Pokémon, the legendary “Box Art”, classified

Since Ho-Oh and Lugia in gold and silver, the first game of each generation has had two flagship Legendaries on the game’s box art. These “box art” Pokémon range from very powerful to absolutely groundbreaking, and most of them had designs that picked up their game well.

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When looking at the Legendaries box art for the first game in each series, it’s important that it has a solid design that makes gamers excited for the next generation. Fans see the Legendaries on the cover before they even meet their starter. It’s also important that they are powerful, as players need to be able to use pets effectively for their play at the highest level of competition.

14 Zamazenta


Zamazenta in crowned shield form in the Pokemon anime

Zamazenta’s base form already has a pretty disappointing design, and the shield-like fur on his face looks a bit clunky. Zamazenta’s alternate Pokemon form, Zamazenta-Crowned, takes the shield face to an almost comical extreme.

Thanks to a mediocre move pool and below-average ability, Zamazenta makes the case for being the weakest legendary box art in singles and doubles, making him arguably the lowest legendary in all three categories.

13 Sogaleo


Pokemon Sword Version Exclusive: Solgaleo.

While the astronaut suits inspiration for the sun lion is an interesting premise, Solgaleo’s design looks a little goofy thanks to his voluminous mane.

On the competitive level, Solgaleo is struggling to fulfill its role as a tank in both singles and doubles. However, his signature Sunsteel Strike move is incredibly powerful and helps carry the Legendary. Solgaleo is definitely not the best Legendary Pokémon, but at least it’s not the worst.


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12 Dialga


Pokemon Sword Version Exclusive: Dialga.

Following a theme of surprisingly mediocre legendaries with incredible concepts and typing, Dialga’s design fails to show his status as a master of time. There are many interesting ways to design a legendary era, but Dialga looks like a giant steel dog.

Dialga’s signature move follows an annoying Pokemon snapshot of powerful moves that force the user to recharge on the next turn. Even though Roar of Time is useless in singles, Dialga can still use his move quite well in doubles and has a decent role as an attacking nuker.


11 Reshiram


Pokemon Sword Version Exclusive: Reshiram.

Reshiram’s design is beautiful, apart from the weird tail of the reactor core which would be much better if it didn’t have the circuit lines covering it. However, Reshiram is still a fantastic introduction to Unova, and the fur flowing from her head is a nice touch.

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Competitively, Reshiram has an average Fire/Dragon hit that unfortunately takes away some Water resistance, a solid Blue Flare signature move, good Turboblaze ability, and average stats for Legendary box art. It doesn’t hurt, but if players can only fit 6 into a team, there are better options than Reshiram, especially in formats where players have access to game-breaking legendaries.


ten Lugia


Lugia’s design is nearly flawless, with the sleek and simple look of the Guardian of the Sea, making it a fan favorite for a reason. However, the clean styling is still overshadowed by some particularly gorgeous legendary box art.

Lugia’s Multiscale ability makes her an incredible tank in singles, but the legendary Pokemon suffers from a below-average move pool. His disappointing signature move, Aeroblast, is not suitable for a tank. Also, Psychic/Flying is a bad hit for a Pokemon that wants to be a tank. Lugia has a solid role as a tanky threat in singles, but he’s very rarely used in doubles.


9 Palkia


Palkia Pokemon Go Raid Counters.webp

Palkia’s design is similar to that of his partner Dialga, and he has similar issues. The beads on his shoulders look like a forced reference, and he evokes more “big pink dinosaur” than “space lord”. The wings, however, are a nice touch that makes Palkia look like more than a clumsy T-Rex.

Palkia is a much bigger threat in doubles than in singles, but her mediocre pressure and telepathy abilities have set her back. However, Palkia’s fantastic offensive typing makes her a threat to watch, and her signature move Spacial Rend is an Aeroblast clone that suits Palkia much better than Aeroblast suits Lugia.


8 Zekrom


Design-wise, Zekrom has many features that make Reshiram look great. However, the Reactor Tail seems much more suited to an Electric-type than a Fire-type.

