Kanto Trio
Image: Nintendo Life / Bulbapedia

While The Pokémon Company reveals the adorable starters at the beginning of a new Generation’s media cycle to feature them prominently in trailers, merch, events and whatever else the juggernaut of a franchise puts on, the final evolutions of these cute critters remain a carefully guarded secret until someone unceremoniously leaks some blurry photos a week or two before release. It’s these much more powerful forms that you’ll spend most of your time with and that have a larger legacy on the series as a whole.

Look no further than Kanto's Venusaur, Charizard, and Blastoise as proof. They’ve appeared in many subsequent games and remained competitively viable in official formats ever since. Venusaur terrorises with Chlorophyll and Sleep Powder. Defensively sound, Blastoise can wash away a whole team after a single Shell Smash. And Charizard hits like a flame-engulfed truck under the Sun. On top of all this, all three have awesome, memorable designs that make it hard to pick between them. For these reasons, we’ve decided to omit them from this list – we all know they’re objectively the best starter trio. It doesn’t need repeating. You've even told us yourself that Generation I has the best starters of every single type.

We're still waiting to see Pokémon Scarlet and Violet’s Sprigattito, Fuecoco, and Quaxly’s evolution line, but we've gone ahead and ranked the remaining eight trios. Which are the most striking and powerful? Which three have the most creative designs and the longest-lasting techniques? From eighth to first (or second, if you want to be pedantic), see which trio we ranked where below.

And then make sure to join in and have your say by voting in our poll at the end...

#8 - Johto’s Meganium, Typhlosion, and Feraligatr

Johto Trio
Image: Nintendo Life / Bulbapedia

We love Johto for so many reasons. HeartGold and SoulSilver are arguably the best Pokémon games ever made, and we have a ton of nostalgia and memories of Meganium, Typhlosion, and Feraligatr; one of them may very well be your favourite Pokémon, and we wouldn’t blame you. However, there’s no denying that this trio needs some more love.

Meganium in particular holds this generation back. With terrible offensive stats and a near-useless ability, it ranks as one of the worst starter evolutions, if not the worst, especially when compared to the stocky, threatening presence of its predecessor Venusaur. At least this dinosaur-like ‘mon is cute, though that hardly makes it feel imposing.

Typhlosion and Feraligatr fall somewhere in the middle of the pack. We lament that Game Freak has removed Typhlosion’s flaming mane while it's idle, making it look like an oversized sausage, but when Typhlosion becomes fully enflamed, the design fits the awesome nature of a starter that we expect. It helps too that both its Flash Fire ability and access to Eruption means one can never count this fiery mustelid out.

Design-wise, we think Feraligatr takes the cake out of these three. The massive croc’s eyes say it's gonna bite you – even if you’re its trainer – and you’re gonna like it. Its Hidden Ability, Sheer Force, gives it a decent amount of strength, yet its middling speed stat leaves it outclassed by most other Water-type starters.

All starters have their charms. Unfortunately for these three, they have less than their contemporaries.

#7 - Hisui’s Decidueye, Typhlosion, and Samurott

Hisui Trio
Image: Nintendo Life / Bulbapedia

Pokémon Legends: Arceus took three fan favourite Starters and gave them regional evolutions for the first time in Pokéhistory. Two of the three — Typhlosion and Samurott — take on awesome new forms and get amazing designs that we think complement their originals well. Unfortunately, Hisuian Decidueye’s sudden colour palette change (which we acknowledge gives it an autumnal look) feels at odds with its previous evolutions, and its horse-archer design comes off as awkward rather than dangerous and suave like its Alolan counterpart.

What really sets these three lower on this list isn’t so much their design but how their new typings drop them to the bottom of the pack. Samurott goes from having two weaknesses to a whopping five; a jack-of-all-trades stat spread and mediocre ability do it no favours either. Decidueye fares worse, losing two immunities and gaining a 4x weakness to Flying. With a terrible speed that makes it only viable in Trick Room and an ability that rarely comes into play, Hisuian Decidueye is less a glass cannon and more of a pop gun.

Typhlosion gains two immunities with the added Ghost typing but extra weaknesses. Its decent speed and offensive power give us some hope that someday it might find a niche similar to that of Chandelure; yet as these Pokémon have only been available in a game with wildly different mechanics, it remains to be seen how they’ll translate into a more traditional Pokémon game. Who knows? Maybe their Hisuian signature moves will elevate them in generations to come.

#6 - Kalos’s Chesnaught, Delphox, and Greninja

Kalos Trio
Image: Nintendo Life / Bulbapedia

The Kalos trio take on a somewhat mediaeval/RPG-party theme – a knight, a witch, and a ninja (imported from Kanto, maybe?) – that we quite like the concept of. Chesnaught’s spiky outer shell and Delphox’s fiery little stick wand are nice touches, though we do admit both of them leave a little to be desired with their bipedal, semi-anthropomorphic forms. Greninja, on the other hand, with his tongue-scarf and fin-like extensions running along its head, appeals to that 10-year-old child inside us like few Pokémon can.

So why are these three this low on the list? Simply put, Chesnaught and Delphox hold them back compared to other trios. Chesnaught, slow and bulky, has such a low special defence that a single Air Slash will shred him to pieces. Delphox, though fast enough to create some havoc in a tense battle, gains no favours from its secondary Psychic typing; combined with its Fire-type, this makes it extremely weak to many common attacking types. Neither have an ability or overpowered move to become a true threat, either.

Greninja, however, does. This ninja frog's insane speed along with the Protean ability, which changes its type to match its attack, gives it a huge edge over the competition. It’s a shame that the other two starters from X and Y weren’t created equal.

#5 - Galar’s Rillaboom, Cinderace, and Inteleon

Galar Trio
Image: Nintendo Life / Bulbapedia

The amount of powerful tools both Rillaboom and Cinderace have made this generation one of the strongest, yet we have them at fifth for the simple fact that their anthropomorphic designs lack that imposing presence we want from a starter. A drumming ape, a football-playing rabbit, and a secret agent chameleon are certainly inspired, but we hope future starters retain a more bestial form.

That said, Rillaboom is an overpowered, top-tier ‘mon. The combination of Grassy Surge and Grassy Glide makes it an insane threat, along with other great moves like Wood Hammer and Fake Out. Cinderace comes with the ability Libero, which allows it to change its type to match the move it uses much the same as Greninja. With a movepool so deep it should be illegal and a speed stat to make use of it, Cinderace causes trouble for every Pokémon it faces. Game Freak went the extra Pokémile to make these two as powerful, if not more so, than Venusaur and Charizard.

Inteleon falls off from these competitive heights, sadly. Its ability Sniper and signature move certainly have niche uses, but Inteleon is incredibly frail and has little utility other than hitting hard with the typically offensively weak Water-type. Despite these blemishes, the three from Sword and Shield have earned their placement over more well-designed trios.