Critical Hit: My 30 Favorite Pokemon Moves
“Ugh, I can’t believe they went on hiatus AGAIN!”
Yeah, sorry about that.
For the past few months, most of us have taken time off to tackle unique life challenges.
I’ll get around to explaining my own, but that’ll be for a different day.
What I wanted to do today was make our return a fun affair, and there are few things more fun to me than talking about Pokemon.
…although, given that, you’d wonder why it’s been a FULL YEAR since the last time I’ve done so.
Anyway, I noticed that there aren’t too many lists ranking Pokemon Moves floating around the Internet. Given that there’s nearly 720 different fucking moves, I understand why. It’s a daunting task.
But I’m all about taking on daunting tasks for the sake of looking extremely knowledgeable and kewl.
Before I begin, I wanted to make two main disclaimers:
- I’ve been playing Pokemon for a long, long time. As such, there are certain attacks that people usually love (like Fire Blast & Outrage) that didn’t make this list. It isn’t necessarily because the attacks aren’t good, but because I’ve seen and used them so many freaking times that they aren’t very exciting anymore.
- I have not played Gen VII (Sun and Moon), and probably never will, so none of the moves introduced in those games will be on this list.
Alright. Everyone ready? Let’s go!
30.) Flame Wheel
There really isn’t much to this attack other than how cool it was when it debuted in Gen II.
The base power is only 65, and it only has a 10% of causing a burn.
But it makes the list for how perfectly it fit the Pokemon most of us used it with first: Cyndaquil and its evolutions.
Imagine how cool Quilava looks turning into a rolling death ball of fire? I did when I first played Pokemon Gold, and I’ll never forget it.
29.) Steel Wing/Metal Claw/Iron Tail
These attacks were introduced right along with the Steel type itself back in Generation II.
And boy, were people hyped.
Just look at how badass the names sounded:
STEEL Wing (grr).
METAL Claw (Grrr!!).
IRON Tail (GRRR!!!)
This shit sounded like it came straight out of Digimon, since that franchise has an odd habit of adding “Metal” to everything and considering it an evolution.
Anyway, these moves were really cool until I actually used them. Their accuracy was pretty unreliable, especially for physical attacks. And since Steel is more of a defensive type anyway, they didn’t have much utility as an offensive threat.
Generation VI’s introduction of the Fairy type and its Steel weakness has led to a recent renaissance of this trio, but I still find them a bit unwieldy.
But that initial hype tho!
28.) Aerial Ace
Remember that REALLY annoying area in Gen IV that was super foggy?
Well, I do, and I also remember teaching Aerial Ace to every Pokemon in my party.
That’s because Aerial Ace never misses Pokemon that aren’t using Dig or Fly. Given that, this move bailed me out of what would have been an incredibly frustrating experience.
Another cool part of Aerial Ace is that many non-flying Pokemon can learn it, which can add a lot to the user’s versatility.
And what a cool name, too!
27.) Leech Seed
Leech Seed makes the list more out of respect than any personal affinity towards it.
As the name suggests, it’s an attack that steals HP from the opponent and uses it to heal the user every turn. While that’s nothing terribly mind-blowing, the fact that Leech Seed isn’t considered a status condition means that it can be stacked with things like Poison, Paralysis, or Burn.
That’s, like, not fair.
Imagine using Leech Seed against a Pokemon that’s Paralyzed while your Pokemon knows Protect and is holding Leftovers.
Here, I’ll imagine it for you: gg
In general, Leech Seed is crazy useful since it can be combined with a host of other ailments to make your opponent’s knuckles white with clenched anger.
Fun stuff, yo.
26.) Extreme Speed
There’s basically one main reason why Extreme Speed makes the list: Arcanine.
Prior to Gen III, Extreme Speed–an XTREME (and better) version of Quick Attack–was Arcanine’s signature move. For those who don’t know, Arcanine one my Top 5 all-time Pokemon.
Along with having a cool name, most of the (few) Pokemon that can learn Extreme Speed are pretty badass→ Deoxys, Rayquaza, Lucario, Arceus, and Dragonite, if you’re a cheating bastard.
Togekiss and Zygarde can also learn it to, for some reason. I don’t know whose fucking idea that was, but I bet they’re still laughing their ass off about it.
