A less analytical post, because, hey. Pokemon’s a fun topic.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past two decades, you know Pokemon. You might think of it as a complex competitive strategy game, a great RPG series, a silly anime, or even just that one game series that only nerds keep up with, but regardless. You know it. The series has been through 721 Pokemon throughout six generations, with a seventh coming very soon. And each generation comes with better graphics, improved mechanics, and of course, a new plot.
At the center of the actual story of Pokemon games (like we actually play Pokemon games for the story, amirite) we have a young Pokemon trainer, working to become the greatest of their region. Along the way, they must fight the eight gym leaders, the Elite Four, and the Champion of the region: but beyond that, they always must confront a villainous “Team.” This team guides the plot, provide a concrete bad guy to take down, and overall, makes your trip through the Pokemon world a bit more interesting, than simply trying to catch them all.
That being said, I do have my favorites among the five teams. Of course, Pokemon isn’t normally all about the story, so I don’t really like judging based on the complexity of the plot, but rather, some teams just stand out. They have cooler outfits, more memorable characters, complex motivations, a presence throughout the game, etc. etc. Today, I’ll simply be ranking my favorite Pokemon villain teams, and talking a bit as to why they’re ranked as such.
#5: Teams Aqua and Magma
Straight from the third generation, we’ve got the environmental extremists themselves, Magma and Aqua, grouped up together because let’s be honest, they’re essentially the same. Fighting for what they believe to be the best future for the Hoenn region, the expansion of land and water respectively, they end up threatening the existence of the whole region in their fight to control the legendary pokemon, Groudon and Kyogre.
Let’s be honest here. Throughout the games they appear, these guys…it’s not that they lack personality, it’s just that they don’t do much at all. Their motivations are as bland as can be, lacking any sort of depth beyond “this is my view on the environment,” and even during the game itself, not much happens to cement them as a serious part of the gameplay. In fact, all they do is piss off their respective legendary Pokemon, realize what they did was bad, and immediately repent for it.
The respective leaders, Archie of Team Aqua, and Maxie from Team Magma, are cool in their own right, but I’ll be honest, their personalities escape me. They did their job as antagonists of the third generation, they were bad guys that provided a general driving force for the story, but beyond that, I feel as if they don’t do a good job standing out, especially when you compare them to their competition.
#4: Team Flare
Ah, Team Flare. Such potential, such good, good, potential. If only they were integrated into the game more than they were, then they might have been higher up on the list.
So Team Flare, led by the vaguely lion-esque Lysandre, is a group focused on one thing, and one thing only: beauty. Specifically, the beauty of the natural world, which they believe to be tainted by the selfishness and darkness of humans. As is fitting for such a team, the grunts believe that through their works, they can create a better world for all those that sympathize with Team Flare, while Lysandre himself wishes to go a step further, going so far as striving for regional genocide, in the thought that the world would be better off without humanity.
I’d just like to say, I love this team’s concept. I love their red and black style. Lysandre himself, was an intriguing, interesting, overall cool character! However, as a villainous team, I personally feel like they fell short. Lysandre was the one part of the team that carried it all having strong virtues and beliefs that motivated his character, while the grunts and admins fade from memory for the most part. During the actual game, Team Flare didn’t appear to make much of any impact, and their presence, I feel, was very downplayed compared to other teams in the Pokemon series. Other teams, you can tell that they had some sort of impact on the region, compared to Kalos, where, apart from some casual mentions of them, the region seems fairly calm, and for the most part unaffected.
Overall, Team Flare had a lot of potential, especially with the characterization Lysandre was given, but thanks to lack of presence in the game, combined with a lack of other memorable Team Flare characters, the team just fell short.
#3: Team Rocket
Team Rocket, the OG villain team, that inspired, and created the formula, for the rest to follow. Perhaps not the most polished, perhaps not the most technically superior team, but man, it left a huge impact.
Other teams do what they do for the good of the world, for environmental purposes, for moral and philisophical ideals. But Team Rocket? It’s all about that cash, that power. They’re criminals for their own sake, a self-proclaimed “criminal empire,” selling Slowpoke tails for profit, stealing fossils, taking over a whole city, using Pokemon as tools, they are not a group to be taken lightly, and they show it. Perhaps they don’t have the deepest motivations of the bunch, but they don’t need it- isn’t success, power, its own self-evident motivation?
