Every Pokemon Rival Ranked

As you journey across the regions of the Pokemon world, it would be pretty lonely if you didn’t have anyone to share your journey with. As such, every game since the very first has had you share your journey with a rival who is exploring, growing and battling just the same as you. They’ve come in many different flavours over the years, but be they friendly, antagonistic or…just kinda…there, they stand to challenge you throughout your journey and hopefully bond with someone as you grow as trainers together.

Each game has its own versions, and they have widely varying personalities, so which ones left the biggest impact on me? Let’s rank ’em.

15 – Calem/Serena – X/Y

Serena may be a great character in the anime, but her game counterpart is the world’s blandest human.

As you’ll see in just a few entries, the rivals that are the gender-swap of the player character tend to be the worst. The problem is that because their identity is entirely dependant on which gender the player is, they had to create a personality that would fit both characters. Of course, the easy solution would’ve just been to create two different personalities, but that’s beside the point.

Calem & Serena are by far the worst when it comes to these situations because they’re SO boring. Everything they say is stupidly generic and just pointless prattle about becoming stronger and growing as a person. Running into them is an absolute chore because they never have anything interesting to say. Even exposition tends to be given to the other characters around them. No attempt went into giving them any kind of character arch. They just copy/pasted the base template they’ve always used for the rival and didn’t change anything.

Most importantly, they’re an awful rival. X & Y as a whole often get derided for being too easy, even by Pokemon’s standards, and Calem & Serena are one of the clearest examples of this. Their team is ALWAYS lagging behind yours in terms of levels, and they just don’t have very interesting Pokemon. I’m so disappointed that THIS was the rival that got an Absol as their strongest Pokemon because…Absol deserves so much better.

14 – Shauna/Tierno/Trevor – X/Y

These three are technically all distinct characters, but they’re so tightly linked to one another that I’m lumping them all into one entry. The general idea of travelling together in a big group was one I liked. It created a real sense of fun on the journey with so many people journeying with you. Unfortunately, the characters that are on that journey aren’t anyone interesting.

Since there are so many characters, and they all have limited screen-time, the writers went to the tried and tested trope of boiling their personalities down to a single trait. Shauna is “girly”, Trevor is clever and Tierno…likes to dance? Characters who only have one trait aren’t interesting at the best of times, but it’s made so much worse when the traits are stupid and generic like those ones. Encountering them is never anything interesting either, they’ll all say a line or two, maybe you’ll battle one of them, and that’ll be that.

Once again, they’re terrible as rivals. For one thing, you very rarely battle them, and when you do, they’re absolutely no challenge. Running into them feels like an interruption to your journey rather than a part of it, and that’s a bad sign. As I said, the idea of having a big group to journey with is a great one, and I hope they try it again, but this was an absolute failure of an attempt.

13 – Brendan/May – Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald

These two suffer from the same problem that Calem & Serena do, only they’re a bit better because they have at least a little bit of character.

While the friendly rival thing has been done to death by this point in the franchise, Brendan & May were the first time it happened in a major way in the series. As such, a lot of what they had to say felt fresh, and the friendly atmosphere was a nice change of pace from the antagonistic rivals of the first two generations. Sadly, that’s where the positives end.

When you actually look into their personality, there isn’t very much there. Most of what they say is just there to move the plot along, but they at least say it in a slightly more interesting way than in X & Y. In terms of their teams, there’s a lot more interest to be had, and they certainly feel like a more well-rounded trainer on that front. I never found any battle with them to be much of a challenge, and once again, I got that feeling they were always lagging behind me, not growing alongside me.

12 – Hau – Sun/Moon/Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon

To me, Hau is the epitome of the boring friendly rival trope that now plagues the franchise. He’s bright, energetic, all too willing to explain everything to you and always loses. Admittedly I’m not as against the friendly rival stuff as many in the fanbase are, but I’d like them to have a more complex personality than this. The Alola games had a powerful story, and many of the other characters were brilliant, so it’s a real shame that Hau was a character that just seemed to get left in the dust.

He’s a better rival than the ones I’ve covered so far, but not by much. His team is a lot more interesting and is quite well balanced; the levelling is the only real problem. The problem of a lack of difficulty is by no means exclusive to the rivals in the modern games, but it’s undeniable that I just kept destroying the guy every time we met because I out levelled him. What’s worse is he just let every loss roll right off his back in an “aw shucks, I’m just happy to take part!” kind of way that drives me insane.

Yes, there’s definitely value in teaching kids that winning isn’t everything, but real people CARE when they keep losing like that, and Hau just doesn’t.

11 – Hop – Sword/Shield

For the most part, Hop is just a copy/paste of Hau. He’s nice and friendly, piss-weak compared to you and will throw exposition in your face until you want to strangle him.

I could end this entry right there and be done with it, but what puts Hop a small step above Hau is that he actually gets a bit of character arc in Sword & Shield. It’s not an amazing one, but it’s certainly more than the rivals I’ve covered so far have got. Unlike Hau, Hop actually gives a shit when he keeps losing. The pressure of his unbeatable brother and you beating his ass at every opportunity weighs on him after a while. Granted, they don’t go very far with it, but it’s something, and I’ve really gotta take all I can get during these lower entries.

10 – Marnie – Sword/Shield

I wanted to put her higher based solely on how much I love her character design, but the truth is, Marnie just isn’t that interesting of a character.

My decision to put her over Hop is a bit arbitrary; I guess it’s because she’s less in-your-face and annoying, but that’s not saying much. Personality-wise, she’s got a bit more of an edge to her, but in reality, the game just treats her like any other friendly rival. The stuff with Team Yell is kinda interesting with how Marnie isn’t into it, but like with Hop’s story, they don’t dive into it very far. She just runs them off when they’re being annoying sometimes. Similarly, there’s her conflict with her brother overusing Dynamax Pokemon, which is interesting, but again, doesn’t go anywhere.

Her team’s a bit more interesting than Hop’s, but the lack of difficulty strikes her down again as someone who never presented me a challenge. She’s got the added disadvantage of only focusing around a single type due to how she becomes a Gym Leader by the end of the game. Unlike the others so far on this list, I didn’t hate it when I ran into her because it usually moved things forward quite quickly, but she still wasn’t all that amazing.

9 – Hugh – Black 2/White 2

Hugh is another who fits into the ‘friendly rival’ archetype, but I think he comes in a step above what I’ve covered so far by virtue of him actually having motivations as a character. He’s still extremely buddy-buddy and tutorialising to your player character, but he actually gets a decent role in Black 2 & White 2’s story. The Unova games emphasised their narratives, so even template characters like Hugh got a nice boost from being involved.

His determination to get stronger is all in service of his goal of recovering his sister’s Purlion from Team Plasma and, while it might not be the strongest of motivations, it means he’s got a clear goal from the outset, and you can see how everything he does is in service of that. It also plays well with his kind and helpful nature, both to the player and to other characters, as he doesn’t want other people to have to go through what he has.

His Pokemon aren’t the strongest ever, but his team is well-rounded, and the generation 5 games are still just difficult enough that battles with Hugh can be challenging if you’re not ready for them. He still doesn’t break out into being one of the best, but Hugh is definitely a tier above what we’ve seen so far.

8 – Barry – Diamond/Pearl/Platinum

Much like Hugh, Barry is a rival who still fits the ‘friendly’ archetype but has some stuff piled on top.

His hyperactive personality is simultaneously annoying and charming in a way that I can’t quite put my finger on. I love how he immediately wants to go out and catch a legendary Pokemon before he’s even got a Pokeball; it actually makes him feel like the youngish child the rivals are supposed to be in this game. Of course, that’s where the annoying aspect can come in because it does get tiresome here and there. Additionally, he doesn’t really progress as a person at all, he becomes a bit more mature at the end, but nothing really noteworthy to make him super interesting.

Barry hits pretty well on the difficulty aspect, though. His levels normally match pretty well with the area he’s in, and his team is fairly well balanced (not the best, but still pretty good). A battle with Barry was almost always a welcome challenge rather than an annoying obstacle which is how it should feel.

7 – Bede – Sword/Shield

I’ve slated the Sword & Shield writing quite a bit in this list so far, but I’d say Bede is one of the highlights.

For one thing, antagonistic rivals tend to feel like better characters just because the writers can go a bit loser with it. They don’t have to be constantly patting the player on the back or espousing the power of friendship. This applies to the Pokemon anime too, just look at rivals like Gary & Paul. Bede’s self-important persona is one you can instantly recognise as dislikable, and the game has no trouble playing up to it. They’re extremely headstrong, and it bites them in the arse a couple of times in the story.

The place where they fall down is when you battle them. Like Marnie, they suffer from focusing on a single type, so things always feel a bit easier, not to mention the difficulty problems I’m mentioned already in later generations. They also don’t have a fantastic end to their story. It’s nice that they got something to do, but the Gym Leader thing came out of nowhere, and they don’t even seem like they want to do it.

Bede is definitely one of the better characters in Sword & Shield, but they just don’t quite follow through to the end.

6 – Gladion – Sun/Moon/Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon

Gladion is by far the most interesting character I’ve talked about so far. The dude’s actually got a back-story, which puts him head and shoulders above the rest so far.

The story surrounding The Aether Foundation and the family at its centre is an interesting one that’s split into many pieces across Alola’s story. All things considered, Gladion is one of the more minor parts of that story, but he still helps tie things together and give a much fuller picture of that life. His downbeat and untrusting personality stands as an essential contrast to Lillie’s open and kind personality. Both of them went through very similar trauma in their childhoods, but where Lillie used it as motivation to be good and kind, Gladion used it to close himself off from everyone but a select trustworthy few.

Aside from that, Gladion is ok as a rival. As I’ve said, the later generations have a problem with difficulty, and Gladion does fall victim to that somewhat, but I’d say he’s better than Hau. His team is a lot more interesting with some rather powerful Pokemon, which makes up for the fact that his levels often aren’t on par with yours. I also love the touch that three of his Pokemon have friendship based evolutions; it’s one of those subtle things that tells you loads about his character.

Plus, his battle theme is kick-ass, so that’s always a positive.

5 – Wally – Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald

Wally isn’t the primary rival in the Hoenn games, and in fact, you only fight him twice during the story, but he still managed to leave a notable impression on me. Initially, a kid you have to escort to catch a Pokemon, Wally grows surprisingly fast into a rather formidable trainer. His vague illness and quiet demeanour make him someone that I feel the urge to be kind towards. He starts off quite unsteady yet determined and eventually turns into a quietly confident trainer that I can respect.

