Pokémon is one of the most beloved franchises in the world. Since its introduction back in 1995 with a pair of video games, Pokémon Red and Green, the series has expanded into almost every area imaginable, including a long-running and hugely successful anime, a popular mobile game Pokémon Go, a cult trading card game and almost every type of merchandise imaginable. But the main series of video games is still the game's heart and soul, and fans eagerly look forward to seeing what new locations, mechanics, and of course, Pokémon, will be introduced in each pair of video games.
But not every addition to the series has been a good one. When Pokémon was first envisioned, it was as quite a mature series; and some of the game elements that were unremarkable in Japan were latched on as problematic in international releases. And if you thought that after their fair share of controversy with their first set of games, Nintendo would have wizened up for their later releases, you’d be 100% wrong. Nintendo has continued to add inappropriate moments to the series right up until its latest outputs, Pokémon Sun and Moon.
In this list we’ll examine fifteen of the most inappropriate moments in the Pokémon franchise over the two decades it's existed. Some of these moments are related to the Pokémon themselves, which alternate between offensive and just downright terrifying; but others are related to some adult humor which was probably misplaced. Either way, the entries on this list definitely aren’t intended for kids; so if you’re under 18, it might be time to request some adult supervision.
15 Jynx Is A Racial Stereotype
Probably the most controversial Pokémon of all time, Jynx was accused of being a racial stereotype by critic Carole Boston Weatherford in 1999, after the American airing of the anime episode Holiday Hi-Jynx. Weatherford pointed to the Pokémons pitch black skin, caricature-like facial features and huge lips, and exaggerated hair and body type as evidence that it resembled a blackface performer, and called for a boycott of the entire franchise.
In response, Nintendo took immediate action and recoloured Jynx in all of its iterations to make its previously black body purple. The sprites in games were all edited, episodes featuring Jynx were cut from the anime roster, and even the black and white manga series changed Jynx’s colouring from black to a dark grey. It might not be an admission of defeat, but Nintendo definitely realized they’d done goofed.
14 Yamask Is A Human Possessing A Pokémon’s Body
Yamask might seem innocent at first glance, but when you learn of its origin story you realize how twisted it is. Yamask has three tendril-like arms, one of which holds a kabuki-esque mask of a blank face crying. The mask is actually a representation of Yamask’s past from when it lived as a human, and the Pokémon still has memories of this time. Occasionally it will look at the mask and cry.
Because anyone who wears the mask will become possessed by the spirit inhabiting it, we can guess that the human soul is actually trapped in the mask and possessing the Pokémon indefinitely. No one knows how the human became trapped, but judging by the fact that we’re told the Yamask was human “long ago,” and the Pokémon has a penchant for wandering ancient ruins, we can assume there’s some old world magic going on here.
13 Palossand Possesses People To Attract Edible Pokémon
You might have thought that building sand castles was a fun, family-friendly pastime for young children to engage in; but as they do with everything good, Pokémon has ruined the beach for us. Palossand appears on first glance to be a normal sandcastle, but it's capable of walking and attacking just like a normal Pokemon. Even more creepily, Palossand invites children to grab the shovel atop its head only to possess them and force them to build its fortifications even stronger.
Once it has become strong enough, Palossand will create a "sandy vortex" to trap small Pokémon in. At this point, it has the ability to suck the life force out of any Pokémon or human it sees fit. The victim's bones will be buried underneath the Palossand, and the resentment from that Pokémon will go on to create a new malignant sandcastle. It’s the circle of life!
12 Slowpoke Is Butchered And Sold On The Black Market
Slowpoke’s tails are integral parts of their survival and growth. They emit a sweet nectar which is wafted through the water to attract fish, and Slowpoke can only evolve into a Slowbro when a Shellder attaches to its tail. Sadly, because of their sweet flavour, Slowpoke Tails are seen as a delicacy often used in stews. In Gold and Silver, Team Rocket takes advantage of this, chopping off the Slowpoke Tails and selling them for exponential prices on the black market.
Before you go and feel too bad for Slowpoke, keep in mind that they’re lizard-like in that their tails do grow back. They’re also notoriously dim-witted and might not even notice that their tails are sliced off. But the idea of a poor, tail-less Slowpoke unable to even feed itself without the use of its nectar while Team Rocket makes a pretty profit is horrible to think of.