25.) Sand Attack
Although I don’t think I’ve used Sand Attack in over 6 years (it’s banned in most competitive circles), I still vividly remember how hilarious it is.
It lowers an opponent’s accuracy by one stage. While that doesn’t sound too crazy on the surface, you can repeatedly use it to the point that the other Pokemon might as well be running around in a dark room with a blindfold on while standing on spinning platform.
Sand Attack obviously won’t work on a human opponent, since switching out will just reset accuracy, but I always found sick joy in crippling idiotic NPCs.
While they were flailing around helplessly, I’d spam high-risk moves like Blizzard and Fire Blast.
Call me old school, but I’ll always have a soft spot for Sand Attack.
24.) Destiny Bond
A well-placed Destiny Bond can turn an entire battle around.
It’ll instantly knock out the opponent if the user is KO’d before its next turn—even if the opponent is at full health.
It’s not uncommon for people to throw out a bait Pokemon with the sole purpose of using Destiny Bond. It’s a quick way to get rid of both bulky Pokemon and sweepers.
The fact that most Pokemon that can learn Destiny Bond—like Gengar and Froslass—are really fast only makes it more difficult to deal with.
23.) Fire/Ice/Thunder Punch
The fun with these attacks is that you can never really tell if a Pokemon knows one or not.
And by the time you figure out that your opponent’s Rhyperior knows Ice Punch, your Dragonite has already by OHKO’d.
Of course, the first exposure many of us got to this unpredictability was with Hitmonchan, who could learn all three.
What’s cooler than picturing a boxing Pokemon harness an element to punch a hole through someone’s aspirations?
Taunt is a strategy killer.
As a move that limits opponents to only using damaging attacks, Taunt instantly neutralizes annoying Pokemon that like to spam status and recovery moves.
A Blissey with Toxic and Soft Boiled? Taunt nerfs it.
A Substitute/Baton Pass-spamming Ninjask? Taunt nerfs it.
A Gliscor that runs Toxic, Substitute, and Protect? Taunt renders it nearly useless.
And since a lot of the best Taunt users also have the Prankster ability, which lets non-damaging moves go first, this attack can crush you before you even have a chance.
I love taunting people when I win, and this move allows me to taunt them while I Taunt them.
21.) Foul Play
“Stop hitting yourself! Stop hitting yourself!”
This childhood tease is basically the foundation for Foul Play.
The base power of 95 is already excellently high for a Dark type attack, but the real kicker is how the damage is calculated based off the opponent’s attack stats rather than the user’s.
So, your foe’s Garchomp could Sword Dance all it wants, since a well-timed Foul Play would just cause it to essentially knock itself out.
That said, an over-reliance on Foul Play could easily blow up in your face. It doesn’t do well against defensive Pokemon like Chansey or Ferrothorn, and I’ve seen many Sableye users ragequit after getting stonewalled.
Using Foul Play requires some tact, which is why I love it.
Back in Gen I, Psychic was OP as shit.
The type’s only weakness was the relatively worthless Bug type, and no other type resisted Psychic attacks.
As such, any Pokemon that knew Psychic in RBY was an absolute juggernaut.
The concept behind the attack is pretty cool, too. Using telekinetic power to slam a helpless opponent against random shit is something most of us have dreamed about at some point.
The introduction of the Dark type and Psychic’s acquired weakness to Ghost attacks helped level the playing field a bit, but we’ll always remember the glory days when Mewtwo was undoubtedly the strongest Pokemon in the world.
Even today, though, Psychic still has its place as a legit move that any team could benefit from.
19.) High Jump Kick
Part of this move’s inclusion has to do with my bias towards Hitmonlee, who’s one of my favorite Pokemon of all time. Prior to Gen III, HJK was one of Hitmonlee’s signature attack.
But even if you remove my favoritism, this move is still pretty fun to use.
It’s a more powerful version of Jump Kick, but it’s also less accurate, and missing causes your Poke to crash and hurt itself. The risk/reward has only increased with each Generation.
Currently, HJK has a 130 base power compared to Gen I’s 85, but will also take away HALF of your Pokemon’s maximum HP if it misses.
So basically, using it communicates to your opponent that you’re willing to take a bit of a gamble in order to end the battle quickly.