Straight in the middle, Team Rocket’s lack of depth and explicit personality are its downfalls, making sense, compared to other games which tried to make the teams relatively sympathetic. This opens up another world however, one that Team Rocket does extremely well: they are very, very, VERY explicitly, the bad guys.
From a design standpoint, the Rockets are slick, dark, and quite blatantly evil. The grunts reek of that stereotypical bad-guy charm, and the admins presented all share that smooth, confidently evil look that just works so well. I wish I could say more as to the depth of their designs, but, they just do such a good job at looking bad.
To compound on this, their role in the games is firmly cemented, they are a threat that is recognized by townspeople, and as nothing more than a threat. You don’t actually see them as often as you see other groups in later games, but for some reason, maybe they’re mentioned more, maybe their music is more iconic, or maybe it’s just Giovanni’s presence as a gym leader, but overall, they feel like…bad guys. They’re threatening, simple, and they have just enough presence to do play their role well.
#2: Team Galactic
Getting into where teams in Pokemon started getting really good, we have Team Galactic, the threat of the Sinnoh region. Essentially Team Flare, but better on almost every level, these guys knocked it out of the park in the fourth generation.
The world is a hard place to live in, right? Team Galactic realizes that, and beyond realizing that, wish to create a world that is better, a utopia for those who sympathize with Galactic. However, Cyrus wishes for more- beyond the elimination of the current world, he wishes to create a world without emotion or feeling: a world without spirit. Considering such concepts to be the source of suffering, Cyrus manipulates Galactic in order to make such a dream a reality.
Team Galactic, throughout the fourth generation, has a large part to play in the plot, largely thanks to the prevalence of Cyrus in the game. They have a relatively active role from the beginning of the game to the end, compounded by their goal to capture the three legendary lake Pokemon, Uxie, Mesprit, and Azelf, which ultimately takes you all across the Sinnoh region. Add onto this, in my opinion, relatively more memorable admin characters in design and personality, along with a leader with complex and interesting motivations, and you get a team with presence in the games they are starred in.
On that note, Cyrus plays his role extremely well. Colder, cynical, and undoubtedly intelligent, his dialogue and motivations are a joy to watch. Confronting a far more complex and interesting topic than any team in the series, Cyrus was the spear point for a darker outlook on the Pokemon universe, one that is relatively easy to miss, but certainly provides layers of depth to Team Galactic that the other teams thus far certainly lack.
#1: Team Plasma
Here we are, my favorite team in the series, Team Plasma. Boasting a far more in-depth story than the other generations that encompasses two separate series of mainstream games, as well as multiple characters that are well designed and fleshed out, there’s no doubt that Plasma has some good stuff going for it.
Plasma, operating under the pretense of liberating Pokemon from humans who mistreat them, are an organization that seeks to do good for their Pokemon through illicit and hypocritical, albeit, misguided methods. It is clear that the grunts have their own sort of beliefs about what Plasma stands for, yet, behind it all, there remains a shroud of mystery around their king, N, and his father, Ghetsis. Throughout the games Plasma stars in, you get to confront these individuals, and unravel who exactly they are, and find out for yourself the truth behind what Plasma is.
What you might have noticed here, is a focus on, not just a team’s motivations for doing bad, rather, discovering more about characters that are genuinely interesting and mysterious. In previous games, you’d be presented with characters who are relatively cut and dry – they are who they say they are, and are given characterization that is just enough to make the plot work. That’s not the case here.
The enigmatic N steals the show, being a well-designed character that keeps up with you throughout the game, almost as an equal, rather than any sort of King, making it feel as if he is your ultimate rival. He has a lasting presence, lasting from near the beginning of the game, to the very end, AFTER you beat the Elite Four. I could easily go into it for a long time, but the point is, he’s a good character, and beyond that, he allows the plot to continue beyond where it would usually end. Team Plasma plays a role all the way up till the end, being undisputed threats, through the majority of both Black and White, as well as Black and White 2. They integrated story into the fifth generation in a way no other Pokemon game has ever been able to do, and for that, they’ve gotta be my favorite team.
And just gotta mention: their insignia, their costumes, their designs, everything just oozes personality. It’s gr8/8.
And that does it. This ended up being a crazy long post, but man, I had fun writing it. Now, which team is your favorite? Agree, disagree with my list?
Well. With all that out of the way, I’m about ready for the seventh generation to come along. Let’s hope the Alola region provides its own great villains!