Gladion, N and Barry from Pokemon.
Image Source: The Pokemon Company via Twinfinite

10 Best Pokemon Rivals, Ranked From Childhood Friends to an Annoyingly Brilliant Trainer

Here's the Pokemon games 10 best rivals of all time.

Rivals have become a core element of the Pokemon games from the very beginning, introducing bonus characters with unique backgrounds, stories, and teams to keep you on your toes throughout your journey to be the very best. But naturally, some rivals more than outshine others, so we’ve compiled a list of the best Pokemon rivals to date, ranked on their likability, stories, and difficulty. Without further ado, here’s the 10 best Pokemon rivals, ranked.

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10. Marnie

Marnie from Pokemon
Image Source: The Pokemon Company

Marnie is one of the rivals you’ll encounter throughout Pokemon Sword & Shield. Marnie is the younger sister of Gym Leader Piers and fans’ favorite contender of the Galar Gym Challenge, complete with her fan club in the form of Team Yell.

While Marnie has a great design and an exciting team, she is easy enough to counter-build against and take down in your final battle if you plan your team setup accordingly. Her personality is also rather complex, giving a shroud of mystery to her character.

Unfortunately, Marnie appears a bit infrequently to consider her a true rival, and the whole gimmick of Team Yell does more to hurt her intimidating aura rather than enhance it, making it seem like she is some mascot instead of a skilled trainer in her own right. Her backstory is also quite interesting, but it seemed to need to be explored to a satisfactory level of depth in Sword and Shield, which was rather disappointing. Marnie is great, but because of these factors, she ranks at just the bottom of the top 10 rivals of all time.

9. Bede

Bede from Pokemon Sword & Shield
Image Source: The Pokemon Company

In Pokemon Sword and Shield, Bede is the other rival you’ll run into on occasion, other than Marnie and Hop. Compared to Marnie, he is rather arrogant, proud, and rude towards you – the classic formula for the rival you love to hate (Silver, we’re looking at you).

Earing Bede his place over Marnie in this list is the fact that he’s just a frustrating guy to come across. Some of his battles are easy enough to get through, while others are some of the most challenging matches in the games. On top of this, he has a seriously cool storyline, going from arrogant Psychic-Type rival trainer to the proud Fairy-Type Gym Leader of Ballonlea.

Throughout your journey to become a Pokemon Champion, Bede goes through a journey of development on his own, learning to become a much more humble trainer. Despite initially doubting his place as Opal’s successor, he is inspired by the people of Galar to stick to his goals and unlock the true power and potential of Fairy Types like nobody else before him. Mad respect Bede, do your thing.

8. Hugh

Hugh from Pokemon
Image Source: The Pokemon Company

Hugh is the rival character in the Pokemon Black 2 & White 2 games, growing up as the player character’s childhood friend – a classic recurring dynamic for many rivals in the Pokemon franchise. He is incredibly passionate about the pure strength of Pokemon and powerful battles but even more so driven by his hatred for Team Plasma.

This all has to do with the fact that Team Plasma stole a Purrloin his grandfather had caught for his beloved little sister, and Hugh is hellbent on getting it back, participating in the Unova Gym Challenge to grow strong enough to do so. Is this not the most heartwarming goal of a rival in the entire Pokemon franchise? Seriously, you can’t help but want to cheer him on in completing his mission.

Though his motivations are sometimes taken to the extreme, that doesn’t alter the fact that he’s a positive rival, always keeping the player on their toes throughout their adventures. Hugh doesn’t chime in with occasional battles to prove he’s the better trainer, but instead to ensure the player is ready to achieve the next step towards their goal – what a great guy! While he isn’t the most potent rival to face off against, his unique motives, good intentions, and heart of gold earn Hugh a place on this list.

7. N

N from Pokemon
Image Source: The Pokemon Company

The King of Team Plasma himself, N, is one of the most mysterious and unique characters within the entire Pokemon franchise. He is a primary antagonist in the Black/White/Black 2/White 2 with the bizarre and incredibly useful ability to communicate with Pokemon, both in terms of understanding them and being able to speak to them.

N has strong morals that drive him forward, making him a very engaging foe. Because of his past, having grown up among mistreated and abused Pokemon, he is driven to rescue Pokemon from humans – diving further into the dark side of the Pokemon franchise.

