Pokemon has been with us for 20 years now. Most of you reading this have essentially grown up with Pokemon as an ordinary part of your life. You watched the anime, you collected some cards, you patiently waited each generation of the game, and you’re probably currently playing Pokemon Go. You’ve been probably having fan meltdown after fan meltdown with all the recent announcements for Sun and Moon, such as with Raichu and Marowak’s Alola form. Or perhaps you’re just laughing at Exeggutor’s new form.
Well, considering how huge the Pokemon world is, spanning several regions, it’s no surprise that a few trainers of epic proportions have popped up. This list is a shout out to those who actually became the best. Though, it’s a little bit more than that, as this list will have factors such as difficulty, style, and Pokemon team; as well as cover trainer traits outside of the anime and main series of games. Now let’s get on with it.
He certainly is not the very best, but he is the trainer we all grew up with. Through his adventures we experienced the Pokemon world and all of its glory. We watched him transform from the kid who had a Metapod stand off to the kid saving the world on numerous occasions. He also has quite the army of back-up Pokemon that allow for interesting battles outside of him choosing Charizard or Pikachu. One of our favorite battles is when he uses Muk to achieve victory against Bellsprout. Who ever thought he would actually bring Muk with him into a tournament. Admittedly, he never fully grasps the idea of type advantage and seems to constantly put in Pokemon at a disadvantage. Thankfully, this has played a part into why he’s lost battles to gym leaders and other people, so it’s not like he’s getting off without any consequence.
Whitney is the gym leader of Goldenrod City and is the third city trainers must defeat to progress with the story. She is not only the quote-on-quote “incredibly pretty girl” of the Johto region, but she can be an absolute headache to defeat. Even if you personally did not find her difficult because you’re a grinder or you had a female team of Pokemon or you just got lucky, you definitely have heard a friend or two complain about Whitney being too powerful. We also all know the exact reason why. Her Miltank knew Attract, Rollout, Stomp, and Milk Drink. Talk about literally making a cow into a tank as she could wreck your entire team and when in danger, heal.
Blaine, through a mix of the main series of games, Pokemon Stadium, the anime, and the manga has had some of the most badass Pokemon on his team. If you’re all for Gen 1, and had a thing for fire then you will always adore his team. He rocks such beauties as Rapidash, Ninetails, Arcanine, and even a Charizard. Admittedly, he isn’t too difficult to take down in the games, but what puts him on the next level is the backstory created for him through the different media. If you read the manga, then you know he was the lead scientist under Team Rocket in creating Mewtwo. In fact, his own DNA is infused with Mewtwo in the manga, which is just epic. This backstory even ties a bit into the games with the burned building with all the scientist notes being on Cinnabar Island. Another fun fact about the manga is that he befriends the legendary Entei and creates the Master Ball that is used to actually catch Mewtwo.
Despite being an anime only character, Tobias has made quite a powerful impact in the Pokemon world. He entered into the Sinnoh League’s Lily of the Valley Conference and essentially terminated the competition with his Darkrai. Okay, admittedly, what do you expect when a guy brings a mythical Pokemon into a tournament? However, the more important question is how did he even go about catching something as powerful as a Darkrai? Clearly the guy has some skills as a trainer to achieve such a feat. Putting all of that aside, he literally has only shown two of his Pokemon and the second is a Latias. One can only imagine what other powerhouses make up his team.
Sabrina is one of those characters that you just can’t forget. Whether you were introduced to her in the anime, the games, or the manga; she makes a lasting impression. A major reason why is that she is the first psychic gym leader. In the anime, her gym was one of the more trippy adventures that dealt more with psychology than actual battles. In the video games, she is so tough because of how OP psychic Pokemon are, especially in Red and Blue. It honestly is one of the most memorable cities in the first games. Then in the manga, she’s not only a crazy strong psychic trainer but also one of the leaders of Team Rocket. She’s ruthless and awesome and causes quite a bit of havoc for the protagonists with her team.
