This morning, Nintendo announced the eighth generation of Pokémon: Sword and Shield, and along with it came three starters. Sam Brooks ranks these starters – and all of the rest of them.
Another generation of Pokémon, another one hundred new creatures to remember the names of and eventually forget. Like, who remembers the sentient ice-cream? (Absolutely do not email or @ me with its name. I have learned and forgotten it, and have no intention of re-traumatizing my brain with the information.)
There are two definers of each Pokémon generation: The starters and the legendaries. The legendaries are invariably titanic creatures of apocalyptic doom, that nonetheless are able to be captured within a orange-sized ball and tamed by ten year old children.
The starters, on the other hand, are three cute animals. Each generation is the same build up – one grass starter, one water starter, one fire starter. They have two evolutions each – evolving into their own creature of less-than-titanic doom. It’s intended that you’ll nurture and train these creatures over the entire game. They’re your first Pokémon, so they’re the one you’re going to stick with.
If you’re one of those min/maxers or someone who plays Pokémon competitively, then I don’t know what to say to you except please don’t email or @ me. If I was someone who played this game competitively, then I wouldn’t be ranking the starters – I’d be trying to max out my EV values.
So, the starters. We all have our favourites, we all have our least favourites. There’s an alleged consensus on this, and I’m about to blow it wide open with my ridiculously biased rankings. You may agree, you may disagree. You may, as one charming human being has called me over the past few days, a lying sack of excrement.
(Note: For all of these rankings, the anime has been excluded. This is solely because I stopped watching the anime when I got to the age where I could make my own decisions, and also they stopped playing it on television over here.
Other note: I absolutely forgot Gen 7 when putting this post together – despite having spent approximately two hundred hours playing both Sun and Ultra Sun. You can place Rowlet in ‘absolutely not’, Lillet and Popplio in ‘absolutely fine’ and you can send me hate at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Okay, yes. Pikachu is technically a starter Pokémon in Pokémon Yellow. And even though that game counts in the canon – please, ask me about the rich and intricate Pokémon canon and chronology, if you want to worry for my mental health with full confidence – I don’t call Pikachu a canonical starter.
Also? Pikachu being your favourite Pokémon is like pizza being your favourite food. You’re not wrong, just boring.
It’s a mole on fire. It’s eyes may be drawn in a way to indicate happiness, but I see only ignorance.
It’s a grass turtle. I know it’s meant to be cute, but the deadness in its eyes suggests that the tree’s roots have buried into its brain, somewhat like a parasite, and the tree has assumed control of this vessel.
Not the most reassuring thing.
Those are dead, soullless eyes. It has gouged many an enemy on those yellow spike things. Not what you want accompanying your ten year old voyager on their journey.
My quibble with this second-gen starter is less on unnerving factors and more on how weirdly shapeless it appears. I can’t figure out how it’s body works underneath that green skin, and it makes me shiver a bit.
The leaf also seems useless.
Sobble is one of the new starters, and my opinion on this may change and vary violently, but I can’t help looking at that picture and wondering about the proportions. Its head is so huge in comparison to its limbs, even its eyes are so big. What’s the fin for? Why does it have the Clefairy-esque tail?
I shouldn’t have to think this much about my pocket monster I am forcing to fight for my own fame and glory, thank you very much.
Points for: The lil’ seashell bowtie, and it’s ruff around its neck. It looks like its dressed up for its high school prom!
Points against: Eyes yearning for death, or the bloodrush of battle. Either will satisfy it, but only one forever.
Points for: It’s a start Pokemon with a train. She’s a pageant queen, baby!
Points against: This creature is absolutely going to slit your throat when you have your back turned, for enslaving it and forcing it to fight against its own.
There are already beautiful frog creatures in this universe – hey, Politoed – we don’t need an awkward one.
Beard is cute, though.
Fire monkey, looks way too happy for something that shouldn’t be allowed inside a dwelling with no decent fire exits.
