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Top 10 Best Starter Pokémon

In between "Pokémon" journeys, Jeremy enjoys working as a pharmaceutical chemist and campus manager.

What Is a Starter Pokémon?

Although Pikachu stars in the anime, in most Pokémon video games, trainers begin their journey with a tough choice between three initial monsters:

  1. One Fire type
  2. One Water type
  3. One Grass type

The starting trio form a rock-paper-scissors triangle, with each bearing an advantage against another, and your rival will typically choose the unit that trumps your own.

Although starters are on mostly equal footing when it comes to stat totals, the way those stats are spread changes drastically between monsters, and some starters (for better or worse) gain second elements upon evolution, further adding diversity between the types.

Throw in movepools, potential abilities, and mega evolutions, and it's safe to say not all starters are created equal. But with dozens of companions introduced throughout the years, which classic Pokémon reign supreme? These are the ten strongest starters (through generation 7) of all time!

10. Treecko/Sceptile

Type: Grass, Grass/Dragon (Mega Sceptile)

Base Stat Total: 530

Generation/Games: 3/Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald

A nice deviation from the slower, bulkier Grass starters of Kanto and Johto, Hoenn's Treecko develops into the speedy Sceptile, assaulting foes with its impressive Special Attack stat. Back when it debuted, all Grass moves were indirect, making good use of its best attribute, but now you'll need to be more careful when selecting techniques, as many of Sceptile's learned moves (like signature Leaf Blade) are physical in nature. You'll also want to stay alert for physical attacks, which will smash through Sceptile's low Defense.

Luckily, Sceptile can mega evolve into the Grass/Dragon Mega Sceptile. This form is even faster and stronger than before, making it a great indirect sweeper, and with its new Lightning Rod ability, it's a superb partner for Electric-weak allies in multibattles; just watch out for an unfortunate quad weakness to Ice. Although it will need TMs and other tricks to make use of its Special Attack, Treecko remains one of the best forest monsters that proved Grass isn't just for defense and healing.

Torchic, Combusken, Blaziken, and Mega Blaziken

Torchic, Combusken, Blaziken, and Mega Blaziken

9. Torchic/Blaziken

Type: Fire/Fighting

Base Stat Total: 530

Generation/Games: 3/Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald

Another Hoenn option, Torchic first morphs into Combusken, then the fierce Blaziken, kicking off a long tradition of Fire/Fighting starters. Thankfully, it's a good typing, bearing four weaknesses but five resistances, including a quad resistance to Bug and a useful Rock balance (which Fire normally suffers against). Blaziken's stats veer towards Attack and Special Attack, letting it assault foes with both direct and indirect moves, and it bears unique strikes like Sky Uppercut.

Mega Blaziken receives an increase to just about every stat, particularly Attack, letting you ravage foes with contact moves for incredible damage. It also enjoys the Speed Boost ability, gradually increasing Speed to ensure you're able to strike first each turn.

Chespin, Quilladin, and Chesnaught

Chespin, Quilladin, and Chesnaught

8. Chespin/Chesnaught

Type: Grass/Fighting

Base Stat Total: 530

Generation/Games: 6/X and Y

Often ridiculed for its goofy second stage, Quilladin's evolution nonetheless offers fierce power. Chesnaught's stats emphasize Attack and especially Defense, absorbing physical blows with ease. It also learns a healthy variety of attacks while leveling, from status debuff Leech Side to HP-equalizing Pain Split to the unique Spiky Shield move, one of the best attacks in the game.

While Grass/Fighting offers an impressive coverage offensively, it's also Chesnaught's biggest failing, as the blend bears six resistances but also six weaknesses, including a quadruple weakness to Flying. This vulnerability, plus a lack of mega evolution and alternate abilities, keep it from the top of the list, but Chespin's evolution chart offers a surprisingly strong set of fighters.

7. Froakie/Greninja

Type: Water/Dark

Base Stat Total: 530

Generation/Games: 6/X and Y

While it's physically frail, suffering low HP and Defense stats, Greninja compensates with sweet Special Attack and Speed, making for another good indirect sweeper. It also has a nice typing, carrying five weaknesses but six resistances, plus a complete immunity to Psychic.

