22 Pokemon We Saw In The Anime Before The Games
While the anime, trading card game, and other media certainly dominate the world as well, the games are by far the heavy-hitters in the Pokemon world.
The Pokemon video games are undoubtedly the most influential and successful pieces of the franchise’s constantly-expanding empire. While the anime, trading cards, and other media have become incredibly popular, every new generation of games finds interesting ways to bring back audiences of all ages and provide intriguing new mechanics to draw in new players.
Knowing this, it might be surprising to discover that many Pokemon appear in either the animated TV show or one of the movies before they are catchable in a game. These teases began during the show’s first season, and continue to happen occasionally.
Updated April 29th, 2023, by David Kinder: After twenty years, Ash’s adventure is over. It’s hard to imagine that it consisted of more than a dozen films and hundreds of episodes. Each of these brings back many wonderful memories. Even though it’s the end of the line, a nostalgia trip is in order. Let’s take a look back at all the early appearances these Pokemon made before their mainline debut. We’ve added a few more Pokemon that were first revealed in the anime before coming to the games. Because even though the journey is over, we can always press play.
If you don’t feel like committing to an entire movie or season of the anime, you might enjoy one of the many short films that follow Ash’s Pikachu as he goes on his own side adventures. Many of them are available to watch online, but one of the more difficult ones to track down — Pikachu’s Ocean Adventure — introduced Chatot months before Pokemon Diamond and Pearl launched in Japan.
Pikachu’s Ocean Adventure originally aired as a 4D movie in Japan, which made putting it on disc nearly impossible. Pikachu and his friends finally get some downtime and decide to relax at the beach, only for this musical bird to swoop in with a treasure map and lead them on a short but fun underwater adventure.
The short film Pikachu’s Rescue Adventure aired before Pokemon: The Movie 2000 in theaters, and featured Pikachu and his Pokemon pals on a colorful and lighthearted journey. It introduced a few second-generation Pokemon before the release of Gold and Silver, including Bellossom.
A few Bellossom appear while Pikachu explores a giant tree, initiating a dance sequence starring all the Pokemon that live there. Gloom could only evolve into Vilepume originally, so this was the first time anyone ever saw its second evolutionary form. This particular short also introduced Hoothoot, Ledyba, and Elekid.
As soon as you finished watching Bellossom make a spectacular entrance in Pikachu’s Rescue Adventure, you could see even more Pokemon debut in the feature-length Pokemon: The Movie 2000. The second movie in the series features a battle between the first generation’s Legendary Bird trio — Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres — who are slowly turning the world of Pokemon into The Day After Tomorrow.
In order to quell the fighting, a series of events leads to Lugia interfering with the conflict and marking its debut in the Pokemon franchise. The movie was released a few months before Lugia would debut as a Legendary in Gold and Silver, which helped entrench its status as a fan favorite.
Wobbuffet had been a staple of the anime for many episodes, so it made a lot of sense to debut its pre-evolution in a short story arc. A wild Wynaut begins following Ash and friends when they arrive in Blackthorn City, appearing in a few episodes before they leave for their next adventure.
The Wynaut is rarely seen, but it loves to steal food from Team Rocket and causes them to constantly blame Jessie’s Wobbuffet for it. It accidentally steals Ash’s badges at one point but helps gets them back and manages to sneak away before most people even realize it’s there.
In the final episodes of the Johto arc in the anime, Ash meets a strong trainer named Harrison who uses a Pokemon Ash has never seen before — and which his Pokedex has zero data on. Harrison is from the Hoenn region, and the two trainers finally face off against each other in the Johto Silver League Conference. This leads to an intense, climactic fight between Fire-types Charizard and Blaziken.
Harrison’s Blaziken is the first on-screen instance anyone had seen of the Hoenn starters or their evolutions, and to see such a powerful Pokemon using brand-new moves such as Blaze Kick is undoubtedly exciting to watch. Blaziken was an incredibly popular choice during the third generation, and this cameo could be why.
