Pokémon is one of the most beloved international properties of all time. It has some of the most memorable characters, both human and not, and its introduction of the concept of evolution within the Pokémon world allowed for some of the most strikingly wonderful design work in all of anime and video game history.
However, some of these evolutions didn't quite live up to their initial Pokémon stages, and were either received poorly, or were just ignored entirely by the fan base. As with any categorical assortment, there are always ones that stand out from the pack. Some of these Pokémon evolve into forms that just aren't as interesting or well-designed as their prior forms, while others evolve into outright frustrating or just plain hideous Pokémon. These are are the Pokémon whose evolutions you wish you could reverse or prevent from ever happening.
Without further ado, here are the top 15 Pokémon That Are Better Before They Evolve.
Popplio is the water-type starter Pokémon that trainers can choose to adventure with across the Alolan islands in the new games, Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon. Popplio is a bouncy, adorable, and interesting Water type, modeled after a seal. Popplio is even able to snort water bubbles from its nose to use in battle, and is able to perform different acrobatic stunts.
Popplio’s evolution chain, however, is entirely lacking in the kind of charisma and style that Popplio exhibits. Its first evolution, Brionne, and its later evolution Primarina are far more graceful than fun, and that difference takes away everything that makes Popplio such an intriguing starter.
Primarina is also far less interesting than both Decidueye and Incineroar, which are the final evolutions of the other two possible starter Pokémon from the game, Rowlet and Litten. It would have been far more interesting for Popplio to keep its excited and energetic nature, and for the final evolution to be reminiscent of either Dugong or Walrein, which are both better designed than Primarina.
Graveler is the evolve form of Geodude, a classic rock-type Pokémon that is notably used by Brock, the first gym leader in the original series of Pokémon titles, and one of Ash’s companions throughout the television program. Graveler is sturdy, rough, and is an overall tough-looking Pokémon, which makes is a viable evolution for Geodude, who has similar characteristics.
However, the final evolution of Geodude is extremely lacking in those characteristics, and that Pokémon is Golem. Golem is the Pokémon that, whenever you encounter him in the wild or being used by another trainer, you can expect he will use self-destruct, because no trainer wants to deal with Golem enough to have it learn other moves. Golem takes away all of the rough exterior of Graveler, and instead turns into a giant rock bowling ball that definitely cannot move, despite Pokémon designing him with legs. The only saving grace to Golem is his Alolan form, which is basically Golem if he went to a party disguised as a mix between Mario and a Kingler claw.
Jigglypuff is one of the most recognizable Pokémon of all time. Next to Pikachu, Jigglypuff has been seen as a secondary mascot for the brand, and rightfully so. Jigglypuff is mischievous, cute, and fun, which are all the markings for a great Pokémon.
Its evolution Wigglytuff, however, takes away the best part of Jigglypuff, which is its constant use of the move "sing." Jigglypuff is always seen with a microphone in the anime, and it’s something that helps to set it apart from the pack, and it’s a hilarious and welcome little quirk thrown into the Pokémon world. Jigglypuff is the perfect diva in both the games and the television program. It's round and quick to get angry, but always willing to sing to whoever happens to be listening (usually against their will). Wigglytuff is just too boring to be the evolution of such a classic Pokémon, but it’s hard to imagine any Pokémon being quick-tempered enough to follow up such a superstar.
Ivysaur is the evolved form of one of the classic starter Pokémon, Bulbasaur. In the original series of games, the secondary evolution of every starter basically seemed to be relatively similar to the first, but with more of a "the primary evolution had to spend a week at the DMV" vibe. They’re all the cranky older brothers to their primary evolution.
Ivysaur is able to keep the cool vines and scrappy attitude of Bulbasaur, and add to it a pension towards anger. Venosaur, however, is one of the worst final evolutions that Pokémon has ever had, and is easily the worst final evolution when compared to the originals, Charizard and Blastoise. Venosaur is a fat dinosaur flower that is neither intimidating enough, nor fun enough to be our final stage for such an iconic Pokémon. And worse still is its half-hearted mega evolution, which is basically the same exact Pokémon, but with a tiny flower bow on the top of its head.
Dusclops is one of the most intriguing Ghost Pokémon ever conceived (which is saying a lot). The origins for most ghost Pokémon are some of the most startling and downright mystical back stories for any single Pokémon type. Dusclop’s body can absorb anything inside of it, similar to the construction of a black hole, and it uses its hands that float just outside of its body to lure opponents and force them to carry out its will. When Dusclops was first introduced, it seemed that everyone was enchanted by the future prospects of Ghost type Pokémon, and it seemed like we were going to be getting stranger and stranger ones in the near future (enter the mysterious Mimikyu).
