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Every Pokemon Gang Ranked Worst To Best

The "Pokémon" games are based on a fairly simple premise. For nine generations and a whole host of spin-offs, the primary goal has been to "catch 'em all" and battle against a series of champion trainers on your journey to become a Pokémon Master.

A whole host of obstacles stands in your way, from wild Pokémon to challenging gyms, but none are as dastardly as the villainous teams and rival gangs that plague each of the games' regions. These groups usually have some sort of nefarious plot in mind, and often exploit innocent Pokémon to achieve their goals. Their aims tend to vary, and some are remarkably more evil than others — some simply want to become rich and powerful in their respective regions, while others plan to destroy the entire world.

Fans have yet to see what sort of nasty villains "Pokémon Scarlet" and "Violet" have in store, but they're sure to bring some problem or other to the new region. In the meantime, we've ranked all the "Pokémon" gangs from worst to best. These rankings are based not only on how evil the teams are, but how dynamic and interesting their story is in the game, and how much fun it is to battle against the grunts on your way to the top.

Honorable Mention: The Squirtle Squad

Okay, okay. So the Squirtle Squad isn't exactly a villainous team, but we'd be remiss not to include the most infamous gang of actual Pokémon on a ranking of the top "Pokémon" gangs! These pesky Pokémon first appeared in an episode of "Pokémon: Indigo League" titled "Here Comes the Squirtle Squad." This a gang of sunglass-wearing Squirtles had previously been abandoned by their trainers and acted as a mischievous nuisance that played pranks on the local town (they even threatened to dye Misty's hair purple in the episode's English dub!). 

After Team Rocket tricked them and started a forest fire in an effort to capture Pikachu, however, the Squirtle Squad stepped up and used their Water Guns to save the town. They were named official firefighters by the town's Officer Jenny, and later appeared briefly in several other episodes of the anime. The group's leader chose to join Ash and his friends on their journey, becoming an integral part of Ash's Pokémon team.

"Pokémon GO" even included a special Community Day event in which players could catch special versions of Squirtle and its evolutions wearing sunglasses. While the glasses weren't exactly the same as the one featured in the anime, the move seemed like a clear homage to the original Squirtle Squad. All in all, the Squirtle Squad is a pretty important Pokémon gang!

12. Team Snagem

Team Snagem is one of two rival teams in "Pokémon Colosseum" and "Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness." They're a bit lame compared to their counterparts in Team Cipher, but they still manage to be a thorn in your side as you progress through the game. There's a bit of a personal vendetta involved in their rivalry the protagonist, Wes, who is a former member of Team Snagem. When he defected, he stole one of the team's Snag Machines and blew up their base.

Players take control of Wes just after he leaves the team, spending the rest of the game trying to take Team Snagem and Cipher down. Wes' knowledge of the connections between the two teams allows him to uncover Cipher's conspiracy to turn all Pokémon into Shadow Pokémon and save everyone, culminating in a showdown against Wes' ridiculous former boss, Gonzap.

Team Snagem reappears in "Pokémon XD," though as a much less prominent threat. The player character Michael occasionally runs into Gonzap and a few other Snagem flunkies, but the history of being a former Snagem member is no longer there. Instead, they're just minor antagonists who eventually become regular battle opponents.

11. Cipher

Cipher is the far more capable and sinister villain team in "Pokémon Colosseum" and "Pokémon XD." They're actually the masterminds behind Team Snagem's Pokémon-thieving ways — before the events of the game, they gave Team Snagem the Snag Machines that the gang uses to steal Pokémon from their trainers.

Cipher's goal is to turn all the Pokémon of the world into Shadow Pokémon, robbing them of their vibrant emotions and turn them into mindless fighting machines. They certainly have the power to achieve their goal, too — they control most of Orre, the region where the two games take place. It's the protagonist's job to take down their organization and purify all the Pokémon they've twisted by using a Snag Machine on them.

Fans have a lot of fond memories of Cipher and the two GameCube "Pokémon" spin-offs in general, with many saying that they brought a darker and more sophisticated tone to the games without feeling entirely unlike the rest of the franchise. Still, some fans have pointed out the obvious plot hole behind the whole storyline: Whatever happened to the original trainers of the Pokémon who were stolen and turned into Shadow Pokémon? Did they ever come looking for their lost friends? Something about Cipher's plan doesn't add up.

10. Team Yell

The first main series villain team to make this list is Team Yell, and they've firmly earned their spot near the bottom. Although they're the supposed antagonists of "Pokémon Sword" and "Shield," it's hard for most players to see them as anything other than a weak joke.

