5th Gen was an interesting time for Pokémon. Game Freak, sick of everyone ignoring their new creatures with each new game, decided to force players to only encounter new Pokémon in Black & White. This gave players a chance to really connect with 5th Gen Pokémon. People had no choice but to figure out their new favorites. No longer could fans retreat to the tried-and-true Pokémon of past generations.
As a result, fans are a bit more familiar with 5th Gen Pokémon than they are of other generations. Black & White ended up shaping the impressions that people have about modern Pokémon design even today. We felt it only natural to rank who we felt were the most notable Pokémon of 5th Gen. After all, these are Pokémon still being talked about even as we prep for 8th gen next year!
Everything about Garbodor emanates filth. Its appendages are made of garbage. Its head is the remains of a torn trash bag. Even its breath is putrid, as Garbodor exhales toxic gas with every breath it takes. This is thanks to the steady diet of trash Garbodor ingests. The only way to rid an area of a Garbodor infestation is to introduce Grimers and Muks to their habitat, which is essentially cutting off an arm to save the entire body.
Because of Garbodor’s trashy design, we can’t exactly say it’s the most popular Pokémon. In fact, it’s quite the opposite! Whenever you hear old-school casual fans of Pokémon (frequently referred to as “genwunners”) complain about how much better older Pokémon designs were compared to more recent ones, Garbodor is often the first to come up. They tend to not even know its name; Garbodor’s just “that trash Pokémon”. Sadly, Garbodor is always going to be infamous among the Pokémon fanbase as one of the least commercially appealing in the franchise. You can’t say it’s not memorable, though!
Should someone get this kid a belt? It looks like it’s having problems keeping its pants up. Actually, never mind; that’s just some of Scraggy’s leg skin. Scraggy’s body is fairly rubbery and loose, giving it a lot of durability. This is good, as Scraggy can be a tad confrontational. Scraggy really hates being stared at and will instantly challenge any Pokémon that makes direct eye contact. Maybe Scraggy should wait until it evolves into Scrafty, though, as it’s too young to handle tougher battles on its own!
The Pokémon that people latch onto tend to be the cute or cool ones. These are the ones that people would love to keep as a pet or groom as a power fantasy. However, we tend to forget that Pokémon can come in a different variety as well; the silly kind. Scraggy isn’t a novelty Pokémon any more than something like Slowpoke, but its simple design is just so goofy you can’t help but get attached to it. The Pokémon Company must have realized this and pushed for Ash to acquire one in the anime, where Scraggy remained one of his constant teammates throughout most of the Black & White arc. They didn’t even bother evolving Scraggy because people love its base form too much!
This snazzy-looking Pokémon looks like it brought its own pair of shades. Krookodile exudes cool in a way that’s not traditional for the series. Generally, when you think of Pokémon you want on your team, you’re thinking of the really sick designs that exude dominance. Krookodile is more sinister. It may not be the strongest Pokémon out there, but you can tell just by looking at Krookodile that it’s not afraid to get its hands a little dirty. It’s the sleek and dangerous kind of cool, like a good mob boss.
Of course, it helps that the anime advertised Krookodile a ton. One of Krookodile’s pre-evolutions, Krokorok, was a mainstay of Ash’s team during the Black & White arc. It came complete with its own set of shades, acknowledging the slick gangster design. During a climactic battle against Iris’ Dragonite during the Pokémon World Tournament semi-finals, Krokorok evolved into Krookodile and scored a win. What child couldn’t love Krookodile after that exciting match?
You might think that Emboar, with its dual Fire/Fighting typing, is based on a sumo wrestler. However, this is surprisingly not the case! Emboar’s design draws inspiration from the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West. Specifically, it’s based on the pig demon Zhu Bajie. Game Freak was continuing a theme they had started in 4th Gen with Infernape, who drew similar inspiration from Sun Wukong (aka The Monkey King).
Maybe if more fans recognized Game Freak’s Journey to the West references they would have been more understanding as about their third Fire/Fighting starter in a row. People were were getting a little sick of this particular type pairing, and Emboar was the brunt of a great deal of good-natured ribbing. People were starting to lose faith that Game Freak would ever create a fire starter of a different dual typing though. After Emboar, Game Freak has gone out of their way to make sure fire fans get a more unique combo to end with.
Bug-types have always been the laughing stock of the Pokémon world. They were the completely worthless counter to Psychic-types in Red, Blue, & Yellow, with none of them learning any Bug-type moves outside of Beedrill. When Psychic-types and Dark-types started falling by the wayside in later generations, Bug-types continued to fall into obscurity. Their only other strength was going up against Grass-types, which were never dominant in the competitive game to begin with. It seemed like Game Freak was going to allow Bug-type Pokémon to continue their descent into worthlessness.
That all changed with the introduction of several incredible new Bug-type Pokémon in Black & White, with Volcarona leading the charge. Bug/Fire was a totally unique type combination, which are always exciting to see in new games. That, combined with incredible special attack and access to Quiver Dance (which boosts the user’s special attack, special defense, and speed by one stage), Volcarona was a competitive force to be reckoned with. Black & White’s champion Alder even used Volcarona as his centerpiece Pokémon like Lance’s Dragonite or Cynthia’s Garchomp. Bug catchers everywhere rejoiced over Volcarona restoring the credibility of Bug-type Pokémon.
