Looking back: Blue aka Gary Oak, the best rival ever

By Joim. Art by Ken Sugimori.
« Previous Article Home Next Article »


Rivals are a very important part of all of the main series games. Ranging from one to three NPC trainers that travel at the same time as you, grow with you, fight with you, and often lose to you, they all look different, have varying personalities, and even their own personal battle styles. Looking back to the first gen, we had a very fierce rival in the form of the famous Blue, who you may know as Green from the manga or Gary from the anime. His relationship with the main character Red, also known as you, was quite simple: to beat him. Rivals since childhood, now both are competing to be the best Pokémon trainer in the world. He is the grandson of the most famous Pokémon professor and your game incarnation is just a Pallet Town inhabitant ready to go on an adventure.

Blue as a rival, the very best like no one ever was

While the anime is not exactly a good reference for in-game accuracy, it portrays Blue very well in his alter ego Gary Oak. Despite his youth, he is a very capable Pokémon trainer, one able to achieve any goal that he sets to himself. For starters, of all rivals, he's the only one to deserve to be called so, since the others are rather friends whom you compete with. Well, besides Silver, who, despite being the runner-up in the "Most Awesome Rival" position, is just an asshole. From the very beginning, Blue's acting like a true rival: tough, wanting to be the best, and willing to steamroll over you if you show any weakness. He actually intends to win, even if he must ask his sister to not to give you a map so you get lost. However, his sister secretly drools all over Red, since she chooses to ignore the petition from her sibling and gives you a map anyway. But his attitude is not everything—besides acting like a true rival, he actually achieves something: he's the Kanto champion. That is, folks, not only he's a strong rival throughout the game, not only does he do his best to compete with you, but he achieves what you are set to do and he does it before you, doing what no other rival in any game has achieved since: to beat the Elite Four and become the Champion of the region.

Blue appears both when you don't expect and don't need him to appear. Say you've been training your Pokémon and trying to get that rare Nidoran and your Pokémon are extremely tired. Well, no harm in looking what's in this way on Route 22, free of tall grass—wrong. He's there, ready to tell you how you need more badges to go to the Pokémon League and ready to challenge you to a duel, a challenge that you cannot decline. That's it; once again Blue gets your Pokédollars and you may be able to seek retribution after a swift visit to the Pokémon Center. The next time you see him will be in Cerulean City, where he has added no more and no less than a wonderful Abra. That's it, the Pokémon that you could never catch—well, he got it. At first try. When you manage to get into S.S. Anne, he will be there too. He arrived there before you, and he got the HM Cut before you have the chance to smell it. After a hard battle that he might lose because he's in a hurry, he won't give you anything, but he will tip you off with a wink of the eye. "I heard there was a Cut master on board. But he was just a seasick old man! Cut itself is really useful! Yup, it'll be handy. You should go see him, too. Smell ya!". Ladies and gentlemen, this is a true rival. Always up for a fight, a never-ending competition in which no one can give in, but he's a good enough trainer to tell you some things you could never achieve on your own—to find a very useful HM.

What you don't know about Blue at this stage of the game is that he started caring for his Pokémon. He's became a trainer who takes care of his friends, who has grown a friendship with his team. He's gone to Lavender Town to mourn his Raticate, which probably passed after the S.S. Anne battle, but he didn't blame you at all. Despite this, he struggles to be better, he continues his journey to become the best Pokémon Trainer of the world—and he achieves it; additionally, he's the only Champion ever to have in his team his starter Pokémon. He's already outgrown Red. When you visit him in-game in his Champion position, he greets you friendlily: "Hey! I was looking forward to seeing you, Red! My rival should be strong to keep me sharp! While working on my Pokédex, I looked all over for powerful Pokémon! Not only that, I assembled teams that would beat any Pokémon type! And now! I am the Pokémon League Champion! Red! Do you know what that means? I'll tell you! I am the most powerful trainer in the world!". He's the best and he knows it.

Besides his training prowess and his humanity, Blue is the only in-game trainer ever to have three different sprites as he gets stronger, but that's not his only achievement. After he loses his Champion title in front of his grandpa who then proceeds to just congratulate Red and ignore him, he decides to take the place as the Viridian City Gym Leader, a position of prestige, while Red decides to dwell on a dim mountain where no one ever goes, alone with his thoughts and his Pokémon. Blue is the only Gym Leader smart enough to have a balanced team of different types, as well as the Gym Leader to have the highest-leveled Pokémon thanks to his Pidgeot. These outstanding qualities make him not only the best rival ever, but also the best Gym Leader in the world. He isn't even afraid of other region's Champions, as shown in his greeting to Gold: "Yo! Finally got here, huh? I wasn't in the mood at Cinnabar, but now I'm ready to battle you. ... You're telling me you conquered all the Gyms in Johto? Heh! Johto's Gyms must be pretty pathetic then. Hey, don't worry about it. I'll know if you are good or not by battling you right now. Ready, Johto Champ?" All in all, he's just the best at whatever he does.

