Best Cartoon Network Shows Reviewed in 2018

Cartoon Network has been providing content for quality viewing since 1992. They’re responsible for some cartoons that we consider to be classics, and have reached a broad range of demographics. Cartoon Network shows are often pithy and aimed at children, but accessible and humorous to adults as well. If you have a little one who is looking for their next Saturday morning cartoon (or, really, a cartoon for any time), consider introducing them to some of the network’s most popular franchises, gathered below. Here you’ll find ten of the best Cartoon Network productions around, some enjoyed by families for over twenty years now. Settle in with your favorite snacks and get ready for some animated adventures.

10 Best Cartoon Network Shows Reviewed

 

1. Adventure Time: Season 1

1. Adventure Time: Season 1
Follow the adventures of two quirky characters, Finn and his dog Jake, as they meet equally weird friends, take on challenging environments, and learn about the value of true friendship.
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It’s no surprise at all that Adventure Time was one of the first to make it to our list and we can’t think of anyone, child or adult, who wouldn’t love tuning into this popular (albeit weird) cartoon. There is a true storyline that lies within this show, even though it seems like it’s just one bag of weird characters with the occasional problem thrown into the mix. Your child will follow the adventures (it’s not called Adventure Time for no reason!) of Finn and his dog Jake as they fall into some pretty sticky and unusual situations, such as “accidentally” crafting zombies that are made out of candy. In fact, this is the very first episode! Kids love this show because of its bright and vibrant graphics, unique voice acting isn’t seen in many other shows, and environments that are interesting, strange, and magical, all at the same time. In addition, the characters are loveable and personal, and kids will feel like they’re really getting to know Finn and his friends. It’s a growing show to inspire adventure, courage, and most importantly, friendship.

Benefits
This is a great option for kids who aren’t completely sold on traditional cartoons. It’s also fun for adults to watch, because the show itself is so quirky and weird, but also feel-good and hilarious.

What We Like About It
This show isn’t as random as it seems and we really love that it has a storyline that’s super easy to follow and loved by people of all ages. The cartoon itself is a great example of learning to love who you are, no matter how unique you are!
Pros

Fun and exuberant characters

The storyline is easy to follow

Great for all ages

Very humorous

Teaches a lot about friendship

Cons

It might be too “out there” for some kids

2. Over the Garden Wall: Season 1

2. Over the Garden Wall: Season 1
This feel-good, emotion-packed miniseries is great for family viewing. It'll resonate with you as well as your kids and quickly become a cartoon that you won't soon forget.
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For something a bit more toned down and mellow, but not any less interesting, Over the Garden Wall is a cutely animated mini-series that brings to life the adventures of two brothers as they find their way through an unusual forest. Wirt and Greg are two loveable characters that viewers will easily get attached to as they find their way going down winding roads and ending up embarking on various adventures. The imagination that went into creating a mini-series such as this is very evident by its realistic cartoon graphics and a thorough, but simple, storyline. Kids will find this show engaging and magical and, since it’s not as long as many series, won’t get bored with it or become overwhelming by having so many episodes to watch before they get to the end. One viewer described this show as, “stepping into a vintage Halloween card” and we think that’s such a beautiful, elegant, and fun way of describing this unique cartoon to a T. If your child is a fan of all things magical, mystical, and adventurous, this is one show that won’t disappoint.

Benefits
Kids will be hooked from the start, especially when they meet Wirt and Greg’s guide, Beatrice -- Who’s a tiny talking bluebird! All isn’t what it seems when you step over the garden wall, so be sure that you’re in the mood for adventure.

What We Like About It

We love that this comes across as a positive and heartfelt family show. It’s great for kids to watch on their own, of course, but this is the type of show that everyone will gain something from.
Pros

Can be watched in full in less than two hours

Wholesome and fun for the entire family

Magical and entertaining

Great for the spooky season

Nostalgic and uplifting

Cons

Might be a bit too emotional for young children

3. Steven Universe: Season 1

3. Steven Universe: Season 1
Steven is an interesting character with the potential to be a great magic wielder... He just needs a little bit of practice! This is a fun and hilarious cartoon full of lighthearted moments and memorable characters.
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If superpowers and magic are something that your child is enamored by in the shows that they watch, then Steven Universe will be right up their alley. This show follows the story of Steven who, while capable of producing magic, doesn’t quite know where to begin with it. He’s a slightly clumsy character with a bit of a learning curve as far as using his powers go, which makes for an interesting and at times amusing cartoon. As Steven attempts to perfect the art of magic-wielding in each episode, the viewer is bound to fall more and more in love with the theme of the show and all the magical blunders that come with it. There are various elements of this cartoon that make it unique, including the slow introduction of various support characters, the use of magic crystals and gems, as well as Steven’s slow, but progressive, journey toward using his powers to efficiently do some good. Steven will slowly become one of your child’s favorites, especially once they watch him interact with other unique characters -- Like a magical lion or giant woman!

