The Ranking of Starters - A First Evolution Pokémon Starter Tier List

The starters of Pokémon Sun & Moon (Rowlet, Litten, and Poppilo) have finally had their first evolutions revealed, which means we now have the awkward, high school, teenage middle evolution forms of all two decades worth of starters to scientifically rank.

If you didn't read the original list for the unevolved starters, well, first check it out over here and second, this list uses some pretty exact science that I'll save you the boring details on to list all 21 of those grass, water, and fire friends that have just helped us past the first few gyms on our Pokemon adventures. We're not talking gameplay here. We're not talking their previous evolutions or next evolutions (though those do factor slightly into the equations). We're not talking where they fall in the great pantheon of Pokemon. We're talking just the starters, just their first evolution, Observed, Hypothesized, Tested, Analyzed, and Concluded within the following ranking system:

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S Tier - Give me a god damn plush of this Pokemon immediately so I may hug it.

A Tier - What a great design for a Pokemon. This is why I play these games, for inventive, yet simplistic designs like these that make me fall in love with these little loveable creatures.

B Tier - I can't help but nitpick the design, but I really, really do like them.

C Tier - I like the basis of the design, but there are some flaws that jump out.

D Tier - Needs a total redesign. Just toss them out and try again.

F Tier - Kill. It. With. Fire.

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(Note: This list is all in good fun and you will no doubt disagree with it. Feel free to comments below on how the science is wrong and your opinions are right.)

Ignore the site's ordering and read the description's ordering.

List items

  • #21 - Combusken - F Tier

    Combusken is the Pokemon that looks MOST like a penis and let me remind you that Onix, Medicham, Wailord, and Lileep exist.

  • #20 - Quilladin - F Tier

    Quilladin was designed by someone who is really, really, REALLY into inflation porn. They just took a Chespin, put a bike pump in their mouth, and just started pumping.

  • #19 - Marshtomp - D- Tier

    I feel bad for Marshtomp. They used to look a lot better, both in official art and in-game, but now they look like they just saw the end of the universe unfold before them and are having trouble mentally processing it all. That ten-million yard stare is just too much.

  • #18 - Croconaw - D- Tier

    Oh how the mighty have fallen. Totodile is the best starter, being just this lovable little crocodile scamp. Then they became a teenager and decided that what they were just way into being a caveman. I mean, we all go through terrible phases when we are a teenager, but cavemen are not, have never been, and will never be in style within modern pokesociety. Thankfully Croconaw abandons this embarrassing phase when they evolves, but they're stuck with the degrading memories of it that will gnaw at their soul for the rest of their life.

  • #17 - Pignite - D Tier

    If you sit Pignite against the previous entries on this list, they actually look half decent. But put in context of the rest of the series, where we have yet another animal-but-fire-based Pokemon standing up on two legs and becoming humanoid to do some fightin', and it's almost maddening how Nintendo could do this for three generations in a row. And it's not like Pignite out of context is great either. I mean, again, their design isn't nearly as bad as the previous members of this list, but they really have nothing going for them. You could tell me Pignite is a design from a low quality Pokemon fangame and they're generic and uninspired enough that I would believe you.

  • #16 - Grovyle - D+ Tier

    Grovyle is really kind of the Popplio of this list. Not in the way that everyone hates on them and they kinda deserve it, but because Grovyle really could be a better design if they just weren't as complicated. Their basic design looks good enough, but there are just leaves kinda coming out of everywhere with no real rhyme or reason to it. Why are there huge leaves coming out of its forearms? Is that a tail or the end of a tail or what? The frond coming out their head looks like cool slicked back hair, but you're so distracted by everything else that it gets lost really easy.

  • #15 - Monferno - D+ Tier

    They're a monkey with a fire at the end of their tail like Charmander, upright to start with them fightin's like Combusken, and a design that clutters the face and head with needless details that neither make the Monferno a better design to look at nor accurately harken back to the monkeys and baboons they're based off of.

    Much like Grovyle, the deisgn takes a fairly simple base and just cluttered needlessly.

  • #14 - Charmeleon - C- Tier

    Charmeleon is boring to look at when you put them beside Charmander. They're just a teenager Charmander with a giant FLCL-style pimple on their head and thinking they're too cool to wear orange.

  • #13 - Bayleef - C- Tier

    I used to have Bayleef much higher on this list cause I really like the Chikorita line, but I just couldn't justify it once I realized I was looking at them wrong the entire time. I thought those leaf-like objects around their neck were just that: leaves sprouting in a necklace like pattern. That's kinda cool! But they're not leaves, they're... weirdly cylindrical. And just kinda floating there, not really sprouting out of any part in particular. They're just kinda... there. With no visible explanation as to how. The more I look at them, the more confused I get, which is a shame, because I really like them just saying "fuck it, here's a dinosaur with a giant leaf coming out of their head" as a design.

