The 90s are fondly remembered by those who grew up during the era, but that goes double for the plethora of awesome kids shows that we all got to experience. Whether they were amazing game shows like Legends of the Hidden Temple or Global GUTS, incredible cartoons like Batman: The Animated Series or Hey Arnold!, or even live-action spectacles like Power Rangers, there was (and is!) a lot to love about the media of the 90s.
That said, while many shows were proud to display their “’tude” and “edge,” there were a few instances where things went well beyond the posturing and into some serious line-crossing. With our list of 20 Episodes Of 90s Kids Shows That Went Too Far, we’re going to be talking about episodes that went way beyond their boundaries. Whether it’s genuinely scary images, ultra-serious adult content, thematically heavy material, or more, our picks have it covered!
20 Batman Goes “Over the Edge”
Batman: The Animated Series has a reputation as being one of the finest “kids shows” in existence, with mature storytelling and stark imagery. That said, while it’s no stranger to pushing at least a few boundaries when it came to typical “kids show” standards, it never quite pushed them as far as it did with “Over the Edge.”
Following the gruesome demise of Batgirl, Batman’s identity is uncovered, and he’s hunted by the police. Of course, it’s all a hallucination, but its intensity is unmatched.
19 The Power Rangers Lose Everything
During the 90s, more than a few parents felt that Power Rangers consistently went “too far” due to the amount of violence in each episode. Of course, if they had known about Turbo’s finale “Chase into Space,” they might have ACTUALLY had something to complain about.
Not only do the Rangers get defeated and have their Megazords destroyed, but their base is raided and demolished, and Zordon is kidnapped by the forces of evil.
18 Angelica’s Insatiable Tyrant Of A Baby Brother
Rugrats has more than a few episodes that contain disturbing content, but only one truly goes too far when it comes to nightmare fuel, and it’s “Angelica’s Worst Nightmare.” After her parents tell her that another baby might be on the way, Angelica has a nightmare that takes place in in a post-apocalyptic version of Angelica’s world, where her new brother has replaced her.
The new… “baby”… speaks with an adult male’s voice, threatens Angelica and, eventually, grows to a colossal size and attempts to eat her. “Unsettling” and “disturbing” don’t even begin to describe it.
17 A Night In Terror Tower
An episode that’s almost obsessively fixated on hopelessness, torture, execution, and how powerless kids really are doesn’t exactly sound like your typical Goosebumps, and “A Night in Terror Tower” most certainly is not.
There’s an unyielding sense of dread that permeates the entirety of the multi-part proceedings, and it’s one of the very few episodes that is GENUINELY scary, with legitimate jump scares and a creepy atmosphere.
It’s uniquely bleak, but it definitely went too far.
16 Mr. Hyunh’s Backstory
Hey Arnold! is a series filled with emotional moments, but its Christmas episode is easily the most impactful of them all. The centerpiece of this emotional tour de force is discovering Mr. Hyunh’s heartbreaking backstory.
We learn of a brutal war that affected his home country and how he made the gut-wrenching choice to give up his young daughter, entrusting her to soldiers who were pulling out of battle. For a show that features a football-headed kid dressing up as a banana, this was all too real.
15 The Tale of the Crimson Clown
For whatever reason, clowns are the worst fear for tons of people, young and old.
Now, when you’re making a scary television show, it’s simply common sense to make a “clown episode,” but when you decide that you’re going to make the ULTIMATE clown episode, one that is almost relentlessly savage when it comes to featuring the object of such fears, that’s when you’ve gone too far.
“The Tale of the Crimson Clown” is such an episode.
The titular being appears as a doll… at first… but reveals its sinister true form to torment bad kids until they’re good.
14 ReBoot’s Bleak Finale(s)
ReBoot starts off pretty tame, with goofy humor and light action as digital citizens battle viruses, but as the series progressed, it became exponentially darker, and fans watched in shock as the beloved hero, Bob, was defeated by Megabyte, his viral nemesis, and the city of Mainframe fell into ruin.
MegaByte would eventually meet his defeat at the hands of the battered heroes, and everything went back to normal… or did it?
In the series’ final episode, Megabyte returns, takes over, and begins “the hunt”… and that’s it. They never finished the arc and fans have suffered ever since.
13 Courage’s “Perfect” Representation Of Cosmic Horror
Courage the Cowardly Dog contains plenty of unsettling situations and images, many of which have stuck with viewers over the years. Among all of them, though, is the otherworldly, CGI abomination found in “Perfect.”
In one of the episode’s nightmare sequences, an unnerving and hideously deformed blue, CGI entity calmly informs Courage that he’s “not perfect.” This is the definition of nightmare fuel.
12 Lord Zedd’s Terrifying Debut
Earlier, we mentioned the controversy surrounding Power Rangers and the supposed intensity of its action. Such claims seem absurd now, and they were definitely absurd then, but when it comes to the controversy surrounding the second season’s villain, Lord Zedd, we find ourselves inclined to agree.
The first season’s villain is a loud-mouthed space witch named Rita Repulsa, who was always more funny than threatening. Enter Lord Zedd, her boss. A hulking mass of fleshless muscle, decked out in silver armor vaguely shaped like a skeleton, and wearing a face mask with a sinister grin, Lord Zedd was terror incarnate.
11 Dinobot’s Fate
The superb Beast Wars: Transformers is often heralded as one of the best Transformers series, and rightfully so. With incredible writing, acting, and action brought to life by cutting-edge computer graphics, the series was extremely popular with its intended audience (and beyond), but fans especially loved the character Dinobot.
