So, Pokemon. I used to live, breath, and speak Pokemon all the time – and in some respects, I'm still very much addicted to the franchise as much as I think the quality has dipped recently. When I was younger, I was that guy that the neighborhood kids would consult for help. I own Japanese carts for both Green and Diamond (which I got before the English releases of the fourth generation). I recently finished up a third playthrough of White. And while I can't tell you the exact levels Pikachu can learn Thunderbolt, I can list the numerous ways you can sequence break in Red and Blue, both intended and unintended. Hell, I even enjoy following the competitive scene even though I don't partake in it myself.
It's safe to say I know my way around the franchise. And over the years, I've trained thousands of the things. Of course, if you're reading this now, you're here to see which of them have become part of that elite few I consider my favorites. I don't have any real criteria, some of it is based on design, others just happened to be at the right place at the right time to make it on my team. The only rule I have set in place is I only have one Pokemon per evolution line, and I won't be including any generation 7 Pokemon.
Either way, these lucky 20 have earned the honor of making this list after much deliberation. Believe me, I agonized for several hours narrowing down the last couple. So without any further stalling, here's my top 20 Pokemon (at this current point in time, at least).
To be quite honest, I'm not sure if Fletchinder belongs on this list. I debated about putting in a monster I have more personal history with here, such as Ho-oh, but at the end of the day this is my list and I really want to give props to Fletchinder. It's brilliant. In fact, I'd call it a perfect being if Talonflame simply didn't exist. Fletchinder is the perfect combination of cute and badass, looking sleek yet somehow still powerful – a wonderful evolution to one of my favorite early route birds. Sorry Talonflame, you just don't do it for me! I like Fletchinder so much I forced myself through Y a second time just to use it and a couple of others I missed out on the first time through.
Once upon a time, I considered Vaporeon one of my absolute favorites, ranking number 3 among every Pokemon. While 19 is quite a fall from grace, I still adore Vaporeon. It's quite a powerful Pokemon to put on your team, at least for the single-player, as it's a bulky and strong water-type with access to moves like Surf and Ice Beam. It proved to be a valuable team member when I was younger, helping me take on the Elite 4 in Yellow. Plus it's blue, which is my favorite color.
Fun fact: I liked Vaporeon so much I used to use a username inspired by it (and another favorite) online.
Porygon-Z is one of those rare few Pokemon that's on this list purely on the merits of its design. All three Porygon are amazing in their own way, but what pushes Porygon-Z over the edge for me is it's concept. A computer generated Pokemon infected with a virus, that causes its graphics to glitch out? It's a fun little nod to the glitches that the original games were rife with, and it's also quite powerful in its own right.
Snivy is a wonderful little monster. It's design packs so much personality that it immediately got named “Smugleaf” upon its reveal and reached memetic status for quite a while in the lead up to generation 5. For me, it's also one of my favorite starters in the series. It's design elements are very cohesive, feeling both snake-like and plant-like, and that same personality that caught everyone else's attention also made me fall in love with it. The final form Serperior is also a fantastic Pokemon design, but Snivy represents a time when my hype levels for Black and White were at an all-time high.
Nidoking is one of the quintessential Pokemon designs from the first generation. His design wouldn't feel out of place in a kaiju movie, and it has the power to back it up. Nidoking and his counterpart Nidoqueen have quite a varied movepool, with access to multiple types even in the first generation, and the stats to back up those powerful moves. Plus you can absolutely crack the game wide open, due to how early you can get one. When people say Pokemon from generation 1 are the best, they're talking about Pokemon like Nidoking.
If Nidoking is a kaiju, then Tyranitar is the king of the kaiju. If you don't know me, then you should know that I grew up on Godzilla films, and loved dinosaurs like nearly every other boys my age. Tyranitar absolutely appeals to my inner child. It's a powerful Pokemon with a powerful design. And if you haven't seen it's appearance in the fourth Pokemon movie, it definitely lives up to its Godzilla-inspiration.