Water/Dark also provides wide coverage on offense and gives you two elements to select from when accessing STAB (same-type attack bonus) moves. Finally, Greninja enjoys several potent ability options, from the default Water starter Torrent to its unique Battle Bond. This lets your aquatic frog morph into Ash-Greninja after defeating a unit in battle. Ash-Greninja's stats improve (similar to a mega evolution) and its signature Water Shuriken attack increases in power, so it's well worth the effort to upgrade your agile amphibian.

Fennekin, Braixen, and Delphox

Fennekin, Braixen, and Delphox

6. Fennekin/Delphox

Type: Fire/Psychic

Base Stat Total: 534

Generation/Games: 6/X and Y

Evolving from Delphox and bearing an impressive stat total, Delphox favors Speed and Special Attack like Charizard, but it's also surprisingly competent in Special Defense, so if you need a speedy indirect unit, Serena's companion is the mammal for you. Five weaknesses to watch out for on this Fire/Psychic blend, but thankfully no quads, and Delphox offers seven resistances to endure against many elements.

Almost all of Delphox's learned damaging attacks are indirect, making good use of its best stat, and its types provide strong coverage (the less your elements overlap offensively, the more types you can hit for double pain). I'd like to see more ability options for Delphox as well as a mega evolution or Battle Bond form, but for now, it remains one of the best Fire starters yet, and we can thank for breaking the stagnate Fire/Fighting trend.

Mudkip, Marshtomp, and Swampert

Mudkip, Marshtomp, and Swampert

5. Mudkip/Swampert

Type: Water/Ground

Base Stat Total: 535

Generation/Games: 3/Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald

Yet another impressive generation 3 starter, Mudkip morphs first into Marshtomp, then the daunting Swampert, bearing a stat total that eclipses even Charizard. Second attribute Ground makes a good partner for Water, completely shielding against otherwise super-effective Electric attacks; in fact, in addition to its Ground immunity, Swampert resists four elements and it's only weak to one type: Grass. Unfortunately, it's a quad weakness, but thankfully Grass isn't the most common offensive type; as long as you can avoid nature's power, you're in good shape when tanking hits.

Swampert's impressive stats are well-rounded, favoring HP and Attack while disfavoring Speed (which is usually the least-needed stat anyway), and it maintains a useful STAB for Ground, one of the best offensive types available. Finally, Mega Swampert's evolution increases both defensive stats and skyrockets Attack, pummeling foes with its steroid-infused body. Its low Speed can now be improved with the Swift Swim ability, which will double your nimbleness during the rain weather condition. Unlike most Water Pokémon, Swampert doesn't have to worry about Rain Dance's risk of making Electric-attack Thunder an automatic hit, as its Ground element will negate any such attempts.

4. Bulbasaur/Venusaur

Type: Grass/Poison

Base Stat Total: 525

Generation/Games: 1/Red, Blue, and Yellow

Classic Grass starter Bulbasaur remains the only option across all games to initially bear a dual element. Thankfully, Poison is one of the best defensive elements in the game, rendering Bulbasaur immune to the poison status condition, improving the hit rate of Toxic, and providing several resistances. More specifically, it's got four weaknesses, but five resistances (including a quad shield against its own Grass type), making for a good pair.

Evolving from Ivysaur, Venusaur's one of the most well-rounded final starter evolutions, slightly favoring Special Attack and Special Defense, though its BST is unusually low. Venusaur's proficiency with moves with Toxic and Leech Seed allow it to play a stall game, while its indirect power also lets it hit hard. Mega Venusaur adopts the handy ability Thick Fat, reducing the power of Fire and Ice used against it (both of which would otherwise be super-effective), and increasing its stats all-around. Finally, note that Grass trumps the elements of the first three gym leaders in Kanto, meaning most trainers consider Bulbasaur FireRed and LeafGreen's easy mode.

