When it comes to the Pokemon franchise, legendary Pokemon are in a class of their own. Along with the more elusive mythical Pokemon, legendaries represent some of the strongest creatures in the entire game, sporting high stats, killer moves, and most importantly, lots of intrigue when it comes to capturing them. The designs of legendary Pokemon are often among the most eye-catching (makes sense, since they tend to be the box-art mascots for each game!), but which ones are truly the best and worst designed of the entire franchise?
In this special bonus article, well have some fun highlighting the best- and worst-designed legendaries across all of the Pokemon games!
Best Design - Lugia
Lugia has always been a fan favorite. Designed by the late Takeshi Shudo, the writer and showrunner for the early years of the Pokemon anime, Lugia was meant to only be in the second Pokemon movie and never make an appearance in the games at all. Shudo himself was surprised to see Lugia included in Pokemon Gold and Silver. Did You Know Gaming has the full story of Lugia’s creation by Shudo if you are curious for more information.
Regardless, Lugia is amazingly designed by Shudo. Its sleek body is inspired by a plesiosaurus, mixed with a water dragon for good measure. Its back plates, almost like little blue spikes, help portray its more dragon-like qualities. Its large wings act as flippers as well, giving the design versatility in how it can be portrayed; an elegant but powerful beast that can wreak havoc when unleashed. Considering Lugia is a massive defensive tank, with 106/130/154 Defenses, it certainly can take a hit and is no slouch to dishing them out itself.
Worst Design - Deoxys
Deoxys is an oddball, mainly because it was an early example of a Pokemon that was specifically designed to be alien. In a weird way, you can make the argument that it is a proto-ultra beast, but its contrasting orange and cyan body, weird tentacle arms, and over-wide hips give it a goofy, overly menacing appearance. Deoxys is supposed to be based on DNA, and you can sort of see that motif, but it just comes across as the leftovers of a few Pokemon designs cobbled together into one amorphous being.
Deoxys is one of the first Pokemon to have multiple formes to it, something that became a trademark as the years went on for the franchise. Back in Ruby and Sapphire, alternate formes were based on which version of Generation III you had; so Ruby and Sapphire had the normal Deoxys, while the Attack Forme was only available in Fire Red, for example. To say the least, to collect all of the formes, you had to purchase four different games. On top of that, only the Attack and Speed formes are worth using, making the Defense and original Deoxys harder to justify for competitive play like unrestricted VGC formats.
Best Design - Mewtwo
The granddaddy of all the legendaries, Mewtwo was perfect right out of the gate, save for maybe its weird-looking Red and Blue sprite. The result of a science experiment gone wrong, Mewtwo’s design exudes power; its eyes give it a piercing glare that only heightens this trait even further, and is perhaps the most important aspect of its design. Its alien-like body structure, mixed with the more feline-shaped head and tail, give an otherworldly motif that complements its latent power. Mewtwo is the perfect final challenge, and for many a young fan, the best reward for exploring Cerulean Cave after becoming champion.
And to say Mewtwo is powerful is an understatement. For 25 years, Mewtwo has been considered one of the most powerful Pokemon in the franchise. Its gargantuan Special Attack and Speed stats, clocking in at 154 and 130 respectively, pretty much destroyed every Pokemon in the first few generations without much competition. Being a pure Psychic-type is its biggest weakness nowadays, but that still doesn’t stop it from ripping holes through teams with relative ease. Mewtwo is, and will always be, a top-tier Pokemon.
Worst Design - Landorus
OK, I got to admit, I think the legendary genies, or ‘Kami’ trio as they are unofficially known as, get a bad rap because many fans felt they were copied/pasted designs. To me that is the point, since they are all based on actual depictions of Kami in Japanese mythology. Tornadus and Thundurus in particular I find to be great designs, but if I did have to pick a weak link, it is Landorus, and it’s mostly due to it being the most generic of the three. What bothers me most about Landorus is its head design, the sort of odd, Princess Leia-like hairstyle mixed with its cloud moustache is just super off putting. It also doesn’t help that its orange-and-brown color scheme is kind of subpar to the green and blues seen with Tornadus and Thundurus.
Game Freak apparently agreed with the fan reactions a bit, introducing the Therian Formes in Black 2 and White 2. Of the three, Landorus benefited from it the most, with its Therian Forme now being a quadruped carried on by its clouds to benefit it’s Ground/Flying typing. It is frankly the only version of Landorus that should be used competitively, as it has the right combination of stats, abilities, and moves to be such a massive threat; it is often one of the most competitively viable Pokemon when it’s allowed in VGC formats. This makes the original Landorus even more forgotten, which I would say is for the best.
Best Design - Rayquaza
Rayquaza is the first Pokemon that comes to mind when I think of a dragon. Based on a Lindworm and Chinese depictions of dragons, its long, snake-like body is just breathtaking when you first see it. It is menacing in how it looks, but also looks poised and wise on top of it. Its primary influence is Quetzacotal, a flying serpent god in Aztec mythology who created the boundary between the earth, the ocean, and the sky. The design motifs simply compliment this role of Rayquaza, making it a popular legendary, and according to Pokemon fans in 2020, the most popular Pokemon from Generation III.
Rayquaza is also a beast when it comes to competitive play. A Dragon/Flying-type, it sports base 150 Attack and Special Attack and, even with a decent 90 Speed, hits like a truck whenever it is on the field. It became almost infamous for being the most broken Pokemon in the entire game when it was given a Mega Evolution in Gen VI. Thankfully, that was taken away from it with the removal of Mega Evolutions in Generation VIII. Still, Rayquaza is a powerhouse who can dish out damage with the best of them.