Benefits
The great thing about Steven Universe is that it was worked on by one of the original creators of Adventure Time, so you have a feel for that fantasy-world flair throughout the show. It’s unique and makes the viewer feel good about watching it, which is the point of any cartoon.

What We Like About It
There’s nothing inappropriate or outrageous about this show which makes it an automatic winner in our book. It’s fun for young children but also for teens, and easily relatable to many ages in between.
Pros

The same attention to fantasy detail as Adventure Time

Mildly humorous

Great character casting

Fun to watch with unique scenarios

It’s uplifting and cheerful

Cons

Some of the episodes might fall out of order

4. Courage the Cowardly Dog: Season 1

4. Courage the Cowardly Dog: Season 1
This is a tale of a sweet, yet thoroughly nervous, little pup who would do anything to protect those he loves. It's an award-winning cartoon all about facing your fears, hope, and determination.
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This is the big kahuna of cartoons as far as the classics of Cartoon Network go, and it’s an easy choice for parents who aren’t quite sure what their children will like. Courage is, well, a cowardly dog -- He goes out of his way to make sure that others are happy, however, he’s quite the scaredy cat… Err, dog. Throughout the first season, Courage faces many a spook that would be sure to scare the socks off of any animal who was stuck in that situation, but somehow, Courage finds his way out of all of them. As an Academy Award-winner, we definitely recommend this show to all kids who are ten and older (younger children might find this show a bit too creepy). Story aside, the cartoon graphics and voice acting in this show is completely on-point, making for an even more personal and enjoyable experience while watching. It’s a mostly uplifting show that’s filled with scenarios you could never possibly dream up and that’s something children are sure to fall in love with.

Benefits
Any child will fall in love with Courage because not only is he adorable, but he faces his fears nearly 24/7 in order to save the ones that he loves. It’s a great motivator to teach kids that love is unconditional and that family is everything in life.

What We Like About It
We love that this show is so innocent. It teaches kids in the simplest of ways that it’s okay to be scared and, even more so, it’s okay to try and face your fears -- Even when you don’t know if you’re strong enough to do so.
Pros

Shares a positive message

Shows how strong the love of a family is

Courage is a loveable character

Award-winning

Somewhat spooky and fun to watch

Cons

Some viewers noted that “episode 0” (the pilot) was missing

5. Samurai Jack: Season 1

5. Samurai Jack: Season 1
This fun take on the story of a samurai-in-training has gotten a great reputation because of its unique graphics style and music. It's a fast-paced, action-packed cartoon filled with excellent morals.
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This cartoon is considered somewhat of an anime but still falls under traditional cartooning as well. It’s definitely a unique take on the world of cartoons and offers something that many don’t -- A cultural twist on a great storyline. However, before we get to that, let’s discuss the style of this cartoon. While it does hint at the traditional anime storyboard style, it’s the closest match would probably be similar to The Powerpuff Girls. Its slightly blocky, yet sharply detailed art fits in well with the theme of the show itself, and the graphics as a whole are rewarding and enjoyable. Battle scenes are often shown through sketch-like art which draws the attention more toward the character and not the actual violence (or lack thereof). The story follows none other than Jack as he not only learns how to be a samurai but slowly learns how to triumph with good over evil. As he comes up against each opponent he becomes stronger, and another lesson is to learn. This would be a great show for those who were fans of Mulan or have an interest in samurais and ninjas or anyone who is just looking for a fun cartoon with some great musical attributes.

Benefits
It’s nice to add some variety to cartoons every now and then, especially when they’ve come so far from shows featuring Bugs Bunny. Samurai Jack marks a new era in cartoons as we know it, and with it comes a stellar storyline, entertaining characters, and much-needed cultural accuracy.