11 Mimikyu Imitates Pikachu To Keep From Murdering You
Mimikyu has to be one of the most tragic characters in Pokémon history. Mimikyu's body is sensitive to sunlight, so it hides under an old rag it has decorated with crayons to look like a Pikachu. A lonely Pokémon, Mimikyu believes that disguising itself as the most beloved creature in the world will allow it to make friends with people more easily; but the fact that it looks like a bad Chinese knock off version of Pikachu does nothing to help its cause.
The saddest part of Mimikyu’s story is that its self-imposed prison is actually done for the good of others. Mimikyu’s appearance is known to be so terrifying that it has caused people to die from shock, so the Pokemon covers itself up to spare people from a terrifying death. I guess it has a heart after all.
10 Drifloon Will Kidnap Skinny Children And Fly Them Away
Drifloon is another one of those Pokémon that looks cute and innocent but is secretly a mass murderer. Drifloon resembles a standard balloon with a sticky-tape like mouth, string-like arms, and a cloud-like head of hair. It wanders around aimlessly, and is a beacon of hope for those lost, who call it a 'Signpost for Wandering Spirits.' If its body bursts, its soul will dissipate into the air and emit a loud screaming sound.
However, Drifloon’s most sinister habit has to do with its preference for young children. Drifloon is quite light and so can normally be controlled by whoever holds its string, but occasionally children who hold it will be reported missing days later. For this reason, Drifloon has a strong distaste for overweight children who are harder to manipulate. Pokédex entries tell us that the children are in fact being dragged into the underworld. Not only a Satanist, but a body shamer to boot.
9 Froslass Turns Hot Dudes Into Christmas Ornaments
Froslass is a beautiful Pokémon, and it has to be one of the most alluring in existence. Froslass’s design references a traditional Japanese kimono, and her innocent pose is only slightly offset by her icy horns and the fact that she has huge chunks of her skin missing from her head.
But Froslass's demure exterior hides a sinister habit. According to Pokédex entries, Frosslass is born from the spirit of a woman who got lost in the mountains and eventually morphed into a sinister Pokémon. Froslass’s anger encourages it to lure its prey with mirage-like illusions, before blasting them with a stream of icy air to freeze them. The Pokémon will then take the victim back to its icy lair and display them as decorations, relishing their souls as it leaves them motionless. Who needs Christmas trees?
8 Cubone Wears The Remnants Of Its Dead Mother
Cubone’s backstory is practically a thing of legend by now, but in case you weren’t aware of the heartbreaking circumstances that led to its categorization as the ‘Lonely Pokémon’, we’ll break it down for you. According to numerous Pokédex entries, Cubone’s mother died at a young age, traumatizing the baby Pokémon. Something about the moon reminds Cubone of its mother, causing it to weep all through the night, with the skull it’s wearing vibrating to emit a "plaintive and mournful sound."
But the most twisted part of this story is that the skull Cubone wears is actually that of its dead mother, who Cubone was so attached to that it just couldn’t bear to part ways. It’s incredibly heartbreaking, and more than a little creepy to think of the innocent Cubone yanking out the white bone from the mountain of flesh that used to be its mother.
7 Team Rocket Poaches Pokémon At Graveyards
Pokémon Tower appears in Red and Blue, as the seven-story burial ground for hundreds of deceased Pokémon. As a graveyard for so many, the Tower is host to many ghost-type Pokémon, some of whom even have the ability to disguise themselves as human spirits.
Some people visit the shrines every day to pay respect to their long lost friends - but others are there simply to take advantage of the situation. Team Rocket tries to steal the skulls worn by baby Cubone’s that populate the area, during which they inadvertently kill a Marowak mother who was protecting her Cubone child. Her ghost haunts the tower until her spirit is set free. Between the creepiness of human-looking ghosts, the tragedy of a sacrificial Marowak and the poaching of innocent animals, Pokémon Tower has to be one of the most scarily inappropriate locations in the entire franchise.
6 Legendary Pokemon Were Burnt Alive
The Burned Tower is a landmark in Ecruteak City which appears in Pokémon Gold and Silver. The tower was originally known as the Brass Tower, and was built along with the Bell Tower as a symbol of friendship between people and Pokémon.
