10 Best Adult Animated Series of All-Time
Who says animation can’t be made for adults? Often wacky and absurd, it can be tempting for most people to dismiss animation as childish entertainment. With their steady rise in popularity, adult animation has proven to be more than just that.
While adults may not be their sole demographic, adult animation is known for its mature themes and sometimes crass undertones. With recent shows like Netflix’s Arcane LoL hitting mainstream success, major streaming platforms are also heavily investing in animation and motion graphics studios.
With so many adult animated series out there, which one should you start with? Well, nothing but the best!
Here’re 10 of the best adult animated series of all-time!
Rick and Morty (2013)
Ahh, Rick and Morty. The show’s notorious fanbase and crude humour may have fueled its hype but its meteoric rise to mainstream success is undeniable. With a compelling premise and a mad scientist who travels different universes with his grandson, the duo makes for an extremely entertaining watch.
But it’s not just empty, mindless entertainment! Despite its absurdity, Rick and Morty is filled with excellent writing. Complex characters? Check. Iconic plotlines? Check. Well-developed character arcs? Check. The writing team nailed all the basics of good show writing and it’s a trait shared by all the shows in this list.
Some of their episodes may be ridiculous comedy bits (which are pretty damn funny) but Rick and Morty also makes you think. Their best episodes are sometimes infused with profound philosophical inquiries and thought-provoking perspectives. The show is a perfect blend of sci-fi, adventure and philosophy, making it a must-watch!
With season six coming out on September 4th, it’s time to start bingeing!
Futurama (1999 – 2003)
Futurama basically fathered Rick and Morty. While it never reached the heights of Rick and Morty’s success, it made its distinct mark on adult animation. Rick and Morty creators, Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon, were heavily inspired by Futurama, making several references to it and even directly name-dropping Futurama in an episode.
Also featuring an old scientist and his young sidekick that happens to be his 3000-year-old ancestor (you’ll see why), Futurama is like a more optimistic version of Rick and Morty. If Rick and Morty is the edgy teen, Futurama is its happy-go-lucky counterpart.
Accidentally freezing himself in a cryogenic chamber for 1000 years, Philip J. Fry awakens in the year 3000. Despite being hopelessly dumb, Fry finds his crew and his great-great-great grandson who’s an aging scientist. The show follows their wacky misadventures in the far future and eventually builds up to a heart-warming and extremely satisfying ending
Often toeing the line between incredibly smart and stupid, Futurama managed to be simultaneuosly hilarious and touching. At its heart, the show’s love for its characters shine through and audiences are bound to feel it too.
Bojack Horseman (2014 – 2020)
One of the slightly darker shows in this collection, Bojack Horseman is centred on an anthropomorphic horse who once starred in a famous 90s TV show. He tries to hold on to his past but he doesn’t think he’s going to last. Yup, suicidal ideation is a strong theme for Bojack, along with a litany of darker themes like abuse and addiction.
As a dark comedy, Bojack Horseman also employs humour to soften the blow in their exploration of these issues. However, it doesn’t mean that they shy away from them. In fact, the show is highly praised for its stellar portrayal of mental illness and it never flinches from showing the deep-seated flaws in their characters.
Despite having an extremely unlikeable protagonist, Bojack Horseman is full of relatable characters that will leave a lasting impression.
Love, Death and Robots (2019)
An anthology series, the episodes in Love, Death and Robots can feel worlds apart in terms of animation and plot. From heavy plotlines that cover existential crises to light-hearted ones about killer cleaning robots, the show has it all!
The show’s experimental nature is clearly shown in its diverse range of animation types. Hyper-realistic 3D animated visual effects exist alongside 2D animation, which makes these animated shorts truly stunning.
As a visual effects company, the level of work and craftsmanship that goes into creating good VFX does not go unnoticed by us. Love, Death and Robots is a work of art that deserves to be noticed more!
Fans of the comic would definitely know about the show. Thanks to countless memes about the show, you might have also seen it trending on your social media feed. So, what’s the deal with Invincible?
