Franchise fans come in all shapes and sizes. You’ve got the committed fanatics with Master Chief tattooed on their body, the occasional dabblers and everyone in between. It’s 2018, friends, we really don’t need to wade through the whole are you a real fan or not debate.
When it comes to Pokémon, that definitely holds true. Being such a family-friendly series, it appeals to all walks of life. The latest installment, Pokémon Ultra Sun and Moon, might be a child’s very first, while their proud parents have been around since the original release of Pokémon Red and Blue over two decades ago.
When Pokémon GO appeared in 2016, many long-time fans came out of the woodwork. You may have thought you’d ‘grown out’ of the franchise or some such, but the insidious power of nostalgia sucked you right back in. I remember seeing a huge, tattooed biker shrieking with girlish glee when he captured that rare Dratini. That was something special, right there.
It just proves the hold that the original generation of Pokémon still has over our imaginations. Those first 151 are just… we love them. The cult of the Genwunner takes things a little too far, insisting that every Pokémon created since was just awful and unworthy. But that’s nostalgia for you.
This doesn’t mean the Pokémon of Kanto are all super great, though. Let’s take a look at some of the more popular, yet all kinds of questionable, choices. My apologies in advance for including Charizard, the greatest starter bar none (don’t @ me).
25 We’re Only Here For The Weather
First up, it’s beloved Fire-type Ninetales. While this thing is super popular for its design, it struggled to make much impact on the competitive scene due to its sub-par stats. It was relegated to the lower tiers, where it looked pretty darn likely to stay.
Several generations later, it was given one heckola of a boon in the form of Drought, an ability that sets up instant sunlight when it enters battle. The popularity of the weather archetypes meant that it was suddenly an OU contender, purely on the strength of that ability.
24 Life Is Hard For The Pebble-Phobic
That’s right, friends, Charizard is here. My absolute favourite starter evolution of all time, but there’s no doubt that vanilla Charizard is completely underwhelming. Sets like Belly Drum Charizard have seen use other the years, but the addition of Stealth Rock (Beelzebub’s pokey pebbles, as I like to call it) pretty well doomed Charizard to be forgotten.
Until Mega Evolution became a thing. One of only two Pokémon blessed with both an X and Y form, Charizard was suddenly a powerhouse again. Mega Charizard Y was everywhere, despite the fact that its standard form really isn’t up to much.
23 What Can That Baby Possibly D…ARRGH!
Speaking of Pokémon that are used only for the power of their Mega Evolution, here comes Kangaskhan. Back in the day, I have fond memories of this thing just blatantly refusing to be caught in the Safari Zone. I spent hours in there, dinking rocks off its head to no avail.
Kangaskhan is just a run-of-the-mill Normal-type. Relatively defensively, relatively strong, nothing special. Mega Kangaskhan, on the other hand, was absolutely incredible. It absolutely dominated the competitive scene thanks to the strength of its ability, Parental Bond. This was nerfed in the recent generation, but still.
22 Having A Shell-Smashing Good Time
Of all generation one’s Water Pokémon, Cloyster is probably the one I found most interesting. I couldn’t find too much use for it back in the original games, but time has been super, super kind to Cloyster.
Earlier in the series, it didn’t have much to offer beyond its monstrous Defense.
When it was blessed with Shell Smash and Skill Link, though, it really hit the big time. Its offensive stats are nothing to boast about, sure, but once it doubles them (and its Speed) in a single turn, you’re suddenly in a world of pain.
Of all the fearsome sweepers that have arisen over the course of the series, Cloyster is one I never saw coming.
21 Taking No Chanseys
Ah, yes. Here it is. This sorry specimen was bound to appear at some point or another, so we might as well just get it over with now.
If you have a background in competitive Pokémon, you’ve surely run afoul of Chansey at some point or another. Despite having some hilariously feeble base stats (that base 5 Attack and Defense), this pink pain in the cheeks can cause you all sorts of trouble. With its Eviolite in hand, this thing just will not go down.
20 Yet Another Dang Thunderstorm
A controversial pick for sure. At the risk of inciting spluttering outrage and torch-and-pitchfork hunts from the community, I’ve got to say that I’ve never thought too much of Zapdos.
For me, it’s a Pokémon that performs much better than its stats suggest it should. It’s often used in a bulky, defensive sort of role, Tailwind-ing and Roost-ing and all of those sorts of shenanigans. It’s not really built for that, though, considering its Special Attack and Speed. Still, as long as it works, you have at it.
19 This Is No Dang Time For A Dance!
On that note, here’s another Pokémon that doesn’t seem like should work as well as it does. Dragonite struggled in earlier generations, thanks to a strange selection of moves and the lack of physical/special split.
