ByKayleigh Hearn/Feb. 14, 2022 2:47 pm EST
Since the first episode premiered on Cartoon Network in 2010, "Adventure Time" has invited fans to come along with heroes Finn the Human (JeremyShada) and Jake the Dog (John DiMaggio) as they explore the magical Land of Ooo. Created by Pendleton Ward, "Adventure Time" is a cornucopia of absurd humor, heartrending emotion, and stunning visuals. It's an ever-expanding world where gap-toothed boy adventurers can fight side-by-side with shape-shifting dogs and guitar-strumming vampires against evil entities with names like GOLB and the Lich.
Years after it concluded its 10 season run, "Adventure Time" continues to delight viewers. It inspired "Distant Lands," a 4-episode series of specials on HBO Max, as well as the upcoming spin-off "Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake," starring gender-swapped fanfiction versions of Finn and Jake. Brimming with wit and weirdness, "Adventure Time" is one of the most original animated shows to air on Cartoon Network. Here are 30 episodes that show "Adventure Time" at its battling best, with some help from IMDb's ratings.
30. Finn the Human (Season 5, Episode 1)
Be careful what you wish for. In the Season 5 premiere, Finn and Jake enter the inter-dimensional Time Cube inhabited by the Wish Master, Prismo (Kumail Nanjiani). When Finn wishes that their undead adversary, the Lich, never existed, he's transported into an alternate timeline. In this timeline, he's not the fearless adventurer Finn the Human, but a simple farm boy, Finn Mertens.
"Finn the Human" is a cautionary tale about the butterfly effect. By rashly making a wish without thinking of the consequences, Finn changes the lives of everyone he knows. Simon Petrikov dies after stopping the mutagenic bomb that released the Lich; Marceline is a cantankerous old woman (now voiced by Cloris Leachman); Jake is an ordinary dog. Finn finds Simon's cursed crown and uses its ice powers to save his family from a gang but, immediately corrupted by its influences, jeopardizes the mutagenic bomb still frozen underground. The dark undercurrent of "Finn the Human" suggests that evil like the Lich cannot be prevented but only delayed a while.
29. Puhoy (Season 5, Episode 16)
The Emmy Award-winning episode "Puhoy" begins with Finn and Jake making a pillow fort in their treehouse while a knife storm (exactly what it sounds like) rages outside. Brooding about his relationship with Flame Princess, Finn burrows deep inside the fort and finds a door. On the other side is Pillow World, a place where everything –- and everybody -– is made from pillows. While a few minutes pass outside for Jake and BMO, Finn lives an entire lifetime in Pillow World, becoming a bearded warrior (voiced by Johnathan Frakes) and having a family with the beautiful Roselinen. But if Finn dies in Pillow World, what happens to him in the "real" world?
The Pillow World of "Puhoy" is stuffed with visual gags like the Pillow Dragon that spurts feathers instead of blood, and the Pillownomicon, a stitched-together book of dark magic. The dreamlike tone of the episode also provides an ambiguous and bittersweet ending. Blink, and you'll miss one of the most important moments in "Adventure Time" history: The first appearance of the evil entity GOLB.
28. Betty (Season 5, Episode 48)
Some of the best "Adventure Time" episodes center on the tragicomic character Ice King, voiced by Tom Kenny. Initially portrayed as an over-the-top villain with a penchant for stealing princesses, later episodes revealed that Ice King was once a kind-hearted antiquarian named Simon Petrikov before a cursed crown corrupted him and stole his memories.
In "Betty," Bella Noche drains the crown of its power, transforming Ice King back into Simon. Sensing that he will die without his magic, Simon creates a time portal to say goodbye to his fiancée Betty (Lena Dunham), who disappeared 1,000 years ago. While Simon is resigned to his fate, Betty is resourceful, jumping through the portal into the present. Betty succeeds where wizards fail and defeats Bella Noche not with magic, but a kick to the head. Simon is saved but becomes the Ice King once more. With this episode, Betty embarks on a long quest to free Simon from the crown's curse that extends to the series finale, "Come Along with Me."