Since you don’t battle him too much, he’s not an amazing rival, but he provides quite a challenge when you battle him at the end of Victory Road. His ORAS battle theme is bloody brilliant, but that aside he has a brilliantly constructed teams with some powerful Pokemon. Even though he goes down in defeat in that final battle with you, he still feels like someone who has achieved his goal. He overcame his hurdles and became the powerful Pokemon trainer he always wanted to be. It’s not a complicated character arc, but it’s all you really need.

4 – Blue – Red/Blue/Yellow

The original, but not quite the best.

While I may not rate Blue at the top, I can’t deny that he is the measuring stick for all the other rivals that came after him in the series. His in-your-face douchebaggery made him an extremely memorable character, and it’s no surprise that he’s still fondly remembered to this day. I’ve got many criticisms to level at Generation 1, but the writing isn’t one of them. I think they nailed this character and how he’s always a few steps ahead of you on your journey. You get the feeling that, even when you beat him, it could’ve gone the other way and, maybe if he had a slight attitude shift, he could actually surpass you.

In terms of strength as a rival, I think Blue does the best out of anyone on that front. His Pokemon are almost always a higher level than yours unless you’ve been doing a lot of grinding, and he does briefly manage to become the champion of the Pokemon league too. Before the games got their own dedicated champions, having to face off against the guy who’s been poking and prodding you the whole game in your final battle was a brilliant conclusion.

Blue is undoubtedly one of the most memorable trainers, and it’s no surprise that the fanbase points to him when asked how they want the modern rivals to be. However, I think there are a few that have more interesting character arcs.

3 – Silver – Gold/Silver

To my mind, Silver is like Blue, but with the intensity turned up. Where Blue is energetic and childish in how he antagonises you, Silver is more calm and collected. It’s not an in-your-face kind of hatred; it’s seathing below the surface and only comes out in dismissive and hateful remarks. His laser-focus on being the ‘strongest’ trainer is the kind of goal that we can relate to, but his methods are despicable, and it can get frustrating to see him constantly dismiss anyone who tries to tell him that opening your heart to Pokemon is how to become stronger. His thought process of those kinds of people being ‘weak’ is weirdly reminiscent of things we see in our society today, such as toxic masculinity, and it brings out similar feelings.

Much like Blue, he’s a pretty strong trainer, although I wouldn’t quite put him on Blue’s level in terms of challenge. His team is a bit less well-rounded, but the levels are still on-par if not above yours and require preparation. His growth as a character is what puts him over the top of Blue for me. While Blue does mature a bit, he doesn’t go through the learning process that Silver does.

His hatred for Team Rocket (which in HGSS we found out was because his father, Giovanni, abandoned him) is driving him to become stronger, but that hatred is what’s locking him off from reaching his true potential. It takes him a while, but he eventually begins to understand this and dedicate himself to diving deeper into the topic. His change in language from being the ‘strongest’ trainer to the ‘greatest’ trainer is a small change, but it’s the perfect encapsulation of the growth that he goes through.

While I think giving characters in Pokemon games a massive story arc is asking a bit much in the modern era, I still think it’s entirely possible to do things like this, even with the sporadic encounters we get with the rivals.

2 – Bianca – Black/White

While the generation 5 games are far from my favourites, I can’t deny that their narratives are what Pokemon games should be aspiring to achieve. Sure, when compared to the gaming industry as a whole, it’s not anything incredible, but it’s by far the best the main-series Pokemon games have ever put together.

As such, both of the main rivals in Black & White had really interesting character arcs that played to satisfying conclusions. Black & White are rather heavy-handed in their themes of ‘Truth & Ideals’, which both work in tandem and in conflict with each other. Bianca & Cheren are two of the clearest representations of this. It’s interesting to see how they go through very similar experiences but come to very different conclusions about their respective lives.

Bianca is more of a representation of truth. She starts off on uneven footing, partly because she can be a bit clumsy and forgetful, but also because she’s taking her journey against her father’s wishes. It’s never been shown as a big deal in the Pokemon world when children wander off around the world at 10 years old, but this finally touched on how it would actually work if they came into conflict. It’s key to showing that Bianca may be full of self-doubt and uncertainty about her abilities, but she still holds a powerful resolve to push towards her goals.

The second half of her story is interesting because she has to come to terms with the fact that she just isn’t good enough to hang with the best of the best (the player). It’s a weird balance because she’s still a formidable opponent, but her battles are by design a bit easier than Cheren’s, and it’s that narrative through mechanics design that I love to see, even if it is rare in this franchise. We actually get to see her reach the conclusion to go out and research instead of battling, and thanks to the sequels, we see the successful person she eventually turned into. I think the excellence of Bianca’s story is why I didn’t connect with Hop’s. Hop’s story just felt like a cheap imitation that the writers didn’t commit to enough.

She serves as one half of a pair of excellent rivals, and the highlights of her character truly sign when you contrast the two together. So, with that in mind…

1 – Cheren – Black/White

Where Bianca represents truth, Cheren represents ideals. Before you even set out on your journey, it seems like he’s got it all planned out. He has extensive knowledge of Pokemon (compared to Bianca & the player character at the start) and seems laser-focused on his goals. Where his conflict comes in is pondering exactly why he’s striving for what he’s striving for.

The generic “become stronger” goal of most of the rivals gets challenged significantly here, and while the game doesn’t push all the way with the examination, it does somewhat analyse what it even means to be strong. Cheren blindly pursues his goals without considering why, and it leads to a great deal of inner conflict with him. What’s great is how he changes his analysis of his situation. He starts out looking to others and seeing how they behave, but eventually turns his questioning to himself and pondering what would make him happy in his life.

Once again, the sequel does wonders for him, as we get to see what path he chose amidst the relative uncertainty we left him in the originals. A Gym Leader & Teacher is an interesting choice, but one that I think works. He gets incredibly frustrated at constantly losing the player in Black & White, and yet, as a Gym Lader – the first Gym Leader, no less – his role is to be beaten. He no longer seeks to increase his own strength but instead aid other trainers in finding theirs.

When combined with Bianca, we see the themes come through strongest of all. The idea that your ideals in life may not be what you think they are, but that’s ok as long as you learn to adapt and find happiness in where you end up. It’s not some earth-breaking revelation, but for kids who play these games and take on board this message, I have no doubt it did wonders for their world view. That’s what games with audiences that skew younger should be doing, and that’s what makes Cheren & Bianca Pokemon’s best rivals.

So there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this post. Please, let me know who your favourite rivals are, either in the comments below or on Twitter @SStyleSmark. Finally, make sure to come back here this time next week, where I’ll be running down the worst Royal Rumble winners in history!

Best Post-Game Features in Pokemon Games

When it comes to determining my favourite Pokemon games, one of the biggest considerations is how much there is to do in the post-game. For those unaware, the post-game is any features/stories that become available to you only after you have seen the game’s credits roll for the first time. In Pokemon games, this translates to anything that happens after you’ve defeated the champion and entered the hall of fame.

These are the features that keep you playing hours after having finished the game and provide a handful of extra challenges to prove your team’s mastery. To be clear here, I’m not talking about the general stuff that you can do in every Pokemon game, such as shiny hunting or competitive battling, I’m talking about the unique stuff that only features in one or two games. I also won’t cover the Isle of Armor or the Crown Tundra, as those are DLCs you have to pay extra for.

8 – Ultra Wormholes – Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon

It’s become standard fare in the modern era of Pokemon for at least one game in every generation to include all of the legendary Pokemon from previous generations for us to catch and encounter. This has led to a few fun systems. The Dynamax Adventures in Sword/Shield are a lot of fun, but I struggle to call them post-game, since they’re a huge feature in the Crown Tundra DLC, and the ‘soaring’ mechanic in Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire filled that purpose well too, but I think this was the best it has been done.

Once you switch the control method away from motion controls, the mini-game through which you find all of these Pokemon is a lot of fun. It only takes a couple of minutes every time, and it provides a little bit of challenge to get to the Pokemon you want, rather than just fulfilling certain requirements. On top of that, you had to look for the different coloured portals to find the right Pokemon, and even if you didn’t encounter a legendary, you could find plenty of other Pokemon with boosted shiny odds, so it was a win-win, really.

The little environments made good use of the multi-verse concept those games focused around, with each of the Ultra Beasts’ domains being especially beautiful and fun to explore. As a shiny hunter, I spent a lot of time using this feature in USUM, and I’m glad it was a lot of fun to do so.

7 – The Battle Zone – Diamond/Pearl/Platinum

To be clear, I am not including the Battle Frontier in this bit, I’ll talk more about that later, I’m referring to the island as a whole that you get to explore after becoming champion in the Sinnoh games.

For starters, as soon as you get there, you have a double battle with the final Gym leader and an Elite Four member, which is pretty cool and after that, you’ve got a whole island to explore. It features three whole towns, each with their own unique features, a massive villa that you can own and furnish, a whole host of Pokemon not in the Sinnoh-dex, a cafe where you can rematch Gym leaders, and a god-damned Volcano where you can fight Heatran.

What I love so much about this island is how completely different it feels to the rest of Sinnoh. Even the ground is a different colour here, playing off of the volcanic/tropical island vibes to great effect. The routes are winding and dangerous, just like you’d hope them to be at such a late stage in the game, with one final dungeon for you to explore in the form of Stark Mountain. The music is pretty kick-ass too.

It’s just so cool to have a bunch of new areas to explore after you think you’re done with the game, even if nothing major happens around those places in the grand scheme of thing.

Speaking of…

6 – The Rest of Unova – Black 2/White 2

In the original Black & White games, the post-game allowed to explore a new portion of the map. It was ok, but ultimately didn’t really hold anything special outside of a few non-Unovan Pokemon and the Kyurem battle. However, the direct sequels had a lot more to offer on that front.

In Black 2 & White 2, you start the game in a completely new area of the map, with some brand new cities to explore, but that means you completely skip all of the starting towns from the original, including two of the gyms. They still sit there on the map though, taunting you as to the possibilities of what you could find there, so when you’re finally let loose to explore it in the post-game, there’s a lot of fun to be had.

Much like the Battle Zone, it provides you with a bunch of new areas to explore, only these areas are filled with a bunch of nostalgia from the original Black & White games. You get to explore fully fleshed-out towns from the originals and encounter a load of new content there. It’s a wonderful blast from the past if you played the originals and a great series of places to explore for the first time if you didn’t.

5 – The Pokemon World Tournament – Black 2/White 2

Let’s see what we have here…a bunch of trainers from old games? Check. Every old Gym leader? Check. Every old Elite Four member? Check. Every old Champion? Check! What more could you possibly ask for?

