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The best Pokémon cards of all time

From Mewtwo and Mew GX, to Lugia Legend and Presentation Blastoise, these are the very best Pokémon cards you'll find in the popular Pokémon TCG.

Three of the best Pokemon cards on a blue background

Looking for the best Pokémon cards? There’s a lot to choose from. With 25 years of expansions, Pokémon cards have become so numerous that filling your Pokédex is a lifetime achievement. But throughout all the playground trades and professional battles, some cards have cemented themselves as the best ever.

So what defines the best Pokémon cards? We could pick the most powerful Pokémon cards, the most popular, or the prettiest. We could examine cards from the best Pokémon decks, or the rare Pokémon cards that can be flipped for a high price on the second-hand market.

But we’ve opted for a more all-encompassing approach. For us, the best cards are those that perform to their brief. That might be bolstering your deck with a battle-defining ability so unrivalled it shifts the game’s meta for years to come. Or it could simply be having such a brilliant artwork you’d rather keep it framed on your desk than take it to a tournament table.

Like Pokémon themselves, there’s a lot of variety in Pokémon cards – we regularly find ourselves asking how many Pokémon are there – and you can check Pocket Tactics for a full list in their Pokédex, updated for 2024. For now, though…

Mewtwo & Mew GX

Mewtwo & Mew GX offers legendary power.

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Mewtwo & Mew GX specifications:
Pokémon set Sun and Moon: Unified Minds
Release date August 2, 2019
HP 270
Pokémon type Psychic
Reasons to buy
  • You’re a fan of Generation 1 legendary Pokémon
  • You play Expanded
Reasons to avoid
  • You don’t want cards that have rotated out of Standard

Pokemon’s Tag Team cards like Mewtwo and Mew GX became a quick favourite following their release in Sun & Moon’s Team Up expansion. Combining two much-loved Pokémon into a single, potent duo, the powerful cards bag a pair of familiar faces in one.

There’s the hilariously mismatched Magikarp and Wailord, the romantic pairing of Latias and Latios, and the fire-themed Reshiram & Charizard. But no pair stands a chance against Mewtwo and Mew GX.

The cards packs the power you’d expect from two Legendary Pokémon. Its Perfection Ability is one of the most versatile in the whole TCG, letting you use the attacks of any Pokémon-GX or Pokémon-EX sitting on your bench, or languishing in your discard pile.

Fill your deck with high damage dealers, and discard them as soon as you can, and you’ll be rewarded with a wide array of effective abilities that can knock out your enemy in no time.

Zoroark GX

Zoroark GX shook the meta in its day.

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Zoroark GX specifications:
Pokémon set Shining Legends
Release date October 6, 2017
HP 210
Pokémon type Darkness
Reasons to buy
  • You love Dark type Pokémon
  • You want to bring a legend back in Expanded format
Reasons to avoid
  • You’re a pure Standard format player
  • You aren’t much of a collector

Following its release in 2017’s Shining Legends expansion, no Pokémon deck was complete without Zoroark GX. It dominated the meta as quickly as it could knock out your opponent’s Pokémon. And to be clear, that was very quick.

Its Riotous Beating attack dealt 20 damage for each of your Pokémon in play, while its Trade ability let you draw two cards after discarding one. Combined, you could beef up Zoroark with key Pokemon trainer cards, and swat back your opponent’s creatures, in a single blow.

It was a staple of all decks, and any that didn’t use Zoroark were built entirely to counter it. Attempting to treat it like any other powerful Pokémon was futile, and many existing strategies and builds were made obsolete overnight upon its release.

This card dictated the game so much that popular sentiment to Zoroark is mixed to this day. Some see it as a fabled card that earnt all the fear surrounding it, while, for others, it was simply a game-breaking addition. Either way, in its time, it was a powerhouse Pokémon like no other.

Lugia Legend

Our pick for most beautiful Pokémon card is Lugia Legend.

Lugia Legend specifications:
Pokémon set HeartGold & SoulSilver
Release date February 10, 2010
HP 130
Pokémon type Water
Reasons to buy
  • You’re a Pokémon TCG art enjoyer
Reasons to avoid
  • You hate wonky card formatting
  • You don’t like jumbo cards

There’s a lot of pretty Pokémon cards. The husky mystique of Hydriegon-EX, the vivid cuteness of Surfing Pikachu, or the tangible wonder of Cubone. But for our money, the best looking card is Lugia Legend, of 2010’s HeartGold & SoulSilver series. All merging hues, pronounced features, and hand-drawn water effects, few cards have ever looked so appealing. And the artwork is split across two cards for maximium artistic potential (probably).

Is it the most beautiful card? Well, it’s certainly not to everyone’s taste, and it ain’t redefining any aesthetic tenets of the art world. But if you’re in the mood for hanging a vicious flying sea creature on your wall – one that firmly captures all the spirit of Pokémon – you could do little better than Lugia. Slightly psychedelic in design, with a hint of gaudiness, you certainly won’t be forgetting it any time soon.

Pikachu (Original Japanese Card art)

We have to go with the original for the best Pikachu Pokémon card.

