Pokemon Emerald Best Starter: Our Pick and Reasoning
This post was last updated on March 1, 2023
It’s been nearly 20 years since Pokemon Emerald came out and for some reason, people still can’t seem to agree on who the best starter is. Well, today, you’re not just getting another opinion piece. We’ve done the math and we’re ready to tell you who the definitive best starter in Pokemon Emerald is.
Pokemon Emerald Starter Pokemon
As with any mainline Pokemon game, we start Pokemon Emerald with the option to choose between a grass-type pokemon, a fire-type pokemon, and a water-type pokemon. In the Hoenn region, the starters are Treecko, Torchic, and Mudkip.
These three types were chosen for starter pokemon because their type advantages provide an early game example of the rock-paper-scissor-styled gameplay for which this game is known. Fire types are super effective against grass types, grass types are super effective against water types, and water types are super effective against fire types.
With this typing spread, each starter pokemon is strong against one of its peers and weak against the other. When compared to each other in this way, they’re all on equal footing. Fortunately, there are a few other factors we can take a look at.
- Base Stats
- Gym Leaders
- Elite Four
- Story Battles
We’ll start by focusing on the actual pokemon themselves, and then we can move into how they stack up against the important battles of Pokemon Emerald.
The Starter Pokemon
If we want to have a conclusive answer for who is the best starter pokemon, we need to know exactly how each of these pokemon functions.
We’ll be looking at base stats and movesets here, as these are going to have the largest impact on our performance. In general, we’re going to be looking at the stats of the evolutionary line as a whole, with the most focus being placed on the final form.
Treecko, the Wood Gecko pokemon, is a small, bipedal, grass-type lizard. It evolves into Grovyle at level 16 and Sceptile at level 36.
Like many starter pokemon, the Hoenn trio has mega evolutions. Sceptile’s mega evolution is a grass and dragon type. Of course, this doesn’t have an impact on Pokemon Emerald since mega evolutions weren’t even conceived yet.
As a completely grass-type line, the Treecko line is only weak to flying, poison, bug, fire, and ice-type pokemon. Since it is a monotype line, there are no 4x weaknesses, which is definitely a positive.
In the mainline Pokemon Games, a pokemon’s base stats are one of the most important factors in determining how strong they are. After base stats, we get into IV breeding and EV training, two things that we won’t be factoring in.
Sceptile is essentially a glass cannon. It has an incredible speed stat of 120 and a special attack coming in at a close second of 120. Its defensive stats aren’t necessarily bad, but it certainly isn’t going to be tanking large hits from strong attackers.
Treecko’s first STAB (same type attack bonus) move is Absorb at level 6. This move and its more powerful versions (Mega Drain and Giga Drain) can be incredibly helpful at recouping health for this pokemon when it manages to take a big hit.
Beyond that, the most important moves we’re going to see are Quick Attack at level 11, Leaf Blade at level 29, and Agility at level 35. The goal of this pokemon is always to hit the opponent as fast as possible and take them down with huge damage.
Leaf Blade helps us a lot since it has a high critical hit ratio and can potentially knock out even a pokemon with resistance to grass type.
Regarding items, you’ll want to use either a quick claw or a miracle seed, boosting either speed or the effectiveness of your grass-type moves.
Torchic, the Chick pokemon, is an adorable fire-type pokemon that resembles a baby chicken. It evolves into Combusken at level 16 and Blaziken at level 36. Both Combusken and Blaziken have the secondary typing of fighting.
This line is weak to flying, psychic, water, and ground-type pokemon.
Blaziken’s two strongest stats are its physical and special attack, coming in at 120 and 110 respectively. This allows the pokemon to benefit from both fire and fighting-type attack moves.
Unfortunately, having both of its high stats in attack means even fully evolved Blaziken doesn’t have many defenses to speak to.
The Torchic line’s first fire-type move comes in at level 11 with Ember, a decent move that will probably be our primary fire-type move until Blaze Kick at level 36.
We also get Double Kick, our main fighting type move, at level 16 when we evolve into Combusken and gain the fighting type.
We might choose to use Focus Energy or Bulk Up as utility moves and, of course, we can always use some TMs to get access to stronger moves (like Flamethrower or Brick Break) closer to the early game.
Mudkip, the Mud Fish pokemon, is a small water-type mud puppy. It evolves into Marshtomp at level 16 and into Swampert at level 36.
While Mudkip itself is only a water-type pokemon, both of its evolutions are water and ground type. This turns the normal weakness to electric-type attacks into an electric-type immunity and the normal 2x weakness to grass into a 4x weakness. Fortunately, grass is the only weakness this line has.
Interestingly, Swampert has the highest base stat total of the three starters’ fully evolved forms. It has a total of 535 whereas Sceptile and Blaziken both have 530. Admittedly, this is a very small difference, but it’s still notable.
It also has the most balanced stats, with only one of its stats coming in below 85 while Sceptile has two ‘low’ stats and Blaziken has no stats between 80 and 110.
Its highest stats are attack and HP, coming in at 110 and 100 respectively, but it also has a defense and special defense of 90, meaning it can really take a hit.
Mudkip actually learns a ground-type move before it learns a water-type move. Mud slap at level 6 is extremely weak, but it provides excellent defense since it’s guaranteed to lower the target’s accuracy by one stage.
Water Gun at level 10, on the other hand, is basically just a slightly better tackle that we get STAB on. Things really start taking off when Marshtomp learns Mud Shot at level 16, a move that dishes out significant damage and slows our enemies.
We also learn Muddy Water and Earthquake in the late game once we’ve evolved to Swampert. Both of these moves can hit both foes in double battles, something we see a whole lot of in Pokémon Emerald
The Challenges in Pokémon Emerald
Pokemon don’t exist in a vacuum. The main gameplay of Pokemon Emerald is focused on battling, so we need to consider who our starter pokemon are actually battling against.