27. The Comet (Season 6, Episode 43)
The Season 6 finale sends Finn and Jake into the dark depths of space. Clinging to the rocket ship piloted by Orgalorg (the eldritch horror formerly known as Ice King's penguin Gunther), the duo tries to stop Orgalorg from consuming the incoming Catalyst Comet and gaining its power. "The Comet" is an example of "Adventure Time" as its most metaphysical, as Finn faces the possibility of dying in space or accepting the omniscient purple comet's offer of a new existence.
Beyond the joy of meeting a sentient space rock played by comedianTig Notaro, "The Comet" also features Finn's final meeting with his estranged criminal father, Martin (Stephen Root). Finn and Martin finally come to an understanding, but it's not a happy one; Finn accepts that his irresponsible, unloving father will never change and lets him go. This is an emotional turning point for 16-year-old Finn, and a bittersweet lesson that not all resolutions are satisfying, and not all endings are happy.
26. Marceline the Vampire Queen (Season 7, Episode 6)
"Adventure Time" took a bold new direction in Season 7 with the 8-part story arc "Stakes," which centers on the popular supporting character Marceline the Vampire Queen. ("Stakes" even includes a brand new theme song sung by Marceline's voice actor, Olivia Olson.) Over 1,000 years old, Marceline finally tires of her endless life and goes to her ex-girlfriend, Princess Bubblegum (Hynden Walch), to test an experimental cure for vampirism. Meanwhile, Finn and Jake investigate the mysterious life-draining attacks on local livestock. Can the cure work in time to save Marceline from an angry mob of vamp-hating villagers?
"Marceline the Vampire Queen" is a strong beginning for the show's first miniseries. Anchored by Olson's moving performance as a vampire ready to sacrifice her immortality for the "last adventure" of death, the episode sets the stage for a high-stakes (sorry) event. "Stakes" would prove so successful that two more miniseries followed: Season 8's "Islands" and Season 9's "Elements."
25. Vamps About (Season 7, Episode 8)
Hot on the heels of "Marceline the Vampire Queen" and "Everything Stays," "Vamps About" introduces the newly revived Vampire King and his courtly cohorts: the Hierophant, the Fool, the Moon, and the Empress. Divided on what to do with their freedom in the new world, the group separates, seemingly leaving the Vampire King (and his recently turned vampire cow) vulnerable to Marceline's attack. Without her vampiric powers, Marceline fails, but the lion-headed Vampire King is not quite the villain she remembers.
"Vamps About" is an essential episode for Marceline fans, as it finally reveals how she became a vampire. Her last fight with the Vampire King reveals a younger, cockier Marceline — a half-demon infused with vampire powers though she hasn't yet "paid the price" for them. In his final moments, the Vampire King punishes Marceline and ensures the survival of his species by biting her neck at the exact moment she stakes him. A high price to pay for victory.
24. Take Her Back (Season 7, Episode 11)
"Take Her Back"? Or should that be, "Stake Her Back"? Mis-hearing Princess Bubblegum's directions nearly leads Finn and Jake into calamity as they hunt down the vampire known as The Moon. Injured by the Hierophant in "May I Come In?", Marceline is unconscious and will soon die if she doesn't re-absorb The Moon's healing power. That power, unfortunately, makes it impossible for newly-minted vampire slayers Finn and Jake to stop the Moon before she kills the helpless Marceline. Luckily for everyone, Princess Bubblegum's loyal servant Peppermint Butler hears "Stake her back."
"Take Her Back" makes a risky move in removing Marceline from the action in an episode of her own miniseries. "Stakes" still delivers rich character development for the former vampire queen. The audience witnesses her dreams of being reunited with Simon and Betty and growing old with Bubblegum -– glimpses of the peaceful life she might have had if not for the violence swirling around her.
23. Three Buckets (Season 9, Episode 14)
Alas, poor Fern! First appearing in Season 8's "Reboot," Fern was created when Finn's magical Grass Sword merged with his Finn Sword (a sentient sword containing Finn's life essence). Fern soon assumed the form of Finn while still being entirely made of grass. Finn befriended his green lookalike, but Fern grew frustrated and angry over not being the "real" Finn despite his appearance and memories.
