With the beginning of every new generation of Pokémon game, there is an inevitable question on the tips of everyone’s tongues: which starter Pokémon is the best? Well aren’t you lucky I spent 600+ hours playing Pokémon X, Y, OR & AS in anticipation of this very moment. Brace yourselves for an incredibly thorough, in-depth, deep scientific dissection using rather uncomfortably long mathematical formulas to break down which starter truly is the very best, like no one ever was.
The results are in: They’re all the same…. Kind of… Let me explain.
Different Pokémon have a different total number of ‘Base Stats’. Every starter Pokémon for the past 20 years roughly starts with a total number of 300-320 base stats and by their final evolution has roughly between 520-535. Fun fact: At your inevitable next dinner party debate over who’s the best – Bulbasaur, Charmander or Squirtle, statistically speaking, at their final evolutions, Charizard has a total base stat of 534, Blastoise a total of 530, and Venusaur a total of 525. GG Charizard. But I digress.
These base stats are distributed across six different values: HP, Attack, Defence, Special Attack, Special Defence, Speed. These distributions determine what role your Pokémon is best suited for. Let’s begin by taking a look at which way our Sun and Moon starters are inclined.
So based on these statistics, Rowlet has the highest HP and defence stat, Litten is the fastest and physically hits the hardest, and Poppilo has the strongest special attack and defence. A pretty standard, even playing field. Unfortunately though, if you’re reading this I assume you’re a keen Pokémon trainer. One could even say you would want to be the very best. And unlike that useless dropkick Ash Ketchum, you want to evolve your Pokémon into their final forms. So statistically, what happens to our cute starter Pokémon after they evolve?
Well the playing field suddenly becomes a lot less even. Our tanky Rowlet evolved into a slightly faster, yet average jack of all trades Decidueye, the speedy Litten evolved into a slow, yet devastatingly strong Incineroar, and Popplio just kind of stayed the same but changed its name to Primarina.
So now statistically, Incineroar is looking pretty good. But statistics aren’t the only way to determine strength of a Pokémon . The next thing to look at are typings.
Rowlet begins as a Grass/Flying type. Now although the flying typing allows immunity to ground type attacks, the combination of Grass and Flying causes Rowlet to be weak to 5 different types of attacks – Flying, Poison, Rock, Fire and Ice. It doesn’t matter how tanky you are, that’s a lot of weaknesses. Fortunately, as Rowlet evolves into Decidueye, his/her typing changes from Grass/Flying to Grass/Ghost which removes the weakness to Poison and Rock attacks. Unfortunately, that doesn’t improve Decidueye’s chances because the Poison and Rock weaknesses were just replaced with Ghost and Dark weaknesses.
Litten begins as a straight fire type. Litten’s only weaknesses are Ground, Rock and Water attacks. As Litten evolves into Incineroar, he/she gains the ‘Dark’ typing which gains a weakness for Fighting type attacks but also grants immunity to Psychic type attacks. Incineroar is beginning to look pretty formidable.
Now little Popplio, being a water type, is only weak against Grass and Electric type attacks. Pretty decent. When Popplio evolves into Primarina, he/she is granted the newest Fairy typing, allowing immunity to Dragon type attacks and is now only additionally weak to Poison attacks… Quite impressive given its looks.
Now with all this information, what can we ascertain? Decidueye is the most susceptible to ‘Super Effective’ attacks, Primarina is the least susceptible, and Incineroar sits in the middle.
So what have we learnt from all of this? Well, they’re all still pretty even bets, except Decidueye, the master of none and super weak to anyone with a big enough rock. But there is one final piece of information that can change the trajectory of this discussion, Pokémon Abilities.
In all cases, everyone has an ability that boosts the damage of attacks when they are at low health. Decidueye gets a boost to Grass type attacks, Incineroar to Fire type attacks and Primarina to Water type attacks. But if this wasn’t complicated enough for you, Pokémon also have Hidden Abilities that can only be brought out through the most obsessive/addictive chore in Pokémon, breeding. Now I’ll skip the (already) painfully long explanation and skip to the one Hidden Ability that caught my eye, and in my mind, crowns the best starter Pokemon.
Primarina’s Hidden Ability is called Liquid Voice. It turns all sound based moves into Water type moves. From a battling perspective, this is huge. When a Pokémon uses an attack of its same typing, it gains a Same-type attack bonus, abbreviated to STAB. This gives any STAB attack a 50% damage boost. Sound based moves have been notoriously strong in the past generation of Pokémon games. They hit multiple targets in one attack, and can bypass pesky things like ‘Substitutes’ that would otherwise block damage from that attack. Primarina gets two of those moves. When combined with an overwhelming Special Attack, this beautiful, gender bending, internet controversy generating Pokémon could be unstoppable in the right hands.
So there you have it. But after 600+ hours of Pokémon play time, knowledge, deduction, statistical breakdown and expert analysis, I chose that chubby little grass owl who’s afraid of the wind. Why you may ask? Because he looks dope af and evolves into a cloaked ghost archer.
Statistical breakdowns are wonderful and informative. But this is Pokémon. You’re always going to pick the coolest looking mon.