Welcome to PokéMonday friends (and possibly attentive enemies)! I thought for a moment I might look at myself inwardly, focussed particularly on a subject that holds a dear place in my heart. Today, I am sharing with you my list of the top 5 Pokémon. Choosing your favourite Pokémon is not dissimilar to choosing your favourite child (“This one might be faster, but that one can explode!!” is an oft-heard comparison of children, for example), but fortunately for me, I’ve had over two decades of careful study and consideration to inform my opinions.
In this article, I’m looking solely at the original 151 Pokémon found in the first generation of games on the classic Game Boy, so eager Nosepass fans will have to wait for their time to shine. In case this wasn’t already clear, this top 5 list is based solely on the views of the writer. This isn’t meant to be an analytical case study on which Pokémon is the most popular (Pikachu), most powerful (Mewtwo) or most attractive (Nidoking, obviously).
With all these formalities out of the way, I lead you down the hallowed halls of my top 5 favourite Pokémon from Red, Blue and Yellow. You may not be able to catch ‘em all on your journey, but do yourself a favour – at least try to nab these guys.
In case you haven’t played the original games in a while, you might need reacclimatising to exactly how weird the metagame is at times. Back in the wild days when awakening from sleep took an entire turn and focus energy was coded incorrectly in that it actually reduced your chance of landing a critical hit, Alakazam reigned supreme. The signature psychic-type had a few tricks up its sleeve that alas fell to the wayside in the sequels.
For starters, it had a lofty base special statistic of 135, allowing it to sponge up magical techniques just as well as it dished them out. When special attack and special defence had a bitter divorce in gen 2, poor old Alakazam was left crippled. Though its offensive ability remained at 135, its special defence tumbled down to a conservative 85.
Its lacking physical defence was quickly improved with the move Reflect. In later games, the technique would halve damage for the whole team for five turns, but in RBY? That sucker was for Alakazam and Alakazam only. We’re talking doubled defence with no crummy turn limit. It would set that shield up, cackle its wizardy laugh (I always assumed it was a wizard) and lay waste to its hapless foes.
Its time on the top may have been brief, but it still exists competitively as a kamikaze sweeper in some circles. At the very least, it remains a spoon-wielding weirdo with a fantastic moustache, and I think that is a splendid thing to be.
There are a lot of crucial decisions aspiring Pokémon masters must make on their journey. Almost as impactful as which starter would join you on your quest was the choice you had to make when you obtained your only Eevee from that random table in Celadon City. Vaporeon, Jolteon or Flareon? …And while we’re at it, what was that Poké Ball doing there to begin with? Did Eevee’s original owner just leave it there while they nipped out to the loo? It’s a bit of a murky moral quandary.
For reasons I cannot recall but have never once regretted, I chose to evolve the adorable ball of fluff into the sparkly mermaid monster, Vaporeon. Loaded to the gills (get it?) with delicious, valuable HP, Vaporeon was sure to stick around in a fight for quite some time. Back in the early days, the strategy was using Rest to fully recover its health, then shouting desperately at your Game Boy while you waited for it to wake up. In later gens, the Wish/Protect combo makes for a much less stressful alternative, and a great deal less taxing on your vocal chords, too.
Though there is no shortage of viable water-type Pokémon to take into battle, Vaporeon has always remained my absolute favourite. Visually appealing, eminently useful in combat, and super fun to listen to (its cry sounds like some kind of pretentious bird by my ear), it keeps reappearing in my roster with each new generation that comes and goes.
This one is a bit of a sore spot. When Pokémon first came into my awareness in late 1998, I was a big fan of foxes. I just dig their style, you know? So sly, so cunning. If I had a fursona, I’d probably be a fox. Or a fox-dragon hybrid, because every fursona needs to be two animals fused together for some reason.
As I first happened upon Vulpix, I was delighted: a fox Pokémon of my very own! I would hug it and squeeze it and call it George. With six tails and a curly mop of red hair, it was certainly a striking creature. It would evolve into the mystical Ninetales, garnering two extra tails in the process – therein becoming the most misspelt Pokémon name this side of Wartortle – but it was decidedly less vulpine, so the pre-evolved form remained my preference. Yes, in the early days of my fandom, Vulpix was my very favourite Pokémon, bar none.
But something strange was happening; people were calling me out on my selection, dismissing it as a girly Pokémon. What? How could you assign gender stereotypes to an imaginary creature? It was no more feminine than Pikachu, and nobody has beef with that guy! Besides, what did it matter if it was girly? Are such trivialities really of any consequence? …Such are the questions you can posit all these years later, but when you’re a 10 year old kid and people are lambasting you for your favourite Pokémon, you can ill afford the judgement. I sadly shuffled Vulpix off to the back, forcing myself to like it less. It’s been awkward between the two of us ever since.
Fun aside: when they introduced genders in gen 2, 75% of all Vulpix would turn out to be female. I guess it was a girly Pokémon, after all.
