The Best Pokémon Starter Trios, All Ranked

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Every single Pokémon adventure starts with a single decision: Grass, Fire, or Water.

No matter which region you choose, the journey begins the exact same way.

And it’s an important decision considering this can affect your entire Pokémon experience!

But not all beginnings are created equal. And the same goes for your starter options.

While you may have nostalgia for a specific trio, it’s just a fact that some are better than others. So after way too much research, I’m ready to tell you which starter trio is the best.

And the answer may surprise you.

In this list, I’ll not only be making the decision based on their in-game usefulness against gym leaders and the Elite 4, but also considering their competitive prowess as well.

To truly be considered the best starter trio of them all, you have to be able to cover both sides of that Pokémon coin. So without further ado, let’s get these trios ranked!


8. Chikorita/Cyndaquil/Totodile

Pokemon HeartGold / SoulSilver Starters screenshot

Raise your hand if you’re surprised.

Johto easily has the worst starting Pokémon, stats-wise, and this is mostly because of the Chikorita line.

Chikorita is a cute little bean with legs. But it is without a doubt the least effective starter Pokémon.

It resists none of the gym leaders or Elite 4 members (seriously!) while being weak or resisted by pretty much every gym leader and Elite 4 member.

And it’s just as bad competitively!

Cyndaquil and Totodile are better, but not by much.

The Cyndaquil line has great speed and decent Special Attack that’s great when combined with the move Eruption. It’s also easily the best of the 3 options in-game.

The Totodile line is not quite as good in-game, but can be pretty decent competitively.

Its combination of Dragon Dance and the ability Sheer Force makes for a truly powerful late game sweeper.

However, none of them are truly great – especially when compared to the other starter Pokémon.


7. Snivy/Tepig/Oshawott

Pokemon Black and White Starters screenshot

The Unova starters are probably the most forgotten ones on this list.

And while the Black and White games are some of my personal favorites, I can completely see why.

In the game, all 3 starters are at a massive disadvantage since they’re weak to or resisted by at least 6 of the major battles.

Also, they’re not that great competitively.

The Oshawott line is never really able to take advantage of the Shell Armor ability with its mediocre defenses.

The Tepig line has insane Attack and great Fire/Fighting STAB coverage, but it’s too slow to truly wreck shop.

But fortunately, the Snivy line has a really fun strategy to play out.

With the Contrary ability, Serperior can spam Leaf Storm and continuously increase its Special Attack. Combine that with decent speed and defenses, and Serperior is actually a credible threat!

Unfortunately, this doesn’t make up for the fact that none of these Pokémon are particularly useful in-game.

You just have so many better options with the likes of Whimsicott, Darmanitan, and Jellicent.

Which is a real shame.


6. Bulbasaur/Charmander/Squirtle

Pokemon FireRed Starters screenshot

A lot of people are going to be mad about this one.

But facts are facts, and the fact of the matter is that none of the Kanto starters are particularly good in-game.

This is obviously true with the Charmander line, which has always been considered “hard mode” due to its weakness to the first 2 gyms.

But the other two starters aren’t great either.

While the Squirtle line is good against 3 gym leaders, it’s resisted by 2 Gym Leaders and 2 of the Elite 4 members.

Even the Bulbasaur line, which is the best starter choice for Kanto, suffers with 3 “big teams” it’s weak against, and 2 more that resist it.

But I will give credit where credit is due:

All 3 Pokémon are decent competitively.

With various Mega Evolutions and Gigantamax forms, all 3 have seen decent competitive use, especially since Blastoise can now learn Shell Smash.

But the fact remains that in-game, the Kanto trio needs a lot of help.


5. Treeko/Torchic/Mudkip

Pokemon Emerald (ORAS) Starters screenshot

I’m not gonna lie, I wanted this one to be higher.

The Hoenn starters are my personal favorites. And I love everything about their designs and inspirations.

But the numbers don’t lie.

And the fact of the matter is, as a trio, Treeko, Torchic, and Mudkip are not as strong as some others.

The Mudkip and Torchic lines are great.

Mudkip is obviously great too with its awesome Water/Ground dual-typing, only being weak to 2 or 3 total Pokémon in the entire main RSE/ORAS story.

Mudkip I s also great competitively because of its bulk, and the aforementioned dual-typing.

Torchic is great because Fire/Fighting is also a great dual-typing.

This cancels out the original Rock weakness and gives a ton more coverage.

Combine this with the incredible Speed Boost ability that increases its speed every turn, and you have a real force to be reckoned with.

Then why isn’t the Hoenn trio higher?

Well, that’s because of the Treeko line.

Treeko, Grovyle, and Sceptile all look awesome. But they just aren’t effective in-game or competitively.

Even Sceptile’s awesome looking mega evolution is pretty lackluster, and it gains the Dragon-type!

Blaziken’s great. Swampert’s great. Sceptile really brings this group down.


4. Grookey/Scorbunny/Sobble

Pokemon Sword and Shield Starter Options Screenshot

It’s now time for the newest starters in the list (as of this writing). And what an interesting group they are!

