Kicking Off Pokémon Scarlet/Violet: Top 9 Starter Pokémon Across All Generations

The Very Best

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Since 1998 ambitious Pokémon trainers have begun their journey with the hardest decision any 10-year-old will have to face: which Pokémon will join them on their adventure to be the very best—like no one ever was. Every Pokémon generation has brought new and lovable creatures to face each challenge and form lasting bonds with; as such, every Generation has brought about the question of who is the best. We here at CGM have compiled a definitive list using expert analytics and objective facts to answer this very question.

Generation I: Charmander

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Charmander is the obvious MVP of the first-generation starter Pokémon. An adorable fire salamander with a little flame on its tail that evolves into a badass dragon with the highest attack stat of all the starters—and an absolutely broken Slash attack that almost always guaranteed a critical hit. It was made even more lovable by an absolutely gut-wrenching episode of the Pokémon anime that saw the poor thing abandoned by an abusive piece of garbage—and made you want to claim it for your own even more.

Charmander also has the most consistent evolution chain. Squirtle starts out cute, but its Wartortle is garbage, and Blastoise is only made cool by adding guns, and it didn’t work for Shadow the Hedgehog, and it doesn’t work here. And don’t even get me started on Bulbasaur—although I will give him an honourable mention due to the way his combination of Leech Seed and Toxic would break the game’s damage calculator and continuously double damage/restored health every turn.

Finally, choosing Charmander is the truest test of skill in Pokémon Red/Blue as the game’s unofficial “hard mode,” since the first three gyms aren’t tailored to a Fire-type Pokémon but can be cleared easily by both Water and Grass-type. Choosing Charmander not only showed you had impeccable taste, but you weren’t a trainer to be trifled with.

Generation II: Totodile

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Personally, when I play Pokémon, I tend to lean in the direction of Fire-type starter Pokémon. This is why, Cyndaquill was always my favourite of the Gen II starter Pokémon, but there’s no denying that Tododile is the best choice overall. Much like Charmander, Totodile is an adorable anime crocodile that evolves into a badass anime crocodile. Furthermore, its final evolution boasts the highest attack stat of all the starter evolutions and has the best design overall—Typhlosion doesn’t do much with Cyndiquil’s great fire hedgehog idea, and the less said about Meganium, the better.

Totodile is easily one of the few Water-types that featured not only a strong visual design but solid flexibility in attacks—by its nature as an alligator or “Big Jaw Pokémon,” it could learn not only Water-type moves but Dark-type and even some Fight-type moves giving it a lot of options for battling against its type advantage. Much like Charmander in Pokémon Red/Blue, Totodile is also a more challenging starter to choose as the first few Gyms aren’t tailored to a Water-type—Falkner uses Flying type, which Totodile can handle, but Bugsy’s Bug-type are a bit more tricky, and the same goes for Whitney’s Clefairy/Miltank combo.

Every starter Pokémon in Gen II feels like a proper evolution on the design and concept of the original—which feels like a thematic extension of Pokémon Silver/Gold being such an incredible follow-up from the original and still the best Pokémon game to date—but Totodile was the first genuinely cool Water-type and would debatably end up being the last for a while.

Generation III: Treecko

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If I’m being completely honest now, I never actually played Pokémon Ruby/Saphire. They both came out around when I was an edgy teen in high school and believed I was too cool for Pokémon—I was playing real RPGs for big boys like Final Fantasy VII and Kingdom Hearts. So when I say Treecko is the best starter Pokémon of Gen III, you know I say it without subjective bias.

The Wood Gecko Pokémon, whose design always shows him in some form of movement—from his official art to Pokémon cards where he’s always drawn bouncing through trees or moving through the jungle with expert precision. Treecko is fast, sleek and nimble, and his evolution chain only builds upon that design—culminating in Sceptile whose Pokedex entry reads, “In the jungle, its power is without equal.” However, it’s not just a fearsome warrior, as the entry continues, “this Pokémon carefully grows trees and plants,” highlighting that the jungle is not only its domain but also its home.

While I’m inclined to have a soft spot for the little fire-chicken Torchic, it has the problem of decent design, culmination in a pretty weak final evolution—the fact that it evolves into something that in no way resembles a chicken and is a Fire/Fight-type putting it at a disadvantage not only against water and rock but also psychic types. Furthermore, Mudkip sucks so hard it literally turned into a meme, and its evolutionary chain is…just awful.

