In the world of Pokémon, there are very few things that measure up to the importance of figuring out who your team of 6 will be. Some people prefer building a team around a specific type while others try and gather their 6 favorite pokémon in a given generation. After you've selected your team the next thing to do is train them to get stronger while at the same time building a relationship. Here's the thing, though. Everyone isn't Ash and Pikachu and can get through battles simply based on their trainer/pokémon connection. Most trainers have to figure out which moves are the most powerful while at the same time seeing what moves blend best with their battling style.
A lot of times this process is time-consuming and really just comes down to trial and error. As you become more experienced you'll know, based on typing, what moves to have your partners learn or forget along the way. Over 7 generations of Pokémon games and anime episodes, there are tons of moves to choose from. We're going to go over some of the best moves ever, that more often than not can dictate the outcome of a battle by themselves.
Now, in order to talk about all the moves, we must also cover the ones trainers should avoid at all costs. Either they're completely useless, or there are other options with fewer drawbacks and better benefits that should take its spot instead. This isn't a list of the coolest or best-animated moves, we're simply talking about usefulness and effectiveness. Let's now talk a look at the 15 best moves in the Pokémon series, and 10 moves that are the absolute worst.
25 Best: Ice Beam
When a move is as powerful as it is accurate you know it's going to make any list revolving around the best moves in the Pokémon series. Ice Beam is essentially flamethrower for ice-type pokémon and is a must for any team sporting an ice-type or water-type. Having a water pokémon that knows Ice Beam is an easy way to deal with its own weakness to grass type. This list is also based on how the move looks when a pokémon uses it, and Ice Beam certainly falls in the cool category. There's nothing quite like seeing a Mamoswine deliver a powerful Ice Beam directly at someone's beefed up grass starter pokémon.
24 Bad: Kinesis
Everyone is familiar with the move sand attack. It's an early game move that wild pokémon will use in order to lower your pokémon's accuracy and ultimately making you slightly more irritated with every subsequent use. Now imagine a move like sand attack, designed to lower accuracy, that it itself has low accuracy. How dumb is that? Well, that's where Kinesis comes in. What use is a move that's sole purpose is to lower accuracy and it likely not landing and hitting the opponent? It's as ironic as it is useless. Stay away from this move at all costs.
23 Best: Recover
During everyone's adventures through the Kanto region in Pokémon Red, Blue, & Yellow everyone remembers running into Snorlax for the first time. Once you found out how to wake the slumbering pokémon you thought your mission was complete, but boy were you wrong. In many ways, the challenge hadn't even begun. Not only was Snorlax known for packing a punch behind a beefy life bar, but he could also regain his health with a quick use of recovery. Smart trainers are insanely powerful with recovery and when used perfectly it can lead to matches that drag on for ages in hopes of making your opponent quit.
22 Bad: Any One Hit Knock Out Move
In theory, you always believe that having a move that can cause a one-hit knockout would be extremely advantageous. The problem is that you're given extreme power and hope in exchange for terrible accuracy. The dream scenario is that you never miss when attempting one of these moves, but the cruel reality is that probability and percentage chance are never on your side. Everything will average out eventually. It's the equivalent of having the punching and knockout power of Mike Tyson in his prime, but having the eyesight of your elderly grandmother. Power's only useful if it can connect.
21 Best: Extreme Speed
Quick attack is a staple in the world of Pokémon because it allows you to potentially defeat an enemy with very little health without fear of them attacking first. Well, Extreme Speed is like if Quick Attack always went first and packed much more of a punch. If you are training an Arcanine and want it to have all of the best tools at its disposal, then you're going to want to give it Extreme Speed. Also, if we're talking about the anime or an alternate reality where pokémon do exist, imagine riding on the back of your pet Arcanine as it hits Extreme Speed. Talk about an adrenaline rush.
20 Bad: Transform
Transform is a very gimmicky move that's more about surprise and intrigue than it is about strategical advantages. The first time you see a non-playable character throw out a Ditto and see it transform into a copy of your pokémon you're astounded. Once you realize it's all a facade and its power and pp (or uses per move don't hold a candle to the original, you start to sour on the idea of ever wanting to use transform. From then on you quickly learn that the only reasons to ever catch a Ditto are to complete the pokédex and for breeding purposes.
19 Best: Thunderbolt
People will argue that Thunder is the best and most effective thunder-type move. Others would argue that it's strategically more viable to use Thunderbolt instead. Though the move is slightly less powerful than its counterpart, the fact that it showcases a 100% accuracy in comparison to Thunder's 70% means that you'd be a fool not to go with the sure bet. Does it sound cooler to just say "Use Thunder!" when commanding your Pikachu or Zapdos? Sure, but when it misses you're going to feel like a real jerk. Do what's in the best interest of your pokémon and just use Thunderbolt instead.
