The Ultimate Pokemon Rival Tier List (Across All Games)

Every Pokemon trainer needs a rival, but players enjoy facing off against some Pokemon video game rivals more than others

Ultimate Pokemon Rival Tier List

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Whether they’re antagonistic or friendly, a Pokemon rival is central to the Pokemon gaming experience. But not all Pokemon rivals are created equal, and fans have big opinions about their in-game opponents.

Pokemon fans love a healthy debate, especially when it comes to which Pokemon rival is the very best. That’s where we come in with the ultimate Pokemon rival tier list, showcasing some of the most compelling rivals over the years.

Related: Top 10 Best Items In Pokemon Scarlet & Violet For Competitive Play

21. Calem / Serena (Pokemon X & Y)

Pokemon Rival Tier List Calem and Serena Pokemon X and Y
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Primary Game Appearances: Pokemon X & Y

Calem and Serena are somewhat interchangeable characters as the main rivals in Pokemon X & Y. Which rival you get depends on which gender you select at character creation, with players choosing a male avatar pitted against Serena and those with a female avatar facing off against Calem.

These two don’t really stand out in terms of personality. This rivalry is mostly comprised of battling, with the rival not playing much of a big role in the main character’s story. They go the typical route of choosing the Pokemon starter with a type advantage over yours, but beyond that, battling these two isn’t particularly complex or challenging.

20. Brendan / May

Pokemon Rivals Brendan and May
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Primary Game Appearances: Pokemon Ruby, Sapphire, & Emerald; Pokemon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire

In Pokemon Ruby & Sapphire, the rival you get also depends on which gender you choose for character creation, and the dialogue and story arc of either Brendan or May in these games are pretty similar. Brendan / May follows a pretty standard pattern for Pokemon rivals, though with a friendlier attitude. However, unlike some early rivals who want to become champions, their goal is to be a Pokemon Professor like their father, Professor Birch.

These two don’t have the most involved story in the games and don’t fully evolve their starter Pokemon, making them stand out less than other Pokemon rivals on the list.

19. Trace

Trace Pokemon Let's Go Eevee Let's Go Pikachu
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Primary Game Appearances: Let’s Go Pikachu & Let’s Go Eevee

While Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee are remakes of Pokemon Yellow, Trace isn’t quite a copy/paste of the game’s rival, Blue. Instead, he’s an updated version of a similar character who is a bit less confrontational towards the main character. You begin your journey together, and he briefly becomes Champion before you unseat him, but Trace remains relatively friendly throughout the game.

He has some interesting character development involving Cubone and Lavender Town, but many players consider this not nearly enough to give the character real motivation or personality. Rather, Trace feels a bit like an in-game tutorial rather than a character to many, earning him a spot amongst the least favorite rivals in Pokemon game history.

18. Klara

Klara Rival Pokemon Sword
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Primary Game Appearances: Pokemon Sword: Isle of Armor DLC

Klara has certainly taken an unusual path to becoming the player’s rival in the DLC for Pokemon Sword. She’s tried on all sorts of hats, from being a pop singer to training to become a Gym Leader. Klara can be a bit of a bully at times, even threatening the player and cheating in battle. Her focus is gaining popularity to further her career as a singer, making her an interesting rival in that being a Pokemon champion isn’t really her goal.

While she has an interesting backstory, her questionable behavior towards the player character and role as a version-exclusive rival put Klara lower on our list.

17. Avery

Pokemon Rival Avery Pokemon Sword and Shield
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Primary Game Appearances: Pokemon Shield: Isle of Armor DLC

Avery is the version-exclusive rival for players of Pokemon Shield. He is a former gym leader who was kicked out after being a bit too intense with his psychic power of telekinesis. It’s this loss of his status that leads Avery to seek out the Isle of Armor and come across the player character, whom he challenges to battle almost at once.

While his backstory is pretty robust, Avery follows a similar arc to Kara in terms of poor treatment of the player character, both threatening them and trying to cheat in battle. He does show remorse eventually, but even so, he’s not one of the most likable rivals in Pokemon history. Given that his team is primarily Psychic, he isn’t too tough to beat if you play to type, but his defensive strategies can give the player a bit of a challenge. Overall, he’s a decent character, but not a major one since he’s part of a version-exclusive DLC story.

