Ah, Pokémon, the tiny little monsters that defined an entire generation and have been in the zeitgeist floor over two decades. I was a huge fan of the original games when they came out back in 1998, and I was absolutely thrilled to revisit the Kanto region when Let’s Go Eevee and Let’s Go Pikachu came out recently for the Switch! In honor of returning to the region that started it all, I thought I’d take a look at some of my favorite Pokémon from the original 151. So, without further ado, I give you my list of the top ten Pokémon from the Kanto region!
Rounding out the bottom of the list, we have Arcanine, the evolved form of Growlithe. Arcanine is basically a giant dog that spits fire at your enemies and burns anything that stands in your way. Sounds badass, right? Well, it would be, except for the fact that Aracnine doesn’t really excel at anything. Sure, it’s cute, but it is far from the strongest Pokémon you’ll encounter (yet still somehow better than Pikachu). Even as far as being a fire-type, it pales in comparison to others that you can get earlier in the game. So, why does it edge out 141 other ‘mon to make it onto the list? Well plain and simple, it’s because of the new feature added in Let’s Go that allows you to ride certain members of your party if they are large enough. And I’m not even going to pretend I didn’t squeal audibly when my character climbed aboard his newly acquired Arcanine and started zipping around the map. Simply sparking the return of childlike wonder in these terrible times is enough to earn Arcanine a spot on the list, even if it is at the bottom.
If you were to ask me what my favorite animal is, I would enthusiastically begin to ramble about the majesty of the Pangolin. For the uninitiated, a pangolin is basically what you get if an anteater and an armadillo had a baby, and then raised that baby on a steady diet of growth hormones and heavy metal. This thing stands (yes, on its hind legs) around four feet tall, walks around in a full suit of scale armor, and has six-inch long claws that it uses to tear apart insects’ hiding spots. So, why am I rambling about pangolins in the middle of a post about Pokémon? Well, it’s because Sandslash is essentially a pangolin on steroids! And, even better, it’s actually a pretty solid ground-type, something that’s actually pretty rare in the games. Raise your Sandshrew into one of these bad-boys, and electric-types will drop like flies as your slice through them in the most awesome way possible.
Haunter is a rare exception on this list in that it’s the only entry that is not a final evolution. Why is that, you ask? Well, it all comes down to the fact that it only evolves into its final form Gengar, when traded to another player. This wouldn’t be so bad, except you essentially have to take your goofy, grinning, ghostly buddy and say goodbye to it in favor of someone else’s in order to get it. The absolutely terrible trading interface in Let’s Go aside, Pokémon games are all about building bonds with your partners as you adventure through the world together. And, while I definitely like having a dual-natured ghost- and poison-type in my party, I’m more than happy to hang out with the middle-tier form if it means I get to keep that bond.
Snorlax? Seriously? Yes! He’s big, lazy, and always hungry (so, essentially me in Pokémon form), but he’s also an absolute tank that will shrug off nearly any attack like it was a mild annoyance. Oh yeah, and he hits like a damn freight train! ‘Nuff said.
Bug-types can be a bit of a struggle in Pokémon. They have weaknesses to both fire and flying (two fairly common types, especially early in the game), many have cocoon-like intermediate evolutions which are nearly useless, and they pretty much all look needlessly goofy. Then you run into Scyther, which looks like someone took a praying mantis and said, “yeah, but what if it was even creepier?” This giant, green bundle of pain is not here to play around, and it will absolutely destroy any psychic-types that stand in your way with a combination of it’s massive scythes and the simple horror of its very existence.
Now we’re getting into the top half of the list, so let’s kick it off with Marowak, one of the best ground-types in the game, and a prime example of why you shouldn’t read the lore. So, aside from the fact that Marowak is a tiny bundle of rage that bash through anything with a giant, discarded femur, they’re also one of the best ground-type Pokémon in the game. Just try not to think about the fact that it’s badass bone helmet is actually the remains of its own mother. Yeah, you read that right. It wears its mother’s skull like a helmet, and it head-butts your enemies to death with it. And that’s not just some unofficial fan theory. That’s straight out of the damn Pokédex! It’s canon, and it’s horrifying. Now let us never speak of it again.
Gyrados is the cream of the water-type crop. This giant monstrosity from the deep can either devour your foes in one swift chomp or blast them into oblivion with a massive blast of water. And you can even ride on it! Those facts alone would be enough to make it on his list, but Gyrados is even more remarkable when you consider that this behemoth is actually the evolved form of Magikarp, the most useless Pokémon ever created. If you manage to persevere long enough with a useless fish taking up one of your precious party slots, you are more than adequately rewarded when it turns from a fishing boat reject to this vengeful god of the sea!
To quote Samuel L. Jackson from the movie Jackie Brown, “When you absolutely, positively got to kill every mother****er in the room, accept no substitutes.” That’s pretty much Charizard in a nutshell. Being the final form of one of the original game’s starting Pokémon, Charizard is the fire-type to end all fire-types. And it had the added bonus of being able to burn useless grass-types (looking at you, Venusaur) to a crisp. Even better, this literal dragon is also a flying-type, so it is immune to the ground attacks that normally wreck fire-types. Oh yeah, and you can climb on its back and freaking fly. Allow me to reiterate, it lets you FLY! So, yeah, my Charizard rules, and Renata’s Venusaur bites.
I wish I could have been around to hear the original pitch for Mewtwo, though I imagine it was something along the lines of, “hey, you know what this happy, whimsical kid’s game needs? A genetically engineered abomination with full sentience, the ability to speak with humans, the power to psychically control others, and an ever-present rage driven by the sheer pain of having humans force existence upon it simply because they could. Oh yeah, and you should totally be able to catch it and make it fight for you!” Yup, that’s Mewtwo, the psychic cat-monster that is the sole reason Master-balls exist. And it gets bonus points for scarring an entire generation of children when it straight up murdered Ash in the first movie. Like, he was straight up dead for a minute… dead-dead. Because Mewtwo is freaking metal.
So, what could top a murderous, genetically-engineered cat with an existential crisis? Why only the cutest little ball of fluff in existence! Get bent, Pikachu, Eevee is the real star here! Even if Eevee wasn’t the most adorable thing ever (it totally is, though), it has the distinct ability to evolve into any of three forms depending on what you need (and that’s expanded further to a total of eight forms in the later games). Of course, as Renata mentioned, the special Eevee you can get as a partner in Let’s Go can’t be made to evolve (but I still maintain that mine didn’t get pissed when I tried, Renata), it has the unique ability to learn any of eight completely overpowered moves representing its eventual eight evolutions! Oh yeah, and did I mention that it’s the most adorable thing to ever freaking exist!?
So there you have it, my list of the top ten Pokémon of the Kanto region. Did I miss any of your favorites, or are you a Venusar apologist like Renata? Let me know in the comments. Now, if you’ll excuse me, my Eevee, Booplesnoot the Destroyer, and I have to go wreck the Elite Four again.
You can check out previous deep dives below: