Now, it’s 2019, friends. We really should all be a little more enlightened. We’re not, though, because we’re gamers, and you know how gamers tend to be.
Take PC gaming, for instance. Yes, dedicated gaming rigs give the best gaming experience currently possible, a good way beyond anything that consoles can offer right now. Can PC gamers just enjoy that in peace, without commenting on the inferiority of consoles? Some can, absolutely, but some can’t.
There’s always some snark or other flying around. In the case of Nintendo systems, it’s usually their family-friendly nature that’s the butt of the joke. Despite the fact that I once saw a huge, tattooed Hugh Jackman of a man shriek with joy because he’d found a rare Dragonite in Pokémon GO, many insist that the series is for children.
None of these people have ever experienced competitive Pokémon play, that’s for darn sure. It’s a super-serious environment, where only the very best Pokémon get used and the rest are left to rot in PC purgatory. This is such a shame, with a roster as huge and absurd as this. How many Pokémon are there now? Way too darn many, that’s how many.
Despite all of this, some Pokémon are still far more popular than they have any right to be. Something unconventional like a Pachirisu will perform well in a tournament team, and suddenly everybody’s got one. Some Pokémon are nothing without their mega form but suddenly became hugely popular as a result of it, like Kangaskhan.
Let’s take a look at these cases, along with other Pokémon that are among the worst (for a whole variety of reasons) but just keep cropping up regardless.
25 Pachirisu: The Nichest Niche That Ever Filled A Niche
That’s right, friends. Back in 2014, a Pachirisu appeared on the world-championship-winning team. Not only that, but it had a pivotal role in the victory.
This is the way of competitive Pokémon. If you’re new to the scene, it’s natural to start out by taking a look at pro players’ successful teams and borrowing for them (if not just outright copying them). For this reason, around the time of Se Jun Park’s historic win, a whole spate of Pachirisu started appearing on teams.
Pokémon Diamond and Pearl’s resident Electric Rodent™ brings precious little to the table in terms of raw stats, but it had the perfect combination of typing, movepool and supportive utility (Follow Me to draw attacks to itself instead of its partner, mostly) to work wonders on Park’s particular team.
It’s not a Pokémon you can just shoehorn in anywhere and expect to perform well, though. You can probably tell that by looking at it.
24 Charizard: The Buffed-To-Heckola One
Now, I’m one of those old-school fans who’s firmly in the Charmander for Life camp. In every generation since, I’ve chosen the Fire-type starter in homage to the lovely lizard. At the same time, though, I’m fully prepared to admit that the Charizard life is not an easy one.
I’ve known that even since I came up against Brock and Misty’s gyms with Charmander. Do you know what isn’t fun? Scratching a Rock-type to its slow and protracted demise, that’s what. Competitively, meanwhile, Stealth Rock seemed to have been introduced purely to dump on my dreams of having any success with Charizard. Half HP just for switching in? What kind of benevolent Game Freak would allow this nonsense?
With the advent of Pokémon X and Y, though, Charizard was thrown a lifeline: not one by two super powerful Mega Evolutions. Mega Charizard Y, in particular, is a monstrous special attacker, setting automatic sun and incinerating its foes in a blaze of Fire.
23 Pikachu: The Mascot Who Nobody Ash-ked
Yes, yes. We see you there, Pikachu. Always demanding all of the attention, aren’t you? Your own special edition version of the original games, the one whose face is most commonly plastered on the merchandise… you are the face of the franchise around the world.
As such, Game Freak have always been desperate to find some way to make this thing usable in the games, even over its own evolution. The Light Ball, for instance (a held item which only works for Pikachu, doubling its offensive stats) make this thing the very definition of a glass cannon.
It’s a novelty at best, though. How often do you see Pikachu in action in serious competitive matches?
22 Chansey: The Damage-Sponge From Heckola
If you’ve been part of the Pokémon scene for a few years now, you’ve almost certainly found yourself staring down the business end of a Chansey several times.
While it may look completely innocuous, Chansey has a unique way of making you hate yourself and the life that you live. With an Eviolite in hand, it’s even more specially defensive than Blissey, and can be really, really darn difficult to take out. The combination of Soft Boiled (for reliable healing) and Minimise (to boost its evasion and make your opponent curse your entire family tree) is… well, it’s not a good time.
21 Garchomp: The One That’s Not Landorus And Is Quite Bitter About That Fact
I know what you’re thinking. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Just hold on a darn minute here. Garchomp, notoriously bad? Have I just slipped through a wormhole into Bizarro World? That’s probably not exactly it, but the basic sentiment is there.
You’re totally right. Garchomp has been a competitive mainstay since it was introduced in Generation IV. It’s absolutely not a bad Pokémon. One of the best and most popular, in fact. Do you know what it isn’t, though? It isn’t Landorus-T.
In any format where Landorus is allowed, its Therian Forme will tend to be used over Garchomp (its fellow Ground-type) on many teams. The combination of a Ground immunity and Intimidate ability just wins out. Especially with all those newfangled Fairy-types roaming about now (Garchomp is not a fan).
20 Eevee: The One-Trick Wonder
We all like Eevee. Of course we do. It’s got that incredible nostalgia factor that only a popular first gen Pokémon can offer. It has an interesting USP in the multiple-evolutions thing. It’s a constant source of discussion in the Pokémon community (will Pokémon Sword and Shield add a new Eeveelution to the mix? If so, which type will it be?).
As a result of its love from the community, Eevee was given its own exclusive Z-Move: Extreme Evoboost. This move sees all of the Eeeveelutons come together to fire a special ray that gives Eevee a +2 to all of its stats. This is a neat idea, for sure, but the sad truth is that it’s usually just used for a cheesy Baton Pass strategy. A real one-trick pony.
19 Gengar: The One That Was Totally Fine With The Ability It Had, Thanks Very Darn Much
As was the case with Garchomp, Gengar is definitely no slouch in the battling department. In Generation I, it was the only Ghost-type and had precisely zero decent Ghost moves, but after that low point, it broke out the Rocky training montages and became a real competitive powerhouse.
What’s it doing in this list, then? I’ll tell you.
It recently lost its excellent Levitate ability, that’s what. As a Poison-type, it greatly appreciated its immunity to Ground moves, and this was quite the nerf.
Still, Gengar remains a speedy and potent special attacker, and you’ll still see them doing the rounds.
18 Nidoking: The Jack Of All Trades
If you’ve ever used a Nidoking, you’ll know that it can wreck some absolute havoc. Before the introduction of Fairy, Poison was a pretty darn bad type (especially offensively), but Nidoking didn’t care about any of that. Why? Because it had (and still has) access to just about every darn TM known to Pokékind. Thunderbolt, Ice Beam, Flamethrower, Shadow Ball…
Why it gets all of these moves, Arceus doesn’t even know, but it does.
Throw in the damage boost from its Sheer Force ability (which removes the secondary effect from a move but makes it a bit stronger), and you’ve got a real threat on your hands. The trouble is, Nidoking’s offenses aren’t all that strong to begin with, and super effective coverage isn’t everything.
17 Smeargle: The One That Nobody Wants To Invite To Their Birthday Party
Ah, yes. The dreaded Smeargle. At face value, this thing is one of the most feeble Pokémon in the whole game, but there’s one thing that it does very, very well: supporting its team and aggravating its opponents.
Competitive play typing uses the doubles format, and this was where Smeargle would shine. It gets access to Dark Void (by Sketching it from Darkrai), making it the only user of the only move that can put both opponents to sleep a once. Does this sound like a good time? That’s because it isn’t.
This is much less of threat now, with the accuracy nerf to Dark Void, but it’s such a cheap and simple way to become a huge threat. Smeargle has also been known to enjoy using Transform to give the opponent TWO MEGA KANGASKHANS to deal with, and that’s when Game Freak just need to be collectively sent to their room to think about what they’ve done.
16 Kangaskhan: The *Other* One That’s Been Buffed Out The Wazzoo
For most of its existence, Kangaskhan has been just another unspectacular Normal-type. Just the sort of Pokémon, you might have thought, that deserved a Mega Evolution to give it a new lease of life. While you’d be totally right on that one, I really don’t think the world was ready for the menace that Mega Kangaskhan would become.
While its stats alone weren’t too excessive (although excellent all around), the real issue here was its ability. Parental Bond allowed it to deal a second hit (which dealt half the damage of the first) after every single-target attack. Suddenly, everybody was on the Kangaskhan bandwagon, after years of ignoring the ‘mon entirely.
Thankfully, for Generation VII, Parental Bond was nerfed; the second hit now only deals a quarter of the damage of the first.
15 Talonflame: The Other One That Got Far Too Uppity
Now, we can’t snark on Kangaskhan and its outrageous Mega Evolution without talking about our old buddy Talonflame too. When you first caught that adorable little Fletchling, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was just another of those Worthless Early Route Flying-Types™. Out of nowhere, though, Talonflame gained access to its infamous hidden ability, then proceeded to show absolutely everybody what’s up.
Gale Wings gives this feathered fiend priority on all Flying moves, which meant priority Brave Bird. Couple with its ridiculous Speed, even opposing priority can’t usually touch it. This meant that opponents weak to Flying couldn’t really move at all while Talonflame was around.
In and of itself, this bird is pretty darn weak, but its one big selling point was so good that it was everywhere. Fortunately, Gale Wings was also nerfed; it now only works when Talonflame is at full HP.
