Across all genres of video games, character balance is one of a developer’s biggest pains in the ass. Whether you’re talking a fighter, a shooter or a MOBA, balancing can make or break a player’s experience. It’s difficult enough to manage a roster of fifteen or so, and as you go higher and higher –into Super Smash Bros Brawl-sized casts and beyond—the problem becomes more and more convoluted.
After two decades of Pokémon games, Game Freak have finely honed their solution to this issue: completely ignore it and go nuts. If you’re familiar with the competitive circuit in the games, you’ll know that the VGC format uses an entirely new ruleset each year. You’ll also know that, among the Pokémon eligible for use, there’s usually only a select few that see real popularity. The ‘meta’ is a key concept in any competitive title, but it’s a bigger deal in this series than most if you want to succeed.
Is this the players fault? They want to be the very best like no-one ever was, after all. I’d say much of this is due to Game Freak, and their tendency for creating some real (pocket) monsters. Whether they’re being overzealous with their Pokédex entries or introducing a broken new ability or mega form, those crazy guys love to have their fun. Still, it makes for an interesting Most Powerful Pokémon Of All Time list. Settle in and let’s check out some of the best of the best.
20 Oricorio Sensu
If you’ve been cruising through Alola with the rest of us in Pokémon Sun and Moon, you’ll have come across Oricorio. This unassuming little guy takes a different form on each of the region’s islands, activated by drinking the native nectar.
The Ghost/Flying Oricorio Sensu style doesn’t look like much, but its Pokédex entry reveals just what a beast we have on our hands here. As Pokémon Moon puts it, ‘It summons the dead with its dreamy dancing. From their malice, it draws power with which to curse its enemies.’ It summons the dead, my friends. There are a lot of things I expect from my cutesy Pokémon games, but casual necromancy isn’t one of them. Take a good look in the mirror, Sensu Oricorio, and think about just what the hell you’re doing.
Right at first glance, it’s clear that this isn’t a dude to mess with. He wouldn’t look out of place on an Eastern European women’s shotput team at the Olympics. When Machamp flexes his biceps, it’s a hell of a thing to behold. This guy sports the same check-out-my-rippling-pectorals-in-these-teeny-red-speedos fashion sense as his pre-evolved forms, but he’s taken things a step further.
Machamp, fittingly, comes equipped with a stellar Attack stat. That much is to be expected, but the Pokédex tells us that this ‘mon is able to move a mountain with a single hand. Which is absurd enough, but let’s not forget that he has four of them. We’re talking quadruple mountain pushing action, my friends. Can you argue with that? You can’t. What a stud.
If you were there on the Pokémon Go hype train when it was first released, you’ll distinctly remember what an absolute soil-your-undercrackers monster Vaporeon used to be.
In this barnstorming behemoth of a mobile game, battles work a little differently. It all hinges on CP, or Combat Power, as well as the spammability of your attack moves (Track and Field style). The highest CP pools are generally reserved for the rarer, harder to catch Pokémon like Dragonite, but Vaporeon is right up there too.
With very high base HP, and the dreaded Water Gun which could be spammed a couple times a second, this guy ruled every gym on the map from your local pub to grandma’s house. Vaporeon was toned down somewhat with subsequent updates, but it’s still super strong.
Quiet down there, Entei. We know that your barks can set off volcanoes, but hush. Next up is the true powerhouse of Fire types, Volcarona. I credit this belligerent bug with finally making me take Bug Pokémon seriously. That takes some doing.
The pseudo legendary Volcarona has been a formidable special attacker since it was introduced. It’s one of the signature users of the best boosting move in the game, Quiver Dance, and can sweep teams with ease if you can stop Stealth Rock from ruining its fun. Moreover, Pokémon Black tells us that, when volcanic ash darkened the atmosphere, its fire was strong enough to serve as a replacement for the sun. Damn. There isn’t enough bug spray in the world to keep this beast down.
With the arrival of Pokémon Sun and Moon came the Ultra Beasts. These peculiar creatures are encountered in the post game and aren’t technically Pokémon at all. One thing’s for sure, though, they’ve got super high (if weirdly distributed) base stats. Of these almighty extra terrestrial beings, none is more fearsome than… the teeny one made of paper.
Kartana is a Grass/Steel type with a base attack stat of 181. As such, it’s among the strongest in the entire franchise, beaten out only by Mega Mewtwo X on the physical side. This is pretty damn good going indeed, when you consider that it’s one foot tall and lighter than the average bodybuilding gnat (at 0.2 lb). I admire your tiny tenacity, Kartana.
Watch out though, it’s flammable.
15 Mega Kangaskhan
What the hell happened to you, Kangaskhan? You used to be cool. Back in the old days of Red and Blue, you were a rare encounter in the Safari Zone. You had a really sweet looking sprite and you vehemently refused to let me catch you like the sassy, independent woman who couldn’t be tamed that you are. Good times.