16. Bianca

Bianca Rival Pokemon White Pokemon Black
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Primary Game Appearances: Pokemon Black & White; Pokemon Black 2 & White 2

Like many rivals, Bianca is the player’s childhood best friend who starts her journey alongside you. Her father disapproves of her desire to become a Pokemon trainer, but eventually, she convinces him to allow it. Bianca isn’t the most challenging rival in battle, admitting that she isn’t a strong trainer compared with her friends. However, she keeps a positive attitude and seeks out what she can do in life, making her one of the upbeat, friendlier rivals.

Eventually, she becomes a Pokemon researcher and isn’t a true rival by the time Black 2 & White 2 come around. Bianca has an interesting story and personality, but she doesn’t put up much of a fight as a rival in the games, earning her a lower spot on the list than some more competitive characters.

15. Carmine

Carmine Rival Pokemon Scarlet & Violet The Teal Mask
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Primary Game Appearances: Pokemon Scarlet & Violet: The Hidden Treasure of Area Zero

Carmine is… a lot. She’s a bit of a bully to her younger brother and has a prickly personality overall. Still, she does kind of grow on you over time as she calms down and finds her groove in the second half of the Pokemon Scarlet & Violet DLC.

In battle, Carmine can occasionally give the player a bit of a challenge, but she’s honestly not as tough as her younger brother in my personal experience. At any rate, you battle her frequently in a short period of time, thanks to the design of the DLC, so it gets repetitive pretty quickly. Love her or hate her, Carmine can be a bit one-note, but she does have a clearly defined personality and attempt at a character arc.

14. Hop

Hop Pokemon Sword and Shield Rival
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Primary Game Appearances: Pokemon Sword & Shield

Arguably one of the most divisive rivals in the franchise, Hop is a rival that players seem to hate or feel sorry for but rarely love. He is a friendly and amiable rival compared to many, but he also happens to be pretty lackluster when it comes to battle. Some players say they feel too bad battling Hop because they’re more or less forced to break his spirit, and he never stands a chance.

Even so, Hop is an open and earnest character who keeps pushing to chase his dreams, which means many can’t help but like him even if they wish he had a bit more of a backbone. Compared to the other rivals on offer in Pokemon Sword & Shield, Hop doesn’t really shine like he might have as more of a solo act.

13. Cheren

Pokemon Rival Cheren Pokemon Black and White
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Primary Game Appearances: Pokemon Black & White; Pokemon Black 2 & White 2

Cheren is the rival in Pokemon Black & White who grabs the starter with a type advantage against yours, and this makes complete sense with his character’s vast knowledge of all things Pokemon. Cheren can be a bit impatient and is determined to pursue strength… even if he doesn’t quite know why he wants to be the best.

Compared to some rivals, Cheren does have a bit of a story arc as he tries to figure out more about his underlying desire to be strong. You battle him fairly frequently throughout the story, but he otherwise doesn’t have a particularly major role. Most players don’t find him too challenging to beat, either, so he’s a pretty middle-of-the-road rival.

12. Barry

Pokemon Rival Tier List Barry
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Primary Game Appearances: Pokemon Diamond & Pearl; Pokemon Platinum; Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl

Like many Pokemon rivals, Barry is the player character’s childhood friend turned rival. He is impatient and always in a rush, which can cause him to come across as pretty abrasive when he runs into people and then acts like it is their fault. He’s determined and likes to brag about his battle prowess, making him straddle the line between a friendly rival and a more antagonistic one. He eventually grows up a bit and becomes more serious, but he still retains that impatience that makes him irritating to many players.

In terms of battle, Barry is one of the more competitive rivals in the franchise, particularly with his team in Pokemon Platinum. Many players consider Barry one of the toughest opponents in the core games, but alas, his personality makes him fall short of a true fan favorite.