14 Bidoof: Way Too Useful In More Ways Than One
For many Pokémon fans, this little eager beaver is just about the worst Pokémon ever created. Not just in terms of worth, but the sheer volume of them.
Since the beginning of Pokémon GO, we’ve feared the addition of Generation IV, because it meant that Bidoof would be everywhere.
No quick walk over to grandma’s house would ever be the same again.
Nevertheless, Bidoof and Bibarel manage to find their way onto countless teams all the same. For one thing, they’re fantastic users of HMs, and for another, their Simple ability (which doubles its stat boosts and drops) can make it surprisingly dangerous. If you let a Bibarel get a Curse or two off, you could be in for the most ridiculous trouble you’ve ever been in in a Pokémon battle.
13 Serperior: 'Contrary' To Public Opinion
It’s rare for a starter Pokémon to make a huge impact on higher-tier competitive play. The likes of Blaziken will occasional jump in with its Speed Boost ability and devour the competition, but you sure as heck don’t see that sort of thing every day.
Serperior, with its spangly new Contrary ability, definitely shook things up. This gives it the power to gain a +2 boost to its Special Attack by using Leaf Storm, which allowed it to snowball very quickly.
As popular as this simple-yet-effective strategy was, it soon lost its luster. After all, Grass resistances are far too common, and Serperior has precious little else to hit them with.
12 Mewtwo: The Uber That Time Forgot
Here’s another interesting curveball entry for you. I can almost smell your objections. Mewtwo, one of the most iconic and formidable Pokémon of all time, bad? You’d better be yanking my giggle chain there, buddy.
You’re absolutely right on that one. Since that first epic showdown in Cerulean Cave in Pokemon Red and Blue (why won’t you ever get in the darn ball?), Mewtwo has been known as one of the strongest Pokémon ever. However, those goalposts have shifted a whole lot, over two decades later.
Some legendary Pokémon, such as Kyogre, Groudon and other boxart mascots, are far too strong to be allowed in standard play. Mewtwo is one of these Uber legendaries. However, when official formats did allow the powerful Psychic ‘mon, it was rarely seen. It’s been completely overshadowed by absurd Pokémon like Primal Groudon.
11 Pichu: It’s Super Fast And Darn Annoying
As we saw earlier, Pikachu has always been given preferential treatment around here. Exclusive Z-Moves and held items, a different silly hat for every holiday in Pokémon GO… thoroughly spoiled. When the whole baby Pokémon mechanic was added, there was no doubt that Pikachu was going to be given one. And so Pichu was introduced.
As a baby, of course, its stats a very poor. It was even a joke character in the Smash Bros. series, an even frailer version of Pikachu whose Electric special moves actually damage it. You don’t want to snark on Pichu in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, however, because it’s suddenly become a fearsome little combo machine out of nowhere.
10 Drifblim: A Tapu’s Best Friend
Here’s a question for experienced Pokémon battlers: how often did you ever really see Drifblim being used? Currently languishing in the PU tier over on Smogon, it’s safe to say that this Ghost/Flying ‘mon had gone off to lunch when Arceus was handing out battling prowess. Or so you’d think.
More recently, Drifblim has experienced a real renaissance. It’s not particularly flexible (the Misty Seed combo-lead with Tapu Lele is about the best it can do), but it’s managed to squeeze itself into a niche and carve out a name for itself. As predictable as it is popular, you could find yourself in some trouble if you underestimated this thing.
9 Banette: The Connoisseur’s Mega Evolution
As I say, then, veteran trainers were quick to dive into the world of Mega Evolutions and learn their intricacies. The first and most important fact? Mega Kangaskhan and Mega Charizard (Y, generally, although the Fire/Dragon X is a powerhouse too) were just pure silliness. As only one Mega Evolution per battle is permitted, few took the time to experiment further.
Still, though, some of us had some fun with the lesser-appreciated Megas. Banette is definitely one of these. It looks fantastic (that’s a design and a half right there, friends), sports a high Attack of base 165 and has the Prankster ability. Priority Destiny Bond? That can be a bad time.
Its low Speed lets it down, though, as does the lacking base power of its moves. Previously, it didn’t get that priority on its status moves on the turn it Mega Evolved, either. All in all, another niche pick.
8 Glalie: It’s Mega Too, You Know
That’s the trouble with some Mega Evolutions. They’re perfectly good in and of themselves, but there’s just no real incentive for competitive players to use them. Not when they can just slot something like Mega Kangaskhan on their teams and claim souls left and right (not that Megas have been permitted in some recent formats, but you know what I mean).
If you just think outside the box a little, however, you can have some real fun. Many players had quite the hotspot for Mega Glalie when it was first released, as a neat buff for a sorely-underappreciated Ice-type.
Its Refrigerate ability give it a super strong, Ice-type Explosion to work with, which is quite a thing to behold if you can get it off at the right moment.
