While there are many aspects of Pokemon gameplay that draw players to the series, without villains to scoot each game’s narrative along there wouldn’t much of a game.
In honor of these villains’ supreme importance, we’re ranking the villains from each generation of Pokemon from worst to best. Judgments will be made based on evil masterplans, memorability, costume design, maniacal personalities, and anything else that pops to mind. While that means this is a pretty subjective list, there are definitely a few things we can all agree on.
5.) Team Flare, Pokemon X and Y
Team Flare might be the most stylish group of villains to grace the Pokemon games, but these bad guys from Pokemon X and Y feel uninspired compared to previous generations.
This isn’t for any lack of trying, however. Instead of introducing Team Flare as a group of crazy evil-doers set on world conquest, Pokemon X and Y sets them up as a group set on preserving the world for the good and decent people who won’t ruin it.
Lysandre, the billionaire philanthropist leader of Team Flare, frequently complains that the world is full of bad people, and predicts disaster, overpopulation, and stagnation because of this.
This attempt at connecting Team Flare to real and prevalent issues in our own society falls flat through his maniacal ramblings and illicit doings. It’s clear from the player’s first meeting with Lysandre that his ideals are perverted, and it comes as no surprise when he announces that he has decided to wipe out all life on the planet.
Overall Team Flare fails to endear themselves to players, being neither comically bad nor reaching true anti-hero status. Lucky for us that Pokemon X and Y had so much else to offer.
4.) Team Galactic, Pokemon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum
Like Team Flare, Team Galactic is not exactly the most memorable bunch of villains that Pokemon has offered up. Despite logging hundreds of hours on Pokemon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum I still had to do a quick google search to remember who they were.
Led by Cyrus, Team Galactic is convinced that the human spirit is ruining the world. Therefore with the help of Palkia and Diagla (they have special powers that can mess up the space/time continuum), they want to re-vamp reality.
At the time that Pokemon Diamond and Pearl were released, Team Galactic was the first group of Pokemon villains to blame human beings for the world’s ills, making them stand apart from Team Rocket and Teams Aqua/Magma from previous generations.
Despite that innovation, the team fails to stand out narratively and visually, ultimately feeling like a Team Aqua/Magma clone. You’ve got to hand it to Cyrus though, he did pick some rather lovely ladies as administrators for the team.
3.) Team Magma/Aqua, Pokemon Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald
Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire’s release in November signals the return of Teams Magma and Aqua for Pokemon fans everywhere, and if we were solely ranking Pokemon villains based on intelligence they wouldn’t have made it this high on the list.
Team Aqua is convinced that the world’s surface should be comprised solely of water based on their love of aquatic Pokemon, while Magma attempts to add more landmass to the world due to their love of land.
No matter which team you end up facing in the end (which is based on which version of generation 3 you play) it’s clear that neither team has fully understood the consequences of their actions by the way they panic once they succeed in waking Groudon/Kyogre.
As the silliest and perhaps the stupidest team of villains in Pokemon history, they are particularly memorable – though easily dealt with. Though each team leader will wield a Mega evolved Pokemon in the upcoming remakes, it’s unlikely the teams have evolved beyond their childish ideas in any way.
2.) Team Plasma, Pokemon Black and White, Black 2 and White 2
If Teams Magma and Aqua are the least intelligent Pokemon villains, then Team Plasma is the most intelligent group.
Instead of seeking world domination in one form or another, Team Plasma seeks to separate Pokemon from humans due to their belief that humans don’t treat Pokemon properly, and inhibit their ultimate development.
If you’ve ever gotten a Pokemon nicknamed “Peni5” in WonderTrade, or sat down and thought about the hundreds of Pokemon you “released” while trying to breed a shiny, then you might have noticed that players don’t always take the best care of Pokemon – which is fine, it’s just a game.
While Ghestis – the leader of Team Plasma – eventually confesses that his altruistic rhetoric was just a ploy so that he would be the only Pokemon user in the world, the narrative resonated with many Pokemon players.
1.) Team Rocket, Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow
I honestly spent quite a long time debating whether or not Team Rocket deserved to be the best-ranked Pokemon villain team. After watching so many episodes of the Pokemon anime, it’s hard to separate Jesse, James, and Meowth from the original Team Rocket that appeared in the video games.
Yet more so than any other group, Team Rocket is just a rotten group of straight-up criminals.
Whenever you encounter Team Rocket in Pokemon Red and Blue or Pokemon Gold and Silver, they’re just sitting around trying to make money by any evil means they can think of. Sometimes this involves stealing Pokemon, sometimes this involves cutting off Slowpoke tails, and sometimes this involves experimenting with Pokemon evolution.
Whatever Team Rocket is doing, they’re doing it for the sake of power and domination – never for misguided altruistic goals and never ever for the sake of Pokemon.
With the least ludicrous narrative and the highest concentration of pure malice, Team Rocket is definitely the best villainous group in the Pokemon games.