Growing up in the 1990s, there was no better place to watch TV shows than Nickelodeon. They branded themselves as a network specifically for kids, and they certainly lived up to that motto with a wide variety of programming aimed at young audiences. They had everything from family oriented educational shows to funny programs geared toward teens.
One of the most memorable parts of Nickelodeon in the ’90s was their “Nicktoons” line-up. These were their original cartoon programs, which aired throughout the decade. The majority of Nicktoons were very strange, and felt different from anything else that we were being shown as kids. It was almost like Nicktoons were the television version of that cool alternative kid in school, who we secretly wanted to befriend. They didn’t care about conforming, they had no interest in being popular, and they typically strayed away from the social norms. Much like the cool alternative kid, we were drawn to the uniqueness of the Nicktoons. Their creativity and individuality is what’s given them such a large following even today.
So, get ready to bring out the Pogs, fire up the Sega Genesis, and feed your Tamagotchi. Here are the top 10 ’90s Nickelodeon cartoons that will leave you feeling nostalgic:
An animated sketch comedy show that started in 1996, KaBlam! is one of the most amazingly wacky shows ever. The animated characters, Henry and June hosted the show, which was a series of short comedy films. Most of the pieces ranged from strange to extremely strange. The comedy in each film wasn’t necessarily adult-themed, but it’s the type of humor that was easily underappreciated when we were kids.
KaBlam! was partially created by Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi, who were also behind the genius of The Adventures of Pete and Pete. Much like Pete and Pete, which was another ’90s Nickelodeon classic, KaBlam! has developed a strong cult following among nostalgic ’90s kids.
9. The Angry Beavers
Only Nickelodeon would air a show about the adventures of two beaver brothers. Daggett and Norbert Beaver were the main characters in this late ’90s Nicktoon. Like any other good comedy duo, one brother was goofy and stupid while the other brother was laid-back and smart.
As with most other Nicktoons, The Angry Beavers had an extensive collection of oddball and unique characters. These included a talking tree stump, a trucker shrew, and a funky grizzly bear. Its colorful characters combined with the dueling personalities of Daggett and Norbert made this a favorite among ’90s kids.
I’ll be honest, this was a ’90s cartoon that I never watched. There was something about a cat’s body and a dog’s body being connected that creeped me out way too much to even give it a try. Still, CatDog was everywhere in the late ’90s to the point where it seemed like I couldn’t turn on Nickelodeon without hearing the undeniably catchy theme song.
The show raised obvious questions about how Cat and Dog were able to be fully functional living creatures, but it never really seemed to bother most ’90s kids. It just fit right into the deranged Nicktoons world that felt perfectly normal at this point. CatDog ran for four seasons and nearly 70 episodes, so while I might have not appreciated it, there’s no denying that it stands as a nostalgic classic.
7. Aaahh!!! Real Monsters
Standing at the top of the mountain of strange ’90s Nickelodeon cartoons was Aaahh!!! Real Monsters. I mean, tell me that this intro with all of the bugs doesn’t still creep you out today. As the name indicates, this show revolved around a group of monster friends. Just looking at these characters gave me nightmares when I was younger. We have an awkwardly shaped monster with a creepy smile who holds up his eyeballs at all times, a tiny purple monster who looks like a killer rabbit, and a black and white monster who looks like a walking worm with massive lips.
The show itself was entertaining, and certainly one that most ’90s kids look back on with great fondness. It feels like Aaahh!!! Real Monsters was on forever, but it only ran from 1994 to 1997, so I guess that it left a strong impression in a short amount of time.
6. The Wild Thornberrys
This show revolved around the eccentric Thornberry family while they navigated through the jungle making documentary films. The main character was the young daughter, Eliza, who gained the ability to talk to animals. It was a goofy show with fun characters and a family friendly vibe.
The Wild Thornberrys became one of the most popular Nicktoons in the late ’90s and early 2000s, even getting a movie with the Rugrats called Rugrats Go Wild in 2003. I always found Nigel Thornberry, the dad, extremely hilarious even when he wasn’t trying to be funny. The guy was comedy gold. I didn’t realize until I was older that it was Tim Curry voicing him, so it all makes sense now.
5. Rocko’s Modern Life
I’ve never taken drugs, but if I ever do, I would imagine that my world would look just like Rocko’s Modern Life This show takes us through the daily adventures of an Australian wallaby. His best friends are a steer (who was raised by wolves) and a turtle, and his neighbors are toads. If that doesn’t sound appealing enough, it’s generally regarded as the most disgusting Nicktoon.
Filled with unique characters and disturbing storylines, this wacky show is actually one of the most memorable cartoons of the ’90s. Ask any ’90s kid, and they’ll have some sort of fun memory to share about an experience that they remember with Rocko’s Modern Life.
4. The Ren & Stimpy Show
Certainly the most adult of the ’90s Nicktoons was The Ren & Stimpy Show. Its controversial themes and questionable content made it despised by most parents. I was actually banned from watching this show when I was younger, as were many of my friends.
The Ren & Stimpy Show focused around two main characters with opposite personalities. Ren was an angry hyper chihuahua, while Stimpy was a goofy carefree cat. Despite the disdain from parents, this was probably more highly praised by critics than any other Nicktoon. The crude humor and adult themes have actually made a lot of ’90s kids appreciate this show more today.
Is there a more relatable cartoon character than Doug Funny? He’s an average looking middle class kid with self-confidence problems, who is just trying to fit in. He gets bullied, he dreams of being a superhero, and he’s instantly nervous when he’s around his crush.
Doug explored the town of Bluffington with his pals and his dog, while narrating everything through his journal. It’s a great show that should really appeal to anyone, and despite a forgettable Disney run in the mid to late ’90s, Doug still remains one of the best shows of the decade.
One of the most popular and longest-running Nicktoons, Rugrats appealed to a very wide audience. It was a family show that taught valuable lessons for children, but it also had a lot of antics and goofiness that older kids could enjoy. It had a lot of awkward adult humor too, but unlike The Ren & Stimpy Show, it was very subtle.
Rugrats ran from 1991 through 2004, making multiple movies along the way. In 2003, a spinoff called All Grown Up! debuted, and ran for five seasons. A show about the adventures of talking babies doesn’t sound like something that would withstand the test of time, but Rugrats absolutely holds up today.
1. Hey Arnold!
Hey Arnold! followed the likeable football headed Arnold through his adventures growing up in a boarding house with his grandparents. Of the many great things about this show, the best part was the massive amount of unique characters. Whether it was Arnold’s friends, residents of the boarding house, or local legends, each character introduced was highly developed and memorable.
Starting in the mid-’90s, Hey Arnold! got a theatrical movie in 2002, and the series ran until 2004. Thanks to the strong power of nostalgia, a television movie is due to come out later this year. We’ll always love Arnold and the craziness that surrounded him, and that ends the list of top ’90s Nickelodeon cartoons.
No matter how old we get, there will always be a special place in our hearts for these ’90s Nicktoons. I hope that this helped to bring back some great feelings of nostalgia, and remind you of a decade where weird cartoons ruled our world.