The Pokémon franchise has been universally beloved since the launch of the very first games, Pokémon Red & Blue, in 1996. The core concept of catching and bonding with powerful, mystical creatures was instantly appealing. These days, the franchise’s accessible combat has carried it through many generations of fans. But one of the things that’s most enticing about the Pokémon series is its legendary creatures. Since the very beginning of the franchise, dedicated trainers have come face to face with iconic and intimidating legendary Pokémon. These creatures represent the ultimate challenge to ambitious trainers. They are also often a major factor in the storylines of the games that introduce them.
The tradition of introducing legendary Pokémon for the player to hunt down originated in the very first generation. Pokémon Red & Blue had a relatively small roster of legendary Pokémon for players to discover, especially when compared to later games. But because these were the very first legendary Pokémon fans ever encountered, they have left an indelible mark on the lore and design of the franchise. Here’s everything you need to know about the four legendary Pokémon introduced in generation one.
Articuno, the Legendary Ice Bird
The main trio of legendary Pokémon in the first generation are the Legendary Birds of Kanto. These three grand and powerful beasts are scattered throughout the map. The first of these, Articuno, is an Ice/Flying type Pokémon. As its type suggests, this legendary bird has the power to control ice at will. It sometimes appears to doomed travelers in remote, icy locations to offer them aid. Like the other two members of its trio, Articuno likely took inspiration from tales of legendary birds from throughout the world, such as the Roc or the Chinese Fenghuang. In Pokémon Red & Blue, it can be found exclusively on the Seafoam Islands. Articuno is especially deadly in battle, thanks to powerful Ice-type moves such as Blizzard.
In Pokémon Sword & Shield, the eighth generation of main series Pokémon games, the legendary birds were introduced through a DLC with new regional forms. The DLC’s variant of Articuno, Galarian Articuno, abandons its Ice type and functions as a Psychic/Flying type instead. This version of the creature is a powerful damage dealer thanks to its signature move, Freezing Glare. Galarian Articuno’s potent laser has a chance to freeze opposing Pokémon in their tracks.
Zapdos, the Electrifying Legendary Pokémon
As the name suggests, the second Legendary Bird, Zapdos, is an Electric/Flying type. Unlike the graceful, flowing feathers of Articuno, Zapdos can be immediately recognized by its bright yellow colors and explosively jagged shape, evoking its electric nature. By flapping these striking wings, Zapdos can cause thunderstorms. Like its fellow legendary birds, this creature is very elusive, and said to appear only during the storms it can help create. It gains power from being struck by lightning and is capable of flinging those same lightning bolts at foes. In Red & Blue, it can be found only in the abandoned power plant on Route 10.
Zapdos has a Galarian form in Pokémon Sword & Shield as well. The Galarian Zapdos is a flightless bird with reddish plumage replacing the original’s bright yellow color. It’s a Fighting/Flying type, capable of unleashing its signature move Thunderous Kick to great effect. This attack not only deals considerable damage but lowers the target’s Defense stat as well, making it a fearsome move to be on the receiving end of.
Moltres, the Firebird
The flaming legendary bird Moltres is easily identified as a fire type. Its constantly burning wings make the bird exceptionally easy to spot. They also tell you everything you need to know about Moltres’ nature. Taking clear inspiration from the legend of the Phoenix, this creature can be found bathing in the magma of an active volcano in order to heal its wounds. It also sheds embers every time it flaps its wings. In battle, its fearsome control of fire makes it a dreadful adversary. Moltres, like its fellow legendary birds, is very rare and reclusive. However, there are stories of it using its brightly glowing wings to guide lost travelers in the mountain regions it calls home. This legendary bird can be found on Victory Road.
The Galarian Moltres is a very intimidating creature with a predominantly black color scheme, lit with deep scarlet flames. It is a Dark/Flying type, and unlike its Kanto counterpart, it attacks with an oppressive miasma of dark magic energy. This sinister aura saps the wills of Galarian Moltres’ victims, causing fatigue and burning away their spirit. Victims felled by this attack are reduced to burnt out shadows of themselves. This terrifying creature’s iconic move is Fiery Wrath, which uses Galarian Moltres’ shadowy power to strike all enemies and has a chance of causing opponents to Flinch. This makes them briefly too frightened to act, and is a fitting representation of Galarian Moltres’ terrifying power.
The Sinister Artificial Pokémon Mewtwo
Mewtwo is the only legendary Pokémon in generation one who isn’t associated with the legendary bird trio. Instead, this mysterious creature is part of the Mew duo along with Mew, the franchise’s first mythical Pokémon. Players are unable to encounter Mew in-game. When Pokémon Red & Blue came out, the only way to acquire this elusive creature was by attending special events in real life. However, despite its exclusivity, Mew still left a major impact on the game in the form of Mewtwo.
The Psychic-type Pokémon Mewtwo was created in a lab as the result of horrific experiments based on Mew. The gruesome nature of this project instilled in Mewtwo a deep, abiding hatred of humankind, causing it to break out of the lab and flee to the Cerulean Cave. This is where you can encounter the creature in Pokémon Red & Blue. In the anime and movies, Mewtwo comes to understand the good side of humanity thanks to series protagonist Ash. In-game, you can form your own bond with this powerful creature and unleash its potent signature move Psystrike, introduced in Generation V.
In Pokémon X & Y, Mewtwo was granted two Mega Evolutions, temporary transformations that can increase the creature’s power even further. Mega Mewtwo X is a Psychic/Fighting type. The transformation bulks the Pokémon up and gives it the power to stretch its limbs in order to enhance its reach in combat. Mega Mewtwo Y, on the other hand, is a Psychic powerhouse. An enlarged cranium enhances this Pokémon’s already-formidable mental powers still further, allowing it to decimate its opponents with a single thought.
Legacy of the Legends
The first generation of Pokémon games set the stage for an unbelievably vast media franchise. Almost thirty years later, the Pokémon series is still taking the world by storm. The legendary creatures introduced in Pokémon Red & Blue are no less iconic than the rest of the franchise. The Legendary Birds of Kanto have had numerous appearances, not only in subsequent games but in additional media like the anime and movies. Their identity as a legendary trio established a tradition of such groupings that would go on to influence the series on a major scale.
Mewtwo, meanwhile, is one of the most infamous Pokémon in the series’ massive roster. The very first Pokémon movie, Mewtwo Strikes Back, focused on this legendary creature’s hunger for vengeance against its creators. Ever since, Mewtwo has been one of the most instantly recognizable members of the Pokémon canon, and it’s one of the few such creatures who are playable on their own in the Super Smash Bros. games. The legendary Pokémon of generation one changed the world, and they’ve been making their presence felt ever since.