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The Best Nickelodeon Character Bracket

As Nicktoons’ 30th anniversary approaches, it’s time to celebrate the heroes, villains, sponges and starfish, and cats and dogs who redefined children’s programming in the 1990s and beyond

Adam Villacin, Harrison Freeman, Charles Morales

Thirty years ago this week, Nickelodeon changed kids’ television forever. Debuting three now-iconic series, The Ren & Stimpy Show, Rugrats, and Doug, on August 11, the network launched their Nicktoons brand and officially leaped into original animated programming. Since then, Nick’s slate has taken on many forms—from live-action series made for tweens like Salute Your Shorts to variety shows like All That to groundbreaking cartoon series like SpongeBob SquarePants and Avatar: The Last Airbender—but it has almost always had a grasp on young imaginations.

Nick can mean many different things to many different people depending on when, exactly, they were between the ages of 6 and 16. The generational divide is most cleanly drawn in the sands of Bikini Bottom—you’re either pre-SpongeBob or post-SpongeBob—but even in that stratification there are countless microgenerations: those who bowed down to Double Dare and The Adventures of Pete & Pete; those who caught the peaks of The Fairly OddParents and iCarly. But no matter which shows we gravitated toward, almost all of us have bled slime-green at one point or another.

Because Nickelodeon means something to everyone, and because Nicktoons’ 30th anniversary deserves to be honored, we at The Ringer are celebrating the way we know best. Welcome to the Best Nickelodeon Character Bracket.

Just seeing this makes me feel like a kid again, like I’m watching Kenan Thompson take a bucket of slime to the head while Summer Sanders laughs in the distance.

Before we really dig in, let’s explain how we assembled this amazing field of 64 characters. There were a couple of rules:

  • Only characters who were featured in original Nickelodeon series were considered. The shows that were merely licensed by Nick—such as Degrassi and Peppa Pig—were not eligible. (Our apologies to Drake and Canada.)
  • The field was limited to four characters per show. That might seem unfair to Rocko’s dog Spunky, but it felt more important to get some variety into the bracket. (And Spunky probably would’ve lost in the first round anyway.)

With those rules in mind, the Ringer staff was asked to compile their own personal character rankings. From those results, seeding was calculated from 1 to 64; characters were then placed in the bracket accordingly, without any classifications in mind. There were some mild disagreements about 1-seeds, and I’m pretty sure someone turned into the Mr. Krabs meme when someone else suggested that Binyah Binyah from Gullah Gullah Island didn’t deserve to be in the final 64. But we’re all adults (who have reverted to being children talking about Nick) and eventually we arrived at a consensus.

Now it’s your turn. For each round, you can vote here on the website, on Twitter, and on Instagram every day till 6 p.m. ET, through Friday. Voting will go as follows:

Monday: Round of 64
Tuesday: Round of 32
Wednesday: Sweet 16
Thursday: Elite Eight
Friday a.m.: Final Four
Friday p.m.: Championship
Saturday: Winner revealed

Now let’s get to the best of each region.


Bikini Bottom

Most Intriguing Matchup: (4) Marc Summers, Double Dare vs. (13) Mike O’Malley, Nickelodeon’s GUTS

It’s the Nick Host Championship. In one corner, a gem of a man who bravely and joyfully guided the wackiest family game show in history. (Seriously, remember when everyone had to dig through all that disgusting gunk in the giant ear?) In the other corner, a man who had major Boston energy and who was excellent at giving play-by-play for kids who couldn’t figure out how to make it up the Aggro Crag.

As always, your pick here says a lot about what kind of person you are.

Poll

Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 71%
    4. Marc Summers, ‘Double Dare’
    (9458 votes)
  • 28%
    13. Mike O’Malley, ‘Nickelodeon GUTS’
    (3682 votes)
13140 votes total Vote Now

Character Who Got Screwed: (16) CatDog, CatDog

It’s a cat and a dog—what’s not to like? A lot, apparently. The bi-species star of CatDog was the last character to make it into the bracket, which means that in the first round it’s looking up at the no. 1 overall seed, SpongeBob SquarePants. That’s a pretty tough mountain to climb—SpongeBob is easily the odds-on favorite to take this whole thing home. But CatDog is one of those Nick cartoons that doesn’t quite belong to anyone—premiering after the likes of Doug and even Rocko’s Modern Life but before shows like iCarly, it sits in a no-man’s-land of nostalgia. So pour one out for the biological wonder and raise a glass to SpongeBob, wrecker of lesser Nick characters.

