Pokémon starters are a contentious subject. No matter who you are, if you’ve played one of the games, you have an opinion on which starter is the best. This might be determined by which generation was your first, memorable moment in one of the games, but it has been locked in your head in some way.
I’m not going to pretend this is an objective list. A few Pokémon Starters are decided by how good a Pokémon is at the battle, but that’s far from the main criteria. There are some ranked lower just because I don’t like their face, or the generation they’re from, or just a vague sense of like or dislike based on my memories of them.
Still, these are my opinions, and I’m sticking to them. Without further ado, these are the top 25 Pokémon starters.
Gen 2 was my starting gen, so you’d think I’d have some nostalgia for that era…and you’d be correct. But even with that in mind, Chikorita falls flat. In terms of both appearance and power, this Pokémon is thoroughly underwhelming. It starts cute but subtly-wrong, which only gets worse with time, and its combination of being an annoying sack of HP and a mono Grass-type with all the typical weaknesses that entails puts it at the bottom of this list.
I like Gen 7’s starters for the most part, but Popplio’s weird seal idol schtick does not land with me like the other two it shares. This one is just based on the look of its evolved form and the fact that Water Gun shoots from its nose, which is just gross.
Oshawott always just looked awkward to me, and mono Water is such a massively tedious typing when what feels like 70% of every game’s Dex is at least part Water. Dewott looks legitimately cool, and if the line had continued in that direction, I’d be all aboard the Oshawott train, but Samurott ruins it.
Yeah, I said it. The electric mouse is cute and all, but it’s weak and a little overhyped as an actual Pokémon rather than a mascot, and I never liked Raichu much either. Alolan Raichu might bring it up a long way, but still not enough.
Gen 3 has two of my favorite starters ever, but Treecko never quite tickled my fancy. It doesn’t help that its admittedly cool evolutions kind of get the shaft in being mono Grass still while its peers are quite rare dual types.
This one is based on looks, rather than effectiveness. Grass/Fighting is a cool typing, but I dislike this Pokémon’s looks. Plus, I admit a little bias here; I never played Gen 6, so have no attachment to any of that Gen’s starters.
This one gets tossed low because it is the third Fire/Fighting starter in a row, and it doesn’t even look as cool as the other two before it. That’s it.
I don’t like its face. Or any of its other looks. The following forms’ typing (Fire/Psychic) would be compelling…if Victini hadn’t beaten it to the punch while having a way better look to it.
I do not like this Pokémon. Its smug aura mocks me.
Okay, for real though, I like Snivy. It’s the evolutions that bother me. The unfortunate thing loses its arms as it evolves, which has always horrified me. Plus, it’s another mono Grass, a typing I hate.
I like tortoises. And this one looks so darn happy. Plus, its final evolved form (Torterra) is a very cool looking Pokémon, with a typing I like (Grass/Ground).
Scorbunny is my second favorite Sword/Shield starter, but I like both of its evolutions significantly less than the final forms of its peers, so it gets points docked. It’s a pretty goods Pokémon stat-wise, as starters go, but also has little to get me excited. No, not even its stiff and awkward soccer attack animation.
Look at him. He’s so cute. If he didn’t turn into such a monstrously ugly final form, he’d be perfect. As-is, though, he’s got Venusaur ruining Bulbasaur and Ivysaur’s perfect progression and being mono Grass holding him back from being number one in my heart, instead of just the Dex.
Yes, yes, overrated fire lizard. But the whole Charmander design looks good, it’s got solid stats, and let’s face it; Charmander was cool in the anime. The overexposure knocks it down a few pegs, but just a few.
I dislike Chimchar and Monferno’s designs, though can’t deny Infernape looks badass. Still, I don’t think it’s as cool as its Gen 3 predecessor and loses points for being the same typing twice in a row.
Froakie is here carried entirely on the back of its final evolution, Greninja. Greninja is cool, with a great typing (Water/Dark) and a cool ninja theme. A theme neither Froakie or Frogadier’s designs properly telegraph, which is part of the reason Froakie sits a bit lower on this list than I might otherwise put it.
Sobble is in a similar boat to Froakie, but I think Sobble on its own is a bit cuter than Froakie, and I like Inteleon way more than I probably should, so it gets bumped up a bit.
Squirtle is adorable, Wartortle is cool, and Blastoise has cannons built into it. The line has the whole package. I couldn’t tell you why I put Squirtle a little higher than Charmander. Maybe it’s the sleek design, the lack of an awkward middle stage, the way it completely stomps over Brock, or that sometimes I can still hear Charmander scream and cry for mommy after Squirtle bites into its neck, but I like it just a bit more.
Piplup has the distinction of being one of the only starters, or even Pokémon in general that I adore all three forms of. Piplup, prinplup, and Empoleon all bring something new and exciting to the table as it evolves, really giving you that feeling of “I wonder what’s next? AWESOME” every time it evolves. Plus It also has a cool Water/Steel typing and made a pretty solid wall in its Gen 4 debut.
Cyndaquil was my very first Pokémon, and it’s very near and dear to my heart. I almost put it at the top of the list because of that, but couldn’t quite justify it. Cyndaquil is admittedly its weakest form in terms of appearance, and it sadly is far from a powerhouse, with an unfortunately spread out stat spread and meh movepool.
I will always love Cyndaquil, but on repeated plays of Crystal and Heart Gold, I have come to realize that he is outmatched by one other:
Totodile is cool. Feraligatr is awesome. We don’t talk about Croconaw.
It gets a good moveset and a cool appearance, while showing up in a Gen that didn’t quite have the insane water saturation the games would have starting with Gen 3, so squeaks this high up.
I think all three of Torchic’s forms look great, and it was part of the first wave of dual-type starters. The OG Fire/Fighting starter that kicked off an annoying trend is an absolute powerhouse and was competitively viable back in its heyday, so makes it into the top 5 based on power alone.
..But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like Mudkip more. It looks adorable, and Swampert is the coolest looking starter of the Gen (and one of the better looking Pokémon in general), which is saying something given the competition. Plus, I’m a sucker for Water/Ground types; I’d put Wooper on the list if I could.
I don’t usually go in for Grass types, but Gen 7 brought out the big guns with this powerhouse of adorableness. It won me over instantly, because I didn’t like the looks of either Litten or Popplio, and I never regretted it. The evolutions progressively won me over more and more as well, until the amazing Grass/Ghost typing and rad Z-Move cemented it as what I thought was going to be my favorite starter of all time.
I will be perfectly honest; Grookey is her entirely because I loved that scene of Rillaboom banging the drums in the Pokémon rock band at the end of Sword/Shield. It just looks so happy to be there.
Rowlet was great, and I never regretted picking Rowlet. But seeing Kukui’s Inceroar take my Decidueye to Suplex City at the end of my Moon playthrough sold me on the Pokémon instantly. I was in the middle of watching Tiger Mask W at the time, which did, even more, to sell me on this as the best starter Pokémon the series has ever cooked up, with its clear inspiration from the real-life wrestler (and character in the anime) Tiger the Dark. Over time and exposure to it in Smash Ultimate as well, the Pokémon Company is going to have to work very hard to precision engineer a Pokémon more tailored to my interests than this powerful cat.