However, its evolved form, Dusknoir was a huge misstep for the Pokémon company. What was so great about Dusclops (and the later Mimikyu) was its camp-like quality; the fact that a ghost type could be seen as entirely stereotypical, but also incredibly fun, was a feat unto itself. Dusknoir was an attempt to switch the Pokémon to a more intimidating stage, and it fails miserably, as Dusknoir appears to be nothing more than a fat grey wind-chime with a scary face drawn on its belly.
Magmar was one of the best fire-types in a generation that went all out on the amazing fire-type designs (now it’s hard to think of any great ones from the previous couple generations). Magmar was a big lazy lava monster that just so happened to have one of the greatest fights in the entire anime against Ash’s Charizard. Magmar has always been such an interesting design choice, and the later addition of Magby, fit perfectly with the overall aesthetic of the pocket monster.
Magmortar, its final evolution, leaves something to be desired, though. Magmortar is designed somewhat similar to Magmar, but its body shape is similar to an egg, and for some reason it has arm cannons. It could be that Magmar was just so very loved before they introduced this final evolution, but Electivire, which is the evolved form of Electabuzz, delivered big. So maybe that argument is moot. It just seems that some Pokémon reach their peak of design, and should probably be left alone.
Rhydon is without a doubt one of the coolest first generation Pokémon. It is intense, strong, and seems to be the rock-cousin of both Nidoking and Nidoqueen. There was nothing more frightening than facing off against Giovanni in the final gym and seeing him use Rhydon as his final trump card. It sent shivers down the spines of trainers and their Charizards everywhere.
Meanwhile, Rhyperior was a huge leap in the opposite direction. This evolution is a giant rock-blob conglomerate that looks like it couldn’t get out of bed in the morning, let alone fight any battles. It was a textbook example of an evolution that was entirely unnecessary, and it hurts us to think that Rhydon, along with its whole evolution chain, was subject to this evolutionary torment. Take it from us: never give your Rhydon a Protector, nor trade it while holding one, for as long as you shall playPokémon.
As mentioned before, Electabuzz was made much better through its final evolution of Electivire. However, Pokémon also short-changed Electabuzz when they gave him a much better primary evolution, Elekid. Elekid is a troublemaking plug that is all sort of amazing and adorable. It's always looks angry at whatever situation it seems to get itself into, and it puts its secondary evolution to shame.
If Pokémon had any sense, they would have just skipped Electabuzz altogether and given us a dual evolution chain with both Elekid and Electivire, because they are some of the best designed creatures ever to be introduced. Another fun fact: the prongs on its head are actually its horns, which is uses to gather electricity during a thunderstorm, which is one of the greatest mental images in the Pokémon world. The only thing Electabuzz ever gave the world was an incredible entrance to one of the best maps in the world-renowned Pokémon Snap videogame (it gets blown up by Electrode).
Now before this gets too heated, a concession will be made: Gengar is an awesome Pokémon. Gengar is one of the best Ghost-type Pokémon to have in your team, and it’s incredible fun in the anime. The problem is, no Ghost-type is better than Haunter.
Haunter is one of the funniest Pokémon to ever be introduced in the anime. Basically it maniacally cackles, says its name (of course), and licks Charmander with its long tongue, freaking out both Charmander and the audience. Haunter is always having a good time, and it's almost always at the expense of some poor traveler. Haunter is also one of the best designed Pokémon, it looks evil and mysterious and undoubtedly entertaining, which matches perfectly with its personality.
It’s also interesting to note that Haunter is always plotting to take the life of its next unfortunate victim, and that it uses its tongue to steal the life force of its victim until he/she convulses and dies. The creepy thing about all that is both Charmander and Misty were licked by Haunter, but in keeping child-friendly anime tradition, they live to see another day.
Cyndaquil is one of the best starter Pokémon, the best fire Pokémon, and the best designed Pokémon ever introduced. Cyndaquil draws obvious comparisons to a shrew, and it almost always has its eyes completely closed when battling. It is also one of the most adorable Pokémon ever created.
Its evolutions Quilava and Typhlosion are very cool Pokémon in their own right, but they just don’t match the attachment to trainers that Cyndaquil is able to gain from a strictly stylistic standpoint. Quilava appears to be a badger type Pokémon, and Typhlosion is an ever bigger, even more pissed off badger. They were never quite able to catch the attention of trainers the way that their primary evolution could, and that seems to be a recurring trend in the Johto region games. Just looking at Cyndaquil can make you want to pick up your copy of Soul Silver and play for hours. Quilava and Typhlosion? Not so much.
