It’s still the holiday season, which means extended family and countless children are probably already invading your personal space. While it used to be hard to find something on TV that the whole family could enjoy, nowadays cartoons are telling stories rivalling even the best of ‘adult’ television.
Whether you need a show that you and your 10-year-old nephew will love or you’re just looking for shows made even better by dry herb, we have you covered.
01. Adventure Time
The perennial stoner cartoon, Adventure Time is the major success story of cartoons showing maturity and hitting an older audience. The show’s deep mythology, from Finn’s origin story to the Great Mushroom War that made the land of Ooo what it is, has led to one of the deepest and most sophisticated shows currently on Cartoon Network if not all of cable television. With the eighth season set to begin in January, followed by the show’s concluding ninth season, now is as good of a time as ever to catch up. So come on and grab your friends, and let’s travel to very distant lands.
All seven seasons of Adventure Time are available on Hulu.
02. Steven Universe
Steven Universe owes much of its success to Adventure Time—Rebecca Sugar, Steven Universe’s creator, was a writer and storyboard artist for Adventure Time’s first five seasons. The influence is obvious: Steven Universe features a maturity from the start that Adventure Time took several seasons to build, and elements from the 10-minute format to the deep background mythology shows that Sugar took the best lessons from Adventure Time to create something deeply unique and undeniably human.
The first two seasons of Steven Universe are available on Hulu.
03. Gravity Falls
Gravity Falls follows twin siblings Dipper (Jason Ritter) and Mabel (Kristen Schaal) as they spend their summer vacation with their uncle in Gravity Falls, Oregon. Not all is as it seems, however, as there is a Disney-esque sinisterness lurking in every episode, and there are a myriad of surprises in the buildup to the conclusion. While the show ended after the second season, it was on the creator’s terms, meaning that the show has an extremely satisfying and immensely effective series finale.
Both seasons of Gravity Falls are available on Hulu.
04. Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated
While there have been countless adaptions of Scooby-Doo since its debut in 1969, none of them have allowed the gang to expand beyond their archetypes. Mystery Incorporated flipped that on its head, giving the gang families that loved—and betrayed—them through the series’ two seasons. The show has an extremely meta tone, making this a decidedly different (and decidedly more fun) take on Scooby-Doo than any incarnation before it.
Both seasons Scooby-Doo!: Mystery Incorporated are available for streaming on Netflix.
05. Avatar: The Last Airbender / The Legend of Korra
When Avatar: The Last Airbender premiered on Nickelodeon in 2005, it was much ahead of its time: serialization was still uncommon in children’s cartoons, particularly serialization with the plot and character development that Avatar was able to achieve through its three seasons. Nickelodeon struck gold a second time with The Legend of Korra, a sequel series that allowed the show to mature with the character. Ignore the 2010 M. Night Shyamalan movie adaptation—much like there is no war in Ba Sing Se, this movie does not exist.
All three seasons of Avatar and four seasons of The Legend of Korra are available on Amazon Prime Video.
06. Young Justice
Young Justice follows some of our favorite sidekick members of the Justice League in their most formative years—Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, Superboy, Miss Martian, and Artemis—coached by the veterans, including Batman, Green Arrow and Black Canary. One of the most acclaimed modern superhero cartoons, the AV Club raved of the show’s second season, saying it was “one of the best seasons of any animated superhero series, continuing Young Justice’s organic evolution into something bigger and better than before.” Sadly, the show was canceled after the second season, but after the show’s success on Netflix, Warner Bros. Animation announced there would be a third season.
Both seasons of Young Justice are available for streaming on Netflix.
07. Batman: The Animated Series
Thanks to the success of Suicide Squad, Margot Robbie catapulted Harley Quinn back into the spotlight and quickly became one of the most popular Halloween costumes of 2016. What better time, then, to go back to the series that marked Quinn’s debut? Batman: The Animated Series premiered in 1992, but its impact continues today: it is consistently ranked as one of the best animated and best superhero television shows of all time, and Les Daniels wrote in his book Batman: The Complete History that the show came “as close as any artistic statement has to defining the look of Batman for the 1990s.” As Nolan’s—and now Affleck’s—Batmen mirror the standard set by the animated series, it’s safe to say that didn’t end in the ’90s.
All four seasons of Batman: The Animated Series are available on Amazon Prime Video.
08. Samurai Jack
After finding huge success with Dexter’s Laboratory, Genndy Tartakovsky went in a very different direction with Samurai Jack. The show, which is very light on dialogue and heavy on intense action, felt like it was slightly held back by network standards, but still crafted an epic and cohesive story of revenge. Though the series ended in 2004, it was recently announced that a fifth season is in development for Adult Swim, with Tartakovksy returning as executive producer and a brand new TV-MA rating due to the dark tone and violence. Make sure to catch up before March 2017 to see the violent end of Jack’s journey through time.
All four seasons of Samurai Jack are available on Hulu.