18 Best: Dark Void
Just because a move is specifically a signature move of one pokémon doesn't mean that it can't be considered as one of the best moves. In some people's opinions, that fact alone may put it towards the top considering exclusivity is pretty attractive to most people. Dark Void is a moved used by Darkrai that allows it to feed off of dreams with its own ability once Dark Void puts all adjacent pokémon to sleep. The move would have landed higher on the list if it hadn't received an accuracy nerf during the 7th generation of Pokémon games. Let's all toast to Darkrai's glory days that are now a thing of the past.
17 Bad: Frustration
Pokémon is often joked about as showcasing cruelty to animals despite what it tries to communicate to kids every chance it gets. Both the anime, as well as the games, make it apparent that the bonds and friendships you make with your pokémon are what make you a better trainer. The more you love and care you show them, the more powerful and effective they become. Frustration is a move that ignores all of that and tells you to do the opposite so it can be most effective. The move's usefulness becomes stronger if it is used by a pokémon that dislikes you. Avoid this move to avoid disrupting the jolly vibes.
16 Best: False Swipe
Catching pokémon is a large part of the series and knowing what moves can help you complete your pokédex in the most efficient way possible can make all the difference. False Swipe is a move that will never knockout another pokémon in battle and leave them with at least 1 health point. This comes in handy during the post-game when you're cleaning up your pokédex, but have a team of highly-leveled pokémon with you at all times. The only issue is that it can only be taught to a select number of pokémon so your options are pretty limited.
15 Best: Double Team
Earlier we talked about how frustrating Sand-Attack can be in the early game of Pokémon. Well, if it was a competition than Double Team might take the crown in that regard. If you're the type of trainer who uses evasive-based moves then you'll know the effectiveness of Double Team. For those who tend to focus on damage, you'll also be familiar with it due to the number of times random trainers with use it in battle. There's nothing like getting free hits on an enemy pokémon as it uses evasive maneuvers only to miss all of your final blows and see your pokémon faint before your very eyes.
14 Bad: Helping Hand
Helping Hand is a synergy move that also happens to be situational and doesn't seem to land in the most useful or effective category in either of those scenarios. It's the type of normal move that you have a pokémon learn so it has all 4 slots filled, but you'll abandon it as soon as a better option comes along. Helping Hand is most known for being associated with Plusle and Minun, the mini Pikachu-type pokémon introduced in Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire. Now, it's a cute move with an equally cute name, but just do yourself a favor and teach your pokémon literally any other move, please.
13 Best: Thunder Wave
Having moves that help you catch pokémon are just as important as having those that are effective in battle. Thunder Wave is a move that actually comes in handy in both situations. During trainer battles it allows you to immobilize your opponent and gives you time to swap pokémon, heal up, or simply get in extra hits. When you're on the pokédex grind it's a solid move that helps raise the catch percentage and makes your job a whole lot easier. Obviously, it doesn't work on every pokémon so it's good to have other catch-effective moves, but Thunder Wave is an easy to acquire move that can have huge returns throughout your journey.
12 Bad: Self-Destruct
Self-Destruct is the move you use when your back's against the wall. It's the kamikaze of pokémon moves. You're sacrificing the health and safety of your own pokémon in order to hopefully knock out an opponent's pokémon in a single move. We were first introduced to this psychotic move in Generation 1. It's arguably the signature move of both Electrode and Voltborb. These two electrified pokéball looking creatures apparently have nothing better to do than exploding in hopes of never getting caught or defeated by a random pokémon trainer in the wild. What lunatics.
11 Best: Stealth Rock
Stealth Rock is the financial investment of pokémon moves. It isn't going to return any immediate profits, but when you're using it you have to understand it's all about the long game. Knowing if your team is susceptible to Rock-type moves is a must considering Stealth Rock alone could obliterate a trainer's entire team if not careful. The move itself has been a big part of the competitive scene and has also been featured in the anime. Stealth Rock is a calculated man's move. If you see an NPC trainer use Stealth Rock immediately, get your big boy pants on. It's about to be a fight.
10 Best: Sludge Bomb
Sludge Bomb is the more accurate and powerful version of sludge. Not only will it inflict great damage in favorable type battles, but it also has a 30% chance to poison the opponent. Often times you either have to choose to deal out a powerful attack or possibly choose a move that will affect the status of the opposing pokémon. Sludge Bomb gives you the opportunity to possibly do both in a single move. Now, poison-type pokémon are often not including in many people's team of 6, but having a strong poison-type with Sludge Bomb at the ready could help you overcome many different future scenarios.