This beloved turncoat’s complexity and characterization remains incredibly impressive, and his eventual fate remains as powerful as ever. Sacrificing himself for the greater good, Dinobot waged a one-man war against his villainous former comrades, and saved time and space in the process.
Don’t mind us while we get a tissue.
10 An Unnecessarily Apocalyptic Christmas Spectacular
While most shows have “Christmas episodes” or “Christmas specials” that focus on a nice, seasonal message, Super Human Samurai Syber-Squad decided that it would have the villain win, the hero perish, and the main cast sent to their doom. Doesn’t that just scream “Christmas!” to you?
While everything does eventually work out, this was one extremely bold move for the series, and it seemed like it should have been the finale (but, alas, it was not.)
9 Heffer’s Inexplicable Journey To Heck (And Back)
Rocko’s Modern Life is a very, VERY weird show, but despite the gross-out humor and occasional adult jokes, it rarely ever crossed a line… except for Heffer’s inexplicable journey to the eternal flames of Heck.
For starters, Heffer straight up loses his life at the start of the episode, and on his way to Heaven, he plummets into the fiery pits of the other place.
Here, he comes face to face with Sata- we mean, “Peaches,” who tries (and fails) to teach the errant steer about the sin of gluttony.
8 Piccolo Beats Up A Toddler For Twenty Minutes
Even in its heavily edited state, the early dub of Dragon Ball Z still contained more violence than most kids (and adults) were used to, and there’s no better example of this than the collection of episodes where Piccolo is “training” Gohan.
Gohan, a literal toddler, is forced to survive in the harsh wilderness and constantly do battle with an extremely powerful, demonic alien adult.
As you might expect, he gets the tar kicked out of him repeatedly and violently.
7 The Tale of the Dead Man’s Float
Often hailed as one of the best episodes inAre You Afraid of the Dark?, “The Tale of the Dead Man’s Float” doesn’t “go too far” by abusing people’s fears (like “The Tale of the Crimson Clown”) or being overly grotesque (though it has its moments.)
No, the reason this episode goes too far is because it manages to tell a compelling and surprisingly realistic horror story that’s both relatable and believable… and yeah, the featured monster is shockingly realistic.
6 What If Chuckie Never Existed?
“Chuckie’s Wonderful Life” is an obvious take on the famous Christmas classic It’s A Wonderful Life, but it’s a far more unsettling experience. When Chuckie wishes he’d never been born, he’s taken to a world in which shows what life would be like if his wish came true… and it’s very disconcerting.
Some examples include his father being so depressingly lonely that he wishes his sock puppet were real, the twins serving as heartlessly destructive tyrants, and Tommy being homeless… it’s all genuinely upsetting.
5 Ren Pulls His Teeth Out… And So Much More
To say Ren & Stimpy was “controversial” is an understatement: it was unabashedly disgusting, containing gross out humor that both delighted and repulsed its audience, and had a seemingly endless number of adults-only innuendos.
However, there’s one particular moment in which the show’s fans and detractors can find common ground: “Ren’s Toothache.”
Whether it’s Ren’s abject suffering, his rotting teeth, or the absolutely horrifying, stomach-churning sequence of him plucking out his nerve endings, this is one episode that went way, WAY too far.
4 The Tiny Toons Tackle A Topic They Shouldn’t Have
The joy of watching Tiny Toons was to see the descendants of beloved Looney Tunes characters go to Toon School and get involved in wacky antics. It was not, for the record, to watch juvenile cartoon characters guzzle an adult beverage and then get into a car accident and straight up bite the dust.
Why this was made, and why the producers thought it would be a good lesson for kids in the first place, are questions that are simply unanswerable.
3 Attack Of The Jack O’ Lanterns
While few would say that “Attack of the Jack O’ Lanterns” is the scariest episode of Goosebumps, it certainly contains a moment that goes so far, that “too far” doesn’t begin to describe it.
In a dream sequence that’s typically edited out of broadcasts, our heroes go trick-or-treating, and happen upon a kindly old woman who insists they enter her home and visit her sickly husband.
Once they reach the husband’s room, we see dozens of children moaning in despair, chained together like slaves, as a monstrous, deformed man delights in new additions to his collection. It’s horrifying.
2 Henry Gets Intentionally Sealed In A Tunnel
Aside from the occasional dose of British wit, Thomas the Tank Engine isn’t a series known for going too far…. unless we’re talking about an almost inexplicable sequence that has haunted fans for decades: Henry’s entombment in a tunnel.
In short, a chipper green engine named Henry is scared of getting his paint ruined by the rain, and opts to wait inside a tunnel. As punishment, his boss literally seals him in the tunnel with bricks, and that’s it. End of story. There’s no moral here, just soulless cruelty.
1 “The Rescue Mission”
Even after some of our previous entries, we’re willing to bet that when you think “Power Rangers,” you still see multi-colored spandex and goofy monsters.
Likewise, we’d wager that one of the last things you would ever associate with the brand is Ridley Scott’s Alien… and that’s where you’d be wrong.
In the Lost Galaxy episode “The Rescue Mission,” we’re given a straight-up horror story, where a team of space marines investigates an abandoned ship and, while attempting to unravel its mysteries, get hunted by an Xenomorph-like threat.
It’s scary, it’s awesome, and it went way too far.