If you’re looking for the top Pokémon for Pokémon Diamond or Pokémon Pearl — or their Brilliant and Shining remakes — you’ve come to the right spot! We’re tackling all the best picks for the most competitive battles.
However, choosing the best Pokémon isn’t always a straightforward decision. You may have preferred picks based on the cool factor, but also want some of the most effective Pokémon in battle. Plus, there are a lot of choices: Nearly 500 Pokémon await in these games and their updated versions! Which are the best options for battling through the game (which can be very challenging, especially in the new versions) or with friends? Don’t worry: We’re going through all the top picks and why players find them so useful.
Don’t let this unassuming psychic Pokémon fool you. It’s one of the lake guardian legendary Pokémon, and an incredibly powerful pick for your Pokémon team. Its combination of high stats and an incredible number of potential moves through Technical Machines make it an excellent choice. Its innate leveling abilities include a wide variety of options to dodge attacks, confuse enemies, and customize hits to do the most damage, even sacrificing itself during tough battles. Plus, with its levitation, Azelf is immune to ground attacks and traps.
However, players benefit from having experience in battles before using this Pokémon to its greatest potential. Teaching it all the right Technical Machine moves can also take a lot of work. That’s compounded by how difficult the Pokémon is to get: You’ll have to visit Lake Valor in the late game after it’s been restored and you’ll only get one shot at capturing Azelf (save accordingly).
For skilled players, Abra is one of the most powerful choices in this generation of games, although it does take some skill to use. This psychic type Pokémon has excellent stats even in the early stages, sporting a great mix of attack and defense quality. In fact, the Pokémon is strongest in Gen-4 and was nerfed a big after.
Of course, Abra works best with players that know how to take advantage of its mindbending abilities. That includes clever options like self-inflicted status strategies with Synchronize and getting battle-ready with Inner Focus. Players can add a wide variety of psychic moves and even a collection of other type attacks to mix things up. However, you’ll have to prepare for evolution: The final form Alakazam is only available via trading, so having some friends playing along with you is very important.
This fluffy Pokémon arrived in Gen-4 and may seem an odd choice for players that want to dominate battles. However, this normal-type Pokémon has several key advantages that make it an incredible pick, especially for those first playing Diamond or Pearl.
First, you can access Bidoof very early on, so it’s an easy mark on your Pokedex and you can start training right away. Second, Bidoof has an incredible array of abilities. Leveling up along can get access to rock, dark, and even psychic attacks but the real value comes from teaching Bidoof. It has some of the broadest compatibility with Technical Machines out of any Pokémon in the game, especially at such early levels. That allows you to customize your Bidoof as you travel, turning it into whatever kind of force and type you need. Create it for battle, defense, capturing, or whatever other gap you want to fill. Eventually, it can evolve into a Bibarel and gain water type abilities.
Cranidos is a tricky Pokémon to get but one of the best Pokémon to add to your team ASAP in a new playthrough. This rock type Pokémon has excellent stats, and although its move pool is a little limited compared to some of our picks, its abilities hit like a truck. If you want to prioritize taking down opponents fast, attacks like Pursuit, Take Down, and Headbutt are incredibly effective.
Cranidos also learns an array of abilities to lower an opponent’s defenses and raise its own attack power. If you’re having trouble taking down a particularly tough opponent with a lot of defense, Cranidos can step up to deliver a victory. Eventually, it evolves into Rampardos to help you continue your winning streak.
However, a couple of limitations hold Cranidos back. Players can only find this Pokémon in Diamond, it’s not available in the Pearl version of the game without trading. Also, you’ll have to do some work to get it: You’ll need to find a Skull Fossil and use it to revive this ancient Pokémon in the Oreburgh Mining Museum before you can add it to your roster.
We know, Chimchar is one of the earliest Pokémon — in fact, it’s a starter Pokémon you can choose when you first begin, so many players assume it’s “just okay.” On the contrary, Chimchar is a powerhouse in disguise that will carry you far if you use it properly. Chimchar’s major advantages include a particularly high speed stat and a great level-up experience that yields many powerful attacks.
Chimchar, like some of our other picks, learns a huge amount of skills from Technical Machines, but its innate ability Blaze benefits fire skills most all, increasing fire damage at low HP. Over time, Chimchar can evolve into Monferno and Infernape, so there’s plenty to look forward to for players committed to the long haul.
