Those cartoons from the '90s aren't just for kids. It's something you realize once you re-watch those classic Nickelodeon shows when you get older. The truth is, many cartoons get better with age — especially when it comes to your age as the viewer. You start to realize all the jokes you missed in those WB or Cartoon Network shows because you were too young to get innuendo, parody or satire. With a quick Google search, you see that dirty jokes in Nickelodeon cartoons are not actually that hard to find. And, now that you're a little older, you can actually understand these jokes that your parents probably got a good laugh at.
While there is something sad about realizing your childhood wasn't so innocent, there's also something fun about finally being in on the joke. That the adult humor you may have missed before is now an Easter egg to be discovered on subsequent watches. That's why, in honor of being a little older and wiser, it's time you treated yourself to a nostalgic cartoon marathon. To get you started, I've come up with a list of 14 '90s cartoons that are even better when you're an adult. So, whether you loved or hates these shows as a kid, it's time you give them another try.
1. Doug (1991)
Doug Funnie, like many teens, lived very much in his own head. As a kid, his fears all seemed pretty normal, but, watching as an adult, you can't help but feel sad for the little guy. This show was definitely much deeper than you may have first thought, painting anxiety, pain, and ennui in a way kids could totally understand. But, as an adult, it seems kind of sad to remember those days, and you really feel for Doug.
2. The Ren & Stimpy Show (1991)
Even as a kid, it was clear Ren and Stimpy were not your usual cartoon protagonists. They were angry, they were raunchy (there was once a game of sword swallowing, complete with gagging noises), and sometimes, they were just plain disgusting. But, now as an adult, you can enjoy the way this show pulled of sight gags, and you can LOL at all the double entendres that actually now seem so obvious.
3. Rugrats (1990)
This show may have been about babies, but that doesn't mean that it was completely innocent. As The Splat pointed out, it was a show that was aimed at kids, but didn't talk down to them. Rugrats was also a show that used adult humor that went right over any child's head. Like, you probably missed the first time around that Grandpa Lou definitely was into some interesting videos, including one about space vixens that definitely doesn't seem G-rated.
4. Batman: The Animated Series (1992)
This Emmy Award-winning series is considered to be one of the best adaptations of the DC superhero's mythos. It's a dark look at Gotham that you may have liked as a kid, but will appreciate much more as an adult. Seriously, the artistry behind this one, which was inspired by Tim Burton's take on the caped crusader, is going to blow you away.
5. Animaniacs (1993)
The WB cartoon about three siblings — Wacko, Yacko, and Dot — pushed the envelope with some of its humor, which definitely wasn't always safe for the playground. You may remember the rather innocent "Nations Of The World" song, but these siblings also told Prince jokes and saucy "Hello, Nurse" ones too. It's worth re-watching to see what the censors let slip.
6. Rocko's Modern Life (1993)
As a kid, you probably thought the life of Rocko was fairly odd, but watch it now and you realize you were missing out on some of the best jokes from his modern life. Remember when Rocko was a phone sex operator? Yeah, me either. But, what was so interesting about this show was the way Rocko's Modern Life made it clear, life isn't always easy. This was pure satire that, at the time, your little kid brain couldn't wrap itself around.
7. The Tick (1994)
This is satire in one its finest cartoon forms. Based on an indie comic, the creators did clean up some of the darker, more sexual themes from the series, but they kept its dry wit. That may have been off-putting for kids, but now feels very current and modern.
8. Aaahh!!! Real Monsters (1994)
Ickis, Oblina, and Krumm were little monsters learning how to scare humans. They were kids looking to scare their way into adulthood, making fans laugh with their potty humor. But the artistry of this weird series cannot be denied, and, as an adult, it's a lot easier to appreciate it. The humor is sneaky, so you need to pay attention to catch some of those jokes you definitely missed as a kid.
9. Pinky and the Brain (1995)
These two mice started out on Animaniacs only to get their own show — all part of Brain's plan to take over the world, I suspect. Their sense of humor included a lot of pop culture references that were probably just too weird for kids. (The Brain was a play on Orson Welles.) Many episodes parody a film or book, which took these jokes to another level for anyone in the know. As an adult, you can have fun watching this series and trying to guess the reference.
10. Hey Arnold! (1994)
There are thoughts you will have while watching Hey Arnold! as an adult and likely it will be that this show is a whole lot darker than you realized. As a kid, Helga was just a girl with a crush, but it takes on a more sinister tone when you re-watch and remember that shrine (complete with a gum bust of Arnold's head) and notice the fact that Helga's mom was clearly an alcoholic. While this all may seem kind of sad, there's something sweet about a cartoon show taking on some serious topics — even if you didn't realize it at the time.
11. The Angry Beavers (1997)
This slapstick cartoon about brother beavers, Daggett and Norbert, had a knack for sneaking in a little adult humor here and there, but it's most famous for causing controversy for using a four-letter word that you may not expect. After having Norbert tell Daggett to shut up, parents complained that the word "shut" was too close to "sh*t" and needed to be changed. The show tried bleeping the word, but ended up getting in more trouble, since now people really thought this little cartoon was cursing. Silly now to think that that would have caused some much ire, but it's true. It's just another reason to re-watch this show that was not nearly as controversial as you may have thought.
12. Courage the Cowardly Dog (1999)
Courage's name is bit misleading. He's actually a paranoid pink mutt, who has been tasked with helping his owners survive on a farm filled with paranormal activity. The description of this Cartoon Network show already seems very complex for a children's cartoon and that's because it is. As Buzzfeed pointed out, this cartoon show could be pretty disturbing when you look back. But, as an adult, you'll likely have a little fun with its hilarious creepiness.
13. Freakazoid! (1995)
This one was one of those children's cartoons that always seemed to be more popular with adults — probably, because this cult show focused on a teenager turned superhero, who was sort of a manic character. Since this show was produced by Tom Ruegger, the same guy behind other WB cartoons like Animaniacs and Pinky And The Brain, it was filled with parody, satire, slapstick and lots of pop culture references. This was a lot for a kid to handle, but, as an adult, it definitely won't seem so crazy.
14. Powerpuff Girls
These crime-fighting little girls are back on Cartoon Network, and you may have noticed that their humor is way more adult than you remember. That's because you were likely way too young the show's first time around to remember that. As the Huffington Post pointed out earlier this year, one of the best parts of re-watching the Powerpuff Girls as adult is making this discovery.
The cartoons of your youth don't have to stay in the past. Now you can re-watch them and let them take on a new life. As you can see, there's a whole lot of nuance you missed watching these as a kid. The surprise of finding a new joke in these old cartoons makes another viewing totally worth it.
Image: Warner Bros. Television; Giphy (11)