It’s a huge blast of nostalgia, but that’s exactly what I want from a post-game battle facility like this. It pulls in everyone from all the old games and celebrates the contributions they made to their games. We get remixed themes, improved and remixed teams, and the game celebrates them like the heroes they are to those of us who have played the old games. It’s wonderful to see the Pokemon games happily throw caution to the wind and just let you have a bit of everything for the ultimate tournament experience.

On top of that, it’s genuinely challenging. The battles I had in the champions’ tournament are genuinely some of the most challenging singleplayer battles I’ve ever faced in the series. This is an area that has absolutely no desire to hold back and throws the best of what it has to offer at you in an attempt to earn the ultimate victory. In an era of Pokemon where the lack of difficulty is one of the main complaints about the franchise, it’s really great to go back and remember some of the times where the franchise gave you absolutely no mercy.

We’re three full generations removed from this world tournament, and honestly, I want to see it happen again. Sword & Shield didn’t shy away from using tournaments in its climactic battles, so having another situation where trainers come from around the world to compete in an ultimate tournament would be amazing. Stuff it to the brim with as many trainers as possible to make it feel like a proper Pokemon league, and it may just skyrocket to the top of lists like these.

4 – The Battle Frontier – Platinum

That’s right, I’m putting my cards on the table. Platinum’s Battle Frontier is better than Emerald’s, it just is, ok?

The post-game battle facilities haven’t been all that great in the modern generations. The Battle Tree is fun when it comes to seeing old trainers, but that’s about all it does differently. Meanwhile, X/Y and Sword/Shield did the bare minimum with the Battle Chatuex and Battle Tower respectively. They present a nice challenge if that’s what you want from your post-game in Pokemon, but personally, it’s not what I get drawn towards.

That’s what makes the Battle Frontier so special to me because it makes those post-game challenging battles more fun by adding a whole heap of gimmicks on top. You’ve got the Battle Tower, which is your standard streaks of battles, which is fine enough, but the other facilities are where the real fun lies. The Battle Castle puts a minor twist on the usual formula by not healing your Pokemon between battles, instead giving you currency and forcing you to make some tough choices as to how you how/what you want to recover between battles.

The other facilities get progressively more wild and fun though, you have the best battle facility from Emerald making its reappearance in the form of the Battle Factory. True to Dynamax Adventures in Sword/Shield, using rental Pokemon can be a lot of fun and cause you to use Pokemon you would have never otherwise considered to some great results. Then there’s the Battle Hall, where you have 1 on 1 battles against Pokemon that are a type of your choice. This is fantastic, as it’ll force you to consider unconventional strategies to take down Pokemon of types your Pokemon is very weak against as you wipe the floor with everyone in sight.

Finally, there’s the Battle Arcade, where every battle rolls random effects. Some will help you, some will utterly destroy you. It’s random, stupid and sometimes ridiculously unfair, but that’s honestly why it’s my favourite facility. It’s unpredictable and wild as to what will happen, and I have so much fun trying to work my way out of corners the randomizer forced me into.

This version of the Battle Frontier injects fun gimmicks in the post-game battles that really keep things interesting, and there’s enough variety in how they operate, that there’s likely to be something for everyone within its walls.

3 – Team Rainbow Rocket – Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon

Yes, this was just an excuse for Game Freak to bottle nostalgia and sell it back to us and I don’t care, because it’s cool as hell.

From the moment I saw that ridiculously cool piece of promo art, I knew I was in for a treat when it came to the US/UM postgame, and I was not disappointed. Team Rocket show up out of nowhere, and not only do they have a renewed sense of threat to them, but they’ve also got an updated battle theme that holds the essence of the original and makes it cooler than ever before. That rock version of the Rocket battle theme is just too good to not point out.

Then, you head to Aether Paradise, and all of that juicy nostalgia hits you in the face. First of all, you go through a bunch of puzzle rooms that mimic the old style of evil-team bases. There are teleport puzzles, arrow trap puzzles and just about everything you could want. Then, there are the actual team leaders themselves, except these are the versions of them that didn’t lose to a 10-year-old kid and actually succeeded in destroying/altering/ruling/creating a whole new world.

You face these leaders with a strong sense of their ideals as they give you a small glimpse into the world they created, and you get to fight some buffed-up teams of theirs for some epic battles. In here, it’s the little touches that make these battles so much fun, like the fact that they’ve all caught their Pokemon Master Balls or the INCREDIBLE remixed battle-themes. Cyrus & Lysandre’s especially are some of my favourite pieces of music in the whole franchise.

Then you face off with Giovanni, who seems like a genuine threat for the first…well, ever, to be entirely honest with you, as he attempts to rule the multiverse, whatever that means. He too gets a kick-ass battle theme and a strong team of Pokemon that will really put you to the test if you didn’t adequately prepare.

To put it simply, it was just so much fun to experience all this nostalgia in one lovely digestible sequence of events. Facing the old leaders, seeing them all team up and getting to fight them all off in an epic series of encounters. Is it a bit over-the-top and childish? Absolutely. Do I care? Not in the slightest.

2 – Delta Episode – Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphie

A handful of Pokemon games have held over narrative elements into the post-game. There was the 7 sages in Black & White, or the Heatran stuff from the Sinnoh games, for example, but until the Delta Episode, it had never been done to this extent.

When Zinnia showed up following the credits of ORAS, there was a lot of intrigue to be had. Not only was this something we’d never seen in a Pokemon game before, but it completely diverged from the story of the original Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald games, of which these were a remake. It wasn’t some massively epic story or anything, but I like how it gave you a quick mystery, hit you with a pretty significant threat and then immediately sent you off to the tower. Here, you learn a bit more about the lore of Groudon, Kyogre & Rayquaza, and there’s that slow realisation of where this is going.

Additionally, this was the first time Pokemon actually addressed the possibility of a multiverse, something Generation 7 would play around with a lot in its narrative. What really blew me away were the two major reveals that happened during this sequence. I have no idea if these were revealed before the launch of the game, but when I played through them for the first time, I had no idea that 1) Rayquaza was not only catchable in the game but had a mega-evolution that is honestly one of the cooler ones out there and 2) You got to catch DEOXYS of all Pokemon, which was an incredibly cool and memorable moment when I experienced it for the first time. As the Crown Tundra has proved, Pokemon games seem to be becoming more willing to make Mythical Pokemon available as an occasional treat, and it gives me high hopes if the Sinnoh remakes are ever produced.

While I don’t think we’ll see this kind of thing super often anymore, as the franchise has moved on to more fully-formed DLCs instead, but either way, this was a very memorable experience that held a nice couple of surprised following the ORAS credits.

1 – Kanto – Gold/Silver/HeartGold/SoulSilver

It’s an obvious choice, I know, but what else could it possibly be? Sure, some of the other entries on this list might hold more interesting aspects or flashier ideas, but this a WHOLE REGION for you to explore, including an extra 8 gym battles. This is the stuff we can only dream of in the modern era of Pokemon.

I experienced the Johto games for the first time in the form of the remakes, HeartGold & SoulSilver, which are absolutely incredible games in their own right. Once I’d finally fought through to defeat the Elite 4, to be told that there was now a whole new region for me to conquer was terrific. More to that, since this was only the second Pokemon game I’d ever played (first was Platinum), I’d never seen Kanto before, which meant all of it was brand new to me. It was like an extra Pokemon game on top of my Pokemon game.

Even if you had already played through a Kanto game, there was still huge value to be found in exploring the region a few years following the events of the original games. There’s great fun to be had in seeing how the gyms had changed and who was leading them. After battling Koga in the Johto Elite 4, you find out that his daughter has taken over his Gym, you find out that your former rival took Giovanni’s place as the final Gym leader. It’s got the right balance you want from a ‘sequel’ of the region, with a bunch of nostalgic elements, with a feeling of progression.

Then, once you’ve done all of that, you get to go to Mount Silver and have what is still, to this day, one of my favourite battles in the entire franchise against Red with some ridiculously high-levelled Pokemon for the standard singleplayer experience. Given that Gold & Silver were originally designed to be the last games in the franchise, they definitely nailed the feeling of wrapping everything up from the first two generations, and the exploration into Kanto was a huge part of that.

So there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this post, please let me know what you thought of Pokemon post-game features, either in the comments below or on Twitter @SStyleSmark. Make sure to come back here this time next week, where I’ll be covering my favourite Fall Guys levels.
AND don’t forget to come and check out my streams at https://www.twitch.tv/strongstylesmark 2pm GMT Tuesdays & Thursdays, and 6pm GMT on Saturdays!

11 More Amazing Tracks from Pokemon Soundtracks

At the start of the year, I counted down my favourite tracks across the entirety of the main series of Pokemon games. Except there’s a small problem. You see, I recently dived into the soundtracks again and realised that a mere ten tracks was not nearly enough to cover all the amazing music this franchise had to offer. So, I’m doing it again to create more of a top 21.

Honestly, even that may not be enough to cover everything. So who knows? Maybe there’ll be a third instalment to this series in another six month’s time. Just like last time, I am keeping it purely to the main series of Pokemon games, so no spinoffs like the Mystery Dungeon or Ranger series will be included.

Now, to the music zone.

11 – Accumula Town – Black/White/Black 2/White 2

Ok, yes, it’s the ‘Furret Walk’ song, but there’s so much more than that to love about this track, (although that is a pretty big draw).

As you’ll know if you’ve read the first instalment of this list (which, if you haven’t noticed, I’d like it if you to read), then you’ll know that I don’t usually go for the quieter or simpler tracks, it’s not my style. The reason this track stood out to me is that it’s somewhere in the middle. It’s got a smooth sweetness to it, especially in the middle section where the flute completely takes over the melody and we get a track that has a calming aura to it, despite a decent pace.

In Black/White, Accumula Town is the first town you arrive in after setting off on your journey, so I think it’s an excellent way to introduce you to the broader world if the first town you encounter has a theme that is happy and welcoming. Sandgem Town in the Sinnoh games does this well, but I’m giving the edge to Accumula Town because it makes me feel cheerier when listening to it. While it’s got a relatively fast pace, it doesn’t go too fast for its own good. It’s almost like the track is encouragingly pulling you along the first step of your journey.

I’ve always been amazed at how, even though both Sinnoh & Unova were made on the same limited hardware, they were still able to have very distinct audio styles. I’ll go into more detail with it a bit later, but Unova feels a lot more ‘urban’ with its music, and this is precisely the kind of music I’d expect to come out of a happy little suburb. It makes Accumula Town a track that never fails to get me in a good mood.

