It’s been just over two weeks now since Pokemon Sword & Shield were released to the world and to put it simply, I had a lot of fun with these games. I want to give it a bit more time before I make any judgement calls on how it fits into my ranking of the generations, but having played through the game twice now I can confidently say that these games were what I wanted them to be and I really like them.
Naturally, when it comes to a new generation of Pokemon, one of the biggest factors that contribute to how much I get out of the game, is the Pokemon themselves. Not counting regional variants, Generation 8 has (so far) given us 81 new Pokemon and there’s a huge variety in all of these new creatures. Naturally, there are going to be a handful of Pokemon that rise to the top and stand out to me as the best of what this generation has to offer, and that’s what I’m discussing today.
This list will contain story spoilers for Pokemon Sword & Shield and also contains Pokemon that have not been officially revealed or referenced anywhere outside of the games themselves, so if you wish to remain unspoiled then maybe give this one a miss for the time being.
10 – Orbeetle
Maybe it’s because of the altered visual style, but almost every Pokemon Galar has to offer feels very different from that of the previous seven generations. That’s something which isn’t always for the better (see the abominations that are the fossil Pokemon) but Orbeetle is a case where it works to its benefit.
For the longest time, the regional bugs have been lame. Don’t get me wrong, I like Butterfree & Vivilon as much as the next guy, but when it comes to viable team members for the whole game they don’t ever make the cut. Vikavolt from Alola had the chance to turn that around, but it was unfortunately hampered by the fact that it couldn’t evolve until one of the final areas of the game. Orbeetle is a Pokemon that takes the usefulness, strength and cool design of Vikavolt and removes the stupid restriction on its evolution.
The first thing that struck me about Orbeetle is how sleek it looks. Psychic typing isn’t what I would’ve initially guessed for this one, but I think it works with the design. It’s a Pokemon that feels a little off in its design, but kind of in a good way, the fullness of the red is very striking and draws your eyes away from its body, which makes for quite the surprise when you notice it. I personally would’ve liked its body to be a little fuller, but the sharpness of its limbs and intimidation factor on its face is brilliant.
When I first caught Blipbug on Route 2, I wasn’t expecting it to remain in my team for very long, but sure enough, it proved me wrong and Orbeetle stood proudly alongside me when I entered the Hall of Fame.
9 – Runerigious
Sword & Shield played around with the idea of adding evolutions to already existing Pokemon and I love the stuff that came out. Instead of doing what Generation 4 did and adding unnecessary third stages onto Pokemon like Rhydon, it combined the concept of regional variants and new evolutions in fun way that I thought added a new layer to how the world of Pokemon works.
Unlike all of the other Pokemon on this list, I’m yet to have a chance to use Runerigious in any capacity, I just think it’s a really cool looking Pokemon. The way it’s body looks like a series of puzzle pieces is such a cool concept and the simplistic art on its body adds loads to that effect. Something about the red, white & black colour scheme really brings the whole design together to create a creepy feeling Pokemon, which is exactly what you’d expect from any evolution of Yamask.
8 – Dragapult
I mean come on, it fires it’s pre-evolution out of cannons it’s head, how can you not love this thing.
Whenever a new generation of Pokemon comes about, I always worry that the region’s pseudo-legendary is going to be ridiculously over-designed. Hydreigon and Kommo-o are examples of Pokemon that, while cool looking, are a bit much in terms of the elements in their design, so I was very pleased to see that Galar’s pseudo-legendary took a much more minimalist design.
I love the concept of a lizard-like Pokemon with something extra to it and the choice to make it a ghost type and have it hover was probably the best decision the design team could’ve made. Its body seems like that of a normal lizard Pokemon but then you get to the head and realise that it looks more like a glider than a creature, which I know sounds stupid, but it’s something that absolutely works for this design.
The colour choice is perfect too, there aren’t many Pokemon that have a gradient running through its body and there are even fewer that pull it off well, but Dragpult manages it, the darkness of it’s upper-body and head give these creeping feeling of danger and add that important intimidation factor, while the slow lightening of the tone down its tail creates this ghostly presence that makes it an all-round very threatening Pokemon.
7 – Eternatus
When I saw how similar Zacian & Zamazenta were in regards to the basic elements of their design, I was very interested to see what kind of Pokemon would round out the trio, because surely it had to be something wildly different right? Well, I was right, but I didn’t realise just how different it would end up being.
I liked how it kept the red & blue colour scheme of the main duo, but instead cranked the saturation all the way up on the colours, as it’s colour scheme feels very fully. I also really like the very jagged design, the way it looks almost like a skeleton or fossil goes along with its theme of being a creature that’s lived on the earth for 10’s of thousands of years and potentially even longer out in space.
It has this incredible sense of presence about it, despite not actually being all that big and even though it is a little on-the-nose, I enjoy the concept of it being the mighty dragon for the sword and shield to slay. It’s not the perfect legendary by any means, but I think it works as the third member of this trio.
6 – Boltund
Look at that face, that is the face of a good boy.
When Yamper was first revealed, I liked it, but I had no intention to ever put it on my team and for my first playthrough, I didn’t, but when I realised it had an evolution, and that’s evolution look like THIS, I knew I had to have it with me for my second go-round and sure enough, Boltund is best boy.