In "Three Buckets," this conflict rises to a boil. Fern traps Finn inside a temple, planning to leave him there while he returns home and steals his identity. Utilizing the hidden features in his robotic arm, Finn escapes and confronts Fern. Though Finn insists they don't have to fight, Fern means to kill him –- until a misheard command turns on the robotic arm's weed whacker setting. The final moments of this episode are some of the most devastating in the series, as the already traumatized Finn doesn't just kill his exact double. He kills someone he considered a brother.
22. Bonnibel Bubblegum (Season 10, Episode 4)
Some families are born, others are made. "Bonnibel Bubblegum" dusts off a lost chapter in the life of Princess Bubblegum, whose sweet exterior hides a Machiavellian mind and a talent for mad science. 800 years ago, while the Land of Ooo was still a post-apocalyptic wasteland, young Bubblegum created a new family out of gum. However, in true "Frankenstein" fashion, her creations turned on her. Bubblegum ultimately discovered Uncle Gumbald presenting a slideshow about her "bad vibes," as well as a potion to transform her into a happy (but dim-witted) piece of candy under his control.
Of course, Bubblegum survives -– she's narrating the story. But "Bonnibel Bubblegum" is a foundational episode for the pastel princess, as the darker, more ruthless side of her personality first emerges after her family's betrayal. Deep into its 10th season, "Adventure Time" still has secrets to reveal, all while setting up one of the show's greatest antagonists.
21. The First Investigation (Season 10, Episode 8)
"Embrace the paranormal, bro," Finn tells Jake in another revelatory episode from "Adventure Time" Season 10. Hearing about ghostly activity in their childhood home, Finn and Jake investigate with the hopes that the ghosts are their parents, the private investigators Margaret and Joshua. A videotape made by their parents shows signs of a poltergeist, and Jake and Finn are beset by strange apparitions and moving furniture. After seeing a vision of himself and his brothers as babies, Finn realizes that they aren't ghosts but "timeslips" -– the apparitions his parents saw were glimpses of Finn and Jake in the future.
Finn finds the source of his timeslips, but not before Jake is traumatized by the scene of his bizarre birth from Season 6's "Joshua and Margaret Investigations." As Season 10 rushes towards the series finale, "Adventure Time" picks up loose ends while delivering more surprises, such as Jake's first meeting with his alien "parent."
20. The Lich (Season 4, Episode 26)
Finn learns a painful lesson about hero worship in "The Lich." After Finn has a prophetic dream about the death of his hero, the giant warrior Billy (Lou Ferringo), he and Jake rush to warn him. Billy enlists the pair into a mission to destroy the Lich (Ron Perlman), an ancient being who wants to exterminate all life in the universe. Finn blindly follows Billy's commands, even when it means stealing gems from the crowns of Ooo's princesses, including Princess Bubblegum. Finn then discovers the truth: The Lich had already killed Billy and inhabited his body, and Finn inadvertently aided the cosmic monster.
In one episode, Finn loses his hero, betrays his friends, and falls for the Lich's trick. Idealistic as he is, Finn is still a young boy — but his bravery eventually overpowers his naivete. Determined to stop the Lich, Jake and Finn follow him through a portal to the unknown, leading to one of the most memorable cliffhanger endings in "Adventure Time" history.
19. May I Come In? (Season 7, Episode 10)
"Adventure Time" uses one of the traditional rules of vampire lore to their advantage in the fifth episode of "Stakes." The Hierophant (Paul Williams), a mustachioed vampire with shape-shifting abilities, hunts Marceline to propose an alliance against the Vampire King. Marceline is no longer a solitary slayer, teaming up with Finn, Jake, Bubblegum, and, most surprisingly, Lumpy Space Princess to slay the Vampire King's court. And as soon as the Hierophant refuses Marceline's demand to stop draining living beings, the fight is back on.
Fittingly, the Hierophant is taken down by another shape-shifter: Jake the Dog. Taking advantage of the "vampires can't enter a home unless they're invited in" rule, Jake shape-shifts into a house to protect his friends from the Hierophant. It's an ingenious solution and one of the most creative uses of Jake's power on the show. All it takes is a well-timed shove, and the stuffy, traditionalist Hierophant quickly learns the dangers of being old-fashioned.
