The ’90s get a lot of flack. They did, after all, spawn “No Fear” t-shirts, wallet chains, and Smash Mouth. But it was a revolutionary decade for kids’ television. Shows like Duck Tales, Doug, Pinky and the Brain, and Rugrats not only brought memorable characters and plenty of jokes to the screen, but also delivered heart, humor, and a healthy dose of holy-crap-that-was-weird. Right? So many of these shows managed to skewer history, pop culture, and global current events all while making adult references that flew over the top of kids’ heads and writing smart stories that really resonated with kids. Thanks to the beauty of streaming services, what’s old is new again. As such, here are nine of the best ’90s kids’ shows currently on Netflix.
Animaniacs (65 Episodes)
This Steven Spielberg-produced show paved the way for zany, brainy kids’ shows that could shish kebob pop culture while also entertaining kids. The show is the perfect combination of intelligent and absurd, to the point where it managed to work in a joke about fingering a music icon that actually made it to air. Your kid will love the zany characters and silly voices, while you can enjoy the endless flow of jokes that are flying right over your kid’s head.
The Magic Schoolbus (52 Episodes)
The O.G. Miss Frizzle is unpredictable and inspiring, teaching her students lessons about space and the human body by taking them on fantastic adventures via the titular bus that is magical. It’s an excellent way to introduce your kid to biology and chemistry — and to fill your kid’s mind with completely unrealistic expectations of what school will actually be like.
Pee Wee’s Playhouse (45 Episodes)
One of the best things about old kids’ shows is that they weren’t at all afraid of letting their freak flag fly. No show captured that spirit better than Pee Wee’s Playhouse. The loveable manchild spends his days hanging out with a robot named Conky and a talking chair, appropriately. And it holds up. Seriously, from the very first minute of the very first episode, Pee Wee and his wonderfully strange crew welcome viewers to a world that is equal parts bizarre and hilarious. It’s a kids’ world that just so happens to be hosted by an adult.
Goosebumps (62 Episodes)
This show, based on R.L. Stine’s bestselling book series, is definitely not for young kids or even older kids who are prone to nightmares. But if your kid is old enough and doesn’t scare easily, they’ll love it. Goosebumps is the rare show that isn’t afraid to provide kids with actual scares, featuring episodes about monster sponges, haunted ventriloquist dummies, and, of course, werewolves.
Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog (20 Episodes)
Based on the iconic Sega game about the speedy hedgehog and two-tailed pal, this show is far better than it has any right to be — especially when you compare it to other video game-inspired TV shows and movies. Is it the greatest kids’ show? Hardly. But each well-animated episode is a fun-filled adventure that is full of harmless fun.
Oggy and the Cockroaches (20 Episodes)
This little-known cartoon is originally from France, but don’t be scared off by the language barrier. Oggy and the Cockroaches features almost no dialogue, relying instead on slapstick and visual gags to get laughs. Each episode revolves around Oggy the cat as he tries to hunt down three pesky cockroaches who love nothing more than making his life a living hell. Think of it as Rocko’s Modern Life meets Tom and Jerry.
Bill Nye the Science Guy (31 Episodes)
Nye’s new show may be a misguided attempt to please nostalgic adult fans, but his original show is as enjoyably weird and informative as it was when it first aired. The science guy has an unparalleled ability to make complex scientific concepts simple enough for kids to understand, like using a Madonna song to explore the Earth’s crust. Granted, you might have to explain some ’90s culture to make the references relevant, but if you’re hoping to get your kid interested in science at a young age, Bill Nye is the man for the job.
Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers (10 Episodes)
Like all great Power Rangers shows, Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers makes almost no sense and the dialogue seems like someone transcribed the world’s worst improv class. Master Vile used the Orb of Doom to reverse the ages of everyone on Earth, including the Power Rangers, who are now powerless kids. So the Alien Rangers of Aquitar all called in to save the day. Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers is convoluted, yes, but it’s incredibly enjoyable. It’s also the perfect vehicle to teach your kids to love terrible action-adventure movies for the rest of their lives.
The Real Ghostbusters (116 Episodes)
I know, I know: most of this show technically aired in the ’80s. But 20 episodes aired in 1990 and that’s good enough to make this list. The spinoff of the classic comedy film, The Real Ghostbusters does a surprisingly good job capturing the movie’s signature combination of exciting action sequences and laugh out loud humor. It may be a bit scary for younger kids, but if yours is old enough — and enjoys talk of ghosts and slime — it’s a great introduction to the world of Egon, Venkman, Winston, and Stantz.