Thanks to the expansion of original programming on cable channels, the 90s were a wonderful time to be alive, especially for cartoon television lovers. Networks like Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network amongst others competed fiercely to see who could produce the most creative, unique and fantastic animations, and the results were amazing. Join us as we take a trip down nostalgia lane and pick out the best 90s cartoons that filled our lives with joy and purpose. The qualities of these works are so strong that they still hold up to scrutiny even today.
Best 90s Cartoons And The Voices Behind Their Main Characters
10. ANIMANIACS (1993-1998)
There are several reasons this aptly titled show is one of the best 90s cartoons. It had an extremely catchy theme song, the sketches were creative and tailored to match the attention span of young children, and most of all it featured other mini shows like the incredible Pinky & the Brain, two lab rats who tried to take over the world every single night. Animaniacs was absolutely bonkers, hilarious, full of educational nuggets and pop culture references. There is nothing you can fault this cartoon for. It was just wonderful and beautiful to watch. Yakko, Wakko, and Dot loved creating havoc and causing mayhem in the lives of the people they know, and we loved seeing them do it.
The beloved 90s cartoon characters were brought to life by Jess Harnell (Wakko), Tress MacNeille (Dot), Rob Paulsen (Yakko, Pinky, and Dr. Otto von Scratchansniff), Sherry Stoner (Slappy the Squirrel), Maurice LaMarche (the Brain, Squit, and The Great Wakkorotti), Nathan Ruegger (Skippy Squirrel), Bernadette Peters (Rita), and Laura Mooney (Katie Ka-Boom).
9. GARGOYLES (1994-1997)
While other cartoons flirted with adult themes by sneaking in mature storylines and jokes that they hoped children wouldn’t be able to understand, Gargoyles completely threw itself into it. It was as dark as they come. Its storylines were mythological and dipped in Shakespearean melancholy and drama. The cartoon follows a bunch of gargoyle statues that come to life at night to defend New York City.
It also had one of the most impressive cast lineup in cartoon history with gifted performers such as Ed Asner (Hudon), Keith David (Goliath), Marina Sirtis (Demona), Jeff Bennett (Brooklyn), Brigitte Bakko (Angela), Bill Fagerbakke (Broadway), Frank Welker (Bronx), Thom Adcox (Lexington), Jonathan Frakes (David Xanatox), and Salli Richardson (Elisa Maza) lending their voice talents to the characters.
8. DRAGON BALL Z (1996-2003)
It wouldn’t be amiss to say that Dragon Ball Z is one of the most influential cartoons to ever hit television. When it came out, every kid was watching it and plenty of adults too. It took the world by storm with its enthralling storyline and it was one of the first cartoons that really opened everyone’s eyes to the beauty of Japanese animation. The show mostly revolves around the character Goku and his quest to gain control and harness the full potential of his superhuman powers. This mission will take him all across the galaxy, where he will face powerful enemies. The cartoon was fantastical, complex, with detailed graphics and character design that most 90s cartoons could not boast of. So it was unsurprising that younger generation immediately got hooked on it.
Interestingly, the main character Goku was voiced by the Japanese actress Masako Nozawa, she also voiced his male relatives. The villain, Krillin was voiced by Mayumi Tanaka, Vegeta by Ryo Horikawa, and Piccolo by Toshio Furukawa.
7. ROCKO’S MODERN LIFE (1993-1996)
The premise of this cartoon is simple: an Australian wallaby moves to America, where he becomes housemates with a neurotic turtle named Fisher and a greedy cow named Heffer and tries to come to terms with the challenges of his new life. The show’s appeal lay in its vibrant colors, weird character designs, and catchy team song. The animation had a lovable offbeat nature, as well as a big, fun personality, though it snuck in adult innuendos and satirical jokes into its dialogue. While Rocko’s Modern Life is one of the best 90s cartoons ever made, it probably would never have been approved for kids television today because of its risque, dark, and grotesque undertones.
Seasoned performers like Carlos Alazraqui (Rocko), Tom Kenny (Heffer), Mr. Lawrence (Filburt), Charlie Adler (Ed Bighead), and Linda Wallem (Alicia) were the voices behind the eccentric characters.
6. DOUG (1991-1994)
Meet Douglas Funnie, a regular kid who moves to a new town with his parents, Theda and Phil, and his sister, Judy. He soon makes friends with Beebe, Skeeter, and Patti, and develops an intense rivalry with Roger Klotz. In his spare time, Doug likes to pretend he is a superhero named Quailman. The beauty of this was how normal and relatable it was for kids. Like them, Doug had a rich fantasy life, he crushed on girls, dealt with bullies, navigated sticky situations, and got stressed out about his looks. He tried hard to be good and do the things he liked, and when he succeeded his triumphs were shared with the viewers. Doug was a wholesome, funny, inspirational animation, and one of the best 90s cartoons you’ll ever see.
