Dark Pokémon Lore That Will Change How You Look at the Games

We're going beyond Cubone's skull and weird Pokédex entries here to look at some truly troubling pieces of Pokémon lore.

Darkest Pokemon Lore
Photo: Nintendo

The Pokémon franchise is known for two things: creating a kid-friendly world full of imaginative creatures and hiding creepy details in plain sight. If you look through Pokédex, you are bound to find disturbing entries that paint the otherwise colorful critters with anime eyes in a different light. Who knew that Gorebyss hunted by spearing prey and drinking their vital fluids? Or that Spoink would die if they ever stopped bouncing?

However, there’s more to the creepy side of Pokémon than just Pokédex entries. Quite a few locations, cutscenes, and even mechanics hide details that add to the franchise’s lore and make the game world seem far less kid-friendly than it actually is. And then there are the locations that don’t bother hiding the strange phenomenon and are just excuses for the developers to freak players out. Here are some of the darker examples of Pokémon lore that we found. 

Mega Evolutions Are Actually Very Painful

Every Pokémon generation has added a new mechanic or gimmick that completely altered the multiplayer meta, but few had the same effect as Generation VI’s Mega Evolutions. These transformations completely altered the looks and typings of a select few Pokémon, but they were quickly replaced with Z-Moves, Dynamaxing, and most recently Terastallization. Good thing too, since Mega Evolution is far more dangerous than it appears.

On the surface, Mega Evolution is just a temporary form of natural in-game evolution that gives certain Pokémon a power boost. Each transformation even comes with its own respective Pokédex entries. But if you read these blurbs, you will see that Mega Evolution is an artificial process that mucks around with a Pokémon’s biology in dangerous ways. More often than not, the Mega Evolution process is described as very painful. For instance, the jaw of Mega Glalie is snapped open during the transformation, and the spines that cover Mega Aerodactyl erupt painfully from the skin. And quite frankly, those are the lucky ones. 

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Mega Evolution Pokédex entries are full of examples where the victim is driven mad. Gyarados are angry even at the best of times, but at least they still usually listen to Trainer commands. Mega Gyarados, meanwhile, are effectively lobotomized and only know how to destroy. Ghost-types like Mega Gengar and Mega Banette go full Pazuzu and try to curse everything around them, including their trainers. And yet despite that, some Mega Evolutions still have it worse since Mega Scizor and Mega Houndoom produce so much energy that they can start melting. Maybe it’s a good thing Game Freak got rid of Mega Evolution.

Real Ghosts Haunt the Pokemon World

In the world of Pokémon, Ghost-types are a known quantity. They might be floating, semi-intangible creatures, but they still eat, sleep, and reproduce. In other words, Ghost-types are alive and not actual ghosts. However, actual ghosts do exist in the different Pokémon regions, and unlike Ghost-type Pokémon, they aren’t easily explainable.

Arguably one of the most infamous examples of a real live…er, dead ghost popping up in Pokémon is the mysterious Hex Maniac of Lumiose City. As its name suggests, this ghost uses the Hex Maniac model and only appears in Lumiose City (specifically, on the second floor of one of its buildings). If you ride the elevator up, she materializes behind you, says, “No, you’re not the one…”, and floats offscreen. Not walks, floats. And if you go after her, you can’t find her. Who is she? What does she want? Who is she looking for? Nobody knows. The character is shrouded in mystery, but the creepy way she moves, appears, and disappears has left players convinced she is a ghost. But while only players, and by extension the protagonist, have seen this ghost, they aren’t the only in-game characters with spectral sight.

Many Trainers, Gym Leaders, and Elite Four members who use Ghost-types have a connection with spirits. Sometimes they’re just possessed, but some, such as Phoebe, are mediums. Her connection to the afterlife is part of her character, but nobody knew how deep the connection went until Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. Her intro battle cutscene starts off normal enough, but when it cuts to black, you might notice something spawn on her chair in the last frame. Then the scene gets really freaky. The camera moves oddly, as if it’s from the perspective of someone walking. The most obvious explanation is the game spawned an NPC to act as a shaky, spooky camera, but if that’s true, explain the child NPC mostly obscured by the protagonist’s giant head in the next scene. Nobody acknowledges it, but it’s there.

That unexplained NPC isn’t the game’s only ghost. At the top of Mt. Pyre, when Team Magma/Team Aqua steal their respective orbs, an elderly couple is up there with them. However, if you return later in the game, the old woman is missing. Phoebe is nearby, talking to seemingly nothing, but she claims she’s conversing with the spirit of her grandmother. Given what Phoebe says, the old man on top of the mountain is her grandfather, which would make the woman who was with him Phoebe’s grandmother, who Phoebe later claims is…dead. But you saw her alive earlier in the game, right? Right?

The Haunted Strange House and Old Chateau 

Traditional ghost lore states that disembodied spirits are tied to certain locations. That is true in the world of Pokémon, and like ghost legends in the real world, some are more active than others.

