I don’t know about you, but I’ll always have fond memories of Kanto, and holding that massive grey Gameboy in the back of my parent’s car in the summer holidays. I had to angle the light just right so I could see what I was doing, and the Pokémon were made up of about ten pixels and looked like someone dropped a pile of lego bricks on the floor. But that didn’t stop my imagination, causing me to fall in love with each and every monster I caught.
25 years on, and Kanto is still going strong, though remakes, and the resurgence of the Pokémon franchise in Pokémon Go clearly play a part. But, we’re here today to separate the Meowths from the Bellsprouts with our guide to the best gen 1 Pokémon. I love each and every monster from Pokémon Red and Blue, but when push comes to shove, some of these creatures are simply better than others. I mean, come on, it’s a seal called seel… did they even try?
Before we dive into what’s sure to be a controversial list, we should mention we didn’t include any starter Pokémon or legendary Pokémon, as they’d take up too many of the picks (love you Blastoise). But if you want to see those and more, you can also raise your nerdy blood pressure with our guides to the best dog Pokémon, cat Pokémon, monkey Pokémon, starter Pokémon, and even the best mythical Pokémon. There are no bad Pokémon in the eyes of our lord Arceus, but some are just built differently.
Let’s wade through the forest of opinion, open up the Pokedex of controversy, and catch the legendary monster known as our best gen 1 Pokémon guide.
Best gen 1 Pokémon
Why be just one thing when you can be anything? Ditto is a prevalent force in the franchise thanks to its unique ability to transform into any other Pokémon, copying their appearance and their moves. It’s become the go-to ‘mon when players need to breed, especially if you can get a Ditto with good IVs, and my personal Ditto is responsible for more eggs than the easter bunny.
The pink gelatinous blob is also just endlessly endearing, and as time has gone on, I’ve become slowly obsessed with the Pokémon plushes that feature popular Pokémon with Ditto’s trademark button eyes and cute smile. It’s just a great little inclusion, and I’ll never forget the time Team Rocket shows it an illustration of a Dratini to get it to transform, and Ditto instead turns into the book the picture was from. God bless you Ditto. You tried your best.
While many Pokémon from the first generation have had different forms or evolutions over time, one Pokémon I always think deserves more love is Ash’s stalwart companion across the Orange Islands, the one and only Lapras. It’s synonymous with travelling across the water in the games and is based on the loch ness monster. It’s also just a majestic beast in its own right, and outside of a Gigantamax form in Pokémon Sword and Shield, I’d love to see it revisited with a new variation or evolution down the line.
Lapras is also one of the few Pokémon that don’t communicate by saying their own name, instead letting out a joyous noise reminiscent of whale sounds. It did reappear in New Pokémon Snap as a homage to its appearance in the original, and it looks absolutely incredible in the gorgeous art style of the recent photography game. Lapras has been there for seafaring trainers since the very beginning, and I wish it got more love. Read our guide to the best water Pokémon in Pokémon Go for more.
We all know Pikachu is the face of the Pokémon franchise, but Eevee is probably somewhere nearby, eagerly standing behind Charizard, waiting for its time to shine. The cuddly dog Pokémon has a fantastic design, and while we’ve moved away from the illustrative work of Ken Sugimori, Eevee just seems to get cuter with each iteration. It even has its own starring title with Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee, but let’s hope it gets a better game to its name in the future.
Importantly, Eevee also changed how we view evolution in the Pokémon games, with its ability to turn into one of many other creatures depending on various conditions. Vapereon, Flareon, and Jolteon are the original evolutions, but we’ve seen Espeon, Umbreon, Leafeon, Glaceon, and the amazing Sylveon added over the years. Every generation I hope for more Eevee evolutions, and I’m sure we’ll see a couple more one day.
I don’t even know how to start here. Personally, I think Gengar is the single best design out of the original 151 Pokémon. It conveys so much charm, mischief, and is still so malleable as we often see Gengar dissolve into the shadows and creep onto the battlefield. It’s gotten a LOT of love over the years as well, appearing on more merch than Hatsune Miku, and receiving the honour of both a mega evolution and a dynamax form.
