Top 10 Pokémon Designs: Gen. I

by D.A. Baldwin 2 years ago in art

One Fan's Favorites, Part I

Top 10 Pokémon Designs: Gen. I

When it comes to Pokémon, there are a lot of things to enjoy.

Whether you're a fan of the video games, a fan of the anime and its various movies, a fan of its manga, or you just like the concept and enjoy creating your own Pokémon and adventures, there is so much that this franchise brings to the table in terms of entertainment. It's one of the reasons I believe that Pokémon is so immensely popular, and it holds true for me, since I've been a fan of the franchise for over twenty-plus years. True, it has its flaws - as with any series - but those are usually easy to look past when you're spending hours on end trying to capture that legendary, or when you just got done binge-watching an entire season.

Who can blame you? There's something oddly addicting about Pokémon, and I think a lot of that happens to be the pocket monsters themselves. They are kind of the main draw for the whole concept, after all, especially the video games since you yourself are the one catching, training, and battling with whatever Pokémon you can find and/or want. There's a lot to appreciate.

For this list, I thought I would focus on an aspect of Pokémon that I personally feel doesn't get enough appreciation: the designs. Specifically, the designs I like the most as an avid fan of the games (and formerly of the anime, but that's a different story entirely), whether they be the coolest looking or the most interesting. Whatever the reason, these are my picks for best-designed Pokémon, and I'm going to go through all seven generations, picking out my favorites.

As a note, this is by no means a 'you need to agree with me' kind of list. It's mostly a fun way for a nerd like me to gush about Pokémon, and it gives me an excuse to share the ones I really like. Oh, and so everyone knows, I am not including legendaries on this list. Non-legendaries only.

So, with that said, let's begin.

10. Aerodactyl

Kicking off the list for Generation I is none other than Aerodactyl, whose handsome mug may be familiar to the people out there that know the anime, especially considering Aerodactyl is responsible for the debut of one of the anime staples, Charizard.

I could probably just outright state that Aerodactyl's design is cool, but that wouldn't make for a very interesting list if I did. So, to start with, the biggest reason why it's one of my favorites from the Kanto region is that, well, it's the first Pokémon based off a dinosaur. I'm sure a lot of you out there grew up loving dinosaurs. It's kind of a thing for kids to be fascinated by them, although I suppose given recent discoveries, that may not be quite the same in the future. But for me, I grew up thinking dinosaurs were awesome, and Aerodactyl is a bonafide representation of one of my favorites: the pterodactyl. That alone gives it a good number of bonus points.

Aerodactyl as a whole is fairly simplistic in its design, but I think that simplicity is what makes it so neat. It's big and gray, with little claws on its wings, it has a pointed tail, and its facial structure emphasizes its massive jaw. Compared to many of the Generation I Pokémon, Aerodactyl is probably one of the most dangerous-looking overall thanks to these qualities, especially with that big jaw and the wing claws. It looks more threatening than, say, Charizard, and it has the added benefit of not having a fiery tail to serve as a weak spot. Aerodactyl also has an 'ancient' vibe to it when you compare it to the other reptilian (and bird) Pokémon, which helps sell the fact it's a fossil Pokémon.

Aerodactyl is also one of the many Pokémon with a mega evolution, but let's save that for a different list. For now, Aerodactyl is plenty cool-looking, with an air of intimidation befitting a giant dinosaur. It's big, it's bad, and it will probably bite you in half if you aren't careful. Or just swoop down and carry you into the air for some reason, who knows.

9. Tauros

This may be one of the odder picks for a list focusing on what Pokémon I think have the best designs, especially since, compared to Aerodactyl and a good number of the other one hundred and fifty, Tauros is a bit on the plain side. But, I am anything if odd, and I say the notion that Tauros has a boring design is a whole lot of bull.

Yes, I went there. No, I'm not sorry.

Tauros is probably my favorite Normal type Pokémon from Generation I, and I would dare say it's my favorite Normal type altogether, and its design plays a lot into it. Tauros is, in many ways, a fantastical spin on a bull, but without any unneeded or extra details being added on. Instead, Tauros' design is relatively tame when you consider a lot of other Pokémon, and it works in its favor. Its most defining characteristic would be the three tails constantly whipping about, and the bone-like ridges on its forehead. And really, that's it, there is isn't a whole lot else going on for Tauros' design. But, that's kind of the whole point, isn't it?

Tauros is a Normal type, and Normal type Pokémon aren't supposed to look big and bad and intimidating. They are meant to appear plain and uninteresting, which in turn makes it easier for trainers to underestimate their capabilities. Tauros is no different, although it does have an edge to it thanks to its horns and serious expression. It looks like something that would headbutt you into next year if you looked at it funny. I think that's what I like most about it. That, and, it's a bull. What's not to like there?

