Dive into the vibrant world of 80s cartoons, where Saturday mornings were an adventure and after-school sessions were bursting with anticipation. This era was a golden age of animation, where colorful characters, epic stories, and unforgettable theme songs ruled the airwaves.
From the mystical landscapes of “He-Man” to the energetic neighborhood of “Transformers”, 80s cartoons encapsulated the collective imagination of a generation. Now, decades later, they remain a captivating watch, leaving you with a sweet, nostalgic taste and an urge for more.
Let’s embark on a magical journey and revisit the top 30 cartoons embodying the spirit and charm of the 80s. Prepare to be swept up in a whirlwind of memories as we turn back the clock!
Must-Watch 80s Cartoons
This section dives deep into the vibrant, wacky, and often surreal world of 80s cartoons. We’ll journey through the diverse landscape of animation, highlighting those series that dared to dream, defied conventions, and captured our hearts. Join us as we rewind time and reignite the joy these classics continue to bring.
1. Danger Mouse
A cornerstone of 80s animation, “Danger Mouse” whisked us away on thrilling adventures with the eponymous British secret agent Mouse and his bumbling hamster sidekick, Penfold.
The series was packed with tongue-in-cheek humor, inventive plotlines, and unforgettable characters that struck a chord with kids and adults alike. This blend of James Bond-style espionage and Monty Python-esque humor truly set it apart.
“Danger Mouse” was a show that didn’t shy away from the bizarre, often thrusting its characters into mind-bending scenarios that helped fuel children’s imaginations worldwide. It remains a testament to how cartoons can blend action, humor, and sheer quirkiness to create something truly special.
2. Inspector Gadget
“Go-Go Gadget” became a catchphrase for a generation raised on this lighthearted detective series. The show centered around the titular character, a clumsy cyborg detective whose body was equipped with a seemingly endless array of gadgets. Though he bumbled through cases, his intelligent niece Penny and their loyal dog Brain were always there to help save the day.
“Inspector Gadget” was a unique mix of slapstick comedy and mild suspense, perfectly balanced for a young audience. It introduced children to the detective genre, promoting problem-solving, curiosity, and family unity.
3. Rainbow Brite (1984–1986)
In the mid-80s, the world was introduced to Rainbow Brite, a young girl with a mission to spread color and joy. This cartoon, aimed primarily at girls, was a brightly-hued escape into a universe filled with color, magic, and memorable characters.
With her iconic rainbow-colored dress and magical color belt, Rainbow Brite brought joy and color to a world threatened by murky grays. The show promoted strong themes of friendship, bravery, and resilience, making it entertaining and a significant piece of moral guidance for young viewers.
4. She-Ra: Princess of Power (1985–1987)
A spin-off of the popular “He-Man” series, “She-Ra: Princess of Power” emerged as a feminist icon for young girls of the 80s. The show followed Adora, He-Man’s twin sister, who transformed into the mighty She-Ra to battle the evil Horde that ruled her planet, Etheria.
The series was groundbreaking at the time for centering on a strong, capable, and independent female character. It portrayed She-Ra as both a fierce warrior and a compassionate leader, an important counterpoint to the male-dominated superheroes of the era.
5. My Little Pony (1986–1987)
The “My Little Pony” cartoon served as a whimsical adventure into a world of magical, colorful ponies. The series, based on the popular toy line, brought to life the ponies of Ponyland, each with their unique personalities and magical abilities. The series touched upon important life lessons while retaining an engaging adventure, friendship, and fantasy narrative.
Characters like Applejack, Firefly, and Minty became household names, and the show left an indelible mark on pop culture. The enduring popularity of “My Little Pony” speaks to its timeless appeal and the joy it brought to millions of children.
6. Pound Puppies (1985–1988)
This heartwarming animated series brought to life the adventures of a group of canine friends at the city pound. The main characters were a dedicated team, helping puppies find loving homes and constantly outwitting the dastardly dog catcher. Each episode of “Pound Puppies” was a sweet, wholesome exploration of friendship and empathy.
Through the misadventures and triumphs of Cooler, Bright Eyes, Whopper, and their friends, the show taught the importance of kindness, compassion, and teamwork while maintaining its fun and engaging narrative. The series was a heartfelt reminder of the unconditional love and companionship pets bring into our lives.