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Two of the most haunted locations in all of Pokémon are Sinnoh’s Old Chateau and Unova’s Strange House. Both exude a creepy atmosphere and are home to unexplained phenomena. NPCs pop up in impossible locations and disappear just as quickly; the eyes of paintings glow red when the protagonist isn’t looking, and furniture shudders and shifts around, occasionally blocking doorways. Since Ghost-types lurk around both areas, it’s difficult to tell if the hauntings are caused by the Pokémon or if the hauntings attracted them, but it doesn’t really matter since these are terrifying events in otherwise kid-friendly games. But then you dive into the lore.

While the Old Chateau doesn’t have a backstory (it’s a creepy manor for creepy manor’s sake) the Strange House hides a dark secret. Judging from books players can read and the location’s single (unliving) human resident, a little girl used to live there who was haunted by nightmares possibly caused by Darkrai. She died before her dreams could be cured with a Cresselia’s Lunar Wing. That isn’t just dark; it’s depressing.

Pokéballs Brainwash Pokémon

The Pokémon series is full of mysteries, but none elude audiences quite like the question of why wild animals with superpowers obey the commands of pink, squishy hominids. Is it trust? Love? A longing to participate in gladiatorial combat and a willingness to obey anyone who helps bring them victory? Nope, the answer is probably brainwashing.

The Pokémon franchise established early on that the best way to transport your team of creatures is to house them in Pokéballs. The exact science behind the process is a bit iffy, but that is ok since the mechanics of the balls aren’t the main hook. However, a handful of scenes indicate that Pokéballs also alter the brain chemistry of the creatures inside and make them obey their owner’s commands.

In Black 2 & White 2, Hugh serves as the players’ rival, and one of his driving forces is retrieving his father’s Purrloin from Team Plasma. However, when he finally catches up with the individual member who took it, the Purrloin, now a Liepard, obeys Team Plasma’s commands. The thief claims this is part of the process behind Pokéballs, and while you could argue they are just messing with Hugh (Team Plasma is a terrorist organization, after all), this statement is corroborated by the player.

Whenever you trade Pokémon, the one you receive obeys you without question. Buy why? It’s not like you caught it or trained it. You’re a stranger to the creature, so why should it obey you? You could handwave it away as just a game mechanic, but ignoring that, perhaps Team Plasma was right all along. Maybe Pokéballs actually brainwash anything stored inside, and when you trade Pokéballs, they program the Pokémon to recognize you as its owner.

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The Pokémon Comics Are Full of Genocide, Torture, and Mutilation

The Pokémon franchise is a multimedia juggernaut that cornered the video game, anime, and plushie markets. The IP also has its claws in trading card games and comics, although the latter doesn’t play by the same rules as the rest of the franchise. Pokémon comics (technically manga) take so many liberties from the source material that they might as well be a different, darker franchise.

Odds are you have probably seen images of zombie Pokémon and an Arbok being decapitated by a Charmeleon. These stem from the first arc of the Pokémon Adventures manga and are just the tip of its violent iceberg. Later during its run, Giovanni, in an act of casual cruelty, orders his Cloyster to freeze a pair of Magmar and then shatter their frozen bodies, and human protagonists have been impaled at least twice. And the manga doesn’t just stop with physical violence; it also charges headfirst into mental scarring territory.

Many characters in the manga reflect their darker nature and act differently compared to their source material counterparts, at least early on. The Kanto Gym Leaders and Elite Four are the poster children of these personality changes. Lt. Surge, for instance, electrocutes the main character, Red, and tries to drown him, whereas Koga attempts to melt Red with a Grimer and Arbok. As for the Elite Four, they’re all straight-up psychopaths who want to end humanity because of their perceived crimes against Pokémon. It’s difficult to determine who is the worst member of the bunch. Is it Agatha, who brainwashed Bruno into joining her genocidal crusade? Is it Lance, who used a Dragonair to blow up Vermillion City and all its inhabitants? Either way, they’re all dark, irredeemable reflections of the characters many Pokémon game veterans know and love.

Lumiose Station’s Mysterious Message

A little bit of mystery can go a long way. The less information you have, the less context you have, which can make messages that are creepy on their own take on far more sinister tones.

For instance, Lumiose City is a fairly large city that is full of locations to visit. One such area is Lumiose Station, which is a necessary stop in many players’ journeys. If you look around and interact with most objects, you won’t find anything out of the ordinary. However, if you check the back of the station’s time table, you will find the words “I’m going to go for help. Wait in the usual place.”

The more you think about this message, the more it sends chills down your spine. Who left this message, and what did they need help with? Given where the message is written, they probably didn’t want most people to know about the note, so it’s probably related to something dire. Where did the message’s creator go, and did they ever get the help? Again, we don’t know. This little bit of text is unresolved and hits close to home since it sounds like the kind of note someone who is dealing with, say, domestic or stalker trouble would leave. It’s enough to send chills down your spine, especially since we don’t know if it’s been resolved.

