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Charmander is the best Pokémon of all time

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There’s an easy answer to this way-too-popular question

Charmander plush toy James Bareham/Polygon

When I met my first-ever Pokémon, Chary, he (or, technically, “it” — no genders in Pokémon Red!) was sort of a tiny, timid thing. He could cough up a little fireball when he needed to, but if faced with a Pokémon not susceptible to his flames, he clammed up. If his tail got wet, he was done for; heat does nothing to rocks, and neither do claws.

But Chary was my best friend, and for a time, he was my only friend — in Kanto, at least. He wasn’t just my obligatory starter Pokémon, Charmander; he was my trusted, lifelong companion. When he suffered in-battle blows and setbacks, I felt powerless, pained by his struggle. That’s what you do when my closest friends get hurt: You get hurt with them.

We grew together into a confident duo, as we bested impossible enemies and built out a complementary team. Everyone else in my party, it seemed, was there to help out Chary and me; we were the leaders of an unbeatable clique. When Chary finally evolved into Charmeleon, I felt a twinge of loneliness. This was not my beautiful fire-type dude; this was not my beautiful bestie. But one look into his eyes reminded me: Chary the Charmander was still in there. There’d be no Charmeleon without him. Heck, there wouldn’t be the greatest adventure of my life, my Pokémon Red adventure, without him.

I’ve written before about how all Pokémon should be our friends, unless they’re one of those monsters that should be deleted from the OG games entirely. (Please know that I have several issues with that concept, but that’s for another day.) But I’ve never made a Poké-friend I’ve loved as much as my Charmander. I don’t think that’s just because it was my first Pokémon, or because I have my own weird attachments and obsessions and Charmander is my favorite color, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

I think it’s because Charmander is the best Pokémon of all time, not just the best starter.

This is a subjective battle, not an objective one

There’s a really simple explanation for this. First of all, the question of “which Pokémon is best?” is already a fallacy. With almost 900 of these guys out there, this is a subjective battle, not an objective one. We can all agree that Magikarp sucks, and most legendaries are OP. But more often than not, if you’re asked about the greatest Pokémon ever, your personal fave is going to cross your mind.

Charmander will always be my first thought, because it’s the adorable lizard guy whose shy smile and burning little flame made me want to choose it immediately. Of course a Charmander doesn’t stand a chance against a Kyogre or whatever. That’s not what makes a Pokémon “best” to me. My strongest human friend isn’t my best friend, for example; otherwise that guy at my gym who always says good morning to me would be my closest confidant.

Like, yeah, sure. Maybe Evan and I (I think it’s Evan? I’m a bad person) will get really close sometime. But it’s other people that I’m going to tell my secrets to, or cry in front of, or whose couches I’ll fall asleep on at 2 a.m. That’s what Charmander is for me: a comfort friend. A comfort Pokémon. A best companion. It’s the only Pokémon I’d ever consider starting Pokémon Red with, because it’s my favorite Pokémon.

This is all from my perspective, obviously. If you didn’t start with Charmander — well, you missed out, for one. But you also may not have those same attachments. But, not to be rude, your take will never matter to me or sway me.

Go ahead and disagree if you want. But to me, Charmander is the best Pokémon of all time, and I’ll never budge.