18.) Ice Beam/Thunderbolt/Flamethrower
Grouping these all together because they’re basically the same move. While they’re nothing to write home about these days, this trio of moves was a force to be reckoned with in Gens I-III. This is mostly due to how TMs weren’t reusable back then, so these attacks were reserved only for our most powerful Pokemon.
….like my Gyrados in GSC, which knew Flamethrower…for some reason.
I was 8, okay? Give me a break.
Nowadays, each of these attacks is just considered a “safe bet” in a move slot. High accuracy, great utility, and a small chance at a secondary effect. There’s nothing wrong with that, but nothing terribly exciting either.
17.) Horn Drill/Sheer Cold/Fissure/Guillotine
Good ol’ One-Hit-KO moves.
Although the base accuracy is a measly 30, and they’ll never connect with a Pokemon of higher level than the user, there are few things in…well, LIFE that are more satisfying than pulling off one of these attacks.
Just seeing the display read “It’s a one-hit KO!” gives me butterflies.
I suppose the sheer satisfaction is because of how these attacks bypass EVERY relevant stat in the game. HP, STAB, Attack, Defense, and typing are all just thrown to the wind in favor of a simple accuracy formula (Accuracy = ((level of user – level of target) + 30)%).
Fittingly enough, all of these attacks have some rather morbid names which imply that they literally kill the opponent.
Here’s the description for Horn Drill from Gen IV: “The foe is stabbed with a horn rotating like a drill. The foe instantly faints if it hits”
It’s generally considered cheap by most to use one of these attacks, so doing so is a big “fuck you” to your foe as your murder their Pokemon.
A vulgar display of power, indeed.
16.) Tri Attack
I specifically remember the first time I saw this move in Pokemon Gold. It was against a Dodrio, who used Tri Attack on my Machoke.
All I remember thinking was “ELECTRIC, ICE, AND FIRE?? OH MY GAWWWWD!!”
For those of you who don’t know, Tri Attack uses all three elements at once. The typing is still Normal, but it has a 20% of either freezing, paralyzing, or burning the opponent.
I still geek out about the attack today, and it’s one of the main reasons I like the Porygon evolution line so much.
15.) Calm Mind
Calm Mind is a nightmare, since it can turn typically defensive Pokemon into an absolute team destroyer.
As a move that boosts both Special Attack and Special Defense by one stage, it simultaneously makes a Pokemon more of an offensive threat while also extending its staying power.
When used by the right Pokemon, such as Milotic, Clefairy, Cresselia, or Latias, Calm Mind is almost downright cheating.
It’s impossible for me to ever use Explosion without smiling diabolically.
With a base power of 250, it basically turns your Pokemon into a walking Nuke. Nothing ruffles someone’s feathers more than seeing their main Pokemon get immediately KO’d by a trolly Explosion.
One of my teams on PokemonShowdown.com is made up entirely with Pokemon that carry Explosion. I also have them hold Weakness Policy, which doubles attack and defense when hit with a super effective move, essentially turning each one into a supernova.
They even have names that fall in line with the theme, such as:
Genki Dama (Japanese name for the Spirit Bomb)
Dry Ice Bomb
The strategy has only worked a few times (like once), but it always gets positive reactions from my opponents, who appreciate the change of pace.
13.) Baton Pass
Baton Pass is cool because it brings a sense of teamwork into 1-on-1 battles. The move allows the user to switch out with a teammate and pass along any stat boosts. As such, Baton Pass is able to compensate for a Pokemon’s shortcomings and turn it into the equivalent of Super Vegito.
For those of you not familiar with DBZ, Super Vegito is very strong.
What makes Baton Pass so fun is that the possibilities are really up to the user. Someone could Stockpile 3 times and BP to Alakazam, Swords Dance into a bulky Pokemon like Snorlax, and give a slow sweeper like Rampardos a speed boost.
However, it also passes annoying shit like Leech Seed. So buyer beware.
12.) Beat Up
Not too many people know about this hilarious attack, since only Sneasel could use it up until Gen IV, so I’ll take a brief moment to explain.
