Nickelodeon is a network that epitomizes nostalgia for many people. Many iconic cartoons were released during the channel’s heyday in the 1990s, with fond memories abounding for the adults who were merely children when they first aired. Although ostensibly a channel for younger viewers, there is a staying power to many of the shows that transcend demographics. As such, there are many different choices for favorite Nicktoon, though it’s clear to say that there is no universal consensus. Although I would like to rank every show on the list equally, I have decided to select five. So without further ado, here are the top 5 best 90s Nickelodeon cartoons of all time, ranked!
5. Aaahhh!!! Real Monsters (1994)
Aaahhh!!! Real Monsters was a bit of a departure for Nickelodeon when it first aired. Their first few shows (Rugrats, Doug, Ren and Stimpy and Rocko’s Modern Life) had fantastical moments, but comedy was the primary focus. While Aaahhh!!! Real Monsters certainly was a funny show, there was more of a focus toward horror and nightmarish imagery. In ARM, protagonists Ickis, Oblina and Krumm attend a school so they can learn to scare humans efficiently. As their studies progress, so do the misadventures. Can these three rag-tag misfits be so good at their jobs that it’s scary?
ARM certainly isn’t your everyday Nicktoon and it thrives due to that. The artwork and character designs are inventive and pleasing to the eye and there is just enough variety in the plots to keep viewers engaged. It’s not necessarily the most inventive or funniest show, but being moderately good sometimes is the next best thing.
4. Kablam! (1996)
If ARM was a departure for Nickelodeon, then Kablam practically came from another network. Not to say that it isn’t a great Nicktoon, just that Kablam is hardly what people think of when they picture one. A child’s take on the variety show concept, Kablam features several segments each animated in a different style, including stop-motion (Action League NOW!), puppetry (Life With Loopy) and traditional hand-drawn animation (Sniz and Fondue).
Kablam is a wonderful showcase of the power of different forms of animation, as well as comedy. There is a dynamic sense of energy to the sketches that make it the child’s equivalent to Saturday Night Live and the comedy is consistently top notch.
3. Rocko’s Modern Life (1993)
If Doug and The Ren and Stimpy Show had a child, that child would easily be Rocko’s Modern Life. Centering around titular wallaby Rocko, the show combines mundane antics with high-octane comedy and surrealism. Along the way, he’s joined by best friends Heffer Wolfe, a fun-loving cow, er steer and Filbert Shellbach, a neurotic turtle. The trio have to navigate their way around various misadventures while hoping the universe stays intact.
Rocko’s Modern Life is a great combination of ty[ical sitcom plots with a zaniness usually reserved to more outlandish cartoons. The combination breathes life into the series and it’s all the better for that.
2. The Ren and Stimpy Show (1991)
One of the very first Nicktoons, The Ren and Stimpy Show practically defined the network’s reputation for the entire decade. A homage to the Golden Age Looney Tunes cartoons that everyone remembers fondly, Ren and Stimpy concerned the adventures of irascible chihuahua Ren Hoek and simple-minded cat Stimpy as they navigated through a variety of locales. Reality is a thing of the past in the show as the duo effortlessly venture from a suburban house, to outer space, to the Wild West with nothing more than good ol’ fashioned cartoon logic.
The Ren and Stimpy Show is Nick’s pinnacle of 90s cartoon comedy. From traditional slapstick to obscure references, the show was the master of the joke. For that, it will always be a classic.
1. SpongeBob SquarePants (1999)
While SpongeBob SquarePants only aired for a single year in the 1990s and is considered to be more of a 2000s show, it technically began in the decade, so it qualifies as a 90s cartoon. If one has been living under a rock like a certain starfish in the show, the series follows SpongeBob SquarePants, an optimistic yellow kitchen sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea. He’s joined by best friend Patrick Star, a dopey pink starfish, next-door neighbor Squidward Tentacles, a grouchy octopus and a variety of other zany characters. Managing work at the Krusty Krab along with a host of other activities, SpongeBob periodically gets into trouble, but always comes out on top.
SpongeBob took what worked about Ren and Stimpy and elevated it to another level. The characters are funnier, the colors are brighter and there is a lot of fun to be had. For good reason, it’s the network’s longest-running cartoon and it completely deserves to be.