Pokemon and their trainers share a remarkable bond of friendship and trust, one that ties them together on their paths to becoming the very best. From Pokemon breeders and trainers, to leaders of a shady crime syndicate, people would be nothing without their Pokemon partner at their sides.
Iconic trainers come in different shapes than just Gym Leaders or Elite Four members, as you don't need to be a Champion to gain recognition — though it definitely helps. From beloved protagonists to unforgettable side characters, there are certain dynamic duos that have found their ways into our collective hearts.
10 Steven Stone & Metagross — Quintessentially Cool
The former Hoenn champions are one of the strongest pairs in Pokemon, and play an important role during their game appearances. You can receive a Beldum from Steven if you visit his home after the story of Omega Ruby or Alpha Sapphire, or your choice of Hoenn starter after defeating Red and visiting Oak in HeartGold or SoulSilver.
A collector of rare stones, Steven shows off his edge in battle via his powerful Metagross, with its signature Meteor Mash move. Steven's Metagross is canonically shiny, though he fights you with a regular Metagross during his Champion appearance in Ruby and Sapphire, before making way for his 'good friend' Wallace to take over in Pokemon Emerald.
9 Misty & Psyduck — Cerulean City's Confused Couple
This mismatched pairing has been a charming source of comedic relief in the anime since its debut. Cerulean City's Gym Leader became famous for striking fear into her opponents using Starmie in her Kanto battles, often ending many hopefuls' chances at a badge. However, Misty's journey in the anime largely features her adventures with her trusty, if not moody, Psyduck.
The pair is notoriously at-odds with each other, as Psyduck's constant inability to battle due to its headaches proves extremely inconvenient. Despite their differences, these two remain squarely among the most memorable characters in the entire series to this day, recently being featured as a limited Sync Pair in Pokemon Masters EX.
8 Lance & Dragonite — The Dragon Masters
Regardless of what you may think about Lance or his in-lore actions, the former Kanto Elite Four member is notorious for his team of powerful Dragon and Flying-types, including multiple Dragonite. It's worth noting that you should put any thoughts of copying his team in Generation One to rest, as he has several Dragonite at lower levels than they can evolve (Level 55).
The pair's appearance in the Team Rocket Hideout during the events in Kanto mark the entry point for many fans' love of Pokemon. Considering how strong Dragon-types were in Generation One, it's little surprise that this duo's destructive introduction and subsequent Elite Four encounter have remained burned in our memories.
7 Leon & Charizard — The Unbeatable Pair
While Leon is far from the first major character to team up with a powerful Charizard, these two earned an impressive reputation as Unbeatable Champions in Galar. Their climactic battle in Pokemon Sword and Shield may not be the toughest in the series, but they were definitely noticeably stronger than previous Pokemon League Champions.
The cape-clad Champion rose to meteoric fame upon release, but is frequently the subject of debate among fans. His two main character traits involve never losing battles and constantly getting lost, even when given clear directions. This tongue-in-cheek irony has drawn the ire of many, but few can argue that Leon and Charizard's raw power is rivaled by few others in the series.
6 Miror B & Ludicolo — Pokemon's Favorite Dancing Deviant
One of the main antagonists of Pokemon Colosseum and Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness, Miror B's cult-hero status was born of his love of dancing and his fabulous Ludicolo. They even have incredibly catchy, funky themes in both games, to go along with Miror B's iconic sense of style.
In his second appearance, Miror B tries on a darker outfit, swapping his gold sequin fit for a Michael Jackson-inspired look — complete with a single black glove instead of a white one and an updated disco theme song. Despite these alterations, Ludicolo remains on Miror B's team, and he even uses four of them during one of your several battles with him in XD.
5 Cynthia & Garchomp — Sinnoh's Superior Champions
Cynthia and her Garchomp are just monstrously strong, as many of us were reminded during our playthroughs of Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. Cynthia earns her title as Champion of Sinnoh, and perhaps also the crown of the toughest champion to beat in the entire series, due to her hard-hitting ace Pokemon, Garchomp.
This dynamic duo's dominance also crosses over to the anime, where she had to prevent Garchomp from possibly harming Iris' Axew with its unbridled power. Cynthia's appearances throughout the main games are usually momentous occasions, and she even spearheads the defeat of Team Galactic and their leader Cyrus in her Pokemon Masters EX story.
4 Jessie or James & Meowth — Team Rocket's Timeless Trio
Jessie and James have each had many partner Pokemon over the years, but none of them can rival the amazing talking Meowth. Despite technically being a trio, it's impossible to mention Jessie without James and vice versa; plus, they share equal duty in being Meowth's trainers.
Their consistently-failing plans and hysterical subplots give this Team Rocket trio just as big of a role in the action of many major episodes and movies as the protagonists. Perhaps what makes Jessie, James and Meowth such popular characters is their dynamic character development and emotional story arcs. Team Rocket changes and grows over time, often putting aside their nefarious goals to make sure they have each other's backs.
3 Lillie & Nebby — Get. In. The. Bag.
When they debuted in Pokemon Sun and Moon, Lillie and Nebby quickly became fan favorites due to their quirky charm and Lillie's struggle to keep her Pokemon hidden away. In some ways, Lillie mirrors us as players: a person dropped into a strange world, tasked with caring for a Pokemon that's quickly growing more powerful than we can control — unless you collect enough badges or defeat enough Trials, of course.
Lillie and Nebby begin as a weak duo, but overcome their fears and immense family challenges until they reach their true potentials. Their growing bond endears them to us as relatable characters, and breathes life into their story. Of course, being the subject of viral memes will also help your popularity, as many Lillie fans can attest.
2 Nurse Joy & Chansey — Healing For Everyone!
Trainers aren't the only important characters in the Pokemon world, as Nurse Joy serves as a stable, reassuring figure throughout our adventures across each game. How many times have you walked into the Pokemon Center to the familiar jingle of its immortal theme? Through every Gym Battle and Elite Four run, there has been a Nurse Joy waiting with her Chansey to heal our Pokemon.
The pair appears throughout the anime together, and their famous partnership has even spawned internet theories about Nurse Joy secretly being a Chansey. While newer games will depict a nurse standing alone next to a machine in the Pokemon Center, older games include a partner Chansey that accompanies the Nurse beside the machine. While it's unclear exactly how many Nurses are in Nurse Joy's family, their popularity and ubiquity is second to only one.
1 Ash & Pikachu — Like No One Ever Was
It's impossible to mention Pokemon without immediately thinking of Ash and Pikachu. The anime's longtime protagonists have tugged at heartstrings with infamous moments, like the release of Ash's Butterfree and Pikachu saving Ash in Pokemon: The First Movie. While some of his battles may frustrate you, there's no denying that Ash and Pikachu offer some incredibly poignant, emotional moments.
The logistics of Ash's adventure are puzzling to say the least, but it's precisely the moments of improbability that make this ten-year-old one of the most enjoyable characters to watch succeed, fail, and just be a goofball. Pikachu's lighthearted electric shenanigans blend well with its parallel character growth with Ash, hooking us into their journey and making us root for this underdog duo unlike any other.
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