At first glance, Game Freak’s Pokémon franchise is about trainers trying to accomplish their dreams of being the best. Defeating the Final Four makes playing worth it in the end. The most important part of the story is the journey along the way. There are several people you meet who are also facing their own personal hardships.
The Pokémon anime has run for over a decade with thousands of episodes and several movies. Each Pokémon series has a plot, and some moments are more intense than the others. Of course, the majority of the series is lighthearted, with Team Rocket hijinks and Brock falling for every girl he meets. But, even Jessie and James have tragic pasts that have been slowly explored.
Though most of the series is about Ash Ketchum and various friends battling other trainers, he faces several tough moments during his journey to become the ultimate Pokémon Master. It’s easy for viewers to forget that trainers are all young children to teenagers. There are several cliffhanger moments throughout the series which make us wonder if they’re going to make it through.
Our list compiles some of the saddest moments in the Pokémon universe. Whether it be tragic deaths or long goodbyes, these moments brought tears to our eyes. This list is filled with spoilers, so beware if you haven’t finished the Pokémon XY anime series.
15 Abused And Abandoned
Pokémon are born free and in the wild, but many are captured and forced to endure abuse from their owners. In Pokémon: Diamond and Pearl, Paul is one example of a trainer who mistreats his Pokémon. It becomes painful for viewers to watch each episode as Paul calls Chimchar weak.
When Chimchar loses, it faces the full wrath of Paul's abuse. Ash finally notices how Paul mistreats Chimchar. Paul kept forcing Chimchar to face its greatest fear, Zangoose, which makes it break out in tears.
In their last battle as trainer and Pokémon, Paul realizes that Chimchar will never display the powerful Flame Wheel move again. Ash finally steps in and saves Chimchar from grave injury. After the battle, Paul releases Chimchar into Ash's care, but not before calling them both "worthless scum."
14 Orphaned At An Early Age
Jessie was raised in a low-income home but dearly loved by her family. Her mother, Miyamoto, was part of Team Rocket and the whereabouts of her father are unknown. Unlike Jessie, Miyamoto was a Class A Team Rocket member and was often off on high-level missions. After learning that there may be a Mew in South America, she informed her boss, Madame Boss, of her findings. She was immediately sent to capture the rare Pokémon.
In a Pokémon Drama Album, Miyamoto traveled through the Andes Mountains on a hunt for Mew. She got lost in a raging blizzard and was closing to giving up. The blizzard lightened up, and she found Mew. She asked Mew if she could capture it, but it vanished back into the blizzard. Before Miyamoto could escape the snow, an avalanche erupted. Her screams were the last thing anyone ever heard from her.
13 The First Cut Is The Deepest
Though Pikachu is the first Pokémon that Ash received, the first that he ever caught was a wild Caterpie. It eventually evolved into a Butterfree and became one of Ash's most trusted companions. In "Bye Bye, Butterfree," Butterfree falls in love with a female of its same type. Ash cared deeply for his friend but also wanted him to be happy. Both friends cried as they parted. This episode was the first where Ash ever released a Pokémon. If that moment wasn't sad enough, there was also a montage of flashbacks of how they met and how they both evolved together as trainer and Pokémon. Add on dramatic music and the impact of the theme song, and you'll have one of the saddest moments in the first season of Pokémon.
12 A Final Kiss Goodbye
Serena is Ash's older companion in Pokémon XY. They first met when they were both children attending a Pokémon Summer Camp. Ash rescued her from getting lost in the forest. They eventually reunited years later. Serena was the first girl to display strong romantic feelings for the Pokémon Master-in-Training, so fans were anxious to see what would happen.
At the end of the season in "Till We Compete Again!" the group prepared to split after Ash lost yet another Pokémon Championship. Everyone said their tearful goodbyes and wished each other good luck in their future journeys. The most painful goodbye was watching Serena part from Ash. Already in tears, Serena tells Ash she wants to become a mature woman and seek him out again in the future. She kisses him, shocking the audience, and runs off to catch her flight.