18. The Dark Cloud (Season 7, Episode 13)
The gripping "Stakes" finale pits Marceline against the dark, stormy essence of vampirism itself. After an explosion in Princess Bubblegum's cabin frees the vampiric essence extracted from the Vampire King, it forms into a walking cloud of pure evil that menaces the village below. But first, Marceline has to defeat her self-doubt, as she blames the calamity on herself and her desire to be mortal. An unintentionally inspiring talk with the Ice King puts Marceline back in the game, and she uses her soul-sucking power to absorb the dark cloud into herself. Marceline is the Vampire Queen once again, but this time it's on her terms.
"Stakes" concludes with Marceline singing her mother's lullaby, "Everything Stays" over a montage of life returning to normal in Ooo. The gentle song about time and change wraps a bow around Marceline's story arc. She may still be a vampire, but she's no longer the person she once was. Marceline has finally grown up.
17. Crossover (Season 7, Episode 23)
Superhero comic books are a key inspiration for the aptly-titled "Adventure Time" episode "Crossover." World-shaking superhero comic events are likely to include any mix of the following: an altered timeline, a threat to the multiverse, a hero fighting an evil version of himself, and of course, a crossover. This episode has them all.
Prismo summons Finn and Jake with an urgent problem. The Farm World created in "Finn the Human" still exists in an alternate timeline, complete with the dangerous ice wizard version of Finn. Transported across space and time, Finn comes face-to-face with his alternate self. With the help of the Enchiridion, an ancient book that can open portals to other dimensions, Farm World Finn intends to add the multiverse to his "empire of frost." Unwilling to kill Farm World Finn, our heroes learn that he is the puppet of that universe's Lich. Saving the multiverse is one thing, but ultimately, Finn wants to save himself.
16. Hide and Seek (Season 8, Episode 24)
"Adventure Time" followed the success of Season 7's "Stakes" miniseries with Season 8's "Islands." The 8-part series chronicled Finn and Jake's voyage across the ocean to Founder's Island, the secret hiding place of humanity. Accompanying them is Susan Strong, a super buff woman who first appeared in Season 2 and gave Finn the hope that he wasn't the last human alive.
In "Hide and Seek," Susan remembers her past. She was a "Seeker" named Kara, conditioned via implants to prevent anyone from leaving the island. Kara believed that the island was a utopia and that Seekers were only protecting people from the dangers off-shore, but her best friend Frieda dreamed of exploring the wider world. When Frieda tried to escape, Kara's programming was activated, and she was forced to stop her. "Adventure Time" has danced across several genres across eight seasons, but "Hide and Seek" marks a shift into the realm of dystopian science-fiction.
15. Wake Up (Season 6, Episode 1)
Finn the Human gets one step closer to discovering his origin in the Season 6 premiere, "Wake Up." Initially believed to be the only human in the Land of Ooo, the Season 1 episode "Memories of Boom-Boom Mountain" established that Finn was abandoned as a baby and adopted by Jake's parents, Joshua and Margaret. In "Wake Up," Finn has recently learned that his biological father is alive and in a place called the Citadel. Wanting to find him, Finn and Jake go to Prismo for help, but Prismo warns them that the Citadel is a prison for beings who have committed cosmic crimes.
Prismo gives Jake and Finn the unusual task of retrieving a sleeping old man from his hut. Prismo, who until now has always appeared as a pink shadow on a wall, reveals that the old man is his corporeal form and that he will disappear if the man wakes up –- a cosmic crime. Finn is about to meet his father, but the price he pays may be too high.
14. Is That You? (Season 6, Episode 19)
A fan-favorite character comes back from the dead in a twistily-plotted "Adventure Time" episode. Still mourning his friend Prismo, slain by the Lich in "Wake Up," Jake eats the last of Prismo's homemade pickles and falls asleep. The next day, Finn sees several Jakes reenacting moments from previous episodes (including a reprise of Jake's "Bacon Pancakes" song from "Burning Low"), but these walking memories soon explode.
The real Jake has slipped into a dream world as part of a past version of Prismo's "Plan B" in case of his death. Reenacting Jake's pickle ritual from the previous night, Finn falls into Prismo's dream. The convoluted resurrection scheme, which Finn calls "as rickety as yoga balls," involves multiple time anomalies, a heady dose of dream logic, and the power of friendship. "Is That You?" is a prime example of how much mind-bending adventure the animated series can stuff into an airtight 11 minutes.