Piplup, Prinplup, and Empoleon

Piplup, Prinplup, and Empoleon

3. Piplup/Empoleon

Type: Water/Steel

Base Stat Total: 530

Generation/Games: 4/Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum

Prinplup's evolution Empoleon lags in Speed but offers formidable Special Attack and Special Defense, and its Defense isn't atrocious for a stat that it doesn't focus on. More than than, Empoleon can tank hits like no tomorrow thanks to one of the game's best defensive pairings: the Water/Steel type combination is weak to three elements but resists ten (including double barriers to Steel and Ice) plus an immunity to Poison! Even if two of this penguin's vulnerabilities are the common Fighting and Ground types, that's a huge assortment of defenses that force your opponent to scramble to find a chink in your armor.

Empoleon admittedly bears a lackluster moveset, but you can compensate with TMs and Move Tutors, so it's a negligible issue. The hidden ability Defiant would normally be quite handy, boosting Attack two stages whenever a stat is lowered, but since Empoleon emphasizes indirect moves, you'll likely have few physical attack options in your limited four-move set. Even without the best ability options or a mega evolution, Sinnoh's aquatic Piplup offers arguably the best starter typing we've yet encountered.

2. Charmander/Charizard

Type: Fire/Flying, Fire/Dragon (Mega Charizard X)

Base Stat Total: 534

Generation/Games: 1/Red, Blue, and Yellow

Classic Charmeleon morphs into the imposing Charizard, bearing an impressive BST that orients towards Special Attack and Speed. Flying is a nice second type for Fire, as it renders Ground (which Fire would be weak to) useless! In fact, Charizard bears only three weaknesses but six resistances (including quad resistances to Bug and Grass) as well as its Ground immunity! The one glaring issue is a double weakness to Rock, one of the most common offensive types, particularly problematic when facing the entrance hazard Stealth Rock.

If you can avoid its Achilles heel, Charizard rewards you with a wealth of attacks and resistances as well as not one but two powerful mega evolutions. Mega Charizard X trades Flying for Dragon, reducing its Rock weakness and bearing a more-balanced stat total. Mega Charizard Y further improves its Special Attack and Speed, becoming a lethal indirect sweeper, and it possesses the awesome Drought ability, automatically summoning a harsh sunlight weather condition (which strengthens Fire while weakening Water) when called to battle. A strong repertoire, but note that Charmander struggles against Kanto's first couple gyms, making it a tough choice for casual fans only interested in completing the story.

Popplio, Brionne, and Primarina

Popplio, Brionne, and Primarina

1. Popplio/Primarina

Type: Water/Fairy

Base Stat Total: 530

Generation/Games: 7/Sun and Moon

Reminiscent of Empoleon, Primarina bears a stat spread that lacks in Speed but favors Special Attack and Special Defense. However, Primarina's traits skew more towards its specialties than any starter evolution; in fact, it bears both the highest Special Attack and Special Defense of any starter yet, making it a superb indirect sweeper. Also resembling Empoleon, it wields a formidable type pairing, as Water/Fairy resists six types plus an immunity to Dragon, and its three weaknesses aren't commonly seen on offensive (especially Poison), granting this graceful ocean-dweller plenty of survivability.

Primarina puts its best trait to good use with its wide array of indirect moves learned while leveling, and the Fairy attribute also helps offensively with powerful STAB Fairy attacks; as great as Empoleon's metal armor functions defensively, Steel's just not a good offensive type, makings its STAB less useful. While Primarina's overall stats are slightly lower than some of its peers, Alola's Water companions offers incredible focuses, awesome typing, and strong coverage, making it our best companion yet.

Future of Starter Pokémon

After Nintendo's stagnant trend of three Fire/Fighting types in a row (Blaziken was fun, Infernape decent, and Emboar stale), GameFreak has learned from their mistakes and done a better job offering varied type combinations, seen in pairings like Incineroar's Fire/Dark and Decidueye's Grass/Ghost.

Still, we've got plenty of type options still yearning to be explored, and I look forward to encountering Nintendo's next Pokémon type fusions. But for now, as we eagerly await upcoming sets of video games to once again let us nickname our unfortunate companions (I choose you, HM Slave!), vote for your favorite starter family and I'll see you at our next Pokémon countdown!

