Charmander, Squirtle, Bulbasaur. Even those who are clueless about Pokémon probably know this unforgettable trio. Every Pokémon journey begins with your starter, and most players will stick with this Pokémon in their team until the very end. For that reason, it’s important to pick the right one.
There’s something to love about each and every starter Pokémon out there, and it’s hard to choose the best of the best. But when it comes down to it, some starters are simply better than others. Here are five starters that you absolutely need to have on your team — and five you’re better off avoiding.
10 Best: Rowlet
The newest ‘mon on this list, Rowlet has one of the most interesting typings of any starter — despite being an owl, its final typing is Grass/Ghost instead of Grass/Flying. That doesn’t stop it from being able to learn Flying moves both by leveling up and by TM, though.
Along with an excellent movepool and frankly awesome Z-Move, its balanced stats, and resistance to Fighting- and Normal-type moves make Rowlet and its final evolution Decidueye among the strongest starters across all seven generations.
9 Worst: Pikachu
Look, Pikachu is probably the one Pokémon everyone knows about. The de facto mascot of the series, Pikachu has become a lovable video game icon. Its appearance as the starter of spin-off Game Boy title Pokémon Yellow leaves a lot to be desired, though.
First things first, it can’t be evolved, which means you’re stuck with an underpowered ‘mon for the whole game. It’s also pretty useless against most of the game’s Gym Leaders, especially its first two, Brock and Misty. It gains points for its cuteness and iconic status, but as a starter, it’s simply outshined by others.
8 Best: Cyndaquil
The strongest of the Gold and Silver starters, Cyndaquil also boasts one of the most creative designs of any beginner Pokémon, based on an echidna with flames coming out of its back. While Gen II’s alternative starters are among the weakest in the series, Cyndaquil and its final evolution Typhlosion is an obvious pick — its excellent Speed and Special Attack bolsters its already-powerful fire moves into one-shot knockouts.
You could easily solo the game with an over-leveled Typhlosion and have a lot of fun doing it.
7 Worst: Totodile
While Water-type starters are on average the most versatile starters across all seven generations, Totodile and its final evolution Feraligatr suffer from a weak movepool and stats that favor physical Attack, despite the fact that most Water-type moves fall into the Special Attack category.
While it’s worth taking into account Totodile’s usefulness in being able to learn the HMs Surf and Whirlpool, its single rather than dual typing also means it doesn’t gain STAB bonuses when compared to starters like Mudkip and Froakie. On top of that, Water isn’t effective against a single one of Johto’s gym leaders. Totodile just can’t compete.
6 Best: Froakie
For starters, it's final form, Greninja, is one of the coolest Pokémon ever designed, and it’s no surprise that Nintendo decided to include it as one of the playable fighters in Super Smash Bros 4 and Ultimate. But Greninja also has the stats to back it up.
While its HP and Defense are fairly low, its extremely high Speed and enviable Special Attack mean that it likely won’t be getting hit very often. Its movepool is also one of the most versatile in the game, including not only Dark- and Water-type moves but also Ghost, Psychic, and Ice.
5 Worst: Tepig
By the time Black and White were released, everyone was tired of the same old Fire/Fighting combination. When compared to similarly-typed starters Chimchar and Blaziken, Tepig simply can’t compete.
Its movepool leaves a lot to be desired, as in its original generation it only learns one Fighting-type move, losing out on STAB bonuses. Final evolution Emboar also suffers from low Speed and ow Defense, making it an easy target from the game’s many powerful Water-types. While Gen V’s starters overall are pretty weak compared to other titles, you’re better off picking either of Tepig’s counterparts.
4 Best: Charmander
The first and best fire starter in the game has only improved over each generation, gaining the ability to learn more powerful Dragon-type moves and Mega Evolve into both Charizard X and Y — the latter of whom has often been called out for being too powerful.
Its ability to learn Fly, arguably the most useful HM in the game, proved invaluable in its original Red and Blue iteration. Its fairly balanced stats, with a focus on Special Attack and speed, outclass Bulbasaur and Squirtle — neither of whom are bad starters by any means. Though it can be tough to get through the first gym with a Fire-type Pokémon, Charmander offers ample reward for those who can get through it.
3 Worst: Chikorita
In another game, Chikorita may have been a viable starter — but in Gold and Silver, it’s out of its league. The first two gym leaders are both super effective against its single grass typing, as well as Team Rocket’s poison attacks.
In essence, Chikorita is a defensive Pokémon rather than an offensive one, something you never want in a starter, as it quickly will become eclipsed by the other members of your team. Seriously, it only learns four offensive moves through evolution throughout the entirety of Gen II — and the only really useful one is Razor Leaf. Combined with Totodile’s underwhelming performance, you’re going to want to pick Cyndaquil every time.
2 Best: Mudkip
Now that’s what I’m talking about. Mudkip absolutely slays Gen III. It only has one weakness, against Grass-types. Granted, it’s doubly effective, but given that Grass-type moves are some of the weakest in the game and that there’s no Grass-type gym leader, Mudkip and its final evolution Swampert are basically untouchable.
Ground-type moves are effective against not one, not two, but three gym leaders in the game, and Earthquake can basically one-shot most Pokémon in the late game. Plus, Mudkip, whose design is based on an axolotl, is arguably the most adorable starter in Pokémon history. Blaziken is great and all, but when it comes to Ruby and Sapphire, there’s only one correct choice.
1 Worst: Turtwig
Competitive play is a different story, but when playing through the original games, it’s all about speed — something Turtwig and its evolution Torterra just doesn’t have. It’s the slowest starter in Pokémon history, which is a terrible match-up against the quick teams of gym leaders like Crasher Wake and Volkner.
Its typing leaves it resistant to only three types, while doubly vulnerable to Ice-types such as gym leader Candice. Plus, it’s just an ugly design. A turtle with a giant tree sticking out of its back? Come on. Compared to relatively strong starters Chimchar and Piplup, Turtwig is nobody’s first pick.