Other rivals compared to Blue

Besides his stand-alone quality and his trainer prowess, Blue shines especially when compared to the rivals from the subsequent games. When compared to him, they all suck, period.


This guy's just a douche, seriously. He steals Pokémon, he only wants strong Pokémon, and he has no clue on how to train them. He insults your in-game avatar, Gold, before you defeat him easily. After Blue, this guy's no sport. Despite his obliviousness on how bad of a trainer he is, Silver finally realizes he sucks as a trainer in Victory Road, and instead of being owned by the E4 he decides it's time to change his way to train Pokémon. I guess better late than never; at least he can finally evolve his Golbat, which he doesn't do 'til level 48. How does he manage that? Feeding it Rare Candies and not using it in battle ever? His philosophy is not that of a strong rival, either: "I hate the weak. Pokémon, trainers. It doesn't matter who or what. I'm going to be strong and wipe out the weak. That goes for Team Rocket too. They act big and tough in a group. But get them alone, and they're weak. I hate them all. You stay out of my way. A weakling like you is only a distraction." But Silver is weak himself, unable to treat his Pokémon like they deserve, unable to see his own faults.

May-Brendan gimmick

It's a nice idea to have the character you don't choose as a rival, but these guys are just acquaintances. The character is the son/daughter of the gym leader Norman, while the other character remains as "rival" and the offspring of Professor Birch. That means they should be awesome trainers, as they both have nice role models to learn from. False. They suck so much that they don't even get the third stage of their starter. What kind of trainer is unable to evolve their Pokémon to the third stage? Not someone who wants to be a Champion, not a true rival. Their training abilities are measly at best, and they are already giving their rival free stuff just because, something Blue would never do. I guess that Hoenn people are just weak.


I appreciate the intent to make the third generation have more content compared to the previous generation so it's a good excuse to sell more games, but this "rival" can't even catch a Pokémon himself! I know he's ill at the beginning and all, but he's just too weak. He's someone you'd like to take care of and pat in the back; he's like a little bro, not a rival. His best achievement is to have five Pokémon over level 40 on Victory Road, wow! Blue just laughs at that mediocre team. He'd beat Wally relentlessly. "Aww, Uncle, please? I want to challenge this Gym and see how much better I've become. Please? May I, please?" What kind of Pokémon trainer needs permission to beat the shit out of a Gym Leader? Just sigh.


Blue is always a step ahead of you, but that's because he's just that good. Barry doesn't even get a Pokédex because he's in a hurry to leave the lab, go figure about his skill as a trainer. While Blue will simply defeat Giovanni or let you do it as he's a gentleman, Barry is tragically crushed by a Team Galactic Commander, where you shall be victorious. Someone like him simply can't be a good rival. However, as a rival he'd probably a score after Silver, as he is very determined, which is a good trait for a rival, but he lacks several trainer qualities. Also, his father is a Battle Frontier Brain, so he ought to be better; one would expect way more from him. Not as bad as Bianca, though.



He needed eight badges. He got ten.


He's actually a decent rival; he has strong teams and an interesting way of thinking. However, he's mainly a good friend and loses easily. He prefers to give you free stuff than to compete with you; he's more interested in investigation and that kind of stuff. What's worst about him is that he could be runner-up to Blue due to his becoming a Gym Leader, but he chooses Normal-type as his gym theme. Come on, Cheren, you're better than that. Normal-type, seriously? Have fun training Watchogs and defeating Bug Catchers.


N's case is quite interesting. One does not really know whether he's a rival, a friend, or an antagonist. What's for sure is that he's totally nuts, speaking to Pokémon and living in a castle beneath the champion's hall. He doesn't quite fit the rival description despite being possibly the best trainer due to his access to legendary Pokémon, but one could say that's kinda cheating over the other rivals, as he's the adoptive son of the head of a massive criminal organization that has had access to Reshiram or Zekrom. We'll have to think of him as a main character rather than a rival, now that Pokémon games get actual storylines.


This guy is pretty cool, but his only goal in life is to get a goddamn Purrloin back from Team Plasma. That's not what rivals do; he just tests your strength, cheers you to be better, gives you important free items, and even encourages you to beat the Elite Four. He could be your best friend, but a rival would try to be better themselves. He's simply not at Blue's level.

Smell ya later

Blue has a lot of positive traits, he's a very good trainer, a decent friend, and the best rival. He's not afraid of actual competition, he tries his best, and in the way he grows with you, stimulating your own growth. Other rivals may attempt or even achieve that, but they can't simply be compared to Blue, who has been the best rival, best Champion, and best Gym Leader.

« Previous Article Home Next Article »