10 – Max Raid Battle – Sword/Shield

Perhaps the only thing that the larger Pokemon fanbase can agree on about Sword & Shield is that the soundtrack is incredible. There are so many tracks from those games that I wish I had room to include (and a couple that we’ll be covering shortly). I included Marnie’s battle music in my first list because it was what stood out to me the most upon playing through the game. However, truth be told, I hadn’t properly dived into the full soundtrack yet, so when I did, I found some amazing music. This track included.

Max Raid Battles were one of the key selling points for Sword & Shield, as they put the game’s main gimmick on full display and encouraged collaboration between players in a way the franchise had never tried before. As a result, the track that accompanies these battles feels like it was built from the ground up to fit the entire concept of Max Raid Battles perfectly.

It starts out with this very quiet and odd synth build-up. As the camera dramatically pans around to show who you’ll be battling alongside before finally revealing you Dynamaxed/Gigantamaxed opponent. Then things start to ramp up and get more intense as you bring your Pokemon out on to the field and, the music syncs up perfectly to kick everything off the moment the battle begins. If you’ve played Sword/Shield as I have, then you’ve done a lot of Max Raid Battles, and I’ll be honest, that moment where the music kicks into gear never gets old.

Once the battle begins, the music wastes no time throwing you into a chaotic track that is simultaneously terrifying and triumphant. All around the main melody, there are synth and drum beats that go off at an erratic pace, surrounding and immersing you in the chaos that is a Max Raid Battle. You’ve got four Pokemon against one humongous one, and there are attacks flying everywhere, from all sides as you fight desperately to take down your opponents protections and avoid disaster.

Underneath all of that chaos, you have a melody that mixes brass & synth effects to create a track that feels like this grand spectacle. It taps into that same feeling that ‘Revied Power’ from Shadow of the Colossus does, where the fact that you’re even able to hold your ground against a gargantuan monster like this is a feat worthy of celebration. Just imagine what a Max Raid Battle would be like to watch right before your eyes, I imagine it would be a spectacle like no other, which is exactly the feeling that I get from this track.

9 – Vast Poni Canyon – Sun/Moon/Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon

While Mount Lanakila is technically the true ‘Victory Road’ section of Alola, I always felt that distinction should’ve gone to Vast Poni Canyon instead. It was unquestionably my favourite area to traverse in-game. It had so many wide open caverns and canyons that had an incredible sense of scale to them, even though your camera was pointed towards the floor most of the time. It twisted and turned in interesting ways, and every little nook and cranny had ways for you to explore the area. It’s an exciting climb to the base of the Altar of the Sunne/Moone, not to mention your final (or penultimate if you’re playing Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon) trial.

Vast Poni Canyon is a track with everything an area like this needs. It’s exciting, but also intimidating. It’s threatening but also encouraging. The opening to track is easily my favourite bit. The way the synth echoes throughout the track makes it feel like it’s echoing around this gigantic and well…vast canyon that surrounds you. It gives a very real feeling of scale to the environment along with bringing in that intimidation factor I was talking about.

Then the main melody kicks in, and the tone picks up a lot. The acoustic guitar in the foreground on the track compliments the subtle electric guitar in the background to make a track that has quite a chill vibe to it, while still keeping a certain energy that you need for an area like this one. A flute then takes over the melody, and things shift to the more emotional side of the music. This is the build-up to the final section of the game, where you’ll travel through dimensions and do battle with legendary Pokemon, this makes it partly a time of reflection on your journey up until this point. However, this track knows that the climax is just around the corner and the fast-paced synth effects, combined with the rapid percussion keep a certain intensity to the track, drawing out the nerves that come with nearing the climax of an adventure like this one.

On top of that, this track SCREAMS ‘Alola’ to me. I’d argue that Alola has one of the most distinct musical styles out of any region, but this is the track where I think it stands out the most. The theme and culture of Alola have been poured into this track, and every beat brings it out. There’s no mistaking which game this track comes from.

8 – VS Team Plasma Grunt – Black/White

Team Plasma has always been quite an interesting case for me. I feel like the story they told of ideals and corruption was an interesting idea. I wish it had come from a more adult-leaning franchise so that they could’ve explored the manipulation at the centre of the organisation.

To that end, their battle theme has a bit of a duality to it. Almost like its at conflict with itself, it’s subtle, but it’s there. The main melody of the song is strong and resolute. The progression of the synth gives me these feels of strong ideals and infinite resolve. These grunts aren’t just petty criminals; they believe they’re fighting for a worthy, humanitarian (except with Pokemon…poketarian?) cause. The conflict comes with the beat that’s carrying the whole thing.

The slow, methodical percussion is there, and it feels just a little bit off. It fits the rhythm of the track, it’s ‘going along with it’ so to speak, but the tone is different. Where the main melody is strong and triumphant, the beat underneath it is dark and intimidating. Maybe I’m stretching things a bit here, but when I think about it like that, it feels like that beat is representing the dissension at the heart of Team Plasma. That fact that Ghetsis is really at the centre of it all, using their message of liberation and kindness to hide his own selfish ambitions for world domination.

Symbolism aside, this is just a really fun track. The main melody has a slightly intimidating presence while still feeling like a grand battle between skilled trainers. It’s light and bouncy in places, while still throwing in the minor keys to remind you that these are the bad guy’s that you’re fighting. Thematically, I think this is a really robust track, and it holds up against any of the great evil-team battle themes.

7 – Castelia City – Black/White/Black 2/White 2

For those who are unaware, the Unova region, in which the Generation 5 games are set, was based on New York and Castelia City is the city that most clearly resembles the state’s capital city.

While the whole track has an ‘urban’ feel to it, this where that style feels the most present. Castelia City is stuffed to the brim with tall and powerful skyscrapers, while the streets below are pouring with hordes of people rushing back and forth. One of my favourite details in the whole franchise was the little text bubbles that appeared while walking through the crowded streets of Castelia City. It felt so realistic to be overhearing the most random snippets of stranger’s conversations. It was the first time in Pokemon history that I’ve felt a city in the game world actually has a realistic population for a city that size.

I’m sure you’ve already guessed what I’m going to say next, which that this track complements that atmosphere perfectly. For one thing, the choice of instrument is so genius that I never would’ve thought of it. Saxophone was such a brilliant choice to lead the melody in this track. For one thing, Jazz music is so heavily associated with urban American environments in pop-culture that you’re already on the nose. Then, you add on the fact that it’s exactly the kind of melody you might hear being played by buskers on the street or in the subway.

It’s so simple, and yet I feel such power with the emotions it brings forth. It’s got a slightly quickened pace to it, capturing the sense of hustle-and-bustle that you get as the crowds of people rush past you. Yet, underneath it lies some more sombre emotions. The kind of longing for something more or different that can often come if you grow up in a densely populated area like that. I can’t quite describe what I mean when I say that it sounds like the concept of nostalgia, but that’s pretty much the only way I can think of to describe it.

6 – VS Gladion – Sun/Moon/Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon

When I first heard this track, I wasn’t too sure on it. I enjoyed the melody, but I didn’t understand how it fit Gladion as a character. He seemed to be a much more downtrodden personality, I would’ve expected him to have a more intense and slow track for his battle theme…but eventually, I worked it out.

It’s the downward chord progression. Unlike almost every other battle theme that progresses upward, every bar in this one goes downward. Gladion’s had a weird life. He was born into a rich family that had their fingers in some very messy pies. Eventually, he caught onto the horrors that his mother was involved in and ran away, taking nothing but the Pokemon he considered friends. He abandoned his sister and caused his mother to fall even deeper into over-protective insanity. He was taken in with a petty criminal gang that he hated, but couldn’t break free from them because where else could he go?

Then he meets you, a trainer his age, who is making their own way in the world and is great at what they do. In battling you, Gladion gets a vision of the life he could’ve had. A life where he got to go out and see the world, making friends and taking on Pokemon battles for the fun of it, not out of necessity. That’s why the track is so upbeat. Gladion finally gets the opportunity to let out those positive emotions that have been suppressed inside of him – partly through his own doing and partly through his circumstance – that’s why he still only has a Type: Null when we first meet him, only for it to have become a Silvally by the end of his adventure.

Yet there’s still that downward chord progression I was on about. That’s Gladion’s underlying tragedy. His encounters with you may have helped him understand his position in the world better, and he may be a happier and better person now, but that doesn’t erase his past. He knows that while his relationship with his mother and sister is fixable, it’s going to be a long struggle. Not just for him to find common ground with his family, but for him to find it in himself to accept them back into his life.

Not only is the melody to this track catchy, fast-paced and really fun to listen to, but it tells Gladion’s story. It represents those deep, dark emotions alongside the high emotions and the joy that battling against you brings out of him.

5 – Nimbasa City – Black/White/Black 2/White 2

Unova’s got a lot of good town themes.

Castelia Cit gave us the more melancholic, emotional side of big cities. It’s the area where everything’s very tightly compact, the population is dense, and there’s not much room for anything other than business. Nimbasa City is the exact opposite.

Nimbasa City is more like Broadway. It’s big, it’s bright, it’s loud & it’s fun. Castelia City is where people do some serious work, while Nimbasa City is the flashy counterpart where all the stars come out to play. They’ve got concert halls, a carnival and two separate sports stadiums right next to each other. Even that town’s Gym Leader, Elesa, is a fashionista/celebrity in town. There are a couple of houses tucked away in the corner, but the majority of the space in the town is given over to the grandeur of the loud and colourful entertainment industry.

This is all backed up by a track that knows exactly how to have fun. The synthesised trumpets carry the track so well that it basically doesn’t need anything else to back it up, other than a simple bassline and an energetic beat. It’s quite a small loop all things considered, but it doesn’t need to be anything special when it’s so enjoyable to listen to. I talked before about how the New York environment is one heavily associated with jazz music. While Castelia City brings out the more poetic side of the genre, this track finds the fun in it. To be entirely honest, all it would need is a good guitar riff over the top, and it would practically be a ska track.

This whole track feels like it could be the opening number for a broadway musical. It pulls you in, hits you with tonnes of energy, gets you pumped and into the groove of things with a catchy hook, then sends you on your way, ready for the show. Spectacular.

4 – Sunyshore City – Diamond/Pearl/Platinum

Sunyshore City’s theme is an interesting mix of one because it has to balance a mix of emotions. On the one hand, this is the fight of your life. This is the city where you will fight for your eighth and final gym badge, overcoming the final obstacle between you and the Pokemon League. On the other hand, it’s a bright and sunny town by the beach! Kick back, relax and enjoy the nice weather!.

