We are currently up to about 17 million unique Pokémon creatures, give or take. Okay, so that number is a slight exaggeration, but the fact remains that we are a long way from the humble beginnings of the franchise, when there were only 151 total Pokémon to catch, train, and battle, and a long way from most fans being able to name them all.
To be fair, what comprises the hundreds and hundreds of total Pokémon aren't technically all unique creatures, but the evolutionary versions of the base models. A single, original Pokémon can sometimes have ten or more variations and spin-off creatures, depending on the nature of their evolution and how their trainers level them up, and each one of those is a different, numbered Pokémon creature. In many cases, it's fair to consider them separate creatures, as Pokémon can vary wildly from one evolution to the next in terms of look and ability.
This particular list is going to focus on the aesthetic changes that happen to Pokémon when the evolve, and examine the ones that grow to look much cooler when they upgrade-- as well as those who end up looking much worse, sometimes starting out cute or visually interesting and then completely failing the genetic lottery when they evolve. The latter is especially disappointing because the normal progression for Pokémon evolution is for creatures to naturally become grander and cooler as they go, and it's baffling when one somehow falls apart in the looks department during that process.
Here are 10 Pokémon That Look Way Worse When They Evolve (And 10 That Become Awesome).
20 Look Worse: Nosepass
To be fair, there are definitely Pokémon that are intended to be funny or ridiculous on purpose. Nosepass is obviously one of those types, being a rock creature with-- true to its name-- a gaudy red nose protruding from its face.
That silliness is typically left at the vanilla Pokémon stage and tends to be shed during evolutions.
Such is not the case with Nosepass, which evolves into the even more ridiculous Probopass. Doubling down on the whole huge nose thing, Probopass not only has a giant sniffer but also a bushy black beard underneath it that resembles one of those disguise glasses that you get at novelty stores, complemented by eyeballs that look like it's perpetually shocked.
19 Becomes Awesome: Magikarp
Fish-based Pokémon typically have some of the coolest and most dramatic evolutionary changes, and Magikarp was one of the first to establish this tradition. The first-generation Pokémon, which made its debut in Pokémon Red/Blue, began life as a rather simplistic fish creature in its original form, intimidating to nothing but fish food.
While most early Pokémon took a couple of steps to get truly big and menacing, Magikarp wastes no time, evolving directly into the fearsome Gyarados, a creature so big and tough that it could pass for an end-level boss in an RPG or platform game. In fact, it bears a striking resemblance to the mystical dragon creatures found in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
18 Looks Worse: Rattata
Rats don't typically get much respect, in real life nor in fiction. For every Remy (Ratatouille) or Master Splinter, there are countless other examples where rats are the villains and/or annoying pests of a story, and rightfully so. In Rattata's defense, it's actually kind of cute; a little purple rat creature that could almost pass as the star of some Disney animated movie.
Once it evolves into Raticate, it becomes much more of the cliché of a rat character: chubby and mean.
It looks as if its mere presence can spread disease, even without actually sinking its gross teeth into you.
17 Becomes Awesome: Brionne
Popplio is primarily supposed to be a seal-like creature but, between its big red nose and flowered collar, ends up looking very clownish. Things definitely take a turn in the right direction for Popplio when it evolves into Brionne, shedding some of the clown accoutrements and taking a more interesting form than just that of a normal sea creature. Brionne is definitely the awkward teen years period for this evolutionary track.
It's only when Brionne evolves into Primarina that things really start to turn around, blossoming into a beautiful mermaid-like creature that is among the most gorgeous Pokémon designs of all time. Not bad for something that begins life as a glorified circus seal.
16 Looks Worse: Bunnelby
Generally speaking, bunnies are hard to mess up as a basis for a cute and/or visually pleasing fictional creature. And Bunnleby is no difference, with its grey fur, buck teeth, and floppy, brown-tipped ears. It is the type of Pokémon whose primary attack should just be to sit and stare at his opponents with its big, sad eyes until their hearts melt.
When you see Diggersby, Bunnelby's evolution, the only correct reaction is to wonder "what happened?"
It's as if the artist asked people what was cute about Bunnelby, took that list, and found a way to taint and distort everything on it. Perhaps the worst offender is Diggersby's ears which turn into what look like buff arms with fists on the end. Better in battle? Yes. Uglier? Double yes.
15 Becomes Awesome: Monferno
It's pretty obvious when you see a cute little chimp-like Pokémon what direction its evolution is probably headed in. Sure enough, starting with the adorable Chimchar and continuing on through the more menacing but still cuddly Monferno, it's clear that you're in for something pretty special when that next evolution kicks in.
Infernape is that something special, as much an anime superhero as an impressive Pokémon creature. Unless you just have a serious distaste for primate-based characters, it's hard to imagine that anyone wouldn't be a fan of Infernape's design or agree that it's a huge improvement over Monferno. How is Infernape not its own Smash Bros. character yet, Nintendo?
14 Looks Worse: Swinub
Some Pokémon characters feel like the product of the end of a very long day of work on the part of an artist, but whose boss has tasked them with coming up with just one more character before quitting time. Swinub is such a character-- even his name seems to sound best when said with an exhausted sigh. You just tried it for yourself, didn't you? There really isn't anywhere exciting to go from a character like Swinub, but all Pokémon have to evolve.
Piloswine takes what was at least a mildly cute character and turns it into a big, hairy mound of boring.
Its perpetually-covered eyes are a fitting design decision for Piloswine, as we can only assume its own mediocrity causes it to constantly nod off.
13 Becomes Awesome: Frogadier
As the Super Smash Bros. series has gone on, more and more dedicated Pokémon have been added to the roster as their own separate fighters rather than just being one of Ash's random summons. While the choice of which Pokémon should be on the roster initially seemed largely based on which ones were the most popular in the anime series at the time, it seems like it is gradually becoming more about which ones would actually make the coolest, most effective fighters.
While Frogadier's category is the jokey-sounding "bubble frog," when it evolves into Greninja, it just becomes a straight-up ninja. Greninja frequently tops lists of fan-favorite Pokémon, and for good reason. They need to give Greninja the headlining action spin-off game he deserves.
12 Looks Worse: Sandygast
In Palossand's defense, there was nothing else it could've possibly evolved into that would've made any sense other than an elaborate, multi-turreted sand castle beast. After all, Sandygastwas just a mound of sand with a tunnel for a mouth and a kid's plastic shovel stuck into its head. That still doesn't make Palossand any less ridiculous of a character. If anything, at least Sandygast had a little bit of subtlety on his side.
Palossand's anthropomorphic features-- the turrets that double as arms and hands, for instance-- are a little too on-the-sandy-nose.
Basing a monster after a structure that is most commonly associated with how easy it is for children to build and then kick over five minutes later because they're bored just seems like a bad idea all around.
11 Becomes Awesome: Wimpod
Admittedly, much of this list is either about bad Pokémon that got worse when they evolved, or great Pokémon that got greater. This entry is about one that starts off pretty lame-- its name even includes the word "wimp"-- and turns awesome with just a single evolution.
We have to assume that Pokémon are designed before they are named, and that it took someone all of five seconds after looking at Wimpod to blurt out his apt name. Perhaps that irritated the artist who created Wimpod, and they then decided to transform into something totally awesome. Be careful when you offend someone creative, as they can get revenge in the most fascinating ways.
10 Looks worse: Munna
Munna is one of dozens of Pokémon that are basically just cute, colorful little balls. A lot of the time, characters like Munna come across as filler, the result of artists who need to come up with hundreds of new creatures for each new game and justifiably struggle to make each and every one be unique and complex. Generally speaking, these filler Pokémon at least tend to get a little more interesting when they evolve. What happens to Munna? Well, it-- leaks.
Musharna basically just looks like Munna, only with some strange substance oozing out of a hole in its head.
Pokémon lore says it's a Dream Mis, which sounds nice and all, but still doesn't make it look any less gross.
9 Looks Awesome: Graveler
Longtime Pokémon fans have a soft spot for Geodude, an OG creature from Red and Blue who was also a mainstay in the first run of the animated series. Plus, it has "dude" in his name, which automatically made it a hit with '90s kids.
Design-wise, Geodude was just a rock with arms, but still looked pretty cool. Evolving into Graveler, things take a bad turn by just bulking it up in a way that almost makes it look physically uncomfortable. It's also lazy evolution to have the character just get bigger and buffer. Everything is made right again when Graveler gives way to Golem, finally sprouting legs and having a real head rather than just being eyes and a mouth on a giant boulder.
8 Looks Worse: Oddish
It's obviously unsetting to have a fictional character that is just perpetually drooling. What's even more unfortunate in the case of the moist-mouthed Gloom is that it evolves from a character that is not only much cuter but seemingly knows how to swallow his saliva properly.
Maybe Gloom is just another case of the middle evolution being the character's emo teenage years.
Oddish is a cute, smiling little creature that looks like-- wait for it-- a radish. It's not clear exactly how things can go so badly when it evolves, but once Oddish turns into Gloom, it just looks miserable and also has the aforementioned drooling issue. The next evolution, Vileplume, regains the happy demeanor of Oddish.
