Love them or hate them, Pokémon gyms have been a primary component of the game franchise since it was introduced all those years ago with Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue. They've been the stepping stones for up-and-coming trainers across the world as they fight to become Pokémon masters.
As we all played through the games, we discovered the secrets of the gym leaders and devised our own strategies to defeat them, even to the point of determining what our first Pokémon partner would be simply depending on how much of a challenge we wanted through the game itself.
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Pokémon Gyms have gone through various changes since the first set of games, but through all the changes they've always remained an integral part of progressing our characters from child to Pokémon master, and we wouldn't have it any other way. Yet, with several generations of games available we've been introduced to over 50 different gym leaders since Red and Blue were released in the early '90s.
7. The Kalos Leaders (Gen VI)
- Appearing in: Pokémon X, Pokémon Y
- Gym Leaders: Viola (Bug), Grant (Rock), Korrina (Fighting), Ramos (Grass), Clemont (Electric), Valerie (Fairy), Olympia (Psychic), Wulfric (Ice)
Now, the Kalos gym leaders aren't weak by any means, but in terms of originality and memorability among the generations, the Kalos region has the weakest team. Besides Wulfric and Korrina, none of the leaders are met outside of their respective gyms which is something that has become a fairly recognizable part of the Pokémon journey.
Also. the base gym types are fairly standard and several can be beaten with the same Pokémon type, making it easier to breeze through the leaders.
6. The Sinnoh Leaders (Gen IV)
- Appearing in: Pokémon Diamond, Pokémon Pearl, Pokémon Platinum
- Gym Leaders: Roark (Rock), Gardenia (Grass), Maylene (Fighting), Crasher Wake (Water), Fantina (Ghost), Byron (Steel), Candice (Ice), Volkner (Electric)
Even though the Sinnoh region was introduced before Kalos, both regions suffer from the same problems. The gym leaders rarely stray from their gyms and are easily forgettable. The journey that you take as a trainer is more entertaining than the gym challenge, so each leader is slightly limited.
The base gym types are generic but with the inclusion of Steel and Ghost types the battles become slightly more challenging since the leaders have additional Pokémon compared to the Kalos leaders.
5. The Kanto Leaders (Gen I)
- Appearing in: Pokémon Red, Pokémon Blue, Pokémon Yellow
- Gym Leaders: Brock (Rock), Misty (Water), Lt. Surge (Electric), Erika (Grass), Koga (Poison), Sabrina (Psychic), Blaine (Fire), Giovanni (Ground)
Now, I'm basing this solely on their appearance in the actual games, because if I were to include their appearances in the anime series, then they would be much higher on this ranking. Ultimately, these leaders are the most prevalent throughout the generations as you can face them in Generation I - IV and that is what raise these leaders above Sinnoh and Kalos.
Quite honestly, they are some of the easier leaders to defeat as the first generation of Pokémon do not have the type pairings that the later generations gain, but with a good balance of types they are easily memorable.
4.The Hoenn Leaders (Gen III)
- Appearing in: Pokémon Ruby, Pokémon Sapphire, Pokémon Emerald
- Gym Leaders: Roxanne (Rock), Brawly (Fighting), Wattson (Electric), Flannery (Fire), Norman (Normal), Winona (Flying), Tate & Liza (Psychic), Wallace (Water)
The Hoenn leaders appear through the campaign outside of their respective gyms, yet there's no real "wow" factor to them. They have minimal personality but they offer enough of a challenge to rise in the overall rankings.
The type balance across the gyms is solid, although each leader is pretty easy to read and will always follow the same battle style no matter how you change up your style, which makes them easier to beat.
3. The Alola Captains (Gen VII)
- Appearing in: Pokémon Sun, Pokémon Moon
- Gym Leaders: Ilima (Normal), Lana (Water), Kiawe (Fire), Mallow (Grass), Sophocles (Electric), Acerola (Ghost), Mina (Fairy), None (Dragon)
Now before you say it - I know that the Island captains in the Aloha region aren't technically gym leaders as we've seen in the previous six generations. But that is part of the reason why these characters rank so high on the list, because they bring a real unique spin to what we've had in the Pokémon franchise so far. These characters have a specific trial to complete that can change based on your decisions within the game. Also the trial in Vast Poni Canyon has no captain overseeing it which makes it a unique situation as well.
Considering that the captains aren't exactly gym leaders, it's difficult to quantify what makes them rank so high, but ultimately it comes down to how they offer a unique experience no matter how many times you play through.
2. The Unova Leaders (Gen V)
- Appearing in: Pokémon Black & Black 2, Pokémon White & White 2
- Gym Leaders (Black/White): Cilan/Chili/Cress, Lenora (Normal), Burgh (Bug), Elesa (Electric), Clay (Ground), Skyla (Flying), Brycen (Ice), Drayden/Iris (Dragon)
- Gym Leaders (Black 2/White 2): Cheren (Normal), Roxie (Poison), Burgh (Bug), Elesa (Electric), Clay (Ground), Skyla (Flying), Drayden (Dragon), Marlon (Water)
The fun part of the Unova region is that since there are Black/White and the sequels Black 2/White 2 we get to see how the Pokémon world evolves over time. Between these games as time passed, some of the leaders have gone on to other ventures and in their place new leaders have stepped in and the dynamics of each gym has changed.
The Unova leaders are tough, have personality and have a stake in the future of the world which makes each leader seem more realistic and genuine as a part of the greater gameplay.
1. The Johto Leaders (Gen II)
- Appearing in: Pokémon Gold, Pokémon Silver, Pokémon Crystal
- Gym Leaders: Falkner (Flying), Bugsy (Bug), Whitney (Normal), Morty (Ghost), Chuck (Fighting), Jasmine (Steel), Pryce (Ice), Clair (Dragon)
Considering that the leaders in Johto were introduced in the 2nd generation, it goes to prove how well they were designed as an integral part of the game itself. Throughout the game, you meet nearly every leader in some form outside of their respective gyms. Each leader seems unique with a genuine backstory and something that they ultimately offer to the gameplay in general.
The leaders in Johto also are well balanced in terms of overall types across the gyms as well as their individual Pokémon on their team. The challenge of being a trainer in Johto is that you need a balanced team as well.
So there you have it, the definitive ranking of Pokémon Gyms. How does this list compare to your favorites?
What's your favorite generation to battle?