The intensity is covered in such a short space of time, and yet it’s SO effective at what it does. The intro to the track has such an incredible sense of intimidation. The usually cheery piano chords are undercut by the deep brass notes and sharp percussive beats. It gives you this feeling that you’re stepping into a battleground you’re not quite ready for, but you’ve got to take the fight anyway. This is your final test before you take on the Elite Four, best not mess it up.

Then it kicks in, and suddenly all that intimidation evaporates, and you’re left with an upbeat, jolly track that creates a welcoming atmosphere. As I said, this is a beach town, with a resort just down the road. The place is filled with holiday-makers and people playing around having fun. It adds to the alive feeling of the franchise’s worlds. Sure, you’re on your way to a big and tough battle, but the world doesn’t revolve around you (no matter what the time/space God you just caught thinks). This is a town where people have a wonderful time, so this track is going to make sure you do too.

It balances your place in the narrative with the overall world it’s in and creates a track with a bit of a duality to it. The harsh percussion never really goes away, almost like a pounding heartbeat, but it’s overpowered by the sun and fun that surrounds you in this town.

3 – VS Team Galactic Commander – Diamond/Pearl/Platinum

I love this track because it proves that not all villain themes have to be slow and manacing. That’s not to say slow & menacing villain themes are bad; in fact, my previous list on this topic features several of those tracks. However, I think it’s important that no music in games should get ‘stuck in their ways’ so to speak. I believe that it’s more important for your music to fit its usage than anything else. Whether it’s a location, cutscene or character, what makes a good track into an amazing one is when it embodies the feel of that thing perfectly. Which is why I think this track is so much fun to listen to.

The thing about the Team Galactic Commanders is that they’re a bit silly. Not necessarily in the way that they’re written, but just look at them. They wear bodysuits that look they’re from an 80’s film about the year 2000; their hair is done up in over the top ways with bright colours; not to mention the fact that they all named themselves after planets ‘cos Galactic’. In many ways, that’s all part of their charm, but they’re the kind of characters that you’re never really going to take seriously.

Following that theme, this track doesn’t take itself too seriously. It still throws in an overall threatening tone. The bassline especially grounds the whole thing and gives it an extra layer of intensity that would be missing otherwise. However, the synthesised main melody that carries the whole thing is noticeably different in tone. It starts off so incredibly chaotic, leaving you no time to breathe before throwing you straight into a fast-paced, fun and slightly over-the-top melody that doesn’t seem to know where it’s going. That sounds like an insult, but it’s actually the reason I enjoy listening to it so much.

Much like the commanders themselves, this track never gives you time to stop and take stock of what is going on. They just want to fight you, and it’s your job to fight back, whether you like it or not.

2 – VS Gym Leader – Sword/Shield

When I first played through Sword & Shield, I never realised the genius of this track, and I can only profusely apologise because this track is incredible.

The track has three phases, which on its own is great, but when you break each of them down, that’s when I fall in love with it.

The first phase is the simplest of the three; as you’d expect. There’s the build-up as the battle begins and each trainer brings out their first Pokemon, then things get intense. The beat is quite basic, but it’s impactful enough and backed up by a style of synth that I can’t quite describe to create quite the atmosphere. You have to remember that in Galar, these gym battles are being watched by a stadium full of thousands of people. Could you imagine what it would feel like to do battle in that environment? This first phase is like the feeling-out process of the fight. Both competitors are gauging each other’s battling styles and devising strategies to win.

Then you take down the Gym Leader’s first Pokemon, and the music moves to the second phase, ramping all the way up again before the synth comes back at a much higher octave and the melody shifts slightly. Moving away from the synth that just goes along with the beat, we move into an electronic melody that changes the atmosphere of the track. Those nerves from the start of the battle are long gone, we’re right in the thick of the battle now. Each trainer has a plan which they’re doing their best to execute it. A rapport has formed, and the crowd can feel the excitement building.

Eventually, you back the Gym Leader into a corner, all they have left is their final and strongest Pokemon. This is where it gets real. The track takes a moment to build up again, and then it repeats the intro to phase two, except this time, the crowd are chanting over it. When I first heard this, I honestly nearly teared up at how utter brilliant of an idea this was. To actually include the roaring, chanting & singing on the massive live crowd into the melody of the track itself was a stroke of musical genius and it adds everything to the exciting and intense feel of these battles.

If you’ve ever been in a large crowd for any kind of sporting event in the UK (and maybe elsewhere, I wouldn’t know), this is EXACTLY the kind of thing you hear. The composers even made sure that the voices weren’t all perfectly synched up, so it felt like real people were making these noises. The synth finally takes a back seat, just interjecting the backing to give the whole thing its sense of rhythm; then it sits back and lets the roar of the crowd wash over the track and carry you to victory.

1 – VS Eternatus ~ Phase 3 – Sword/Shield

This track is more or less the whole reason I wanted to make another one of these lists.

The climax of Sword & Shield’s story is a bit of an odd one, letting you go all the way to the champion battle before the villain finally reveals themselves and puts their plan into action. It was a weird choice of pacing, and I’m not sure it quite worked, but FUCK ME, it was worth it for this track.

After having already gone through about six quite gruelling battles across two different tournaments to get to the champion, you’re suddenly thrown through a loop and have to save the Galar region from an ancient & eternal monster. The first two phases are rough. First, you have to fight Eternatus’ regular form on your own, which is no easy task. Then it transforms into its ‘Eternamax form’ (which is a dumb name but let’s not go there), and Hop finally does something noteworthy in the story to help you. Except…you can’t actually touch it. Literally none of your attacks with even scratch it.

Then, we get what may be my favourite cutscene in all of Pokemon, where you summon Zacian and Zamazenta to help you save the day. Once they show up, this music kicks in and man…I just have to let it wash over me every time. The way the piano starts things off, for the quiet violin to tease the main melody, for the lead guitar to burst into the track and get the battle going. It even includes the dogs themselves howling over it. Genuinely, I teared up. It’s such an incredible build and fits so perfectly to the moment of these legendary dogs finally awakening to come and help you.

The rest of the track has a triumphant feel to it. It fills you with this incredible sense of confidence. Just moments ago, all seemed lost, yet now you’ve turned the tide. The legendary Pokemon have risen and are fighting alongside you; there’s no way you can lose now. It almost strays into feeling fun, but there’s something in the way the melody progresses that holds the intensity and dumps on a whole heap of emotional stakes.

In it’s simplest form, this is a track that makes me so very happy whenever I listen to it. The emotion it carries is so incredibly powerful that I never get tired of listening to it. Even when I had it on loop for 20 minutes while putting this entry together, it has a lot of complexity to it and yet what it conveys is so very simple. It’s undoubtedly one of the best tracks the composers for Pokemon have ever put together.

So there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please, let me know what music you love best from Pokemon, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure you come back this time on Wednesday for the next instalment in my 100 Favourite Games series!

10 Powerful Pokemon That Are World Champions

While Pokemon has spent the past twenty years enveloping kids and adults alike with its bright & colourful world, exciting battles and storytelling charm, everyone’s favourite creature capturing franchise has accrued a wide range of different types of players. Some want to just play through the story and use Pokemon they like the look of; some want to follow the series’ slogan and catch ’em all, and those who like to spend countless hours resetting their game over and over to get a Mewtwo that’s green instead of pink.

Which of those groups I’m a part of isn’t important (although my green Mewtwo will wipe the floor with whatever pathetic pink monstrosity you throw my way). However, others take things a significant step further. Not content with merely defeating each game’s champion and entering the Hall of Fame, some players go out into the real world with their Pokemon to battle anyone they can find to prove that they are the very best, like…you know the rest. Eventually, these competitions between trainers were formalised, and 2009 saw the video games series (referred to as VGC) join the Trading Card Game at the official Pokemon World Championships, using a 4 v 4 double battle format.

Naturally, with almost 900 hundred different Pokemon in the franchise, not all of them are going to have the power or skill that it takes to be a part of a world champion team and as such, a select few Pokemon have risen to the top. These Pokemon rose to the top and have claimed a spot of a world championship-winning team during their lifetimes. We’ll also be looking at teams that made it to the top 8 (quarter-finals). Be it because they dominated the metagame for a short space of time, or endured through the years as a staple of the scene, these are the 10 powerful Pokemon that are world champions.

I’d like to thank smogon.com and False Swipe Gaming on YouTube, as this is where I got the majority of my research from.

10 – Tyranitar

One of the most fragile Pokemon on this list, Tyranitar is much like any good video game boss in that it has a big glowing weak spot in the form of Fighting-type Pokemon. Not only does Tyranitar’s Rock and Dark typing give it a 4-times weakness to them, but it doesn’t possess any kind of reliable move in its arsenal to deal with them.

Tyranitar’s main strengths come from its ability. The most prominent ability for this pale green monster uses Sand Stream to kick up a sandstorm as soon as it enters the field. This boosts Tyranitar’s defences and deals some all-important chip damage to any non-Rock, Ground or Steel-type Pokemon the field. Backing this up with moves like the forceful Crunch and Rock Slide – the latter of which can deal damage to both opposing Pokemon simultaneously – was the perfect way to make use of Tyranitar’s exceptionally high attack stat. Not to mention, it was always packing a Low Kick to deal with otherwise troublesome Steel types.

Tyranitar’s standout year competitively was 2012. It featured in five of the teams to make top 8 at the world championships that year, including helping the USA’s Ray Rizzo claim his third world championship. While its popularity has notably decreased since then, thanks to weather effects becoming less critical to the metagame, Tyranitar has still made sporadic appearances over the years. Most recently helping Roberto Porretti reach 7th place in 2018.

Tyrantitar is an undoubtedly flawed Pokemon having a whole host of weaknesses to common types. Still, it makes up for it with a fantastic ability and a whole truckload of powerful attacks that make this Pokemon one that can never be underestimated.

9 – Bronzong

From a Pokemon who has popped up on a few teams every year, to one that absolutely dominated a single year of VGC.

After a few sporadic appearances in the early days of VGC, Bronzong disappeared in the background and was very rarely, if ever, featured in high-placing teams as it was outclassed in its support role by incredible Pokemon like Cresselia. This begs the question, in 2016, why on Earth did it feature on 7 out of the top 8 teams, including world champion Wolfe Glick’s?

