Pokémon is one of the most successful multi-media franchises to ever exist. The games, which revolve around catching adorable, magical beasts that you can then force to fight one another, have become a popular fixture in the gaming industry. There are now over 800 Pokémon across seven generations of games, and everybody has their own personal favorites, whether it’s based on design, strength in battle, or some other reason. But for many, many fans, nothing will ever come close to the very first generation of 150 Pokémon. These were the Pokémon that introduced the world to the pop culture phenomenon and arguably comprise the most popular creatures the franchise has ever produced. Meanwhile, the competitive metagame (players battling each other in the real world, not just playing through the main story) has grown and changed with every single generation, with sites like Smogon sorting Pokémon into tiers based on their use across all battles.
Many Pokémon from the very first generation of games (Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow) are still fixtures in that competitive scene, still finding their way onto the most powerful squads in existence. This list will take a look at the strongest Gen 1 Pokémon, the ones that have a real case for being banned from most levels of play, but it will also examine the absolute weakest of these games, the ones that don’t even really need to exist as far as competitive play is concerned. We’ll be taking into consideration each Pokémon’s performance from both the original games’ competitive scene and the metagame as it is today. Here are 10 Gen 1 Pokémon So Strong They Should Be Banned (And 10 Too Weak To Use).
20 Too Strong: Gengar
Gengar started out in Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow as a versatile offensive sweeper, with high Special Attack and great Speed. It maintained this niche through much of the later generations, though it started to fall behind other fast Ghost types. Then, in Generation 6, it received a Mega Evolution, which kicked it into the stratosphere.
Aside from the boosts to its powerful offensive stat line, the Mega Evolution gave Mega Gengar the Shadow Tag ability, which allowed it to come into battle and trap whatever opponent it faced. This was a huge advantage in competitive PvP, which relies on switching Pokémon to find favorable matchups. This ability alone banned Mega Gengar from most levels of play – Smogon limits this Pokémon to Ubers, the class that is mostly legendaries.
19 Too Weak: Raticate
Every Pokémon generation has a Pokémon that follows the same archetype as Rattata and Raticate: usually rodent-based, with a poor stat line and limited use after the first few areas of the game. Zigzagoon, Bidoof, Patrat, and others all share the mouse Pokémon’s classification of being vermin.
Raticate is the final form of Rattata, which even if you catch, you don’t really need to level up since you can catch fully-evolved Raticates late in the first generation games. Raticate’s base stat total is pitiful, it is hundreds of points less than even non-legendary Pokémon, and it doesn’t have any unique moves or strategic gimmicks to compensate. It is the ultimate throwaway Pokémon.
18 Too Strong: Alakazam
Here’s something that modern Pokémaniacs may not know, especially if they never played the original Red, Blue, and Yellow games: there was a time when Psychic Pokémon were by far the best types available. Psychic originally only had one weakness (Bug), and that type had almost no damaging moves. This meant powerful Psychic Pokémon were in high demand in those first games.
Alakazam is one of those, even if it is only obtainable through trade. Alakazam (much like a certain legendary Pokémon) dominated most opponents, and it continues that today thanks to its Mega Evolution. With the stat boost, Mega Alakazam is a potent offensive threat, boasting wickedly-high Speed and Special Attack stats that keep it on top even in today’s game.
17 Too Weak: Mr. Mime
While there are a couple of absolutely formidable Psychic Pokémon from the first generation, there are a couple of stinkers. Mr. Mime’s Psychic typing made him at least viable in the original games, but in subsequent generations, he has faded into the background.
A low stat total and fragile defenses make Mr. Mime only usable as a fast sweeper Pokémon, a role other Pokémon fulfill much better. He wasn’t bad in Red/Blue/Yellow, but nowadays, nobody in their right mind uses the Barrier Pokémon. Mr. Mime also has a design most people find fairly spooky, so he doesn’t exactly have a legion of fans trying to figure out movesets to make him good.
16 Too Strong: Zapdos
It of course stands to reason that the legendary Pokémon are stronger than most others, but Zapdos actually stands atop the legendary birds trio alongside Moltres and Articuno. Both of the other two were strong back when their games first came out, but only Zapdos has remained a part of the top levels of competitive play to this day.
Electric/Flying is an excellent defensive type combination, and Zapdos has the balanced stat line to back that up, not to mention a decent Special Attack and Speed stats to go along with it. Plus, it’s a legendary Pokémon, meaning that its stat totals are just higher than most other Pokémon’s. With these advantages, Zapdos has been a top Pokémon since day one.
