous, but that’s what makes it so charming. I called things “spooty” for far too long as a child, and in retrospect, I’m surprised anyone still wanted to talk to me.
5. The Ren & Stimpy Show
For a while, Nickelodeon went through a phase where it wanted to make shows that weren’t quite so wholesome. The Ren & Stimpy Show is one of the results of that time period. Calling it a kids show is a stretch because it gets pretty dark. That doesn’t stop it from being hilarious, disgusting, and downright awesome.
Rugrats was so popular that it actually led to a spinoff show following Tommy, Chucky, and the rest of the gang into adolescence. Before the spinoff, though, they were all babies with vivid imaginations. Those imaginations took the mundane daily life of being a baby and turned into a place filled with fantastical journeys that we all were a part of. It’s such a classic show and it still holds up today.
3. Rocko’s Modern Life
Like The Ren & Stimpy Show, Rocko’s Modern Life isn’t afraid to push the limits of what is possible in a show for kids. It gets pretty gross in parts, and some of the episodes feature themes that would go over most children’s heads (the credit card episode is one that comes to mind). Still, there’s plenty for kids to laugh at and enjoy while their parents get a whole different level of humor.
2. Hey Arnold!
Hey Arnold! is about a kid with a head shaped like a football who lives with his grandparents in a boarding house. Throw that into a blender with a crazy group of friends, and you have a fantastic example of what a Nicktoon can be. The show has comedy, romance, action, and just about everything else you could want from a show, and it’s all aimed at kids. Hey Arnold! has a level of depth you don’t expect from a kid’s show, and it pulls it off beautifully.
And the number one Nicktoon is Doug. The simple show about a kid moving to a new town and making friends is so relatable. Even if you’ve only ever lived in one place, you’ve almost certainly met someone who moved to your town, found yourself in a new school or job, or had some situation that’s similar to that of Doug. The writing is fantastic, as is the performance by the entire cast. Doug holds up perfectly all these years later, and it stands at the pinnacle of Nicktoons.