It was quite simply a beneficiary of the other Pokemon that ended up being featured heavily in the 2016 metagame. This was the first season since 2010 where “restricted Pokemon” like the cover-legendaries were allowed to feature on competitive teams. One of the most popular of these Pokemon was Xerneas, which had the ever-resilient Fairy type and an incredible buffing move in the form of Geomancy. Luckily for Bronzong, it was an almost perfect counter to the legendary of life. It’s rare Steel & Psychic typing made it quite the tough Pokemon to crack, especially against opposing Fairy types, which it could absolutely wreck with a well-placed Gyro Ball.

That wasn’t all it did though, as its primary role on the team was to set up Trick Room, which is a move that turns the speed-calculations on its head and allows the slowest Pokemon on the field to move first. This was a crucial factor to victory in a metagame littered with fast Pokemon like Salamence, Gengar and even Rayquaza. It could even run a move like Hypnosis, to prevent those Pokemon from moving entirely, or use Skill Swap on it’s allied Primal Groudon/Kyogre to keep the beneficial weather effects in play while the Primals make the switch out of battle.

Although Bronzong has seldom been seen in VGC before or since the 2016 season, during that one season, it was almost mandatory to have if you wanted to land yourself a high placement. In the long-run, it will always have Pokemon that do its job better, but it absolutely proved that all it takes is the right set of circumstances to launch any Pokemon into the forefront of the metagame.

8 – Incineroar

One thing that is abundantly clear when looking through the history of competitive VGC is that starter Pokemon do not make good competitive team members. Their relatively even stat balance often makes them perfect for running through the singleplayer game, but relatively unviable for the much harsher climate of competitive play. So what makes Incineroar different?

First of all, the Dark-type is a huge boon, as it gives it access to some fantastic competitive moves. These can include moves like Snarl that lower the opposing Pokemon’s Special Attack, or Knock Off which can rid opposing Pokemon of their held-items, which are often crucial to a Pokemon’s survival in battle. The moves that were key to any Incineroar set, however, were Fire Blast, which could deal out massive Fire-Type damage, and Fake Out, which was guaranteed to immobilise its target on that turn if it hit.

Combine this with its Intimidate ability – an ability that lowers the opposing Pokemon’s attack when Incineroar enters the field – and you’ve got yourself the perfect support Pokemon. It’s able to keep its partner in the fight by stalling out opponents and perfectly countering some of the most prominent and powerful Pokemon in the Sun & Moon metagame, including Aeigislash, Celesteela and even the all-powerful Cresselia.

As such Incineroar has seen huge usage since its Intimidate ability set was released in 2018. It featured on five of the top 8 teams in 2018 and seven in 2019, featuring in the 1st place team both times.

Incineroar was able to prove that starter Pokemon are more than just fodder for the singleplayer game and fond childhood memories, but could wreck shop on the battlefield too.

7 – Amoonguss

Another Pokemon here that has seen scattered usage throughout the years, Amoongus is one of those support Pokemon that never truly goes away.

Spore and Rage Powder are the moves that have been key to Amoonguss’ success over the years. Spore is a move with 100% accuracy and is guaranteed to put the opposing Pokemon to sleep, which is an incredibly powerful thing to have in your arsenal. Meanwhile, Rage Powder forced all attacking moves (not counting spread moves) to target Amoonguss, allowing it to easily protect it’s partner while it dealt out all of the damage.

It had options when it came to its abilities. It could run Effect Spore, which had a chance to inflict a status effect onto any Pokemon that attacked it, or Regenerator, which let it restore one-third of its health when it switched out of battle. While Effect Spore was run for its early seasons, in the years since, high-ranking Amoonguss players have almost exclusively Regenerator sets. This makes it a bulky support Pokemon that can restore its health whenever it wants to, which is a giant boon to controlling the pace of any battle.

Amoonguss’ presence in VGC is quite wide-spread, but also somewhat scattered. It featured on three of the 8 teams in 2011, 2013 & 2019, while taking a spot on a whopping six teams in the 2015 season. It also claimed the world championship in both 2013 & 2015.

Amoonguss ended up being one of those support Pokemon that competitors in VGC just keep coming back to. It has some pretty clear counters, which is why it isn’t seen every year, but when the metagame allows for Amoonguss to flourish, it will always have a noteworthy spot to fill on a team with world championship aspirations.

6 – Thundurus

Arguably one of the most versatile Pokemon this list, Thundurus can fill just about any role you need it to, depending on how you build it.

With a lightning-quick Speed stat (pun definitely intended) and a Special Attack stat to die for, Thundurus could thrive as an all-out attacker. Running Thunderbolt as a robust attacking move made it hard to contend with. It could also carry Hidden Power Flying or Hidden Power Ice to deal with several Pokemon that would otherwise threaten it. Its speed made sure it’d always get to move first, save for a Trick Room which wasn’t overly common in the seasons where Thundurus saw its most prominent usage.

That wasn’t all Thundurus could do though, as it was also an ideal support Pokemon. It couldn’t dish out healing like other great supports, but it didn’t need to. Its ability, Prankster, gave all of its non-attacking moves priority, which meant that they would always execute first, even if the opposing Pokemon was faster. Combine that with access to a move like Thunder Wave and the opposing Pokemon would be lucky if they ever even got a chance to move before they were swept away by Thundurus’ partner. It could even run Rain Dance to control the weather if the team needed it.

Thundurus’ standout year was inarguably 2011, featuring on seven of the top 8 teams at that year’s world championships, including 1st place. It was most frequently partnered up with its fellow genie Tornadus, and the fair of them wrecked shop throughout the 2011 metagame. It’s usage dropped in 2012 when the enitre National Dex was allowed to compete in VGC, instead of just the Unova Dex. However, it still managed to find a spot on four top 8 teams in 2012 and three top 8 teams in 2013.

Its last hurrah was in the 2015 season, where it won itself a second world championship thanks to Shoma Honami using it as a part of his team. It held two top 8 spots in 2016 but was mostly unable to make an impact thanks to the presence of Primal Groudon & Primal Kyogre.

Even though the Primals were banned again for 2017, it faced a significant problem as there was a new Electric-Type Special Attacker on the scene that outclassed Thundurus in just about every way and that Pokemon’s name was…

5 – Tapu Koko

I won’t lie to you, this list is most legendary Pokemon from here on out.

Dipping back into the well of Generation 7 Pokemon now, Tapu Koko has seen almost total dominance over VGC since it burst onto the scene in 2017 and it’s clear to see why. It has a stupidly high Speed stat which allowed it to totally wipe the floor with the rest of the metagame, which ended up being full of pretty slow Pokemon. It was in a bit of trouble if it came up against a Trick Room team, but even then it had a few tricks up its sleeve to protect itself.

First of which was its ability, Electric Surge. This causes the terrain to become charged with electricity immediately upon Tapu Koko entering the field. Electric Terrain was an insanely powerful tool, as it boosted the power of electric type attacks by 50%, prevented any Pokemon on the ground from falling asleep. Finally, it made the move Hidden Power (a reasonably common move on a lot of Pokemon) the chance to paralyse its target. On top of that, it always ran Thunderbolt (chosen over the more powerful Thunder due to it’s higher accuracy) as a mighty attacking move. It also was backed up by Volt Switch, which allowed it to easily switch out of battle and refresh the Electric Terrain when it rejoined the fight.

Tapu Koko featured on a world championship-winning team in both the 2017 and 2018 seasons of VGC, featuring on seven of the top 8 teams in 2017 and four top 8 teams in 2018 and 2019. It had a great variety of allies over the years, although it was most commonly seen alongside Incineroar for an overwhelming display of attacking prowess.

4 – Garchomp

There are no frills on Garchomp, it’s just a big nasty bastard with more power than most Pokemon can handle. With an absolutely monstrous Attack stat, even the bulkiest of Pokemon have trouble standing up to Garchomp when it gets going. There’s nothing complicated about its moveset either. Garchomps main attacking moves are the devastating Earthquake, which damages every other Pokemon on the field that isn’t flying. It also packs Dragon Claw to cover anything that resists or is immune Earthquake, and even if a Pokemon resists both of those moves, Garchomp can also carry Rock Slide to deal with it.

It even has some defensive prowess too. Dragon and Ground is an incredible defensive type combination and while it’s HP and Defense stats don’t quite match up to its Attack, they’re certainly nothing to be sniffed at. It can even work its defensive capabilities into its moveset, as Substitute could be used instead of Rock Slide, to keep itself around on the field even longer than usual.

Garchomp’s usage in VGC has been a bit scattered throughout the years, although it is generally only missing from the metagame in years where ‘restricted Pokemon’ are allowed. It first made waves in 2012, where it features in three of the top 8 teams, including Ray Rizzo’s first-place team. Garchomp’s standout year was 2014, where it sat on five of the top 8 teams, including battling alongside Sejun Park’s legendary Pachurisu, which won him the world championship that year.

While more recently it has only seen two top 8 placements at the world championships (both in 2017), that’s not entirely representative of the force Garchomp has been on the metagame over the years. Even in the years where it didn’t reach any of the highest placements, it was still widely used amongst the community helping various competitors win regional and national championships respectively.

Garchomp is a Pokemon that needs nothing more than it’s pure power to be successful, which makes sense when you look at the absolute monster this thing presents itself as.

3 – Groudon & Kyogre

I’m giving these two the same entry because their careers in VGC have been heavily linked to each other in some way and their roles on teams are pretty similar in the grand scheme of things.

While Groudon & Kyrogre may not look like they’ve been used as much as many other Pokemon on this list, that is only because they’re classed as ‘restricted Pokemon’ which means that they have been banned from usage in all but three seasons. In 2010, which was their debut season, they were featured heavily. Their ability to control the weather upon entry into the field made them perfect for the format, as it meant they would always be switching in with an advantage.

Their solo typing combined with their substantial defensive stats made them great Pokemon to control the pace of a battle, as it was likely they’d be able to stick around in the fight for an incredibly long time. It would really put the pressure on the opposing team to find a way to handle it quickly, or risk getting swept away by the pair’s hard-hitting spread moves like Surf or Earthquake. As such both Pokemon were featured heavily at the world championships that year, with five of the top 8 teams featuring Kyrogre and six featuring Groudon. This included Ray Rizzo’s 1st place team, which made use of both of them.

Restricted Pokemon weren’t allowed again until 2016, and the metagame had shifted a lot by then. Mega-Evolutions were now running rampant, and there was plenty of brand new powerful Pokemon that threatened to put the weather duo out of a job. Then Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire came out and bestowed Groudon & Kyogre with a gift from the heavens…Primal Forms.

