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Gengar’s mouth is a literal portal to hell in Pokémon Sword and Shield

Listen closely and you’ll hear your loved ones calling you in

Gigantamax Gengar Game Freak, The Pokémon Company/Nintendo via Polygon
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

I am always conflicted by Gengar. He is cute and round with short legs — sort of like my dog. I want to squeeze him and hug him but I’m also terrified by him. There is something sinister hiding behind his smile. As it turns out, it’s literally a portal to the afterlife.

In Pokémon Sword and Shield, Gengar can enter Gigantamax mode where he becomes not only large, but his form changes, too. Essentially he goes from deadly baby to all mouth — a mouth that’s filled with “cursed energy” and leads not into his body but “directly to the afterlife,” according to Gengar’s Sword Pokédex entry. It gets worse in Gengar’s Shield Pokédex entry: “It lays traps, hoping to steal the lives of those it catches. If you stand in front of its mouth, you’ll hear your loved ones’ voices calling out to you.”


Of course, Gengar has always been a creepy cutie. In Pokémon Sun and Moon’s Pokédex, the Gengar entry got real — Game Freak had apparently been leaving out one crucial detail on Gengar’s backstory: It was once a human.

“[Gengar] apparently wishes for a traveling companion,” according to Moon’s Gengar Pokédex entry. “Since it was once human itself, it tries to create one by taking the lives of other humans.”

At this point, it shouldn’t really be surprising that the world of Pokémon is deep, dark, and devastating. Humans can become Pokémon — Kadabra was once a child and Yamask carries a mask of its former human face — and Drowzee eats children’s dreams. Dusclops is a black hole that absorbs anything. Phantump is possessed by the spirit of dead children. Mimikyu is apparently so horrifying under its disguise that a scientist who peeked under its “mysteriously” died. And who can forget Cubone, the Pokémon who wears the skull of its dead mother?

And this is not to mention the normal, everyday things that happen in the Pokémon universe: capturing wild creatures and forcing them to fight each other under the guise that they’re your best friends and companions. Scientists have created actual monsters out of dead Pokémon. In Sword and Shield, this all goes down in a region essentially owned by capitalist Chairman Rose, who nearly destroys Galar.

Xatu, a Mysteric bird-like monster, is said to stand in place all day long. Its Pokédex entry said people believe it’s “out of fear of the terrible things it has foreseen in the future” — probably the climate crisis warned of by Galarian Corsola, a bleached, cursed Pokémon that’s not unlike our real-world bleached coral.

Depending on what Xatu’s seen, maybe Gengar’s deep belly abyss isn’t so bad, after all.

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