As the leader of the Elite 4 and champion of the Kanto region, Lance is a force to be reckoned with. He establishes himself as a threat in the games, in the anime, and in the manga due to his mastery of dragons. His Dragonite and two Dragonairs are and always will be a threat but add to that a Gyarados and Aerodactyl, who despite not being dragons are quite terrifying and difficult to handle. Let’s not forget that his entire team actually knows hyper beam, which was a devastating in Red and Blue. Oh and in later games, like the remakes of Gold and Silver, a Salamence, Garchomp, Charizard, Altaria, Gyarados, and Dragonite make up his team. He’s simply a powerful opponent who always rocks a cape.
Another dragon master graces this list. Popular in both the anime and Black and White, Iris is adventurous and fun. Admittedly, she plays two major different roles in each. In the anime, she is one of Ash’s travelling partners and is training to become a dragon master. She definitely becomes stronger over the series and is one of the more exciting protagonists to watch. She definitely overshadows Ash in the season. In White though she acts as the leader of Opelucid Gym and then later in Black and White 2 she is the Unova champion, beating out the legendary Alder. Clearly stronger in the games then the anime, Iris has a team that consists of a Lapras, Haxorus, Druddigon, Aggron, Archeops, and Hydreigon. Aggressive, strategic, and kind to boot as she helps us defeat the Seven Sages at N’s Castle; Iris is a trainer to remember.
Let’s face it. The kingpins in each series (Giovanni, Maxie, Archie, and so on) actually are powerful trainers and have a pretty badass team of Pokemon. Their teams not only fit their personality, but make them downright torture to beat. Outside of being able to control Kyurem, Ghetsis has at his side consistently a Cofagrigus, Seismitoad, Elektross, and Hydreigon. It’s an eclectic bunch that is exciting and not based off a specific type, which makes him particularly fun and difficult to face off against. Considering Black and White’s amazing story, he is the ultimate person to defeat and one of the strongest trainers in the world. Admittedly, he isn’t a very kind trainer and uses Pokemon merely as tools, which is not very trainer like.
There really isn’t anyone quite as tough as her to be honest. In the anime and video games, her Pokemon are some of the toughest to beat. It’s not just that she has a team that consists of Pokemon like Milotic, Garchomp, and a kickass Lucario to boot. Well, that definitely does play a reason as to why she’s difficult as well as to why she is so awesome. However, her Pokemon are at a particularly high level to begin with and will require some grinding as well as a lot of strategic maneuvering. More than all that though, her character is extremely interesting and fun to interact with. She is how I imagine must of us would want to be if we actually lived in a Pokemon world. She is highly interested in Pokemon history and mythology and constantly spends her time exploring the world and checking out ancient sites associated with legendary Pokemon. Who wouldn’t want to do that?!
You/the protagonist in the Red and Blue video games, presented as the ultimate fighter in Gold and Silver. He also happens to be the main hero at the start of the manga Pokemon Adventures. Though, it’s us beating the Elite 4 as well as our rival to become the top trainer in Kanto, the fact that Red would have done it with or without our guidance became canon the moment they included him in Gold and Silver.
That was a pretty awesome move story wise for the creators as it brought Pokemon back to its very beginnings and made this one of the most intense and intimate battles in the series. Not only did it require us to travel up to a mountain where he awaits someone of his caliber (he really took his training seriously even after becoming the best), but he has the full evolved forms of the three starters, the iconic Pikachu, a dangerous Espeon, and a monstrous Snorlax. Outside the surprise of seeing Espeon, his team made so much sense considering the original adventure and each Pokemon was extremely difficult to overcome.
Apologies to those who expected to see maybe one or two more champions on the list, such as Steven or Wallace, as the champions are the supposed strongest. However, this list took more into account that just strength or difficulty for that matter, because then you might have seen more gym leaders like Lenora, who could be a pain to defeat. Nonetheless, these are the trainers who have held a certain impact on the series, whether video game or anime, and have earned the respect of most fans in one way or another.