While none of them are particularly effective in-game, Sword and Shield feel pretty balanced, and this trio has some really interesting competitive use.

The Scorbunny line is a massive threat with its great physical coverage, and the ability Libero which changes the Pokémon’s type based on the move it’s using.

This means the insanely fast Cinderace is getting STAB Pyro Ball, High Jump Kick, and U-turn. That’s insane!

The Grookey line is the most surprising, though. Since it has the ability Grassy Surge, it can take advantage of priority Grassy Glide. This move is absolutely incredible and allows Rillaboom to deal massive damage before any other Pokémon can even touch it.

Alongside Wood Hammer and Fake Out, these gorillas got game.

While the Sobble line is the weakest, it does have a really fun niche.

Combine its Sniper ability with a Scope Lens, Focus Energy, and Inteleon’s signature move Snipe Shot, and you have a critting machine. Plus it’s actually the best one to use in-game!

All 3 of these starters are a lot of fun – and are a great way to push us towards the top of the list.


3. Rowlet/Litten/Popplio

Pokemon Sun and Moon Starter Options Screenshot

The Alolan starters were hard to rank, since there aren’t any gyms in the seventh generation.

Instead I based their ranking against the Island Kahunas and the Elite 4.

When there was overlap, I only counted the trainer once. That leaves 7 total trainers compared to the 12 found in other games.

That being said, all 3 of these starters do incredibly well in-game!

Each has perfect STAB coverage, meaning that there aren’t any trainers who resist them. And this is the only trio where that happens!

Rowlet is the weakest of the 3 since it isn’t that great competitively, and is weak to half of the Elite Four.

The Popplio line is surprisingly great, having favorable type match-ups against 5 of the seven major battles! In fact, it’s only weak to 5 total Pokémon. That’s insane!

But the real strength here comes from the Litten line.

Not only does it do decently in-game, but Incineroar is arguably the best Pokémon in VGC.

With its great Fire/Dark-typing, access to the ability Intimidate, and great moves like Fake Out, Parting Shot, and Flare Blitz, it’s used on almost every single competitive team.

With all 3 being great in-game and having one of the best competitive Pokémon of all time, it’s no wonder that the Alolan Starters are in the top 3 here.


2. Turtwig/Chimchar/Piplup

Pokemon Diamond and Pearl Starter Options Screenshot

I don’t know about you, but I’m stoked for the Diamond and Pearl remakes.

And one of the big reasons for this is getting access to one of the best starter trios in the series.

The Turtwig line is probably the weakest, but it hits like a truck with STAB Earthquake and Wood Hammer. Also, it has incredible physical bulk.

The Chimchar line is a fan favorite that’s the rare combination of being excellent in-game and competitively.

It has the same great coverage as the Torchic line, except it already starts off really fast. Its Iron Fist ability allows it to use moves like Ice and Thunder Punch for great coverage.

But most importantly, the final evolution Infernape is easily the best Fire-type in its generation. This monkey is incredible!

But don’t sleep on the Piplup line just yet.

The final form, Empoleon, has the unique dual-typing of Water/Steel. This means it has a whopping 10 resistances. That’s insane!

And since it already can take care of one of its weaknesses with STAB Water moves, you only really need to worry about Fighting and Electric Pokémon.

All 3 of these Pokémon are incredible, both in-game and competitively.

However, there is one trio that’s better.

Much better.


1. Chespin/Fennekin/Froakie

Pokemon X and Y Starters Screenshot

I was just as surprised as you are.

Yes, this trio has Greninja – who is arguably the greatest starting Pokémon of all time with its incredible speed, and the abilities Protean and Battle Bond.

But the other two Pokémon more than hold their own.

Chespin is an underrated competitive Pokémon, with its eventual Grass/Fighting dual-typing. It has great physical bulk and is a great utility Pokémon with moves like Spikes, Spiky Shield, and Leech Seed.

It also has a great hidden ability with Bulletproof. This prevents the use of “ballistic” moves.

While this may sound confusing, it means that the Chespin line can’t get hit by moves like Shadow Ball, Sludge Bomb, and Aura Sphere.

But the real surprise here has got to be Fennekin.

The Fennekin line has always been dismissed competitively – and I understand why. Its stats aren’t that great, and its Magician ability is pretty much useless.

However, I was shocked to learn that Fennekin and all of its evolutions are easily the best in-game starter Pokémon.

Not only can it handle 5 of the important trainers in the Kalos region, but the Fennekin line resists 7 of those trainers as well – and gets perfect coverage with its Fire/Psychic dual-typing!

That means no matter who you battle, this starter is going to be useful.

It was a shock to me. But if we consider both in-game and competitive play, the Kalos starters are easily the best starter trio in all of Pokémon.

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Jeremy Hanna

Jeremy Hanna is what happens when you put all of your points into constitution and charisma. An improviser and writer for The Completionist, Jeremy loves Pokémon, LEGO's, Wrestling, and Golden Girls. Follow him on Twitter and say hi! @JeremyHanna753