8. Flareon

I'd be lying if I said Eevee and its evolutions wasn't one of my favorite Pokémon overall. There's just something really cool about the fact that Eevee can evolve into so many different forms, each with their own unique characteristics, and most of all, appearances.

Flareon, if I were being honest, probably falls at the back of the pack when it comes to which Eeveelution I like best design-wise. It's not that I dislike its design, but its counterparts all have design elements I just happen to like more. That's not to say Flareon doesn't have a good design; it does, for sure.

What I like most about Flareon is the fact that it looks like you would expect a Fire type to look, with the reddish-colored body and the yellow, fiery fur. The fur alone is enough to scream that it's a Fire type, and I appreciate that. I especially like how the fur on its head and its tail are both shaped like fireballs, and yet, unlike Magmar and the Charmander line, its fur isn't on fire, but at the same time, it resembles fire more than the Vulpix and Growlithe lines. Rather, it comes off a bit more subtle compared to the other Generation I Fire types, and its dark eyes and expression give it a stoic air that actually goes a long way in making its design so unique for me. It isn't hot-headed. It's calm, collected.

I wouldn't say Flareon is my favorite Fire type, but it's close up there, even though its design isn't at the top of my favorites list. There's just something fierce about it in a subtler way than what you typically get from Fire types, and yet, it's also kind of cute. Flareon kind of skirts the line between cute and cool thanks to the way it was designed, and somehow, that suits it.

7. Pidgeotto

Up in the sky, it's a bird! It's a plane! No, no, it's a bird. It's also one of the first bird Pokémon you're likely to gain in the games, and the first bird Pokémon Ash caught in the anime way back when. It's a shame it didn't get much screen time until it evolved and got released...

That aside, Pidgeotto is my favorite Flying Pokémon in Generation I, or at least, my favorite flyer who happens to be a bird, and its design is really the main reason why Pidgeotto scores better than its evolution Pidgeot or the other birds. You may be wondering, though, why I like Pidgeotto's design more. After all, Fearow is much more dangerous-looking, Dodrio has three heads, and its evolution Pidgeot is bigger and better overall in its design, so why the mid-evolution?

Part of it is that I prefer Pidgeotto's sleeker form compared to its evolved form. It's slimmer, smaller, and gives the impression of something that can move lightning fast when it needs to. Pidgeot's design is fine, but I always imagine it being slower due to its bigger, bulkier frame. And the other part would have to do with the thing that is most noticeable about Pidgeotto and Pidgeot: its luxurious mane of hair. Feathers they may be, but come on, that is a pretty sweet haircut, especially for a Pokémon based on a creature that has no hair. I like Pidgeotto's shorter, red 'do much more compared to Pidgeot's long, flowing locks, and a good chink behind that reasoning is I happen to prefer shorter hair in general.

Still, I also just really like the aesthetic of Pidgeotto's shorter hair. It gives Pidgeotto an almost punk-like appearance as if it has a bit of an edge to its attitude. The black stripes near its eyes and the multi-colored tail feathers add to this idea. It sort of makes me think that Pidgeotto is halfway to becoming a hipster, but it's subtle enough to where you won't notice it unless you really pay attention. And while it may just be me, I find the image of Pidgeotto being the Flying Pokémon equivalent of a punk rocker to be hilarious, and yet, also somewhat fitting.

I do have to wonder... how does it style its feather-hair to look so fabulous? And how does it not get cut, singed, or ruined in battle?

6. Arcanine

Right at the cusp of the midway point of this list is the Pokémon world's version of Clifford the Big, Red Dog's cousin, if said cousin could breathe fire, run at the speed of light, and had an attitude worthy of a rockstar - and the look of one to boot.

Arcanine's design is incredibly striking, especially when you consider how cute its pre-evolution Growlithe is. You get a tiny fire puppy that turns into a gigantic, majestic, blazing warhound. Granted, this is Pokémon, and stranger things have happened. Still, Arcanine's design is plenty awesome, because Arcanine is one of those Pokémon that you just know is a badass based on how it looks alone. It has a presence to it, a presence born from the coloration of its body (the stripes help), the expression on its face, and the white, fiery tufts of fur that all add up to give it a formidable air.

Arcanine doesn't look like something you'd want to mess with.

This is no big, fluffy, friendly dog, it's a giant beast of a creature, and the detail work really sells that. Those jagged stripes and white tufts of fur don't need to be there, they don't need to be part of its design to get the point across that Arcanine is a big dog that happens to be able to breathe fire. But I feel like it would look naked without them, and that removing those details would make its design less interesting to the eye, and a whole lot less impressive overall.