It was later buffed out the wazzoo with the addition of Extreme Speed, Dragon Dance, Multiscale and such. It’s capable of demolishing teams in a trice, but it doesn’t look as though it has the Speed or power for the job at first. It’s reliant on Multiscale offering chances to set up with Dragon Dance.
Still, I’m not going to argue with a rampaging Dragonite.
18 A Puzzle Wrapped In An Enigma Wrapped In A Star
Now, I like Starmie. I really, really do. It’s such a rebel. It does not care, has no bedtime and only calls its mama eight times a day. It boasts the kind of coverage that so many other Pokémon could only dream of and it isn’t afraid to use it.
As poor old Electivire knows, though, there’s more to the game than just hitting super effectively.
Starmie doesn’t quite boast the power to get the job done, sadly. Not by itself. It’s still super popular, though, taking on offensive or defensive duties as the team requires.
17 A Rhino Of Two Halves
Rhydon is a curious case. While I still hold it responsible for the occasional lapse that makes me think Rock is weak to Ice (my eight-year-old self could not handle dual typings back then), I don’t hold this against it.
Rhydon is what it is: a super slow, rugged Rock-type. It still makes fairly frequent appearances today as another popular Eviolite Pokémon. Its stat spread is interesting, though: physically darn good and specially utterly worthless. Still, base 45 Special Defense still allows it to take some hits, thanks to that item.
It’s another that can perform despite its stats.
16 Ew, What’s That On The Floor?
A lot of the time in Pokémon, roles are quite clearly defined. Gengar, for instance, is a special sweeper. Its stats support that idea, being powerful and fast but with all the defensive ability of a one-legged centipede in a coma.
It’s not always so clear cut. I could never find a specific place for Muk, say. It’s got some decent power and bulk, but never really excels in either role. It’s stuck as a kind of tank, a role that Alolan Muk has seen a great deal of success with lately.
15 Guess Who’s Back, Back Again
Ah, yes. If you thought that Chansey was the most hateful pink blob this side of Kanto… well, you’re probably right. Even so, Clefable is fully capable of being a Grade A nuisance as well and it wants you to know it.
Again, you’ve probably fallen foul of this thing’s shenanigans countless times too. Clefable was recently retconned to Fairy-type, but that had little bearing on what it likes to do. Namely, boosting its sub-par stats, praying for evasion hax and making its opponent regret every single one of their life choices to date.
14 The King Has Returned
For me, Nidoking has always had a distinct whiff of Starmie about it. Like the Water- and Psychic-type, Nidoking has excellent coverage. I don’t know in which universe it’s logical that this thing learns Ice Beam and Flamethrower, but there it is. This is a universe where you can Surf on Snorlax, so clearly logic is off on vacation somewhere in the Bahamas here.
It’s a popular pick for that reason, particularly in combination with its Sheer Force ability. Looking at its stat spread, though, there’s no question that Nidoking is painful average in just about every area.
13 Now That’s What I Call Mega!
So, what can I say about Beedrill? If you been playing these games since Red and Blue, you’ll remember how woeful this thing was back then. What was it going to do, Twineedle its way to victory?
Fortunately for Beedrill, though, it was also granted a huge boon in the form of its Mega Evolution. Mega Beedrill is very frail, but it’s super strong too. It almost makes you forget how feeble its vanilla form is. Almost.
12 Three Little Mole-Things Are Better Than One
Now, when it comes to powerful generation one Pokémon, it’s probably safe to say that Dugtrio won’t immediately spring to mind. There’s a darn good reason for that, too.
With its bad HP and defences, this thing does not want to be taking any kind of hit. It’s a hit and run sort of Pokémon, but it doesn’t really have the power to pull that sort of thing off either. When you do see it, it’ll usually be taking advantage of its trapping skills, finishing off something already weakened.
11 Giovanni’s Lap-cat
Persian is another interesting case. Ever since it was first introduced, it’s also been a fairly standard-issue Normal Pokémon. It’s only real selling point was its speed, with everything else leaning towards the highly questionable.
It boasts a few neat tricks like Fake Out and Switcheroo, but that’s about it. Nevertheless, its Alolan from (while no stronger, offensively speaking) has seen a good amount of use as a supporter. I never thought I’d see the day that a Persian of any description would be viable competitively, but there it is.
10 When You’re The Best Darn Swimmer In Town
Now, it goes without saying that Golduck is hardly the most fearsome offensive threat in the Pokéverse. The darn thing doesn’t even make any sense.
Why in heckola aren’t you part Psychic-type, Golduck? Why?
Its stats might not be the most impressive, but there was a time when it was really something to fear. As the best Swift Swim user in the Alola Pokédex, this thing’s Waterium Z Hydro Pumps were some of the hardest hits in the early meta.