Continuing the trend of having bipedal monsters filling out my list, Krookodile is the embodiment of cool. It's so cool that it's eyes are shaped like sunglasses. It has an ability called Moxie, which means Krookodile grows more powerful for every consecutive Pokemon it defeats in battle. And it's a friggin desert crocodile. THAT'S how cool Krookodile is.
Do I have really have to say anything about this one? Lugia is one of those Pokemon that's universally beloved. It's simple, sleek, and powerful looking, yet it has the presence that's befitting of a legendary Pokemon. Lugia and its counterpart Ho-oh are also some of my favorite legends from a lore perspective, as their presence can be felt throughout Johto without being thrown directly in your face.
Dragons dragons dragons dragons. Dragons are awesome. Rayquaza is a dragon. Rayquaza is awesome. Long, scary, and green, Rayquaza is a very dragony-dragon. Design-wise, it has a lot of design elements that tie it into fellow legends Kyogre and Groudon (both very cool Pokemon in their own right), and the yellow-on-black eyes give it that extra bit of intimidating flair. Not to mention the battle theme it shares with the other two weather legends is one of the best out of the entire series. For extra awesome, it even has a pitch-black shiny coloration.
Snorlax is a Pokemon that only eats and sleeps. I can identify with that so much it isn't even funny.
But seriously, it's design really speaks to the strengths of the first generation. It's simple, yet incredibly iconic. Snorlax is also difficult to capture in battle, sponging hits left and right and sleeping off any damage and status effect you deal to it. Those who do successfully capture Snorlax have the opportunity to add a mighty brick wall to their team, just as capable of dishing out damage as it is at sponging it up.
10) Primal Groudon
Top 10? Things are really heating up now.
...Oh, it's just you, Primal Groudon. Waaay back in the distant past of the early 2000s, I remember picking out Pokemon Ruby because it had another cool dinosaur-type thing on the front. At the time, putting the legendaries front and center was a unique thing for Pokemon, and seeing the tangible effects that they had on the environment was amazing to me at the time.
However, this entry isn't about any regular old Groudon. This is PRIMAL GROUDON, a Pokemon so overflowing with power that its body is visibly leaking hot magma. It's underbelly is a scorched black color, pairing well with the red, orange, and yellow of the main body. And it gains a fire sub-typing, which is always a recipe for instant awesome.
From a legendary monster of the Earth, to a baby manta ray? Am I nuts? Maybe.
I know baby Pokemon aren't very popular among the fanbase, but I've always had a soft-spot for the little guys. By their very nature, babies require the designers to figure out what really makes the evolved form work, and shrink it down to a bite-sized form that's adorable and still works as a design. And Mantyke just works for me. It's basically a little ball with cute little flippers that's blue and has a smiley face on its back. If you don't find that cute then I'm not sure we can be friends. :(
Wait a minute. Not just one baby Pokemon, but two? I've GOTTA be nuts. Well, spoilers: this isn't the last one on the list.
Azurill is a Pokemon that wouldn't feel out of place in a Kirby game. It's got an almost perfect roundness to it. The fact it has a big squishy tail that it sits on it just SO CUTE. And the sad face just makes me feel so bad for it. If you're not convinced that it's cute, then just read this Pokedex entry:
“Azurill spins its tail as if it were a lasso, then hurls it far. The momentum of the throw sends its body flying, too. Using this unique action, one of these Pokémon managed to hurl itself a record 33 feet. “
Do you want to know why Aggron is awesome? Besides the fact that it's a metal dinosaur, it also has access to the Rock Head and Head Smash combo, allowing to throw out STAB 150 base power attacks without fearing recoil damage. 'Nuff said.
More perfect roundness! Togepi is adorable, Togetic is cute, but Togekiss is the realization of cute and adorable. It regains the egg-shape of the base form, while the wings from Togetic grow to full size. I love the little specks of color across its belly, adding a dash of color to an otherwise solid-white monster that makes it a bit more lively.
Togekiss isn't just a cute round bird though – it holds its own in battle just well. The Serene Grace ability makes facing its Air Slash a nightmare for any foe unfortunate enough to move slower than Togekiss.