Yellow and Dark Green aren’t colours that I would’ve thought could work well together, but the placement of them on Boltund’s body makes the yellow more of a framing device for the green that covers the majority of its body, so I think it works.
The design of its face is the exact traditional representation of dogs when it comes to animation and the wideness of its eyes makes it seem like such a happy Pokemon all the time. I can imagine it running around happily, doing all the things you’d expect any other dog to do, only with lightning powers, which is an instant improvement.
5 – Zacian
Ok, I know that screenshot doesn’t have it’s “crowned” stuff, but that’s Pokemon Camp for you.
Even though I’ve ragged on Zacian & Zamazenta for being very similar before, when it came to putting this list together, I realised there were a whole bunch fo key reasons I preferred Zacian over its counterpart.
Firstly, I’m a sucker for swords, especially ones that look like ancient artefacts like the one Zacian holds in its mouth during battle, then you look at the other crowned features like that around its head, and the “wings” sticking out of it’s back and it creates an extremely regal-looking Pokemon, aided by its general expression & posture. On top of that, I think Zacian’s body as a whole looks nice and sleek compared to its counterpart, the ribbons and tail add a nice sense of flow to the design, and the light blue & light red pairs up better than the fuller blue & red on Zamazenta.
As a whole, I would say Zacian fits in more with a trio like the legendary beasts than as a cover legendary, but that doesn’t stop it from being a design that I love the look of.
4 – Thievul
Wow, the Route 1 Pokemon really were something else in this generation.
Before anyone says it, I’m well aware that one of the reasons I probably like this Pokemon so much is how it’s design elements resemble that of Absol’s, but let’s put that to one side. When I found out that this generation was going to be based on the UK, I was sure there would be some sort of urban fox design for a Pokemon, but I didn’t know they’d do this great of a job with it.
What I love most about this design is the colours, the shade of orangy brown is just right to keep the feeling of a fox, without having to go with a brighter orange while the white of it’s chest makes everything around it stand out, all framed nicely by the sparing use of black. I also love the idea of it being a thief, since urban foxes in the UK are known to go rummaging through bins and steal just about anything left out on the streets at night. The “mask” around its eyes is a great indication of this. I would argue the little “cartoon thief” moustache was a bit much, but I still find it cute in a way.
3 – Grookey
One of the things that I was most disappointed about in this generation was the evolutions of the starter Pokemon. I like all three of the basic forms, but when it comes to the 1st and 2nd stages, I can only honestly say that I like one of them and even that one I’m not a massive fan of. I get what they were going for, but I think keeping the final evolutions restricted to a single type was a bad call and put unnecessary restrictions on their designs.
That said, I love Grookey.
It’s just an adorable little monkey that likes to hit things with sticks and in a way, deep down, I think we can all relate to that. Its body is just the right shade of green to give the impression of a cheerful Pokemon, while the brown and yellow are there to break up what is a fairly basic colour scheme and highlight aspects like the tail and ears.
I don’t really have much more to articulate as to why I love this Pokemon, I just think it’s adorable, I can imagine sitting around, playing with it as it cheerfully jumps about the place.
2 – Corviknight
If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written on Pokemon then you’ll know I love the regional birds of each generation (except Pidove, which knows what it did) and I generally hold these Pokemon up to a pretty high standard. So, when this generation’s regional bird was revealed to be a jet-black armoured raven of death with glowing red eyes, it’s safe to say I was pretty satisfied.
This thing looks like an absolute killer and I love it. The armour covers most of the body, but it’s still applied in a way that makes sense, still allowing it’s limbs to be shown, revealing they’re the exact same colour as the armour itself. It was a tad worrying when these games were initially revealed as it seemed like the entire region was going to be based very heavily on Arthurian legend, however it turned out that this was pretty much the only Pokemon that conforms to it, which makes it awesome; even if I did nickname mine “Gisborne” which is the wrong English myth entirely.
1 – Nickit
Take everything I’ve said I love about Thievul and turn the cuteness up to eleven.
When I encountered Nickit on Route 1 during the first few moments of proper gameplay, my heart melted at the sight of this thing and I knew it was staying with me until the end. Everything from its expression to its shape, to its colours, is brilliant and it makes this Pokemon a real work of art as far as I’m concerned.
The more I look at this more detail I notice, like the little tear marks around its eyes and an adorable timid smile that it likely uses to trick the victims of its theft. Then there’s the way that the black highlights on its feet look like little boots to make sure its prints can’t be tracked, alongside the smokelike imprint on the base of its tail from where it’s been dragging it along the ground; not to mention that the tail itself looks like a lovely little pillow.
It’s a Pokemon that ticks pretty much all my boxes of what I love from a Pokemon design: Quadruped; Mostly dark colours with light contrasts; Perfectly fits its theme and just the right mixture of cute and cool, this Pokemon was always going to end up topping this list.
So there you have it! Those are my favourite Pokemon from Generation 8 so far. Thank you very much for taking the time to read this list, please let me know what your favourite new Pokemon are, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back next week as we’re going to be looking back at the best and worst parts of WWE from the past decade!