PBS, Nickelodeon, Disney+
Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?, Hey Arnold!, X-Men: The Animated Series

How to Watch Your Favorite '90s Cartoons

The animated series you grew up watching are just a click away, from Doug and Rugrats to Pokémon and Powerpuff Girls

TV Throwback

Anthony Roman

After the deregulation of children's programming turned animated shows into mercenary toy commercials in the '80s, the '90s revitalized and revolutionized the genre. Many studios (Nickelodeon and Warner Bros. in particular) put out cartoons that were creatively accomplished, morally or educationally instructive, entertaining, and still managed to sell a lot of toys.

If you're reading this list, chances are you grew up watching '90s cartoons. You have fond memories of turning on the Panasonic on a Saturday morning or after school, eating a packet of Dunkaroos, and escaping into a world of adventure, talking animals, and weird-looking hand-drawn people. Many of these shows you probably watched so many times that they got etched in your brain forever, and watching them again will be like hearing a song you haven't listened to in years but still remember all the words to. You may be surprised by what you remember, or what you don't. You'll definitely catch some jokes that went over your head when you were a kid.  

TV Throwback: The Best Shows to Rewatch Right Now

Maybe you want to watch some '90s animated shows to indulge in a little bit of nostalgia. Or maybe you want to show your own kids the stuff you used to like. Whatever your reason, this list has 14 great '90s animated series in roughly chronological order and where you can stream them. (Note: SpongeBob SquarePants debuted in 1999, but that feels more like a 2000s series.) 



Tiny Toon Adventures (1990-1992)


Watch it on: Hulu

Tiny Toon Adventures

CBS

Steven Spielberg produced this cheeky series that introduced a new generation of Looney Tunes who went to a school where the teachers were the original Looney Tunes. While Buster Bunny and his friends weren't as influential as their forefathers, the Tiny Toons movie How I Spent My Vacation was a primary influence on Atlanta Robbin' Season.



Doug (1991-1999)


Watch it on: Hulu, Disney+

Doug

Nickelodeon

One of the original Nicktoons (that later moved to ABC when Disney acquired the rights), this series follows imaginative 11-year-old Doug Funnie as he navigates middle school with his friend Skeeter (short for Mosquito) and tries to impress his crush Patti Mayonnaise. Nobody rocked a sweater vest like Doug. 



Rugrats (1991-2004)


Watch it on: Hulu 

Rugrats

Nickelodeon

With all due respect to the Dancing Baby from Ally McBeal, the babies of Rugrats were the most influential infants of the '90s. The show was a constant presence on Nickelodeon all through the '90s, and anyone who was under 12 years old in 1998 can tell you how excited they were for the first Rugrats movie. 



Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995)


Watch it on: DC Universe

Batman

DC Comics/Disney +

This highly sophisticated series is still one of the best Batman adaptations ever made. Its noir aesthetic, thematic complexity, top-notch animation, and voice acting (shoutout to Mark Hamill's Joker) ranks it among the best animated series ever. 



X-Men: The Animated Series (1992-1997)


Watch it on: Disney+

X-Men: Animated Series

Disney +

Wolverine was the most popping superhero of the '90s, and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise wasn't there. The clawed Canadian led the mutant ensemble in this Marvel series that helped lay the groundwork for the superhero cultural takeover that began in the following decade.



Animaniacs (1993-1998)


Watch it on: Hulu 

Animaniacs

WB

This clever cartoon set on the Warner Bros. studio lot had a lot of jokes that were more for grown-ups ("No no no, finger Prince"), but the high-energy, Looney Tunes-inspired physical comedy was still entertaining to kids. It was the irreverent counterpart to Nicktoons' sincerity.



Sonic the Hedgehog and Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog (1993-1994)


Watch it on: CBS All Access

Sonic

ABC/Netflix

In 1993-94, there were two concurrent adaptations of the video game about the superfast hedgehog: the story-driven Sonic the Hedgehog and the goofier Adventures of Sonic. Now that the Sonic movie has reenergized this once-flagging franchise, maybe it's time to revisit these animated series.



Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? (1994-1999)


Watch it on: Tubi 

Where in the World is Carmen San Diego

PBS

This animated spin-off of the educational video game series and game show followed teenage detectives Roger and Amy as they trotted all over the globe in pursuit of super thief Carmen Sandiego. Carmen was voiced by Rita Moreno, and at the time it was rare to hear stars of her caliber in children's TV shows. This show was edutainment at its finest.



Gargoyles (1994-1997)


Watch it on: Disney+

Gargoyles

Disney

Gargoyles was uncommonly erudite for a Saturday morning cartoon, with complex, serialized storylines that were chock full of references to Shakespeare and medieval Scottish history. It prepared kids for prestige TV. We're still hoping Jordan Peele does a live-action adaptation someday.



Pinky and the Brain (1995-1998)


Watch it on: Hulu 

Pinky and the Brain

WB

This Animaniacs spin-off about a pair of laboratory mice, one a genius, the other an idiot, had arguably the most memorable catchphrase of any show on this list: "Are you pondering what I'm pondering?" It's the second most-referenced smart guy/dumb guy pairing after Of Mice and Men's Lennie and George. 



Hey Arnold! (1996-2004)


Watch it on: Hulu 

Hey Arnold

Nickelodeon

The crown jewel of the mid-'90s Nicktoons, Hey Arnold! followed the adventures of a kid with a football-shaped head living in a city that was an amalgamation of Seattle, Portland, and Brooklyn. It also featured the greatest singer in the world, Dino Spumoni. Dino had nothing but bangers.



The Powerpuff Girls (1998-2005)


Watch it on: Hulu 

The Powerpuff Girls

Cartoon Network

Sugar, spice, and everything nice (plus a huge accidental dose of Chemical X) went into the creation of this funny and action-packed series that defined the Girl Power era. Every trio of friends has a Bubbles, a Blossom, and a Buttercup. 



Pokémon (1998-Present)


Watch it on: Netflix

Pokemon

Netflix

The animated series about Ash Ketchum and his journey to become the greatest Pokémon trainer of all time joined forces with the video and card games to complete Pokémon's late-'90s global takeover, which continues to this day. All these years later, and we're still trying to catch 'em all. 


Looking for more shows to stream? Check out TV Guide's TV Throwback, recommending the best shows to rewatch -- or to discover for the first time -- from 1970 through the present day.

TV Throwback

Anthony Roman