  • #12 - Frogadier - C- Tier

    I want to like Frogadier much more than I actually do. Their design is solid, but they're kind of just "Froakie but longer". The most distinguishing feature they have over the original is that the cloud around their neck is less of a knapsack and more of a scarf, though its far too rounded to look like anything but just cotton ball glued together.

  • #11 - Wartortle - C- Tier

    I'll be honest here: Wartortle has bounced around this list so much. It's a constant struggle between the nice basic design of the body, great facial design, a tail that is both out of place and amazing when you realize it's based off of a wave's design, and those terrible, terrible ears. In the end, a compromise won, putting Wartortle just outside the top 10, but also firmly at the top of the "I want to like this design, but there are some glaring problems with it" C- tier.

  • #10 - Grotle - C Tier

    Grotle has some of the same problems as Turtwig did (weirdly shaped jaw, feet that are way too pronounced for no reason), but they somehow makes them all work a lot better. Probably because the way the body and the shell interact is better (giving them a little helmet, nice use of lines, takes focus away from feet and jaw as they're all the same colour now) and having a tortoise with a bush growing out their damn back is pretty damn cool.

  • #9 - Brionne - C+ Tier

    I respect a design that tries something new and has bigger flaws more than a design that is boring and works a little better. Brionne is definitely the former, where the design is way more cute than I thought they would go for. Watching them dance around (they apparently love to dance) and sleep like a little angel was adorable in the recent trailer, even if their big clown nose still freaks me out and I have no idea how their ears function. All in all though, Brionne is a big improvement over Popplio. Maybe there's hope for that ugly duckling after all...

    Plus, Brionne is one of the only starters that evolves to be more and more stereotypically feminine (ears become ponytail-like, the clown-neck-frill-thing becomes a dress, the eyes have defined cute eyelashes, etc.) and I respect that in a series where most starters tend to become more and more stereotypically masculine as they evolve.

    (Aside: I really hope this is the generation that Nintendo does away with the 7:1 Male to Female ratio for starters. In the past, the ratio was a game balancing mechanic to artificially make starters more rare (as breeding depends on the female's species), but with internet trading being just a few screen taps away in X&Y, starters were still really easy to get. Now it's just an archaic system that makes your first friend in the game unfairly skewed male. Hell, let me choose the gender of my starter. Why not? There's no gameplay or balance reason not to. )

  • #8 - Dartrix - C+ Tier

    Dapper Nick Robinson might have a great use of colour and a fantastic hair cut, but their weird inner wing (what are the orange parts supposed to be? Where are the leaves coming from?) and the beak that STILL looks like a eldritch horror mouth hanging open at the bottom with terrifying teeth on top keeps Dartrix from realizing their potential.

    Very nice and expressive facial animations though.

  • #7 - Prinplup - C+ Tier

    Prinplup's ridges on their head look like someone tried to impale their head with two sides of a broken yellow plate. What's wrong with just using yellow hair like real crested penguins?

    It bugs me, but the rest of this Pokemon's design is so solid I can't really knock them that much.

  • #6 - Dewott - B- Tier

    Dewott is much more otter-like than Oshawott's design, which is a major plus. I'm not too big on the whole "going to use these seashells as some sort of weapon from my dark blue skirt(?)" angle, but hey, everything else about their design really works.

  • #5 - Servine - B Tier

    Top 5 already and we're still not out of B Tier. This is how you know we're talking about the middle evolutions, folks!

    I love how the Snivy line becomes more and more snake/vine like as they evolve, getting longer but losing limbs in the process. The repeated leaf design for the spine and tail look really nice, as well as the outrageously big collar to, again, empasize the haughtiness of the evolution line. Really, the only thing I don't like about Servine is the little tufts of grass coming out the middle there where Snivy's arms were. They're distracting, have no purpose, and their design would just look better without them.

  • #4 - Torracat - B+ Tier

    The Litten line continues their dominance out of the new three starters. Torracat steals the Gen 7 show with their adorable whiskers, an adorable bell hanging from their neck that is actually just a fireball that reacts to their behaviour, and, like Servine, a definite attitude to them that I really enjoy (this time that of pride). Again, the marking of the design are bizarre, but they are a lot less out of place here than on Litten I feel.

