This is an argument I’ve been hearing since Gen Two came out, but I think it’s finally time to talk about this question. There are now seven generations and 720 Pokémon to choose from. So why is there such a strong belief from older fans that the original 151 are as good as it gets? Why are some fans so unwilling to consider the merits of the newer Pokémon (heck, even the older generations that aren’t Gen One)?
What keeps us thinking that Pikachu and his original pals are so much better than the others? And is there any merit to this belief? I’ve been thinking a lot about this. Some of you may know that I’ve talked about Pokémon before. A few times now actually, but for those who didn’t read my hesitance about Let’s Go: Pikachu and Eevee, you don’t know how long I’ve been a fan. See, I’ve been playing Pokémon since Red and Blue. I suffered through the days of link cables. I explored every region. I played the spin-off games (even the mobile games). I LOVE Pokémon. Basically, I’ve been around a while and I’ve seen every generation as they’ve come out.
But I’ve never understood why people cling so viciously to the original 151 like they are the end all be all of Pokémon perfection. It seems so narrow sighted in a world that contains so many exciting Pokémon in every generation. So I’m going to go over the reasons I think these people cling so dedicatedly to the first generation, and then I’m going to talk about why I think their view might be a little too narrow.
I look at the world through what I call “Nostalgia Goggles” all the time. I look back on something fondly, only to go back and find out it wasn’t what I remember. The original Pokémon (I’m thankful to say) is not that bad. It’s harder than I remembered (especially once you get to Victory Road, that grind is brutal), but that doesn’t change the fact that I have extremely deep, fond memories for Pokémon Blue and also Yellow. I loved the original 151 Pokémon. I bought a book and pored over their names and descriptions. It was an obsession. Pokémon was new and fresh to me, and it captivated my imagination. I never got as heavily into another gen.
But I took those nostalgia glasses off as the new generations came out because there have been some killer things to come from them. First gen didn’t have dual typing or dark type. Not to mention almost no ghost, ice, or dragon type Pokémon– even though the types existed on the release of the game. Heck, you could almost forget they existed if you didn’t need them for certain gyms. There are shortcomings to all games, even ones we love dearly.
Only Looking at the Worst Examples
Okay, yeah there have been some stinkers (some quite literally) in later seasons. Everyone knows, and mocks, the actual bag of trash, Trubbish, from Gen Five, or the living ice cream cone, Vanillite, also Gen Five. Or perhaps Binnacle from Gen Six (who only gets creepier when it evolves). Yeah, those might have been pretty far from what I would call “winning designs,” but honestly, Gen One isn’t without its own problems.
How about “rock with arms” Geodude? Or maybe we need to remember “magnet” followed by “three magnets stuck together” Magnemite and Magneton? Perhaps the best example is “angry ball” and “angry ball with fierce eyebrows” Voltorb and Electrode. My personal favorite for uncomfortable designs was the “group of angry eggs, one of which was already shattered and presumably dead” Eggsecute (there was nothing cute about that Pokémon). Once again, nothing is without fault. Gen One is just as guilty of uninspired designs as other generations, and honestly, we need to remember that.
Don’t Miss Out on the Great, Because you Were too Busy Looking Back
Pokémon purists can like the first gen best — that’s fine. I get it. I was obsessed, too. But there are so many fantastic Pokémon out there worth your time if you just give them a chance. Forget the weird — there’s some of that in every generation — and let’s for just a moment, focus on the great.
Let’s focus on Pokémon like Blaziken, Houndoom, Lucario, Espeon, and Umbreon. All of those designs are entirely on point. We also got excellent additions like Mimikyu (who scares me) and Noivern. I could go on all day with awesome Pokémon who aren’t in the original 151. I haven’t even mentioned the incredible legendary designs. Lugia is a long-standing favorite of mine, all the way up to Solgaleo. These legendaries are the stars of their games, and Pokémon rarely disappoints with a lousy design where they are concerned.
Then there are the hidden gems, like a recent favorite of mine. I’m going to have to preface this with the words “hear me out” because I honestly started out hating this Pokémon. I picked it up as a placeholder in Black and then it never left my party. This Pokémon was a joke — a horrible, fluffy joke. Furfrou. Yes, the poodle.
I needed a sixth for my team, and it had decent HP. So, I added it and gave it the most pretentious French name I could think of, Francois (Pronounced Fran-SWAH). It wrecked gyms like it was designed for nothing more than carnage. But I needed a water type to surf, and that meant it was time to make room in my team, which meant the poodle had to go. I was ready to part with him, but when I tried to use surf on my team, just to see if any of my other team members could learn the move, I discovered Furfrou can learn surf.
So Francois the joke became one of my best Pokémon that entire game. It single-handedly (pawedly?) took down the fighting type member of the Elite Four, something a normal type shouldn’t be able to do. I was so busy judging how dumb the idea of a Pokémon you could groom was, I almost missed out on the strongest Pokémon on my team. Oh yeah, and I always gave it the Dandy cut — might as well be dapper while you’re kicking butt and taking names.
So, maybe give the weird ones a chance next time. Try them out and see. You might find that, like me, you end up loving a Pokémon you made fun of.
So, Are the Original 151 Pokémon the Best?
Sort of. They are what sparked everything, and began over 20 years of amazing games. They are the beginning. But the best? Well, I think there are new Pokémon who are every bit as good as the originals. I think we need to stop holding entire generations over others as better or perfect. There is no such thing as a perfect generation. We need to look at the Pokémon as individuals within their respective generations. I think, if you give it a chance, you will find that the death grip you might be holding on the first gen is holding you back, and expanding your view to all 720 Pokémon may reveal some new favorites you missed.