The ’90s are a time of great nostalgia for many millennials. The entertainment from this time period still holds a special place in the hearts of many. ’90s Nickelodeon cartoons, known as Nicktoons, are no exception to this genre, starting with Doug in 1991.
The Nickelodeon cartoons from the ’90s are still so popular that many have seen reboots, spin-offs, and movie adaptations of them. Some networks play reruns of these beloved shows and others never went off the air, continuing to put out new episodes of shows that started in the ’90s, like SpongeBob SquarePants.
Updated on September 30th, 2021, by Lynn Gibbs: The ’90s was a special time for cartoons, and Nickelodeon was the network that had some of the best cartoons on TV at the time. The animation, the storylines, and the theme songs were all one of a kind — other networks couldn’t compare. From CatDog to Rocket Power, no cartoon was left ignored. And thanks to different streaming services, ’90s Nick cartoon fans can re-watch their favorite shows to be reminded of their greatness.
10 CatDog (1998)
● Available on Paramount+ and Prime Video
CatDog had real promise. It featured two conjoined siblings with vastly different personalities. Cat was an intellectual, carefully creating plans. Dog was a happy-go-lucky impulsive, rarely thinking before springing into action.
CatDog focused on the challenges these two had as they faced the world together as one. Their plans were regularly foiled and they faced difficulty from villains, Winslow, and the Greaser Dogs. The show also had some hilarious moments and a catchy theme song. Because of the brothers’ differences in personalities, they often got themselves into trouble, but being brothers always added a sentimental spin to the show. Because of the love this show had, a Nickelodeon movie was made in its honor. Had the episodes not become repetitive, it would have scored higher on this list.
9 Oh Yeah! Cartoons (1998)
● Available for purchase on Amazon and Apple TV
Oh Yeah! Cartoons was unlike any show seen today. The network and new artists used this as a platform to pitch new concepts for shows, creating a handful of cartoon shorts. The cartoons were received with a variety of reactions — some performed well while others did not.
While not many people remember Oh Yeah! Cartoons for being a great show, the show did end up resulting in the creation of three of the most popular cartoons of the late ’90s, early 2000s. After making their first appearances on Oh Yeah! Cartoons, The Fairly OddParents, ChalkZone, and My Life as a Teenage Robot were given their own television series, securing Oh Yeah Cartoons! a spot in history. The series had three seasons but was ahead of its time to really become the success that it should have been.
8 SpongeBob SquarePants (1999)
● Available on Prime Video, Philo, Apple TV, and Paramount+
While many don’t think of SpongeBob SquarePants as a ’90s cartoon, it technically began airing in 1999, qualifying it for this list. SpongeBob has been running since the late ’90s, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. This slightly annoying yet lovable and optimistic sponge never gives up in the face of a challenge. His friends include the dim-witted Patrick Star and the genius Sandy Cheeks. His neighbor and coworker Squidward severs as a perfect pessimistic balance to SpongeBob’s cheery character, combining both dry wit and sophomoric humor.
The everlasting popularity of the show has led to several movie spin-offs and the creation of a musical. As humorous and silly as it was, there were some strong life lessons shown throughout SpongeBob. With its multi-leveled humor, fun for both kids and adults, and its cast of dynamic characters, SpongeBob is sure to stick around for a while.
7 KaBlam! (1996)
● Available on Paramount+
KaBlam! was a popular sketch comedy series. The series featured a number of shorts, several of which were extremely popular. These reoccurring shorts included “Life with Loopy,” “The Off-Beats,” and “Action League Now!”, and more.
Each short featured a distinct animation style, showcasing a wide variety of possibilities. The series ran for four seasons and even had a canceled spinoff film for Prometheus and Bob. With so many popular segments to choose from, it’s no wonder that this show holds a special place in the hearts of so many. It’s still considered one of the best Nickelodeon cartoons for its individuality but there are others that rank above it…
6 Rugrats (1991)
● Available on Hulu, Paramount+, Fubo, Apple TV, and DirecTV
Rugrats was one of the most diverse cartoons of its time. It focused on difficult issues such as the death of a mother, premature birth, and step-parents in an easily digestible way. Showing these challenges from the perspective of children allowed kids to process these concepts in a way that made sense for them. Powerful females take form in Angelica, Susie, and Charlotte. Rugrats also provided some much-needed representation to Jewish children around the world, who rarely saw themselves reflected positively on screen. Because of Rugrats’ success, a series of movies were released in its name.