150 years before the events of the game, Burned Tower was destroyed in a mysterious fire, along with three nameless Pokémon inside it. The tower was set alight by a lightning bolt, ravaged by fire and suddenly extinguished by a downpour. The legendary Pokémon Ho-Oh rushed to the tower to revive the Pokémon who died there, and thus the legendary beasts Raikou, Entei, and Suicune were created for the lightning, fire, and water that constituted the disaster. No wonder those beasts are so hard to catch: we’d be pretty wary of strangers too after burning alive in a fire, and being revived quickly enough to keep the memory.
5 The Game Teaches Kids How To Gamble
Remember the Game Corners that appeared in the first few Pokémon games? The Game Corner was a mainstay in the franchise until Generation IV, when it was phased out to be replaced with other mini-games involving dressing your Pokémon up and having them collect berries.
The closure of the Game Corner occurred due of changes that occurred in the Pan-European Game Information organizations classification guidelines, which gave games with any mention of gambling an 18+ rating. As a result, the Veilstone Game Corner in Diamond and Pearl had its slot machines made non-playable, and the ‘Gambler’ class was replaced with ‘Gamers.’ On the one hand, the Game Corner offered hours of fun and an even harder challenge than capturing legendaries; but on the other, it is kind of messed up to encourage children to participate in something that ruins lives every day, so we see why it was shut down.
4 The Whole Game Is Basically About Cockfighting
Since Pokémon’s initial release, there have been multiple animal welfare groups that have tried to shut it down. PETA is one of Pokémon’s most vocal opponents, as they claim that the battles resemble cockfights and that the way Pokémon are stuffed into PokéBalls is similar to how circus animals are chained up inside moving vehicles. The organization has released two parody games to explore this: Pokémon Black and Blue, in which the player inhabits a Pokémon seeking vengeance on its human owner; and Pokémon Red, White, and Blue, which lampoons Nintendo’s partnership with McDonald's.
In response to the controversy, Nintendo worked a PETA-like organization into the Black and White games. Team Plasma is the main villainous group in those games, and their main mission is to "liberate" Pokémon from their trainers by stealing them from their owners and releasing them into the wild. Is it bad that I want them to succeed?
3 Old Men Perve On The Ladies Of The Celadon Gym
We can forgive the Celadon City Police Department’s neglect of this situation: after all, they were dealing with a sudden influx of Team Rocket grunts at the time it occurred. But that’s still no excuse for everyone else in the town to disregard the creepy old man blatantly staring through the Celadon Gym windows to perve on the young girls trying to make a living in there.
The man is seen when the player enters the town for the first time, and he still hasn’t left after they’ve defeated the Elite Four. He even makes an appearance in the FireRed and LeafGreen remakes, by which point he’s definitely old enough to know better. It’s cool Nintendo took a step forward with a gym full of badass female trainers, but it kinda sucks that no one’s strong enough to call this dude out.
2 Improper Offers From Youngsters In Shorts
The Youngster class is practically thing of legend by now, thanks in large part to its epic scripting which is always bizarrely inappropriate. Youngster Joey is known for his infamous Rattata, which is, as we all know, in the top percentage of Rattata; and Youngster Regis is beloved for the shorts he brags about.
And in Black and White 2, the player can come across a Youngster who might even give Regis a run for his money. This trainer not only tells the player about his shorts, but goes on to say that he's wearing them to "toughen up" his kneecaps; although wondering why one would need to strengthen their knees leads to some odd conclusions. Even worse, he then goes on to ask the player if they want to cop a feel - and yes, we’re still talking about his kneecaps. Who even approved this script?
1 Bikini Girls Put Their Pokéballs In Creative Places
I remember it like it was yesterday. The year was 2002, and I was casually surfing around on my Lapras-shaped Tentacruel, minding my own business and enjoying the sunshine. Then out of nowhere, a feisty young girl wearing nothing but a bikini stopped me in my tracks, swam up to me and started accosting me with stories of her exploits.
So it was in Ruby and Sapphire, when players were asked by a particularly outgoing roving swimmer, “If I'm wearing a bikini...where do I put my Pokéballs?” - followed by a quick “Teehee” to make things even dirtier. As if that wasn’t inappropriate enough, Sun and Moon extended the running gag by having a travelling NPC mention, "It's tough fetching Pokéballs from my bikini!" Given how young the audience members and protagonists of these games are, we wonder how they got away with this at all.