11 A Forced Release
Jessie and James might fail at stealing other trainers' Pokémon, but they catch a few during the series. In the early Pokémon seasons, they own an Arbok and Weezing. These two Pokémon would be their most loyal fighters, who grew to return their love.
In "A Poached Ego!" a Pokémon poacher named Rico has saved Team Rocket some legwork and captured cages full of Ekans and Koffing. The duo has a turn of heart and attempts to release the Pokémon instead. Rico tries to stop them by attacking with his Tyranitar. While Jessie, James, and Meowth distract Rico, Arbok and Weezing set the captured Pokémon free. With no other choice, Jessie and James release Arbok and Weezing to save their lives and the lives of the Pokémon they freed.
10 Watching Its Only Friend Pass Away
Mew is one of the most difficult Pokémon to capture in the series. Scientists were able to obtain a single eyelash and were able to clone the rare Pokémon. The cloning was a success and Mewtwo was born. As it was developing in a tank, it hears the conversations of those around it. Mewtwo discovers that the Scientist's true intentions were to clone his dead daughter. He successfully clones her, and Ambertwo is born.
Ambertwo and Mewtwo become close friends. She questions her existence and doesn't believe it was right to be born. Eventually, she fades away in her tank. The Scientists are furious that Mewtwo survives while Ambertwo dies, again. The Scientists then try to wipe Mewtwo's memories, but Ambertwo never completely fades from his mind.
9 Manipulated To Hate Humans
Natural Harmonia Gropius, or N, is one of the most tragic characters of the Pokémon series. When he was a child, he was abandoned in the woods. Pokémon found N and raised him until Ghetsis discovered him. Claiming to be his father, Ghetsis kept him hidden away inside a castle. He was isolated from other humans and developed an intense bond with Pokémon. Ghetsis manipulated him from a young age and would only let N play with Pokémon who had been abused by humans. The Pokémon were so broken that they would only play with his toys and were fearful of N.
In Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, if you enter N's Castle and head to his room, he will tell you of his painful past while disturbing music plays. He can barely step into the room and waits outside until you finish.
8 Made The Ultimate Sacrifice
Jessie and James are often seen as selfish and incompetent. When things get serious, they're ready to do what it takes to protect their Pokémon. In Pokémon: The Movie 2000, Lawrence III, a Pokémon collector, wants to capture Lugia. He's determined to catch it in any way possible. These efforts cause Moltres, Zapdos, and Articuno to battle each other until only one survives.
Ash, his friends, and other survivors try to escape from being hurt in the collateral damage. Jessie and James, who want to save the world to continue their evil ways, try to help. As all three almost crash into the sea, Lugia rescues them. To ensure that Lugia can make it back faster, Jessie and James sacrifice themselves and fall into the deep water. They survive the fall and consider becoming heroes, but decide not to because their boss would dislike the idea.
7 Forcing A Friend To Stay Behind
Charizard is the fourth Pokémon Ash caught in the first season of the anime. It once belonged to a conceited trainer named Damien. After learning that Damien planned to abandon it at the Pokémon Center, Ash accepted it onto his team. Charizard was one of Ash's most loyal partners until it evolved into Charmeleon. When it evolved into Charizard, Ash could no longer control it.
When Ash and his friends reached the Johto region, they discovered Charicific Valley. A group of powerful Charizards lived there but Ash's Charizard failed to impress them. Team Rocket helped Charizard become accepted into their group. Watching Charizard find love and happiness among his own, Ash forced Charizard to stay behind. Before Charizard could refuse, Ash ran away from the Valley with tears in his eyes.
6 Making The Same Sacrifice As His Previous Owner
Pokémon: Lucario and the Mystery of Mew contained several tearful moments. Several sacrifices were made over the course of the movie. The first death was by Lucario's owner, Sir Aaron. Using Aura, he was able to use Aura to stop the war between two armies in the Kanto region. This movie also marked the second time that Ash died. As he tried to protect his Pokémon, he was killed but was later revived.