15 Too Weak: Fearow
Much like Raticate, Fearow is basically just a pest. Catching that first Spearow in Red/Blue/Yellow might make you nostalgic, but the fact is that even in the first generation, there were plenty of superior Flying-type alternatives. Heck, one of them, Pidgeot, is obtainable in the exact same areas and will do much better in the long run.
While Pidgeot today benefits from a Mega Evolution that makes it a decent competitive choice, Fearow has gotten no such boost. Fearow remains the same as it ever was, with an extremely low stat total and mediocre attacks. It’s got some Speed, but that’s really all it has going for it. Much like Raticate, you’ll soon find better Pokémon to replace it.
14 Too Strong: Snorlax
Snorlax may have slipped a bit in recent years, as its bulky stat line just isn’t as impressive as it used to be, but back when Red/Blue/Yellow came out, it was an absolute beast. Its stat distribution was perfect for the early games, skimping on Speed to instead have huge numbers in HP and Attack.
This combination of bulk and power made Snorlax one of the best Pokémon in the entire competitive scene through the first four generations of Pokémon before it finally took a hit in generations five through seven. Snorlax may not be the battle-ending threat it used to be, but those who played competitively in the earlier generations likely wish the big guy had been put on a ban list.
13 Too Weak: Lickitung
Generally speaking, if a Pokémon needs to have an evolution added in a later generation because it’s too weak to be valuable, it’s a bad sign. Lickitung is one of many from the first two generations that share that unfortunate fate, like Scyther or Golbat. But unlike those other Pokémon, Lickitung’s evolution still didn’t make it a worthwhile catch.
Lickitung and its evolution Lickilicky, aside from being really unpleasant to look at, also share a disappointing stat line and move pool. The pair have bulk, but no good attack power, and their overall stats aren’t high enough to really be a threat. Nowadays, even weak Pokémon like Audino fulfill the same role as Lickilicky, so you can imagine how useless Lickitung is.
12 Too Strong: Mega Kangaskhan
Kangaskhan’s trajectory in the competitive Pokémon metagame is roughly the opposite of Snorlax: starting out as merely a decent Pokémon, then erupting into a fully-fledged force when it received a Mega Evolution. Kangaskhanite (the item the Pokémon has to hold to Mega Evolve) changed everything for Kangaskhan.
Kangaskhan was never a weak Pokémon, but with its Mega Evolution, it ascended to incredible heights. Mega Kangaskhan gets a free (albeit weaker) second attack every turn, which allows it to destroy a wide variety of targets. The power boost has made the humble Parent Pokémon better than most legendaries, and banned from most levels of competitive play. Who knew letting your kid help you fight would be so useful?
11 Too Weak: Wigglytuff
There are two Fairy-type Pokémon to come out of the first generation of games (though originally, they were just Normal-type) that are extremely similar in terms of stats and moves: Clefable and Wigglytuff, evolving from Clefairy and Jigglypuff, respectively. Wigglytuff drew the shorter straw between the two, as it’s just inferior enough that it’s pretty much always the smarter choice to pick Clefable.
And unfortunately for Wigglytuff, things only got worse in later generations. The introduction of Pokémon like Audino and Granbull made Wigglytuff’s usefulness fall even further. Its wide move pool couldn’t save its mediocre stat line from becoming forgotten by competitive players.
10 Too Strong: Chansey
Chansey may look nice and friendly, but it’s secretly one of the strongest Pokémon from the entire first generation. Much like Snorlax, it has extremely high HP, but it also boasts high Special Defense, giving it the ability to escape pretty much any Pokémon that doesn’t attack physically.
What’s surprising about Chansey is that it started its Pokémon career by dominating Red/Blue/Yellow, and then it disappeared from the competitive scene for a few years while its new evolution, Blissey, stole the spotlight. But then, in more recent generations, Chansey has once again become a competitive force with the addition of the Eviolite item, which doubles unevolved Pokémon’s defenses. This added bulk has made Chansey actually better than its final evolution!
9 Too Weak: Golduck
Everyone remembers the lovable Psyduck, the confused Pokémon that always has a migraine in the anime series. However, nobody has ever paid much attention to its evolved form, Golduck, and with good reason. Maybe you were charmed by Psyduck and decided to give Golduck a go in the game. If you did, you quickly realized that you made a mistake.
Golduck is a standard Water Pokémon with no unique traits or special moves. It has a low stat total and a balanced distribution that prevents it from standing out in any area. Add the fact that Water is one of the most populous Pokémon types, and there is just no way for Golduck not to be overshadowed by another Water-type that can do everything it can only better.
8 Too Strong: Gyarados
Everyone remembers the first time they saw Gyarados, an intimidating sea serpent that became one of the trademarks of the rival character in Red/Blue/Yellow, Gary. Gyarados has the power in battle to back up its appearance, with a monstrous stat total and a unique type combination (Water/Flying) to go with strong attacks.
