Oh gen 3 Pokémon, we didn’t know how good we had it. With the 135 Pokémon that call the Hoenn region home, Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire introduced some now classic mons, including a fiery chicken, a sand-dragon, a metal meteor-masher, and my personal favourite, one sleepy boy.
So, putting together this list of the best gen 3 Pokémon isn’t the easiest thing we’ve ever done, but damn if it isn’t necessary. With a few years now gone since the remakes, let alone the rapidly aging from the original games, in the interest of history, we’ve taken a look at the 135-strong roster, picking out our favourites, the most iconic, and the biggest battlers (just in case they ever do port these games for Switch).
For more things gotta catch ’em all, see what we make of Red & Blue’s roster with our list of the best gen 1 Pokémon. Or, if your eyes are on the future, see our guides to the next adventure with Pokémon Scarlet & Violet starters, Pokémon Scarlet & Violet legendaries, and Pokémon Scarlet & Violet new Pokémon.
Anywho, here’s our picks for the best gen 3 Pokémon
The best gen 3 Pokémon
To keep things interesting, we’ve decided not to include any of the legendary or starter gen 3 Pokémon on this list. So, with that caveat out of the way, let’s strap on the go-goggles and head to the desert for our first pick.
The aforementioned sand-dragon, Flygon is one of the most consistently overlooked Pokémon in both the third generation, and across the ever-growing list of dragon Pokémon. Despite not having Salamence’s scorching attack power, Flygon’s unique-at-the-time typing made it a force to be reckoned with, before the fairies came along and ruined everything. Still, we love Flygon for its bugged-out design. Even if the poor thing can’t hold its own in battle these days, we’ll always have Route 111.
If you’ve never played a minute of competitive Pokémon you might not know this, but Dusclops is something of a tank, and when I say something of a tank, I mean potentially one of the most frustrating tanks of the third-gen. With matching 130 def and special def stats, and a movepool that includes pain split, I lost count of the number of opponents I cheesed out of a victory with an unshakeable Dusclops, and I still prefer adding the stocky ghoul to my party to its fourth-generation evolution.
Look. At. That. Boy. He’s sweet. He’s round. You can bounce him up and down. He’s everything you could ever want. Spheal won’t win you any gym battles by the time you can add it to your team, but it’s by far the cutest Pokémon across the third generation roster roster, and it’s criminal that the Pokémon beauty pageants aren’t all immediately forfeit to any Spheal that enters.
The pseudo-legendary of the third-gen Pokémon, Metagross is a massively popular monster that still holds up as one of the best steel Pokémon to ever grace the game. Sure, if it comes into contact with any fire Pokémon special attacks, it’s about as useful as a paper plane crossing the Atlantic, but with basically any other matchup, Metagross is almost certain to Meteor Mash its opponent into smithereens.
Slaking is the Pokémon we can all relate to. I wish sometimes when people ask me to do things I could simply slack off. Interestingly, some new light has shone on the canon behind Slakoth’s peculiar evolutionary path, explaining that it reverts to its sleepy ways once it’s experienced the vitality of Vigorith because, according to the developers, at least, the ‘mon realises the effort isn’t worth it. Amen Slaking, amen.
Metagross might be the official pseudo-legendary of Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald, but Milotic is the one that we kids would talk about in hushed tones on the playground. This infamous ‘mon, with its unreasonable catching method, and even more ridiculous evolution method, was something of a myth to those who didn’t own it, and the shiniest badge of honour for those who did. While it’s not quite the Pokémon master ID card it used to be to have Milotic in your party, it’s still one of the most beautiful, nuanced designs we got to experience in Hoenn, and it still looks as good today.
Cradily and Armaldo
I have to mention Cradily and Armaldo in the same breath as, for someone who loved the fossil Pokémon gimmick of the first generation of Pokémon, I felt it was sorely missed in Gold and Silver. Then, the third generation Pokémon come along providing this pair of fantastic fossils arrive with their peculiar typings and extravagant designs. I even went through the extra effort of getting a friend to breed their fully evolved Armaldo so I could take both of the ancient ‘mons on my quest. This pair might not stand up quite so much since more powerful monsters thought lost to history have arrived in later generations, but they still have a special place in the history of Hoenn.
Give a man a Gardevoir, and he’ll probably beat the elite four the first time of asking, give a Gardevoir to Wally, and there’s no such luck. Despite being the mascot Pokémon for one of the wimpiest characters to ever grace the Pokémon series – and there’s some real wimps in there, I’m telling you – Gardevoir is one of the most elegant designs across all generations, not just the third-gen Pokémon roster, and is still one of the most proficient pure psychic-type attackers.
For me, Salamence never set my world on fire, but on asking the PT team who should make the cut for this list, it was pretty clear that it’d be sacrilegious to leave gen 3’s answer to Dragonite. Salamence is raw power, with incredible stats and a diverse movepool, there were few more competent threats for the fledgling competitive Pokémon meta at the time. The eventual arrival of Mega Salamence made some pretty big waves too, and even I, hardly a Salamence stan, can agree that the mega design is something to behold.
Forget leaving the best until last. We’ve left the biggest until last, with Wailord taking the final spot on our list of the best gen 3 Pokémon. To this day, Wailord is still the biggest non-legendary Pokémon, shaping up at an incredible 47 feet. The big whale has little use in battle besides soaking up attacks with its monolithic HP stats, but its iconic size made it a talking point on release back in 2003, and it’s still one to this day.
There you have it, our picks for the best gen 3 Pokémon you can find in the corners and crevices of Hoenn. For more adventures, see our picks of the best games like Pokémon.