Scyther was always a fan-favorite Pokémon. It’s intimidating, somewhat terrifying, and is basically a Praying Mantis ninja. Scyther are incredibly honor-focused Pokémon that compete in battle to see who will lead their swarms. It is able to camouflage itself, and is able to self-sharpen its forearms by chopping through harder and harder material. It is also the best Bug Pokémon introduced in the first generation, and it held the special honor of being one of the only single evolution Pokémon that existed through the first generation.
In the second generation, it was given a secondary evolution, Scizor. And Scizor is also an incredibly cool Pokémon, but the fact that it’s the only Pokémon that actually loses some of its stat prowess when it evolves, and that it picks up a four times weakness to fire, makes it extremely vulnerable. This is yet another instance where a Pokémon should have just been left alone.
Totodile is one of the greatest starters introduced into the Pokémon world. It is quirky, adorable, and somewhat of a menace. However, throughout all of its antics, it is an incredibly loyal Pokémon, and proved to be one of the best in Ash's roster throughout the anime TV series and movies.
Croconaw, on the other hand, is one of the worst evolutions introduced to Pokémon. Once again, Pokémon designers attempted to imitate the game's past and introduce a more battle ready and intense upgrade to Gold and Silver's starter Pokémon, but it fails on almost every level, from conceptual to practical.
Meanwhile, Feraligatr is just a giant blue crocodile that is far from memorable enough for anyone to want it as a permanent member of their team, and it is just another step further away from one of the best water-type Pokémon to ever grace our early Gameboy screens. Totodile deserved better.
Gyarados is the king of badass Pokémon in the first generation of the series. All Pokémon lovers can remember the exact moment that their useless excuse of a pocket monster, Magikarp, evolved into this giant tower of power that destroyed everything in its wake. And every Pokémon lover can also remember the torment that came with facing this Pokémon for the first time, only to realize that nothing you have can kill this beast.
Gyarados’ evolution is one of the single greatest/hilarious evolutions in the entire franchise, and it’s memorable even to this day when evolving a Pokémon whose only move does nothing whatsoever. Then came Mega Evolution, and the world rejoiced because we were finally going to get an even bigger, more terrifying, and dominant evolution to this water behemoth.
Instead we got a giant shrimp. Gyarados’ Mega Evolution is without a doubt the most utterly disappointing evolution throughout the series. All Pokémon should be able to relate to and reach out to a certain degree of the fan community, but it’s hard to believe that anyone was pleased with this terrible addition.
Aipom is the best addition to the second generation of Pokémon; a monkey with a hand at the end of its tail, which it used to reach into our hearts and make us rejoice for such an awe inspiring creation. Aipom is easily one of the cutest Pokémon introduced to the games, and it is equal parts troublesome. Aipom also grabs tree branches with its tail and sleeps hanging upside down, which is the greatest Pokémon discovery one could hope to make in the wild.
Aipom eventually fell into the same trouble as so many others on this list though when it received a secondary evolution, Ambipom. Ambipom is what happens to Aipom when it’s dunked in a vat of chemical acid and left to mutate. One would think the obvious next stage for the little monkey would have been a gorilla or just a lankier primate, but apparently he sprouts an extra tail with only three fingers, loses two fingers on its primary tail, and looks like something out of your worst nightmare. The Pokémon Company took the most adorable Pokémon ever and turned it into a monster, and now we’ll never teach Aipom Double Hit.
What Pokémon list is complete without having Pikachu present at #1? Pikachu is the mascot for the Pokémon Company, and is undeniably one of the greatest Pokémon ever created. And Pikachu’s evolution, Raichu, is great. But this isn’t a list about the “Top 15 Pokémon With Great Evolutions”, this is a list of the “Top 15 Pokémon That Are Better Before They Evolve”. And Pikachu is better before he evolves into Raichu.
One of the greatest episodes of the anime depicts this very thing, when Ash attempts to evolve Pikachu in order to defeat Lieutenant Surge’s Raichu and obtain the Thunder Badge. Pikachu refuses to take the evolution stone however, and instead gathers up all of its courage and defeats Raichu on its own. It’s a true “Rocky” story in the Pokémon universe, and from there on out, it takes all of our courage to give Pikachu a Thunder Stone. Pikachu is all that is great about Pokémon. And sure, Raichu is a fitting evolutionary step for the mascot, but he isn’t better, not by a long shot.
Do you agree with the selections made, or do you have some additions that you’d like to add in? Did we trash one of your all-time favorites? Sound off in the comments below to start up the conversation!