The main characters were voiced by Billy West (Douglas), Becca Lish (Theda), Doug Preis (Phil), Constance Shulman (Patti), Fred Newman (Skeeter), Alice Playten (Beebe), Chris Phillips (Roger Klotz), Doris Belack (Tippi), Jeff Bergman (Coach Spitz), and Greg Lee (Mayor Roberts).
5. X-MEN (1992-1997)
If this cartoon didn’t make you love superheroes and comic books, then nothing will. X-Men introduced the younger generation to its band of dysfunctional mutants with all kinds of supernatural abilities and helped them see that regardless of our differences, we are all people. We all want the same basic things, and no one should be discriminated against simply because they’re different from us in some way. It was a wonderful window into the fantastical world of comic books and the characters thereof.
While the animation wasn’t perfect, the cartoon fully delivered on the voice acting front. The beloved characters were voiced by Cathal J. Dodd (Wolverine), Lenore Zann (Rogue), Iona Morris (Storm), Norm Spencer (Cyclops), Chris Potter (Gambit), Jennifer Dale (Aurora), Catherine Disher (Jean Grey), Melissa Sue (Snowbird), Cedric Smith (Professor X), and John Colicos (Apocalypse).
4. THE REN & STIMPY SHOW (1991-1995)
This revolutionary cartoon was absolutely bonkers. Unlike most other animations, it didn’t bother to cloak its dark, weird, and unhinged style of humor that is still influencing newer shows like Adventure Time and Spongebob Squarepants. Not only is it one of the best 90s cartoons, it actually looks like it came out of that time period because the animation style was intentionally dull. One of the things that made The Ren & Stimpy Show special was the fact that it chucked the idea of being wholesome or imparting life lessons and just focused on being downright bizarre and sometimes grotesque. The show leaves you horrified or totally intrigued by the unusual adventures the crazy Chihuahua, Ren, and the dimwitted cat, Stimpson get up to.
John Kricfalusi voiced Ren Hoek, Billy West was behind Stimpson, Mark Hamill was Mr. Noggin, Harris Peet was George Liquor, Tommy Davidson was Sammy Mantis, Cheryl Chase played Mrs. Pipe, and Gary Owens was the voice of Powdered Toast Man.
3. RUGRATS (1991-2004)
Rugrats was one of the very best 90s cartoons to come out of Nickelodeon. It was excellently written and crude in an easily digestible way. The cartoon explored the world from the point of view of four toddlers: Tommy, Chuckie, Lillian, and Phil. Together, they get into all kinds of trouble, while blessing viewers with really adorable scenes that might give you serious baby fever. Despite the crazy shenanigans going down, the cartoon still managed to drop a lot of emotional moments that were full of heart and touched on real-life issues.
The show also had a topnotch voice cast featuring Elizabeth Daily, Nancy Cartwright, Kath Soucie, Cheryl Chase, and Cree Summer as the main cast members.
2. BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES (1992-1995)
The 90s was a very terrible time for the superhero movies, and George Clooney is personally responsible for half of the evil, thanks to his distasteful portrayal of Batman on the big screen. However, the cartoon version was making amends and showing
everyone how the business gets done. Batman: The Animated Series had a dark, mature feel and it dealt with more complicated issues like redemption, corruption, grief, politics, tragedy, and friendship.
Amongst other things, the show has earned a place on every list of best 90s cartoons because of the quality of its animation, storytelling, and voice acting. Kevin Conroy killed it in his dual roles as Batman and Bruce Wayne, while Mark Hamill practically set the standard for the Joker. Loren Lester voiced Robin, Arleen Sorkin did Harley Quinn, Bob Hastings was the Commissioner Gordon, David Warner was Ra’s al Ghul, and Efrem Zimbalist Jr. brought the loyal Alfred to life.
1. THE SIMPSONS (1989-Present)
Most people would agree that the number one greatest and absolute best 90s cartoon is The Simpsons. Nobody really knew just how good a cartoon could get until The Simpsons arrived on the scene and showed us, then set the standard for everything that followed. At the moment, it’s the longest-running cartoon in history, and despite all the years that have passed, we are still waiting for animation that can top it. The cartoon is a satirical depiction of working-class life using the life of the Simpson family: Homer, Marge, and their kids Bart, Lisa, and Maggie.
The main characters are voiced by Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Yeardley Smith, and Nancy Cartwright, who plays both Bart and Maggie.