If you stand back and look at the game for a little bit, Pokémon is not something you’d really want to give to your kids to play. There are godlike creatures of unimaginable power just wandering around waiting to pounce and devour small children foolish enough to wander into tall grass. Even if that’s not scary enough, the thought of a 5-year-old with a captured monster that could level a city at a single command seems like a pretty terrifying prospect.
I know this because I was one of those kids. Back in the days of Pokémon Red and Blue, I had a team filled with legendary monsters all chomping at the bit to put some hurt on some unfortunate hiker. It was Mewtwo, Articuno, Zapdos, Moltres, and Dragonite all lined up and waiting to take on all comers.
And waiting at the end was a little Butterfree I just couldn’t bare to part with.
I had him since he was a little Caterpie, raised him into a Metapod, and cried out joyously when he finally became a beautiful Butterfree. He wasn’t the best Pokémon to use - hell, even I knew he was bad at such a young age - but he was pretty, and I put a lot of work into him, and he was mine, so I kept him.
We all have different reasons for holding on to a Pokémon we know are just flat out awful. Sometimes it’s for nostalgia, sometimes it’s for love, and sometimes it’s because in one very specific instance that one Pokémon can be the most powerful thing on the planet, even though most of the time it’s utter garbage.
Whatever your reason, here’s 15 Pokémon everybody uses even though they probably shouldn’t.
The prevalence of Pikachu means that Raichu is bound to show up in great numbers as well. As Pikachu’s evolution, they have inherently better stats, so they can’t be that bad, right?
Wrong. Raichu has the same problems as Pikachu only worse because you think that as an evolved Pokémon they can take a punch. They can’t. They still can’t take a hit of any type, and in the current generation, there are still a ton of other Pokémon that can outrun the somewhat larger electric rat.
Raichu’s Alolan form made things even worse by giving it the Psychic typing, which now means it’ll go down to any random Bug, Dark, or Ghost move that happens to look at ‘em cross-eyed. I’ll admit the tail-surfing thing is cute, but Raichu is all style and no substance.
There was a time in Pokémon’s history where people didn’t always have a team of monsters that they chose for themselves. During the dark times when Hidden Machine moves were taught for life and could never be removed, trainers were forced to make a difficult decision: do they teach their beloved Pokémon a substandard move that would forever hamstring it? Or constantly waste time switching Pokémon when they want to traverse the world.
Most trainers decided to go down a third path - the path of the HM mule. This was a Pokémon that would always be the sixth, would never actually fight, and who’s only purpose was to learn as many HMs as possible so that you could ride its back across the waves, cut down all the trees in your path, move rocks, and slide down hills. Bibarel was often that Pokémon for being both easy to catch and able to learn all the HM moves by Fly.
Early on, many people decided that Pikachu was not the cutest Pokémon, and that title rightly belonged to Eevee. To make the little fox thing even more popular, it could evolve in three viable directions. Since then it kept gaining more and more evolutions until now trainers have eight options to choose from.
And while many of those evolutions were cute, its original form was always the cutest. Do not be fooled though — it was crap. Not only did it have terrible moves, but also some of the lowest stats of any Poke in the game.
And yet it still remained a much-used Pokémon. Why? Adorableness. That and Pokémon beauty pageants became a thing in Gen IV.
Every once in awhile you come across a Pokémon that just speaks of elegance, grace, and sophistication. A Pokémon of regal bearing and impeccable taste. A Pokémon that looks like it enjoys the finer things in life, and loves sharing them with its trainer.
Plus Dragonite is really good, so slogging it out with this weird snake dragon isn’t too much to ask.
But let’s be real - most of your Dragonite’s life is spent as a Dragonair. You catch your Dratini at level 15, it becomes Dragonair at 30, and doesn’t become Dragonite until 55. Some of us even fall for Dragonair’s smooth curves and serpentine charm, and never bother evolving it. Or maybe you were after a Dragonair all along. Regardless, Dragonair may be pretty, but compared to others they’re just plain bad.
When I was watching the TV series, I was a big Brock fan. Something about that stoic personality in the face of so much adversity just really sat well with me. That and his Onix was a real force to be reckoned with. Imagine my intense disappointment when I learned that despite its depiction as a subterranean superpower, Onix had some really terrible stats.
Then along came Steelix in Gen II, and I just had to have it. It’s an evolution! It had to be great, right?
Nope! Steelix still had awful stats, just like Onix did. Not only that, it didn’t learn a single Steel-type move, and its offerings of Rock-type moves were pretty paltry. Still, it was one of the first steel types (and it was Brock’s Pokémon) so you stuck with it. A very Brock thing to do.
Sometimes a Pokémon has a really compelling story that just makes you want to gather it into your arms and cuddle it forever. Cubone is that Pokémon. It wears the skull of its dead mother while it roams the land crying out for love.
I’m openly weeping just writing that.
So yeah, I (and many others) decided to grab one of these little guys and give it a good home, like adopting a pet, even though it’s a poor choice. Even Marowak, its evolved form, is still pretty terrible, but at least they got a happy ending in Sun and Moon. In Gen VII Marowak gains the Ghost-type, and it’s said that the ghost of its deceased mother protects it like a vengeful spirit.
So kind of a happy ending, in a super creepy way.
I’m not going to sugar coat this one - sometimes you use a Pokémon just because you have to, and sometimes you use it just because it’s there. In Gen III, the days of the old school HM, you used Swellow for both those reasons: you needed a Flying-type, and it was there. Your choices were Pelliper, Noctowl, and this thing, and of the three of them, Swellow had the best stats.
