When it comes to western animation, the great series of the 90s and early 2000s are often known as the best the medium has to offer. Partly because the kids watching them were now in positions of influence, shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender and Teen Titans regularly receive praise on the web.
Cartoons didn’t stop after 2009. With the 2020s just beginning, it’s worth looking back at the many great shows released over the past decade. Much of what the 2010s had to offer were not just big, influential shows in their own right, but also more than worthy of mentioning in the same breath as the greats that came before them.
10/10 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an old hand in the cartoon world that has managed to retain its relevance in modern times. So much so that the 2010s saw two whole years TMNT shows. Choose between Rise of the TMNT and TMNT (2012) is a matter of preference, but TMNT (2012) gets the spot this time around.
The show not only gave the TMNT franchise a fresh coat of paint, but remains to this day one of the best 3D animated spectacles ever made, both technically and narratively.
9/10 BoJack Horseman (2014)
Adult cartoons have had a somewhat mixed reputation, with series like family guy and Big mouth being quite popular, but arguably juvenile with their humor. BoJack Riderhowever, managed to avoid such accusations due to its strong writing and mature tone.
After the titular washed-up actor of the series, BH is a thought-provoking meditation on adult life, as well as the mental health issues that come with it. It’s a show that’s not afraid to let its characters be downright despicable, never giving up on their potential to become better people.
8/10 Bob’s Burgers (2011)
The popularity of The simpsons led to a slew of animated comedies featuring dysfunctional families. However, none since The simpsons managed to present a family as sincerely sympathetic as the Belchers: Bob, Linda, Louise, Tina and Gene.
Despite 13 seasons deep, Bob’s Burgers still retains the relativity of its cast, as well as its often wonderfully dry sense of humor. The series even received its first feature recently, giving it the budget to really shine with smooth animation and big musical numbers.
7/10 Rick and Morty (2013)
rick and morty could be described as a much more chaotic version of Doctor Who. Rick Sanchez is an absurdly intelligent scientist whose desire for adventure and constant experimentation drags his entire family and universe into disaster after disaster.
The show gained popularity almost instantly and is still releasing new episodes today. While the comic style made famous by R&M begins to fall out of favor, the show itself remains a wild metaphysical ride, which does a good job of using its deplorable characters in interesting ways.
6/10 The Amazing World of Gumball (2011)
Cartoon Network has been a powerhouse for cartoons since the 90s, and they haven’t slowed down in the 2010s. bubble gum features a typical setup of a dysfunctional family and their often odd neighbors, it’s easily one of the most unique shows with that premise.
The multimedia technology exhibited in bubble gum is still stunning, seamlessly combining 3D, 2D, and real assets, and somehow making it normal. The show has an endlessly likable cast and, unlike some slice-of-life shows, still manages to develop them satisfactorily over time.
5/10 Steven Universe (2013)
For a show about alien gems, Steven Universe is exceptionally human. The titular protagonist begins in a sleepy seaside town, living with three mysterious alien guardians. Although he is very optimistic, when other aliens begin to appear, his will to find the good in others is tested again and again.
The show takes great pains to portray emotions and mental health journeys in a positive light, even if things get a little messy at times. Its musical nature is also a strong selling point, highlighting some of the best songs ever written for a cartoon, thanks in large part to series creator Rebecca Sugar.
4/10 Gravity Falls (2012)
Everyone loves a good mystery. When twins Dipper and Mabel are sent to spend the summer in enigmatic Gravity Falls, a chain reaction of mysteries is set in motion, leading to one of the most beloved shows of the decade.
Gravity Falls has a very precise form of humor, thanks in large part to series creator Alex Hirsch. He almost never fails to be funny, and his dedication to plots and the fun of uncovering them is palpable. Often, the mysteries of the series even spilled over into the real world during its run, making the series an ARG itself.
3/10 Duck Tales (2017)
Trying to revive a classic show is almost an impossible task, but duck tales manages to get away with it. It’s made in the image of its original show, following Scrooge McDuck and his three nephews embarking on various adventures. However, this new imagination takes everything to the next level.
The animation is always impressive and the new characters introduced are instant classics. Della Duck alone deserves more than entering the main Disney canon with her brother Donald. And though they’re often seen as three of the same person, Huey, Dewey, and Louie finally have distinct personalities to set them apart.
2/10 Over the Garden Wall (2014)
It can be easy to forget about it due to its short runtime, but Over the garden wall is a true masterpiece. The 10-episode series follows two brothers on what turns from a normal Halloween night into a strange journey through new and disturbing worlds.
OTGW occupies a very unique place in the animated landscape, being only a mini-series, but standing out for its quality. His characters are grounded but fun, and his jokes always land no matter how morbid they may get. Anyone needing something to watch for the Halloween season has their answer here.
1/10 Adventure Time (2010)
It is fitting that the 2010s begin with the release of adventure time as it would continue to shape cartoons for the rest of the decade. In a world as vast and complex as it is bizarre, a young boy named Finn and his dog brother spend every day looking for the best adventure there is.
Adventure Time is an amazing show in every way, including the visuals, music, story, and characters. Even secondary characters like B-MO and Marceline are so rich that they received spin-off stories. Meanwhile, the main story managed to come to a satisfying conclusion, despite the large number of plot threads set up over the series’ lifespan.
It must also be credited with launching the careers of several creators, some of whom created the other entries on this list.
MORE: Are 2D animated TV shows in their golden age right now?