For a long while, I found myself doubting my capacity to enjoy Pokémon in a modern setting. Hand-holding aplenty, huge emphasis on EPIC legendary encounters and storylines, and the constant attempts at gripping nostalgia for maximum profit has made me wary of the current direction of the franchise. Even so, after playing Shield for myself, I had a good time, and have even come to terms with thinking it better than games prior (a controversial opinion I may expand on at a later date). I still adore the franchise and how it helped shape my gaming youth, and with a resurgent vitality, I began to ponder that list I made in 2016. It could use a bit of a touch-up.
For those who recall reading the list at that time, I’ll relay now that this 2020 redux list won’t actually be all that different. A majority of the same pokémon will still make the top 10, only in varyingly different positions. I’ve found that while I detest the usage of nostalgia to pander to profit, nostalgia still plays an enormous role in my preference for pokémon types. To some degree, this list will be a little “same-y,” but I will do my best to provide different(-ish) commentary for each selection to induce a new vibe. And hey, if you haven’t read the original list, or haven’t read it since it was originally posted, this will all be new (or new again), anyway. Onwards, poké-folks!
I stated that a majority of the same pokémon will appear on this updated list, but not all of them. Numbers 10 through 8 will, indeed, be different (oops, spoilers for those who remember the first list).
Magcargo is probably a very interesting choice for a favorites list, specifically because it comes with a lot of frustration to even incorporate this lad into a party. Not to say their evolution is hard—just level up Slugma—but the reward for all the work, plus the evolution itself, can be a bit of a letdown. One has to get Slugma to level 38, which is pretty high, and their stats aren’t exactly favorable for levels of that range. And even when they evolve, Magcargo isn’t exactly a tank, especially considering their fire-rock typing makes for a lot of notable weaknesses. The obnoxious cherry on top is that their attack stat—which rock-type moves are typically associated with—is still pretty low.
Despite all of that, I’ve always been really fond of the design. Grimer/Muk are one thing, but Slugma/Magcargo take it a step further with the fire element combined with the real-life snail template. I find it really unique, and every time I see one pop up, it feels like a rare find. There is just a pinch of nostalgia laced in it, too, as I recall Slugma being the first Gen 2 pokémon I found when exploring postgame content in FireRed & LeafGreen.
So while their battle prowess is nothing to fawn over, the distinct design and personal obscurity make this a rather eye-popping pokémon for me. I always want to have Magcargo on my team, but it’s almost never viable. Second-best choice is to observe it from my boxes…
Tentacruel has generally been a pokémon I’ve liked, but it wasn’t until the last few years that I began to really favor it.
The more I look at it, the more I find the design to be one portion fantastic, one portion nostalgic. Those who saw the original anime adaptation of Pokémon will recall the episode when the giant Tentacruel took control of a city and used Meowth as a brainwashed puppet to communicate with humans about polluting the waters it called home. Bizarre as it may sound, it always struck me as something really cool, despite how wildly it differs from the potential of the pokémon in-game.
Something else to know about me is that creatures modeled after animals absolutely fascinate me. To be able to strike a balance between inspiration and something completely new is something I find wholly inspiring. Tentacruel has that style down almost perfectly, where it’s not too similar (Rattata, Qwilfish) and not too overly complex (Crawdaunt, Ambipom), which the designers typically do pretty well in most generations. I love the contrast between blue and black, and the red really makes it pop. I adore it.
Along with it, Tentacruel is a very capable party member, especially as a water-specific HM slave. I found myself having it be the go-to water-type pokémon in early-gen games, especially since it actually prefers special attacks over other water-type pokémon I like (hint). Tentacool may be one of the most common pokémon to put in the sea in any Pokémon game, but that’s tentacool with me.
And just look at this official sprite. It looks so pissed off. I feel that on a spiritual level.
What may be misleading about this official art is that Sableye is typically showcased with a big, jagged-tooth smile. That only adds to the fun.
Like with Tentacruel before it, I’ve always liked Sableye, but it wasn’t until recently that I began to favor it more closely. In my most recent file of Emerald, I went through nearly a third of the game with a two-party team: Mudkip/Marshtomp and Sableye. While the two’s early move pool wasn’t always ideal, I almost felt confident that I could cruise through the game with only those two, and I half-considered it, if not for HM obligations. Marshtomp was the tank; Sableye was the dagger. I liked that efficiency it provided.
And as will most pokémon on this list, Sableye appeals to me quite well aesthetically. Almost like a fusion of Gengar and Haunter, with a gem-like glow-up. The big crystals for eyes are pretty striking, to say the least. Playing a game of “Spot the body gems” also makes for good fun; the little dude is practically designed around the move “Power Gem.” While the spritework in-game doesn’t usually feature the teeth, I’m fine with either iteration, whether chompy chap or toothless turmoil.