Poll

Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 77%
    1. SpongeBob SquarePants, ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’
    (12011 votes)
  • 22%
    16. Cat and Dog, ‘CatDog’
    (3404 votes)
15415 votes total Vote Now

The Generational Divide: (2) Aang, Avatar: The Last Airbender vs. (15) Binyah Binyah, Gullah Gullah Island

Throughout this week, there will be matchups that will be totally determined by the passion of one generation versus another. Once and for all, perhaps we will find out which generation spends the most time on the internet (or, at least, engages in online polls hosted by The Ringer).

Our first example of this divide comes in this 2-seed-vs.-15-seed faceoff. On one side you have Aang, the face of the Avatar franchise, which premiered in 2005. On the other there’s Binyah Binyah from the quasi-educational Nick Jr. program Gullah Gullah Island, which ran from 1994 to 1998. There’s not a ton of crossover here—most of Gen Z probably doesn’t know that Binyah Binyah was a gigantic frog who was at one point popular enough to warrant its own spinoff. And those who do know that probably don’t know that Aang is one of the best characters of the 21st century, a great fighter with an even better heart.

Poll

Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 69%
    2. Aang, Avatar: The Last Airbender
    (9669 votes)
  • 30%
    15. Binyah Binyah, ‘Gullah Gullah Island’
    (4221 votes)
13890 votes total Vote Now

The Long Shot: (7) Skeeter Valentine, Doug

There’s a decent chance that Skeeter wasn’t seeded high enough. After all, he’s way cooler than his best friend Doug, he rocked a legendary ’90s fit, and he’s basically a genius. (But a genius who really just wants to party, which is the best kind of genius.) Gerald Johanssen of Hey Arnold! was given the proper respect by this bracket; I don’t know why the same didn’t happen for this other iconic Nick wingman.

It’s a tough road out of the Bikini Bottom region—beyond SpongeBob lurks Kel from Kenan & Kel and Little Pete from The Adventures of Pete & Pete—but if there’s someone who can traverse it, it’s Skeeter Valentine.

Poll

Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 92%
    7. Skeeter Valentine, ‘Doug’
    (13271 votes)
  • 7%
    10. Mrs. Hushbaum, ‘All That’
    (1023 votes)
14294 votes total Vote Now

The Rest of the Matchups

Poll

Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 53%
    8. Cosmo and Wanda, ‘The Fairly OddParents’
    (7568 votes)
  • 46%
    9. Jimmy Neutron, ‘The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius’
    (6553 votes)
14121 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 57%
    5. Little Pete, ‘The Adventures of Pete & Pete’
    (7864 votes)
  • 42%
    12. Danny Phantom, ‘Danny Phantom’
    (5901 votes)
13765 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 73%
    6. Chuckie Finster, ‘Rugrats’
    (11021 votes)
  • 26%
    11. Steve, ‘Blue’s Clues’
    (3992 votes)
15013 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 76%
    3. Kel Kimble, ‘Kenan & Kel’
    (10841 votes)
  • 23%
    14. Reggie Rocket, ‘Rocket Power’
    (3404 votes)
14245 votes total Vote Now

Hillwood

Most Intriguing Matchup: (8) Pierre Escargot, All That vs. (9) Blue, Blue’s Clues

When you’re watching Pierre Escargot, you’re literally witnessing the birth of a sketch comedy legend. The magnetism and verve that Kenan Thompson was bringing to these sketches where the conceit was “a funny guy says funny stuff in French” is present in all of his genius characters from Saturday Night Live. (Pierre Escargot, by the way: perfect character name.) On the other hand, when you’re watching Blue, you’re witnessing a dog that is much better at seeing things than its human owner. One is the origin story of a star; the other is the star. Vote carefully.

Poll

Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 42%
    8. Pierre Escargot, ‘All That’
    (6114 votes)
  • 57%
    9. Blue, ‘Blue’s Clues’
    (8216 votes)
14330 votes total Vote Now

Character Who Got Screwed: (10) Korra, The Legend of Korra

Despite her teenage abrasiveness, Korra has the best intentions, and because of that vulnerability may be even more relatable than Aang. She spearheads a series that’s a more mature take on the Avatar universe, and she stands as a legitimate LGBTQ icon.

And while Korra may not have any trouble advancing to the second round, it’s what likely awaits her—Ren from The Ren & Stimpy Show, Clarissa or Squidward after that—that may be too overwhelming. She might deserve a Sweet 16 slot, but getting one will be difficult.

