Yes, Mewtwo is on the list. But who else made it?
The world of Pokemon features a class of Pokemon so rare and powerful they’re in a category all their own called Legendary Pokemon. Dozens have debuted over the many generations of the franchise, but IGN’s biggest Pokemon fans got in a room and battled it out to decide which were the best of the best.
Now, this is not a list of Legendary Pokemon ranked by power alone, although being a strong battler in the game and how they made a mark on the competitive scene was a key factor in our criteria. We also analyzed each Pokemon based on how well they were designed — how cool they look and how their appearance reflects their powers and personality. And we took into account the Pokemon’s lore and how it affects the greater world of Pokemon. We vetted these Pokemon not only based on their appearances in the core games but various spin-offs, the Trading Card Game, and the anime and movies to decide the best Legendaries overall.
It’s important to point out that Mythical Pokemon like Mew, Arceus, and Darkrai won’t be appearing on list this because, even though they are rare and powerful like Legendary Pokemon, they’re considered to be a distinct, separate grouping.
With that in mind, here are the 10 best Legendary Pokemon.
You can check out our ranking by clicking through the slideshow below or continue scrolling to read it as an article.
First Appearance: Pokemon X, 2013
When Fairy-types were introduced in Gen VI, no Pokemon showed what they were capable of better than Xerneas. It not only ended the reign of overpowered Dragon-types but proved to be a force to be reckoned with thanks to its stat-boosting signature move, Geomancy. Seeing Xerneas in a top-finishing team has become a common sight since its debut, showing just how big of an impact this Legendary has had on the metagame.
It may have a cute fluffy tail but those rainbow horns are all business, giving it a beautiful yet intimidating presence.
Xerneas also has the power to make forests flourish and restore people to life who have been turned to stone by its Dark-type, Yveltal, which is a rare and miraculous ability even among Legendaries.
First Appearance: Pokemon Diamond, 2006 (JPN release)
If there’s one Legendary Pokemon on this list that could be described as “totally metal,” then it would be Dialga. It’s a massive dinosaur wearing armor that uses the diamond on its chest to control time itself.
In battle, Dialga has a lot going for it: it’s incredibly bulky, has powerful attacks, and being the only Steel/Dragon-type in the game gives it an impressive nine resistances and one immunity, plus, unlike most Dragons, it’s not weak to Dragon- and Ice-type moves.
In the TCG, Dialga’s ability to manipulate time allows it to do downright unfair things like wind back the clock to devolve your opponent’s Pokemon or take two turns in a row.
In the movie Arceus and the Jewel of Life this spiky behemoth was called into action to stop a raging Arceus, which it was happy to do because rebelling against god is, after all, totally metal.
First Appearance: Pokemon Red Version and Green Version, 1995 (JPN release)
If the sound of thunder suddenly fills a cloudy sky, it just might be a Zapdos. This Legendary Bird’s design is the sharp, jagged representation of lightning. It even creates thunder with the flap of its wings and powers up even more when struck by natural lightning.
Zapdos may be number two in name, but it’s numero uno when it comes to combat ability. Zapdos’ superior typing gives it advantages over numerous Pokemon while having weakness to only two. Combined with its incredible Special Attack, great Speed, and well above-average defenses, Zapdos was a must-have on Pokemon Stadium teams, and its ever-expanding movepool includes utility moves like the health-restoring Roost and the devastating Heat Wave, landing it spots on competitive teams even today.
First Appearance: Pokemon Gold and Silver, 1999 (JPN release)
The standout of Johto’s three Legendary Beasts, Suicune is the embodiment of the north wind, which is evoked by its purple mane and dual streamer tail always rippling as though caught in a breeze. Suicune is the most elegant of the trio, at once a steely wolf and cute ice doggy, which no doubt contributes to its immense popularity. In fact, Suicune is a bit of a star, with plentiful, meaty storylines across numerous movies and anime episodes, making it one of the most prolific Legendaries of them all.
The fan favorite has shown up in spin-offs Super Smash Bros., where it wreaks icy havoc on the stage, and Pokken Tournament, where being a quadruped doesn’t stop it from pawing, biting, and blasting its way to victory. So, sure, Suicune gets the upper hand over other Legendaries from its sheer amount of screen time, but we can’t deny just how cool it is, either.
First Appearance: Pokemon Gold, 1999 (JPN release)
Who knew that when we watched the first episode of Pokemon the animated series, we’d catch our first glimpse of a Legendary Pokemon along with Ash? That beautiful, emotional reveal of Ho-Oh still remains an amazing shared moment in history for Pokemon fans as it showed that Ash’s journey was not only going see brighter days but be filled with untold wonders.
But Ho-Oh isn’t just special for its ability to create the most gorgeous rainbows ever — it can resurrect both people and Pokemon from the dead. That’s how it created the three Legendary Beasts from Gen 2, and is a truly awesome display of power. But though it can give life, it can also take it away with its Sacred Fire move: with 100 base power and a 50% chance to inflict burn, it can cripple opponents, and because Ho-Oh can finally spread its wings in competitive Pokemon again, it’s found its way back onto pro teams. It’s beauty and fiery brawn, all in one.