But Treeko, and by extension Sceptile is such a genuinely cool Pokémon, and there’s probably no greater example of this than in Pokken Tournament, where his attacks are like that of a ninja—disappearing into blowing leaves, swinging on vines, and attacking with precision plant projectiles.

Generation IV: Piplup

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This certainly was a tough one to choose in terms of starter Pokémon. Pokémon Pearl/Diamond was the game I returned to after high school, realizing that there really was no age limit on a solid RPG like Pokémon. My disappointment was profound—since Pokémon Silver/Gold was my last point of comparison for the series. Pokémon Pearl/Diamond has some of the weakest starter Pokémon in the franchise, second only to its successor Pokémon Black/White—but we’ll get to that momentarily. My folly was in choosing Chimchar, not only lame in design but yet another Fire/Fight-type to follow in Blaziken’s footsteps. I should have chosen Piplup instead.

Piplup immediately wins the best starter for being the most adorable of the three. A sweet little penguin compared to an awkward fire chimp (and clear Charmander rip-off) and whatever the hell Turtwig is supposed to be—another turtle, save some innovation for the rest of us Davinci. Not only that, Piplup has the best evolutionary chain culminating in Empoleon, a badass KING penguin with massive blades on its arms.

While Empoleon is a bit of a gamble to use as a Water/Steel type, which puts him at a bit of a disadvantage with Fire types, its ability to utilize Steel and Ice-type moves make it a terror against Dragon-type Pokémon—arguably the strongest type in the game. Piplup is also afforded the most personality of all the starters with PokéDex entries that give you a clear idea of this Pokémon’s personality, saying, “Because it is very proud, it hates accepting food from people,” or how every Prinplup, “believes it is the most important.” Unlike Turtwig which is just “here is turtle made of dirt,” and Chimchar’s “lol, teh fart joke.”

Generation V: Snivy

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And now we arrive at the weakest entry in the franchise, Pokémon Black/White not only suffers from some of the lamest Pokémon designs, the weakest attempt at antagonists—Team Plasma wants everyone to stop using Pokémon to battle, and they’ll achieve that goal by using Pokémon to battle—but also three of the worst starter Pokémon in the franchise. Begrudgingly, if I had to choose one of these terrible starter Pokémon, it would have to be Snivy.

Out of all three of Gen V’s starting Pokémon, Snivy has class, style, and charm. A dapper snake is one of the starter Pokémons’ more distinctive designs. Compared to the other two, even its PokéDex entries describe its character more as intelligent and calm. While all three of Pokémon Black/White’s starter Pokémon are undeniably cute, both Tepig and Oshawott suffer from really bad second and final evolutions, while Snivy maintains a consistent design, culminating in Serperior—a magnificent snake that exudes a confident, regal vibe.

While Serperior is arguably the weakest of final evolution, it makes up for it by having the highest base speed and defence stats. Paired with the nature of Grass-type’s attacks to inflict status effects and Leaf Blade’s high critical rate, Snivy’s final evolution makes for a fast, technical and ferocious battler.

Generation VI: Froakie

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Luckily, Pokémon was able to recover from the stumble that was Pokémon Black/White with the first series entry on the Nintendo 3DS. Pokémon X/Y was a mostly solid offering for Nintendo’s first fully 3D Pokémon game, and it began with three great starter Pokémon. Chespin was uniquely designed and had a pretty cool final evolution with Chesnaught, and Fennekin was an adorable fire fox with a solid second evolution but a bit of a lame final—though Delphox’s Fire/Psychic-type combination definitely made it a Pokémon to be reckoned with. But the obvious MVP of Pokémon X/Y’s starters, the one whose final evolution was so cool it to make it into Super Smash Bros for Wii U/3DS, is Froakie.

Who would’ve thought it would take six Pokémon generations to figure out the best design choice for a Water starter Pokémon would be a frog—with an adorable design appearing like it is wearing a scarf of bubbles. Its design remains consistent throughout its second evolution, but where Froakie really shines is in his final evolution: Greninja.

Perhaps I’m biased—as CGM’s resident Ninja—but anything to do with Ninjas immediately beats out the competition. But biases aside, Froakie’s final evolution is a culmination of solid and creative design. Its bulbous frog legs emulate baggy Ninja pants, the jagged fins protruding from atop its head give it an armoured look, and the use of its long frog tongue as a Ninja scarf is just the icing on the cake.

Not only that, but its combination of Water/Dark gives it a wide range of devastating attacks—not to mention its special Water Shuriken attack, which is thematically on point—and its incredibly high Speed and Sp. Attack base stats genuinely make it a dynamic battler that is difficult to put down.

