I’ll never forget the first time that I played Pokemon Blue. Having bought it from my local Blockbusters based purely on the box, I was hooked from the moment I fired it up. It was the first time that I truly felt connected to a video game world. A feeling that I struggle to capture with games as an adult.
Several months later, Pokemon really took off as a phenomenon in the UK, much like it did across the rest of the world. Before I knew it, my friends and I were watching the TV series and trading Pokemon cards. It completely took over our lives.
In the years since, I’ve moved on from the franchise, returning every few gaming generations to get a dose of nostalgia. Pokemon will always have a special place in my heart, having been such an important part of my formative years. It hit me hard to hear that Ash Ketchum’s Pokemon adventure was ending in the anime, even though I haven’t watched it in years. There was always something comforting about knowing that the adventures I loved so much were still taking place, being enjoyed by a whole new generation.
I have recently started playing Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu to relive the journey that I embarked on all those years ago with my Pokemon Blue cartridge. It got me thinking about all of the iconic Pokemon designs from that first generation.
Don’t get me wrong, the generations that followed had their own stand out Pokemon, but when I think about Pokemon, the original 151 are first that come to mind.
As I have been re-treading my tracks in the Kanto region, I put together a list of the Pokemon that stick in my mind for different reasons. Join me on a trip down memory lane.
It is only right to start a list such as this with Pikachu, the face of the Pokemon franchise.
Pikachu is the most recognisable and iconic Pokemon. Pikachu’s cute and cuddly appearance, paired with his electric powers, have made him a fan favorite for the past few decades.
This yellow electric mouse has appeared in countless video games, anime series, and movies over the years. However, when I first fired up Pokemon Blue all those years ago, I had no idea who he was. Despite that, I loved Pikachu’s sprite and added him to my party. You can imagine my delight when I tuned into the Pokemon TV series and saw one of my key Pokemon at the forefront of Ash’s adventure.
In truth, the second entry on this list could have gone to any starter Pokemon from Pokemon Blue and Red, had I chosen them first. Bulbasaur was my first Pokemon and so he will always be special to me.
As a child, I remember evolving Bulbasaur into Ivysaur and Venusaur and being disappointed that he didn’t look as cool as Charizard. Seeing my rival’s awesome dragon-looking Pokemon for the whole second half of the game kept rubbing it in. I eventually got my own Charizard, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
I strongly considered restarting my game and ditching Bulbasaur despite being a dozen or more hours in. That was until I happened upon a Nintendo Official Magazine guide for the game which noted that Bulbasaur was the best option for the early parts of the game. Not wanting to have to struggle through the early stages with a sub-optimal Pokemon, I stuck with my first choice, and after taking me all the way to the Elite Four, Bulbasaur and his evolutions cemented themselves as some of my favourites in the game.
I also loved Bulbasaur in the anime, which certainly helped!
You thought I was going to say Charmander, didn’t you? Don’t get me wrong, Charmander is cute, but Charizard is freaking cool. It also helps that his Pokemon card was the most sought-after commodity in high school.
Charizard is one of the meanest looking Pokemon in the first generation of Pokemon games. Players that endured the early stages of the game were rewarded with a powerful beast. A powerful beast that I traded real-world Pokemon cards for. And it was worth every card. Seeing that digital sprite appearing on my Game Boy still gives me tingles to this day.
Charizard’s popularity was solidified with the release of the anime series, where he was one of Ash Ketchum’s main Pokemon. Even if he didn’t always listen to his trainer in the early days.
Everyone wanted Mewtwo. Everyone. Mewtwo seemed like the ultimate catch back in the day, the one Pokemon worthy of your Master Ball. That is, if you were smart enough to hold onto it for essentially the whole game in order to use it for him.
Mewtwo sticks in my mind both for his status on the playground and also for his tragic backstory. His psychic powers made him one of the most formidable Pokemon in Pokemon Red, Blue and Yellow. He was a must-have for those battling each other during lunch breaks. If you didn’t have Mewtwo, you didn’t stand a chance.
