The 1990s will forever be remembered as the decade of simpler times. Cell phones weren’t in everyone’s hands, kids played outside until the sun went down, and the entertainment industry was booming. One of the best memories many people share from this decade is waking up on a Saturday morning, getting a bowl of cereal ready, and flipping through the TV channels to find the best cartoons. The animated characters and storylines were unmatched in the 90s — or so we thought at the time. Now, as adults, we can fondly look back on many nostalgic cartoons and reminisce about the good old days.
The characters on Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon shows before the turn of the century were the best of friends to some children. They taught lessons about friendship, how to deal with conflict, and the importance of expressing yourself. While the quality of television has definitely changed, and now writers are a bit more conscientious of what the characters and storylines they create, it is safe to say that the 90s was still a peak time for animated characters.
Check out the 20 best 90s cartoon characters ever created.
20 Miss Frizzle (The Magic School Bus)
While your teachers were providing the best education they could in school, Miss Frizzle (voiced by Lily Tomlin) was giving you a quality education from the comfort of your own home in The Magic School Bus, and the best part is, you likely didn’t even know it. The quirky science teacher would take her students on magical adventures to learn about creatures, places, and so much more. No matter the situation, Miss Frizzle always kept a positive attitude, and she never made her students feel silly for asking questions or struggling with a concept.
19 Courage (Courage the Cowardly Dog)
If you are a fan of horror movies, then Courage the Cowardly Dog was likely your go-to show as a child. The ironically named titular character, Courage, is portrayed as a scared little dog who feels that it is his duty to constantly save his home, especially his loving adoptive human mom, Muriel. He lives in the middle of Nowhere, and as all horror stories go, monsters, zombies, and paranormal spirits find their way to his house in the middle of the desert. Courage always had to muster up his own bravery to face his fears and defeat these unwanted guests to keep his family safe.
18 Muriel Bagge (Courage the Cowardly Dog)
Muriel is one of the most iconic characters of the ’90s for a few different reasons. She is the most loving, kind, and devoted mother to Courage, and when it comes to putting up with her husband’s nonsense and jealous tendencies, she is quick as a whip to put an end to his shenanigans. When she found a tiny and frightened pup in a dark abandoned alley, she did not hesitate to bring him home to be a part of her family. Muriel’s warm nature is much appreciated to children who often found certain scenes more frightening than amusing.
17 Goofy (Goof Troop)
Out of all the Disney fathers, Goofy is by far the most incredible dad to his one and only son, Max. Goofy is one of the most positive and go-with-the-flow characters in the whole franchise. He often finds himself in sticky situations, much to Max’s annoyance, but he gets creative with finding solutions out of them. In Goof Troop, Goofy puts his son’s needs ahead of his own in every instance, and he is the best role model any young boy could ever ask for. He is lovable, funny, and he always wants to put people in a better mood. What more could anyone ask for in a cartoon character?
16 Susie Carmichael (Rugrats)
After spending the whole first season of Rugrats watching Angelica torment her baby cousin Tommy and his friends, the cartoon series introduced a kindhearted and caring new girl, Susie. She and her family were the only African American characters on the show, and it’s important to note that she was made to be Angelica’s foil character. Susie brought a balance to the group with her kind nature, leadership skills, and helpfulness. She never talked down to her baby friends, and she was always ready for whatever crazy adventure they had lined up for the day.
15 Tommy Pickles (Rugrats)
The fearless and courageous leader of the original baby gang was someone every kid aspired to be, even if he was probably younger than most of his fans. Tommy Pickles takes his friends on adventures to discover the whole world, and to a one-year-old that means anything and everything is new and exciting. He is not afraid to stand up for what he believes in, and he often encourages his best friend, Chuckie, to go out of his comfort zone and try new things.
14 Professor Utonium (The Powerpuff Girls)
In an attempt to create the perfect little girl, in The Powerpuff Girls, Professor Utonium threw together a combination of sugar, spice, and everything nice. However, once a mysterious substance labeled Chemical X found its way into the mixture, his life would change forever. Professor Utonium found himself the father and creator to not one, but three little girls; the catch was they all had unique superpowers.
Instead of questioning his creation, the new father welcomed them with open arms. He took on fatherly responsibilities including making sure the girls knew right from wrong, sending them to school, and settling their sibling quarrels. He certainly is one of the most proud dads in any animated series.
13 Johnny Bravo (Johnny Bravo)
While Johnny Bravo, from Johnny Bravo, may be one of the most conceited and obnoxious men on the planet, he is one of the most recognizable characters from the 90s. Johnny’s main mission in life is to get a pretty woman to go out with him, but he is often rejected in the best ways possible because he always makes a fool of himself. Many women that he pursues inflict pain on him, but there is rarely any sympathy from the audience. His style and phrases can be related back to popular guys like Elvis Presley and James Dean, but Johnny surely missed out on their better personality traits.
12 Nigel Thornberry (The Wild Thornberrys)
While a lot of parents are often left out of the main storylines in cartoon series, in The Wild Thornberrys, the Thornberry parents are involved in it all. Nigel, who is voiced by the Dr. Frank-N-Furter actor, Tim Curry, is the patriarch of the adventurous family. He has a happy-go-lucky attitude, and he constantly encourages his three children to try new things and not be afraid of their surroundings. His family travels around the world as he hosts wildlife documentaries, and he is grateful to bestow his love for the wilderness them all.