Gengar has also managed to stay ahead in competitive battles, thanks to its impressive special attack and speed. Whoever is in charge of the Pokémon stats clearly loves Gengar, as it continually gets love and attention in every game. The only downside is one of those disappointing shiny forms that are only marginally different to the base colour, but both its mega and dynamax form ditch the boring colourway for a spooky all-white sheen. Keep it up Gengar. You rule. Read our guide to the best ghost Pokémon in Pokémon Go for more.
What a good boy. Growlithe is already a fantastic Pokémon, as any dog Pokémon is automatically great (every single one, fight me), and Growlithe has its gorgeous flame-coloured stripes and fluffy fur. But Arcanine. My boy Arcanine. It’s the perfect evolution, taking everything good about the original design and making it so, so, much better.
Ash riding an Arcanine and leaping into the air from the original Pokémon anime intro is burned into my retinas. Arcanine commands a legendary presence, looking regal and powerful all in one fell swoop. And while we prefer the original look, we have to mention the amazing Hisuian versions of Growlithe and Arcanine from Pokémon Legends: Arceus. They add a touch of Chinese mythic design to the ‘mons, and interestingly make them joint fire/rock type. No matter what kind of Arcanine you have, it rules. Read our guide to the best fire Pokémon in Pokémon Go for more.
It might be fairly unassuming, coming from the Pokémon with the distant stare known as Slowpoke, but Slowbro is another great evolution that expands on what makes the original so good, while also having some interesting implications for the actual process of evolution. To this day, while we know that a Shellder must clamp on the tail of a Slowpoke to create a Slowbro, we never discover why the Shellder then takes on a different form.
Perhaps the Pokémon attached to Slowpoke’s tail is actually a form of Cloyster, or maybe it’s all one ‘mon, with the parasitic Shellder unable to survive without Slowbro. Either way, we adore the lazy but earnest nature of Slowbro, and surprisingly it’s no slouch either, with a great movepool mixing water and psychic attacks and a huge defence stat. To confuse things even further, the form of Shellder changes even more when Slowpoke evolves into either Slowking, Galarian Slowbro, or Galarian Slowking. We don’t know what’s going on, but we love it. Read our guide to the best psychic Pokémon in Pokémon Go for more.
While a lot of the first generation of pokémon can be considered a little…silly, Sugimori and the gang took things very seriously when creating the bug Pokémon with weapons for arms known as Sycther’ It’s always given a very imposing impression, and the fact it’s so tough to find in Pokémon Red and Blue’s Safari Zone only adds to the mysticism surrounding the creature.
And while this is a list of the best gen 1 Pokémon, there’s no way in hell I’m not going to mention Scizor. I’ve talked a lot about great evolutions, ones that take the best elements of the original and expand on it, and Scizor is easily one of the best examples of how a new generation revisits a previous Pokémon. This bright red steely monster just looks incredible, and getting to evolve the already badass Scyther from Red and Blue into something that was somehow even cooler? Well, that’s a top-tier childhood memory. Read our guide to the best grass Pokémon in Pokémon Go for more.
Don’t underestimate Magikarp. While you get sold one in the original Pokémon Red and Blue in what seems like a classic fishing scam (sorry), the useless little red fish can actually slowly splash its way up the levels, and eventually turn into a fearsome and terrifying giant creature that towers above most Pokémon. It also gives us one of the best moments in the original Pokémon Snap, after any player that carefully knocked that poor Magikarp halfway down the valley into the waterfall was rewarded with the glorious Gyarados bursting out of the water and roaring in style.
Interestingly, Magikarp and Gyarados are based on a Chinese myth of a koi carp that was determined to swim up a waterfall. Eventually, after lots of hard work, the koi reached the top of the waterfall, and the gods praised its determination and turned it into a golden dragon, a symbol of power and strength. Gyarados also gave many trainers their very first shiny Pokémon after the red Gyarados appeared in the Lake of Rage in Pokémon Gold and Silver, so it’s still a shiny I love and treasure to this day.