Questions & Answers

Question: What is the weakest starter Pokémon?

Answer: Going off the "main" starters (no Pikachus or whatnot), Torterra's up there. Grass/Ground is a bad typing with a quad weakness to Ice (a common offensive element) and few resistances. Meganium's not great either, and both lack mega evolutions.

Question: Which is the best starter in Pokemon: Bulbasaur, Charmander, or Squirtle?

Answer: If you count evolutions, Charmander (as Charizard) has the most competitive usage, especially with two different mega forms. However, for casual players, Bulbasaur is often best, as his type works well against the first three Kanto gym leaders.

Question: What is your favorite starter in all the Pokemon games?

Answer: Don't make me choose between Charmander and Piplup. I can't, I won't.

Question: Can Charizard beat Blastoise when playing Pokémon?

Answer: It's happened in the anime, and it could certainly happen in actual battles. Although Blastoise has the Water-beats-Fire advantage, a Sunny Day/Solar Beam combo would work great on him, and Charizard's speed would give him the first hit.

Question: Is Mewtwo stronger than Arceus?

Answer: I would say yes, especially if you count his mega forms, but you could argue either way.

© 2018 Jeremy Gill

Comments

Bacon boy on September 06, 2020:

My favorite pokemon are

1.Greninja

2.Empoleon

3.Blaziken

4.Goodra

5.Lucario

Aditya S on September 01, 2020:

Swampert is weak to no gyms in emerald/ruby/sapphire with there being no grass gyms Swamperts only weakness. Also Swampert has the highest stats.

Pika boy on August 01, 2020:

My favourite pokemon are:

1] all of the charmander line

2] greninja (especially ash greninja)

3] Zeraora

4] sceptile

5] dragonite

6] Lucario

7] gallade

8]goodra

9] talonflame

10] primarina

BB 4 on July 29, 2020:

My top 3 favorites are

1. Sceptile

2. Charizard

3. Swampert

Collete on July 23, 2020:

I think Charmander ought to be the best starter pokemon not only because it has 2 mega evolutions [X&Y] , it also has such a cute personality. Anyway I think the results were pretty fair, and I see you have not shown Chespin down as others do.

Rishona on July 20, 2020:

Hey @Arianna! I love Bulbasaur too!

My FAVS ARE

1] Bulbasaur

2] Popillo

3] Squirtle

4] Fennekin

5] Treecko

6] Piplup

7] Chespin

8] Charmander

9] Ralts [ If you play the ultra violet version you might know it]

10] Chikorita

Pokemon Master on July 19, 2020:

Bulbasaur for the win!!

PokeBoss on July 18, 2020:

I prefer swampert bcz it's mega evolution is GODLY strong.

Arianna on July 16, 2020:

1] Bulbasaur, seriously I feel Bulbasaur's the cutest

2] Popillo

3] Fennekin

4] Charmander

5] Treecko

You know what, I am pretty happy with the results

Praying dhar on July 10, 2020:

I think sceptile is best

Ozzie Bennett on June 04, 2020:

I also choose the starter in every game that is the best against the first two gyms because in the beggining your starter is probobly the best pokemon on your team also your cathing rate is much more limited in the beggining

Ozzie Bennett on June 03, 2020:

Yes that's true Mudkip suffers a quad weakness to grass and that harshly low speed but with that base stat total higher than CHARIZARD and his high attack and defense you tend to forget the feeling

Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on May 27, 2020:

@Bennett

Mudkip's final form Swampert is interesting. Normally I'd say Ground is a poor secondary element; it has many defensive weaknesses, and Water is already good against Rock and Fire. That said, it negates Water's Electric issue, which is nice, but then you suffer a quad weakness to Grass.

So Swampert's Ground addition is a mixed bag, but I'd say its Electric protection isn't usually worth the disadvantages (which also include reduced resistance to Water and Ice).

