In between "Pokémon" journeys, Jeremy enjoys working as a pharmaceutical chemist and campus manager.
The Best Kanto Pokémon
Pokémon kicked off decades ago with Pokémon Red and Blue (or Red and Green in Japan), launching a worldwide craze. Things like the internet and gaming tournaments were just starting up, but due to the franchise's popularity, competitive battles existed back then.
However, the original games had far inferior balancing compared to future entries, making some creatures incredibly overpowered and others almost worthless; many of the wonky mechanics are listed below. So, which fighters best gamed the system? These are the ten best non-legendary Pokémon in generation 1!
Battle Changes in Generation 1
- Special attack and special defense were just one combined stat, "special"
- Psychic Pokémon were immune to Ghosts instead of being weak to them
- No Dark, Steel, or Fairy Pokémon or moves existed
- Faster Pokémon deal more critical hits
Like many of today's 'mons, what makes Jolteon so great in generation one is how the special stats were grouped together into one, meaning anyone with a high special (like Jolteon) had great special attack and special defense! His speed is also terrific, and remember, in gen one, speed translates to more critical hits.
This makes Jolteon a great special sweeper against common Water or Flying foes, with Ground being the only weakness he has (compared to Zapdos, who suffers against Rock and Ice). Thunder Wave is also surprisingly useful, as in addition to the usual disruption and speed reduction of paralyzation, critical rate is lowered.
Because Dark and Steel didn't yet exist and Ghost was misprogrammed, Psychic was easily the generation's best type, and Starmie also benefited from an amazing special stat and speed. So she becomes an incredibly fast sweeper/special tank who has great typing STAB (same-type attack bonus) coverage, with Water handling Rock, Ground, and Fire threats while Psychic hits Poison, Fighting, and anything Water is bad against.
Starmie could also learn Thunder Bolt for coverage on Water and Flying foes, and Recover to restore its own HP. Fellow Water/Psychic type Slowbro was also a strong choice; while slower than Starmie, his Amnesia move effectively gave four stat boosts (by raising special two stages).
With Gengar's Poison type, he's actually a terrible choice against Psychic in generation one. A lack of good Ghost and Poison moves also means there isn't much STAB for him to exploit, and he's weak to Ground's staple Earthquake.
However, Gengar compensates with great special and speed stats and a good move pool. Hypnosis is especially deadly, as waking from sleep took a whole turn in gen one. Plus, since he and his pre-evolutions were literally the only Ghosts, they had the unique property of being immune to Fighting and Normal attacks, a handy defense against Hyper Beam and Explosion (which Gengar himself can use).
Similar to Gengar, Dragonite's family are the only Dragon-types in the generation, giving unique properties. Fairy wouldn't come for many years and Dragon offense moves didn't exist, leaving Ice its only weakness (and Rock thanks to being part Flying). That said, Dragonite is quadruply-weak to the infamous Blizzard, which was amazing in gen one thanks to 90% accuracy.
So yea, against a Blizzard, Dragonite will fall, but in any other matchup, he excels thanks to impressive stats with a versatile moveset. Wrap was deadly, as in gen one, it completely immobilized foes while slowly damaging them. Hyper Beam is similarly overpowered, as it doesn't take a recharge turn if it faints its target or hits a substitute, and Thunder Wave will cut both speed and crit rate.
Rhydon didn't have his future Rhyperior evolution back in the '90s, and his elemental duo is quadruple-weak to both Grass and Water, which, combined with his poor special, means he dies to them in a heartbeat. However, both elements are rare offensively in gen one; Grass has too many bad matchups and Water is outclassed by Ice.
So what Rhydon offers is one of the game's best physical tanks/sweepers. With an amazing attack stat and great defense, he can both dish and withstand physical blows, making him essential against special walls like Chancey and Alakazam, who resist special moves but have terrible physical defense. His Rock and Ground STABs also prove useful against Flying, Fire, Electric, and Poison enemies.
Plus, Rhydon is immune to Electric and resistant to Normal, making him strong against Explosions and Hyper Beams. For superior defense but worse attack, Golem provides a similar alternative.
Despite not type-trumping anything, Normal is a surprisingly overpowered attack element in gen one because there are few Ghosts and no Steel-types, meaning very few enemies resist it. Hyper Beam, Explosion, and Wrap were all great in Kanto, and contrary to a popular myth, Normal Pokémon do receive STAB. Additionally, because Psychic-types were so prevalent, Fighting Pokémon practically didn't existent competitively.
But what makes Chansey especially amazing is her whopping HP (255!) and special stats, meaning she can both deal and tank special moves. In tangent with healing from Soft-Boiled, there's just no getting around Chansey's whopping defenses without a physical sweeper.
Snorlax's self-healing with Rest is far less useful in gen one, as sleep takes longer to awaken from and Snore/Sleep Talk didn't exist yet. However, he's still an amazing powerhouse thanks to his hard-to-exploit type alongside great attack and HP. In some ways, Snorlax actually gets better after the special split, as his special defense would increase from 65 to 110. That said, here he has access to both Hyper Beam and Amnesia.
Remember, in gen one, Hyper Beam won't need recharge if it kills, and Amnesia sharply boosts both special attack and defense, meaning one or setups turns makes Snorlax a nearly unbeatable sweeper who can hit with devastating physical and special moves. My one big complaint is his poor speed, which means he forfeits the first strike and has few critical chances.
Venasaur's great special stat makes him tempting, but being part Poison exposes him to Psychic, which makes Exeggutor the better original Grass choice. Combining with Psychic gives amazing coverage, as Grass can handle Rhydon/Golem/Starmie, while Psychic hits anything Poison or Fighting.
Plus, thanks to the combined-stat gimmick, Exeggutor had amazing special stats plus solid physical ones and HP, with speed being his only weakness. In desperate times, he could also explode to take out physically-weak foes like Chansey.
With Mewtwo understandably banned, Alakzam became the game's premiere Psychic-type. With the Ghost glitch and no real Bug threats (Bug moves stunk at the time), Alakazam is almost impossible to type-trump. More than that, he has amazing special and speed, letting him hit hard and fast while also tanking special attacks.
Like Chansey, the only good way to topple him is with a strong physical attack, limiting counters to foes like Rhydon, Snorlax, or…
Compared to Snorlax, Tauros's biggest advantage is speed, with few outclassing him, he can attack first against most foes and has a better critical rate. He's also got good all-around stats, favoring attack, defense, and speed, but also having respectable HP and special.
This means that Tauro serves as a check against practically anything; use his physical attack to Earthquake or Hyper Beam Chansey and Alakazam, or use him to type-trump with Blizzard or Thunderbolt. With Fighting-types too scared of Psychics and having a limited movepool, Tauros himself just doesn't have many good counterchecks, making him the best overall non-legendary.
The Strongest Gen One Pokémon (Now)
Today we looked at the best non-legendary creatures at the time, but it's interesting to compare them with their modernized versions, seeing which of them survived the franchise's updated mechanics and which fell behind.
Thankfully, Pokémon Gold and Silver fixed many of its predecessors issues, like balancing Psychic and splitting the special stat, but for now, vote for your favorite original meta battler and I'll see you at our next Pokémon countdown!
© 2020 Jeremy Gill