Power-wise, Zekrom isn’t an Arceus-level powerhouse, but it’s a powerful threat that can take down any tank with its Terravolt ability and signature Bolt Strike move. In many ways, Zekrom is prototypical Legendary box art: powerful with a solid, simple design. Zekrom’s biggest weakness is doubles, but it’s still a strong offensive option.




7 Lunala


Lunala from Pokémon Sun and Moon

The ghostly Bat Lunala is perhaps the best legendary box art in terms of fulfilling her fantasy: an incarnation of the moon. The stars across the wings symbolize the night sky and the different stages of the moon are all around Lunala’s body.

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Lunala doesn’t stand out in singles or doubles, but she’s a solid threat in both formats. Moongeist Beam is an above average move and Shadow Shield is one of the best defensive abilities in the game. Lunala also has fantastic cover in her move pool. It’s hard to call Lunala fantastic in a metagame with legendaries everywhere, but no one can call her bad either.


6 Ho-Oh


Pokemon Ho-Oh 1

Ho-Oh is the type of Pokemon that even non-fans know about. The Legendary Phoenix has its beautiful multi-layered wings which are the highlight of its design. Ho-Oh’s face is a little goofy in an adorable way due to some turkey-like features, but the Pokemon as a whole is one of the franchise’s most memorable.

In competition, Ho-Oh is a singles monster thanks to Sacred Fire, his Regenerator ability, and the Heavy-Duty Boots item. The Pokemon isn’t as dominant in doubles, but it has a nice home as a bulky flying type that wipes out a common threat in Rillaboom.


5 Xernea


Pokemon Crown Tundra Xerneas

Xerneas has one of the most gorgeous features of any box art legendaries: the rainbow pattern on its X-shaped antlers. Xerneas also does the “game name thing” by incorporating an X much better than other Legendaries, like Palkia who clumsily threw a pearl into the design or Zamazenta who has a shield for a face.

Xerneas has the most powerful signature move in the entire game: geomancy. After using Geomancy, Xerneas can potentially sweep entire teams of 6 Legendaries in singles and doubles. Xerneas’ only weakness is his reliance on his signature move, but the geomancy itself is enough to make Xerneas a powerhouse in both singles and doubles.


4 Yveltal


Yveltal flying in Pokemon anime

The Legendary Y-shaped condor has one of the most stylish designs of any Legendary box art, perfectly incorporating all the themes the designers have chosen.

Competitively, Yveltal is the most popular (legal) choice in singles thanks to his incredible versatility. Yveltal can be bulky with his signature Oblivion Wing regeneration move, a quick sweep with four offensive moves, or just a boring utility choice. Yveltal is also a common double choice, also because it is the most dynamic legendary Pokémon in the entire series.


3 Groudon


Pokemon Sword Version Exclusive: Groudon.

The Earth Lizard Pokémon’s design is a knockout, with the ancient lines on its body being the main feature of its style.

Groudon hits like a truck with precipice blades, but his true calling is his Drought ability, which completely distorts the game around him. Groudon is the best sunset in the entire Pokémon series, and any solar team needs it to shine.


2 Kyogre


Much like his partner Groudon, Kyogre’s shining point is the ancient lines that surround his body, but the Orca’s iconic design is one of the best in the series even without them.

Competitively, Kyogre is arguably the second most dominant pick in singles and doubles. His drizzle ability enhances his own water moves and supports rain-focused teams, and Kyogre’s volume allows him to go with any number of incredibly threatening moves.


1 Zacian


Pokemon Sword Version Exclusive: Zacian.

The decision to have Zacian hold a sword instead of what happened with Zamazenta was a boon to Zacian’s majestic design. The legendary wolf has a design worthy of a great hero.

Zacian isn’t just the strongest legendary box art, it’s the strongest Pokemon ever created by a wide margin. After activating his Intrepid Sword ability, Zacian has by far the highest attack stat in the game. The legendary also learns a strong move for most strong types. Zacian is so powerful that he has been banned by nearly every singles format and is selected to nearly 3/4 of all competitive doubles teams.

Next: Pokémon Water Starters, Ranked

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About the Author

Christopher S. Washington