What We Like About It
This show teaches a lot about honor, fighting for what’s right, and the notion of never giving up. While it might not appeal to some avid cartoon-watchers, it contains a storyline that’s easy to follow and fun to watch.
Pros

Stunning cartoon graphics

Features a different cultural take

The main character is strong and honorable

The storyline is simple enough

Music throughout the cartoon is fitting and unique

Cons

It becomes a bit pricey if you decide to purchase all five seasons

6. Star Wars Clone Wars (Seasons 1-5)

6. Star Wars Clone Wars (Seasons 1-5)
Set between Episode 2 and Episode 3 of the Star Wars cinematic franchise, Clone Wars is an animated show that takes place in George Lucas’ stunning universe. The cartoon features recognizable characters, as well as some new ones, and follows droids, clones, jedi, and more.
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It’s rated PG and targeted at a younger audience, but older viewers have said that they enjoyed it as well. The character development is strong, the story arcs are interesting, and the quality of animation and sound is top notch. This particular pack includes seasons one through five on Blu-Ray, with a sixth season available exclusively through Amazon. Each disc is about two to two and a half hours’ worth of content. If your family has enjoyed any of the Star Wars movies, they’re bound to love this animated series as well.

Benefits

This series reflects on many of the typical Star Wars themes, such as the constant battle between good and evil, and a desire for balance in the world. It’s nuanced in its representation of that, while still being accessible to young audiences.

What We Like About It

It has a nice mix of old and new characters, and it handles storylines that tie in to the central plot of the movies, while still maintaining their own independence and integrity.
Pros

Roughly 30 hours of entertainment, total

Beloved characters make appearances

Great storylines

Awesome animation and sound design

Thorough and engaging character development

Cons

Missing the sixth season; must be purchased separately

7. Ben 10: Season 1

7. Ben 10: Season 1
Ben 10 is an ordinary little boy with a unique item that allows him to save the world from impending doom. Why does he have this unique item? What exactly does it do? Is he a real superhero? You'll have to watch to find out.
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Ben is one of those kids who always seems to be the one swooping in to save the day. He’s the modern-day Kim Possible and kids will love him for that exact reason! Season one is a great way to introduce kids to show Ben 10 really is and how he became such a master at preventing catastrophes from happening. We’ll give you a hint though -- It has to do with his oh-so-powerful Omnitrix! The best part about Ben is that he’s just an ordinary boy, living in a not-so-ordinary world. He panics and gets scared just like any other boy would which puts him on a much more relatable level than many cartoon characters. However, he also knows when and how to face his fears because he knows it’s up to him to stop bad guys in their tracks -- Even when they’re of the supernatural kind. This show has a Scooby-Doo feel with a bit of superhero thrown in for good measure.

Benefits
Ben 10 has a good standing reputation because it’s a show that kids can easily relate to and love to watch. It’ll inspire them in a way that many cartoons can’t; They’ll be watching a seemingly ordinary boy do the impossible and, in turn, that will motivate them to reach for their own dreams.

What We Like About It
The cartoon style of this show makes it fun and playful and even during scenes that might be a bit spooky, the art style makes them very kid-friendly. Without any real spooks, this show is a crowd pleaser as well as a parent-pleaser.
Pros

Easy for kids to understand

Very kid-friendly and appropriate

Relatable main character

Inspiring and motivational

Features superpowers

Cons

Viewers compared it to Teen Titans and thought it was mediocre

8. Teen Titans (Seasons 1-5; Complete Series)

8. Teen Titans (Seasons 1-5; Complete Series)
Based off of the comic book series but reimagined still in some pleasant ways, the original Teen Titans show spanned for five seasons. It focuses on Robin (the Boy Wonder we know and love from the Batman franchise), Starfire (a relentlessly optimistic alien princess), Raven (a reserved sorceress), Beast Boy (a goofy shapeshifter) and Cyborg (half-man, half-robot, wholly endearing and hilarious).
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Together, the Teen Titans fight to protect their city, while overcoming their own personal struggles and navigating tricky group dynamics. The show is sometimes light-hearted, often very funny, and yet still it manages to deal with mature themes and pretty elegant character development. It’s truly an entertaining watch, with lovable characters and interesting plotlines.

Benefits

If you have kids who are engrossed in the superhero franchises, Teen Titans is a nice opportunity for them to watch heroes closer to their own age, dealing with familiar personal problems, while also trying to fight crime. The show is a great ensemble piece and often has an important moral to be learned throughout episode arcs.

