It is one of the greatest questions of our common era: who is the best Pokémon to begin with in Red & Blue?
Everyone has their own opinion they will likely take to the grave, but science writer Kyle Hill decided to try a data-backed argument in a recent blog article for Scientific American.
In “Squirtle, I (Should) Choose You! Settling a Great Pokémon Debate With Science,” Hill works with a wealth of Pokémon data recently entered into online calculation site WolframAlpha. The result is a bunch of large charts and graphs that he infers to crown the Tiny Turtle Pokémon as the overall best choice.
Hill takes a look at the starters’ stats and their growth through the game, but focuses mainly on their capabilities against all of the gym leaders. Offensively, Hill says, Bulbasaur is great at the outset but doesn’t hold up as well in the long run:
If you want to hit the ground running then, Bulbasaur looks like the choice. However, like the starting stats, digging a bit deeper shows Squirtle’s overall advantages. Count up all the instances where each of the starting Pokémon have the upper hand (or at least an advantage) against the 12 gym leaders, and you find that while Bulbasaur might do great at the beginning of the game, it also will have the hardest time of all the Pokémon finishing off the rest of the leaders.
Defensively, Bulbasaur once again looks like a great choice, but Hill argues that the Water-type maintains an overall edge over opponents throughout the game.
Bulbasaur in particular is well defended against the first four gyms. But overall, Bulbasaur and its evolutions have the most Pokémon with advantages against them, and Squirtle has the least. Squirtle also has the most amount of “normal” defensive matchups, meaning that most Pokémon won’t have the upper hand on the little turtle. Squirtle comes out on top.
Charmander, sadly but perhaps unsurprisingly to most veterans, seems to be the most difficult starter to take through the game.
There are other points to argue, of course, and fans have taken up arms in the comments section to do just that, but Hill draws his overall conclusion:
Based on the data, the advantages against the games’ bosses, and the advice from gamers who want a Pokémon that can help them beat the game as quickly as possible, the choice is clear: You should have picked Squirtle. Perhaps a third of you can now sigh with satisfaction, another third can start a giant, unassailable nerd-off, and the other third can lament attempting to use “ember” against a Geodude.
Hills’s article is well worth reading for the vast amount of additional data, as well as an argument in favour of Magikarp not being the worst Pokémon. So, which Pokémon did you start with back in the day, and do you regret your choice now? Let us know below.