Generation VII: Rowlet

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When I reviewed Pokémon Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon back in 2017, I said that I thought Sun/Moon was the best Pokémon games in the franchise—second only to the still unbeatable Silver/Gold. What made Sun/Moon such solid games was how different they felt from “traditional” Pokémon games—feeling more like proper turn-based RPGs set in the Pokémon world.

A solid narrative starts with strong starter Pokémon to choose from, and Pokémon Sun/Moon easily has some of the best. It’s hard to choose just one—Litten goes from an adorable fire cat to a mangy fire cat, to a straight-up wrestling heel, and Popplio goes from cute circus seel to Beyonce-inspired Diva. But the starter Pokémon that easily beats those two for both initial cuteness and fantastic design is Rowlet.

It certainly helps that Rowlet is the coolest bird of all time, Rowlet is a bit of a gamble when you first choose it. Being a Grass/Flying type, some of the initial Island Trails are tailored against it. It’s not until Rowlet evolves to its final form Decidueye that things take a drastic turn. The first of the Grass/Ghost type combination, Decidueye’s access to technical Grass-type moves and sinister Ghost-type moves, coupled with its ability to use Flying-type moves, make it an incredibly versatile Pokémon.

Not only that, but from start to finish, Rowlet is an incredibly well-rounded Pokémon with solid base stats across the board. Decidueye, in particular, boasts solid Attack, Sp. Attack and Sp. Defence. Coupled with solid base stats, Decidueye’s special attack “Spirit Shackle” does solid damage and has a 100% hit rate, it forces opponent Pokémon to stay in the fight, and its Z-Move “Sinister Arrow Raid” is an incredibly cool-looking barrage of ghostly arrows—far better than Incineroar’s silly body slam and Primarina big water ball.

Generation VIII: Scorbunny

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Pokémon Sword/Shield was certainly one of the more divisive Pokémon games, releasing as it did amidst an avalanche of contrived complaints from the “fans,” before anyone had even played the game. Ranging from fury over the reduced National Dex, to a tree not possessing enough polygons to please pedantic Pokémon fans, to the “lacklustre” battle animations from “lazy devs,” who apparently didn’t want to create unique animations for over 300 different Pokémon.

However, whether you love or hate the game, one thing is for sure, it possesses possibly the greatest starter Pokémon of any game, and is easily the best of its own Generation. Scorbunny is hands down the GOAT of Pokémon Sword/Shield and may have actually replaced Charmander as my favourite Pokémon of all time.

Compared to Grookey and Sobble, there’s really no contest—Scorbunny has a cleaner design, with a much more striking use of colour, and just exudes personality. Its PokéDex entry gives you a better idea of its personality and character, whereas Sobble is described as a crybaby, and Grookey indeed has a stick.

Not only that, Scorbunny has a much better evolutionary tree than both Sobble and Grookey, which both have awkward second forms that don’t advance their design very well and a pretty uninspired final evolution. But Scorbunny starts off as an energetic child before evolving to Raboot who is clearly in its moody teen phase, before reaching its absolute peak with Cinderace.

Cinderace is easily the best-designed of the final starter Pokémon evolutions and has the coolest name. Its “Pyro Ball” attack is by far the best animated and conceptually coolest special attack of all starter Pokémon. While it isn’t a stat powerhouse, it boasts a pretty high attack and speed stat and its ability to learn multiple Fighting-type moves while still being a straight Fire-type gives it versatility while limiting damage taken from Super Effective attacks. Not to mention his Gigantamax form is easily the coolest of the three.

Generation VIV: Who Can Say?

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So far, with all the starter Pokémon evolutions for Pokémon Scarlet/Violet being leaked online, it seems like a toss-up in general aesthetic. Without knowing potential base stats for any of the starters, I’d say for a Pokémon that doesn’t look completely ridiculous by the end, the safe bet will probably be Quaxly—looking like it’ll probably have the highest speed stat—whereas Sprigatito and its final evolution Meowscarada will probably boast the highest Sp. Attack and utilize grass and psychic attacks, since its been described as the “Magician Pokémon.”

I really wanted to love Fuecoco, seeing as it looked like a weird little hot-pepper dragon, but both its second and final evolutions are so profoundly unappealing it’s become an increasingly hard sell—despite the probability that it will have the highest Attack stat of the three. If further leaks are to be believed, all of Pokémon Sword/Shield’s starter Pokémon will be in Scarlet/Violet, so I might stick with Scorbunny to start.

Jordan Biordi
Jordan Biordi

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