17 Seedot And Shroomish
Both Hoenn Pokemon Seedot and Shroomish had simultaneous introductions in the anime, though their appearances were simply a teaser for what was to come in the then-unreleased Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire. They first appeared in Johto Photo Finish, where Ash’s Charizard loses by a hair to Harrison’s Blaziken.
After the battle, Ash and Harrison discuss their reasons for becoming Pokemon trainers, and Harrison mentions how Professor Oak reminds him of Professor Birch of the Hoenn region. In a fantasy sequence, fans got their very first look at multiple Seedot and Shroomish, along with Professor Birch conducting his field research. You were also able to see Wailmer and Sharpedo, but unfortunately only from behind.
Munchlax is a hungry and fun-loving Pokemon and was one of a few pre-evolutions introduced in the fourth generation. Munchlax is the baby Pokemon of Snorlax and shares many of the same characteristics, including its insatiable appetite and green-and-beige coloring.
Not only did a Munchlax appear for the first time in Destiny Deoxys, but May — one of the main characters in the Hoenn arc of the anime — owned a Munchlax for a while. Further to this, Munchlax actually appeared in several games from the Hoenn era before being officially released in its proper generation in Diamond and Pearl, where it’s notoriously one of the most difficult Pokemon to catch.
15 Mime Jr.
Many baby Pokemon that were pre-evolutions of existing Pokemon have been introduced ahead of their scheduled games, most likely due to the inevitable popularity they were bound to receive. One that first appeared in the movie Lucario and the Mystery of Mew was Mime Jr., the baby form of Mr. Mime.
Mime Jr. was one of many fourth-generation Pokemon introduced in the movie and was seen alongside Queen Ilene as her loyal partner. Mime Jr. provides plenty of comic relief, and while it doesn’t have the biggest role in the movie, it appeared in the TV show as one of James’ main allies in Team Rocket.
Another fourth-generation baby Pokemon introduced in Lucario and the Mystery of Mew was Bonsly, the pre-evolution of the second-generation Sudowoodo. It appears to take some of Ash’s and his friend’s food while they’re not looking but gets caught and scolded by Brock.
This gives Bonsly an excellent opportunity to use its Fake Tears move to trick Brock into feeling bad and giving it more food. It eventually befriends May and helps the team in their search for Mew. Like Mime Jr., Bonsly becomes a common character in the anime after Brock finds one and decides to raise it.
Sylveon, the newest and seemingly final Eeveelution, was revealed on Pokemon’s Twitter account long before the Fairy-type was even introduced. As a result, it caused a ton of confusion and speculation from fans about what type it could be.
Some speculated it could be a Flying-type because of its ribbons, while others guessed Ghost due to its blank, soulless eyes. Sylveon was featured in the short film Eevee & Friends months before the release of Pokemon X and Y.
Even though this is a sixth-generation Pokemon, Helioptile actually appeared in the anime during the previous generation. Alexa — a friend of Ash — helps escort him to Kalos later on in the series. Ash, Cilan, and Iris run into Alexa’s Helioptile, which has been separated from its owner, in the episode The Journalist from Another Region.
The same episode also featured the introduction of another sixth-generation Pokemon in the form of Gogoat. Ash’s Pokedex doesn’t have any information on them when he tries to scan them, and Cilan suggests they aren’t from the region.
Another fourth-generation Pokemon that was introduced before Diamond and Pearl’s release was Lucario. A handful of Pokemon were introduced in Lucario and the Mystery of Mew, but the titular Pokemon stood out from the rest — and would eventually become one of the most popular from its generation.
It’s always fun to see a new Pokemon make a brief appearance, but it’s something else to dedicate an entire movie to revealing a Pokemon like Lucario. It obviously worked out, as Lucario joined the Super Smash Bros. roster and became one of the most recognizable creatures in the Pokedex.
Kecleon was introduced in July 2001 with the episode The Kecleon Caper, which featured two Kecleon owned by wealthy ladies Madison and Alexa. Ash and friends meet the women on a luxury dirigible that flies around the world, which explains meeting new people and Pokemon from the Hoenn region. The episode pre-dated Ruby and Sapphire by over a year, which was released in Japan in November 2002.