When Pokémon X and Y hit, though, its spangly new mega evolution mechanic went to your head. You got yourself a great all-round stat boost and, on top of that, the perhaps the most broken ability ever to hit the series: Parental Bond. In theory, letting your baby perform a second mini-hit after each attack sounds cute. In practise? This made Kangaskhan a ubiquitous skull-crushing death machine that plagued the meta throughout 2014.
14 Tapu Lele
The latest legendary troupe to hit the series are the Guardians of Alola. You can seek them out and add them to your party on completing the main game, and it’s worth your while. As is usually the case with legendary Pokémon, these guys don’t mess around. They’re not here to listen to grandma’s cute stories about your childhood over her homemade Battenberg cake. They’re here to destroy you.
The Tapus’ unique gimmick is their use of the Terrains. Each sets their own respective terrain, boosting the power of their STAB moves in the process (bar Fini, poor guy). Tapu Lele is all over Battle Spot just now because of this, boasting obscene power with its trademark Psychic Terrain-boosted Z-move. This is one of the strongest attacks in VGC for sure.
13 Primal Groudon
Speaking of ludicrous meta-centralising deathly death-beasts, here comes Primal Groudon. This guy (as well as its counterpart Primal Kyogre) featured on just about every single competitive team in the VGC 15 season, which was… well, not fun.
After Mega Evolution, Game Freak also saw fit to introduce Primal Reversion. This mechanic applied only to Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby’s cover legends, supposedly returning them to their ancient states. What did this mean? They got bigger, angrier redder/bluer and stronger, that’s what it meant.
In Primal Groudon’s case, its enhanced weather ability Desolate Land made Water attacks fail entirely, rendering its new 4x weakness to them (now being Fire/Ground type) completely moot. Alongside its fellow broken buddies like Kangaskhan and co, the whole metagame was built around this guy.
Naturally, there’s no introduction needed here. Did you see Mewtwo in the movie? Damn. There are enough mummy/daddy issues to make Sigmund Freud’s head spin, right here.
After finally taking out the Elite Four back in Red and Blue, the struggle to catch Mewtwo was real. I was there for a good half hour, hammering the B button because my buddy Paul TOTALLY knew that made a difference, trying to get the damn thing to stay in a Pokéball. It was an epic battle for any 12-year-old.
Mewtwo is the original uber Pokémon and it holds a special place in so many trainers’ hearts for that. In terms of lore and the raw furious destruction it has wrought in the anime, there’s nothing more powerful than Mewtwo.
Remember the movie The Fly? Have you ever wondered what would have happened if Arnold Schwarzenegger had stepped into the pod instead of the scientist? I have and the answer is Buzzwole. Buzzwole would have happened.
I never know quite what to make of this guy. Part of me wonders if a disgruntled ex-employee broke into Game Freak HQ and added their own ridiculous joke design to the game while nobody was looking. Goofy as he looks, there’s one thing you can be sure of: this bro does lift.
Like Machamp, Buzzwole has physical stats out the wazzoo. It flexes when it attacks. It flexes when it’s hit. It flexes when it faints. If that doesn’t scream powerful, I don’t know what does. Can't. Stop. The flex.
Now, granted, Espurr doesn’t look like much. At first glance, it’s just a furry little slice of nothing, like the Chihuahuas that wealthy college girls carry around in their handbags on the subway. I’d advise against telling it that to its face, though.
Even its evolved form, Meowstic, doesn’t seem up to much. Still, appearances can be deceptive. You know what they say: horrifying, nightmarish, universe-destroying things come in small packages. The way the Pokédex tells it, Espurr’s Psychic energy can travel hundreds of feet, levelling everything in its wake. An organ in its head radiates this power, which is kept in check by its ears. Apparently.
The Restraint Pokémon isn’t much use in a battle, but it’d be a freaking atomic bomb waiting to happen in real life.
Sometimes, you want your super powerful Pokémon to be a little clichéd. You know, huge, scaly dragons with anger management issues and a penchant for eating whole solar systems for breakfast. If that’s your criteria for ‘powerful,’ then nobody fits the bill quite like Rayquaza.
This guy was introduced in generation three, as Pokémon Emerald’s mascot. In-game, it’s been uber for its whole existence, far too good for standard play. More recently, it was given the ability to mega evolve, not even needing an item to do so. This gives it an exclusive weather ability, Delta Stream; summoning harsh winds which remove the weaknesses of the Flying type. It was a nuke with a real novelty and I can respect that. Oh, and it had offensive stats that rival the Death Star, but that’s a given.
In the Pokémon world, as we’ve seen so far, ‘powerful’ generally tends to involve more destruction than the average Marvel movie climax. But hey, it’s not all about that. Let’s think outside the box a little. It’s time for a display of good old fashioned, mano-a-mano brute strength.
Bewear, another new seventh gen addition, knows what power really means. Power means crushing your friends’ bones into dust. In this case, both Pokédex entries are needed to explain just how horrifyingly strong this guy really is. ‘This immensely dangerous Pokémon possesses overwhelming physical strength. Its habitat is generally off-limits,’ Pokémon Sun explains. ‘This Pokémon has the habit of hugging its companions. Many Trainers have left this world after their spines were squashed by its hug,’ chimes in Pokémon Moon.