Yet despite how imposing and cool Arcanine comes across with its design, I have to admit that the design doesn't go overboard in telling you that Arcanine isn't to be messed with. In fact, I feel like the amount of white fur contrasting its darker, fire-colored body does it a favor by adding just a hint that Arcanine is a benevolent Pokémon, befitting for a big dog. It isn't mean or evil looking. If it was, sure it would be cool, but, I think there's something to be said for the fact that it doesn't. Plus, let's be honest, most dog lovers would be all over that giant ball of fluff trying to scratch it and pet it and hug it. I wonder if its body is warmer since it's a Fire type...

5. Scyther

Well, if it isn't my least favorite Pokémon... to snap photos of in Pokémon Snap, that is. This irritable, loud-mouthed pain in the bahookie is so irritating since you can never get it to face you at the right time with the right size for a good photo, I swear.

But, I digress.

Scyther sits at the number 5 position on my list, and I'm not going to lie, it's probably got one of the most badass Pokémon designs in Gen. I. True, Kabutops is similar, but, Scyther's just way cooler in my mind, and a lot of it has to do with the fact that it looks fast, agile, and incredibly dangerous. And, well, praying mantises are one of the few kinds of bugs I like.

Scyther has the distinction of being one of those Pokémon that can and will cut you if you anger it. Those scythe-like blades it calls hands are wicked - in both senses of the word - and I think probably one of the best parts about its design. Those scythes and its overall physique just scream that this thing is a scrappy fighter that could very likely decapitate you in the blink of an eye. Its form is slim, almost wiry, and the wings give it an additional benefit of showing that it can fly and probably move really fast. It represents danger pretty nicely, I have to say.

I also like Scyther's design on a purely aesthetic level. The green skin tone mixed with some white does it a solid surface, since it isn't overly obnoxious, but the coloration is dark enough to where you can tell it's not a pleasant Pokémon to face off against. The shape of its head and the head spikes are also pretty nice, giving it more sharpness without feeling like too much - which is saying something when you point out that, again, it has scythes for hands.

Honestly, I feel like you could cut yourself just by looking at Scyther for too long. Best not to try that theory out, though.

4. Vaporeon

If I were to list which Eeveelutions I liked the best - both in terms of design, moveset, and just a general preference - I would have to say Vaporeon would be in the top three. Even if I was just going off of design alone, it would still be in the top.

Vaporeon has an incredible design. Whereas Flareon was subtle in acting as a symbol for the Fire type, Vaporeon goes a different route with its representation of the Water type. Rather than give it a bubble-like mane of fur, Vaporeon gains fins, which in turn makes it appear like an aquatic creature, almost like a mermaid. Its design as a whole is actually pretty simple, but there is beauty in simplicity, and Vaporeon is perhaps the best example of that statement.

Sleek and smooth, Vaporeon has the appearance of a creature that is full of grace and charm. The mermaid-esque vibes its design has sells this image, and the fin around its neck, the ridges running down on its back, and its pointed, fin-like ears, and of course the forehead fin, are just icing on the cake, details that help paint the picture that lends Vaporeon its beauty. It's probably one of the most beautiful-looking of the Eeveelutions, second or third depending on your taste when looking at the other candidates, and I dare say it's one of the most beautifully designed Water types of them all, definitely number one for Gen. I, and still in the top five when you take the Water types from the other six generations into account.

I feel like Vaporeon's design is the most visually interesting of the three Eeveelutions. Whereas Flareon and Jolteon both seem to show off their respective elements in their skin tones and the shape of their fur, Vaporeon has no fur, and instead has a much more unique spin on letting us know it's a Water type. I really appreciate how Vaporeon's design does that, since it's not what you would expect if you saw the other two first.

And yet, it might surprise you to know that, despite my belief that Vaporeon's design is incredible, the number three slot belongs to...

3. Jolteon

The third and final Eeveelution on this list (fittingly, since there are only three in Gen. I), and also the highest ranking, but only by a tiny margin. Jolteon barely edges out Vaporeon in terms of which design I like best, but it's deserving of that margin in my book.

Jolteon is probably my favorite Electric type from Generation I. I never cared much for Pikachu and Raichu, Electabuzz was cool, and both Voltorb and Magnemite were, shall we say, meh when it came to their overall looks. Jolteon, though, blows them all out of the water. I mean, look at it. Look at how gloriously spiky Jolteon is and tell me it isn't the most badassly designed Eeveelution in this generation.

Those spikes would make any Super Saiyan proud, I'm beyond certain.

All jokes aside, I really like the way that Jolteon captures the essence of the Electric type. Much like Flareon having a fiery appearance without overdoing it, Jolteon is in a similar boat with the Electric type, the main difference being that 'subtle' isn't a word in Jolteon's vocabulary. It doesn't quite have the same unabashed quality that Raichu does with its lightning bolt shaped tail, but it's definitely a step further than Flareon.

