Back when I was a little boy of nyan (9), my Momma came home with a copy of Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue for my brother and me. We weren’t allowed to watch TV/play games on weekdays (except Friday), so we had to sneak and play when we got home from school, taking turns “using the bathroom” so we could sneak our Gameboys in there and play (this was the 90s when the Internet wasn’t accessible to everyone and it was also dial-up and slow). I’ll never forget all of the playground rumors that swirled concerning this game: from the “Mew under the truck” rumor to PokeGods, to things that actually turned out to be true like MissingNO.
I played the sequel games of Gold/Silver in 2000, but soon after began to lose interest. By the time Generation III rolled around in 2003, I was 14 and had moved on from Pokemon, as most of my peers my age had too. There also weren’t many younger kids in my family, so I had no idea new games had even come out. Fast forward to college when I rediscovered Pokemon for myself, the anime would come on in the morning before a few of my classes, and I’d watch while getting ready to get my day started. From there I started downloading some of the generations that I missed out on (at the time this was only Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald and Diamond/Pearl/Platinum), got into Rom Hacks, and even spent some nights catching up on most of the episodes I missed through pokemonepisode.org (I’m sure it doesn’t exist anymore). It was hard to do between nights of procrastinating on papers, or drinking with friends, or falling asleep and forgetting that was a thing I meant to do, but I did it. For the most part. As Generations 5, 6 and 7 got released, I made it a point to play those too. These games were not only a huge part of my childhood, but something I’ve certainly enjoyed on the side in adulthood too.
Enough of my memories though, you came here for a list you got clickbaited into. So let’s get into what are, to me, the Top 15 battles you encounter in the main Pokemon series. Whether they’re gym battles, rival battles, Elite Four, Champions, or story driven, these, to me are some of the most climatic battles you’ll come across. Also note: I’m excluding Gale of Darkness/Battle Revolution because I never played them, and the Ranger series, and Rescue team….you get me.
#15. vs. Brock (Pokemon R/B/Y, FR/LG)
Not gonna lie, this one is heavily nostalgia filled. For those of you that didn’t start with Generation 1, imagine this: you’ve booted up this game that’s wrapped and held your attention for awhile. Thrown into this new world of creatures you’ve never heard of, discovering this game for the first time. You’re told that you’ll need to take on the Pokemon Gym challenge to prove your worth, and you step into the 1st gym…
This was a huge moment for many, it was the first main challenge in a game that would go down as a huge portion of your childhood. It was a breeze though if you had Squirtle or Bulbasaur. Godbless you if you chose Charmander.
#14. vs. Mewtwo – Pokemon Stadium
Finished Gym Leader Castle? Cleared all the cups? Mewtwo is waiting for you as a special challenge, and he’s hard as hell. Took me several tries to beat him the first time (you get to fight him a 2nd time, but he’s stronger and has Amnesia instead of Blizzard).
#13. vs Team Rocket – Pokemon Yellow
The main series tradition of releasing a third, “more polished” game, is basically a cash grab. No more proof of that than Pokemon Yellow’s release, which was simply a ploy to get people to buy a 3rd version of Red and Blue based off the popular anime. With it being based off the anime, a few things changed: Pikachu became your starter, you later had opportunities to acquire the original 3 starters, and Team Rocket showed up. Those that know me, know that Team Rocket (particularly James) are some of my favorite cartoon/animated characters ever. I was very very happy the first time they showed up in the game.
HEY, THERE ARE SPOILERS BELOW, IF YOU HAVEN’T PLAYED SUN/MOON AND HAVE SOMEHOW AVOIDED THIS STUFF FOR SEVERAL MONTHS, SKIP #12 AND #9
#12. vs. Mother Beast Lusamine – Pokemon Sun/Moon
So the President of what was the seemingly “good” organization of the game is revealed to be a mad woman eh? Influenced by one of the Ultra Beasts? So she’s merged into an unsightly form and instead of attacking you outright, challenges you to a pokemon battle, eh? Guess you gotta handle that. I loved Lusamine, something told me she wasn’t who she was cracked up to be in the initial trailers, something was off about that woman. She’s a tragic character really, losing her husband and becoming obsessed with the Ultra Beasts to the point of delusion. What would’ve REALLY been something would’ve been for her merged form to be something you had to actually battle. For now, her souped up, pseudo totem pokemon will do.
#11. Lysandre – Pokemon X/Y
Don’t know what triggered it, but GameFreak has really rammed up the ambitions of the main antagonists of the Pokemon series after Generation III. Cyrus and Ghetsis were both maniacs and dangerous, but their plans involved collateral damage in hopes of obtaining their ultimate goal. Lysandre was straight up discussing genocide. Killing off those who he deemed “not beautiful enough for my world”. Dude was a psychopath. Too bad X and Y is such an easy set of games, he’s a pushover by the time the climax rolls in.
#10. vs. Colress – Black and White 2
Colress was cool to me because he wasn’t there to really assist in the “evil plot”, he was doing research and couldn’t give a damn about what Team Plasma was doing, so long as his research wasn’t interfered with. That music was badass too.
