Throughout his adventures, Ash Ketchum has caught around 52 Pokémon. That’s not all that much if you consider how many regions he’s been through and just how long he’s been traveling for. But regardless of volume, Ash has trained some pretty tough companions. While he doesn’t regularly use the majority of them, there’ve still had their time to shine on the show. One thing that always sticks out is the amount of Pokémon Ash has released.
Though a rare occurrence, Ash has done this more than any other trainer seen in the anime. Usually done with the Pokémon’s best interest in mind, these decisions have led to some pretty emotional good-byes. What’s most baffling though is that these were pretty good Pokémon he let go. Just another example that Ash is quite different from all other Pokémon trainers (and especially different from any actual players of the Pokémon games). With that in mind, here are all the Pokémon that Ash has released, ranked.
Though not the strongest of Ash’s released Pokémon, Butterfree’s good-bye was one of the most emotional moments in the original anime. Ash caught it as a Caterpie and it officially became the second Pokémon he’d catch following Pikachu.
Butterfree didn’t win all that many battles for Ash, but it was still an important part of his early team. It was released after Ash decided it would be better off in the wild with other Butterfree. Those giant red eyes and adorable voice made it a difficult goodbye, but it was probably for the best.
Following Butterfree is the Pokémon that came right after it in Ash’s Kanto adventures. Caught as a Pidgeotto, Pidgeot was a reliable member of Ash’s party and helped get him out of some tricky situations.
Pidgeot was released shortly after having evolved from Pidgeotto. It’s a weird move, as most trainers don’t let go of their Pokémon the moment they get stronger. But Ash felt that Pidgeot would do better in the wild, serving as a guardian to a herd of wild Pidgey.
Though temporary, this still counts. Yes it’s true; Ash did almost completely get rid of his most recognizable Pokémon partner. As is the case with most of the other Pokémon Ash has released, the decision was reached after seeing Pikachu getting along with some of its own.
After some Team Rocket shenanigans and other plot nonsense, the two reunite and continue on with their journey. It’s an ending most probably saw coming. Still, you have to wonder why Ash is so quick to straight-up drop his Pokémon at any given point. Why do you have play with our hearts like that huh Ash?
With regards to Pokémon Ash has released, this has to be one of the dumbest moves he’s made throughout his adventures. Piopole isn’t some ordinary Pokémon you can get anywhere. It’s a one of a kind Ultra Beast. In terms of rarity it’s right up there with Legendaries. So you can see why letting this kind of Pokémon go seems like a strange move for a trainer.
Of all the Pokémon Ash has released, Piopole seems like the one that was absolutely inevitable. It was highly unlikely that Ash was going to be able to keep it for too long from the get go, but you have to wonder why this guy keeps getting strong Pokémon only to let them go.
Had it stayed with him, Ash’s Lapras could’ve been his absolute strongest Pokémon throughout his Kanto adventures. But of course, that didn’t happen. As is the case with all of the other Pokémon on this list, it was released and never heard from again.
Lapras are typically pretty strong Pokémon, but Ash didn’t use his Lapras in battle all that much. In fact, it was used more as a transport than anything else – ferrying Ash and co throughout the Orange Islands. Like most of the other released Pokémon in his party, Ash’s reasoning for doing so wasn’t bad. But you have to wonder where his priorities are. Maybe if he wasn' so quick to release his powerful pocket monsters, he would actually win a league every now and then.
Having first caught it as a Goomy, Ash’s Goodra was with him for a decent chunk of his Kalos adventures. Easily one of the strongest Pokémon Ash has had, Goodra would’ve been a table turner for Ash had it stayed with him throughout his following adventures. Of course, it being on this list means that never happened.
It seems that Ash really doesn’t allow himself to keep a lot of his powerful Pokémon for some reason. Sure it works for the plot, but from a trainer’s point of view it just doesn’t add up all that much. Goodra was released when it made its way back to its home in the wetlands.
Funny enough, Greninja was released the exact same episode as Goodra was. That’s a pretty tough blow for Ash, as he lost two of his strongest Pokémon in one shot. Caught as a Froakie, Greninja was one of Ash’s most driven and competitive Pokémon. It was also one of the absolute strongest he ever had.
Greninja even achieved its own spin on Mega Evolution in the form of Ash-Greninja. It’s good-bye was a memorable one, and while it probably didn’t have to leave Ash’s party permanently, it makes it that much more impactful. Not only was Greninja one of Ash’s strongest Pokémon, but one of his most trusted companions throughout his many journeys. But alas, he had to go.