11. Bede (Pokemon Sword & Shield)

Pokemon Rival Tier Bede Pokemon Sword and Shield
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Bede is another rival with a fleshed-out backstory, having spent some time in an orphanage as a child. Bede has grown into a rude and proud young man determined to become Champion and collect Wishing Stars. His misguided efforts land him in some trouble on his road to Champion status. He has some character growth along the way, but it mostly comes towards the end of the game.

Players are pretty divided on their feelings about Bede, and it all comes down to whether you prefer a more antagonistic rival. Bede isn’t trying to be the player’s friend and has more of the vibe of earlier Pokemon rivals, which some players love about him. On the battle side, his focus on fairy-types means he’s pretty easy to beat for all his big talk, so Bede lands solidly in the middle of our Pokemon rival ranking.

10. Hau

Hau Pokemon Rival Tier List Sun and Moon
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Primary Game Appearances: Pokemon Sun & Moon, Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon

Hau is a friendly rival who doesn’t take Pokemon battling too seriously throughout most of the game, though he’ll happily challenge you whenever you meet. He calls the Alola Region home and is quick to befriend you when you transfer there at the start of the game.

Hau is a far more relaxed rival than many, often preferring to have fun and chase down tasty food before going to battle or trying to finish the adventure before the player. This makes him a fan favorite in terms of his personality and character, but not exactly a challenge when it comes to battles. Some players insist Hau isn’t a true rival due to his laid-back approach, but even so, many consider him a favorite character from the games.

9. Marnie

Marnie Pokemon Sword and Shield Rival
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Primary Game Appearances: Pokemon Sword & Shield

Sword & Shield has plenty of rivals to offer, and Marnie is one of the best among them. She’s followed around by her very own fan club, Team Yell, and has amassed quite a real-life following among Pokemon fans. Marnie comes into the game a bit later on when the character runs across her, but she becomes a staple opponent after that initial meeting.

In addition to offering relatively challenging battles, Marnie also helps the player character along at key points in the story. Her goal of becoming a Champion isn’t solely about strength but also about trying to support her hometown. Her bond with her partner Morpeko is also a standout aspect of her character that fans adore.

8. Gladion

Gladion Pokemon Rival Tier Pokemon Sun and Moon
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Primary Game Appearances: Pokemon Sun & Moon; Pokemon Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon

Gladion is a rival who comes into Pokemon Sun & Moon a bit later, with the interesting twist that he’s a somewhat disinterested member of Team Skull. Gladion takes Pokemon and gets stronger very seriously, which serves as his motivation for challenging the player to battle. His time in the story is short-lived but well-developed with a solid emotional arc.

His unique character concept and goals that aren’t just centered around defeating the player character make Gladion a compelling rival, with many players preferring him over Hau in Pokemon Sun & Moon.

7. Wally

Pokemon Rival Wally with Ralts
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Primary Game Appearances: Pokemon Ruby, Sapphire, & Emerald; Pokemon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire

As far as Pokemon rivals go, Wally is an interesting one. He starts the game as a sickly young boy who isn’t allowed to leave his home to follow his dream of being a Pokemon trainer. Eventually, he runs away from home and becomes one of your rivals, battling you at various points during the game.

Early battles with Wally aren’t particularly challenging, but he and his team grow stronger throughout the game, ultimately making him one of the tougher rivals in your final battle with him. But what really makes Wally stand apart is his story arc, which was one of the more complex ones for its time.

6. Hugh (Pokemon Black 2 & White 2)

Pokemon Rival Hugh Pokemon Black 2 and White 2
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Hugh has some anger issues, but he’s also got a fairly robust backstory compared with many earlier Pokemon rivals. His fierce hatred of Team Plasma stems from their theft of his beloved younger sister’s Pokemon, and this gives him the drive to defeat them at all costs.

Hugh battles with and against the player throughout the story of Pokemon Black 2 & White 2, giving him a larger story role. Because of his unique motivation and the fact that he’s actually nice to the player character, Hugh is relatively well-liked amongst many Pokemon fans.

