- "Tickled Pinky", the episode where Rocko has to have his appendix removed and has a dream before his surgery about spending one last day with an anthropomorphized version of it, a'la the "Make A Wish Foundation." It still seems to have been tailored to wring tears from anyone who's had to have organs removed, silly as it may be.
- After waking up shocked to discover that his appendix has been removed, he tearfully takes it home in a jar and buries it in his back yard. Fortunately, Angel!Pinky, along with all his baby teeth and tonsils, visit just before ascending to heaven and gives Rocko a proper goodbye.
- At the end of the first half of "Cruisin'", Rocko, fuming about how bitter and misanthropic Heffer's grandfather is, gets some advice from another elderly passenger that reduces him to tears."You're going to be old one day, junior, if you're lucky. And then you too will feel the heartbreak of a prune diet or lost memories... the pain and loneliness of losing a loved one. Maybe then you'll understand why old-timers aren't always the bright ray of sunshine you find yourself to be, eh boy?"
- In "Kiss Me I'm Foreign", Filburt has to pretend he's married to Rocko to prevent him from being deported. A few scenes later, he has to break up with Dr. Hutchison. Seeing the normally perky Hutchison and Filburt cross paths with sadness in their eyes can get rather depressing. Thankfully, they get back together in the end when Rocko gets his green card.
- The final scene in "Leap Frogs". After an entire gut-bustingly hilarious episode of Mrs. Bighead trying to seduce Rocko, she suddenly becomes a sympathetic figure when Mr. Bighead comes home and insults her openly. Rocko then, despite having a great disgust for Mrs. Bighead, kisses her on the hand and tells Mr. Bighead that Mrs. Bighead is a fine woman who can have any man she wants. Mr. Bighead gets jealous, but then realizes that Rocko is right and Bev and Ed make love by breaking plates with their tongues). The scene is a defining moment for Rocko, but one that many for years didn't get to see. It was a banned episode (only after three airings) but probably one of the finest of the series.
- Rocko being shown the error of his ways in "Power Trip" when Really Really Big Man not only lets him see how his abuse of power led to Filburt landing in the street to get trampled, but how if he doesn't clean up his act, he's on his way to becoming just like his boss. Rocko tearfully apologizes to both Big Man and his poor friend, now wrapped in bandages from his many injuries.
- In the accompanying episode To Heck and Back, Heffer has his own revelation upon being banished to Hell (or rather Heck) after choking on a chicken bone. Hes shown past incidents on how his gluttonous ways have hurt his family and Rocko on several occasions, after which Heffer is crying remorsefully.
- In "Junk Junkies", Rocko regretting selling his pogo stick, especially when reminded of the memories of the pogo stick from Mr. Onion Head, his favorite toy as a kid.
- As often as Ed Bighead is depicted as the grouchy Jerkass he is, there are a number of episodes showing a more humble side of him and just how he came to be so bitter. He's feeling the stress of age and not looking like the toad he once was, he has a strained relationship with his only child and doesn't seem to have much to live for besides his loving wife. "Nothing To Sneeze At," the episode where Bev gets a nose, makes it clear just how much worse he'd be off without her: the two of them cry when Bev realizes her sense of smell means she can't be around his horrible body odor and he has a literal meltdown (as in he melts into a puddle of goo from shock) when he momentarily thinks that she's died! The old timer's speech in "Crusin'" could easily apply to Ed: he isn't the way he is without reason.
- The B-plot of "Spitballs" involves Heffer trying to get an autograph from baseball player Spike Hammerhead. Towards the end of the episode, Heffer finally gets the chance to receive one, only for Hammerhead to reject him because he doesn't have a pen. Devastated, Heffer starts to cry until Hammerhead gives him the spitball he used during the game.
- Imaged above, in "Who's for Dinner?", Heffer is distraught that the Wolfe family he grew up for years had adopted him (with the intent to fatten him up and eat him before accepting him). He tries to find his real parents only to get rudely dismissed by an image of his birth father and told he looks just like another one of his hundred "ugly" kids. It was after this that Heffer realized that the literal wolves that raised him were his real family after all, leading to a happy ending. According to Joe Murry, this episode was never intended to be taken seriously, and was surprised to find several television critics calling such a silly cartoon "groundbreaking." Nevertheless, poor Heffer's devastation at the discovery that the family of wolves he was raised by are not, in fact, his biological family is heartbreaking.George: Now, Heffer, I'm still your father.
Heffer: You're not my father! You're just some jerk in wolf's clothing!
- In "Rocko's Modern Christmas," Ed makes sure no one goes to Rocko's party. Worse, no one cancels on Rocko, leaving him waiting with Spunky for hours for someone to show up. Then he tries to call his family, but all the lines are busy.Rocko: And it didn't even snow. I don't think I'll ever find any Christmas cheer.
- "Future Schlock": Rocko, Heffer, and Spunky being blasted off in space and and an elderly Filburt telling his grown children in the future that he never saw them again and that they were gone forever in space. Fortunately, they return near the end of the episode.
- Filburt's panic attack in "The Big Question". After having visions of Widow Hutchinson and Tiger mocking him over his feelings for Dr. Hutchinson, who's the next one he sees? Himself, coldly telling him that he isn't strong enough to propose to her and that even if he was she'd never accept. Understandably, the real Filburt is horrified before he starts attacking the vision of himself in a fit of rage.Panic Attack!Filburt: You don't have the courage to ask Hutch!
Filburt: (terrified) Wh-Wha?
Panic Attack!Filburt: And even if you did, she'd never marry you anyway!
Filburt: No! NO! THAT'S IT! I LOVE HER! AND I'M! GONNA! MARRY! HER!
- Heffer and Filburt thinking Rocko has been run over in "Hypno Puppy Luv".
- "Road Rash" is all about Rocko and Heffer trekking across the country to see a natural wonder before it collapses in on itself. They get there just in time, then moments later the whole formation is bulldozed away and replaced with a parking lot. For anyone who has had to witness an ecosystem get replaced by something mundane, it can hit hard.
- Ed Bighead initially refusing to accept his transgender daughter in Static Cling. Watching Rachel frown again after finally being happy with herself is pretty crushing, as is Ed's surprisingly realistic struggle to accept change. After all this, Ed's decision to welcome Rachel back into his life at the end can elicit some happy tears.
Tear Jerker / Rocko's Modern Life