Multiple iterations of purple Kecleon can be seen across the Pokemon franchise, including the Kecleon shopkeeper from the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series. Strangely enough, none of these purple Kecleons are close to Kecleon’s official shiny form, which is practically the same except sporting a blue zigzag stripe instead of red.
Like Lucario, Magearna is one of the few Pokemon to be introduced as one of the main characters in a movie before appearing in a game. Magearna was officially the first Pokemon from the seventh generation shown to the public in March 2016, and would be one of the main stars in Volcanion and the Mechanical Marvel later that same year.
This artificially-made Pokemon has the ability to understand human speech and emotions using a powerful Soul-Heart. Magearna is kidnaped by someone who wants to take the Soul-Heart and use its power, but Ash and a dedicated Volcanion do whatever it takes to protect the Pokemon and stop the villains from taking its power source.
8 Zorua And Zoroark
Zoroark Master of Illusions introduced us to Zorua and Zoroark several months before their debut in Pokemon Black and White. As with many Pokemon films, the antagonist is abusing the powers of the new Pokemon.
There was even a lovely crossover in Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver, where players were given a random Shiny Suicune, Entei, or Raikou. Trading them forward into Pokemon Black and White allowed players to capture a Zorua and Zoroark. For a brief period of time, they were technically legendary Pokemon.
Another Pokemon that was introduced in the long-lost Pikachu’s Ocean Adventure is Manaphy, the Water-type Legendary that is often seen alongside Phione. It’s a relatively short cameo in the movie’s opening sequence, but you can see Manaphy playing with some Buizel during a montage.
It wouldn’t take long for Manaphy to star in its own movie, though, as Pokemon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea would come out only a few months after Pikachu’s Ocean Adventure. The ninth Pokemon movie follows Ash and his companions as they try to protect an egg that contains a Manaphy, one that quickly latches onto May after it hatches.
Joining Lugia in debuting early as part of Pokemon: The Movie 2000 is Slowpoke’s branched evolution, Slowking. This mega-smart second-generation Psychic and Water-type appeared in the movie to help Ash and his friends solve the mysteries of the Legendary Birds and the attached prophecy.
The Slowking in Pokemon’s second movie provided some comic relief but also guidance for Ash and the gang. He helps Team Rocket realize that they played a benevolent role in helping to save the world, which they celebrate, being the good guys “for once.”
5 Snubbull And Marill
In Pikachu’s Vacation, we are introduced to the first couple of Pokemon not originally from the Kanto region. The first short film in the series debuted alongside the first movie, Mewtwo Strikes Back, and introduced Pokemon fans everywhere to Snubbull and Marill.
The pair is part of a quartet that causes a lot of trouble for Pikachu and his friends. The short also featured Togepi, who had been a staple of the anime for a while. Funnily enough, all three of Togepi, Snubbull, and Marill would eventually be converted to Fairy-types a full fifteen years after they made their debut.
4 Latias & Latios
Pokemon Heroes continued the trend of showcasing legendaries before their game debuts. Latias and Latios were a welcomed surprise. Ash and his friends travel to Alto Mare simply adventuring as they always do.
However, Ash’s antics capture Latias’s attention as it spends part of the film curiously following him around. The film also introduced Soul Dew, which, in the games, increases Latias and Latios’s Special Defense or Special Offense. If there was ever a location Game Freak should include in the mainline games, Alto Mare should be near the top.
After catching a glance at Snubbull and Marill in Pikachu’s Vacation, you were immediately treated to another new Pokemon during Mewtwo Strikes Back’s opening credits. Ash is confronted by a trainer named Raymond who wants to battle using a Pokemon that Ash and his friends have never seen or heard of before.
Donphan was a huge surprise at the time, and continued to get audiences excited for whatever the second generation had in store for them. It faces Ash’s Bulbasaur and initially puts up a good fight using its Rollout move, but Donphan is defeated after a few minutes and a powerful Solar Beam attack.