Primal Forms completely turned the metagame on their head and were vital for victory in the 2016 season for a couple of major reasons. Firstly, they didn’t take up a mega-slot. Under normal circumstances, there can only be one Pokemon per team that can mega-evolve in a battle. However, the Primal Forms triggered automatically upon entry, provided they were holding the right item (Blue Orb for Kyogre, Red Orb for Groudon). This meant that you could run a different Mega-Evolved Pokemon alongside them, essentially allowing you to have two Mega-Evolved Pokemon in every battle.

With them came some genuinely incredible abilities. Kyogre’s Drizzle ability became Primordial Sea, which prevented attacking Fire-Type moves from doing any damage whatsoever. Meanwhile, Groudon’s Drought ability became Desolate Land, which prevented attacking Water-Type moves from doing any damage whatsoever. As you can imagine, this led to tense battles for control over the weather, as one of those weather conditions would prevent the opposing legendary from executing their signature move (Origin Pulse for Kyogre, Precipice Blades for Groudon). This factor ended up dragging Mega-Rayquaza into the metagame, as its ability, Delta Stream, was able to remove both of these weather effects.

Both Pokemon were all over the 2016 & 2019 seasons, which were the only two that Primal Kyogre & Groudon have been allowed to compete in as of 2020. In 2016, Kyogre saw a bit more useful than Groudon, claiming five slots in that year’s top 8, including 1st. Meanwhile, Groudon only managed three, just missing out on the top slot at 2nd place. However, in 2019, the situation was flipped on its head as this time Groudon was the one to claim 1st place, while Kyogre’s highest placement was only 3rd.

The only thing holding back Kyogre and Groudon is how infrequently they’ve been allowed to take part in VGC. Although, it’s clear as to why that’s the case, as any season where they’ve been allowed to take part, they’ve absolutely dominated the competition and have become must-haves for anyone with world championship aspirations.

2 – Landourus

I wonder if Game Freak meant for the genies to be this powerful when they made them?

First of all, it’s typing is incredible. Being the odd combination of Ground and Flying-Type gives it not one but two immunities; Electric and Ground-Type attacks won’t even scratch it. While there are better defensive Pokemon, its defensive stats are still high enough to give it some staying power. Surely with access to amazing moves like Earthquake and Rock Slide, it would be a sure-fire hit for VGC right? Well…not at first.

For the first couple of years after debuting, Landourus didn’t actually make any top 8 placements at the world championships. The problem was, there were just other Pokemon than could do its job better. Between Terrakion, Krookodile and Garchomp, there wasn’t much reason to pick Landourus over any of them.

UNTIL…

In 2012, Pokemon Black 2 and White 2 released, which gave each of the genies (Thundurus, Tornadus & Landorus) brand new “Therian Forms”. While the other two genies ended up not using theirs much over the years. Landorus, on the other hand, became terrifying. It’s Attack stat got boosted to 145, which is one of the highest for any non-Mega Evolved Pokemon. At this point, Landorus dominated.

At first, in 2013 it made four of the top 8 spots at the world championship. That was nothing, however, compared to the 2015 season, where Landorus’ Therian Form featured in all eight to the top 8 teams that year; a feat that no other Pokemon has ever achieved as of 2020. That wasn’t even the end of its dominance, as it persisted into the 7th generation. It most recently featured on six of the top 8 teams at the world championships in 2018.

Landorus got off to a bit of a rocky start, but once the Therian Form came along, there were few Pokemon that stood any chance of stopping it. It has almost unrivalled attacking power and a type combination that is both unique & exceptionally useful.

1 – Cresselia

To put it simply, Cresselia is the ultimate support Pokemon.

The first point in its favour is it’s exceptionally high HP and Defence stats. The solo-Psychic typing means that it doesn’t have a great deal of weakness, and its Levitate ability grants it immunity from the ever-present and potentially devastating Earthquake. The long and short of it is that once Cresselia is out on the field in a battle, it can stay there pretty much as long as it wants to, with its opponent having to scramble to find a way to get rid of it. This is because if the opponent doesn’t find a way to remove it from the battle quickly, it could very well wreak havoc.

As for the ways it can wreak havoc, they vary. The most commonly used set is the Trick Room set. Using Trick Room to allow the slowest Pokemon the field to move first is a great asset that almost always puts Cresselia in control of the pace in the battle. From here it can be loaded up with a bunch of great support moves, and there’s honestly so many to choose from. It has its choice of Light Screen or Reflect, which reduces the power of opposing attacks and usually carries Helping Hand to boost the power of its partner’s attacks.

When Cresselia isn’t using Trick Room, Icy Wind is the move it will use to control the pace of the battle, as that move is guaranteed to lower the Speed of the opposing Pokemon. Thunder Wave is also an option, as it can inflict Paralysis. However Icy Wind is usually preferred as it does damage along with the reduction in speed. It will also carry the move Calm Mind, which raises both the Special Attack and Special Defence of Cresselia. This boosts its bulk even further, along with giving it greater ability to deal out damage for itself, instead of relying on its partner to do all the heavy lifting. It’s attacking move of choice is Psychic, although it can also carry Ice Beam to take out common threats such as Landorus or Mega Salamence.

When it comes to top 8 placements at the world championships, Cresselia is second to none. With the exception of 2019, the only years where it didn’t claim a spot were the years that it was banned. In every other year, it has claimed a spot on at least one of the top 8 teams, winning a world championship on three separate occasions; those being in 2010, 2012 & 2015.

With the sheer amount of usage it’s seen over the years, you could make an excellent case for Cresselia being the face of VGC. Every time a new generation comes along, it features a handful of useful support Pokemon. Still, none of them will ever be able to have the longevity or legacy that Cresselia has in the competitive. It’s seen a slight dip in usage in recent years, but you can bet that it will only be a matter of time before Cresselia finds yet another way to take charge of the competitive scene; probably winning another world championship in the process.

And there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please, let me know what you think of these Pokemon, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure you come back this time next week, as I’ll be releasing the first instalment in my summer-long series where I’ll be running down my 100 favourite games of all time! You won’t want to miss it.

10 Best Tracks From Pokemon Soundtracks

2021 UPDATE: Since I’ve got nothing better to do, I’ve decided to start streaming over on twitch.tv/strongstylesmark. At 2PM GMT Tuesdays & Thursdays I’ll be trying out indie games I’ve never played before, and at 6PM GMT on Saturdays, I’ll be playing games I love. I’ll be starting Saturday 16th January, so please come over and give me a follow to be notified when I go live!

In case you haven’t noticed, I quite like video game music. I’ve covered my favourite music pieces from the wider gaming world a couple of times, along with an article entirely dedicated to the best of Octopath Traveler’s soundtrack, so now it’s Pokemon’s turn.

As a franchise that has spanned over 20 years, there’s been a lot of different styles of music, be it thanks to technical limitations or theming choices, the Pokemon franchise has just about every style of music you could possibly want in its main series games. I’ve had many of these tracks on playlists of mine for years and today’s the day that I run down my favourites.

10 – Jubilife City – Diamond/Pearl/Platinum

Listen Here (Daytime Version)
Listen Here (Nighttime Version)

Jubilife City’s theme is a very nostalgic one to me. For those unaware, my first ever Pokemon game was Platinum and Jubilife was the first big city you’d reach in that game and this music made it feel just wonderful.

Not only is it a jolly tune to welcome you into the big wide world of the Sinnoh region, but the melody finds a way to capture the sense of activity and liveliness a big city like this would have, without making it seem massive and crowded in scale. Jubilife is a big city, but it’s also a peaceful city, not like Castelia City where people in suits are marching back and forth everywhere you look.

The nighttime variation on this theme leans further into the sense of peace with a down-beat saxophone in the background of the main melody instead of the faster piano bringing an overwhelming sense of calm to the track. I can almost feel the atmosphere of a quiet city being lit only by street lamps and the lights from people’s houses and that slight sense of melancholy that I get from seeing a city at night.

9 – VS Gym Leader’s Final Pokemon – Black/White/Black 2/White 2

Listen Here

The music for Unova’s Gym Leader battles is great enough on its own, but when you battle your way down to their last Pokemon and this music kicks into gear is when things get epic.

Ramping things up in both key and tempo, this track brings the best out what Gym battles have to offer the franchise. The Gym Leaders in the Unova games are much more involved in the action than in other generations, so I think it’s appropriate that they should have such an emotionally charged track made specifically for them, hammering home how much these people care about Pokemon and their role in society as authority figures.

By the time you’ve got a Gym Leader down to their final Pokemon, it’s likely you’ve gone through a gruelling battle and their final Pokemon is usually the toughest to beat, so it’s only appropriate that things get more intense. On top of that, it gives a perfect sense as to what the Gym Leader’s emotions must be in that moment. Gym Leaders are the best of the best, very few are ever able to defeat them in battle and at the moment they unleash their final Pokemon, their backs are against the wall, but if you want their badge, they’re going to make sure you earn it.

It’s such a small touch on the surface, but it adds so much to the atmosphere of a gym battle and I was so glad when they re-implemented it for Sword & Shield.

8 – VS Lake Guardians – Diamond/Pearl/Platinum

Listen Here

As almost any Pokemon list I’ve ever made would tell you, I’m a big fan of Generation 4 and, trust me, we’re going to be seeing a lot more of it on this list, however one aspect of the generation I’m not a huge fan of, is the Lake Guardians. I understand the point of their design and I appreciate the lore behind them, but they’ve never really enthused me as Pokemon. However, I love battling them at any opportunity, because it means I get to hear this brilliant piece of music.

The opening fits in with Dialga & Palkia’s theme, with a slightly synthesised piano, only for one of the most exhilarating base-lines I’ve ever heard kick into gear. The drums quickly back it up to create a track that feels incredibly fast-paced, but still menacing and intimidating. The Lake Guardians are in no-way intimidating Pokemon, but I’ll be damned if this music doesn’t make it feel like they are.

It’s the little touches that make this theme great, like the three different tones & styles that carry the main melody, creating this feeling of each of the three Guardians having their own personality. There are even little hints of very quick piano sequences in the middle, creating the feel of these creatures scurrying around their caves as you battle them, doing their best to out-manoeuvre your Pokemon.

This track is great in its own right, but on top of that, it gives me very fond memories and feelings towards Pokemon that, all things considered, I’m not actually that keen on.

7 – VS Rainbow Rocket Lysandre – Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon

Listen Here

Lysandre’s original theme from X/Y is great as well, but I decided to go for this version as it turns the pace & chaos of the original up to 11.