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Galarian Fossil Pokemon Live In Agony 

Fossil Pokémon are a longstanding tradition of the Pokémon franchise. Each one represents a creature that went extinct millions of years ago in the fictional game world and was subsequently resurrected through the miracle of science. However, Fossil Pokémon are all part Rock-type. Were they Rock-types millions of years ago, or is that typing a side effect of using fossils (which are rocky impressions created by the molds of ancient bones)? What players control in battle might not be 100% accurate recreations of the ancient creatures, and that goes triple for Galarian Fossils since for them, life is suffering.

To obtain one of Galar’s four Fossil Pokémon, you have to mix and match two different fossils and give them to Cara Liss. The combination can create an Arctozolt, Dracozolt, Arctovish, or Dracovish. The process and results of this unique form of resurrection are a clear reference to the infamous Crystal Palace Dinosaurs: a collection of sculptures based on what scientists in the 1850s thought dinosaurs looked like.

The plot twist of this period of science was that scientists had no idea what they were doing. They just glued together the skeletons of unrelated animals and unintentionally created chimeric sculptures. Cara Liss copies that playbook when “resurrecting” the Galarian Fossil Pokémon. But what makes the resulting creatures so dark? As usual, it’s all in the Pokédex.

Each entry postulates how their respective Pokémon went extinct, which are all bunk since the Pokémon are Frankensteined chimeras. Even worse, most of these blurbs state the Pokémon live in constant agony. Arctovish and Dracovish, for instance, apparently can’t breathe unless they are underwater, even though they are clearly land-dwelling creatures. Meanwhile, Arctozolt is constantly shivering because its Electric-type upper body was stapled to an Ice-type lower body. While you might not realize it from a gameplay standpoint, Cara Liss ignored all morals to create animals whose existences cause agony. Really makes you reconsider whether or not you should enjoy listening to Dracovish’ cry from the anime.

The Terrifying Truth Behind the Alola Trainer’s School

The Pokémon franchise has always been lauded for its glut of post-game content, and Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are no different. Players can catch all the creatures they missed and explore Ultra Wormholes to catch a few legendaries, participate in the Battle Tree, and even challenge Team Rainbow Rocket to experience some of the best battle tracks the game has to offer. But if you’re looking for some creepy post-game content, visit the Alola Trainer School again.

While players visit the school shortly after acquiring Pokédex, they don’t have a reason to visit afterward. However, if they do so after becoming the Alola Champion, a little girl and her Drifloon ask them to investigate several school mysteries. This end-game mission is a play on the classic anime trope of children exploring a school after closing to uncover the truth behind certain rumors and urban legends. These include anatomical models moving around at night, ghosts showing up in bathroom mirrors, and so on. Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon’s take on the trope channels all the creepiness anime fans have come to expect, but with a twist.

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While wandering dark empty halls scored by creepy music is tense enough, the mysteries have mundane explanations. At least they do at first. Then these mysteries start becoming real. Things seemingly come to a head when a seemingly normal class of children turns out to be an illusion caused by a Hypno, but that ain’t the end. The girl who sent the protagonist on this journey was a ghost, and the Drifloon next to her might have been the one who did her in. After all, Drifloon are known to carry children off to the afterlife. Then again, since the Hypno mentions a lonely child and a Drifloon when its illusion breaks, perhaps it also had something to do with the girl. As with the best mysteries in any video game, this mystery has no answer.

Some Pokémon Are Enslaved to Other Pokémon

The bond between Pokémon and Trainer is generally shown in a positive light. Even if Pokéballs actually do brainwash anything inside, most Trainers treat their Pokémon with respect, either as friends at best or as pets at worst. Evil teams notwithstanding, most Trainers don’t act like their Pokémon are slaves, but the same can’t be said for how some Pokémon treat other Pokémon.

It’s no secret that the Pokédex is full of entries depicting Pokémon attacking and eating prey, but two take this dark (and realistic) reflection of the real world to a new depth thanks to parasitism. The first and most famous example is Parasect. The mushrooms that started growing on the creature when it was a Paras have completely overtaken the host Bug-type and puppeteer it. When players order commands to a Parasect, the mushroom is the one following them; the rest of the Pokémon is little more than a mobile corpse, not unlike any insect infected with Cordyceps.

The second and more recent example of this parasite enslavement is Galarian Slowking. Normally, the Shellder biting down on its head just stimulates Slowking’s intelligence and turns it into a genius, but Pokédex entries in Sword and Shield clearly state the Shellder is the brains of the Galarian Slowking operation. But don’t take our word for it, just look at its animations. Unlike normal Slowking, Galarian Slowking is clearly zonked out and having trouble controlling its movements, implying that the Shellder is pulling its strings but isn’t used to having limbs.