To save the Tree of Beginning, Lucario realizes he must make the same sacrifice his former owner made. Ash tries to help by using Sir Aaron's gloves, infused with the same Aura spell, knowing he may die yet again. Lucario knocks Ash out of the way, exclaiming he would finish the job. Using Aura, he restores the Tree back to full health, at the cost of his life.
5 A Mother’s Sacrifice
Pokémon most often remains tame to be appropriate for children. Some moments are incredibly cruel and hard to watch, even for adults. In Pokémon Origins, we learn how terrifying Team Rocket can be. Red is told a story about Marowak, Cubone's mother. Three Team Rocket members were on the hunt for Pokémon. They had already succeeded in capturing a Mankey, Raticate, Sandshrew, and a Sandslash. One of them noticed a Cubone try to run away. They tried to catch it but were attached to its mother. Marowak told her child to run. Though Cubone wanted to help his mother, it did as she commanded. Team Rocket used a baton to beat Marowak to death. Cubone stayed near Mt. Fuji until it was eventually discovered.
4 Leaving The Best Partner Behind
When Ash and Pikachu first met, Pikachu didn't want anything to do with the young trainer. After building trust, their relationship is one of the most famous partnerships. Their relationship was tested in "Pikachu's Goodbye." Ash, Misty, and Brock discover a hidden Pikachu clan hidden in the forest. Ash's Pikachu becomes fast friends with the group, even though the wild Pikachu were scared of the humans.
Pikachu has so much fun with the group that Ash believes it would be happier there. In a heart-wrenching moment, Ash attempts to release Pikachu into the wild. Pikachu tries to follow, but Ash demands it stay behind. As Ash walked back to his friends, he thought back to his memories with Pikachu. But his companion refused to remain behind. In an emotional reunion, Pikachu jumps into Ash's arms and their continue their adventure.
3 Saying Goodbye
Ash, Misty, and Brock traveled together for six seasons of the original Pokémon series. Ash had to move on to continue his journey in the Hoenn region. Misty, a Gym Leader, had to return to her duties at the Cerulean Gym. Brock, who was older than his companions, wanted to continue his journey in a different region. After watching the trio for hundreds of episodes, it was an emotional goodbye for most viewers. We didn't know Ash without Misty or Brock. But meeting new companions and capturing new Pokémon was just part of Ash's journey.
Ash would eventually reunite with Misty in later seasons. But the original trio would not reunite until Pokémon: Sun and Moon, where Ash returns home to visit Kanto.
2 Partners Until The End
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time and Explorers of Darkness are infamous for being one of the most emotional rollercoasters in the Pokémon game universe. When you first encounter Grovyle, you are led to believe that he's a villain. He's only trying to save the planet from being frozen in time. During the game, you discover that you were once his best friend and partner. Unfortunately, you find out too late. Grovyle sacrifices himself to help you and is banished into the dark future. You also learn that you will be erased from existence, but have to hide it from your friends to complete your mission. With a heavy heart, you set out to do what Grovyle couldn't and save the world. Your partner watches as you disappear from existence and grieves.
1 Gotta Save Them All
Ash Ketchum is not an ordinary trainer. He treats his Pokémon with friendship and respect. When other Pokémon are in trouble, he will do what it takes to help. In Pokémon: The First Movie, a fight erupts between Pokémon and their clones. Only Pikachu and Meowth don't fight.
Horrified to see Pokémon fighting instead of living in peace; Ash tries to stop the violence. He rushes in between a Psychic move attack between Mew and Mewtwo, which immediately turns him to stone. Unable to understand what happened, Pikachu tries to revive him by using Thundershock. Team Rocket's Meowth watches but is unable to help. Shocked, yet moved, by Ash's sacrifice, both real and cloned Pokémon begin to cry. Their combined tears heal Ash and bring him back from his petrified state.