As predictable as it is, it would have been nothing short of –literal—sacrilege not to include this guy. The God of All Pokémon, creator of Kanto, Hoenn and Poképuffs, the legend itself in the flesh. This is where it gets real.
Taken at face value, Arceus’ base stats aren’t necessarily stellar. There are more damaging attackers, physically and specially, throughout the huge cast of the Pokémon games. The fact is that all of stats are 120, making it an all-round menace to deal with. Particularly in tandem with the fact that it can be any type in the game thanks to its Plates.
Arceus has always been a mainstay of ubers tier teams and there’s no doubt it always will. The creator is a dab hand at destruction too, it turns out.
6 Mega Mawile
Mega evolution has been controversial since it was first introduced. On the one hand, giving a must-needed buff to previously ignored Pokémon is something so many players can get on board with. On the other, it can result in some real abominations like Mega Kangaskhan and Mega Rayquaza. Mawile is an interesting case, landing somewhere in between the two.
Regular ol’ Mawile has been around for generations of games now, but you’d be forgiven for never noticing it before. An all-round mediocre Steel type with an odd lumpen head-mouth, there wasn’t much to love here. Its mega form flipped that all around, with the new addition of Huge Power doubling its attack stat. We’ve got a formidable Trick Room attacker on our hands right here.
I know what you’re thinking. Metang, over its fully-evolved form Metagross? What is this madness? Metang is just ‘gross with some of its legs missing, and who the hell wants that?
Granted, as far as the mechanics of the game go, Metagross is superior in every possible way. However, Metang has the kind of swag that its bigger brother just can’t match, and as Justin Bieber will tell you, swag is everything. According to the Pokédex, Metang’s body can withstand a collision with a jet plane with nary a scratch. That’s impressive by anyone’s standards.
Is this a common occurrence or not? I’ve no idea. Is Metang using its magnetism to lure aircraft into itself on purpose, just to be an asshole? Maybe. Whatever the case, it’s clearly one tough dude.
Some Pokémon just have absurd stats. Some have Pokédex entries that terrify us to the depths of our very souls. In true anime fashion, this series gives its star creatures powers that are impressively flashy and ridiculous, as well as entirely impractical. Remember a little earlier in this very list, when a certain five-foot-tall moth was powering the Sun? Yep. That’s the yardstick.
With all of that said, though, notorious glitch-mon Missingno is all-powerful in a totally different way. As you’ll know if you spent your childhood surfing along the outskirts of Cinnabar island, Missingno’s appearance would essentially give you unlimited items. Which usually meant Rare Candies. If you’ve ever want to use one of your genie wishes to procure an unlimited supply of sweets, you’ll know how very potent this is.
Meet the Gnash Teeth Pokémon, another new addition to the franchise. It doesn’t look like much and it seems to be sporting one of those joke plastic mouths that people put on their pets for selfie-taking purposes, but hear me out. This Water/Psychic fish is a monster.
With the Strong Jaw ability and a range of Fang moves (including the exclusive new Psychic Fangs), it’s clear that this thing is all about the biting. It will bite you REAL good. Really really good.
Apparently, this thing can grind any prey into mush effortlessly. Shellder is a favourite food and considering that even a bomb blast can’t get through Cloyster’s shell, it’s safe to say this takes some doing. These are the most powerful jaws in the game, right here.
2 Kyurem Black/Kyurem White
As we’ve established pretty damn well by now, Game Freak never do things by halves. Legendary Pokémon are notorious for being overpowered. Just try Free Battle on Battle Spot, where little kids everywhere have six of them ready to crush your face into spam. But forget that kind of small-time stuff.
What’s more powerful than a legendary Pokémon? A legendary Pokémon fused together with another freaking legendary Pokémon, that’s what. With the DNA Splicer on hand, you can ‘combine’ Kyurem with either Zekrom or Reshiram to create Kyurem Black and Kyurem White respectively. The former’s more of a physical hitter and the latter special, but whichever way you go, you’ve got yourself an Ice/Dragon that’ll be claiming souls left and right. The original 'mon disappears from your party while the fusion is in action, but who needs them?
I know. I totally hear you. One of the notoriously craptacular Route One Birds™ on a list of the most powerful Pokémon of all time? The thing is, Talonflame’s kind of a special case.
In the early days of Pokémon X and Y, this darn thing was everywhere. We’ve all fallen victim to its wrath at some time or another, because it has a lot more wrath than you’d first think. While its offensive stats are lacklustre, Gale Wings makes it a real nightmare. Priority Flying moves means priority Brave Bird, which is just plain nasty. As such, no Pokémon in its respective tier can put as much pressure on you, right from team preview, as Talonflame can (that is to say, could, now that the ability’s been nerfed). The horror.