The Pokemon series is known for introducing hundreds of new creatures with every generation, but with that comes a host of new trainers to battle as well. Fans look forward to gathering their eight badges, challenging the Elite Four, and taking down the reigning Champion of the given region.
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Every Champion is tough in their own right. But compared to one another, which one is the best of the best? Let’s look at and rank every generation’s Pokemon Champion from Kanto up until the Paldea region in Pokemon Scarlet & Violet.
Updated January 2, 2023, by Jeremy Hanna: Every generation of Pokemon brings with it a new champion, but Pokemon Scarlet & Violet changes things up by making champion a rank and not a title. That means that there are technically two new champions to introduce: Nemona and the Top Champion Geeta. However, there are some previous champions missing from this list as well. Wallace represented Hoenn in Emerald, Trace represented Kanto in Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee, and Professor Kukui filled the same role as Hau in the original Sun & Moon. So let’s add all of them in and see how that affects things.
Technically the Alolan Islands don’t have a champion since the Pokemon League is established during your Pokemon Sun & Moon adventure with your help. However, once you defeat the Elite Four, you have to prove your strength by battling one last time against the region’s professor: Kukui.
The true identity behind the Masked Royal, Professor Kukui’s team is varied and changes depending on who you chose as your starter. It has some decent hard hitters, solid walls, and plenty of coverage. If Kukui was actually a Champion, he’d be much higher.
While Kukui fills that Champion hole in Sun & Moon, your rival Hau does this in Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon. Like Blue, who we’ll talk about later on this list, you interact with him constantly which develops a relationship between the two of you. However, it doesn’t hit quite as hard since he’s relatively affable the whole game.
Like Kukui, Hau’s team changes based on which starter you chose at the beginning of the game, but you’ll have an advantage over whichever one he chooses. Unlike Kukui though, Hau’s team is built more around speed instead of bulk. This is interesting but doesn’t make that much of an impact. At least he’s better than his grandpa.
Some very intense debate exists surrounding whether N is technically a Champion or not. When you first fight the Unova Elite Four in Black & White, you’ll find him standing in your way afterward, with the real Champion nowhere in sight. It turns out that, by the time you arrive, N has already defeated Alder. Is N now the Champion? Or is the Unovan system more complicated than that?
Regardless, N serves as the first “Champion” fight of Black & White, so we’re going to include him here near the bottom even if he’s not the easiest Champion fight. His team is very good, featuring good type coverage and strong ‘mons. The fact that he has a Legendary Pokemon (Zekrom or Reshiram depending on which version you have) also shouldn’t be ignored.
Finally, someone who actually holds the title of Champion! Unfortunately, it’s the most forgettable Champion in the series. In Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee, Trace fills the slot that Blue filled in the original games, but he doesn’t make the same impact.
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Trace’s team can actually be pretty decent, with good coverage and some strong teammates. However, you need to have full movesets to capitalize on this and, for some reason, Trace doesn’t do that. To put it lightly, Trace is a bad trainer. The only reason he isn’t at the bottom is that the previous three entries aren’t technically Champions.
Alder is the type of champ who looks cool and is kind, but when it comes to the battling part he leaves a lot to be desired. It makes sense that he wouldn’t have a difficult or meta-based team considering he places a lot of importance on the relationships between humans and Pokemon.
He talks about the idea that your skill as a trainer involves a lot more than your skill in battle. That’s great in theory, but his team is all over the place and is especially weak to Rock and Fire-type attacks. Fun fact: since three of his six Pokemon are Bug-types, he’s technically a Bug-type specialist. Who knew?
Lance is a proud dragon-tamer who players know pretty well thanks to his appearing multiple times throughout the series’ long-running history. He made his first appearance as a member of the Kanto region’s Elite Four in Pokemon Red & Blue but reappeared as the Champion in the Johto games after Red stepped down.
Since Lance trains Dragon-types, all you really need is an Ice-type Pokemon to beat him. However, half of his team is either neutral or has an advantage against Ice-types. That means now you just need a Water-type with Ice-type moves. So there you go.
Pokemon X & Y are overlooked and forgotten nowadays, but they’re home to some of the most stylized and interesting characters — including Diantha. Unfortunately, her battle lacks any real difficulty and takes away any true sense of accomplishment for trainers.