7. Moon Dreamers (1986–1987)
“Moon Dreamers” was a delightful journey into a fantastical universe where the Moon Dreamers, magical beings from Starry Up, worked tirelessly to ensure children had sweet dreams. This unique series brought a fresh dimension to 80s animation by combining fantasy, whimsy, and adventure elements.
The show’s primary theme revolved around the importance of dreams and imagination, encouraging young viewers to dream big and believe in themselves. Though it had a short run, “Moon Dreamers” left a lasting impression with its vibrant visuals, memorable characters, and dreamy storytelling.
8. Adventures of the Gummi Bears (1985–1991)
“Adventures of the Gummi Bears” remains a cherished part of 80s animation, offering a whimsical take on the fantasy genre. The series featured a group of anthropomorphic bears living in the magical land of Gummi Glen. Using their ancient knowledge and quick thinking, the Gummi Bears navigated adventures while battling the nefarious Duke Igthorn.
With its charming characters, exciting storylines, and catchy theme song, the show was a true staple of Saturday morning cartoons. It wonderfully blended magic, mystery, and camaraderie elements, encapsulating its audience’s imagination and creating an exciting and endearing world.
9. Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers (1989–1990)
Stepping out of their classic roles as mischievous adversaries to Donald Duck, Chip, and Dale took center stage in this animated series as detectives solving mysteries too “small” for the human world to notice. Each episode combined humor, action, and friendship as the duo, aided by their diverse team, embarked on various exciting adventures.
This show exemplified the engaging, character-driven storytelling of 80s cartoons, showcasing the iconic chipmunks in a new light. “Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers” was a fun, high-energy romp that taught young viewers the power of teamwork, resourcefulness, and courage.
10. The Raccoons
This Canadian animated series explored environmental themes wrapped in the antics of lovable anthropomorphic animals. The Raccoons lived in the peaceful Evergreen Forest, often clashing with the greedy industrialist Aardvark Cyril Sneer. The show stood out for its social consciousness and poignant take on corporate greed and environmental conservation.
Its rich storytelling, relatable characters, and important messages made “The Raccoons” an entertaining watch and an early influencer in promoting environmental awareness to its young audience. Its appeal transcended borders, resonating with viewers worldwide.
11. Willo the Wisp
This British animated series is a charming slice of 80s nostalgia unfolding in a whimsical woodland called Doyley Woods. With its memorable narrator, Kenneth Williams, the show brought to life an array of eccentric characters, including the titular Willo the Wisp, an ethereal creature who takes the form of a ghostly blue light.
Mavis Cruet, the overweight fairy, and Arthur, the caterpillar with the monocle, became iconic characters in their own right. Each episode, while humorous and endearing, often carried deeper moral lessons. The series effortlessly blended the mundane with the magical, creating an engaging narrative that captivated both young and old viewers alike.
From the creators of “ThunderCats,” “SilverHawks” delivered a unique blend of science fiction and superhero action. The show followed a team of space-bound law enforcement officers transformed into cybernetically enhanced metal-bodied heroes.
With memorable characters like Quicksilver, Steelheart, and the guitar-playing cowboy Bluegrass, the series presented vibrant space adventures, dynamic villains, and energetic music. SilverHawks brilliantly captured the 80s trend for high-octane action cartoons, creating an enduring legacy in animated science fiction.
13. The Smurfs
A phenomenon of the 80s, “The Smurfs” introduced audiences worldwide to the vibrant blue creatures living in mushroom-shaped houses in an enchanted forest. The show focused on the Smurfs’ daily adventures, their interactions with the wicked wizard Gargamel, and each other.
Each Smurf, identified by their distinct personality trait, offered a mirror to the various facets of human nature. The series combined lighthearted comedy with poignant life lessons about friendship, community, and kindness, making it an engaging, wholesome watch for all ages. The global popularity of “The Smurfs” underlines the show’s charm and timeless, universal appeal.
14. The Transformers
Iconic and groundbreaking, “The Transformers” remains a cornerstone of 80s animation. The series followed the Autobots, led by the noble Optimus Prime, in their ongoing battle against the Decepticons, led by the ruthless Megatron. This show was a thrilling mix of action, drama, and sci-fi, set against an intergalactic war.