Braviary is two things:
A badass bird
American as fuck
Braviary is just a really fun concept. Since Unova is a region based on New York, it only made sense to cram all things American into one Pokemon. And they managed to make it work! Braviary is a red, white, and blue colored eagle that wears a Native American headdress. Even its Pokedex entries feel quite American, with talk of respect for fellow Braviary injured in battle and fighting for their friends. It's a parody of the stereotypical American, but it's one done with love and respect for the better parts of our culture.
At this point in the list you guys should know my tastes pretty well. If it's cute, a lizard, or a bird, I'm pretty likely to love it. Feraligatr isn't cute, a bird, or a cute bird, but it is a pretty beefy reptile. And Feraligatr is also a Pokemon I have a lot sentimental value for. It's one of the few Pokemon I put in the effort to raise up to level 100 legitimately. In fact, it's the very first of my Pokemon to reach level 100 without the assistance of Missingo.-generated Rare Candies. For battling, Feraligatr continues the trend of water Pokemon being very valuable assets on any team. They hit hard and take hits like they're nothing.
When I first learned there was going to be a luchador hawk Pokemon, I knew it was going straight onto my team ASAP. I didn't realize it would quickly Flying Press its way into my heart, however.
I can't exactly qualify why exactly I love Hawlucha so much. I can talk about how much I love the design, or the concept. I love how unique Flying Press is as an attack, and how it perfectly fits the aesthetic of a wrestling Pokemon. But at the end of the day, I'm not sure that matters. Hawlucha simply exists, and I love it. The fact that they haven't put it into Pokken is just criminal.
Okay, before you say anything, I just want you to know you have Masahiro Sakurai to blame for this one. He's the mad genius that put Pichu into Super Smash Bros. Melee as a clone character of Pikachu. Seen by many (if not everyone) as a joke character, it's easy to dismiss Pichu as an inferior clone. For me, however, Pichu was one of the most fun characters in the game. Compared to Pikachu, Pichu was faster but frailer, encouraging you to weave in and out to hit them quickly while trying to avoid getting hit yourself. The fact that it also hurt itself when using certain attacks mean you had to be more astute when throwing attacks out. It sounds silly, but learning which of Pichu's moves didn't hurt me was one of the first steps I took to grow beyond a simple button masher.
Also, it's another super cute baby Pokemon.
Once upon a time, a young 4-year old KeithTheGeek was given a Pokemon card. On this Pokemon card was Charmander. I didn't know what a Pokemon was, I just knew that I liked Charmander. Some time later, I got a glimpse of the Charizard card. Those who were around in that era of Pokemon knew that the Charizard card was the greatest thing that ever existed. So time passed and I started watching the Pokemon anime.
Soon enough my fifth birthday was coming up. On that day, I was given a clear purple Gameboy Color – my first game console I could call my own – and two games. One of those games was the rather forgettably bad Godzilla game for the OG Gameboy. The other, however, was Pokemon Red. Right there on the cover of box was Charizard, and even better than that, I was able to start off with the very same Pokemon that was on my first card.
I don't remember very many details of my first Pokemon journey. I don't remember which Pokemon I raised, if I even ever beat the mythical Elite Four that I heard stories about. But I do know that the entire time I played it, I had Charizard standing by my side. Even to this day, I tend to put Charizard on my team when given the chance. It might not be the strongest Pokemon, it might not have the best design, but to little 5-year old me it was the gosh dang coolest Pokemon ever. And Charizard STILL is that to me after all of these years.
My affinity to Charizard extends to other games, as well. Charizard is one of my favorite fighters in Smash Bros. For the very brief amount of time I played Pokken, I mained Charizard, who's beefy and hard hitting attacks and grabs fit me like a glove. Even my first amiibo was a Charizard amiibo.
I could keep gushing about Charizard, if I wanted to. But there's really nothing else for me to say. Charizard is my personal favorite Pokemon, and always will be. Here's to another 20 years of love for my best bro.