Has the name Grookey, which makes me think of how that word sounds out loud, and shudder involuntarily.
At least he’s waving at me, though!
Look at his little helmet! Look at how happy he is! This is not just a Pokémon dressed for battle, this is a Pokémon dressed for slaughter, and he is loving it.
Controversial ranking, probably. I think Squirtle is adorable, I think Squirtle is good, but I also know for a fact that Squirtle is a cop and a snitch. And I can’t in all honesty support a snitch. (Also, this is based on the anime, but I watched this part, and these are my rankings, so please send your anger somewhere productive.)
It frustrates me that I can’t tell if its tale is fluffy or not. That is all.
It’s an adorable pig that breathes fire! What’s not to love? Probably the bunny ears! What happened to bring about that evolutionary change, and is it the same thing that also brought about the Pokémon that’s a sentient key?
This delightful little crocodile would rip off one of your arms and keep on smiling! If Pokémon were real, which they thankfully aren’t, then Totodile would be the subject of a Werner Herzog documentary where some hapless human thought they made friends with the creature but in actual reality, the Totodile was just waiting until the human forgot to feed it one day and then, logically, the Totodile murdered it.
But look at his stubby arms!
ABSOLUTELY THE BEST
To misquote an internet thing: This Fennekin looks like it’s about to divorce me, and take me for all I’m worth.
It’s a glamourous little fox and it knows more about me, the world, and the way of things than I will ever know. It will bless whatever ten year old chooses it, for as long as that particular Fennekin decides to give it grace.
Fire lizard. It’s awesome. No discussion needed.
Snivy is the Pokémon equivalent of Rachel Weisz in The Favourite.
You know that scene, in the middle of the movie, where Rachel Weisz is looking, boredly, for someone to dance with and she notices Taylor Swift’s boyfriend and points at him? Snivy is that moment, in Pokemon form.
Snivy has lazy top energy and I’m here for it.
Despite being highly allergic to rabbits and equally adamant that I can still spend time around them, I am incredibly won over by this seventh gen starter. For me, it’s the little bandages over the eyes and bottom of the feet that do it. Again, I’ve no idea what environmental factors lead to an animal developing such markings and/or armour naturally, but then again, I’m also not paid to analyse the environmental factors of an entirely fictional world loosely based on our own.
Also, he reminds me of Max. From Sam and Max, and that is always a good thing.
ABSOLUTELY THE GOAT, NO QUESTION, SHUT OFF YOUR BROWSER
There’s a reason this creature is Pokémon #001. Not only is it absolutely adorable, but it represents Pokémon at its most inventive and finest. This doesn’t look enough like a turtle to be a turtle – the head shape is weird, and it has claws, plus a big bulb on its back. It looks like an entirely new creature, but also, kind of with the aura of a cat. And cats are lovely, cool, and you want to hug them.
None of the other starters are this inventive. None of them reach the heights of Bulbasaur. What does it say about Pokémon that they peaked at number #001? Nothing nice! That’s another article, though.
However. There’s a real winner here.
And it’s been staring you in the face all along.
The real winner is…
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WHOEVER YOUR FAVOURITE IS
Pokémon isn’t about ranking these adorable creatures who are constantly forced to beat the living shit out of each other for the pleasure of human beings. Pokémon is about forcing your favourite adorable creatures to beat the living shit out of each other.
Whoever is your favourite is the best. That’s what Pokémon, as a game, does at its best: It allows you to build deeply unhealthy emotional relationships with virtual creatures that you can name, and also spend more time with than you do with any of your loved ones. I don’t care if people don’t text me back, Bulbasaur is going to be happy when I give him this apricot! Bulbasaur loves me! I can’t marry him, but I can breed him to make another Bulbasaur who will love me equally as much! Can’t get that with another human being!
Am I right, ladies, gentlemen, and otherly identifieds?
That’s Pokémon: Fucking with people’s emotional dependencies since the late nineties.
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