Beat Up allows your entire party of Pokemon to gang up on the opponent and basically jump them
No, seriously. Each Pokemon gets a chance to strike, with the display reading “_____’s attack!” before dealing damage. The way damage and such is calculated has changed a lot over time, but the general idea of the move is still having all your Pokemon kick the shit out of the opponent.
The only thing missing with this attack is having someone yell “Worldstar!!”
The ultimate lead Pokemon killer.
Most people’s lead Pokemon are sent out in order to do some sort of set-up move:
Encore forces the opposing Pokemon to repeat its last used attack for 3 additional turns. Using it will either trap your opponent in a loop of Sword Dances while you comfortably set up a counter, or force them to switch out and have to start all over again.
Either way, it puts them at your mercy and derails their initial strategy. Some scrub trainers aren’t able to bounce back from this, which is why Encore leads to many ragequits.
10.) Force Palm
EIGHT TRIGRAMS 64 PALMS
….at least, that’s always what I think of when selecting this attack.
The description reads: “The foe is attacked with a shock wave. It may also leave the target paralyzed.”
Using a wave of energy at the opponent?? The chance to render them motionless??
Like, c’mon dude. This is the Gentle Fist style from Naruto.
Which is fine with me, because I f*cking LOVED Neji Hyuga in Part 1.
Anyway, Force Palm is a badass move because it’s yet another example of how Pokemon draws inspiration from things we all love and gives the fans what they want.
Intermission: Other Moves That Remind Me Of Stuff
Aura Sphere: Hadouken
You know what’s another name for this attack?
Hyper Beam: Kamehameha
You know what’s another name for this attack?
Draco Meteor: Tengai Shinsei
Madara Uchiha’s crazy attack from Naruto: Shippuden.
Charge Beam: Bao Zakeruga
From the popular manga/anime, “Zatch Bell”
And now back to our normally scheduled list…
9.) Dragon Claw
Isn’t it crazy to think that this move wasn’t introduced until Generation III?
For being so dick-ridden in the early years, the Dragon type actually only had 1 attack (Dragon Rage) in Gen I.
….and only three Dragon Pokemon at all (Dratini evolution line), now that I think of it.
In any case, Dragon Claw was a welcomed addition to the game. It was powerful, accurate, and had a sense of ‘cool’ that made it a real joy to use.
The best part is that non-Dragon types could learn it, too, like Scrafty. Nothing communicates disrespect more than having a Pokemon take a break from keeping its pants up to claw you in the face.
The main move that comes up when people think of in-game transportation was Surf.
Surf was an incredible idea by Game Freak in RBY. Letting the player traverse the sea as an alternate method of reaching a location while battling unique trainers along the way was ingeniously empowering for players.
….Well, at least until the random battles with Tentacools lost their luster. Then it just got annoying.
But the utility of Surf both as a means of transportation and as a powerful attack makes it one of the few HMs that we’ve always been excited to find.
The wide array of Pokemon who could use it has always made for some interesting visuals, too. Nothing screams “Elegant nautical traveler” quite like cruising along atop your fucking Rhydon or Tauros.
Other HMs that built off Surf, like Dive and Waterfall, are pretty great as well. But nothing could ever beat the aqua OG.
If you haven’t noticed by now, I have two main battle styles: Glass Cannon and Troll.
When it comes to frustrating the absolute shit out of your opponent, look no further than Toxic.
Its accuracy is more than reliable, and the Poison it inflicts causes more damage each turn. So, it doesn’t matter if the opposing Pokemon runs something like Recover, because Toxic will eventually outpace how much HP they can heal.
When used by especially defensive Pokemon like Cresselia or Milotic, Toxic lets you watch your opponent slowly wither away.
A sign of a good trainer is being able to control the pace of the battle, and Toxic lets you do just that, since it often times causes opponents to start switching out like crazy to avoid their main Pokemon getting struck by it.
And since I’m sure some of you ALSO have this song stuck in your head, here ya go:
All things considered, Earthquake might be the best damaging move in the game.
It has great type coverage, great base power, and can be learned by what seems like every Pokemon ever.
….like Teddiursa, who weighs just under 20 pounds. How can something so small cause an Earthquake? Who cares, because it just wrecked your shitty Raikou.
By the way–I LOVE Raikou.