This ghost and poison Pokémon is well worth iyour nvestment, as its evolution into Gengar yields excellent results. Thanks to its powerful special attack capabilities and high speed, it’s a great pick to put out quick, effective damage. In addition to rapid attack abilities like Sucker Punch and Payback, Gastly also has a wide variety of status-related attacks. It can paralyze, sleep, flinch, confuse, and prevent targets from healing…and that’s just with its core list of moves.
When enemies are powerful, Gastly has very effective backups, too. If it can pull a sleep off, it cause Nightmare or use Dream Eater to heal itself. And if it looks like Gastly will faint, it can try a last-ditch Destiny Bond to guarantee the opponent will faint at the same time. With these skills, plus a strong option for teaching new Technical Machine attacks, Gastly is a battle powerhouse given enough time.
While we love Palkia, this water/dragon type Pokémon comes with a couple of huge caveats that push it down the list. First, it’s only natively available to Pearl. If you’re playing on Diamond, you won’t be able to get it unless you do some serious trading with others, and that’s not always an option. Second, Palkia is the mascot legendary Pokémon of Pearl, and as such you’ll have to beat the entire campaign to get it. That means it won’t be of any use until endgame activities, and there are no fun evolutionary paths to follow.
But when you do get Palkia, wow does this Pokémon destroy on the battlefield. It has powerful abilities to slow and paralyze targets, and its damaging attacks feature higher-than-usual critical hit rates for maximum damage. It’s also particularly difficult to fight against thanks to its ability Pressure, which take off extra power points every time an opponent hits Palkia.
Below, we’ll go over some of the most important questions people have about getting the best Pokémon in Diamond and Pearl.
What About Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl?
If you’ve been playing more recent Pokémon titles, we bet you’re a little confused about how these different versions of the game work. In many cases, Nintendo re-releases popular versions of a Pokémon game into new, updated versions. For example, Green and Red got releases nearly a decade later as LeafGreen and FireRed.
This gives Nintendo an opportunity to update graphics. Sometimes, a lot of other changes are implemented too, including new Pokémon and more mechanics. In this guide, we’re discussing Pokémon from the original Diamond and Pearl releases back in 2006. However, those games were remade in 2021 and released on updated platforms (the Nintendo Switch, primarily) as Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl.
Brilliant and Shining made a lot of changes, but they were primarily visual. They updated much of the art style use in the games (that was a very controversial decision), and some mechanics. However, unlike other remakes no new Pokémon were added or significantly changed. That means our list of top picks also works for the new versions of the games.
What’s the Best Way to Catch Pokémon in Diamond and Pearl?
Do get the best Pokémon in these games, you have to catch them first. That’s usually more complicated than just throwing a Pokeball at them, unless you have a lot of patience. But if you’ve got your eye on a Pokémon to capture, there are several techniques that work best in Diamond and Pearl. Try these tricks:
- Get the Pokémon’s HP down. This tried-and-true method is vital for increasing your chances of a capture. However, you don’t want to hit too hard and cause a wild Pokémon to faint, which ruins your chances. So it’s a good idea to put in some damaging moves that you know won’t obliterate before trying to throw a ball.
- Inflict a status. Diamond and Pearl are packed with status effects, and they also increase the odds of a capture working. Try to use a Pokémon that has attacks that can cause sleep or paralysis. Take down some HP, inflict a status, and your capture has a much better chance of working.
- Buy the move False Swipe. False Swipe is a special attack you can purchase and teach to a Pokémon. You can find it at the store in Veilstone City, so grab it as soon as you can. This is an interesting attack that will never take a Pokémon down below 1 HP. So, players can use it repeatedly without worrying about the other Pokémon fainting.
- If you want to train a Pokémon specifically for capturing, look for one you can teach False Swipe to, that also has useful status attacks. Absol is a good choice that’s available early on in the game and can use Thunder Wave to paralyze. Sneasel is also a strong pick with its freezing capabilities.
Why can I find completely different Pokémon tier lists for this generation?
Yeah, this is normal. Everyone has their own opinions, and Pokémon are incredibly varied in Diamond and Pearl. Add in the ability to teach Pokémon moves with Technical Machine and other tricks, and you can make nearly any Pokémon into your favorite pick in a duel. So, not all lists and rankings will look the same!
However, we based our list on performance and usefulness in a variety of battles, including innate stats, potential abilities, and evolutionary forms. That’s a pretty strong mix, so we’re confident you can find great picks on our list no matter your own preferences.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Diamondpearl/CC BY-SA 4.0.