Top 10 Best 90s Cartoons of Each Year (1990 - 1999)
VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu
WRITTEN BY: Joey Turner
It's time to revisit the best 90s cartoons of each year (1990-1999). Our countdown includes "Rugrats," "Animaniacs," "Gargoyles," and more!
Top 10 Best 90s Cartoons of Each Year (1990-1999)
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Best 90s Cartoons of Each Year.
For this list, we’ll be looking at some of the most beloved animated series released each year from 1990 to 1999.
What was your favorite toon from the 90s? Let us know in the comments.
#1990: “Tiny Toon Adventures” (1990-95)
They’re tiny, they’re toony, they’re the looniest way to kick off the decade. To kick off the 90s, Warner Bros. teamed up with Steven Spielberg to create a whole new generation of “Looney Tunes” descendants. We were introduced to Buster and Babs Bunny—no relation, Plucky Duck, Hamton J. Pig, and many others. Mentored by the original stars of “Looney Tunes”, this all-star cast entertained viewers every weekday with their zany adventures throughout Acme Acres and beyond. They went toe-to-toe with the spoiled Montana Max or ran for their lives from Elmyra. While “kid version” cartoons were nothing new at the time, “Tiny Toons” stood above the crowd thanks to its hilarious spoofs and relatable life lessons.
#1991: “Rugrats” (1991-2004)
The strong era of Nicktoons began by giving us a better look at life through a toddler’s eyes. “Rugrats” follows the daily misadventures of a group of imaginative babies when their parents aren’t around, or just way too distracted. Along with the usual toddler shenanigans, this series definitely hinted at the dangers of spoiling or ignoring your children. It also never shied away from serious topics like growing up without a mother. We STILL tear up at Chuckie’s “Mother’s Day” episode. With over 100 episodes, three theatrical films, and a sequel spin-off, it still holds the record for one of the longest-running and most iconic Nickelodeon programs. And that’s without counting the 2021 Paramount+ reboot.
#1992: “Batman: The Animated Series” (1992-95)
1992 was such a big year for cartoon superheroes that we struggled to pick which one deserved this spot. While we love “X-Men” for faithfully capturing the mutants’ struggle with prejudice, we had to give it to the series that redefined DC’s Dark Knight: “Batman: The Animated Series”. Even for a kid’s show, this series carried a mature, complex tone that stayed true to the original comics while fleshing out gimmicky villains into tragic or relatable figures. It's also responsible for the creation of Harley Quinn, who would eventually make her way into DC’s mainstream and become a MAJOR player in the “Batman” franchise long after the series’ end.
#1993: “Animaniacs” (1993-98)
Following the success of “Tiny Toon Adventures”, Spielberg and Warner Brothers combined forces again to create the totally insaney hit of 1993, “Animaniacs”. This animated sketch-comedy series had no shortage of variety in shorts. We tuned into the zany misadventures of the Warner siblings, the hopeless endeavors of Pinky and the Brain, the nostalgic chaos of Slappy Squirrel and many more. Even to this day, this show is praised for its satirical comedy, catchy songs, and being able to touch the hearts of both younger and older audiences. The series’ massive success spawned multiple spin-offs and a 2020 Hulu reboot. Fortunately, the new series manages to capture what made the original so iconic.
#1994: “Gargoyles” (1994-97)
You’d expect a revered edutainment show like “The Magic School Bus” would be up Disney’s alley, right? Actually, we can thank PBS for that one. Meanwhile, Disney was experimenting with a surprise melodrama series. A clan of mythical creatures, known as Gargoyles, is reawakened after 1000 years and must adjust to modern-day New York. They also defend the city from various supernatural threats that include a fellow gargoyle named Demona. Given how colorful and upbeat Disney’s programs were at the time, no one expected them to even attempt such a serious, story-driven, almost Shakespearean show on par with “Batman: The Animated Series”. And yet, they pulled it off and achieved a much-deserved cult following for taking such a chance.
#1995: “Pinky and the Brain” (1995-98)
One of the most popular sketches on “Animaniacs” followed two genetically altered lab mice, Pinky and the Brain, on their hopeless quest for world domination. Two years after their TV debut, the duo managed to score their own spin-off series that continues their hilarious never ending journey. It manages to be on par with the original thanks to its smart comedy and the chemistry between our favorite lab mice. Unfortunately, the network tried to push for a comedy TRIO after a while, which resulted in the less revered spin-off, “Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain”. Thankfully, the 2020 “Animaniacs” reboot brought the duo back to their roots and successfully proved that less is more.
#1996: “Hey Arnold!” (1996-2004)
As much as we’d love to discuss the “Transformers” franchise’s first CGI series, we thought it was best to indulge in a little slice of life for 1996. “Hey Arnold” follows the life and times of the titular football-headed 4th grader. Armed with eternal optimism, he goes out of his way to try and improve the lives of his friends and neighbors. Arnold also struggles to survive his sometimes vicious secret admirer Helga Pataki. While mostly a comedy, this series had a surprising level of depth and was never afraid to subtly tackle heavy subjects. After ending on a cliffhanger, the 2017 “Jungle Movie” revival gave this Nicktoon the satisfying conclusion it deserved.
#1997: “Pokémon” (1997-)
As much as we want to praise “South Park” as one of the most insightfully vulgar cartoons, we’re giving 1997’s entry to the most successful video game adaptations ever, “Pokémon”. The anime follows young trainer Ash Ketchum and his partner, Pikachu, as they travel all around the world on Ash’s journey to become a Pokémon master. Most video game adaptations are lucky enough to last a few years. But the “Pokémon” franchise has well surpassed expectations by lasting over two decades, issuing over 1000 episodes and leading to 20 movies. This TV show was the first introduction to the franchise for many. It effortlessly wowed viewers with pulse-pounding battles, comedic character quirks, and plenty of heartfelt moments that brought the Pokémon world to life.
#1998: “The Powerpuff Girls” (1998-2005)
Sugar, spice, and everything nice: these were the ingredients chosen to create the perfect superhero cartoon of 1998. Every day, Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup dedicated their lives to fighting crime and protecting the City of Townsville all before bedtime. The show was packed with wide pop-culture appeal and humor. But what REALLY made this Cartoon Network classic such a hit was its energetic pacing and how it never shied away from really intense fight scenes. Seriously, if you took just one look at these cute little girls, would you believe them capable of kicking a bad guy’s teeth out? While there have been attempts at trying to reboot the franchise, newer versions can’t quite catch the same magic the original had.
#1999: “SpongeBob SquarePants” (1999-)
It was insanely hard to decide which cartoon from the end of the decade deserved to be on this list. The year gave us the hilariously smart “Futurama”, the zany “Ed, Edd n Eddy”, and the parody sitcom madness of “Family Guy”. However, closing off the 90s is the Nicktoon that’s become a household name at this point: “SpongeBob SquarePants”. It’s practically impossible to find anyone who doesn’t know of this plucky little square dude’s misadventures under the sea. The show has given us too many quotable lines and iconic scenes to count! It’s no mystery how the late Stephen Hillenburg’s passion project managed to survive for over two decades and become one of Nickelodeon’s most memorable cartoons.