Classic Link Battle Flashbacks!

Trainers everywhere are heading back to the Kanto region with the release of Pokémon Red, Pokémon Blue, and Pokémon Yellow on the Virtual Console for systems in the Nintendo 3DS family. The original release of these games started a revolution of Trainers plugging in their game link cables to engage in battles and trades in classrooms, offices, and just about everywhere else—all across the globe. With the magic of the original games returning, battles are sure to recommence, fortunately without the need of a game link cable this time around!

Pokémon games have changed quite a bit in the past 20 years. Not only do you need to consider the limited Pokémon and moves that were available in the original games, some gameplay elements are radically different compared to newer titles. Take a look at some of the major differences:

  • Pokémon had only one “Special” stat, which functioned as both Special Attack and Special Defense

  • All moves of a certain type were either physical or special (for example, all Fire-type attacks were special attacks)

  • Pokémon did not have Abilities

  • Pokémon could not hold items

  • Pokémon did not have Natures

  • All battles were Single Battles

  • Pokémon did not recover from the frozen status condition unless hit by a Fire-type move

  • Recovering from the sleep status condition took an entire turn

  • Critical hit probability was based on the Pokémon's Speed (for example, the quick Jolteon was more likely to score a critical hit than the sluggish Snorlax)

  • Pokémon using Hyper Beam didn't need to recharge if they knocked out their target

  • Bind, Clamp, Fire Spin, and Wrap prevented their target from making a move

  • Pokémon's base stats didn't have a shared cap between stats. Each of a Pokémon's stats could be trained to their maximum.

As you can see, quite a lot has changed! Keep these ideas in mind as we break down the best strategies for competing in Pokémon Red, Pokémon Blue, and Pokémon Yellow.

Technical Machine Madness

Unlike in games released since the launch of Pokémon Black and Pokémon White, a TM can only be used one time. Listed below are some of the most important TMs, their locations, and some Pokémon that can make great use of them in competitive battles. Make sure to use your TMs wisely!


Suggested Pokémon


Swords Dance


Silph Co.

Body Slam

Golem, Jolteon, Rhydon, Snorlax, Tauros, Victreebel

S.S. Anne

TM10 Double-Edge

Articuno, Exeggutor

Rocket Hideout

TM11 BubbleBeam


Cerulean Gym

TM13 Ice Beam


Celadon Department Store

TM14 Blizzard

Cloyster, Dragonite, Lapras, Mewtwo, Starmie, Tauros

Pokémon Mansion

Hyper Beam

Articuno, Cloyster, Dragonite, Persian, Snorlax, Tauros

Celadon Game Corner

TM18 Counter


Celadon Department Store

Seismic Toss


Route 25

Mega Drain

Exeggutor, Gengar

Celadon Gym

TM24 Thunderbolt

Chansey, Gengar, Jolteon, Lapras, Starmie, Zapdos

Vermilion Gym

TM26 Earthquake

Rhydon, Snorlax, Tauros

Silph Co.

TM29 Psychic

Exeggutor, Jynx

Saffron City

TM31 Mimic


Saffron City

TM36 Self-Destruct


Silph Co.

TM41 Soft-Boiled


Celadon City

TM44 Rest

Articuno, Lapras, Mewtwo, Slowbro

S.S. Anne

Thunder Wave

Alakazam, Chansey, Slowbro, Starmie, Zapdos

Route 24

TM47 Explosion

Cloyster, Exeggutor, Gengar

Victory Road

Rock Slide

Golem, Rhydon

Celadon Department Store

TM50 Substitute


Celadon Game Corner

Since TMs can only be used once, it pays to plan ahead about which Pokémon you want to train. For example, Cloyster and Exeggutor are both strong candidates to learn Explosion. Since there is only one Explosion TM, you'll probably want to avoid building a team that includes both of these Pokémon. Pokémon such as Alakazam and Golem that learn many of their best moves by leveling up can be really valuable to your team because they help you conserve your TMs for other Pokémon. This really pays off if you want to train a Pokémon like Tauros that might hog several of your TMs!

One important exception is TM15, Hyper Beam. TM15 can be purchased with Coins at the Celadon Game Corner, so unlike other key TMs, you can use it as many times as you need to.

A Normal-Type Safari

No Pokémon is more iconic to competitive battles of Pokémon Red, Pokémon Blue, and Pokémon Yellow than Tauros. When Mewtwo isn't allowed, facing a Tauros is the toughest battle you'll encounter in the original games. Tauros is fast enough to move first against most other Pokémon; it does bonus damage with Hyper Beam and Body Slam as a Normal-type Pokémon; and it can even learn Blizzard and Earthquake to damage Pokémon that resist Tauros's Normal-type attacks. To make the best use of Tauros, weaken foes with other Pokémon's attacks or use Tauros's Body Slam, and then use Hyper Beam when Tauros can score a knock out so it doesn't have to recharge.