13. Checkmate (Season 7, Episode 12)
In "Checkmate," the penultimate episode of the "Stakes" miniseries, Marceline has regained her powers by defeating the Vampire King's court. But when she is ready for a rematch, the King refuses to fight –- or bite her. After so many centuries, the Vampire King has realized the futility of their battles and the "good vs. evil" paradigm trapping them in predetermined roles.
One advantage of immortality is understanding why society keeps making the same mistakes. As Marceline says, "Everything repeats over and over again. No one learns anything, 'cause no one lives long enough to see the pattern, I guess." Marceline and the Vampire King are now in a unique position to change their fates, with the King offering to take Princess Bubblegum's vampirism cure. The conflict between Marceline and the Vampire King seemingly resolves without bloodshed, but there is still one "Stakes" episode left, and a dark cloud is gathering on the horizon.
12. Helpers (Season 8, Episode 26)
After 250 "Adventure Time" episodes, Finn the Human finally meets his mother in "Helpers." The seventh chapter in the "Islands" miniseries, "Helpers" brings Finn, Jake, and Kara to Founder's Island, the last stronghold for humanity. Searching for his mother, Finn finds not one but several Dr. Minervas, which are actually "Helper" robots built in her image. The Helpers capture Finn and Jake, but a DNA scan reveals Finn's identity and they bring him to the real Minerva, whose consciousness has been uploaded into virtual reality.
In a scene that is more gut-wrenching in the pandemic era, Minerva tells Finn that a virus ravaged the island after he disappeared. The virus was especially fatal to healthcare workers, and Minera uploaded her mind and programmed the robot Helpers to protect the rest of humanity. Massive trauma has turned Minerva into the ultimate overprotective mother, and now that Finn has returned to her, he may never be able to leave.
11. Obsidian (Distant Lands, Episode 2)
Discussion of the best "Adventure Time" episodes would not be complete without mentioning "Bubbline," the romance between Princess Bubblegum and Marceline the Vampire Queen. When the series began, their relationship status was officially "frenemies," but they grew closer over ten seasons, with several allusions made to them having a more complicated history. The series finale sealed their romance with a kiss, and "Obsidian" shows their happily-ever-after.
"Obsidian" is the second episode of "Adventure Time: Distant Lands," a quartet of 45-minute specials streaming on HBO Max. Now living together in domestic harmony, Marceline and Bubblegum are summoned to help the Glass Kingdom defeat a monster they faced before, with disastrous consequences. Tensions between them mount, with flashbacks illuminating their relationship from their exciting first meeting to their painful breakup. The Glass Kingdom tore Marceline and Bubblegum apart, but can it bring them closer together? "Obsidian" is "Adventure Time" at its most romantic.
10. Jake the Dog (Season 5, Episode 2)
"Jake the Dog" picks up after the cliffhanger ending of "Finn the Human," and finds the titular canine still in the Time Cube with Prismo. The episode deftly shifts between humor and horror, with Finn Mertens' descent into magical madness playing on Prismo's wall-sized tv screen while the Wish Master and Jake chill out in a hot tub.
Finn says goodbye to the family he never knew in his original timeline, but it is too late to stop the mutagenic bomb from triggering the apocalypse. Jake's obliviousness to Finn's peril has a surprising result, as Prismo is won over by Jake's charm (and his love of pickles). Prismo admits that the wishes he grants are all a "monkey's paw kind of thing" and guides Jake into making the wish that will save all of existence. Spinning the end of the world into a heartwarming tale about the power of friendship is a trick only a show like "Adventure Time" can achieve.
9. Escape from the Citadel (Season 6, Episode 2)
There are television episodes that go down in fan history as one that "changed everything," and "Escape from the Citadel" fits that description. In this continuation of "Wake Up," Finn and Jake follow the Lich to the cosmic prison called the Citadel. Once there, they free Finn's father Martin Mertens, but Martin is a coward who can't even explain to Finn why he abandoned him.
