Top 10 Cartoons from the 80s
I was a child of the 80s (I guess I still am). In my early years, nothing could quite compare to rushing down the stairs on Saturday morning for hours of entertaining cartoons. I must have watch tons of different cartoons, from action packed series like G.I. Joe to more tame stuff like the Muppet Babies. Unfortunately, not every cartoon was great. Looking back, some were really not much more than 30 minute toy commercials, but damned if I wasn’t entertained. While I’m guessing many of these wouldn’t stand the test of time if watched today, here are my Top 10 Cartoons from the 80s. Good or bad, these are the ones I loved the most!
Top 10 Cartoons from the 80s
10. M.A.S.K. (1985 – 1988)
M.A.S.K. stood for Mobile Armored Strike Kommand, and centered around a group of task force of soldiers who drove around in transforming vehicles. I’m almost 100% certain that M.A.S.K. was developed as a hybrid of GI Joe and Transformers as a way of leeching the popularity from both of those audiences. Despite its clearly derivative nature, M.A.S.K. was still a solid cartoon with a great line of toys.
9. The Legend of Zelda (1989-1989)
In the 80s, Nintendo was the king of video games. And no title, with the possible exception of Super Mario Brothers, captures kids imagination like The Legend of Zelda. Zelda ended up getting its own cartoon as part of the Super Mario Brothers Super Show. To be honest, that show was pretty terrible, featuring a mix of live action and cartoons (Fan of white rap?). However, every Friday, the plumbers took a back seat to the adventures in the kingdom of Hyrule. These episodes are what I really looked forward to with this show. However, for some unexplainable reason, the adventurer Link was replaced with a whiney teenager Link…”Excuse Me Princess!”.
8. Dungeons and Dragons (1983-1985)
While I was too young to actually play Dungeons and Dragons when the show was on the air, I still enjoyed the cartoon. Maybe that’s because I loved all things fantasy. This cartoon featured a group of teenagers transported to the DnD realm and turned into classic fantasy tropes. To be honest, this one really didn’t stand the test of time, as I recently watched a few episodes on DVD. But back in the day, it was the bomb.
7. Transformers Generation 1 (1984-1987)
The Transformers ended up winning the robot battle between the GoBots and become the robotic toy to have. Transformers Generation 1 lasted four seasons and featured familiar Transformers such as Optimus Prime, The Dinobots, Megatron and Starscream. Eventually Transformers came back in the 90s as a rebooted cartoon… and today, there are plenty of really terrible feature films that for some reason keep getting made.
6. The Real Ghostbusters (1986 -1991)
There was actually another Ghost Busters cartoon in the 80s, based on an old live action television show. However when the hit movie came out, of course we needed a cartoon to go with it. With the Ghost Busters name already being used for the unrelated cartoon, enter The Real Ghostbusters. Subtle right? For some reason, The Real Ghostbusters focused heavily on Slimer. I guess the show runners felt that the cartoon needed a bit lighter tone than the movie.
5. DuckTales (1987-1990)
Probably one of the most catchy intro songs of any cartoon ever, most kids in the 80s had the DuckTales theme song memorized. Who would have thought that a few random disney character spinoffs could make for such an entertaining cartoon. Scrooge McDuck and his 3 grandnephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie embarking on wild Indiana Jones style adventures. Occasionally, Scrooge’s nephew Donald Duck would show up for a cameo. Looking back, I now wonder why Scrooge would keep all of his money liquid inside a large bin, rather than investing it. The amount of interest he gave up to swim in it must have been staggering.
4. G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (1983 – 1986)
If there was one toy I had about a zillion of, it was G.I. Joe. This cartoon featured an elite fighting force that seemed to only take on Cobra, a terrorist organization. If you are looking for a show that fulfills just about every military trope you can think of, G.I. Joe was it. The Joes even ended up getting a full, feature length movie, showing just how popular this cartoon was.
3. He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe (1983-1985)
For a kid obsessed with the fantasy genre, He-Man reigned supreme. I must have watched every episode of this show multiple times. Prince Adam, ruler of Eternia, had the power to change into He-Man, the most powerful man in the universe. His chief rival was Skelator, who he regularly trounced in battle. He-Man even made the jump to the silver screen with his own live action movie, starring Dolph Lundgren (of Rocky IV fame) as He-Man himself. While, looking back, that movie wasn’t very good, the 9 year old me loved it!
2. ThunderCats (1985 – 1989)
The ThunderCats were one of the more well produced cartoons of the era. A hybrid scifi-fantasy show, it revolved around a group of cat-like humanoid aliens, led by Lion-O, who apparently had the power to always get in trouble and then use his trusty “Sword of Omens” to call this fellow Thundercats to save him. Plot holes aside, ThunderCats had a healthy dose of action and some great pacing. Despite the odd nature of the characters, I’d watch this one again today.
1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987-1996)
Originally a comic book series, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or TMNT as they were often called, are a group of four mutant turtles who were trained in martial arts by their master Splinter (a mutated rat). They hid in the sewers of New York City and battled all sorts of criminals, mutants, and aliens. Of course, their chief rival was Shredder and the Foot Clan. I think the TMNT channeled their inner Spider-Man as they were both fierce in battle and quick with the wisecrack. Another show with a catchy intro song, the TMNT took the world by storm, spawning various movies, video games, toys and other media.