One way players try to slow down Tauros is by using Pokémon that resist Normal-type attacks. Without Steel-type Pokémon available, the Rock-type Rhydon and Golem serve as premier Tauros counters (plus, they are also solid solutions to Zapdos and Jolteon). Golem has slightly higher Speed, Defense, and Special stats than Rhydon, and its biggest advantage is the risky Explosion move. Rhydon has the edge in HP and Attack, and has a risky trick of its own in Horn Drill. Horn Drill can only hit slower targets, so the slow Rhydon should normally only use it on Pokémon that are paralyzed.

An alternative to Tauros is Persian. Its powerful Slash will always land a critical hit, but Slash can't paralyze opponents like Tauros's Body Slam can. Persian's other drawback is that it can't do as much damage as Tauros with Hyper Beam because of its lower Attack. However, Persian's higher Speed will allow it to move first against Tauros if the two Pokémon battle. Persian can also learn BubbleBeam to break through Golem and Rhydon more quickly than Tauros can with Blizzard.

With so many powerful Normal-type moves in the mix, it makes sense to seek out Ghost-type Pokémon, which are immune to Normal-type attacks. The only fully evolved Ghost-type Pokémon is Gengar, making it the only reasonable choice. Gengar brings value to its team beyond its immunity to Normal-type attacks, and it's also the fastest Pokémon that can learn the sleep-inducing move Hypnosis. While there aren't any powerful Ghost-type attacks, Gengar can deal solid damage with Thunderbolt to most Pokémon, and Mega Drain is super effective against Ground-type Pokémon that are immune to Thunderbolt. Gengar can also learn Explosion, allowing it to sacrifice itself to do big damage just before it faints. If you battle with Gengar, don't forget it's weak against Ground-type moves. (It doesn't have its Levitate Ability yet!)

Catch These Pokémon!

Tauros (find in the Safari Zone)
Suggested moves: Hyper Beam, Body Slam, Blizzard, Earthquake

Golem (find in Mt. Moon as Geodude)
Suggested moves: Earthquake, Rock Slide, Explosion, Body Slam

Rhydon (find in the Safari Zone as Rhyhorn)
Suggested moves: Earthquake, Rock Slide, Horn Drill, Body Slam

Gengar (find in Lavender Tower as Gastly)
Suggested moves: Hypnosis, Thunderbolt, Mega Drain, Explosion

(find as Meowth in Routes 5, 6, 7, and 8 in Pokémon Blue only)
Suggested moves: Hyper Beam, Slash, BubbleBeam, Screech

Welcome to the Saffron City Gym

Psychic-type Pokémon in Pokémon Red, Pokémon Blue, and Pokémon Yellow are extremely powerful. The Steel- and Dark-type Pokémon that would eventually resist Psychic-type attacks don't exist, and Bug- and Ghost-type attacks are weak. The move Psychic even has an incredible 30% chance to lower the target's Special stat. Better yet, almost every Psychic-type Pokémon has a massive Special stat, solidifying their awesome power.

The most famous Psychic-type Pokémon from the original games is deservedly Mewtwo. Most players agree to play without this terror from Cerulean Cave in Link Battles, but if you battle with Mewtwo, make sure to teach it Amnesia. Amnesia's sharp Special boost sends Mewtwo's Special stat to unbelievable levels. Mewtwo can even use Recover to restore its health after powering up. If you're looking for the Mewtwo experience when Mewtwo is prohibited from battle, Slowbro can be a reasonably good alternative. Slowbro also learns Amnesia and can also restore its HP (using Rest), but Slowbro is much slower than Mewtwo.

Alakazam also has some similarities with Mewtwo, as the two Pokémon both have amazing Special and Speed stats. Alakazam can even Recover like Mewtwo, but since Alakazam can't learn Amnesia, it tends to function best as more of a support Pokémon. The paralysis caused by Alakazam's Thunder Wave can slow down Tauros, and Alakazam can switch in safely against most Pokémon using Special attacks and paralyze them thanks to its own sky-high Special stat. Starmie functions similarly to Alakazam, sharing Thunder Wave and Recover. Starmie's more varied offensive moves make its damage harder to stop than Alakazam's, however.

Finally, two top Psychic-type Pokémon can inflict the powerful sleep status effect. Jynx's stats make it similar to Alakazam and Starmie at first glance, but Jynx can't learn Recover. Lovely Kiss and powerful Blizzard attacks make Jynx more immediately dangerous than its fellow Psychic types, but Jynx usually can't stay in battle for as many turns. The slower Exeggutor's main appeal is Sleep Powder, but it can trouble Golem, Rhydon, and Starmie with Mega Drain, as well. Exeggutor is also the only Psychic type that can learn Explosion, allowing it to try to take a Pokémon down with it once it's low on HP.

Catch These Pokémon!