5. Blue

Pokemon Rival Tier Blue Pokemon Red and Blue
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Primary Game Appearances: Pokemon Red & Blue; Pokemon Yellow; Pokemon Leaf Green & Fire Red

For many Pokemon fans of a certain age, Blue was the OG rival since he appeared in Pokemon Red & Blue, the first games released outside of Japan. Blue also plays the role of a rival in Pokemon Yellow, as well as Pokemon Fire Red & Leaf Green. Perhaps because of his status as the first, Blue often shows up in minor roles in subsequent games, letting the player face off against their first rival yet again.

Blue set the mold for the rude, antagonistic rival. He’s not particularly nice to the player and has the sole goal of becoming a powerful Pokemon trainer. Beyond that and being Professor Oak’s grandson, his character isn’t particularly unique or developed. Even so, many players consider him the best rival to do this day because he set the mold for being someone players really want to defeat.

4. Nemona

Nemona Rival from Pokemon Scarlet & Violet
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Primary Game Appearances: Pokemon Scarlet & Violet

Nemona falls more on the friendly spectrum of rivals, helping you learn the ropes as a new transfer student. She fills the tutorial role in Pokemon Scarlet & Violet, but she’s so excited about it that she still feels like a person while she teaches you the ropes. Even so, her single-minded battle obsession can be a bit irritating. Battling is all she wants to talk about most of the time, making interactions with her a smidge repetitive.

That said, she is a skilled trainer and can throw some truly challenging battles at the player, earning her spot as a true rival to the player, even if she’s friendly about it. Battle-wise, Nemona is a top-tier rival. Story-wise, she could be more well-rounded, but she is still a fun enough character with an infectious enthusiasm you just can’t resist.

3. Silver

Silver Pokemon Rival Tier Ranking
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Primary Game Appearances: Pokemon Gold & Silver, Pokemon Crystal; Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver

If you like a mean rival, Silver is likely to be your ultimate favorite. This rival, who is named after the character in Pokemon Gold & Silver, is downright rude and even physically pushes the player character around. He steals his starter Pokemon and hates Team Rocket not for their evil ways but because he considers them weak. In terms of antagonistic rivals, Blue walked so Silver could run… and shove you aside in the process.

Silver does grow a bit throughout the series and ultimately becomes a bit less cruel towards the player. Many players rank Silver as the best rival because he’s every bit as fun to beat as Blue, with a little added character depth and growth throughout the series. He’s not quite our number one, but we’ll grant that he’s a solid rival in the Pokemon games.

2. Kieran

Kieran Rival Pokemon Scarlet Violet Indigo Disk
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Primary Game Appearances: Pokemon Scarlet & Violet: The Hidden Treasure of Area Zero

I know placing Kieran this high on the list will be controversial, but hear me out. Yes, Kieran can be a bit of a whiny kid, but his reaction to seeing you step in as the Chosen One is refreshingly realistic. Here you are, the protagonist, and he’s just a side character wishing he could befriend Ogerpon and maybe catch one of the super rare Pokemon you keep snatching up.

This honest take on how it would feel to try and befriend a Pokemon video game main character makes Kieran a compelling character, even if he can be a bit annoying at times. For a character who doesn’t come in until the DLC, Kieran has a robust character arc throughout the Hidden Treasure of Area Zero that brings him from shy and timid to rude, all the way back to finding a balance in the epilogue.

1. N

Pokemon Rival N Pokemon Rivals Ranked
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Primary Game Appearances: Pokemon Black & White; Pokemon Black 2 & White 2

N really fills the role of tortured antagonist in Pokemon Black & White with a pretty dark backstory that leads him to believe Pokemon and humans shouldn’t live in the same world. He is the leader of Team Plasma and strives to become the ultimate champion, daring the player to try and stand in his way. As such, he fits into the antagonist rival mold but is far more complex and multifaceted than early rivals.

Throughout the game, N goes through a pretty big shift as his worldview is challenged by the player and their relationship with Pokemon. He is a favorite rival for many players because of his complexity and the challenge that battling against him provides, snagging him to the top spot on our Pokemon rival list.