If you think Alakazam got the shaft as the franchise went on, the way they did my dude Dragonite was downright brutal. In the original games, if you wanted a dragon Pokémon, you only had one route: Dratini and its evolutions, the final stage being this lumbering orange behemoth. Dragonite packed some serious punch and only had three weaknesses: ice, rock and, ironically, its own dragon typing. Considering that the only dragon attack in the game, Dragon Rage, had a predetermined damage output of 40, you can effectively discount that weakness. Plus, remember those bewildering gen 1 mechanics I alluded to earlier? A Dragonite with Agility and Wrap could effectively shut down any opponent other than Gengar by outspeeding them, then basically hugging them to death. They could not retaliate, they could not flee, THERE WAS NO ESCAPING THE CUDDLE MONSTER.
Though they balanced some of Dragonite’s wickedness in later games, in gen 5 it got a fun new toy to play with: the ability Multiscale, shared only between it and the legendary Lugia. Get this: when at full health, Dragonite’s damage would be reduced by half. Used in tandem with Leftovers, or the health-regenerating Roost technique? Enemies were like the buzzing of flies to the almighty cuddle monster.
We thought the good times would last forever. It was like the Wolf of Wall Street, except with significantly fewer quaaludes. Then the fairies, they came. You can just imagine the dismay I felt when I discovered that they had introduced a brand new type in gen 6, and it was touted as the ultimate dragon slayer. Suddenly, this once nigh untouchable beast was brought to its knees by something as innocuous as fairies. FAIRIES, MAN. It felt wrong, it felt yucky, it felt like the days of the cuddle monster were coming to an end.
WrestleMania XXXIII is taking place today, so allow me to relate the sad demise of Dragonite to pro wrestling, if I may be so bold. Dragonite is the veritable Undertaker of the Pokémon world, feared and respected by all (its weakness to ice the equivalent to Giant Gonzalez’s chloroform: we try not to mention it). Now, it stares down this punk upstart fairy-type in the eye, and things look grim. Damn you, Roman Reigns, you heinous fairy man, you.
This is the mack daddy of them all, folks. From the very beginning, when I first selected Bulbasaur in Professor Oak’s lab that fateful day in 1998, the versatile frog-dinosaur-flower monstrosity has stood by my side. The argument of the greatest starter rages on to this day, and the hierarchy seems to favour Charmander or Squirtle for some reason. Bulbasaur has become something of a punchline, an also-ran. If the starters were the Manning brothers, Bulbasaur would be Cooper.
Never mind the fact that Venusaur has more playstyles and potential team roles than its brethren, people were enamoured with Charizard because it was a cool fire-breathing dragon and that was all there was to it. If you wanted to be technical, Charizard wasn’t even a dragon until it got a mega evolution, so it’s been nothing but a poser up until then. That’s right, I went there.
When hidden abilities were introduced in gen 5, Venusaur would have its day in the sun, and I mean that quite literally. Chlorophyll is a curious ability that doubles the speed of its user when the sun is at its strongest. Quite a double edged sword, considering fire attacks were also at their apex in this condition, but Venusaur’s respectable 80 base speed stat, extrapolated to a lightning-fast 160 under the sun’s rays, meant it could dispatch of foes quickly and fiercely.
Paired with Ninetales, the new recipient of its own hidden ability – Drought, which would permanently summon the sun unless cancelled out by force – Venusaur reached into its deep move pool and came out with all guns blazing. The havoc I wreaked with a mixed attacking Venusaur was legendary: Growth to raise both attack and special attack by two stages, Solarbeam without a charging stage, Earthquake to fell fire-types and Sludge Bomb as a fallback against foes like that pesky old
dragon lizard Charizard.
Alas, like many of my favourites, the magic was short-lived. In gen 6, Drought was nerfed to last only five turns (eight when holding a Heat Rock), meaning one of Venusaur’s valuable move slots had to be taken up with Sunny Day to stop it from running out of gas. Without Sludge Bomb, Venusaur took one look at the wealth of Mega Charizard Y and Talonflame lurking online and said ‘well, shucks’. Its consolation prize would be garnering a mega evolution of its own, the tanky, flamboyant Mega Venusaur, but it wasn’t the same. Plus, it had a flower on its butt, and that’s just weird.
But hey, we had the good old days. We had our sun day, our bloody sun day. Thanks for the memories, Venusaur. Flower power will always have a special place in my heart.
There you have it! My top five gen 1 ‘mons, in all their glory. How does it compare to your list? Are you a fellow Venusaur fanatic, or a dirty Charizard sympathiser? Leave a comment with your favourites – we may be different in some ways, but we’re all Pokémaniacs in the end.
Hungry for more?
If you’re a huge Pokémon fan (and if you’ve read this far, I assume you must be), you might get a kick out of my Pokémon Red Nuzlocke Challenge! Filled with death and desperation, like all fun adventures in life.
And if you haven’t already seen the newest trailer for the upcoming 20th entry in the Pokémon film franchise, then we’ve got you covered!
Check out the trailer for the new Pokemon movie coming out this year here: