Pokémon Scarlet & Violet include many powerful new trainers in the franchise universe. Champions, hidden boss battles, rival battles, and more have given players difficult tests on their journey to become Pokémon masters.
While each generation has brought powerful battlers, not all of the strongest NPCs in the game have simply been the champion of that region. There have been champions that weren’t worth their title, and other trainers with more difficult battles before or after the champion may have supplanted them as the hardest battle in the game.
Gen 1 – Blue
After gathering eight gym badges, traversing Victory Road, and defeating Lance of the Elite Four, many first-time players assumed they’d finally become the Pokémon Champion. However, waiting for them was their hardest battle yet: their rival, Blue.
Blue remains one of the hardest champions of all time, featuring a balanced team no matter what starter the player began with. While generations 2, 3, and 6 had strange, gimmicky monotype champions, Blue brought a team that not only featured different types but different roles and strategies among his Pokémon. His team also included monsters that were generally very powerful, like Alakazam. Just like the player, Blue’s journey had led him to become worthy of being a Pokémon champion.
Gen 2 – Red
Sadly, generation 2 had arguably the easiest champion in the entire game: the monotype Dragon champion Lance. Unlike champions with more diverse teams, players could sweep Lance with a single Dragon or Ice move.
Thankfully, the games had a secret boss that more than made up for Lance’s weakness: Red. What made the battle so fascinating is that Red wasn’t just the strongest character and a secret boss; he was the gen 1 player character. Players got to battle their former selves in the final battle of the game, literally and metaphorically surpassing the player they were in the previous generations.
Gen 3 – Steven
Steven and his Metagross were a difficult challenge in Ruby & Sapphire, but with Emerald came a challenge that rivaled generation 2’s Red battle: the post-game battle with former champion Steven.
What made Steven so much more difficult than Wallace wasn’t just the levels on his team. Wallace had a fairly weak mono-Water team, while Steven’s types were much more diverse and difficult to deal with. He had a theme, but his theme involved Rock, Steel, and Ground-types in a perfect blend that matched the world’s greatest archeologist. His Metagross also far outclassed the power of any other generation 3 opponent on its own.
Gen 4 – Cynthia
Cynthia recently proved that her signature Garchomp was one of the strongest Pokémon in the Masters Eight tournament in the anime. To this day, she’s still arguably the most difficult champion battle in the history of the game.
Cynthia’s Pokémon have a balance of types as well as a balance of roles. She has a solid mix of defensive Pokémon and offensive threats like her Garchomp to close out unprepared challengers. Her team is so powerful that players have even tried using it in competitive play to decent success. It’s unlikely that any other trainer in the franchise has ended more Nuzlockes or similar challenge runs.
Gen 5 – N
Generation 5 was like a reboot of the franchise in many ways. Similar to the other games, the end came with a twist to the standard formula that many fans appreciated. This time, instead of the Elite Four having already been defeated, the champion himself had already lost to another trainer – N, the leader of Team Plasma.
Having the leader of the evil team replace the champion battle is, to this day, a Black & White exclusive. While Ghetsis came after N, the inclusion of a legendary Dragon made the N fight arguably harder. Not to mention the mind games with N’s Zoroark and a powerful sweeper in Archeops. It was a fitting champion battle for a game that redefined the series, and Black & White remains the most symbolic name for a Pokémon game, given the ideological war between the player and N.
Gen 6 – Serena/Calem
Generation 6 had many trainers at a similar level, but none of them were especially challenging. However, the three most prominent foes were Lysandre, Diantha, and the post-game battle against the player’s rival.
While a decent Steel type could nearly sweep Diantha, Lysandre only had four Pokémon, and the game had arguably the easiest Elite Four trainers in the series, the post-game rival fight did offer a decent challenge. Their Mega Absol could decimate slower teams or Pokémon that relied on non-damaging moves, and the newly buffed Fairy-type Clefable was one of the single strongest Pokémon in generation 6.
Gen 7 – Kukui
Fans often criticize Pokémon for following the same formula, but Kukui was the third time that the traditional final battle got a gigantic twist. This time, the player became the champion after defeating the Elite Four. Kukui then became their first challenger for the title of champion.
While many considered Kukui’s signature Incineroar a disappointing Pokémon evolution for the adorable Torracat, his team makes up for in power what it may lack in design. His Snorlax is a monster, and nearly every single one of his Pokémon is competitively viable. If the player goes into the fight with relatively even levels, they can expect to escape with more than a few scratches. Especially considering Kukui’s Z-Move.
Gen 8 – Leon
The undefeated champion of Galar has meant a lot to the world of Pokémon in the Sword & Shield era. Not only was he the main antagonist of the Journeys anime and possibly Ash’s final battle, but he also served as the climactic final battle of generation eight.
Leon’s team is a perfect fit for someone that’s supposed to be the greatest champion ever. His Gigantamax Charizard is an unparalleled threat, and he completely outclasses every other trainer in the game, no matter what version of his team the player is facing. It’s a very offensive team, complete with monstrous threats like Dragapult that are among the strongest and fastest in generation eight.
Gen 9 – Turo/Sada
Generation 9 may have more contenders for “strongest trainer” than any other generation. Nemona, Arven, and Penny are all difficult battles that can leave the player in a pinch. However, none of them are quite as strong as the professor of the game: Turo in Violet, and Sada in Scarlet.
Turo and Sada are two of the only opponents in the franchise who will come at the player with more than 6 Pokémon. Their battle is capped off by the incredibly difficult challenge of beating Koraidon or Miraidon, but even getting there is difficult. Every single Pokémon they send out has the Base Stat Total of an average legendary, making their fight feel far more difficult than any champion.
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