Mewtwo (find in Cerulean Cave)
Suggested moves: Psychic, Blizzard, Amnesia, Recover

Slowbro (find in the Seafoam Islands as Slowpoke)
Suggested moves: Surf, Amnesia, Rest, Thunder Wave

Alakazam (find in Route 24 or 25 as Abra)
Suggested moves: Psychic, Seismic Toss, Recover, Thunder Wave

Starmie (find in the Seafoam Islands as Staryu)
Suggested moves: Blizzard, Thunderbolt, Recover, Thunder Wave

Jynx (receive from a trade in Cerulean City)
Suggested moves: Psychic, Blizzard, Mimic, Lovely Kiss

Exeggutor (find in the Safari Zone as Exeggcute)
Suggested moves: Psychic, Mega Drain, Explosion, Sleep Powder

The Rest of the Class

There are a handful of other Pokémon that have proven their worth on these classic teams, either for their team support, reliability in facing a particular Pokémon type, or added defense. Take a look at several of these solid Pokémon to fill out your party.

Chansey can switch into most expected Special attacks with reckless abandon due to its outrageous HP and solid Special stats, and it will often try to paralyze opponents with Thunder Wave. It can be dangerous to use Thunder Wave recklessly, however, because it's important not to catch your opponent's Chansey switching in instead. One Chansey is very unlikely to knock out another because of Soft-Boiled, so the battle often comes down to which Chansey freezes the other with Ice Beam first. Clever players may want to poison their Chansey before starting a Link Battle to avoid being frozen.

Snorlax's mediocre Special stat makes it less impervious to Special attacks than it is in later Pokémon games, but it's still a very tough Pokémon to take down. As a strong Normal-type Pokémon that can learn Body Slam, Hyper Beam, and Self-Destruct, it can deal huge damage at all points during matches in spite of its low Speed.

Many players like to include an Electric-type Pokémon on their team, with Zapdos and Jolteon being the two strongest choices. Jolteon is quicker and frailer than Zapdos, and it has access to a greater variety of quirky attacks, such as Pin Missile and Double Kick. Zapdos is hardier and stronger, and it can use Drill Peck to take down the Grass-type Pokémon that resist Thunderbolt.

Lapras is sort of like a substitute for Starmie, with greater natural bulk and Confuse Ray, but without Recover. The two Pokémon share a variety of strong attacking moves and the Water type. Lapras's Ice type isn't as strong defensively as Starmie's Psychic, but Lapras's Blizzards hurt.

Finally, Bind, Clamp, Fire Spin, and Wrap are very different moves in Pokémon Red, Pokémon Blue, and Pokémon Yellow than in later games. If a Pokémon is hit by one of these moves, it takes damage and is prevented from moving for several turns. A fast Pokémon with Wrap can potentially defeat an entire team of slower Pokémon, provided it never misses. Stacking your team with Pokémon like Victreebel, Dragonite, Moltres, and Cloyster can pay dividends if you can paralyze all of your opponent's Pokémon.

Catch These Pokémon!

Chansey (find in the Safari Zone)
Suggested moves: Ice Beam, Soft-Boiled, Counter, Thunder Wave

Snorlax (find in Routes 12 and 16)
Suggested moves: Body Slam, Hyper Beam, Surf, Self-Destruct

Jolteon (receive as a gift in Celadon City as Eevee)
Suggested moves: Thunderbolt, Pin Missile, Double Kick,
Thunder Wave

Zapdos (find in the Power Plant)
Suggested moves: Thunderbolt, Drill Peck, Agility, Thunder Wave

Articuno (find in the Seafoam Islands)
Suggested moves: Blizzard, Ice Beam, Agility, Hyper Beam

Lapras (receive as a gift in Silph Co.)
Suggested moves: Blizzard, Thunderbolt, Body Slam, Confuse Ray

Cloyster (find in the Seafoam Islands as Shellder)
Suggested moves: Clamp, Hyper Beam, Blizzard, Explosion

(find in the Safari Zone or Celadon Game Corner as Dratini)
Suggested moves: Wrap, Hyper Beam, Surf, Agility

Victreebel (find in Routes 12, 13, 14, and 15 as Bellsprout in Pokémon Blue and Pokémon Yellow)
Suggested moves: Wrap, Stun Spore, Razor Leaf, Hyper Beam

Onix (find in Rock Tunnel)
Suggested moves: Bind, Earthquake, Rock Slide, Explosion

Moltres (find in Victory Road)
Suggested moves: Fire Spin, Fire Blast, Agility, Hyper Beam

Whether you're seeing Kanto in its original form for the first time or you're back on the road to Viridian City for a trip down memory lane, we hope you enjoy your journey and battles against other players in Pokémon Red, Pokémon Blue, and Pokémon Yellow. Don't forget to check out for more Pokémon video game and Pokémon TCG strategy and analysis.

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