What’s especially formidable about Gyarados is that it has only gotten better in later generations. Its move pool expanded, allowing it to hit more targets, and then it got a Mega Evolution in Generation 6. With the Mega Evolution, which changed its typing (Water/Dark) and boosted its Attack and defenses, it became a threat to rival even legendary Pokémon.
7 Too Weak: Dewgong
Most weak Pokémon from the first generation at least had the benefit of not having too much direct competition for a slot on the player’s team, at least in the first few games. Not so with Dewgong, which is quite literally nothing but an inferior version of Lapras. Its type, stat distribution, and moves are all copies of Lapras, with the notable difference being a lower stat total.
Dewgong, therefore, has never been a viable Pokémon in battle, simply because it has never escaped Lapras’ shadow. What is especially pitiful is that Lapras itself is no longer considered a particularly strong Pokémon in competitive play, so Dewgong is an inferior copy of an already weak Pokémon.
6 Too Strong: Mega Charizard
Charizard actually wasn’t much of a force in the original generation of Pokémon games, but it really lucked out when time came to give the starters Mega Evolutions. Charizard got two, each of them ferociously powerful. Mega Charizard X is a Fire/Dragon-type that uses its Tough Claws ability to physically punish opponents, and Mega Charizard Y keeps its original typing but adds an awe-inspiring boost to Special Attack.
Either of these Mega Evolutions would turn Charizard into a top-tier threat, but the fact that it has access to both (and opponents can’t know beforehand which one it’ll be) turns it into one of the best Pokémon in the game today. It hasn’t been banned from every normal battle setting (just most of them), but maybe it should.
5 Too Weak: Arbok
Arbok was never created to be an endgame Pokémon. Much like Beedrill or Raticate, it falls into the class of filler Pokémon players find early in the game and only use if they need to fill up spots on their team. A solid defensive type in Poison doesn’t save it from its fate, which is to be forgotten by the competitive world.
The world of Pokémon is somewhat cutthroat to these weaker Pokémon, as with such low stat lines, it is literally impossible for them to really challenge Pokémon with hundreds of more points in the various stats. Arbok can use Glare to immobilize opponents, but that’s pretty much where its usefulness ends. It has never figured prominently in any generation.
4 Too Strong: Mega Venusaur
Venusaur was never the most popular of the three fully-evolved starter Pokémon, but it made a convincing case for the best in battle. Its bulky stat line allowed it to absorb a lot of punishment, giving Exeggcutor a run for its money for the best Grass Pokémon in the original games.
However, while Exeggcutor has largely faded from the competitive scene, Venusaur has received new life in the form of a Mega Evolution. Mega Venusaur got the ability Thick Fat, which mitigated damage from two of its type weaknesses. A defensive moveset, led by the HP-draining Leech Seed, allows it to go toe-to-toe with even legendary Pokémon at the highest levels of competitive play (meaning it should probably be banned from lower ones).
3 Too Weak: Farfetch’d
There were a lot of weak Pokémon from the first generation that later got a new evolution to make it at least somewhat viable to use in-game, like Lickitung or Golbat. Farfetch’d, for some reason, was never given this opportunity, and has thus languished at the bottom of competitive tier lists since day one.
A Normal/Flying-type, Farfetch’d has an extremely basic problem: its stats are just too low. It doesn’t have the Attack, Speed, or defenses to do anything worthwhile in a competitive setting. There are tons of other Flying types that can do literally anything better than Farfetch’d, making this Pokémon only worth catching to fill out the Pokédex.
2 Too Strong: Mewtwo
Obviously, Mewtwo was always going to appear on this side of the list. Mewtwo is (by far) the most powerful Pokémon in the first generation of games, possessing not just a great stat line and powerful moves, but the best type in the game, Psychic.
Mewtwo has remained one of the best Pokémon in the entire game in every subsequent generation, thanks in part to its two Mega Evolutions, each of which is absurdly powerful in its own way. Mewtwo is still banned from most levels of competitive play as it combines both immense power and tricky versatility to give opposing battlers headaches.
1 Too Weak: Butterfree
We know you probably have some fond memories of Ash and his Butterfree, the cute Butterfly Pokémon, but even fans of this Bug/Flying-type have to admit that it is completely useless in battle. In fact, Butterfree has never been good in the competitive scene as its weak stats and poor defensive type combination make it one of the worst Bug Pokémon in any game.
Even before it was outclassed by other, better Bug types, Butterfree’s only use in a competitive team was putting opposing Pokémon to sleep. We know that Butterfree and its initial form, Caterpie, are pretty cute, but nobody would argue if you didn’t keep it around after the very beginning of the game.