With 20 years of Pokémon to draw from, each one of us probably has our own preferred pick. But regardless of which critter needs to be on your team, you can’t deny the appeal of Legendary Pokémon. True, their rarity may account for most of their desirability, but these high-ranking Pokémon amount to some of the strongest creatures in Nintendo’s hit RPG series. This list might not be entirely scientific, but it still collects those Legendaries that soar above the rest.
Old-school Pokémon fans may remember Mewtwo most for his starring role in the first movie, Mewtwo Strikes Back. And if you played the original Game Boy games, Mewtwo definitely stands out from the rest of the adorable roster with his icy-cold glare. In Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow, Mewtwo exists as a post-game challenge. After taking out the Elite Four, you can then enter a previously blocked cave, where Mewtwo waits at the end of its winding corridors.
Mewtwo’s backstory also might be one of the creepiest and most entertaining in all of Pokémon. Essentially, he’s the result of a scientific creation gone wrong. Though you should probably ignore the fact that Pokémon moralizes about playing god while simultaneously allowing the player to capture and control an army of innocent creatures.
Cross a peacock and a phoenix, and you get Ho-Oh: A Legendary Pokémon slyly teased in the first episode of the anime. Nintendo also put Ho-Oh on the cover of Pokémon Gold, making it one of the first Legendary Pokémon to have this distinction. Fitting with his phoenix-themed design, Ho-Oh also carries the power to raise the dead.
In the Pokémon world, though, Ho-Oh’s role amounts to that of a god. In ancient times, Ho-Oh single-handedly created the legendary dogs Raikou, Entei, and Suicune. It may seem odd that Ash can keep this powerful, mythical beast as a pet, but you should never underestimate the power of friendship.
Heatran debuted in 2007’s Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, which officially moved the series to Nintendo’s then-new DS. Boasting a strong defense and an effective fire/steel dual type, Heatran ranks as one of the best Legendary Pokémon. And one of Heatran’s more useful abilities, Flash Fire, also fits in with his biological makeup. Heat-based attacks only make it stronger, since they presumably up the temperature of its already boiling blood.
If you really want to see a great depiction of Heatran’s power, this brief episode of Pokémon Generations does a fantastic job. The small size of a portable screen may fail to sell the immense strength of Heatran, but full animation really pulls it off.
Another fire-based Legendary Pokémon, Reshiram also made the cover of Pokémon Black—a little strange since he’s actually colored white. In fact, Reshiram essentially feels like a photo negative of Pokémon White cover star Zekrom. And the player captures Reshiram via some pretty dramatic means. After Elite Four fall, Reshiram appears via the summoning powers of a magic rock. He definitely comes in handy in the final battle against the enigmatic N, who sics the powerful Zekrom on your team.
Of course, things work out differently if you play through Pokemon Black instead of White. In that scenario, you summon Zekrom and end up fighting N’s Reshiram.
While most of the Legendary Pokémon on this list exude an intimidating presence, Xerneas opts for grace and elegance instead. As with Ho-Oh, Xerneas possesses some pretty mystical properties. When it dies, Xerneas releases its life force into the environment around it, and sleeps as a tree for 1000 years. This power makes a lot of sense when you consider Xerneas’ branch-like antlers, and its ability to create forests.
Xerneas’ design also draws upon Japanese mythology, which views deer as messengers of the gods. If you’ve seen the popular Studio Ghibli movie Princess Mononoke, Xerneas should look pretty familiar. After all, it bears a striking resemblance to the forest god seen at the end of the film.