Worst Design - Mespirit
The Lake trio, to me, is the most boring legendary trio in the franchise. Sure, the Swords of Justice are a bit awkward, the Legendary Golems are a bit niche, and everyone initially hated the Kami trio, but the Lake trio are an example of the overwhelming mediocrity of designs that comes out of Generation IV, to the point where I bet most hardcore fans can’t tell me the names of all three guardians and match them to their designs. Yes, they are color-coded and have different head and hair styles, but how many remember that Mespirit was the pink one, for example?
By the way, Mespirit is the worst of the three for two reasons; first, the head with its odd jester-like tentacles just sticks out poorly overall when compared to Azelf’s crown and Uxie’s turban-like hair. Second, Mespirit was the most difficult to catch since it was a roaming Pokemon, making it a pain to deal with in Diamond and Pearl. I get that they are all based on sprites mixed with Japanese imperial symbols, but ultimately they are just generic Psychic-types with interchangeable bodies and stats. Mespirit is the most middling of the three, and really has nothing to stand out with other than being solid in Attack and Defense that makes it hard to use at the end of the day.
Best Design - Zapdos
As a kid, one of my favorite Pokemon in Red and Blue was Zapdos. A massive creature based on the legendary Thunderbird, Zapdos was one of the sweetest surprises to a hidden dungeon I ever had; I had no idea it would be in the Power Plant. Its lightning-like head and sharp-winged body always exuded power to me, and out of the legendary birds, it was certainly the coolest-looking design of the bunch.
What made it better is how powerful it was in battle. Zapdos was one of the best Pokemon to use competitively in the early years of the franchise, and it was mostly due to its mix of typing and moves. It was one of the best Electric-types in the game at the time, sported high Special Attack and Speed, and was a key component in paralyzing and destroying common threats outside of its Ice and Rock-type weaknesses. Zapdos is amazing, an icon out of arguably the most iconic legendary trio in the franchise.
Worst Design - Regigigas
The Legendary Golems are a ‘love or hate’ group of Pokemon. For me personally, I enjoy their unique designs but rarely use them. For many though, they are as generic as it gets. Gen IV introduced the most generic golem of all: the master of the golems Regigigas, a pure Normal-type that is essentially just a bigger golem with grass on its feet. I honestly don’t like its design at all, the yellow ridges segmenting its black-and-white body just look goofy to me.
Regigigas is also the most tragic Pokemon in the franchise because of how dirty it was done by Game Freak. It sports monster stats, with base 100 or more in all of it’s stats except Special Attack. It’s 150 Attack combined with its Base-100 Speed is fantastic, but it has one crippling flaw; its ability Slow Start. Slow Start halves its attack and speed for five turns, making it a virtual paperweight despite high defenses for the battle. There are gimmicks and ways to mitigate Slow Start, but the effort is usually not worth it when you consider that Regigigas has no STAB with any of its coverage moves and can’t really do much against some opponents. It’s just a universally flawed Pokemon and arguably one of the worst legendaries in the franchise.
Best Design - Zekrom
The legendary dragons of Pokemon Black and White are some of my all-time favorite designs simply because of how contrasting they are. Purposefully designed around the concept of Yin and Yang in Taosim, Zekrom was purposefully made to look more masculine in contrast to the feminine Reshiram, the Black Yin to Reshiram’s White Yang. Add to this its all black body, the blue-tinted electricity coursing through its crevices, and the giant turbine for its tail, Zekrom has a lot of elements that just click together to make it a powerful legendary design.
That power also comes into play when battling, thanks in part to its massive base 150 Attack and 120 Special Attack. Combine this with high stats across the board, with Zekrom’s Speed being the lowest at base 90, and you have a Pokemon that has a lot of versatility to hit big threats with its powerful movepool. The dual Dragon/Electric-typing gives it plenty of options for moves, especially its signature move Bolt Strike which does massive damage and has a chance for paralysis if it connects. Zekrom is a powerful Pokemon indeed, and it was good on Game Freak to compliment its stats well with its design.
Worst Design - Zygarde
I hate Zygarde. I hate its concept. I hate its color scheme. I hate the fact that it has three different formes, each of them complemented by a gimmick of finding cells in Pokemon Sun and Moon. I hate that it looks incomplete, like an incomprehensible blob of a Pokemon that has a vaguely snake-like body. I get what they are trying to do with Zygarde, it's a Pokemon that needs to be completed to be fully powerful. I also get that all three of the formes are based on the children of Loki in Norse mythology, Fenrir, Jormungandr, and Hel. But just the sheer headache of dealing with Zygarde and its formes, combined with the simply odd designs of all three formes, puts it right at the bottom of the list of Pokemon I like.
It’s not like it's even worth using in battle either. The 50% base form of Zygarde is a massive disappointment mostly due to lacking a solid movepool in X and Y. This changed a bit as the cell and core gimmicks were introduced, but its stats are balanced and a bit middling. It can certainly take a hit with its chunky base 108 HP and 121 Defense, but it pales in comparison to the box legendaries of Xerneas and Yveltal when it was introduced. Zygarde’s complete form only adds more HP to it, raising its stats to a base 216 HP with no changes to its Defense or Attack. It’s just not worth using if you ask me.
And there you have it, the best and worst Legendary Pokemon throughout all of the games. In the end, all of these Pokemon designs, from the starters to the legendaries, are unique in their own ways, adding to the longevity of the Pokemon franchise by being well crafted, planned, and created to fit into the games the franchise creates.
From cute to cool, weak to powerful, beautiful to ugly, and yes, best to worst, the designs of Pokemon are iconic. But let’s be honest, we wouldn't have it any other way than this.
So the question now is, do you agree with our choices here? Which are your favorite and least favorite legendaries? Leave your comments below.