Poll

Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 48%
    7. Bobby Budnick, ‘Salute Your Shorts’
    (6611 votes)
  • 51%
    10. Korra, ‘The Legend of Korra’
    (6945 votes)
13556 votes total Vote Now

The Generational Divide: (2) Ren Höek, The Ren & Stimpy Show vs. (15) Josh Nichols, Drake & Josh

Not a lot of Drake & Josh fans at The Ringer, as you can see. But even though these two characters represent completely different generations, there are some connections between them. In a lot of ways, Josh Nichols is a 21st-century live-action Stimpy, all boisterous and joyful and blissfully ignorant. Ya know, I would actually watch a show called Ren & Josh.

Poll

Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 67%
    2. Ren Höek, ‘The Ren & Stimpy Show’
    (9916 votes)
  • 32%
    15. Josh Nichols, ‘Drake & Josh’
    (4719 votes)
14635 votes total Vote Now

The Long Shot: (6) Squidward, SpongeBob SquarePants

We’ve already hit on the cross-generation power of SpongeBob, now it’s time to see whether that trickles down to its secondary characters. Squidward is a perfect character—an ideal curmudgeon. He is the face of annoyance and minor despair. This region is absolutely stacked—Arnold, Patti Mayonnaise, Dora the Explorer, Clarissa Darling, on and on—but who’s to say Squidward can’t prevail?

Poll

Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 79%
    6. Squidward Tentacles, ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’
    (11692 votes)
  • 20%
    11. Artie, ‘The Adventures of Pete & Pete’
    (3100 votes)
14792 votes total Vote Now

The Rest of the Matchups

Poll

Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 95%
    1. Arnold Shortman, ‘Hey Arnold!’
    (13127 votes)
  • 4%
    16. Ginger Foutley, ‘As Told by Ginger’
    (620 votes)
13747 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 64%
    5. Patti Mayonnaise, ‘Doug’
    (9320 votes)
  • 35%
    12. Iroh, ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’
    (5044 votes)
14364 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 67%
    4. Dora Márquez, ‘Dora the Explorer’
    (8908 votes)
  • 32%
    13. Sheen Estévez, ‘The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron’
    (4337 votes)
13245 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 71%
    3. Clarissa Darling, ‘Clarissa Explains It All’
    (9155 votes)
  • 28%
    14. Ickis, ‘Aaahh!!! Real Monsters’
    (3617 votes)
12772 votes total Vote Now

Bluffington

Most Intriguing Matchup: (6) Ed, All That vs. (11) Zim, Invader Zim

The question here: Does anything top “Welcome to the Good Burger, home of the Good Burger, can I take your order?” Is there a Nickelodeon line more iconic, more memorable, more recited than that? I truly don’t know—but we’re going to find out.

Poll

Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 71%
    6. Ed, ‘All That’
    (9633 votes)
  • 28%
    11. Zim, Invader Zim
    (3759 votes)
13392 votes total Vote Now

Character Who Got Screwed: (10) Charlotte Pickles

Not to say Charlotte Pickles is an elite Nick character—though she was a shining example of a working mother to youth audiences—but holy diapers her path to the finals is terrible. First she’d have to beat Face, then she’d have to take down Rocko, and after that? She’d likely be matched up against her own daughter. I love that Charlotte made the final 64, but remember her fondly now, because she’ll likely be gone tomorrow.

Poll

Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 33%
    7. Face, Nick Jr.
    (4305 votes)
  • 66%
    10. Charlotte Pickles, ‘Rugrats’
    (8660 votes)
12965 votes total Vote Now

The Generational Divide: (5) Zuko, Avatar: The Last Airbender vs. (12) Big Pete, The Adventures of Pete & Pete

Zuko might have the best redemption arc of any character in this bracket. Any Avatar episode that is focused on him is, without fail, one of the best episodes of the series. If you’re voting against him and opting for Big Pete, it’s because you’ve never seen Avatar and at most have only heard about it from your own children, who you had years and years after Pete & Pete went off the air.

Poll

Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 51%
    5. Zuko, ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’
    (6701 votes)
  • 48%
    12. Big Pete, ‘The Adventures of Pete & Pete’
    (6300 votes)
13001 votes total Vote Now

The Long Shot: (7) Face, Nick Jr.

I mean, it’s Face, right? For a period, this guy (or girl? thing?) had more screen time on Nick Jr. than any other character. It was the emcee of an entire block of programming, seamlessly guiding one show to the next, keeping things at an even keel and doing nonstop, hilarious face-related humor. The real MVP, IMO.