For longtime followers, you know my feelings towards mega evolutions. I will not comment on Sableye’s at this time… okay, one thing: too overly complex category.
Now we’ve come to the recurring cast of pokémon that appeared in the original list. For those who recall, you may now start adjusting the scales to who has jumped and who has not. Gigalith has definitely jumped.
Previously #10, Gigalith is now sturdy at #7, and their reliable, rocky build has found a permanent residence in my aesthetic heart. While not all on this list will represent this, I have a very basic preference for big, rough, and spiky specimens. I adore Godzilla—its appearance in the films are half the reason I watch them—and that translates to how I rank the designs of pokémon. Gigalith is just a big rock monster, and that’s awesome. Towering with red spikes, and looks like a ride one goes on at a carnival.
I really wish I could use Gigalith more in games, but with it being a Gen 5 monster and my insistence to replay most games from the early half of the current realm of generations, it’s never an option. Plus, it’s one of those trade evolution pokémon… blech. This isn’t me spitting on the decision to include evolution via trading in Pokémon, because the original intention, I feel, is pure and adds a lot to the game. The only issue is that I don’t have these things called friends. I’m primarily a solo player when it comes to games, so when I come across pokémon I really like that are walled behind a trade condition, I get frustrated. I have to rely on online strangers to trust to give it back to me, which is never a sure thing (or quick thing)… y’know, in modern games. Anything prior to having wi-fi capabilities, I’m fucked.
So alas, Gigalith is a favorable, yet underutilized member of my favorite pokémon list. Maybe some day, we shall meet again. Or I could just replay Shield.
The prospect of my favorite legendary has crossed my mind often. It used to be Groudon, who used to be my favorite ever once Gen 3 rolled around. A big lizard (I love Godzilla), a legendary creature (kids love epic stuff), and adorned in red and black (my favorite colors). Groudon was almost tailor-made for me.
In time, I came to shrug off legendaries. “Bah, they’re too overused in games! Game Freak ruins them by putting in too many! That line by Syndrome from The Incredibles about everyone being super means no one is!” Nowadays, I don’t really care. I still believe they hammer the legendary storyline way too hard, and the constant reliance on it creates a precedence that Pokémon doesn’t really know how to evolve past the proven essentials. Regardless, I don’t think this should soil the impact that its first attempt at it had on me at that point, and Groudon was that special legendary for me.
At one point, I said Mewtwo was my favorite legendary. Then I thought, “How much do I actually like Mewtwo?” It’s not on the list anymore (oops, spoiler). Groudon is my favorite legendary, and probably always will be, most notably for its fantastic aesthetic and the story it was involved in.
It also singlehandedly made me deem ground-type pokémon as my favorite collective in the entire series (by that point). If a single pokémon can influence your preferences towards aesthetic design as a whole, that‘s pretty special. Even still, ground is among my favorite types; I have Groudon to thank for that.
Here’s the type that challenges ground for top spot in my mind.
On the surface, “water” is a pretty basic type. It’s one of three traditional “starter” types, and a lot of the pokémon that make the type up are fish and sea creatures. Much of the criticism that could be attributed to it is fair, I think. However—and I say this as someone who does criticize overly simplistic designs—Kingler is awesome. He’s a crab… with a BIG, MEATY CLAW! Huh?! Huh?!?!
Okay, Spongebob references aside, there is pretty much nothing overly spectacular about the Krabby/Kingler line. They are literally just crabs; Kingler has a big claw and pointy fixtures on its head, but otherwise, it’s big crab time. They have nothing that really distinguishes them as pokémon, as opposed to something else. Nevertheless, I love it; the reason for this is kind of a combination of a lot of different things already purported from prior ‘mon on this list.
1. Nostalgia. The Pokémon anime had a Kingler as one of Ash’s signature pokémon, with a recurring joke that it would happily harass anything that moved. To this day, I recall the really odd call it had, which sounded like a distorted “coo-kie, coo-kie, kukukuku!”
2. Personal obscurity. I would like to have more Kinglers on my team, but prior to the physical/special split in Gen 4, one couldn’t use Kingler to their max potential, since it heavily specializes in physical attack and water moves back then were special. Using a water-type pokémon that doesn’t use water moves… no thanks.
3. I like crabs. Crabs are neat. I used to visit the lobster tank at grocery stores when I was a kid to try and find lobsters with the biggest claws. I would do the same with Kinglers.
This time, I will not tell an incredibly sexist story from my youth to describe how fascinated I was with this pokémon. Re-reading that just made my skin crawl.