When choosing your starter in Pokemon Emerald, you’ll want to account for gym leaders, the elite four members, and the enemy team. We can mostly forget about the rival since their main pokémon will always have a type advantage over yours.
As in most regions, there are eight gym leaders we’ll need to take on in the Hoenn region. We’ll be seeing how easily our starter pokemon can take down these gyms.
An important thing we’ll want to keep in mind is team composition. As we progress through the game, it becomes easier and easier to fill out our teams with strong pokemon to cover any weaknesses or poorly covered type advantages.
Because of this, the early game gym battles are going to be more important. If our starters can make it through the first four with relative ease, we can always support them with strong allies for the middle game and late-game battles.
So, in the Hoenn region (specifically, in Pokémon Emerald), the gym leaders and their specialties are as follows:
- Roxanne – Rock Type
- Brawly – Fighting Type
- Wattson – Electric Type
- Flannery – Fire Type
- Norman – Normal Type
- Winona – Flying Type
- Tate and Liza – Psychic Type
- Juan – Water Type
Treecko – Gym Battles
Treecko has type advantages against the first and eighth gyms, and it can learn some dark-type moves to give Tate and Liza a run for their money.
The Treecko line is also weak to two of the gyms, with both fire and flying types being super effective against grass.
Its general speed boost is enough to provide some fun battles throughout the region, but it doesn’t have the typing to really make a difference. It’s also the only monotype starter line in this generation, meaning it lacks the coverage the other choices have here.
Torchic – Gym Battles
With a normal level progression, the Torchic line only has an advantage against Norman’s normal-type pokemon. We can, however, evolve Torchic into Combusken before the first gym so we have fighting-type moves to take down Roxanne’s rock types as well.
Technically, you could also learn Peck to dish out some damage against Brawly’s fighting types in Dewford Town, but in most cases, you’re better off dealing STAB damage.
Even with somewhat of a plan against a few gyms, the fighting type makes this starter line weak to the flying and psychic gyms, and fire makes us weak to the final gym leader.
While Blaziken is an amazing pokémon, it struggles to see competitive play in the region it belongs to.
Mudkip – Gym Battles
Finally, we come to Mudkip, a pokemon that blows the gym challenge out of the water. The Mudkip line isn’t weak to a single gym, and it has type advantages in three out of the four first gym battles.
None of the three starters actually have advantages against fighting pokemon, but a Mud Shot strategy might be the best idea for dealing with pokemon who hit hard when they manage to hit. Lower the accuracy and then call it a day.
Also, since Tate and Liza technically both specialize in rock types as much as psychic types, the Mudkip line has a strong advantage on yet another gym.
Overall, the Mudkip line definitely takes the cake as the best starter for taking down gym leaders.
The Elite Four is an interesting challenge. They are certainly some of the most difficult trainers to take down in the entire region, but we’ve also had the whole region to explore and catch pokemon throughout.
Since it’s not impossible for us to build a team that doesn’t even have our starter by the time we get to the Pokémon League, this section is only going to have a small impact. That being said, it’s definitely better if our starter can help us out.
The Elite Four members are as follows:
- Sidney – Dark Type
- Phoebe – Ghost Type
- Glacia – Ice Type
- Drake – Dragon Type
- Wallace – Water Type
Since Elite Four members also tend to use more dual-type pokemon, we really should take a look at each individual pokemon. That would be insane to write out though, so we’ll do the analysis and give you the data. We’ll look at movesets, stats, abilities, and anything that could be a problem.
You’re going to see this: starter – number of pokemon they have advantages against – number of pokemon they’re weak to.
- Treecko – 5 – 9
- Torchic – 6 – 10
- Swampert – 1 – 2
As you can see, all three starters are sitting at roughly the same ratio. Each has weaknesses to about double the amount of pokemon that they are strong against.
Rating this is a matter of preference. Some may prefer the Torchic line’s ability to sweep through a whole team’s worth of pokemon. Others may appreciate the fact that Swampert only has difficulties with two pokemon.
However you choose to look at it is up to you, but we’re going to give our points here to Swampert. If type advantages are net neutral, we’ll go back to looking at abilities. Swampert has the most HP, meaning at the very least it can tank hits.
In Emerald, we see a sort of combination of the Ruby Sapphire storylines. Because of this, our pokémon will face off against both Team Agua and Team Magma.
Rating battles against the enemy teams aren’t easy, since there are loads of grunts with different team compositions and then there are Team Admins to factor in as well. F
Fortunately, the teams do have a sort of general composition. Team Magma uses a lot of ground and fire-type pokemon while Team Aqua uses a decent amount of water-type pokemon. The three main evolutionary lines we see are definitely Numel, Carvanha, and Poochyena.
Interestingly, each of our starters has an edge over one of these evolutionary lines (Mudkip v Numel, Treecko v Carvanha, Torchic v Poochyena). Still, this doesn’t necessarily even them out.
The strongest pokemon in each team is going to be in their types which give Mudkip and Treecko the edge against Magma and Aqua respectively. However, Mudkip isn’t weak to team Aqua’s pokemon, while Treecko will struggle to stand against Team Magma.
Altogether, the Mudkip line once again comes out victorious.
Mudkip is the best starter in Pokémon Emerald. Obviously, all starters are meant to be somewhat equal, but that doesn’t stop the water and ground-type Mudkip line from taking the title based purely on battle prowess.
You should still feel free to enjoy whichever pokemon you’re excited by. Just remember, if you’re going into a nuzlocke or speedrun of some variety, you’ll probably want Mudkip on your side.