11 Dexter (Dexter’s Laboratory)
A boy genius with a whole laboratory hidden behind a bookcase from his clueless parents seems plausible, right? In Dexter’s Laboratory, Dexter is a wildly gifted young man with a crazy imagination and knack for experimenting. He is often either deep in thought as he conjures up his next invention, or he’s annoyed with his ditsy sister, Dee Dee, or his arch nemesis, Mandark. Dexter gives kids someone to look up to who is always trying to accomplish and create new things on their own.
10 Arnold Shortman (Hey Arnold!)
In Hey Arnold!, Arnold Shortman seems like an average kid, but after watching a few episodes, fans realize he is anything but ordinary. Arnold is kind and helpful, and he has a huge imagination when it comes to going on adventures with his friends. What makes Arnold stand out from others is the fact that he is always so humble and willing to help those in need. Given that he lives with his paternal grandparents in the big city, Arnold comes across a lot of people in his day-to-day life. When he sees that someone has a problem than needs solving, Arnold is always ready to assist.
9 Sailor Moon (Sailor Moon)
Before Sailor Moon was this incredible soldier who defends the world from chaos, she was an average schoolgirl named Usagi Tsukino. In Sailor Moon, she was granted her magical alter ego by a black cat named Luna, and ever since then, her fate was sealed. Sailor Moon taught young viewers taking on big tasks does not always have to be so scary. From making friends and learning lessons herself, Sailor Moon remains a great role model for kids.
8 The Joker (Batman: The Animated Series)
Mark Hamill’s voice acting career took off after voicing the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series. He completely understood how to change his tone on a dime to go from simply annoyed to ruthlessly terrifying. Now, the Joker was clearly not the protagonist nor was he the nicest guy in the series, but he is one of the most iconic characters of the time due to how devious he was within the cartoon. His maniacal laugh still rings through fans’ ears to this day.
7 Rocko (Rocko’s Modern Life)
Aside from being an anthropomorphic wallaby, in Rocko’s Modern Life, Rocko is a totally normal guy living his life the best he can. He seems unbothered by the chaotic world around him, and when his friends present him with a problem, he is always there to help them solve it. What makes him great is the fact that he is so relatable. Everyone else seems to struggle with their problems outwardly while Rocko often deals with his own frustrations by himself. The topics are a bit dark at times, but Rocko tends to see the good side of things.
6 Pikachu (Pokémon)
Back in 1997, everyone fell in love with the feisty yellow electrocuting mouse Pikachu in Pokémon. Unlike the other starter Pokémon, he is sassy and defiant. He does not like to be inside a Poké Ball, and he is willing to share his opinion regardless of being asked. When Ash was forced to choose Pikchu as his first Pokémon, neither of them knew how much would change in their lives. Over the years, Pikachu’s attitude has calmed down, and he has become the ultimate traveling companion to his Pokémon master. All Pokémon fans wish they had a friend as loyal and cute as Pikachu.
5 Arthur Read (Arthur)
Aside from the many memes regarding Arthur Read, the anthropomorphic aardvark has actually been one of the most inspirational and helpful cartoon characters. In Arthur, he is an average kid with a great family who tries to excel in many things. Arthur is relatable in the sense that he often does not use common sense in several situations (much to his parents’ annoyance), he is awkward when he is trying his best to act cool, and he is an overall good friend to his best friend, Buster Baxter. Arthur may have a bit of a temper at times, especially with his younger sister, D. W., but that’s just like every other big brother out there.
4 Douglas Funnie (Doug)
While many children would like to believe that they are ordinary and merely fit in with the rest of their peers, there is almost always something extraordinary about them that forces them to stand out in one way or another. For Doug Funnie in Doug, his vivid imagination and distinct sense for what is good versus what is wrong is what makes him unique. He is very aware of his situations and feelings, and he chooses to write about his life in a journal. Doug deals with a lot over the course of seven seasons, but he tries his best to see the good even in the darkest times.
3 T.J. Detweiler (Recess)
Recess was always the best part about elementary school because it allowed kids freedom to make friends, release some energy, and mentally wind down from grueling classwork. For T.J., it was a time to rally his five best friends and come up with pranks to pull on teachers. T.J. is the kid every teacher loves and sees having a bright future. He is a natural leader, he sticks up for those when he feels like they need a helping hand, and he is never afraid to speak his mind on any subject. While watching Recess, kids aspired to be like T.J. because he just gave off a cool and confident energy.
2 Homer Simpson (The Simpsons)
Homer Jay Simpson represented the typical blue-collar family man in The Simpsons. While at work, he put in the hours and did everything to provide for his family, and then at home, he was just a big kid. Homer is not the nurturing and caring parent figure to his three children, but when his family truly needs him to step up to the plate, he is there. Homer is often portrayed as lazy, unprofessional, and a bit crude, but that is what made him so lovable as a character. Homer is never afraid to make a good (or bad) joke or throw out some random unsolicited advice, and for that, fans are grateful.
1 Daria Morgendorffer (Daria)
Daria was originally on Beavis and Butt-Head, and her sardonic attitude was well-liked enough to earn her a starring role in her own spinoff series, aptly titled Daria. She is intelligent, witty, extremely cynical, and fans just can’t get enough. Instead of being a whiny teenager who hates her suburban lifestyle, Daria is a no-nonsense high schooler who makes valid points about the world around her. In lieu of slapstick or physical comedy, Daria’s humor stems from her witty one-liners and dark humor, and many of her fans can agree with her outlook on life.