In terms of pure design, this is probably one of the most interestingly non-creative designs in the poké-world. It’s a lizard/rhinoceros/rabbit thing with a lot of spikes and a lot of bite. And to amplify it? They make it purple. Great. But perhaps it is this relative simplicity and theme of masculine toughness that makes it so appealing. The best adjective I could use to describe it would be “kaiju” (read: Godzilla), as it has the makings of a big, ferocious monster capable of mass destruction. For that reason alone, it’s this high on this list. I love kaiju-like things.
Oh, and it’s also been a reliable party member in a large number of runs across many games. If Nidoran is available in a game, chances are high I’m putting it in my party, lest I want to try and stick to pokémon from a certain gen (I did so for Shield). Nidoking has probably been a party member in my main team in more games than any other pokémon, due to its relative availability and my tendency to repeat older games. Well, Silver, specially; Nidoking is basically a lock every time if I don’t make a mental note not to.
As a final note, having a Nidoking in my party during the Gen 6 games made the Champion fight a breeze; I literally one-shot every pokémon. That will never not be hilarious to me.
There is no debating my favorite starter pokémon. It’s Feraligatr, and then it’s everyone else. Charizard? Phooey. Blaziken? Out of here. Greninja? Psssh.
This big beast just suits my preferences in nearly every way. Monstrous, jagged alligator. Water typing helps tremendously. Nostalgia up the wazoo. A reliable, cherished member of my Gen 2 party, pretty much every time. Personal obscurity, thanks to its starter status being hard to acquire in other games. Just the right amount of basically everything that makes me love a pokémon, Feraligatr has it. And it has my heart.
In a sense, Feraligatr is an amalgamation of my love for the second generation of Pokémon, which was my gateway into the mainline series. It was my first starter—first pokémon in general—that allowed me to experience the world of Pokémon for the first time. The way people see Charizard, I see Feraligatr, and I can completely understand how many people cherish their first starters from their first game in that same fashion. We’re all subject to the experience of our first time, especially as children, as an entirely new adventure unfolds, hand-in-hand with the first creature to call your partner.
And like Kingler, kind of wish that physical/special split was implemented earlier in the series. Somewhat awkward to have my favorite starter ever not be able to take advantage of its typing, since it heavily favors physical attack. Oh well, there’s always the remakes.
Oho! Some people may have expected to see this little cutie at #1. Unfortunately for it, it has been dethroned in recent years. Nevertheless, let it be known that Abra is a cool dude, and a portion of my online identity for a certain period of time.
Some may notice that a large portion of pokémon on this list are one of two things: fully evolved or capable of being a main team member. Abra is neither of those things, and for it, its “value” is a little shaky. To some extent, my adoration for little Abra is kind of a meme, that I like it just for the sake of liking it, as many would highly prefer its fully-evolved Alakazam. I can’t even refute that; it’s just one of my favorite pokémon because, as my brother used to say, that’s why.
The aforementioned comment about it being “my online identity” is also a distinguishable factor. I would occasionally use the standard Gen 2 Abra sprite for online profiles back in the day, as I quite liked the lurched, guarded look of the creature. It reminded me of my relative disdain for being in the spotlight and pestered with various obligations or responsibilities. I just want to be alone, usually, so I’ll teleport away quietly. A convenient tool to have.
It’s a spiritual, emotional thing, with very little to do with its practical use in-game. Abra just has that sort of unexplainable factor that draws me to it. And while it’s no longer my favorite, it’s still a nice familiarity to have in any Pokémon game.
YOU BETTER BELIEVE I PUT THIS—
I’m not doing that again.
Do I even need to explain myself? With as beloved as this pokémon is, it’d be useless to try and think of anything that hasn’t already been said. Dunsparce, which has recently been crowned as the greatest pokémon of all time by fans, is already so enormously popular that you all probably expected it up here, anyway. Really, I can’t think of anything original, so I’ll just say what’s already been said.
It’s a tank. This thing takes hits and dishes them, too. Its rarity is off the charts, making it immensely special. Its base stats for HP are more than the stats for the strongest pokémon’s overall stats combined. People are willing to buy it off of shady online forums for thousands of dollars. And I, the prime connoisseur of Dunsparce, am beside myself whenever they are offered in a Pokémon game. It’s a gift from Game Freak—a privilege—to be able to use such a holy pokémon for one’s team.
It’s the best. If you disagree, you’re wrong. Sorry, I don’t make the rules.
Honorable Mentions: Steelix, Lugia, Houndoom, Dracovish, Cacturne
For more Top 10’s on this topic, check out the associated archive.
Thank you for your time. Have a great day.