It's easy to reminisce about years gone by and proclaim that everything was better then. That's hardly ever true, but one thing that is true is that Saturday morning cartoons in the ’90s and early 2000s were incredible. Sure, animated series and anime series have taken off on streamers such as Netflix, Max, Hulu, and Crunchyroll, but Saturday morning cartoons walked so that the animated shows could run. Though some of those old series have returned in one way or another (“Pinky and the Brain” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”), many remain forgotten, collecting dust in the backlog of companies like Warner Bros.
Still, one can dream that those series might come back one day so that a new generation may appreciate them. I’m sharing my favorite Saturday morning cartoons and where to stream them. Pull up a beanbag chair, pour yourself a bowl of your favorite cereal, and relive the glory of those good ol' Saturday morning cartoons I wish would come back.
'Batman: The Animated Series' (1992 to 1999)
Batman had a big decade in the ’90s. We're talking multiple movies, video games, and excellent comic book arcs like “The Long Halloween.” Still, “Batman: The Animated Series” arguably stands above the rest, elevating the Batman franchise to previously unreached heights. Not only does the series hold up extremely well and remains one of the finest adaptations of the superhero, but it also laid the blueprint for other DC animated series, like “Superman: The Animated Series,” “Batman Beyond,” “Justice League,” “Justice League Unlimited,” and “Teen Titans.”
A sequel titled “Batman: Caped Crusader” was slated for HBO Max but the show was cut during the merger that saw the streamer become Max. Amazon has since picked up the series, which will have original series creator Bruce Timm once again at the helm. That said, after years of false starts, I'll believe it when it's available to stream on Prime Video. Until then, it's worth giving the original series another watch.
Where to Watch: You can watch “Batman: The Animated Series” on Max.
'Gargoyles' (1994 to 1997)
Like many Saturday morning cartoons from that era, “Gargoyles” was a totally unique idea. It featured demon-like gargoyles — a surprisingly dark setting for a kids’ cartoon — and storylines that were more complicated than your regular Saturday morning fare. Nevertheless, the show took off. “Gargoyles” was moved to a Saturday morning slot beginning with the third season, which is when the show was canceled.
Now, after all these years, “Gargoyles” is making a comeback. It was announced in 2023 that a live-action adaptation of “Gargoyles” is being made for Disney Plus. There's also a “Gargoyles” board game by Ravensburger that has sold well, as well as a remaster of the Sega Genesis “Gargoyles” game.
Where to Watch: You can watch the entire “Gargoyles” series on Disney Plus.
'Medabots' (1999 to 2004)
Once “Pokémon” hit the streets, the floodgates opened. “Medabots” was one of the shows that followed the success of “Pokémon,” taking the pocket monster formula and rearranging it to feature human-sized robots, or Medabots, that would fight each other for prizes and glory. With that winning formula, which also featured a young boy accompanied by a partner with a bit of an attitude, “Medabots” took off and the series achieved decent ratings. Yet, with all the competition from similar shows, “Medabots” eventually faded. Once the show went off the air, “Medabots” continued on with manga and more videos, but only in Japan. It's unlikely “Medabots” will ever leave Japanese shores again, but if it does, it will be a treat.
Where to Watch: The 26-episode first season is available to watch on Prime Video.
'Monster Rancher' (1999 to 2000)
“Monster Rancher” is another late ’90s anime that took the Pokémon formula and ran with it. The difference is that Genki Sakura essentially Jumanji'd himself into a video game world after winning a special copy of a video game (the series is adapted from the “Monster Rancher” video games). What I enjoyed about “Monster Rancher” was the inventive monster designs and the grander adventures. Unlike Ash and Pikachu, who sought to obtain all the gym badges, the goal of Genki and his pals is to rid the world of evil. Yes, I know. It's not very original. But despite that trope, “Monster Rancher” wasn't just another “Pokémon” rip-off; the series added its own elements that made it stand out.
Where to Watch: “Monster Rancher” is available in its entirety on Prime Video.
'NASCAR Racers' (1999 to 2001)
As a fan of motorsports like Formula 1, I should like watching NASCAR, but I've never been able to sit through a race. However, “NASCAR Racers” did the impossible: It made me care about NASCAR for a little while back in 1999. “NASCAR Racers” took the NASCAR racing series to another level by having high-tech, souped-up vehicles that raced on anything but ovals, and it was thrilling to watch. The cars didn't so much as race as they fought each other off the track with all sorts of gadgets. I loved it. In fact, I enjoyed the show so much that I even bought a video game for Windows — surely, I wasn’t the only one. But the show went away after the second season when Saban Entertainment was sold off to Disney. I'll probably still never watch a NASCAR race, but I wouldn't hesitate to watch “NASCAR Racers” if it ever came back.
Where to Watch: The series is currently unavailable on streaming services.
'Static Shock' (2000 to 2004)
DC had a great run of animated series in the late ’90s and early 2000s, but “Static Shock” stuck out as the most original. Unlike the gritty “Batman: The Animated Series” and the expansive “Justice League,” which was released a year later, “Static Shock” was a much more laid-back series that balanced superhero action with low-stakes high school drama. Static, or Virgil Hawkins, was a big-time dork who suddenly found himself with powers, a story not unlike Spider-Man's. Yet what set “Static Shock” apart is that he had a best friend, Richie, to help him out, and he went against villains that were more his speed. He fought classmates and bullies who also got powers as a result of the same accident that gave him his electromagnetic powers. While the series did raise the stakes in later seasons, when Static began having crossover episodes with other DC superheroes, the show always remained a fun watch.
Where to watch: “Static Shock” is available to watch on Max.