Ranking the top Starter Pokémon in Generation One: Nuzlocke Edition

Few choices in a Pokémon game are as exciting as picking your very first Pokémon companion. Which starter you choose can have a big impact on the type of team you’ll build and how your playthrough will go, and nowhere is this more true than in the Nuzlocke challenge. With the stakes and the challenge level raised, this decision can set the tone for your run and be the difference between success and an early game-over.

For some general tips on how to select the best starter Pokémon in any generation , check out our four tips for choosing the right starter Pokémon. To make things even easier for you, we’ve gone through the Pokémon games region by region and provided a breakdown of which starters are must-haves, and which are better left at the Pokémon Lab. Here’s our breakdown for generation one.

Generation 1: Red and Blue

  1. Bulbasaur

In generation one, Bulbasaur gets our top ranking. Its grass typing gives it important advantages against the first two Gym Leaders (Rock and Water-types) and a resistance against the third (Electric-type). He also destroys Giovanni’s Ground-type Pokémon. Excellent matchups aside, what really sets Bulbasaur’s line apart in the Nuzlocke challenge is access to powerful status moves like Leech Seed and Toxic, which, due to a bug in generation one, stack to do enormous damage (and healing) if both applied on the same Pokémon. This strategy can be used to stall through most powerful Pokémon. Its Fire and Flying-type weaknesses can be mitigated by catching a common Rock-type or using the free Lapras you receive in-game. Overall, this Pokémon provides great type matchups and an incredible movepool, making it our top starter Pokémon in this generation.

2. Squirtle

Squirtle also makes an excellent choice in generation one, due to its good typing and great defensive stats. Similarly to Bulbasaur, it has handy type matchups against early Gyms and Giovanni, though the Electric-type third Gym gives it more trouble. Its Electric-type weakness can be countered by catching a Diglett (a guaranteed encounter in Diglett Cave) and its Grass-type troubles can be handled by catching a common Flying-type Pokémon. It has much better type matchups against the Elite Four than Bulbasaur, however, the player’s access to a guaranteed Lapras, which performs essentially the same function as Blastoise, makes that distinction less important. While it doesn’t have access to a broken tactic on the level of Bulbasaur’s Toxic + Leech Seed, it provides good value and is a great anchor to any Nuzlocke team.

3. Charmander

It’s probably not quite fair to call the iconic Charizard line the weakest starter in generation one; it’s still a fearsome Pokemon. However, its poor type matchups against both early and later Gym Leaders are certainly a drawback, and the unfortunate reality is that most of its type advantages (specifically against Bug and Grass-types) can be replaced by catching a common Flying-type Pokémon such as Spearow. It also lacks the great defensive stats of the Squirtle line, which are more important in a Nuzlocke than a regular playthrough. While an excellent Pokémon in its own right, it simply doesn’t offer much to your team that other common Pokémon can’t easily replace, and so it’s our least recommended starter for generation one.

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