7 Audino: I Heard You Like EXP…
…so I put some EXP in your Audino so you can level up while you Audino. Am I memeing right? I’m not sure, but that’s close enough. Let’s just go with it.
Audino is another Mega Evolution that could have been good. Its white mage-aping looks and Healer ability makes it clear that it’s a born cleric and bulky ‘mon, but that’s just not usually a role you want your only Mega to fill. It’s hardly the way to get the best bang for your buck.
Audino just has that air about it. The sort of air that makes it clear that it really, really wants to be Chansey or Blissey, but they wouldn’t let it play with them at recess. Nevertheless, many players do use Audino… as a convenient source of EXP.
6 Greninja: So You Were Talking Smack About Me?
When the starter Pokémon for X and Y were first revealed, internet snarksters were none too kind to Froakie. Really, it was their fault. They brought the wrath of Greninja down upon us.
Again, stats-wise, Greninja doesn’t look like very much at all. It’s fast, offensively-orientated and frail, but doesn’t seem to have the power to compensate for its paper-thin defences.
Its hidden ability Protean is the key here, though, essentially giving it STAB on every attack and letting it deal far more damage than it has any right to.
Bad on paper? Maybe, but we’ve all seen what this thing is capable of. That’s not even bringing Ash-Greninja into the equation.
5 Magikarp: Well, It’s Magikarp
What can we say here that hasn’t already been said? It’s Magikarp. This thing’s proud status as the most hilariously worthless Pokémon in the history of Pokés and Mons is well-documented. Heck, Pokémon FireRed’s Pokédex flat-out states, “It is virtually worthless in terms of both power and speed. It is the most weak and pathetic Pokémon in the world.”
When the Pokédex itself is trashtalking like it’s got some major Twitter beef with you, you know you really suck.
Despite all of this bad press, Magikarp is still popular. Not only for its meme status, but for the fact that it evolves into the formidable Gyarados. Yes, you need to have Magikarp in your party for at least a brief while, but you’ll be glad you did.
4 Omanyte: Speaking Of Meme Status…
Of course, there’s a strong correlation between popularity and overall strength in the Pokémon world. Balance is all but impossible in a roster of this size, after all, and players are bound to want to win battles. Therefore, in many cases, only the very best Pokémon for the job will cut it.
At the same time, though, lots of fans of the franchise have their own favourites, which they really, really want to make work. For me, that would be Articuno (which I’ve had some success with over the years). Another Pokémon that’s really become popular of late in Omanyte/Omastar, thanks to that whole Twitch Plays business.
That’s right. the Lord Helix jokes may have worn super thin super fast, but that hasn’t stopped players from using the questionable fossil Pokémon.
3 Mawile: Go Mega Or Go Home
Back we go to the beginning of the Pokémon X and Y generation, and what a peculiar time it was for certain ‘mon. Not only was Kangaskhan running rampant, but another long-forgotten Pokémon had ascended to the peak of Actually Really Good Now Mountain: Mawile.
Yes, Mawile. That pure Steel-type you’d forgotten existed. Being retconned to Steel/Fairy was great for it, as was the all-round boost to its stats that Mega Evolution gave it. Most importantly, it was gifted with Pure Power, which doubles it otherwise-modest Attack stat. It’s rather bulky, hits very hard, has good coverage and priority Sucker Punch to help out with its middling Speed. From zero to hero, with a quick wave of a Mega Stone.
2 Golduck: A Dangerous Duck By Default
I’m not the most competitive player, but when I do try my hands at tournaments and online play, I have a mainstay I like to trot out: the rain team. There’s something about this simple, hyper offensive strategy that just ticks all the boxes for me, and it’s a lot of fun to play with.
In the early days of Pokémon Sun and Moon, there were precious few Pokémon that had the Swift Swim ability (and were legal in the format). This is a crucial asset of any team, and the best option was, hilarious as it may seem, Golduck. Statistically, this thing is painfully average all around, but it was great to see it actually being the best at something.
With a Waterium-Z in the rain, this thing could deal some of the hardest hits in the meta. Yes, a Golduck.
Golduck taking names and claiming souls… what a time to be alive.
1 Klefki: You Just Hate Fun, Don’t You?
I knew that this little guy was up to something right from the start. Look at that mischievous face. It reminds me of the puppy that steals all the toilet paper in the commercial. In a similar fashion, Klefki may look cute, but it’s got some major shenanigans up its sleeve.
Looking at its entirely unspectacular stat spread, you might wonder why this thing was so popular. Then you encounter one in a battle, and you realise what a troll it is.
Klefki’s speciality is the dreaded SwagPlay combo (Swagger to confuse the opponent and increase their Attack by two stages, then Foul Play to use that boosted Attack against them). There’s a lot of RNG involved here, but when it all works smoothly, it’s just devious brilliance.