Ozzie Bennett on May 27, 2020:

I think mudkip is the best because of his base stats and his type plus he has good attack and defense but bad speed

Hamad kanoo on May 13, 2020:

1. Greninja

2. Sceptile

3.mega blaziken

amrail on May 10, 2020:

To be honest I probably like:

1. Sceptile

2: Serperior

3: Empoleon

Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on April 29, 2020:

@daanyaal

Unova starters are arguably the worst overall, as their stat totals are lower (528 compared to the 534 seen on many others) and two of them never gain a secondary type. None of them ever got mega evolutions, either.

There's also the fact that Emboar was the third Fire/Fighting mix in a row (after Blaziken and Infernape), disappointing fans looking for something new. Thankfully, this trend stopped with future Fire starters.

daanyaal on April 28, 2020:

Um you forgot the unova region

Sarra on April 12, 2020:

Litten is my favorite starter, it is adorable kitty cat.

Rammanitheddy Kaipu on April 09, 2020:

Starter ranking:

1: CHESPIN!!!

2: MUDKIP!!!

3: CHARMANDER!!!

Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on March 31, 2020:

@Camden

Pure-Grass is a poor type, not a very useful STAB and bad on defense with five weaknesses. And Rillaboom's stat total of 530 is lower than some starters (although I do like its distribution).

Camden on March 31, 2020:

Why isn't Grookey on this. It's like a tank at it's final evolution

anon on March 31, 2020:

Piplup/Empoleon line is S tier

Oof on March 28, 2020:

Tododile is boss

Someone on March 26, 2020:

Sceptile's mega form is dope

Anonymus on March 14, 2020:

Water Types are always really powerful, My Top 3 would be 1. Greninja 2. Mudkip and 3. Popplio.

Yakub Yavas on March 08, 2020:

I think Charmander and Bulbasaur are the best. Charizard's new G-Max form has a very berry strong move called G-Max Wildfire, and Bulbasaur has this really strong move called solar beam.

Squirtlelover on February 21, 2020:

mudkip and squirtle are both the coolest, and strongest water types i have ever encountered

Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on January 28, 2020:

@Jack

Much as I love Squirtle, his lack of a second type plus the abundance of Water-type alternatives hinder his usefulness.

@Ham

Charizard might be overrated, but his multiple mega forms (plus gigantamax in Galar) and immunity to Ground are still worth a look.

Jack on January 28, 2020:

Where is squirtle

Greninja is coll on January 26, 2020:

Greninja is the best

Oofmanlord on January 04, 2020:

I think swampier is the best even tho it is slow that’s why I use a quick claw so it can go first.

Ham on January 04, 2020:

Charizard is too over rated. At this point some people just like him cause he’s a dragon and apparently that’s what people like. His move set a bit boring. Greninja isn’t my favorite starter but I do think he’s the best since he can literally learn everything (mostly). You can build greninja to be uncounterbul. And he’s super fast. And apparently to some,he looks cool so he must be powerful and he is. Charizard is also good and this is totally my opinion so don’t take much offense.

Baby Yoda on January 03, 2020:

My Ranking:

1.Turtwig

2.Squirtle (Pokemon Talk)

3.Mudkip

hi on January 03, 2020:

charizard is the best(:

Doge on December 20, 2019:

Charmander charmeleon and charzaird

whyubullinmeh on December 09, 2019:

I heard Bulbasaur is more loyal too. That's why I like Bulbasaur

CatWolf on December 01, 2019:

Bulbasaur

Arcies203203 on September 23, 2019:

it's very good ranking but frokie is the best and then is treeko is the 2 best

TheOddish1sOut on September 22, 2019:

My Ranking:

1:Sceptile,

2:Charizard

3:Greninja

Anon on September 07, 2019:

Nice ranking. Of course Charmander would be top lol

good things on May 01, 2019:

Torchic

POKEMON BRICK BRONZE MASTER on January 26, 2019:

First preference; Cyndaquil.

Second Preference; Charmander

Last preference; torchic

ourpromises on January 12, 2019:

my go-to pokemon are always Primarina or Swampert. and i didnt know why. i never believed in grass type pokemon tbh.

Puffshipper13 on November 11, 2018:

Popplio is a beast!! XD

TepigTheBeast from Connecticut on September 04, 2018:

Mudkip for the win!!!! XD