  • #3 - Ivysaur - A Tier

    Ivysaur still doesn't quite live up the the "saur" part of their name yet and, sure, their body's design is very similar to Bulbasaur (now featuring the Gen 1 special: bigger teef and slightly darker tone), but the bulb progression to a flower bud (complete with a fanning of leaves to maintain the original green colour and contrast with the new pink colouring) just looks so cool. Ivysaur is a definite high point for not just the Bulbasaur line, but grass starters across all generations and evolutions.

  • #2 - Quilava - A+ Tier

    Adorable, but confident, Quilava is just a great overall design. Expands on the fire-quills nature of Cyndaquil by both giving them multiple jets on their back, but a cool (pun definitely intended) firey hairstyle to go with it. They're more weasel-like than mole-like now, but still offer a cool vision of a burrowing underground fire type that can now run fast along the surface with a low profile and powerful legs.

  • #1 - Braixen - A+ Tier

    Usually I'm not one for the anthropomorphic Pokemon as they continuously weird me out, especially when you've been exposed to the darker side of the internet that no amount of brain bleach to scrub away what you've seen. But the icky portions of the fanbase aside, I'm kinda really alright with the cute and cuddly fennec fox Fennekin becoming anthropromorphic if it means they become a badass witch.

    (I especially like that they did this with a fire type, because now the witches are the ones burning you!)

    Braixen does exactly what I want out of an evolved form for a Pokemon: they take the original design and reshape it into something new, without losing what made the original special. The colour scheme is maintained, with the white portions being used to distinguish not only their face but their arms and puffy shoulders from the rest of their dress-like body. Black is added to accent the skirt and drive home the witchier look. The ears maintain their Fennec-Fox-but-also-fire look that is the basis of the whole evolutionary line.

    And then there is the tail. The tail design is fucking genius. There are 4 major things the tail evokes: 1) the big poofy tail of a Fennec Fox, obviously 2) A big bushy broom with a broomstick coming out, the classic witch mode of transport 3) a roaring fire on a torch with the red tip accenting this nicely, which was the weapon used to burn "witches" in the past 4) The stick is used as a wand, the favoured weapon of a witch. If I can ever design something as smart as that, I'll have succeeded in my life.

    Braixen's design is full of such fantastic little touches, but they never sacrifice simplicity either. They have a really simple outline, are easy to draw, and recognizable no matter who drew it (all important aspects in character design when you're making a game designed for children).

    The middle evolution of most Pokemon lines are the most awkward, least interesting, and most forgettable, but Braixen has always stuck out as one of the strongest designs in not just middle evolutions, but in the entire Pokedex.

  • #0 - Raichu - Z Tier

    If you evolved Pikachu in Pokemon Yellow, you're a monster.

    Thank you for reading the list! If you feel it necessary to do your own experiment that might find different results, do so in the comments below!

    And now... some STATS!

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    Average Position for Water Types: 11.7

    Average Grade for Water Types: C-

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    Average Position for Fire Types: 10.7

    Average Grade for Fire Types: C+

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    Average Position for Grass Types: 10.7

    Average Grade for Grass Types: C+

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    Despite having 3 of the top 4 spots, fire types are still dragged down by Gen 3-5's designs, sharing the top spot with Grass in both grade and position. Water is at the bottom, but not by much, surprising as most designs hover around the middle with Gen 2 and 3 weighing them down.

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    Avg Pos - Gen 1: 9.3

    Avg Grade - Gen 1: C+

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    Avg Pos - Gen 2: 11

    Avg Grade - Gen 2: C+

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    Avg Pos - Gen 3: 18.7

    Avg Grade - Gen 3: D-

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    Avg Pos - Gen 4: 10.7

    Avg Grade - Gen 4: C

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    Avg Pos - Gen 5: 9.3

    Avg Grade - Gen 5: C

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    Avg Pos - Gen 6: 11

    Avg Grade - Gen 6: C+

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    Avg Pos - Gen 7: 7.3

    Avg Grade - Gen 7: B-

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    Surprising, but true! Generation 7 now has the best middle evolutions. Again, that holds about as much weight as saying you won a popularity contest in high school, but I think both the stats and my gut feeling are true on that one. As much nitpicking as I had with Brionne and Dartrix, I still think they're the strongest of any generation.

    The rest are kinda tied. Mostly because the middle generations are generally not exciting and largely forgettable and it's kinda just all one big pot of meh.

    And then there is Gen 3, which the less said the better.

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    Tune in next time for the maybe conclusion* of the series when we tackle the final evolutions. Whenever those are announced. Bye!

    *Not sure yet if I'm going to tackle mega-evolutions separately once those are all announced eons from now or just lump them in with the final evolutions.