7 Becomes Awesome: Vibrava
The evolution from Trapinch to Vibrava almost made it onto this list. After all, Trapinch just looks like a ripoff of TMNT's Mousers but then turns into a pretty cool-looking dragonfly-esque creature. But the theme of the list is Pokémon that become "awesome" after evolving, and Vibrava isn't quite there yet.
Flygon, on the other hand, is every bit the definition of an awesome-looking Pokémon. In general, dragon-type Pokémon are some of the coolest characters in the franchise, and what sets Flygon apart is in the way it still has some of those unique insect features to make it look different than your run-of-the-mill dragon. Flygon is also an ice elemental, which is another welcome change from the typical fire type that most dragons tend to be.
6 Looks Worse: Whismur
Loudred tends to be a recurring visitor to lists of the ugliest Pokémon. Just look at it-- it's already a rather dopey-looking creature on its own, but then it has what look like stereo speakers jutting out of its head.
The faces it makes when it emits its sound-based attacks? Woof.
It's all so tragic when you consider that Whismur, whom Loudred evolves from, is actually pretty adorable. It is another one of the "cute round ball" Pokémon creatures, but its big floppy ears-- which don't yet look like commercial audio equipment-- and unique eyes make it stand out from a lot of its ilk. Sadly, from Loudred to Exploud, things don't get much better.
5 Becomes Awesome: Carvanha
As mentioned before, the artists behind Pokémon just seem to get it when it comes to the evolution of fish-based creatures. Most follow a logical, interesting progression from something that you'd see in a family fish tank, to something that they make horror movies about.
Seemingly combining the word "piranha" with the word "carnivore"-- redundant as that might be-- Carvanha is already slightly meaner-looking that most first-stage aquatic Pokémon.When it evolves into Sharpedo, it becomes a nightmare in the best possible way, sounding a bit like the titular beast from a cheesy SyFy movie but being way cooler than anything that would appear in a movie with Tara Reid or Ian Ziering.
4 Looks Worse: Dwebble
While it seems as though a lot of rock-based Pokémon are boulders with limbs and faces, they were a touch more creative when it came to Dwebble, instead making it a cute little hermit crab-like creature with a rocky shell.
They undid all of Dwebble's creativity with its evolution into Crustle, again resorting to just taking a chunk of rock and making a character out of it.
To be fair, Dwebble's crab origins remain, but this time it seems to be lugging a massive hunk of earth on his back, looking as ridiculous as it does uncomfortable. What is left for Crustle to evolve into other than a literal planet with a crab stuck to the bottom of it?
3 Becomes Awesome: Pignite
Of all the Pokémon that people wish they could have as house pets, the ridiculously adorable Tepig has got to be one of the top contenders. Even as most first evolutions tend to quickly ditch the cuteness of the original form, Pignite-- one of the best-named Pokémon of all time, bar none-- is tough but still surprisingly huggable.
All of that goes out the window, however, when Pignite gives way to Emboar, looking more like the final boss in some beautiful Japanese game than a Pokémon. Emboar joins the ranks of Pokémon that look like actual gods. It has that rare combination of size and speed that makes it one of the more daunting creatures to find yourself in a fight against.
2 Looks Worse: Smoochum
While characters that hearken back to the era of blackface and grossly over-exaggerating the stereotypical features of people of color should've been long-gone by the 1990s, we somehow got a character in a major multimedia franchise that decade that seemed to recall those embarrassing times.
It's understandably tough to justify much about Jynx's look: literal black skin with cartoonishly full lips.
It didn't take long for Jynx's skin to be adjusted to be purple instead of black, which didn't completely fix the problem but was a step in the right direction. Poor, cute little Smoochum didn't ask for any of this.
1 Becomes Awesome: Charmeleon
While many hardcore Pokémon fans resent this fact, there's no denying that Pikachu quickly became the franchise's breakout character and has remained so for the ensuing 20+ years. That isn't to say that all Pokémon who aren't Pikachu are just one big, forgotten blur of side characters, as a few others also stood out above the rest in terms of popularity.
Ask a random person to name a Pokémon besides Pikachu and there's a good chance they might come up with Charmander or Charizard, the fire-based, very dragon-looking Pokémon that in fact is not a dragon somehow. While Charmeleon kind of just looks like a toddler dragon with its tail on fire, when it evolves into Charizard, this iconic creature really earns its place among the most popular and coolest-looking Pokémon of all time.
What's your favorite Pokémon evolution? Let us know in the comments!