N is also a formidable rival with a challenging team to navigate in combat, making the most of available fossil Pokemon and bulky, fully-evolved forms. In fact, he is such a good rival that he is considered by many to be a better challenge than the Pokemon League Champion, Alder.

Keeping all this information in mind, this character more than earns his place on this list. The only thing stopping him from ranking higher is that he feels more like a powerful threat/looming antagonist rather than a consistent rival.

6. Barry

Barry from Pokemon
Image Source: The Pokemon Company

Barry is the player’s rival in the Pokemon Pearl, Diamond, and Platinum games and the remakes of these titles, Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. He is a childhood friend from Twinleaf town beaming with energy and passion towards becoming a strong Pokemon trainer.

This character brings that same intensity to his team, creating a fun and enjoyable challenge throughout your Pokemon journey in the Sinnoh Region. Barry makes impressive choices when going up against you in battles, such as utilizing the likes of Floatzel, Staraptor, and Snorlax. Sure, he’s a likable enough character, too, but it’s his challenging team that ultimately makes him so fun to go up against.

While some may find his hyperactive and determined traits a bit much, this is what makes him such a great character; don’t forget that most Pokemon trainers start at just ten years old, so Barry is an excited kid, setting out on a journey to achieve his dream and become the best. Plus, I don’t know about you, but his determined attitude created a ripple effect in me as the player character. Seriously, I was hellbent on beating this dude.

5. Gladion

Glaidon from Pokemon
Image Source: The Pokemon Company

Gladion is a Pokemon trainer and rival to the player during the Sun, Moon, Ultra Sun, and Ultra Moon games. This character stands apart from many competitors from previous Gens, with an interesting backstory and unique depth to his character. First off, there are his ties to Team Skull, working as an enforcer. And then there’s his burning resentment toward his mother, Lusamine.

During his departure from the Aether Foundation, he stole a Type: Null that has since become his partner Pokemon. This is a fascinating story because not only did Gladion save this Null from becoming a weapon to be used against Ultra Beasts, but the Type coverage Null offers makes him the rival with the most flexibility in a team, perhaps of all time.

He was also never really interested in Team Skull but was looking for the firepower to take down the Aether Foundation. In fact, Gladion goes as far as to look out for the player and the safety of Cosmog from Team Skull, despite supposedly being on the latter’s side.

It doesn’t stop with looking out for the player, though. He helps them grow strong on top of this with his exciting and challenging battles, also building up his own strengths for his final confrontation with his mother. It’s undeniable that this character has a good heart, even willing to go up against his family for what he knew was right. For these reasons, we can’t help but love Gladion, earning him a spot as one of the best rivals of all time.

4. Wally

Wally from Pokemon
Image Source: The Pokemon Company via Twinfinite

Wally is undoubtedly one of the most wholesome characters in the Pokemon franchise, so who would’ve thought he could double as one of the strongest and most well-loved rivals of all time? He works more as a secondary rival, appearing in the Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald games and the Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire remakes. Despite this, Wally is more engaging and well-rounded than the main rivals, May and Brendan.

This lovable green-haired trainer works his way into the story as a sickly boy from Petalburg City. Despite his illness, Wally dreams of training Pokemon. Right from the moment you first meet him, you get to spend quality time with him and help him catch his first Pokemon, Ralts. After seeing how overjoyed and thankful he is, it’s almost impossible not to find yourself attached to this rival; he’s too damn sweet.

What comes as a surprise, though, is his progression through the Hoenn Region and the strength of his well-trained team. Despite jumping into things as a newbie, Wally successfully catches up to and matches the likes of both Brendan/May and the player character in skill.

Plus, his Mega Gallade in Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire is an absolute force to be reckoned with, going down as one of the most brutal fights in the game. In terms of overcoming obstacles, personal growth, and insight into powerful team building, Wally hits it out of the park, more than earning his right in the top half of this list.

3: Blue

Champion Blue from Pokemon
Image Source: The Pokemon Company

Who could be more iconic than the rival who started it all, Blue himself? He is the first rivalry established in Generation 1 Pokemon games and their Fire Red/Leaf Green remakes, operating as the ex-childhood friend of the player character/Red, causing tensions to boil from the beginning.