The only reason she’s this high on this list is that her team includes a very interesting mix of Pokemon, including the super-cool Hawlucha and Tyrantrum, as well as the highest-leveled team on this list that isn’t post-game. But her team has a lot of weaknesses, including Ice and the newly introduced Fairy-type.
While Steven is more often recognized as the Hoenn region’s Champion, Wallace filled that position in Pokemon Emerald. Moving on from being the eighth Gym Leader, Wallace updated his team and actually made it a challenge.
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Luvdisc, Sealeo, and Seaking are gone, having been replaced with Wailord, Tentacruel, and Ludicolo. And while we’re at it, why not add a Gyarados in there? This makes Wallace’s Water-type team easily the strongest mono-type Champion team.
Geeta is in charge of Paldea’s Pokemon League and holds the title of Top Champion. This means that she decides who is a Gym Leader and what trainers can participate. In order for a trainer to achieve the rank of Champion, they have to get through her first.
Geeta’s team has a good balance between bulk and speed, meaning she can either whittle your team down or sweep through them depending on her mood. Especially look out for her Kingambit, Espathra, and Veluza. However, her ace Glimmora can be a surprise that most players won’t be ready for.
Blue may have been Kanto’s Champion for a short time, but he was definitely one of the most memorable. Throughout the entirety of the original games and their third-generation remakes, Blue was always one step ahead and taunting you while he was there. It was infuriating, but made beating him that much more satisfying.
His teams always have a ton of variety, and have only improved over the years with monsters like Gyarados, Alakazam, and Arcanine. To make matters worse, he also chose the starter that had an advantage over you, unless you were playing Yellow. Even more than 20 years later, Blue is one of the most memorable characters in Pokemon, period.
There are a lot of people who are going to be angry that Nemona ranks higher than Blue, but the facts cannot be denied. Even when she’s at her strongest, Nemona is just better. Your rival for Scarlet & Violet, Nemona is a Champion-level trainer who guides you on your journey.
A lot of this is because her team is made up of lots of interesting Pokemon as well as a ton of ability-based immunities. All of her Pokemon can also hit a wide variety of opponents for super-effective damage. It’s even more impressive that this team isn’t her original Champion team. Nemona really is the real deal.
Leon may be one of the newer Pokemon Champions, but he’s made a name for himself in that short amount of time. Galar’s unique tournament format means that he has to constantly be at the top of his game in order to defend his title and you can definitely see that in his team.
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Two of Leon’s Pokemon rotate based on your starter, meaning that he has a type advantage against you as well as plenty of move variety. Also, it’s hard not to be a fan of a guy with a Charizard which he can Gigantamax in battle whenever he likes. It’s said that Leon is undefeated in any title match, which makes it even more satisfying to defeat him and take that Championship title for yourself.
On the surface, Iris may seem like a female clone of Lance as she’s a champion sporting a Dragon-centric team, but don’t let that fool you. Without Fairy-types at your disposal and the game not giving players a lot of chances to snag some Dragon-types of their own in the game, her battle can feel like a brick wall for challengers.
Iris carves a path all her own and showcases how formidable a true tamer of dragons can be. Plus, her team gets even more threatening in Challenge Mode, when she takes full advantage of items and competitive movesets. Iris is the trainer Lance wishes he was.
Steven quickly earned the admiration of players, approaching them as a friend who will test their skill and determination. His team is comprised of very difficult and frustrating dual-typed Pokemon that can cause real headaches in battle if you go in unprepared, especially in their original games.
Many of his partners are the types of Pokemon who can withstand hits from typed moves that would normally be super-effective. Steven’s words come off as a friend who only wants to make you better and less like a master speaking to his apprentice.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a hardcore Pokemon fan who doesn’t consider Cynthia as the best champion of any generation. When talking to Cynthia, players quickly discover that she grew up as a normal Pokemon trainer and worked her way to the top, thanks to perseverance and an unrelenting work ethic. And her tough-as-nails team reflects that.
Each of Cynthia’s Pokemon can be a pain to fight and they cover one another’s weaknesses, whether you’re playing the original Diamond & Pearl or their Brilliant & Shining remakes. Following the release of the remakes, social media was buzzing with trainers wondering if they’d lost their skill in Pokemon battling or if the games grew in difficulty. It turns out they simply forgot just how difficult of a Pokemon Champion Cynthia was all this time.
NEXT: Pokemon Scarlet & Violet: Each Member Of The Academy Ace Tournament, Ranked By Difficulty