9 Bad: Bestow
Unless you're running around with a pocket full of toxic orbs or are in a very specific situation with a pokémon that's difficult to catch, Bestow should be the last move on your mind. The move allows you to give the opposing pokémon an item. In the anime, this is weird because unless you're a master of illusion the other trainer would see Ash hand their pokémon a toxic orb, and in the competitive scene, everyone has items attached to their team of pokémon. In terms of canon it doesn't feel right and if we're talking pure strategy it also doesn't feel right. It's a niche move for niche uses.
8 Best: Flamethrower
Talk about a class pokémon move. Charizard is one of the biggest icons in the world of Pokémon outside of Pikachu. It's likely due to the fact that dragons are inherently cool fantasy creatures. It also helps that it breathes fire and can use a move called flamethrower. You're telling me I can command a dragon to use a move called flamethrower? No wonder it's arguably the most popular final evolution for a starter pokémon in franchise history. The move itself carries great damage and good accuracy and is an essential move to have on any given roster you may be adventuring with.
7 Bad: Memento
We've talked about Explosion and how it just isn't worth it to sacrifice one of your team members in hopes of inflicting massive damage to your opponent. Memento is bad for the same exact reason, except it doesn't even inflict damage. The move lowers the stats of the pokémon you're targeting. This means that you're sacrificing a pokémon in order to lower stats that could potentially be cured or are irrelevant to the outcome of the battle. At the end of the day, there will probably never be a move that sacrifices your own pokémon because the value of that extra member is almost invaluable.
6 Best: Sticky Web
Sticky Web is a strong move during the early game when speed can make or break certain battles. It's a setup move that pays dividends the more your opponent swaps out their pokémon in a given battle. It's not as good as Stealth Rock which actually inflicts damage, but it doesn't mean Sticky Web isn't a great move in its own right. Also, with the number of people who are generally afraid of spiders, this move could be used out of battle to scare your friends or to help decorate a really intense and spooky haunted house at your local school or city Halloween function.
5 Best: Shell Smash
Shell Smash is considered one of the best stat manipulation moves in the entire Pokémon series. It lowers the defense and special defense of the opponent while at the same time sharply raising the attack and special attack of the pokémon using the move. If it is powered up into its Z-Move version it also manages to reset any lowered stats of the user pokémon. This move allows the user to gain a significant statistical advantage in one move, whereas most other times you would have to take multiple turns and use separate moves to get the same effect.
4 Bad: Teleport
In hindsight, it seems like the sole purpose of creating the move Teleport was to make it challenging to catch Abra. Though it was frustrating and caused you to either build a strategy or simply brute force through multiple attempts, it did change up the formula when trying to complete the pokédex. In battle, this move is simply a waste of time. It simply removes player agency and instead of swapping out to a specific pokémon in your party, it does it for you at random. This move sits near the top due to its use in battle, and not so much because of the difficulty it added to catching Abra.
3 Best: Aura Sphere
Though Aura Sphere received a slight power reduction after Generation VI, it still is a solid move that lands near the top of this list. Aura Sphere is a move that falls into the category of "never-miss" attacks because it bypasses accuracy checks and will always hit the target. That is of course unless the opponent is performing the moves Dig or Fly. Often times the moves that always hit and bypass accuracy checks tend to have a lower power associated with them. That's why even thought Aura Sphere's power was dropped from 90 to 80 it's still a solid top-tier move in the world of Pokémon.
2 Bad: Splash
Has there ever been a move as synonymous with one pokémon as Splash is with Magikarp? Everyone who's ever played Pokémon and wanted a Gyarados of their own quickly finds out how annoying it is to level up a Magikarp. Luckily through the years, players have been gifted with experience share items so the task isn't as hard as it used to be. That being said, it's about time Magikarp finds a little bit of self-respect for itself. Its whole gimmick is that the most pathetic pokémon in the Kanto region evolves into one of the coolest and most intimidating. Did you ever catch that red Gyarados?
1 Best: Earthquake
Earthquake is as ideal and useful as a pokémon move could ever be. When it comes to usefulness the move carries both a 100% power and accuracy rating which means it's as reliable and effective as possible. In terms of strategy, it can inflict massive damage while also dealing with pesky Ground-types that overuse Dig. Earthquake also happens to be a move that sounds and looks really cool. Your pokémon is moving the ground beneath him in order to inflict damage and disorient his opponent. It may not be the flashiest, but Earthquake is arguably the best move in the Pokémon series.