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Pokemon: The Water Starters, Ranked

After a Pokémon trailer on February 27th announced the next games in the series, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, fans were treated to a first look at the next trio of starters. Quaxly is the newest member of a series of beloved water starters in the Pokémon World.

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However, not all water starters are created equal, and what sets a starter’s first form apart is unique. For a basic Pokémon, especially a starter, design and personality trump gameplay considering they’re more meant to set the tone for their evolution line and the game as a whole rather than be used for very long in combat.

9 Sobble

The Water Lizard Pokémon Sobble is best known for, well, sobbing. Even the Pokédex mostly talks about the power of Sobble’s tears. The most unique thing trainers learn from Sobble comes from its ability to turn invisible.

Design-wise and from its Pokédex information, Sobble appears to be an aquatic chameleon. Sobble is cute, but both its design and characterization are so invested in the Pokémon simply being sad. Sobble certainly isn’t one of the most unique Sword & Shield Pokémon, and other water starters outshine it.

8 Froakie

Water-type Pokémon Froakie refusing to go into the Pokéball.

The Bubble Frog Pokémon Froakie’s main trait is being surrounded by bubbles and, according to the Pokédex, having a “happy-go-lucky air.”

While final evolution Greninja is one of the coolest and strongest Pokémon in X & Y, Froakie doesn’t receive quite the same love as its final form. Froakie is still a solid design, most starters are, and the bubble collar is a very nice touch. Froakie has some personality and interesting characterization as well, with an interesting theme of a young budding ninja. Overall, Froakie is an above-average Pokémon who happens to fall in a category with some of the franchise’s greatest.

7 Popplio

Popplio splashing in a pool in the Pokemon anime

The Sea Lion Pokémon, Popplio is best known for its inflated clown nose and the frills under its neck. According to the Pokédex, Popplio uses the clown nose to blow up balloons.

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The playful entertaining sea lion is a strong concept for a Pokémon, and the personality does shine through. Both the Pokédex and the design give Popplio a strong character and a great introduction to Alola for players. The circus theme of the Pokémon is a bit of an issue, however, seeing as how (for good reason) circus animals haven’t aged very well in the public eye.

6 Oshawott

Oshawott smiling

The Shell Armor Pokémon Oshawott’s most defining point of its design is the seashell on its stomach. The dex entry doesn’t say much about Oshawott’s personality, just that the shell on its stomach is both used for battle and breaking berries.

The young samurai otter has a fairly standard design aside from the shell, which is a nice and interesting touch that sets up Oshawott’s eventual transition to Samurott well. Personality-wise, not much is given by either the design or the dex entries other than Oshawott’s role as a young otter samurai.

5 Squirtle

Squirtle smiling

The first water starter and the Tiny Turtle Pokémon himself, Squirtle’s main design trait is his curled tail and large shell. According to the Pokédex, Squirtle resorts to retreating into his shell and shooting water out when he’s in danger.

Squirtles’ design initially seems like a simple blue turtle, but the spiral design on his tail and his ability to retreat into his shell and release water (almost like Gamera flying) are both unique and fun qualities in Squirtle. As a fairly simple Gen 1 Pokémon, Squirtle doesn’t quite have the flashiness that later generations have in their design. However, Squirtle makes his simplicity and a few unique quirks his strength with a fun personality and cute design.

4 Piplup

Piplup looking up eagerly, waiting to adventure the Pokémon world.

The Penguin Pokémon, Piplup’s defining feature is the dark blue cape of feathers. In terms of personality, Piplup is characterized as independent and stubborn to the point of not accepting food from its trainer.

While he turns into one of the coolest dual-type water Pokémon in Empoleon, Piplup starts off as an adorable penguin and partner of the iconic character Dawn. The only thing holding Piplup back is its reluctance to form a bond with its trainer, as starters should be the Pokémon that trainers form their greatest bonds with.

3 Quaxly

Quaxly Pokemon Scarlet Violet

The Duckling Pokémon Quaxly features a tuft of hair on its head that resembles a sailor cap. According to an early description by Nintendo, Quaxly is earnest and tidy.

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Quaxly is the newest edition to the water starters, and its sailor-inspired design works perfectly for a duck Pokémon. Quaxly’s characterization so far shows it as being neat, noble, and the type of loyal Pokemon that any trainer would want by their side in a new region.

2 Totodile

Totodile smiles widely in Pokemon

The Big Jaw Pokémon Totodile takes heavy inspiration from its name, but its back spikes are another cool feature aside from the oversized Maw. According to its Pokédex entry, Totodile’s jaws are so powerful that he can administer incredibly painful bites even when it thinks it’s just playfully nipping.

Totodile’s design and Pokédex entries both give him a distinct personality: a playful and lovable baby animal that doesn’t know its own strength. While Totodile may not be the best Pokémon to keep as a pet, he certainly fits the spirit of the adorable but dangerous baby crocodile perfectly.

1 Mudkip

Mudkip from the Pokemon series

Mudkip, the Mud Fish Pokémon, is one of the most beloved Pokémon in the entire series. Its odd star-shaped gills and the fin on its head paired with a vacant expression make Mudkip among the more humorous-looking starters. According to a Pokédex entry, Mudkip is incredibly strong and can crush rocks much bigger than itself when it feels threatened.

The idea of such an oddball Pokémon with such enormous power clearly appealed to the Pokemon community. Mudkip has inspired numerous memes throughout the years, and its odd and seemingly half-skittish half-vacant personality makes Mudkip possibly the most unique starter in the series.

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