But I love that about Jolteon. It's almost like a lightning bolt took form; the jaggedness and spikes create that look, and yet, it doesn't go overboard. There aren't any extraneous details, it's just a super spiky fox-like creature that happens to both be yellow and an Electric type. That's really the main reason why Jolteon is higher on the scale than Vaporeon and Flareon; it best exemplifies the element that it is meant to represent.

2. Charmeleon

No doubt this may be one of the oddest or most surprising picks for this list, especially when you take into consideration that, quite frankly, Charizard is one of the most popular Pokémon around. Well, I will be honest with you, reader: I don't actually care much for Charizard, or for its design. I'm sure I've offended at least a few hardcore Pokémon fans with those words, so while they gather their bearings and prepare to amass an army of Charizards to spite me, let's get to the meat of this choice.

I love Charmeleon.

Charmeleon is my favorite mid-stage Pokémon from Gen. I - Wartortle is a close second, followed by Pidgeotto from above - and may very well be my true favorite Fire type Pokémon, more than Flareon, more than Arcanine, more than any other Fire type. I honestly find myself wishing that Charizard looked more like it, without the wings and the color shifting back to Charmander's orange. Still, its design is striking and unique to it, and I can get behind those qualities without a shred of hesitation.

What I like most about Charmeleon is that it, much like Aerodactyl above, looks like a dinosaur, specifically, my absolute favorite dinosaur: a Parasaurolophus. Yes, you read that right - my favorite dinosaur isn't a tyrannosaurus, a raptor, a triceratops, or even the pterodactyl (though I like all of the above, mind you), but rather, my favorite is that funny-looking dinosaur with the head-crest. The fact that Charmeleon looks so much like one is probably the first reason I fell in love with its design. But as with the rest of these, there is more than just an uncanny similarity to my favorite dinosaur.

I feel like Charmeleon is a mid-stage evolution at its best. Charmander was adorable, so Charmeleon is the next stage up. It looks more mature, more seasoned, with a darker red coloration as opposed to the - fine, but somewhat obnoxious - shade of orange that Charmander had. Its claws are more developed, and it looks like it's stronger and can do a lot more compared to Charmander. That's the kind of thing I love design-wise when it comes to Pokémon that evolve, that also have three stages. It serves as a solid middle evolution, and again, I wish the third stage took more after it.

Seeing a fire Parasurolophus would have been the greatest thing ever for me, I swear. But, it was not meant to be. Charizard is fine, and I do like dragons, but Charmeleon will always be my favorite, and in the games, I will always go out of my way to have a Charizard (for completion's sake) and a Charmeleon that never evolves.

1. Blastoise

And here we are at the end of the list, at the Pokémon that has the design I like the best out of Generation I. In fact, Blastoise and its pre-evolutions happens to be the only starter line that I love from start to finish when it comes to their designs, and they happen to be my favorite starter of them all.

I think the most obvious thing about Blastoise when it comes to its design are the two cannons sprouting out of its shell. It is almost literally a walking tank, and I can't help but geek out over this fact and how awesome I thought it was when I first saw Blastoise. Those cannons make it look threatening, and they help showcase the power of evolution, starting from a cute, tiny turtle, and ending with a badass decked out in big guns. I'd say it's almost like the Aerodactyl and Charmeleon looking like dinosaurs thing, only with weapons as the focus instead.

But there is more to the design than the big cannons and the fact that I chose Squirtle as my starter. Blastoise is a fine example of a final evolution being done right when it comes to its design. The progression we have, from Squirtle to Wartortle, and then from Wartortle to Blastoise, is highly noticeable, and it's kind of beautiful in its own way.

The shell is bigger to demonstrate how much sturdier and stronger Blastoise has become, the ears and tail are both smaller to prevent them from being obvious targets during battle, its color is darker and the face is more mature, but you can tell that Blastoise belongs as the final evolution for Squirtle. It's one of those things where I feel the entire line makes sense on a design level, as opposed to other evolutions where they don't make quite as much sense, or where they kind of do, but the design doesn't differentiate enough to keep things interesting.

Blastoise does that.

It looks cool, it looks strong, and its looks make sense when you consider the way its design changed from its previous two evolutions. And for me as a fan and for me as someone who loves designs in general, that's the reason why Blastoise is my number one favorite design.

For Generation I, that is.

D.A. Baldwin
D.A. Baldwin
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D.A. Baldwin

I am currently a student at a university, trying to find my way in life, while also trying to write a book. Lots of ideas bouncing in my head for potential articles, so we'll see how that goes. Cheers!

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