Blue is the type of rival that makes you want to chase your way through the game after him to finally get your chance at beating him at the end. This is influenced by his constant mocking, teasing, and pride in announcing that he’s always one step ahead. Seriously, he knows exactly how to get on your nerves, but he provides excellent opportunities and boosts to the player with his battles, helping them to grow strong and push them in the next direction.

Blue also has a seriously impressive resume, having the skill to beat the Pokemon League and take over the Viridian City Gym. This means he gives trainers from around the Region the same push that allowed the player/Red to become Pokemon League Champion, carrying on the legacy.

Sure, he’s annoying at times, frustrating more often than not, and seriously rude; but Blue has some of the highest skills and capabilities of all rivals in the Pokemon franchise, earning him the solid third-place spot.

2: Nemona

Nemona from Pokemon Scarlet & Violet
Image Source: The Pokemon Company

Born and raised in the Paldea Region, Nemona is the leading player rival in Pokemon Scarlet and Violet and is a character that took many by surprise with how likable and exciting she was as a rival. First, she has a great design that draws you to her character. And then, on top of this, from the moment you first meet her, she’s a cheery, passionate, and encouraging friend and rival all in one.

Nemona gives the player all the help and encouragement they need throughout the game, acting not only as a rival looking to clash in battle but as a support person and caring friend. It’s hard not to get excited to go up against her when you see how passionate and heated she is about battling others.

Nemona also began the game already holding the title of Champion but was willing, even ecstatic, to go through the Paldea Gym Challenge and Pokemon League again with new team members and friends. No matter the title she already held, she, in a heartbeat, decided to start from the very beginning, so you’ve got someone to rely on and go up against.

This kind of rivalry makes Nemona so special; she cares about others just as much as she cares about her passions and aspirations. Plus, she’s a seriously talented trainer, so you’ll surely get a nice mix of troubles and enjoyment when you face off against her at the end of your Victory Road journey.

1: Silver

Silver from Pokemon
Image Source: The Pokemon Company

Okay, Okay, we know what you’re thinking…Silver? He’s so intolerable; how could he possibly hold the number one spot? Well, hear us out on this one. Sure, Silver, for lack of better words, is a total ass. He’s the main rival of the Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal games and the Heart Gold/SoulSilver remakes, known for making the cold and heartless entrance into the story by stealing a starter Pokemon from Professor Elm’s lab.

However, for as many times as Silver makes you want to throw your game across the room so you never have to deal with him again, he also operates as a brilliant rival. He’s mean, unlikeable, and doesn’t fit the childhood friend dynamic. Despite this, these same aspects make you desperately chase after him, determined to crush the little twerp once and for all and teach him a lesson.

Seriously, no other rival had sent me running through a game with such fire in my eyes. He is a challenging obstacle to overcome, too, as he has a team consisting of some of the strongest Pokemon in the Region, such as Gengar, Alakazam, and Golbat. However, along the way, Silver has learned from the world around him and the error of his ways. Despite being the son of Team Rocket’s Leader, Giovanni, he’s grown apart from the criminal antics of Team Rocket and is looking to make his way and redefine himself through his skill as a trainer.

During your final battle with him, he challenges you not out of malicious intent but rather to prove he’s a good trainer. From the worst guy in the game to a trainer who respects his Pokemon and aims to better himself, Silver’s story and development stand out beyond any others. If you haven’t played the games he’s involved in, give it a try; you won’t regret it.

Who’s your favorite or most hated Pokemon rival? Be sure to let us know in the comment below. You can also feel free to check out the rest of our content here at Twinfinite for more Pokemon lists, news, and gameplay guides. We have a wide variety of topics, such as the 10 most likeable characters in Pokemon Scarlet & Violet, best Pokemon Champions, ranked, and top 35 best Pokemon games ranked from worst to best.

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Grace Black
Grace is a writer and digital artist from New Zealand with a love for fiction and storytelling. Grace has been writing for Twinfinite for one year and in the games industry for two years. She's an enthusiast of everything spooky, an occasional anime enjoyer, and a die-hard Ghost-Type Pokemon fangirl. Her favorite video games include Overwatch 2, Life is Strange, The Last of Us, Baldur's Gate 3, and Pokemon - all of which she will never tire of.