Many Pokémon fans regard Gen 1 as the best in the series. Not only was it where most people began their journeys with the franchise, but it also gave the world characters that are iconic to this day, most notably of which is the mascot Pikachu. Even Game Freak has caught on to the love for this generation, as Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee were solely focused on them.
With 151 beloved creatures to catch in the Kanto Region, we’re looking at the 10 best from Gen 1. This has little to do with their viability, but more to do with their designs and overall significance to the franchise.
Updated on February 26th, 2022 by Quinn Levandoski: There obviously hasn’t been any new Pokémon added to the first generation, but it’s been impressive how well Game Freak and The Pokémon Company have kept the original 151 pocket monsters relevant. Alternate evolutions or forms have granted some new life, and others remain popular due to the anime or other pop culture forms of media.
The Pokémon franchise has shown time and time again that it isn’t going anywhere. While each new generation of Pokemon introduces new fan-favorites and welcomes new gamers to the fandom, for some, there is no beating the originals.
Pikachu is undoubtedly one of the most popular Pokémon in the franchise’s storied history. It’s adorable, yellow, and just plain cool. There was a reason it was chosen to be the series’ mascot. Just about everyone in the world knows who Pikachu is, and it’s easy to see why it’s so popular. Pikachu’s design is one of the best from the generation, being simple yet different enough to communicate what the world of Pokémon is all about.
Pikachu has since been used in the anime, all sorts of games, and was featured in plenty of spin-offs like Pokkén Tournament and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. The love for Pikachu will never die.
Pokémon from several generations have been criticized for unpopular designs, and several of them drew ire for looking too similar to real-world objects and animals. Starmie, and its predecessor Staryu, seemed to escape most complaints despite simple starfish-like visual styles. This may be because of how rock-solid Starmie has always been in battle.
Its Water/Psychic typing grants it solid STAB coverage, and access to out-of-type moves like Thunderbeam and Ice Beam allow it to check a large portion of enemy fighters. Unfortunately, none of its Abilities are quite as impressive.
Arguably the most popular choice out of the three Kanto starters was Charmander. The reason for this is that people were rewarded for training a Charmander with a gnarly Charizard. This orange reptile may seem to be a Pokémon that should have had different typing, but Charizard has since remained one of the most popular Pokemon in the series.
Not only was it the only evolved Kanto starter that Ash had in the anime (and the only one to consistently reappear), but it was also chosen to get two Mega Evolutions, a Gigantamax form, and appeared in three entries in Super Smash Bros. as a playable fighter. Even when Pokémon Trainer was dropped from the series, Charizard stayed in the game.
Eevee is an interesting Pokémon. While most evolution paths in Gen 1 were linear, players had three choices with Eevee in the form of Flareon, Vaporeon, and Jolteon. This versatility made it a highly desired Pokémon. On top of that, Eevee also had a cute design that made it a favorite among fans and the prime choice to serve as a counterpart to Pikachu.
Eevee has only been gifted more evolutions as the series has expanded, having a total of eight different evolutions as of Gen VI. Eevee might not be quite as popular as Pikachu, but there’s no denying that it has made its own impact on the franchise.
When it comes to the unevolved starter forms, it’s difficult to argue with the charm of Squirtle. This adorable turtle has everything fans want in a basic Pokémon. It’s cute without being too funny-looking, it’s cool without feeling overdesigned, and it will evolve into one of the best Pokémon of the generation.
Squirtle was often chosen the second most out of the three starters, but it’s still been consistently considered one of the best starter Pokémon in the franchise. When it comes to water Pokémon, Squirtle is still one of the most popular. This is helped by the fact that Squirtle and its evolutions made it into a few spin-off titles as playable characters.
No one caught a Magikarp because they loved it. Everyone caught a Magikarp because they wanted to raise it to level 20 and use a Gyarados. Gyarados is a fearsome and powerful Pokémon, but the fact that it evolves from something so potentially useless is why it remains so memorable.
Gyarados didn’t become competitively viable until receiving a Mega Evolution in Gen VI, but it remained a popular Pokemon nonetheless. Its sheer size and angry appearance were more than enough for people to become familiar with it. It was also the only Pokémon to resemble a sea monster so vividly, making it stand out.