In all honesty, I don’t think Lysandre is all that compelling of a villain. Admittedly in the anime, his character was a bit more interesting but in the games, I found him and all of Team Flare to be a bit lifeless and boring to battle against. So, when the opportunity to encounter him again in the Rainbow Rocket storyline of Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon arose, he was easily the villain I was the least interested in rematching. Then I started to battle him and realised his theme was a masterpiece.

Although it’s not made entirely obvious during his initial stint as a character in X/Y, Lysandre is truly a madman. He keeps a calm and composed demeanour at nearly all times, bottling up his raw emotional power to be let out in huge bursts and a Pokemon battle is exactly the kind of thing to trigger such an outburst.

The opening of the track is slow, grand and imposing as Lysandre readies himself for battle, throwing his Pokeball only for the track to suddenly devolve into fast-paced chaos as all of that bottled up rage and hatred come out for all to see. The choice of instruments keep that intimidation factor going underneath all that chaos and the track just keeps getting faster and faster, and I can almost feel that emotion overpowering me as I battle him. Even when the track slows down with the choir voices, it still feels fast and frantic, not even letting up for very long before diving right back into the insanity of Lysandre’s desires.

Although I don’t find Lysandre as a person interesting, listening to this track helps me to add so much to his character that I can’t help but become invested in my battles with him.

6 – VS Marnie at the Pokemon League – Sword/Shield

Listen Here

I chose this theme – and specifically this version of it – because I believe it perfectly encapsulates just about everything great from Sword & Shield’s soundtrack.

For one thing, this is the first soundtrack that I feel was able to fully utilize instruments like guitars to their fullest potential. Thanks to the limitation of software, whenever such sounds have been included in the music of Pokemon they’ve always been a bit synthesised or muted, which in some instances (which we’ve already discussed on this list) it had been used to great effect, however a lot of the complexities that the instrument can provide is lost in that. However, in this track  – and the Sword/Shield soundtrack as a whole – it’s clear the composers have finally been able to let loose with how they utilize them, in part thanks to heavy pop-punk/punk-rock that comes with the British aesthetic.

Much like Lysandre, I found it quite hard to get a firm grasp on Marnie’s character, her look and general first impressions stuck me as somewhat antagonistic, but as the game goes on, she’s actually quite a down-to-earth person that’s just kind of…there. Once again, like Lyandre, this music gives me a very clear idea of the elements from Marnie’s character. The consistency of the guitar backing track gives me the feel of someone who’s very focused and determined, while the synth melodies that play over the top tell me that she’s not taking it too seriously and is allowing herself to have fun as she battles, despite her more muted demeanour outside of battle.

The reason I specifically chose her Pokemon League battle theme, however, is because it adds a couple of brilliant elements on top of the original. Firstly, it hits those high-notes much more often and with a lot more power, the sense of emotion I get from this theme is so powerful, ESPECIALLY when combined with the other major difference, the crowd chanting along with the music. It happens in the gym battles too and it was an absolute genius addition to the tracks because it adds so much to the atmosphere of the battle. No longer are you standing in an empty room battling against your opponent, you’re being watched by thousands of people live and even more at home and it builds the epic feel of the major battles to something so special.

Aside from all fo that, the tune aligns really well with my music tastes and I think it’s a really fun track to listen to.

5 – VS Ultra Necrozma

Listen Here

Talk about a fight.

I don’t think I’m alone in saying that the fight against Ultra Necrozma was easily one of the hardest battles that series has had since about Generation 5 and I don’t know why I’m surprised when I listen to the music that backed it up. Nevermind how terrifying the thing actually looks when it breaks free of its prison, but the opening sting of the track almost sounds like funeral bells, like the game is tell you, “Oh…you picked a fight with THIS THING?!, You know you’re totally dead, right?”

Necrozma is a Pokemon that mixes together a lot of lore elements from previous Pokemon and turns them into something new and I get the same sort of feeling when listening to this track. There’s the element of disconnected chaos from Giratina’s theme, there’s the raw synthesised power from Xerneas’/Yveltal’s theme and even some hints of old GBA music & sounds in there.

The pace speeds and slows throughout the track to help embody this sense of chaos along with the flow of this battle, as you throw Pokemon after Pokemon its way and it barely takes a scratch, while it blasts your team away in one hit over and over again. Ultra Necrozma feels like a true monster when you battle is and its battle music is able to personify that feeling perfectly.

4 – VS Rainbow Rocket Giovanni – Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon

Listen Here

Now THIS is a menacing villain’s theme.

When the Rainbow Rocket arch came about, it felt HUGE. This was the moment where all of the villains finally come together to take on the multi-verse and Giovanni was standing at the head of it all. Not just any Giovanni though, a Giovanni that WON, as far as bad dudes go, they don’t get much badder than this guy. This was also the first time Giovanni would get his own unique battle theme, so the pressure was really on for it to be something special that captured the feel of what a man like Giovanni, at the height of his power, would be like to face off against.

Safe to say, this track NAILS it.

This track is slow and heavy, the guitar sits to underline the beat of everything, as grand drums are pounded and various brass instruments cry out, showing you just what a powerhouse this guy is. Every beat of this track feels like a direct threat on you, as you do everything in your power to cut through his Pokemon. I don’t know if I’m alone in this belief, but I thought this battle was a tough one and this music only served to unline exactly what a challenge I had before me. Yeah, I’d beaten an interstellar being into submission earlier that day, but so what? This guy’s twice as powerful as they’ll ever be and right now, I’m standing in his way.

This music creates almost an aura of indestructibility around Giovanni and it raises the stakes of the battle with him so very much, I’ve never felt like I’m fighting for my life in a Pokemon game before, even when staring down Gods, but when I saw Giovanni and this music started playing, I was scared.

3 – Ending ~ To Each Future (Black & White Credits) – Black/White

Listen Here

Black & White were incredibly story-focused games compared to the generations that preceded it. The team at Nintendo did all they could to push the limits of the Nintendo DS hardware in order to give this whole game a very cinematic feel, be that through the cutscenes themselves, or through other aspects like it’s music.

The music in Black & White is brimming with an intense sense of emotion. I’ve already discussed one such track on this list, but across the board when things get intense, the music builds right up to those high notes in order to build the scale of the moments to something you’d expect from a Hollywood drama. There were a whole bunch of tracks I could’ve picked to emphasise this, like N’s theme, Ghetsis’ theme and even the Rival battle theme (which are all honourable mentions for this list by the way) have these same ideas in there, but the track I think best exemplifies all of this is the credits theme.

Black & White’s ending is quite a sombre one. You may have just gone through three climatic and intense battles, but the cutscenes that follow them are quite introspective and emotional, as N discusses his philosophy and how it’s changed over the course of the journey, leading to an emotional goodbye. Then this music smashes in to wrap the whole thing up, leaving you to ponder the epic tale that has just happened in front of you. The transition alone is such a brilliant one that I think it may actually have increased the amount I like this track.

Once it gets going it’s definitely a track worthy of closing out a story as big as this one. It pulls in a bit from all over Black & White’s soundtrack, with the grand trumpets and spiritual choir voices mixed in with fast-paced synth beats and some grand drums. Despite both being on the DS, I’ve always thought the music styles of Gen 4 & Gen 5 sound extremely different and for a track like this to feel so squarely in the Gen 5 camp is honestly impressive given the relative limitations of the technology they had to work with.

Ending ~ To Each Future is a track that encapsulates the epic scale and the raw emotion that Black & White’s story is all about, making it the perfect way to end your adventure.

2 – VS Cynthia – Diamond/Pearl/Platinum

Listen Here

To me, Cynthia has always been my absolute favourite Champion from the Pokemon games. Not only does she look cool as heck, but she’s incredibly strong and has this general aura around her of someone untouchable in what she does. She’s easily the most competent and tough person you meet in your journey throughout the Sinnoh region and the whole atmosphere as you begin your final battle against her always gets me pumped. So when it comes to giving her a theme worthy of her status, this track does not disappoint.

Some champion battle themes are upbeat and joyous, or more grandstanding like this is the culmination of all you’ve worked for and it’s finally time to earn your victory, but this theme doesn’t want to congratulate you TOO soon. It’s intense, it’s fast and it’s threatening. Sure, there’s only one more battle standing between you and eternal glory, but have you seen who’s standing in your way? Your journey isn’t over by a long shot.

To me, this is everything a final battle theme should feel like. It encapsulates the raw power and chaos of a Pokemon battle while amping up the scale and putting the pressure on you to succeed. It still keeps that sense of fun too, although it’s in smaller doses than other champion themes. Instead of a theme like Sun & Moon’s champion battle, where it feels like it’s congratulating you on your victory already, this reminds you that you’re facing off with the best of the best and the only way you’re going to become a champion is if you’re better than the best.

It even incorporates the sense of ebb-and-flow that a Pokemon battle has, where you go all out with your biggest move to take down opponents, only for things to slow down a little as both trainers take their breath, only for that sharp beat to kick in as your Pokemon engage once again. This is everything that a champion theme should be and, in my mind, affirms Cynthia’s status as the best champion the series has to offer.

1 – VS Cyrus – Diamond/Pearl/Platinum

Listen Here

From my previous post: My Favourite Music From Video Games

Never have I ever heard a piece of music that better embodies a character from a video game.

Cyrus is a man with no emotions, he believes the human spirit is a weakness that should be destroyed and you hear it in this theme. The whole way through the track that baseline is there, staying unchanged and unmoved the whole time, it’s intimidating, it’s imposing, and it’s completely unemotional.

Then there’s the main melody of the track that plays over that baseline, which is the emotion of a Pokemon battle, the bond that exists between a trainer and their Pokemon, as Cyrus battles you he feels it coming through, and at certain points you can even sense this struggle between the baseline and the main melody, as if Cyrus is trying to ward off these emotions he’s beginning to feel.

At that point the main melody disappears, the drums begin to build up before a moment of silence…before everything comes back in a higher gear. You’ve made Cyrus mad, and he’s going to punish you for making him feel again.

As well as perfectly encapsulating who Cyrus is as a character, this track also stands as an extremely menacing villain theme in its own right. The way that baseline carries through the whole track, unrelenting, like a monster that just keeps stomping its way towards you, no matter what you do to try and stop it. At the time of Diamond & Pearl’s release, Cyrus’ plan was most definitely the biggest in terms of scale and this track made him feel like he was truly unstoppable as you battled against him.

The menace, the intensity, the emotion, this track really does have it all and that’s why I feel it stands out as the best track from any main-series Pokemon game.

So there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this, please let me know what some of your favourite tracks are, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back next weekend, where I’ll be covering NXT Takeover: Portland!