HERE’S THE OTHER SPOILER BROHAMNUGGET
#9. vs. Alolan Elite Four and “Champion” Professor Kukui – Pokemon Sun/Moon
Pokemon Sun and Moon really put a much needed refreshing spin on the series. From the way the story developed, to the use of Island Kahunas instead of Gym Leaders as well as Trials/Captains, it changed the formula enough without devolving it too much. With Alola finally forming it’s own Pokemon League and Elite Four, it was dope seeing who would become part of it. While 2 of the choices were obvious (Hala, Olivia), one was a pleasant surprise (Acerola) and the other was only briefly hinted at halfway through the game (Kahili). But the BEST part is when you ascend to the top after beating all four and waiting for your final challenge…from the shirtless professor himself. A unique twist on the Champion battle, even if it is a call back to the original plan to let you battle Professor Oak way back in Pokemon R/B/Y
#8. vs. Elite 4 Koga – Pokemon G/S/C
“Oh neat, it’s the Elite 4! Wonder what things have changed in 3 yea….holy shit is that Koga? BADASS!”
#7. Elesa – Pokemon Black and White/2
Went back and forth between which “hard Gym Leader” to put here. Whitney was up for this spot, but I realized she was more of a one-trick pony (Miltank, that damn Miltank). Elesa has a whole team that can wipe you out if you don’t come prepared. Those Emolga are jackasses, and that Zebstrika with a random flame charge can kiss all of my toushie
#6. vs. Giovanni – Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow
7 badges into your journey, you’re detoured to take down Team Rocket. You infiltrate their base, foil their plan, and continue on your journey to the 8th and final gym. You roll through the maze, take down the various apprentices, and walk up to the gym leader….who is none other than the boss of the criminal syndicate you just fought. SURPRISE! Don’t worry, it’s a cake walk, this is high because of “WOW” factor. After the Viridian Gym has been closed for 90% of the game, the last person you expected to lead it was Giovanni.
#5. vs. Champion Cynthia – Pokemon Platinum
You’ve been assisted by her throughout your journey, you walk into her chamber and begin to speak to her. The music changes, a fierce piano rumbles through like your stomach after you’ve had one too many milkshakes. The music starts, she begins to bash your head in.
Cynthia was a challenge, I was never the biggest fan of her, but I recently replayed through Platinum again and I now understand where the love for her comes from. She is easily the second best champion of the series.
#4. Distortion World – vs. Cyrus/Giratina – Pokemon Platinum
After halting Team Galactic at Spear Pillar, the Pokemon World’s equivalent of the devil comes up and sucks you and Cyrus into the Distortion World. This place is BEYOND trippy and defies gravity at all turns. Remember what I said about GameFreak going off the charts insane for their villains from Gen 4 onward? Yeah, Cyrus wants to eradicate the Universe due to the faultiness of “emotions”, he wants to build an emotionless world using the rulers of Time and Space, Dialga and Palkia.
#3. vs. Red – Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal
You complete Johto, run through Kanto and ascend Mount Silver. Waiting for you at the top is you from 3 years ago….okay, no, it’s Red, the protagonist from the original series. He’s there as one more final challenge for you, and you better be ready! He essentially uses his team from Yellow with an Espeon.
#2. vs. N and Ghetsis – Pokemon Black and White
Generation 5 through a monkey wrench into the storyline and Elite Four. Team Plasma starts off as an overzealous PETA, willing to steal people’s Pokemon in the name of “liberation” and “freedom”. What we learn is that it’s basically a ruse for Ghetsis to have all the trainers of Unova powerless, while he rules it with an iron fist. You learn that he merely adopted N to manipulate the boy into thinking humans were bad for Pokemon and having him become the “voice” or de facto leader of your group. Ghetsis straight up reveals to N that he doesn’t care about him and only used him. That’s insane. This whole sequence is wonderful, from watching the tower rise out of the Elite Four compound, to watching N catch the legendary, then giving you the chance to catch the other one before battling him. Beating him, have Ghetsis reveal to you just how fucking terrible he is, to beating him. I mean just getting a break from the E4->E4->E4->E4 -> Champion usual route. Also, Ghetsis and N had some BADASS themes.
#1. vs. Champion Blue – Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow
Think about the FIRST time you played Pokemon Red or Blue. You’ve journeyed throgh this land, caught and trained Pokemon, built up your ultimate team, took down a Crime Syndicate, bested all 8 gyms, gone through the Elite 4, thinking you’ve done it all right? Wrong. Lance tells you that someone JUST beat you to beating the Elite 4 and has become the new champion. He tells you his name: Nutsack! That’s right, your rival beat you to the punch once again, and this time you get to battle him for all the marbles. Everything about this battle is incredible: it’s epic, completely unexpected, and the music will go down as one of the greatest video game tracks of all time. This one brings back strong memories that I can’t shake, to me, it’s without a doubt, the best battle in 7 generations.