Let’s get it out of the way, shall we: Eevee is adorable. But Eevee doesn’t make this list based upon it’s looks or its move set (which was a bit disappointing).
Eevee is a unique Pokemon in that it could evolve into one of three Pokemon in Pokemon Blue, Red and Yellow (last time I checked, it can now evolve into eight different forms). Each form had its own unique type and abilities. A Fire Stone turned it into Flareon, a Thunder Stone turned it into Jolteon and a Water Stone turned it into Vaporeon. It was the toughest decision in Pokemon outside of choosing your starter.
I agonised over the decision back then and ultimately went for Flareon because I desperately needed a decent fire Pokemon. That was before I traded my way to Charizard. Even then, I held onto my evolved Eevee.
Now, remember that this is a list of the most iconic Pokemon from Pokemon Red, Blue and Yellow, not my favourites!
Snorlax is a massive, lazy Pokemon known for its love of sleeping and eating. It was also one of my most hated Pokemon growing up thanks to the developers using it to block paths. It wasn’t even as though he would be a useful addition to my party. After finally waking, battling and catching Snorlax, he was sent to Bill’s PC never to be used again.
With that being said, in the years since, I grew fond of Snorlax. Stumbling upon his big, round frame blocking paths in the games that have followed bring a small smile as I remember my frustration coming across him all those years before. It’s almost inevitable that the developers will slip him into a game somewhere.
So, I bought Pokemon Blue based off of the box. Why didn’t I pick Squirtle to get the badass looking Blastoise on the front cover, you ask? Because I was a dumb kid. There is no other reason.
In truth, I hadn’t realised how cool Squirtle would be to own when I played as a kid. As I had Bulbasaur, my rival had Charmander and his evolutions, so I didn’t have to watch on in envy as Squirtle evolved his way to Wartortle then to Blastoise. However, the TV series made me fall in love with the little turtle. I will always remember him as the starter Pokemon that I completely overlooked, despite his evolution being the whole reason I bought the game in the first place.
Magikarp used splash. Ugh. Magikarp felt like the most useless Pokemon in the game. It was literally defenceless when I first caught it. But I stuck with it, switching it out for my more powerful Pokemon after the first move of each battle.
I knew that Magikarp evolved into Gyarados, the water-type Pokemon that I needed to complete my party.
So, I let Magikarp splash around, switched him out, got some XP, rinse and repeat. For hours.
Magikarp learning tackle at least meant that it could defend itself, but the moment that it hit level 20, I had no hesitation in letting it evolve to Gyarados.
So, why isn’t Gyarados on this list if that was always the end goal? Magikarp represents one of the first times that I actually showed patience in a game. I endured hours of training this useless set of pixels and ultimately was rewarded. It wasn’t Magikarp’s fault that it was so weak, but with perseverance, it had the ability to evolve into one of the fiercest Pokemon in the game. Time well spent
A list such as this wouldn’t be complete without Mew. As a child, Mew was little more than a myth. I spent more hours than I care to admit wandering aimlessly around trucks trying to get him to spawn.
Having read about Mew being given away as prizes at real-world Pokemon tournaments, I desperately wanted to travel to one to add him to my Pokedex. My parents, understandably, didn’t think that warranted a 12-hour drive.
It was only recently that I found out that it is actually possible to get Mew in Pokemon Red, Blue and Yellow. Without cheat cartridges or without clicking combinations of A and B in the vicinity of trucks.
If only I’d known that back then…
Pokemon Will Forever be Special to Me
Ash’s adventure may have come to an end, and I may no longer gorge on Pokemon news and rumours, but I will always love Pokemon.
Pikachu, Charizard, Mewtwo, Eevee, Snorlax, Bulbasaur, Squirtle, Magikarp, and Mew are just a few of the many iconic Pokemon that have helped make the franchise so successful and also helped to shape my love for Pokemon as a whole.