This by no means made the stupid bird any good. It didn’t learn Aerial Ace, a very basic flying attack move, until level 38. 38! You were basically forced to teach the thing Fly because it was literally the best option. Everyone used it, and everyone hated it.
Every generation there seems to be a brand new Pikachu knockoff that tries to unseat the venerable mouse from its throne. In Gen IV that Pokémon was Pachirisu, an electric squirrel. Not only was it an electric rodent, its stats and moves were virtually indistinguishable from Pikachu’s, just to drive the point home.
The poor little 'mon may have stayed in obscurity if it weren’t for the fact it won a World Championship.
By training his Pachirisu to be as tanky as possible and then teaching it the move Follow Me, Se Jun Park won the 2014 Double Battles prize. Follow Me forces both the opponent's Pokémon to attack only Pachirisu, leaving Park’s remaining 'mon to wail away with impunity. He single-handedly convinced the world that any Pokémon can be a champion, even a garbage one like Pachirisu.
To give you an idea of how bad Smeargle’s stats are, they average out to be a lower value than Eevee’s. That’s pretty bad. But much like Pachirisu, Smeargle has a plan.
Sticky Web is a move that can be thrown out early on and makes it so any of your opponent’s switching-in suddenly have a massive speed debuff. If all you’re 'mons can move before your opponent’s then you’ve basically already won. Just make sure to slap him with a Focus Scarf so he’s guaranteed to live for one turn and you’re golden.
Smeargle has been a staple of Pokémon’s competitive scene for some time and only recently has been eclipsed by faster Taunt users like Tapu Koko. That said, he’s still common, and still awful.
Remember when I said that every generation of Pokémon has a Pikachu wannabe? Dedenne is that for Gen VI. Much like Pikachu, he has terrible stats. But! Unlike Pikachu, Dedenne is actually pushing the whole electric mouse thing to new heights. This already makes him slightly better.
Dedenne’s popularity can be attributed to two sources. First, he was heavily portrayed in season 8 and 9 of the animated series. Second, he can learn Pickup, an ability which will eventually result in any trainer becoming stupid rich. Sure, Dedenne’s way less than ideal when it comes to choosing a Pokémon, but I and many others are willing to make that small sacrifice in the pursuit of filthy lucre.
There’s a saying among competitive Pokémon players: behind every good team there’s a good Ditto and thousands of discarded eggs in the pursuit of the purest example of the species.
I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea.
Ditto’s stats are bad, but that’s not what it’s used for. Ditto is used for one thing, and everyone has it for that one thing: breeding. How it manages to breed as a faceless, genderless blob is unknown, and frankly, I don’t want to know. All I want is my perfect Medicham, and I want it yesterday. What goes on behind closed doors is none of my business!
On the surface, Wobbuffet might seem like a pretty dreadful Pokémon. Sure, he’s got an HP stat just shy of God's (that’s Arceus in the Pokémon universe), but the rest of its stats are abysmal. And yet Wobbuffet has consistently been one of the most used competitive Pokémon since its introduction in Gen II.
Why? Two reasons: Counter and Mirror Coat. Both of these moves are counterattack moves that deliver double the damage that Wobbuffet receives. Combined with its astronomical hitpoints, Wobbuffet is almost guaranteed to survive long enough to take down one of the opposing mons, and with a little set up it can take down a lot more.
In every other way though, this guy is terrible. Trying to play the story with one of these would be like trying to play without any thumbs.
Mawile is kind of a funny story. First, it was released back in Gen III when the steel typing was sort of a new thing. The only problem was it didn’t have a single steel attack move, and its stats were otherwise crummy. It’s only claim to fame was a neat jaw-ear thing, but otherwise, people didn’t buy it.
Then came Gen VI and the Fairy-type, and Mawile got in on that action. Suddenly it didn’t matter that Mawile’s stats were terrible since there were virtually no moves that could hurt it. And then, in Gen VII, it got a Mega Evolution that catapulted an awful, AWFUL Pokémon into everyone’s team of six.
Just remember: it was always bad to begin with.
Let me tell you a story of a Gen VI Pokémon that arrived and made a very big splash. Like Mawile, it’s a fairy-steel type. Like Mawile, it has some pretty lousy stats. It looks like a set of keys, which isn’t exactly endearing to the target demographic.
But Klefki can make even a hardened Pokémon trainer tear out their hair in utter frustration.
By using a combination of moves designed to both confuse and paralyze the opposing Pokémon, Klefki can stall out almost indefinitely, picking away at its opponent’s health until they finally drop. Suddenly every competitive trainer didn’t leave their house without their set of infuriating keys.
As the poster child of the franchise, and as Ash’s faithful confidant in the TV series, Pikachu is beloved the world over. They are so loved that Nintendo has a dance crew of inflatable Pikachus that perform at corporate functions and marketing events. Original edition Pikachu cards still regularly sell for hundreds of dollars. Everyone loves the little electric mouse.
BUT THEY’RE TERRIBLE. They’ve got good speed, so if you’re lucky you can take out a water type with a quick shock, but otherwise they’re down for the count after a stiff breeze. Even the TV series has acknowledged it, with Ash regularly getting his butt handed to him at every Pokémon tournament he attends.
Just be honest with yourself: if you use a Pikachu (and I know you do), it’s because you like ‘em and not because they’re good.