“The Transformers” transcended the typical cartoon formula with its complex characters, intense storylines, and a touch of moral ambiguity. Its legacy continues to influence modern pop culture, a testament to its enduring popularity and the imaginative leap it represented in animated storytelling.
15. Richie Rich
“Richie Rich” brought to life the comic book character of the same name, known as “the richest kid in the world.” The show revolved around Richie’s life of opulence and highlighted his kind-hearted nature and sense of adventure.
Each episode often saw Richie using his wealth to solve problems or help those in need, underlining themes of generosity, kindness, and friendship. The series struck a fine balance between presenting an unbelievable lifestyle and imparting valuable life lessons to its young viewers, making it an engaging part of 80s cartoon history.
16. Dungeons & Dragons
Based on the popular fantasy tabletop role-playing game, “Dungeons & Dragons” provided a unique take on the genre through animation. The show revolved around a group of friends transported into the world of Dungeons & Dragons via a magical amusement park ride.
Each character took on roles like the Ranger, Acrobat, or Wizard, navigating fantastical lands, battling evil forces, and trying to find a way back home.
The series adeptly incorporated the game’s iconic elements, from mythical creatures to complex moral dilemmas, creating a thrilling and immersive viewing experience that inspired the imagination of countless young adventurers.
17. Muppet Babies
A spin-off from the legendary “Muppet Show”, “Muppet Babies” provided a glimpse into the whimsical world of our favorite Muppets during their toddler years. Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, and others used their vivid imaginations to turn ordinary situations into extraordinary adventures within the confines of their nursery.
The show was a beautiful celebration of childhood imagination and curiosity, teaching children that they could explore worlds and solve problems simply by using their minds.
18. The Wuzzles
“The Wuzzles” was an innovative show that introduced us to a world of hybrid creatures, each a blend of two different animals. Characters like Bumblelion (half bumblebee, half lion) and Eleroo (half elephant, half kangaroo) populated the land of Wuz.
The series cleverly utilized these hybrids to illustrate the strength of diversity and the importance of embracing individual uniqueness. Its short run didn’t diminish its impact, as “The Wuzzles” remains a beloved piece of 80s animation history.
19. Jem and the Holograms
At the crossroads of music and fashion in the ’80s, “Jem and the Holograms” sparkled brightly. The series centered around Jerrica Benton, a music company owner who could transform into the glamorous rock star Jem with the help of a holographic computer.
Alongside her band, The Holograms, Jem dealt with professional rivalries, personal relationships, and the challenges of stardom. The series was a trailblazer, boasting a powerful, independent female lead and tackling mature themes while delivering catchy music and vibrant animation.
20. The Real Ghostbusters
An animated follow-up to the hit film “Ghostbusters”, this series continued the adventures of the Ghostbusters team as they protected New York City from paranormal threats. The show successfully transposed the film’s mix of comedy, action, and horror into an animated format suitable for younger audiences.
It further developed the beloved characters, including introducing the green ghost Slimer as a friendly sidekick. “The Real Ghostbusters” was a landmark series in the 80s, offering weekly ghostly adventures that thrilled and entertained a generation.
21. Care Bears
The “Care Bears” series was a warm, colorful experience filled with cuddly characters, each showcasing a unique personality trait symbolized by the emblem on their belly.
Set in the cloud-filled world of Care-a-Lot, the Care Bears used their special powers of love and caring to thwart the schemes of villains like No Heart and Beastly, teaching kids about empathy, friendship, and kindness.
“Care Bears” was not just a TV show but an essential part of the 80s cultural fabric, inspiring a line of popular toys and movies that are cherished to this day.
22. Alvin and the Chipmunks
This animated series breathed new life into the famous singing chipmunks—Alvin, Simon, and Theodore—along with their father figure and manager, Dave. Beyond their mischievous antics and catchy musical numbers, the show delved into issues like responsibility, honesty, and sibling rivalry.
It blended humor, music, and heart entertainingly and educationally. With its charm and memorable characters, “Alvin and the Chipmunks” has left an indelible mark on 80s pop culture.
23. Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends
This Marvel-produced series followed the adventures of Spider-Man, and his super-powered college roommates, Iceman and Firestar. The trio faced off against an array of classic Marvel villains, often teaming up with other Marvel superheroes.
The show is notable for its engaging storytelling, dynamic action sequences and introducing many young viewers to the wider Marvel universe. With a perfect mix of superhero adventure and character-driven narratives, “Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends” still stands as a beloved entry in the annals of superhero animation.
24. G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero
This show was a linchpin of 80s animation, weaving stories around a diverse group of special mission force soldiers fighting against the terrorist organization Cobra. “G.I. Joe” was known for its thrilling action, compelling characters, and dramatic storylines that often mirrored real-world issues.
Each episode ended with a “Knowing is half the battle” public service message, reinforcing positive social behaviors. The series was not just a Saturday morning staple but a pop culture phenomenon, spawning a successful toy line and comic book series.
25. Garfield and Friends
This animated adaptation of the popular comic strip captured the sardonic humor of Garfield, the lasagna-loving, Monday-hating cat. The show included segments featuring U.S. Acres, another comic strip by Garfield creator Jim Davis, which focused on a group of farm animals.
With its sharp wit, clever humor, and lovable characters, “Garfield and Friends” delivered a delightful viewing experience that still resonates with audiences today. It was a shining example of how to translate a beloved comic strip into the animated medium, preserving its essence while adding new dimensions.
26. The Bugs Bunny Show
This long-running series is a testament to the timeless appeal of Looney Tunes. The show presented classic shorts starring Bugs Bunny and his various co-stars, including Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, and more.
Known for its clever humor, visual gags, and unforgettable characters, the show gave audiences a regular dose of laughter and silliness. The series also played a crucial role in keeping the Golden Age of American Animation alive in the hearts and minds of viewers during the 80s and beyond.
27. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
A cultural phenomenon of the 80s, this show followed the adventures of four anthropomorphic turtles trained in ninjutsu. Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael, named after famous artists, battled the forces of evil from their homes in the sewers of New York City.
With its mix of martial arts action, witty humor, and memorable catchphrases, the series was a hit among kids and adults alike. It spawned a vast franchise, including toys, video games, and movies, and is still fondly remembered as a defining part of 80s pop culture.
28. Adventures Of the Gummi Bears
This Disney creation is often regarded as one of the most engaging animated shows of the 80s. Set in a medieval fantasy world, the series followed a group of anthropomorphic bears with unique personalities and the magical ability to bounce.
The show offered a compelling mix of adventure, humor, and heart through its delightful characters, engaging storylines, and high-quality animation. Notably, it was Disney’s first major serialized animated television series and set the stage for many successful shows to follow.
Inspired by Japanese anime, “Voltron: Defender of the Universe” presented a new kind of action-packed storytelling in American animation. The series followed a team of five young pilots controlling lion-shaped robots that could combine to form the mighty Voltron.
Their mission: to protect the planet Arus from the evil King Zarkon. The show combined science fiction, fantasy, and mecha aspects, with compelling characters and a continuous storyline. It was a huge hit and helped pave the way for the popularity of anime-style animation in the West.
Based on DC’s Justice League comic series, “Superfriends” featured beloved superheroes like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman. The series showcased the heroes battling various threats to save the world, often accompanied by their sidekicks.
Despite facing criticism for its simplistic storytelling and dialogue, the show left an undeniable mark on pop culture. It brought DC’s superheroes into the living rooms of millions, expanding their popularity and leaving a lasting legacy in the landscape of superhero animation.
Throughout the vibrant tapestry of 80s animation, each cartoon series left its own unique imprint, defining the decade and shaping the childhoods of millions. From the adventurous narratives of “Dungeons & Dragons” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” to the heart-warming messages in “Care Bears,” each show offered something special.
The thrilling superhero action in “Superfriends,” the sardonic humor in “Garfield and Friends,” and the unforgettable characters in “Alvin and the Chipmunks” made these shows more than just entertainment—they became cultural phenomena.
These 80s cartoons were imaginative, colorful, and timeless, marking a golden era of animated television that continues to be celebrated and remembered fondly.