The Rest of the Matchups

Poll

Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 77%
    1. Doug Funnie, ‘Doug’
    (10599 votes)
  • 22%
    16. Nigel Thornberry, ‘The Wild Thornberrys’
    (3148 votes)
13747 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 62%
    8. Mr. Krabs, ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’
    (8746 votes)
  • 37%
    9. Porkchop, ‘Doug’
    (5269 votes)
14015 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 79%
    4. Patrick Star, ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’
    (10886 votes)
  • 20%
    13. Krumm, ‘Aaahh!!! Real Monsters’
    (2790 votes)
13676 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 85%
    3. Angelica Pickles, ‘Rugrats’
    (11315 votes)
  • 14%
    14. Eddie Gelfen, ‘Salute Your Shorts’
    (1878 votes)
13193 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 83%
    2. Rocko, ‘Rocko’s Modern Life’
    (10669 votes)
  • 16%
    15. Daggett Beaver, ‘The Angry Beavers’
    (2072 votes)
12741 votes total Vote Now

Reptarland

Most Intriguing Matchup: (3) Kenan Rockmore, Kenan & Kel vs. (14) The Temple Guards, Legends of the Hidden Temple

Kenan Thompson is one of the few actors to have multiple characters in this bracket, but this matchup is a question of what we really treasure when we look back on our time watching Nickelodeon. Sure, Kenan & Kel was a great comedy made for kids, but is there a better snapshot of Nick in the mid-’90s than Legends of the Hidden Temple and, more specifically, Aztec-looking figures popping out from behind walls to grab children? Reread the last part of that sentence—that’s something that was happening on a very popular kids show! What a time!

(Personally I’m pulling for the upset, if only because it would enable the Temple Guards to face off against their overlord Olmec in the second round. That’s something I need to happen.)

Poll

Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 70%
    3. Kenan Rockmore, ‘Kenan & Kel’
    (9400 votes)
  • 29%
    14. The Temple Guards, ‘Legends of the Hidden Temple’
    (3957 votes)
13357 votes total Vote Now

Character Who Got Screwed: (10) Amanda Bynes, The Amanda Show

Amanda Bynes (before, you know, everything) was a comedy wunderkind and I demand you put some more respect on her name!

Poll

Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    7. Timmy Turner, ‘The Fairly OddParents’
    (5689 votes)
  • 56%
    10. Amanda Bynes, ‘The Amanda Show’
    (7382 votes)
13071 votes total Vote Now

The Generational Divide: (1) Tommy Pickles, Rugrats vs. (16) Zeebo the Clown, Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Even though Zeebo’s episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, “The Tale of Laughing in the Dark,” premiered when Rugrats was still on, there is a bit of a difference in audience here. Rugrats was for the younger brother; Are You Afraid of the Dark? was for the older brother (even though he definitely peed his pants watching this legitimately scary episode).

Poll

Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 89%
    1. Tommy Pickles, ‘Rugrats’
    (12070 votes)
  • 10%
    16. Zeebo the Clown, ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark?’
    (1411 votes)
13481 votes total Vote Now

The Long Shot: (6) Olmec, Legends of the Hidden Temple

Maybe I like the talking mass of stone who gave instructions to little kids as they poorly tried to avoid disconcertingly grabby Temple Guards and put together monkey statues—but I think Olmec’s got a shot here.

Poll

Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 64%
    6. Olmec, ‘Legends of the Hidden Temple’
    (8508 votes)
  • 35%
    11. Katara, ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’
    (4611 votes)
13119 votes total Vote Now

The Rest of the Matchups

Poll

Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 72%
    8. Helga Pataki, ‘Hey Arnold!’
    (8963 votes)
  • 27%
    9. Mo Quirk, ‘Nickelodeon GUTS’
    (3320 votes)
12283 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 76%
    5. Alex Mack, ‘The Secret World of Alex Mack’
    (8256 votes)
  • 23%
    12. Loopy, ‘KaBlam!’
    (2564 votes)
10820 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 78%
    4. Stimpy Cat, ‘The Ren & Stimpy Show’
    (9566 votes)
  • 21%
    13. GIR, ‘Invader Zim’
    (2697 votes)
12263 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 71%
    2. Gerald Johanssen, ‘Hey Arnold!’
    (8940 votes)
  • 28%
    15. Carly Shay, ‘iCarly’
    (3628 votes)
12568 votes total Vote Now

Remember, voting closes at 6 p.m. ET. Come back tomorrow for a breakdown of the round of 32.

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