In Pokémon Red and Blue, dragon Pokémon are a very rare thing. Before Salamence, Hydreigon, and Garchomp took over the meta, Dragonite and its evolutionary line were the sole recipients of the coveted dragon-type, and it made them a force to be reckoned with on the playground battlefield. Luckily, Dragonite also looks amazing, with its lovable round design and antenna. Its jovial appearance in the first Pokémon movie as the Pokémon postman enamoured many young fans, and it’s remained a favourite ever since.
Interestingly, this is another Pokémon that’s never been revisited for an additional form. As such a firm fan favourite, it feels like a weird omission from any possible regional variants or expanded forms, and one, in particular, feels very strange. Back in the original Pokémon anime, one episode based around a lighthouse revealed a gigantic-sized Dragonite that was the stuff of legends. This is somewhat canonised with dynamax forms eventually, but it felt strange not to get a gigantamax from linking the two, like how Gyarados’ eventual mega evolution was a nod to its strange appearance in the anime. Read our guide to the best dragon Pokémon in Pokémon Go for more.
Let me have this one. While most of the picks on this list are clear fan favourites who appear in countless media over the years, this one’s for me. Bellsprout is one of the most adorable Pokémon from the first generation, and its relative weakness and silly voice have always make me just want to protect the poor plant and call one my own. I can’t say I like its evolutions anywhere near as much, even if James’ Victreebel is good for a laugh, but nothing can touch the minuscule and minimalist design of the original little guy.
“Pikachu, Pikachu, Pikachu!” The crowds cheer, holding up Pikachu signs, banners, dolls, wearing t-shirts with its face, and somewhere trading one of the million different cards featuring the electric yellow mouse. But somewhere, silently in the background, is a Raichu looking on in horror, stunned at the adoration the INFERIOR rodent is getting, when Raichu is not only more powerful, better designed, but also related. Imagine you had a little wimp for a younger brother, a real rat, just a stinky little nuisance, and somehow even though you’re doing better and had gone to university, your parents still only sang your brother’s praises to all their friends.
If Raichu has a million fans, I’m one of them. If it has a hundred fans, I’m one of them. And if it has a single fan, that will be me (and my editor Ruby who actually has a Raichu tattoo). I simply cannot fathom how Raichu isn’t universally adored on a level similar to its pathetic predecessor when it has those adorable ears, a beaming smile, and that lovely orange colourway. If that doesn’t do it for you, then how about an even cuter Raichu that has psychic powers and surfs on its tail? If Alolan Raichu didn’t change the tide of opinion, I honestly don’t know what else The Pokémon Company can do. I don’t even dislike Pikachu (much), but come on folks, you know Raichu rules. Read our guide to the best electric Pokémon in Pokémon Go for more.
Kayleigh has to point out that not everyone at PT considers Pikachu to be a nuisance. We’re not united in this, though we do all love Raichu.
There are a few Pokémon from the original generation that are based on real-world figures (probably before the games were big enough to worry about legal issues), and the amazing Alakazam is one of them. This spoon-wielding unit with immense psychic power is based on the infamous conman Uri Gellar, who spent years pretending to have psychic powers for clout. Well, Alakazam has REAL psychic powers Uri (I know he’s not real, let me have this) and he’s awesome.
Not only is Alakazam an absolute powerhouse in the original games, being one of the few challengers to the almighty Gengar, but the two Pokémon appear together in my favourite episode of the original Pokémon anime, when gigantic prehistoric version of the two ‘mons appeared and had a kaiju fight. With its absurd special attack and its awesome bearded mega evolution, Alakazam has also kept a steady spot in the Pokémon meta, and it holds the honour of perhaps being the Pokémon with a name that’s the most fun to say. Read our guide to the best psychic Pokemon in Pokémon Go for more.
Alright folks, that’s it, for now, put down the pitchforks. We love every single Pokémon from the original gen (except for you Seel), but this was just a list of our personal favourites and some that have had the best legacy since their original release. If you want to see even more of our favourite Pokémon though, be sure to check out our guide to the Pokémon Legends: Arceus best Pokémon next.