And not without reason, either. Team Yell isn't even a "real" villain team — at least, not in the traditional sense. They're not a dedicated organization like the Aether Foundation, nor are they an established group of thugs like Team Skull. They're just a fan club, and an obnoxious one at that. Team Yell is dedicated to rooting for the trainer Marnie (one of your rivals) as she completes the Gym Challenge, and often take their support a little too far by sabotaging events and generally making dunces of themselves.

A lot of players were deeply disappointed by Team Yell, especially as a follow-up to the surprisingly beloved Team Skull. Fans report that Yell's grunts are annoying and rarely fun to battle, and that they never felt particularly threatening.

9. Team Skull

Fans have somewhat mixed feelings about the villain team in "Pokémon Sun" and "Moon," Team Skull. In a lot of ways, they're plagued by the same criticism that follows Team Yell: They're not a real villain organization, and they're too silly to be taken seriously as a legitimate antagonist. Many fans find this endearing, however, claiming that the comic relief isn't so overdone as to be obnoxious, and that their rather tame motives are a refreshing change of pace to the overwhelmingly evil teams of earlier "Pokémon" games.

Team Skull's goal is simple — make enough money to survive. The gang is made up almost exclusively of former trainers who failed Alola's island challenge, and their character design reflects this. Most of the grunts seem to be nothing more than punk teenagers who have rallied under leaders who don't see them as misfits. Even the islanders don't seem to regard them as anything more than an inconvenience. Team Skull's actions don't intentionally put any people or Pokémon in harm's way, and even the ones knowingly working for the Aether Foundation didn't set out to hurt anyone.

Overall, Team Skull is a fun (if somewhat boring) villain team that makes for an interesting addition to the antagonist lineup.

8. Team Aqua

Team Aqua is one of two villainous teams in "Pokémon Ruby" and "Sapphire," and the subsequent remakes, "Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire." In both versions, their goal is to wake the legendary Pokémon, Kyogre, in an effort to expand the oceans of the world. Their motives feel a little flat and unthreatening in the original games, since they seem interested in making a more watery planet for the benefit of humans and Pokémon. In the remake, however, their goal is to wipe out humanity and return the world to a natural state more suitable for Pokémon alone.

In both games, their goal is in direct opposition to that of Team Magma. Because the teams are so equal and opposite, there's a decent amount of online debate as to which is better. Aqua tends to lose based on their costume design and overall attitude — while the pirate motif is cool, the fact that their leader, Archie, seems to be amicable and less selfish than Magma's Maxie makes Team Aqua less intimidating as villains.

7. Team Magma

Team Magma is the more serious and sinister villain team of "Pokémon Ruby" and "Sapphire" and their remakes. They stand in direct opposition to Team Aqua in both versions, with their goal being to expand the planet's landmass by waking the legendary Pokémon known as Groudon. In "Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire," their motives become a bit clearer: In defiance of Team Aqua's goal to make the world more suitable for Pokémon, Team Magma wants to sacrifice Pokémon to further humanity's progress.

As stated previously, fans are pretty well split on whether they prefer Team Magma to Team Aqua. In general, however, Team Magma is considered to be a better foil simply because they're less silly. They're strict and serious, following the megalomaniacal Maxie's vision with an almost cult-like devotion. Fans on Reddit also respect that the team's devotion to science and progress makes them more morally grey antagonists that are just more fun to hate.

6. Team Rainbow Rocket

While most of the teams on this list serve as the primary antagonists of their respective games, Team Rainbow Rocket is part of an optional subplot. They're introduced in the post-game from "Pokémon Ultra Sun" and "Ultra Moon" post-game, giving players another villain to fight after they've completed your Pokémon journey and taken down Team Skull and the Aether Foundation.

Team Rainbow Rocket is a group comprised of villainous team leaders from all six previous "Pokémon" generations. Their leader, Giovanni, has traveled across multiple realities to collect the leaders from alternate universes where they were successful in their respective plans. As a result, each of the leaders have their own legendary Pokémon that you'll have to battle to take the team down.

While Team Rainbow Rocket is interesting in theory, fans were overall disappointed with the way they were handled in-game. Since they're introduced in the post-game, their story isn't as cleanly paced as the rest of the main plot. Even worse, many fans saw their presence as nothing more than a nostalgic cash grab. Still, it's undeniably cool to see all of these baddies in one super group.

5. The Aether Foundation

The Aether Foundation is a semi-surprise villain team from "Pokémon Sun" and "Moon." The organization is ostensibly a charitable group dedicated to curing hurt Pokémon. Their main headquarters is a floating artificial island called the Aether Paradise, where the organization's leader, Lusamine, watches over her beloved rescued Pokémon. It all sounds innocent and admirable from the outside, but some players were immediately suspicious.

As you progress through the game, it seems as though Team Skull are the main baddies of the Alola region. It's revealed, however, that the Aether Foundation have been secretly funding Team Skull to further Lusamine's obsession with Ultra Beasts. When you finally confront Lusamine, you discover a horde of frozen Pokémon that she thinks she's "protecting" in her insanity.

This plot twist makes for a far more interesting and dynamic antagonist than is typical of the "Pokémon" franchise. Because so many players were conflicted on whether or not the Aether Foundation would be the true villains of "Pokémon Sun and Moon," the reveal feels satisfactory and well-earned.

4. Team Flare

Team Flare is the villainous team of "Pokémon X" and "Pokémon Y." They're a stylish team obsessed with beauty, and often criticize you and their other opponents for not meeting their standards. Although the team initially seems interested simply in earning money, it's later revealed that their leader, Lysandre, plans to use an ancient, ultimate weapon to destroy the world.

Team Flare's aims are to power this weapon with the legendary Pokémon Xerneas or Yveltal (depending on whether you're playing "Pokémon X" or "Y"), all in the name of creating a beautiful and better world that Team Flare presides over.

While Team Flare has some of the darkest motivations and intentions of any "Pokémon" gang, a lot of fans were disappointed with the execution in-game. Players have argued on Reddit that the villainy feels a little too in-your-face, and the trope of needing a singular, powerful Pokémon to power their schemes is a bit overdone.

3. Team Rocket

It's hard to beat the classics. Team Rocket was the original "Pokémon" gang, introduced to the franchise all the way back in 1998 with "Pokémon Red" and "Blue." They remained the primary antagonists in Generation 2 with "Pokémon Gold" and "Silver," at which point they were defeated once and for all and were replaced by different villainous teams in later installments.

As the very first "Pokémon" antagonists, Team Rocket don't have incredibly evil aims. They're mostly out to make money and become influential and powerful. They do steal and exploit Pokémon to further their means, however, and eventually plan to take over the world using Pokémon.

Team Rocket also appears in the ongoing "Pokémon" anime series, appearing as the primary antagonists of each season. The infamous Team Rocket trio — Jessie, James, and Meowth — are portrayed with varying levels of competence throughout the series, though their missions typically line up with the overall goals of the in-game Team Rocket.

Though the "Pokémon" franchise has gone through six generations since Team Rocket last appeared (not including the alternate universe Team Rainbow Rocket), they're still the most popular "Pokémon" villains, according to a fan poll on Reddit.

2. Team Plasma

Team Plasma is the villainous team from "Pokémon Black" and "White," so it's fitting that they're the most morally grey gang on this list. Team Plasma's stated goal from the very beginning is to create a better world for Pokémon by liberating them from humanity, but the means through which they try to achieve these goals ultimately draws their motives into question.

You get to know Team Plasma's puppet leader, N, long before he reveals that he's the leader of the gang. Throughout your interactions with him, N seems to have Pokémon's best interests at heart and wants to give them a world where they can live independently of trainers in their natural environment. It's eventually revealed, however, that Team Plasma is actually controlled by N's adoptive father, Ghetsis, who is actually stealing Pokémon from their trainers so he can take over the Unova region.

In "Pokémon Black 2" and "White 2," Team Plasma has split into two factions, with N and his faction working alongside the player to stop the faction led by the villainous Colress. The fact that N is a naive and idealistic young man with his heart in the right place makes Team Plasma an overall sympathetic antagonist, and certainly one of the most interesting "Pokémon" gangs in the series. Fans have even taken to Reddit to speculate whether they should even be considered true bad guys!

1. Team Galactic

This brings us to our most villainous gang in the "Pokémon" franchise: Team Galactic from "Pokémon Diamond and Pearl." In the original games, Galactic team leader Cyrus simply wants to summon the legendary Dialga and Palkia (again, depending on which game you're playing) to create a new universe. "Pokémon Platinum" took Team Galactic's storyline a step further, however, making the gang much more present in the game's narrative and giving Cyrus the ultimate goal of becoming a god in his new universe after summoning Giratina, as well as a climactic battle in the mysterious Distortion World.

The behavior of the Team Galactic grunts supports Cyrus' vision even in the original games. The grunts often appear throughout the Sinnoh region doing menial and apparently meaningless tasks that hardly amount to anything more than bullying. If Cyrus truly wishes to eliminate all sense of spirit to make people more easily subjugated, it makes sense that he'd hire uncreative grunts to wear down the people of Sinnoh.

Team Galactic is deeply beloved by "Pokémon" fans, inspiring passionate defenses of why Cyrus is the best villain team leader in the franchise. Team Galactic is complex and interesting, making the Generation 4 games all the more memorable.