9 That’s One Popular Pup
I know what you’re thinking. This is another super controversial choice, right here. You can’t just put Arcanine, the doggo of love, life and general fiery excellence, on this list.
Well, here’s the thing about that. Arcanine has a lot of great qualities, but it just doesn’t specialize at any one job. Intimidate is great, it does well in a defensive or offensive role, but it isn’t specialized enough for my liking. Its stats are functional all around, but they’re not great in any one area.
8 You’d Better Hope You’re Faster Than Me
Hey, now. Whoa whoa whoa. What’s even happening here? Alakazam, the scourge of the gen one meta? The tyrant who crushed every other Pokémon’s hopes and dreams under its mighty Psychic jackboot? What’s that doing here.
Times change, that’s what. Being fast and strong isn’t enough to cover up your defensive frailty around here. Mega Alakazam, in particular, dials the power and speed thing up to eleven, but it’s super hard to use effectively. Priority is everywhere and Alakazam just can’t deal with that.
7 No, Really, People Have Used It
True enough, a lot of you won’t have much experience with Voltorb and Electrode. It’ll be mostly limited to those surprise, I’m not an item! My mama’s so proud of the way I’m choosing to live my life! Moments in the power plant and such.
Myself, though, I’ve spent a lot of time running rain teams in the lower tiers. In that arena, Electrode is a true menace. Setting up the weather, taunting other leads, dropping a Thunder or two and then Exploding on an opponent was its MO. Every stat it has other than Speed is bad, but did it let that bring it down? Heck no.
6 Blasting Off Again!
While we’re down here in the lower tiers, let’s take a look at another intriguing Pokémon. Team Rocket mainstay Weezing has earned itself a bit of a reputation as a viable physical wall, thanks to a combination of traits. Checking Fighting-types, Ground immunity, Will-O-Wisp access… all of these things are darn sweet.
Looking at Weezing’s stats themselves, though, it doesn’t seem as though it should perform so well.
That’s some woeful HP, and nothing else bar Defense stands out. It’s more about the tools it has than any inherent greatness.
5 My, Grandma, What Large Pincers You Have
When the newfangled concept of Mega Evolution was revealed, many fans were hopeful for the possibilities. After all, this could have been the chance that some forgotten Pokémon needed to shine. Mega Dunsparce, for instance? Mega Luvdisc? That would have been sweet.
In most cases, that wasn’t really how it worked out. Mega Rayquaza? That living ballistic missile fuelled by hatred and fury was just fine as it was, thanks. Mega Pinsir, on the other hand, was definitely a great idea. The poor Bug-type had long been living in the shadow of its all-round better cousin, Heracross.
4 No ‘Mon Is An Island
That’s right, friends. Next up, we’ve got number 151 itself. Don’t listen to the internet, it isn’t lurking around under a fictional truck somewhere. It’s right here.
Mew was the first of the Mythical Pokémon, an unusual group that were largely only available through event. They tend to share particular traits, such as base stats that are all a round 100. This makes them very versatile, but also limits their capacity to truly excel in any one area.
When they’re available, they’re common picks, in part because they’re a bit of a novelty.
3 Right Back At You
Of all the original Kanto Pokémon, Ditto has got to be the most unusual. Competitive battlers are probably used to using this thing just as a breeding tool, but there are also many who have had great success with it in battle.
In and of itself, Ditto’s stats are… well, beyond hilariously bad. Its whole gimmick, of course, is in adopting the stats of its opponent (other than its HP, which remains the same). It takes a certain calibre of player to use this thing right, but it can be devastating. Nothing counters setup sweepers like a well-played Ditto.
2 Does Anyone Have A Thick Club I Can Borrow?
As we’ve seen, the early Pokémon Sun and Moon metagame was an odd time. A time when a Pelipper/Golduck duo made a fearsome combination. Pelipper and freaking Golduck. What kind of Bizarro World were we living in?
This era also saw Marowak enjoying incredible popularity. As fans will know, in Alola, Marowak has a regional variant that is Fire- and Ghost-type. Its stats remain exactly the same as its regular form (that is to say, fairly mediocre really). It relies on its exclusive held item, the Thick Club, which doubles its attack stat.
1 When Your Mini-Me Is Just As Annoying As You
Sure, we’ve already seen Clefable and its Minimise nonsense elsewhere in this rundown. I just couldn’t sign off without a mention of its pre-evolution, Clefairy, which manages to make even more of a nuisance of itself with even worse stats.
Unlike its evolved form, Clefairy has access to the rare ability Friend Guard. This reduces all damage taken by its allies (in double battles) by a quarter. Couple this with great supporting moves like Follow Me, and you’ve got an excellent supporter. It’s dealing slim to bupkuss damage with those stats, but it’s taking some hits with Eviolite.