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Pikachu (Original Japanese Card art) specifications:
Pokémon set Base set
Release date January 9, 1999
HP 40
Pokémon type Lightning
Reasons to buy
  • You want the original Pokémon icon
  • You’re collecting Base Set Pokémon
Reasons to avoid
  • You prefer Pikachu’s new look
  • You don’t want to pay for nostalgia

The best Pikachu Pokémon card was sure to appear on this list. Pokémon’s principal mascot and a familiar cuddly toy the world over, name recognition alone has earned Pikachu a high status among the cream of the imaginary-creature crop. But for us, the best showing of Pikachu was the first, on the original Japanese Pikachu card.

And that’s largely because of the art. Pikachu’s not fighting, not running around, and not really doing anything at all. It’s sitting with a slightly gormless expression on its face, while lightning bolts shoot from its chubby cheeks, and two stubby arms protrude above its rotund belly. This is Pikachu at its cutest. Why would anyone want to face off against this fella? Much better to lean in for a good hug.

First edition Charizard

First edition Charizard is the most valuable playable Pokémon card.

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First edition Charizard specifications:
Pokémon set Base set
Release date January 9, 1999
HP 120
Pokémon type Fire
Reasons to buy
  • You want to make 9-year-old you very happy
  • You’re after the most valuable card in Pokémon
Reasons to avoid
  • It’s very expensive

The classic. The original. The essential card in any player’s collection. The First edition Charizard has been tantalising children in the playground and turning the heads of collectors for over twenty years. Charizard remains one of the most recognisable mascots of the entire franchise, and the holographic (or shiny) Charizard Pokémon card has only expanded in mythos as it’s aged.

But the very best, the one to really rave about, is a first editio shadowless shiny Charizard. Printed in error, the card doesn’t include the shadow around its image box. While most were corrected or removed from sale, some slipped through, with their printing fault only adding to their uniqueness, as well as their price.

In 2022, a mint condition first edition shadowless holographic Charizard sold for $420,000/ £334,000 making it the second most expensive Pokémon card ever sold. If you’re going to go after this (orange) white whale, make sure you know how to spot fake Pokémon cards.

Presentation Blastoise

The rarest Pokémon card is Presentation Blastoise, with its funky font.

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Presentation Blastoise specifications:
Pokémon set N/A
Release date 1998
HP 100
Pokémon type Water
Reasons to buy
  • You’re a collector
  • You love TCG oddities
Reasons to avoid
  • Expensive
  • Hard to find

If pure rarity is your preferred metric for testing a card’s quality, Charizard’s watery Generation 1 cousin, Blastoise, might catch your attention. The Presentation Blastoise card sold in January 2021 for a cool $360,000 / £260,000 at auction, and while it’s since been surpassed, at the time it clinched the title for most expensive Pokémon card ever sold.

Created for Wizards of the Coast as a demonstration piece, and used as part of their pitch to Nintendo for producing an English variant of the TCG, only two were ever printed.

But besides its rarity and printing peculiarities (including a missing energy symbol, different fonts, and misspellings), the card also carries a certain gravitas. This is an artefact from the days before the Pokémon TCG existed outside of Japan, and played a role in bringing the game to an international audience. Any card with such a role in the TCG’s history deserves a spot on this list.

Professor Oak

Good ol’ Professor Oak is our pick for best trainer card.

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Professor Oak specifications:
Pokémon set Base set
Release date January 9, 1999
Card type Trainer
Reasons to buy
  • You want the first version of this iconic character
  • You like busted and banned cards
Reasons to avoid
  • You can’t play him in anything but Unlimited

With his stern expression and slightly drab appearance, you could be forgiven for dismissing Professor Oak as an old fuddy-duddy. A card that’s more amusing for its dated artwork than actually useful. But, although it was rotated out years ago, you shouldn’t go casting shade on it too soon. Back in the day, this was the trainer to have.

Letting you discard your hand, and draw seven cards in its place, Professor Oak was vital to cycling through your deck, chucking out the duds, and beelining that frightening Gyarados sitting at its heart. Combined with his fatherly role in the anime TV series, Professor Oak cemented himself as the most iconic trainer card in the whole TCG.

Hama-chan’s Slowking

Hama-Chan’s Slowking has to be the oddest Pokémon card around.

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Hama-chan’s Slowking specifications:
Pokémon set Promo card
Release date August 15, 1999
HP 70
Pokémon type Psychic
Reasons to buy
  • You love the goofy little guy
Reasons to avoid
  • You think it’s just too silly

As for the weirdest card that can’t be measured by any usual metric of the TCG, look no further than Hama-Chan’s Slowking. Printed as a promotional card in the September 1999 issue of Japanese toys and manga magazine CoroCoro Comic, the card is more of a child’s drawing of Slowking than a serious card.

Not artistically incredible, and certainly not useful in-game, it nevertheless deserves praise as the best spoof card to ever grace the game.

For more Pokémon card content, we’ve got a handy guide to Pokémon’s newest set you might be interested in.