First Appearance: Pokemon Sapphire, 2002 (JPN release)
The majestic whale Pokemon Kyogre made a huge splash when it debuted in Pokemon Sapphire as the watery rival to the land-based Groudon. Their epic feud goes back to ancient times and formed the very earth and oceans. You know a Legendary is powerful and influential when its fights reshape the entire planet.
Arguably the best Water-type Pokemon ever, its impressive stats make it both an offensive and defensive threat, and its ability can alter the flow of battle by changing the weather, a trait that shaped the entire metagame for certain generations. You either had to use Kyogre or come with a solution to Kyogre.
Also, despite being one of the largest Pokemon, it can fly! Which we see it do in the Super Smash Bros. series when it pops out of a Pokeball and sprays fighters off the side of the stage, sending them to their watery doom.
First Appearance: Pokemon Diamond and Pearl, 2006 (JPN release)
If this were a ranking of the most terrifying Legendary Pokemon, then Giratina, the only Dragon/Ghost-type, would surely win. It’s said to have been so violent that Arceus – the Pokemon creation god – banished it to the Distortion World forever. But that hasn’t stopped it from finding a way out and snatching people back to its warped home, like it did to Team Galactic Boss Cyrus for trying to remake the world.
In battle, Giratina boasts incredible bulk and even better attack stats in its super creepy Origin form. Its signature move Shadow Force is a powerful Ghost-type attack that can hit through and permanently break Protect, meaning there’s no respite from this Pokemon crushing your defenses and dragging you into a timeless, space-warped zone of terror.
First Appearance: Pokemon Silver, 1999 (JPN release)
You know those three powerful Legendary birds from Gen 1? Well Lugia is their boss! The fact that this Legendary Pokemon exists to keep three other Legendary Pokemon in check shows just how strong it is, as we saw in the movie Pokémon: The Movie 2000. That’s also where we learned Lugia has a song, which is reason enough to rank it above those other Legendaries — where’s their song? Drop a hit single, then we’ll talk!
Kidding aside, Lugia’s obscenely high defensive stats are what make it so good in battle, earning it the nickname the Great Wall of Pokemon. It’s also a strong Colorless attacker in the TCG, meaning it can be utilized to great effect in many decks. And finally, Super Smash Bros. really puts the power of Lugia’s signature Aeroblast move on display because when it pops out of a Pokeball, it pretty much guarantees a stage wipe.
First Appearance: Pokemon Emerald, 2004 (JPN release)
In a game franchise chock-full of dragons, Rayquaza is the dragon. Though it may look like an angry green flying serpent of death, it’s actually one of the good guys, serving as the guardian of the sky in charge of keeping the peace between land and sea Legendaries, Groudon and Kyogre. Not to mention, Rayquaza defends the planet from extraterrestrial threats including incoming meteors and the aliens secretly hiding inside them.
When it comes to battling, Rayquaza, and more to the point Mega Rayquaza is disgustingly powerful and lightning fast, able to devastate entire teams all by itself. The same can be said for Rayquaza in the TCG where it’s most notable cards have no damage ceiling and can knock out even the beefiest Pokemon in a single hit. It’s also notable that Rayquaza has never had a villain team try to capture and control it as part of their master plan, and the reason for that is simple: you don’t **** with Rayquaza.
First Appearance: Pokemon Red Version and Green Version, 1995 (JPN release)
Was there ever any doubt that the Psychic-type Mewtwo would be number one on this list? The OG Legendary from Gen 1, Mewtwo set the precedent for what it means to be a powerful Pokemon.
Whereas other Legendary Pokemon are concepts of creation or manifestations of the planet, Mewtwo is actually an artificial Pokemon created by man, but we don’t hold that against it because, as we saw in Pokemon: The First Movie, that tragic origin led to the franchise’s most moving quote, “I see now that the circumstances of one’s birth are irrelevant. It is what you do with the gift of life that determines who you are.” Rayquaza may be cool as hell, but what life lessons has that thing taught us lately?
Mewtwo is the only Legendary with two Mega Evolutions, both of which are quite powerful in the right scenario, but it says a lot that just vanilla Mewtwo has long been an absolute beast on the battlefield with a versatile move pool able to be unleashed to great effect thanks to its high speed and even higher special attack.
Cards featuring Mewtwo that have made a mark on the competitive scene are too numerous to list here, but know that at one point Mewtwo got so oppressive that players could only beat Mewtwo with a Mewtwo of their own, an era hauntingly referred to as the “Mewtwo Wars.”
It’s no coincidence that Mewtwo is often the boss Pokemon at the end of the many Pokemon spin-offs, not to mention the only Legendary to become a fighter in Super Smash Bros. — it’s the be all, end all Legendary Pokemon.
Which Legendary Pokemon would make your Top 10 list? Let us know in the comments!
Joshua is Senior Editor of IGN Comics. If Pokemon, Green Lantern, or Game of Thrones are frequently used words in your vocabulary, you’ll want to follow him on Twitter @JoshuaYehl and IGN.