In the world of Pokémon, a new face lies around every corner, most likely waiting for battle.
We all love those cute and cool pocket monsters that we encounter in the wild, but often times, it’s the human characters that leave the most emotional impacts on audiences, so now, we’re counting down the top ten non-playable characters in Pokémon games.
The original bad guy from the first generation, I always wondered where the Viridian City Gym Leader was, instead of at his gym throughout a majority of the campaign.
Well, turns out he was trying to conquer the world as the head honcho of the infamous Team Rocket. When this is revealed, it creates an aura of power and invincibility that is bolstered by his scary roster of monsters—centered on ground types, you face him twice in the original games, and his team is pretty powerful once you reach the final gym in Viridian.
9. Nurse Joy
Who doesn’t love her? They were just the sweetest thing, and they all share the most recognizable face, probably, in the entire Pokémon world.
Growing up playing Fire Red for the first time, while farming outside Viridian City in the opening minutes of the game, I probably visited that Pokémon Center at least fifty times in a row without a respite. That Nurse Joy should have been concerned, honestly, for the health of my poor little pets, but she was genial each and every time. What a gal.
Fun fact: “Joy” is actually the family name that all of these Nurses share. It’s not their first name.
I chose to play as Brendan in Sapphire because, well, I’m a guy. So we’ll be referring to this non-playable character as “May.”
One reason I like May so much is because, much like Nurse Joy, she’s generally a lighthearted person, but in this case, she’s a phenomenal trainer, too, and your rival.
It’s not often you see a competing counterpart as nice as May. She’s not too tough to beat whenever your paths cross, but she always has a well-balanced team on her hands nonetheless. To top it off: she’s the Professor’s daughter, which adds an interesting story element similar to the first generation.
His team seems straight out of a monster movie. With a dinosaur in Aerodactyl and two different dragons in Gyarados and Dragonite—the former inspired by Chinese mythology, the latter by Western influences—Lance’s roster of monsters inspired a particular sense of mysticism that made me want to play as him instead of Red.
He made appearances in numerous Pokemon titles—perhaps most notably as the leader of the Kanto Elite Four—but his presence is tangible no matter the region.
6. Professor Oak
In a lot of respects, Professor Oak is actually kind of a jerk. Call it tough love, but he’s hard on his Grandson, Blue, throughout pretty much the whole game. When the latter loses to Red in the opening scene, Oak doubts him. When he loses the Championship to Red in the end, Oak scolds him.
Now, he undoubtedly has redeemable qualities. It’s Professor Oak we’re talking about. He inspires every aspiring trainer he encounters—if not through power of name alone—and his quirky personality renders him a vastly entertaining character.
5. Steven Stone
One of the most honest and respectful Pokémon trainers you’ll ever meet, Steven Stone walked around like he owned the entire freaking Hoenn region. That’s how influential he was—no matter the time or place, he was staying busy and making friends along the way.
Seriously, that guy was everywhere thanks to his trusty Skarmory transporting him pretty much everywhere he goes. In fact, I’m not sure if he walks anywhere at all. Must be nice, Steven!
His party doesn’t stop at Skarmory, though: he’s also got an Aggron, two fossil Pokémon, and a Metagross. The latter is a sheer powerhouse, and undoubtedly the crux of his team.
As I said, Blue catches a fair bit of heat throughout the campaign. Granted, he can often be a jerk, but in the end, he’s one of the most tragic characters in the franchise.
His Cubone passed away within hours of the games starting—though we’re never really told that through any means of dialogue or narration—his grandfather hardly supports him, his parents are not to be found, and to top it all off, he lost the League Championship mere moments after obtaining it in the first place.
A vastly intriguing character thanks to his calm and collected demeanor—he always had something witty to say—he reeked of excellence also by dint of his flashy array of Pokémon. His team often overshadowed the player’s own in terms of flair and appeal, and while he may have rarely ever come out on top against his rival, the games consistently failed to provide a more worthy counterpart in subsequent generations.
I never thought I’d be putting someone from the fifth generation of games on this list. I’ll be the first to admit that Pokémon Black and White were not exactly my cup of tea. I wasn’t a fan of any of the starters, and most monsters found in the wild underwhelmed me as well.
That said—the narration shines in a way that past games failed to establish and succeeding games failed to emulate. Aspiring to create separate worlds in which humans and Pokémon can inhabit, N’s motivation as a character is one of the most thought-provoking story elements that Game Freak has implemented, and that’s reason enough for me to put him at number three.
The playable character of the first generation, Red became a non-playable character in the subsequent Gold/Silver games. He’s the final boss, so to speak, and his team held up to his worldwide reputation.
With his trademark Pikachu as his strongest Pokémon, he also has fully evolved forms of all three Kanto starters. Red is one of the most recognizable faces in the world of Pokémon, but it’s his prestige that lands him here at number two.
Pokémon trainers don’t get much better than this. The champion of the Sinnoh Elite Four, Cynthia herself possesses just as many admirable qualities as her collection of Pokémon—if not more. From her overt yet ostentatious diction to her friendly yet commanding demeanor, she’ll have your full attention whenever you’re in her presence.
To be frank, I’m not the biggest fan of her party. As a champion of the Elite Four, she obviously packed some power, and she did have some cool names in there—mostly just Lucario and Garchomp. And don’t get me wrong, those two are awesome, but there’s nothing else in her party to write home about, save maybe for Milotic.
All that said, Cynthia is still one of the best non-playable characters that the games have to offer. Her character design is instantly recognizable, she has a truly gripping personality, and her team is known far and wide as the powerhouses they are.
Agree With our List?
If not, that’s okay! Sound off in the comments and let us know your favorite NPCs within Game Freak’s sprawling series of games!