What We Like About It

Honestly? The show is just funny. The humor strikes a nice balance between occasionally being adult, but mostly being pretty universally comedic. Younger kids will love many of Beast Boy and Cyborg’s jokes, while older kids appreciate the nuance happening in all of the character development.
Pros

Good mix of humor

Appealing to a large age range

Fun, ensemble show

Still deals with adult themes delicately

Complete set of all five seasons

Cons

Some customers received an incomplete product (season 1 disc was replaced with part two of Teen Titans Go!, a different series)

9. Johnny Bravo: Season 1

9. Johnny Bravo: Season 1
Now here's a classic that many people will remember. Johnny Bravo is still just as funny as ever and makes for the perfect family comedy cartoon.
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Ah, now we’re talking about Cartoon Network classics! There aren’t too many on this list, in fact, Johnny Bravo is really the only one that still holds its own in today’s society. While other shows have certainly mellowed out as far as their popularity ratings go, Johnny Bravo is one of those shows that will probably be around for several more decades. His character is confident, all about his hair, and at times has superhuman strength -- So why do kids love him so much? Because he’s hilarious! He might not be the sharpest tool in the shed but he has enough hair gel to make up for it, and this is quite possibly the only show that has taken something as mature as dating and make it kid-friendly. Granted, there are some scenes that very young kids might not understand, but overall, this is a great family-friendly show. The supporting characters are great and their interactions with Johnny are sure to produce a laugh, but what’s really fun is watching Johnny get himself out of awkward situations. He seems to always find a girl he fancies which often gets him into trouble, and how he handles it is always hilarious.

Benefits
Johnny Bravo is a very Elvis Presley-type of a character which makes him all the more fun to watch. This would be a great show for older kids as well as parents because it’ll bring back some of the nostalgia that Cartoon Network was once famous for.

What We Like About It
This show is still so relatable today and never fails to have kids laughing and parents reliving a cartoon they loved so much. Johnny Bravo is sweet, loveable, and sometimes just downright silly!
Pros

Funny interactions and situations

Innocent enough for kids of most ages

Features strong support characters

Nostalgic

One of the original Cartoon Network classics

Cons

Might not be as appropriate for kids under the age of ten

10. Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends

10. Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends
In this silly and heartwarming series, Imaginary Friends live happily with their creators until the children outgrow a need for an imaginary friend and sever the connection as they mature. But then where do they go?
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One sweet little old woman, Madam Foster, decides that she wants to be young-at-heart forever, and so maintains her relationship with her imaginary friend throughout her life, and opens her home to other orphaned imaginary friends looking for a family. Mac, a young boy whose imaginary friend Bloo can’t live with his family anymore, stumbles upon the home, and Madam Foster allows Bloo to live there without being put up for adoption, so long as Mac visits him every day. Thus begins this great ensemble piece, full of color and spirit.

Benefits

The show deals a lot with growing up, some of the loss that comes with that, and the importance of holding onto our creativity, imagination, and compassion. It’s often very silly and fantastical, and is just overall a feel-good show.

What We Like About It

This one is definitely good for a younger crowd. Older kids will probably also find it sweet, but it’s pretty light-hearted, so younger children won’t be scared or upset by dark or adult themes.
Pros

Colorful, fun animation

Loving ensemble cast

Silly and light-hearted

Mostly clean humor

286 minutes of entertainment

Cons

This DVD is only the first season of the show

Criteria Used in the Evaluation of the Best Cartoon Network Shows

Many parents are still unsure of whether or not there actually are legitimate benefits to allowing their kids to watch television. Whether you use it as a reward system or are a bit more lax about how much television your child watches, we can all agree that cartoons are essentially the great American pastime for kids. When it’s a rainy day, early morning, or late night, cartoons are something that kids can watch, relax, and unwind to — Similarly to how we, as adults, watch movies and our own television shows. Surprisingly, there are plenty of benefits to letting your child watch an hour or two of TV and we’re going to explain exactly what those are but first, let’s discuss what led us to create this list of the best Cartoon Network shows. Cartoon Network has been around for almost two decades now and with it, they’ve introduced shows that have revolutionized the cartoon industry as we know it. They’ve also introduced Adult Swim which is basically late-night cartoon TV for adults, making the channel universal to practically any age group. This is something we can get behind because it’s a channel that shows all cartoons, every time of day, meaning there’s nothing inappropriate for your child during the daytime hours. In addition, they’ve created shows that cater more towards various age groups, thus helping to create a child-friendly cartoon station rather than something generalized and boring. We evaluated these cartoons based on entertainment value, appropriateness for kids under age 12, as well as quality and detail.

