Best Kanto HM Slaves in FireRed & LeafGreen (And Gen I R/B/Y)This post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
Game Freak removed HMs in gen 7 and replaced them with PokéRides. So you no longer need to dedicate a move slot to traverse through water, or to clear those pesky obstacles that block your way.
And even the newest remakes of the gen I games, Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee, didn’t bring back HMs.
But if you’re going back through some older games, you might want some recommendations for HM users.
This brings us to this ranking of the best HM Slaves in Kanto.
This list covers the gen I games (Red, Blue & Yellow), as well as their gen III remakes, Pokémon FireRed and Leaf Green.
These each have very different distributions of HM moves, so this list is split into two sections: first are HM slave recommendations for RBY, then a section for FRLG.
There are some Pokémon that show up in both lists, but since the HM move distributions are so different, a Pokémon might be great in one generation, but not the other. So with all that said, let’s get to it!
Best Pokémon Red, Blue & Yellow HM Slaves
5. Nidoking/Nidoqueen (Surf & Strength)
In Pokémon Yellow, Nidoking and Nidoqueen are easiest Pokémon to obtain that can both learn Surf and Strength.
Their pre-evolution, Nidoran, can be found in Route 9 with a combined encounter rate of 60%.
Nidoran (both male and female) are easy enough to get to level 16, good enough to evolve them to Nidorina/Nidorina.
Then you’d just use the Moon Stone you found in Mt. Moon and you’re already good to go. Not to mention, the Nido evolutions are pretty strong too.
Where to get: Route 9 (Yellow), or Route 22 (Red/Blue)
4. Slowpoke (Surf & Strength)
Slowpoke is the easiest Pokémon to snag that can both learn Surf and Strength in Red/Blue.
You can get one as soon as you get the Super Rod by fishing in the small pond in the center of Celadon City.
And unlike Nidoking or Nidoqueen, you can just catch Slowpoke and you’re good to slap on those HMs.
Plus, Slowpoke also learns Dig, which is helpful when you want a quick exit without an Escape Rope.
Where to get: Celadon City or Route 10 via Super Rod (Red/Blue)
3. Sandshrew (Cut & Strength)
Let’s be honest:
when you’re making a team, there’s a good chance you already have a Pokémon that has Surf or Fly, since both are great moves in battle.
The only HM moves that you may not want to use in battle are Cut and Strength, since they’re Normal-type moves which don’t have super-effective matchups. And Flash is… yeah, let’s not talk about Flash.
Sandshrew is one of a few select Pokémon that can both learn Cut and Strength.
It’s also available early in the game, Route 11 in Blue and Route 4 in Yellow.
Like Slowpoke, it can also learn Dig, which is always great for your typical HM slave.
The problem with Sandshrew is that it’s not available in Red. But if you’re playing Red then keep scrolling, we have nice option for you.
Where to get: Route 11 (Blue) or Route 4 (Yellow)
2. Farfetch’d (Cut & Fly)
Farfetch’d is the best Flying-type that can learn another HM other than Fly.
The other options are either Zapdos, Mew, Dragonite, or Charizard (in Yellow), all of which have better things to do besides being an HM user.
Since Farfetch’d can learn both Cut and Fly, it pairs extremely well with your Surf-Strength HM user of choice. And this basically covers all the useful HMs in the game.
The only issue with Farfetch’d is that it’s extremely rare in Yellow.
In Red/Blue, you can easily get Farfetch’d from a trade in Vermilion City, in exchange for a Spearow.
In Yellow, however, you can catch one on Route 12/13 at an absurdly low 1% encounter rate, and this area requires Cut to enter.
Where to get: Vermillion City via Trade w/ Spearow (Red/Blue) or Route 12/13 (Yellow)
1. Krabby (Cut, Surf, & Strength)
Like Sandshrew, a simple Krabby can learn both Cut and Strength.
And if you’re playing Red, Krabby is a great Sandshrew alternative here.
But since Krabby also learns Surf as well, it pairs nicely with Farfetch’d.
All in all, if you already have a Pokémon that has Fly and Surf in your party, then either Sandshrew or Krabby is a good fit.
There aren’t any standout HM slaves in this generation since the distribution of HM Moves is terrible.
Thankfully, they changed this in Generation III, so you’ll see the more traditional HM slaves pop up in there.
Where to get: Vermillion City via Super Rod (Red/Blue), Route 10 (Yellow)
Best Pokémon FireRed & LeafGreen HM Slaves
5. Psyduck (Surf, Strength, Flash, Rock Smash & Waterfall)
Psyduck can learn five HMs, the most out of any Pokémon on this list, and it’s only beaten by Dragonite and Mew.
While this is a great candidate for an HM user, there are two reasons why it’s placed this low in this list:
It’s exclusive to FireRed, and it can’t learn Cut.
I think Cut had better distribution in Generation III compared to Generation I, so not learning Cut hurts it a lot.
Plus, Flash and Waterfall only get used once during your playthrough. They just aren’t as important as Cut, which is useful not just in the main story, but also in Sevii Islands as well.
Where to get: Viridian City and Routes 22 and 23 via Surfing (FireRed), or via trade (LeafGreen)
4. Krabby (Cut, Surf, Strength, & Rock Smash)
Krabby learns the four required HMs to beat the story.
That’s good enough for me!
The only issue with Krabby is poor availability. You need a Good Rod to fish for one, which you can get in Fuchsia City. That’s a bit late into the game.
So there are just better HM Pokémon that can be acquired way earlier in the game.
By the time you can catch Krabby, you’re probably at the Gym in Fuchsia City. You already have to use Cut before the 3rd Gym in Vermilion City, so that’s a wash…
If you can trade yourself a Krabby early in the game, then it’s a fantastic choice.
But the next few Pokémon are placed higher since they’re just great early game options.
Where to get: Cerulean City, Vermillion City, and Routes 12, 13, and 19 (Good Rod)
3. Paras (Cut & Flash)
Flash is not a required HM. But you get access to Cut and Flash around the same time.
Paras is a useful early game HM slave to make use of these.
It’s available in Mt. Moon, and has a 100% encounter rate in the tunnels. So it’s really easy to obtain, and useful for the earliest HMs that you’ll need.
It also learns Dig, which is always useful.
Where to get: Mt. Moon (Tunnels)
2. Meowth (Cut & Flash)
Like Paras, Meowth is also a useful early game HM user.
Meowth is available much later, but still easy to get before you need HM01 (Cut).
Meowth’s advantage over Paras is its default ability: Pickup.
Pickup is great if you’re traveling around, since you get free items every so often. And it’s a great source for farming Berries, which are kinda rare in FireRed and LeafGreen.
Where to get: Routes 5 and 6
1. Nidoking/Nidoqueen (Cut, Surf, Strength, & Rock Smash)
Here we go again, except this time, they’re taking the top spot.
The best thing about Nidoking/Nidoqueen is that they’re both useful in battle, even outside of just catching a Nidoran.
Both Nidoran genders can learn Cut, Strength, and Rock Smash. So you can use them as early game HM slaves even before evolving.
They’re available on Route 3 just before Mt. Moon. Easy peasy.
And once you need Surf, you can level them up and evolve into your king or queen via Moon Stone. To be honest, by this point in the game you’ve probably already evolved them!
Plus, if you already have a Surf and Fly user in your party, you don’t even need to evolve Nidoran. It can be your sole HM slave until you beat the story, and you can save that Moon Stone for something else.
Where to get: Route 3 and Safari Zone