This group of children took viewers on adventures as they played pretend, exploring the world around them. The show also highlighted common struggles of being a child, such as sibling rivalry, sugar addiction, and obsession with toys. Almost everyone could identify with one of these tots, making it one of the best TV shows of the ’90s.
5 Rocket Power (1999)
● Available on Paramount+, Fubu, DirecTV, and Philo
Rocket Power was the essence of the ’90s. It draws heavily on the popular skater style, featuring a group of friends with a love for extreme sports. This show was enjoyable due to the high energy of the characters and its coolness factor. Fans followed the young group of friends as they skateboarded, snowboarded, and surfed, displaying their laid-back and carefree attitude.
This show wasn’t all light-hearted, however. These young protagonists also worked to change the world for the better, tackling difficult topics like pollution, dealing with bullies, and how to deal with failure. Its ability to handle difficult concepts in a fun way is part of what made this show so successful. And while it’s a Nickelodeon show not viewable on Netflix or Hulu, fans can still watch it on Paramount+, FubuTV, and Philo.
4 The Wild Thornberrys (1998)
● Available on Paramount+
The Wild Thornberrys was a choice show for many adventure-loving children. This mystical show featured a family living in an RV and exploring the world as its adults were documentary filmmakers. But what made the show really stand out among the rest was that the main character, Eliza, has the ability to talk to animals.
This leads to many fantastical scenarios, with Eliza getting into some bizarre situations as she aims to help and understand the animals she meets. This is also why she has a pet chimpanzee named Darwin because the two understand each other. With its quirky cast of both human and non-human characters, The Wild Thornberrys became a huge success, even receiving its own movie. Their colorful way of life made this show a standout.
3 Doug (1991)
● Available on Paramount+, Disney+, DirecTV, and NickHits
During the ’90s, fans didn’t know that Doug would become one of the best TV shows of its time. Doug is about a new kid in town working his way through life. His dog Porkchop serves as his sidekick, both in real life and in Doug’s imagination, where he’s a superhero named Quailman. He enjoys his time with his best friend Buster, his crush Patti Mayonnaise, and his friend Beebe while trying to avoid Roger, the bully.
This show is well-remembered for its clever sense of humor, imagination, and killer music. Doug’s favorite band, The Beats, which are clearly a Beatles parody, and their hits such as “Killer Tofu” are still at the forefront of fans’ minds all of these years later. Putting the music aside, Doug’s imagination was relatable for viewers and made this sow exciting to watch.
2 The Angry Beavers (1997)
● Available on Paramount+ and NickHits,
Angry Beavers was a trippy show. It focused on two brothers, both beavers, living their best bachelor life. Daggett and Norbert are very different, which leads to many hilarious conflicts. Daggett is foolish and immature, so much so that his middle name is actually Doofus. Norbert is an intellectual, more composed, and extremely arrogant.
Both of these characters get themselves into ridiculous situations, often having to put their feuds aside to solve their problems together. Their closest friend is Stump, who never moves while on-screen, bearing much resemblance to Plank from Ed, Edd n Eddy. With its electric animation, bright colors, humorous storylines, and eccentric characters, this show is still worth watching today. Angry Beavers is a definitive part of ’90s babies’ childhoods.
1 Hey Arnold! (1996)
● Available on Hulu, Paramount+, DirecTV, NickHits, and Hoopla
Hey Arnold! follows a group of school-aged children navigating their life in an urban city. Each character is well-developed and they each possess their own unique personality. Fan-favorite supporting characters such as Helga, Gerald, Stinky, and Harold drive the show forward. This group gets themselves into some truly ridiculous situations, such as getting mixed up with criminals and owing a lot of money to the Campfire Lasses.
They always overcome their challenges and learn to value their friendships, as well as the advice and support of those around them. The characters’ problem-solving skills, deep life lessons, and uplifting storylines made this show a huge success.