Finn's disappointment turns to horror as the Lich's corrosive power releases the other cosmic criminals from captivity. The Lich plans to unleash their evil on an unsuspecting universe, but when Finn splashes his skeletal form with the healing blood of a Citadel Sentinel, the Lich is "rebooted" (as Jake says) into a giant baby. But in another unexpected blow to Finn, he loses his right arm while attempting to stop Martin's escape -– something foreshadowed in visions and alternate timelines since Season 2. Finally, Finn entrusts the new baby Lich to the care of Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig, proving that he is already a better man than his deadbeat dad.
8. Everything Stays (Season 7, Episode 7)
What happened to Marceline in the centuries between her childhood in the ruins of the Mushroom War and her present-day escapades in the Land of Ooo? Luckily for viewers (and unluckily for Marceline), the Vampire Queen's life flashes before her eyes as she's tied to a windmill and exposed to sunlight. Once upon a time, she was a vampire hunter who protected the last remaining human tribes on Ooo. Marceline used her half-demon soul-sucking abilities to kill blood-suckers and absorb their powers. Bubblegum's cure saves Marceline from the sun's rays, but it may doom everyone else: The vampires Marceline once defeated are now free to drain Ooo dry.
The adventures of Marcy the Vampire Slayer are fun, but the standout scene of the episode is Marceline's memory of her mother. Voiced by former "Adventure Time" storyboarder and "Steven Universe" creator Rebecca Sugar, Marceline's mother sings "Everything Stays," a gentle lullaby about the passage of time that becomes the emotional core of the entire "Stakes" saga.
7. The Hall of Egress (Season 7, Episode 24)
A dungeon crawl takes Finn the Human down a strange path to "The Hall of Egress." Alone in a mysterious cave, Finn stands before a doorway to the Hall of Egress. But when he passes through, he finds himself standing in front of the door again. After several rounds of trial and error, Finn learns that he can pass through the Hall's labyrinth as long as he keeps his eyes closed — but after opening his eyes even once, he seemingly leaves the cave and ends up back at the starting point. How can Finn escape a labyrinth with no exit?
"The Hall of Egress" is an episode of pure fantasy, relying on mood, atmosphere, and imagery over action and exposition. The viewers simply follow Finn as he unravels the riddle and hunts for an exit. The result is an enigmatic and intriguing "Adventure Time" episode. In the end, what does it all mean? To quote Finn, "No comment."
6. The Light Cloud (Season 8, Episode 27)
"The Light Cloud" concludes the "Islands" miniseries with a heartfelt goodbye. Minerva refuses to let Finn leave Founder's Island, even supplying a helpful virtual simulation of Finn and Jake drowning via robot. Finn's first fight with his mother is about his right to freedom, though the selfless Minerva sincerely believes that she is protecting everyone.
Minerva begins uploading the islanders' minds into the Light Cloud, where they will be free of their "meat bodies." Finn intervenes by uploading memories of his heroic deeds and showing Minerva that she shouldn't fear the outside world. Realizing that her son is a "helper" like her, Minerva relents. Finn gets closure with Minerva that he never got from his father Martin, and with it, a better understanding of himself. "Islands" answers several long-running questions about Finn, Susan Strong, and the fate of humanity, with more than a few tears shed along the way.
5. Together Again (Distant Lands, Episode 3)
Finn and Jake are "Together Again." Finn and Jake are ... dead? The third "Distant Lands" special, "Together Again" is the epilogue to the entire "Adventure Time" saga. Several years after "Obsidian," Finn dreams of an adventure with Jake that resembles the more carefree, innocent episodes of Season 1. But in reality, he has passed away.
The elderly Finn enters the Land of the Land, resumes his teenage form, and searches for Jake, who died years before. Jake is serene in the 50th Dead World, but something is rotten in the Land of the Dead. New Death, the rebellious teenage son of the old Death, is destroying all the paths to reincarnation. Somehow adventure keeps finding Finn and Jake, even after they've died.
"Come Along with Me" is such a rich and satisfying series finale that perhaps "Together Again" didn't need to exist, but it is wonderful that it does. "Together Again" is like a reunion with dearly missed friends, and ithadmany fans in tears.
4. I Remember You (Season 4, Episode 25)
Whimsical, candy-colored "Adventure Time" had tackled difficult topics in its early seasons, like Finn's fear of death in "The New Frontier" or Marceline's troubled relationship with her father in "It Came From the Nightosphere." But Season 4's "I Remember You" was a landmark episode for "Adventure Time," revealing a previously unknown relationship between two characters with heartbreaking sophistication and depth.