Does… that lizard have heads for hands? No, that’s not a creature from the works of H.P. Lovecraft. It’s Hydreigon, Black & White’s requisite pseudo-legendary Dragon-type. Thanks to Hydreigon’s unique Dark/Dragon typing and high special attack, Hydreigon found itself as a major force in the competitive meta-game of Black & White. In fact, Hydreigon’s reign of terror in 5th Gen may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. Fairy-types, which are immune to Dragons and strong against Dark-types, were introduced in 6th Gen to address the growing imbalance of Dragon-types. We can’t say for certain that Hydreigon was the reason, as Dragon-types were really in need of a proper counter anyway… but that added resistance to Dark-types raises some eyebrows.
Since then, Hydreigon’s competitive presence has fallen. Its popularity sure hasn’t, though. After all, there are plenty of Pokémon that are cute. There are a lot that are cool. There’s even a niche for goofy Pokémon. But how many Pokémon can claim they are legitimately kind of terrifying? We’d chance a guess and say slim to none. It’s not just the head-hands either; it’s those black and red eyes that line up perfectly with an internet troll’s idea for a creepypasta.
Pokémon don’t get more unique than Chandelure. Sure, most of the time Pokémon are stylized after plants or animals. You’ll occasionally get something inorganic like Magnemite or Voltorb. You can’t say you ever expected a Pokémon based off a chandelier though! Chandelure’s origins probably make a bit more sense to the Japanese audience. It’s based off a Hitodama; the fire spirits from Japanese folklore you often see in other anime and games. It’s a clever visual pun, combining the ghosts so familiar to your average Japanese fan with a more modern application.
Maybe that’s why Chandelure keeps popping up everywhere. We’re not going to say it’s the most recognizable Pokémon out there, but Chandelure certainly finds itself included in side material frequently. In Smash Bros, Chandelure showed up as an enemy during the Smash Run mode, which gave it just a bit more presence in that game than your average Pokéball Pokémon. Chadelure even made it as a playable character in Pokken Tournament, making it the only playable 5th Gen Pokémon!
Believe it or not, Zoroark and its pre-evolution Zorua were the very first Pokémon we knew from Black & White! Game Freak had high hopes for the not-actually legendary Pokémon, hoping to achieve the same level of popularity that Lucario managed in Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum. Zoroark got an entire movie devoted to it an entire year before Black & White came out! Make no mistake: Zoroark was primed to be the face of the oncoming generation.
While Zoroark never quite reached the same level of recognition of Lucario, it’s still a pretty notable Pokémon. Its central trait is that it’s able to create illusions so powerful that you’d never be able to tell you’re inside one. So, by 5th Gen, not only did we have Pokémon with the ability to travel through time and create life, we even had one that could distort reality as we knew it. The endless potential of Pokémon and the sheer mystery that surrounds them is encapsulated in Zoroark. We never know what’s in store for them next!
Never believe you won’t eventually be accepted. Just take a look at Oshawott! When we first got a glimpse of Oshawott, people mocked it. Its color scheme is busy, with a whopping total of 6 different colors on display. People weren’t thrilled with the departure from Pokémon’s traditionally basic designs, especially for the cute ones. Not only that, but that orange nose combined with that odd shell on its tummy made Oshawott look like a baby clown in a onesie. People were not thrilled, to say the least.
But… fans looked into those little doe eyes and couldn’t help but eventually fall in love. Perhaps it helped that Ash had an Oshawott himself for most of the Black & White arc. Not only that, but it never evolved throughout the course of the anime, so young kids got tons of exposure to the otter Pokémon. Now, while you’ll still occasionally find the odd holdout still complaining about it, you’ll find even more people who love Oshawott and its final form, Samurott. You can’t help but want to coddle it like your own child!
Sometimes you don’t need raw strength or gumption to succeed. Sometimes all you need is absolute confidence in yourself. When we first got a glimpse at the three starter Pokémon in Black & White, Snivy was the immediate favorite thanks to that smug look in its eyes. It was almost as if Snivy was saying to the audience, “Yeah, you know you’re going to pick me”. And pick it we did! In fan polls, Snivy has turned out to be the favorite starter of Black & White by a country mile.
Of course, people weren’t simply reading too much into Snivy’s personality by its picture. Series artist Ken Sugimori has admitted that he was a huge fan of Rose of Versailles and based the designs of the Snivy evolutionary line off his observations of French royalty from that anime. To remain consistent with that vision, Snivy has been portrayed as overly proud and viewing itself as better than others in all Pokémon media. The Pokémon Adventures manga takes this a step further by making Cheren’s Snivy a clean freak who views anyone getting him dirty as an insult, staying true to its kingly disposition.
Sometimes 5th gen gets of a bad rap from casual fans because it prevented them from retreating to the safety of their favorite Pokémon. However, it’s an important generation, and we feel this list represents the effect Black & White had on the future of Pokémon. It’d be a shame to forget about 5th Gen, as there are still plenty of incredibly popular Pokémon that originated from it.
Do you disagree? Did we miss any of your favorites? Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!