Its subversive premise is something that audiences haven’t seen in a long time. The show flips the superhero script to show “heroes” in their darkest light. It’s a similar concept to The Boys, a live action show about morally corrupt superheroes so if you’re a fan of The Boys, give Invincible a shot!
Other than its subversive plot, Invincible also tackles morally complex themes. The show gets dark and gritty in moments of extreme violence and gore, making it absolutely not child-friendly.
Its star-studded cast of voice actors including J.K Simmons, Steven Yeun and Sandra Oh also make the show feel even more immersive and it certainly lives up to the hype!
Gravity Falls (2015 – 2016)
At first glance, Gravity Falls seems to be another Twin Peaks-esque show about small town mysteries. But that’s what makes it fun! The show follows twins, Dipper and Mabel as they live with their cranky great-uncle for the summer. What was supposed to be a boring stay turns into a curious one as the twins keep uncovering strange mysteries and abnormalities in Gravity Falls.
From the saturated colours and cosy setting, it’s clear that Gravity Falls was made for kids. However, that’s not to say that adults can’t enjoy it too! The mysteries don’t just stop when an episode ends. Every episode has hidden ciphers and puzzles for keen-eyed viewers to solve, which only add on to the show’s intrigue. Even the show’s opening is embedded with its own puzzles!
Gravity Fall’s self-aware humour also pokes fun at both the characters and audience alike, while the jokes may fly over the heads of children, they’ll definitely land with older audiences.
Inside Job (2021)
Yup, we’re back with the Sci-Fi! Inside Job is a workplace comedy set in Cognito, Inc, a company that hides conspiracies and controls world governments a.k.a the deep state. The show features a genius robotics engineer, who’s paired up with her new frat-boy partner and he couldn’t be more different from her. Before you think this is a rom-com, the two stay strictly platonic (for now?) but their friendship becomes one that’s adorable and fun to watch!
Despite its dramatic setting, Inside Job’s characters couldn’t be more relatable. Just like us, they’re just trying to live their lives amidst its absurdities. Audiences will also relate to themes of workplace drama, adult friendships and strained familial relationships.
Based on the lore in League of Legends (LoL), Arcane is set in the rich city of Piltover and its seedy underbelly, Zaun. The plot revolves around different characters and somehow, all of their arcs were well-developed and explored. In one season alone!
The intricate world-building also adds depth to the characters as we see how the circumstances shape them. Both heroes and villains were treated with complexity and all of them had their own motivations. Whether they were justified is something to think about but it’s a testament to how nuanced the show’s writing is!
Arcane’s distinct steampunk aesthetic and incredible production also makes it stand in a league of its own (sorry)! Whether you’re a fan of the video game or a newcomer, Arcane is definitely worth a watch!
Big Mouth (2017)
Big Mouth gets down and dirty with their portrayal of adolescence. While it’s aimed at educating pre-teen audiences, it also throws adult audiences back into the vestiges of puberty, with the sky-high hormones and sheer discomfort.
A show on puberty can only feature teenagers and they make up the main cast of the show. Alongside them are creatures that represent their desires and fears; they include furry “hormone monsters”, a disapproving “shame wizard” and a big, purple “depression kitty”. This chaotic ensemble of characters spells disaster and that’s exactly what happens, it’s hilarious.
Beyond growing pains, Big Mouth also encourages openness about masturbation and sexuality, topics that some may find embarrassing. Love it or hate it, Big Mouth has meaningful things to say and it’s not afraid to say them.
One of the most well-known characters in horror, Dracula is found in countless adaptations, so much so that he’s become boring. Yet somehow, Castlevania managed to revive (OK, not exactly, but you get what we mean) and bring new life to the character.
It’s brutal, violent and heartbreaking. After his wife is killed by an angry mob, Dracula vows to destroy all of humanity. His grief numbs him to the pleas of his son, Alucard, who starts a rebellion to stand up to his father’s destruction. Meanwhile, within the ranks of Dracula’s own army, his men are starting to doubt him and political lines are drawn as different factions vie for power.
Based on one of the most beloved video games, Castlevania lets you relive your nostalgia while immersing you in a new world entirely.
Can’t get enough?