Marceline is distressed when the Ice King comes looking for her to record a song. One thousand years ago, Simon Petrikov took care of young Marceline in the aftermath of the Mushroom War. Simon's cursed crown sapped his sanity, gradually turning him into the goofy, belligerent Ice King. Pained that he no longer knows her, Marceline finds an old note from Simon among the Ice King's lyrics, in which he asks her to forgive him for whatever he does "when I don't remember you."
The emotional impact of "I Remember You" remains powerful today, and the vocal performances of Tom Kenny and Olivia Olson are especially moving. The story resonated with many viewers who saw the Ice King's situation as an extended metaphor for Alzheimer's disease, with novelist Lev Grossman ("The Magicians") calling the episode "very affecting” (via NPR).
3. Simon & Marcy (Season 5, Episode 14)
Given their popularity and lasting resonance with fans, it is unsurprising that "I Remember You" and its thematic sequel, "Simon & Marcy," are both ranked so high on this list and so close together. Who could bear to split Simon and Marcy up again?
Explaining her history with Ice King to Finn and Jake, Marceline tells them that she once fell ill when she was traveling with Simon in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Simon did his best to entertain little Marcy, even recreating an episode of "Cheers" from behind a broken television. But every time he used the crown to protect them, he lost more of his memories. While scouring the city for a can of soup for Marcy, they ran into mutated victims of the Mushroom War, and Simon had to put on the crown one more time.
"Simon & Marcy" is "Adventure Time" at its best, and it achieves the miracle of being simultaneously funny, touching, and harrowing. The production staff pitched this episode to the network as "'The Road' except for kids" (via Entertainment Weekly), which is dark but fitting. Anyone who watches "Simon & Marcy" will never hear the "Cheers" theme song the same way again.
2. Min & Marty (Season 8, Episode 25)
The adolescent experience is plagued by existential questions. "Who am I?" "Where did I come from?" "Am I like my parents?" Season 8's "Min & Marty" reaches deep into the past to tell the story of Finn's biological parents — how they met, how they fell in love, and how they lost Finn.
Finn's parents lived on Founder's Island. Minerva Campbell was a kind and caring doctor, and Martin Mertens was a conman who offered safe passage off the island for "hiders" only to sell them out to the Seekers. They fell in love and settled into domestic bliss with their newborn Finn, but when Martin's past caught up with him, he fled with the baby. Sacrificing himself to distract the island's robotic sentry, Martin left Finn on the raft that eventually carried him to Ooo. And Minerva was left alone.
"Min & Marty" is equal parts tender and tragic, introducing a loving family before tearing them apart. But more importantly, "Min & Marty" shows how their traits –- Martin's adventurousness and Minerva's kindness -– were passed on to their son, helping make Finn the great hero he is.
1. Come Along with Me (Season 10, Episodes 13, 14, 15, 16)
Singer Ashley Eriksson's "Island Song (Come Along with Me)," the ending theme for almost every "Adventure Time" episode since the show began, lends its name to the series finale. These final four episodes –- which aired on Cartoon Network as a single 44-minute special -– wrap up ten seasons of action and adventure with magic, majesty, and music.
Framed as a story told by BMO in the far future to new (but familiar-looking) heroes Shermy and Beth, "Come Along with Me" begins with an all-out war between Princess Bubblegum and her Uncle Gumbald for the fate of the Candy Kingdom. Finn uses a hallucination potion in hopes of peacefully resolving the differences between Bubblegum and Gumbald, as well as the conflict between him and the revived Fern. If the Gum War ends, that still might not be enough to save the world from the sudden appearance of GOLB, an eldritch entity of evil and disorder.
"Come Along with Me" is a celebratory finale and a love letter to the fans who have followed all 10 seasons. Nearly every significant (and not so significant) character appears for one last bow, including Flame Princess, Lemongrab, Jermaine, and the Ancient Psychic Tandem War Elephant. Friendships are forged, sacrifices are made, and yes, there is that long-awaited kiss between Marceline and Bubblegum. The adventure never ends on "Adventure Time."