How Is Watching Cartoons a Good Thing?

Contrary to popular belief, there’s no saying that your child will inevitably turn into a “couch potato” if they watch some cartoons every now and then. While constant television-watching can encourage somewhat lazy habits, the occasional cartoon or TV time is mostly harmless for children. Much of the time, they’ll be too restless to actually sit down for long periods of time anyway, so it’s not as big of a concern as it once was. Watching feel-good cartoons can actually do wonders to improve and brighten your child’s disposition which is something that was never considered many years ago. Briefly, there was a period of time where cartoon-watching was frowned upon because it was seen as a “lazy” activity. However, now that kids have so many options as far as free-time activities go, watching cartoons can be an amazing way to help them unwind and watch something uplifting. Having positive attributes was one of the qualities we looked for in every single show that made this list, and this is exactly why. For a child to watch one hour of any of these cartoons, especially if they’re having a bad day, it can drastically help to improve their overall mood, take their mind off of the issue at hand, and help them focus on something else for a bit. Having a favorite TV show can be a huge comfort and something that helps to tame stress when they’re having a bad day, so while it’s not a direct method of dealing with an issue, it can help to bring them to a calmer place where they can acknowledge and deal with it.

Learning Through Animation

Nowadays, cartoons are very progressive, such as is seen with shows like Clarence and Adventure Time. These types of shows feature all kinds of diversity both in character as well as environment. It’s details like this that can encourage acceptance and an open-mind amongst young children since they learn what they see and hear. Cartoons can help children to understand how to work through problems and how not to avoid being afraid of their fears. By watching their favorite cartoon characters, they’ll see things in simplified terms and learn new ways of dealing and being brave through another person’s story. At such a young age, it can be challenging to relate to movies that feature actors and actresses, because many times, your child has no connection to them. Cartoons have a way of being heartwarming, humorous, and personal; Kids grow an attachment easily to their favorite characters because they pick up on certain qualities and attributes that they can relate to themselves. It’s through this process that kids can learn different methods of handling situations, how to face their fears, and, most importantly, how to be confident in who they are.

The Benefits of Family Time

As a child, family time can be the glue that holds together their daily life. Whether you spend an hour or an entire rainy day together watching cartoons, it’s a bonding experience and something that they’ll remember. Positive activities such as these release endorphins which will naturally uplift your child’s mood and improve their overall outlook on life. As they get older, it becomes harder and harder to spend quality time together doing simple things like this, and cartoons can be a huge part of making the best of this time while you have it. If you find a show that your child likes, don’t be afraid to laugh and enjoy it with them — These are the developing ties that will eventually bring the two of you closer and strengthen your bond.

FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What age is appropriate for these cartoons?

A: We recommend age eight and up just to be on the safe side, however several of them are appropriate for much younger ages as well.

Q: Is there any difference between the hard copy and the digital copy of these shows?

A: Occasionally, the digital copies will have some episodes out of order if you download the entire season (see the aforementioned pros/cons after each listing). Other than that, no.

Q: Can you buy episodes individually?

A: Yes! If there’s an episode you think sounds boring, inappropriate, or just really want to watch, you do have the option to download them individually. However, it is download only — No hard copies.

Q: How long is each episode?

A: By nature, cartoons are fairly short, generally no longer than 25 minutes. All of these cartoons are around that length except for the Over the Garden Wall miniseries, which is more of a movie-length in-full.

Q: How do I know if my child will actually enjoy these?

A: The best way to find out is to watch them! A great option is to download an episode of several cartoons and see which one your child enjoys the most.

Q: Which are best for the entire family to watch together?

A: If your children are older (ten or older) Johnny Bravo is a fun and nostalgic option, however, Over the Garden Wall, Adventure Time, and Clarence are all examples of great family-friendly cartoon shows.

Sources:

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/d7e9xa/therapists-explain-how-cartoons-affect-your-mental-health

https://www.mashandco.tv/en/cartoons-their-importance-in-kids-development/

The Benefits of Watching TV With Young Children

Sources