The introduction of double battles and such served as a check to Earthquake’s power, since it’ll also damage your partners. But sacrificing Dawn’s Infernape was worth knocking out both opponent’s Pokemon in one hit.
All hail Earthquake.
5.) Zap Cannon/Dynamic Punch/Inferno
These moves are hilarious. Absolutely hilarious.
They all boast huge base power and instantly cause status conditions—Paralysis, Confusion, and Burn, respectively.
The only thing, though, is that their accuracy is only 50.
When it comes to disrespectful Pokemon attacks, this group might take cake. You’re basically telling your opponent that you’re willing to potentially throw the ENTIRE match for a 50/50 shot at fucking their shit up.
When it works, it’s sweetly satisfying. When it doesn’t, it’s still funny because you’ve still communicated how little your respect your opponent.
Also, you know what Dynamic Punch reminds me of?
For some reason, using Hurricane with any Pokemon besides Noivern just feels wrong.
This is probably because the concept of whipping up an instant windstorm fits Noivern’s design so well.
…I also LOVE Noivern, so there’s obviously a bias.
In any case, Hurricane is a sweet move to use. The 70% accuracy makes it quite satisfying whenever its 110 base power connects, and the 30% chance of causing confusion only adds to the excitement.
Using Hurricane in the rain is Tier 1 fuckery in terms of how broken it is. Hurricane is certain to hit in the rain—even when the opponent is using Fly, Bounce, or Sky Drop.
The awesome animation in today’s 3D graphics alone make it worth the price of admission.
Whatever the fuck that means.
3.) Sky Uppercut
Sky Uppercut was a clear gift to the fans from the Pokemon Company, because it finally showed us what would happen if Hitmonchan could do a Shoryuken.
That alone causes me to spam Sky Uppercut whenever my current Pokemon carries it.
I even accidentally used it once on an opponent who was using Fly. And guess what? IT STILL HIT.
That’s right, baby. Sky Uppercut will still connect with Pokemon using Fly, Bounce, or Sky Drop.
With a respectable base power of 85, is there anything that isn’t awesome about this attack?
I. Love. Metronome.
Just think of the possibilities. Metronome allows the user to randomly use nearly any attack in the game that isn’t a signature move (like Techno Blast or something). As of the date that I’m writing this, there are almost 720 different Pokemon moves in existence.
Needless to say, this is the absolute most entertaining attack to use in low-pressure situations.
Hell, even high-pressure situations can make for some climactic battles.
Back when I played Pokemon Gold, the last Pokemon I had standing against Morty’s level 23 Haunter was my level 11 Togepi, which knew Metronome. Since Togepi is a Normal type, it was immune to Haunter’s only damaging attack, Night Shade.
I had no choice but to spam Metronome until a useful attack came up. After enough turns, I finally drew Fire Blast and won the battle.
I’ll never forget how excited my 8 year-old self was to pull something like that off.
Which leads me to why else I like Metronome so much: the Pokemon who could use it. Part of the joy in using this attack is watching my Togepi/Clefairy whip out an Eruption or Draco Meteor. That shit’s hilarious.
Fly takes the top spot on the list for how it perfectly captured the imagination of anyone who’s ever played Pokemon.
Admit it: we’ve all fantasized about soaring through the air on our Charizard, or commanding the skies atop our Lugia.
Although the animation was brief, the ability to use Fly outside of battle was an experience of sheer enjoyment that most of us will never forget.
Not only because it made backtracking incredibly easy, but more so due to how it allowed our imaginations to run wild as we pictured ourselves taking to skies with our favorite companion.
And this isn’t even mentioning how fun it is to use in battle. With a base power of 90 and great type coverage, Fly is the type of move that young gamers taught to every Pokemon possible.
The fact that the user soaring into the air literally causes the opponent to miss only added to our imagination, and made us feel really empowered.
Sure, there are stronger flying attacks that have come since. Sure, it doesn’t really have a place in competitive battling.
But this goes so far beyond that.
The sense of adventure, possibility, and empowerment Fly gave us is what Pokemon is all about.
Fly is the perfect representation of why we were drawn to Pokemon, why we fell in love, and why we still look back fondly today.
….that is, unless the opponent uses Sky Uppercut. SHORYUKEN!!
Thanks for reading!