The first ghost-type in the Pokémon franchise is still one of the most memorable. Gengar is just about as iconic as a ghost Pokémon can get without stepping on Pikachu’s toes. Created as a direct answer to the powerful psychic types, Gengar is a powerful and speedy Pokémon who would later have a serious impact on the meta when it received a Mega Evolution in Gen VI and a Gigantamax form in Gen VIII.
Gengar’s design is simple yet effective. A bonus is that it somehow mirrors Clefable’s design, which led to a lot of interesting theories about a connection between the two species. Unfortunately, Gengar is a hard monster to acquire as it’s one of several Pokémon that only evolve through trading.
It’s difficult to separate these three birds because of how connected they are in the Kanto Region. Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres were the original legendary trio in the franchise, and they get a lot of love for that. These three would appear in numerous other games that took place outside of the Kanto Region, like Pokémon X and Y.
They were the first legendary Pokémon that many players ever caught and required searching in icy caves and old power plants to find. This trio was reinvigorated with new Galarian forms in Pokémon Sword and Shield.
Scyther didn’t have a big impact on the Pokémon series, but its design alone made it worth a spot on the list. Scyther was loosely based on a praying mantis, and Game Freak took a lot of creative liberty with the design. It’s imposing, cool, and looks surprisingly threatening.
Considering most of the bug-type Pokémon at the time were either cute or just anime versions of real-world insects, Scyther was a welcome change of pace. Scyther would later gain an evolution in Gen II in the form of Scizor, and an alternate evolution, Kleavor, in Pokémon Legends: Arceus.
While Dragonite is the gen 1 Dargon that most often appeared in battle, Dragonair benefits from having a much more interesting design. While it’s based on a serpent similar to Gyarados, Dragonair is much more slender and elegant.
It shows off the mythical nature of dragons while not being so overdesigned. It’s simple, sleek, and beautiful. It’s unfortunate that its evolution didn’t reflect any of that. Dragonite is cool in its own way, but many would have preferred something closer to Dragonair. Many players may have missed Dragonair as it’s one of the hardest Pokémon to catch.
Decades after his creation, Mewtwo is still one of the most popular Pokémon of all time. This is partially due to its interesting visual design and combat effectiveness, but Mewtwo also gained fans as the antagonist of the first Pokémon movie as well as Detective Pikachu.
Mewtwo fought and looked like no other Pokémon from Gen I, and people went nuts trying to add it to their team. Mewtwo has since appeared in many other Pokémon games and was the only other Pokemon to be rewarded with two Mega Evolutions that were both competitively viable.
Chansey, also known as the Egg Pokémon, has a bizarre design that’s both endearing and incredibly odd. As its nickname implies, Chansey, as well all its baby form, Happiny, and its evolution, Blissey, all have eggs in a pouch on their bellies. This “parent” persona is mirrored in their matronly demeanor and penchant for working in Pokemon Centers.
Chansey is no competitive slouch, either. While they won’t do much damage offensively, their massive health pool and solid Special Defense stat make them fantastic tanks against Special Attackers.
Alakazam garnered significant attention from many fans due to his outlandish Pokédex entries in Pokémon Red and Blue. This Pokemon catalog claimed that Alakazam possesses an IQ of around 5,000, and that places it 500 times higher than the average adult.
Alakazam has waved in and out of the competitive meta due to his low Defense/Special Defense and high Special Attack. Alakazam benefitted from one of the strongest Mega Evolutions in the games, but their removal has once again lowered his use in competitive formats.
Cloyster wasn’t actually very good when it was originally released in the first generation games, but this angry oyster saw a huge jump in viability when it was given Skill Link, one of the best competitive abilities in the franchise. Skill link guarantees that all multi-hit moves land the maximum possible number of attacks.
Fortunately, Cloyster has solid multi-hit moves to utilize Skill Link, such as Rock Black and Icicle Spear. This makes it a powerful combatant against foes with Sturdy or that are weak to Ice or Rock moves. Cloyster is also a great defensive tank with an impressive Defense stat of 180.
Lapras is a large aquatic Pokémon famous for its friendly nature and willingness to let people ride on its shell across water. Lapras was a solid competitive teammate in generation 1 as well due to its well-rounded suite of moves. Surf and Ice Beam deal solid damage, while Confuse Ray and Hypnosis could buy time for healing or cause opponents to knock themselves out.
Lapras was given a boost in Sword and Shield when it was given a music-inspired Gigantamax form. This form came with a unique move, G-Max Resonance, which deals damage and sets up Aurora Veil.
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