It’s a debate as old as time, or at least 1996 anyway. Which starter Pokemon was the best? Charmander, Squirtle, or Bulbasaur?
Obviously everybody has their own personal preference – and that’s great. But I’m here today to attempt to definitively answer the question, taking in to consideration stats, evolutions, and usefulness throughout the game. May God have mercy on my soul…
The first thing to remember here, is that a Pokemon’s base stats can differ. For the sake of this argument, let’s assume you grabbed your ‘mon from Prof Oak in Pallet Town and didn’t go to the effort of breeding a perfect killing machine.
Going from the Pokemon Database, Charmander’s attack and speed is great for a fast offensive, Squirtle should be the choice for defensive play, but Bulbasaur manages to be a decent all rounder that only just loses to Squirtle in terms of defense.
If you wanted to add up all the base stats and leave it there, Bulbasaur is the clear winner with 318. Charmander sits at third with 309, while Squirtle offers a modest 314 – but obviously there’s more to it than that…
What we need to consider next is how helpful each Pokemon was in those crucial early stages of the adventure. Remember how choosing Charmander made that pretty tough? He might look hard, like an orange Phil Mitchell – but early game he’s just not that useful, like an orange Phil Mitchell.
As you might recall, the first three gyms are rock, water, and electric. With this in mind, Charmander had the most disadvantages while Bulbasaur seems the obvious solution, as his grassy ways could smash the first two gyms and resist the shocking power (sorry) of the third. Meanwhile, Squirtle gets on just fine till gym number three.
A balanced team is important though, and there were ways around this for a dedicated Charmander user. If you picked up a Pikachu before the second gym you were on to a winner. The likes of Butterfree and Nidoran, were also on hand to help with gym number one.
Bulbasuar then, was your best bet for the early game, followed closely by Squirtle. Any Pokemon trainer worth his salt should never rely on just one enslaved animal, though.
Let’s assume at this point we evolved our starter into at least Charmeleon, Wartortle, or Ivysaur. If not, then get out of my sight. This stage of the game was where picking a fire starter appeared to pay off.
The next three gyms were grass, poison, and psychic. A Charmeleon could set the grass gym on fiah and had no explicit disadvantage in the others. Ivysaur didn’t do especially well with grass, and veterans will know he always has a very bad time against poison and psychic.
Wartortle struggled through the grass gym, though poison and psychic caused no real problems. I should also point out that were two majestic as fuck fire Pokemon (Vulpix and Growlithe) just waiting to be caught outside the grass gym, making your water starter’s life much easier and lessening the overall need for a fire starter.
Late Game And Elite Four
Again, we’ll assume that at this stage you had a fully evolved monster. Charizard, Blastoise, and Venasaur are all super strong, but the biggest change comes from Charizard who sprouts wings (standard) and gains the flying type.
The final two gyms were fire and ground. Charizard wouldn’t make much of a mark on either in terms of damage, while Venasaur would feel the heat in the fire gym but boss the ground gym.
OG Blastoise meanwhile, will demolish the final two gyms with ease. That’s what happens when you grow a fucking pair of cannons, yeah?
Getting through Victory Road was much easier with a Blastoise or Venasaur at your side. Then again, if you were headed to the Eliter Four without a well rounded team in your pocket, you needed to go rethink some shit.
Still, which starter made life with the Elite Four easiest on the whole? You had to contend with ice, fighting, ghost, and finally dragon type challengers. Charizard obviously had an advantage in the first half, but might have stumbled against the last two (especially against the dragons who knew water and rock based moves).
Yet again, Venasaur floundered the most through this final challenge. It’s almost as if a giant plant wasn’t any help. It’s our Blastoise that performed the most consistently, especially if you taught him an ice moves, which made the all important dragon battle a frosty breeze.
So The Winner Is…
Weighing it all up, the best starter Pokemon was Squirtle. That little blue fucker was (and is) undoubtedly the shit.
As we’ve established, he had the least type disadvantages throughout the game, could learn an incredibly convenient HM in Surf, was your safest bet for the Elite Four, and remained the most consistently useful starter for the majority of your adventure (especially in caves, and the ability to get through those bastards quickly was key).
Bulbasaur was the most immediately appealing, but had shortcomings that fast became apparent, while Charmander would certainly be the choice for anyone looking for a challenge, since he’s never really obviously useful.
Plus, by the time he’s a Blastoise, he could learn a great range of moves and had the HP and defense stats to soak up damage like a sponge. A sponge with cannons on its back. Because Blastoise has cannons – which had no bearing on this decision but is still unequivocally awesome.
Next time, I’ll be proving beyond all doubt which of the original 151 is the best. See you in a few hundred years.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.