In the virtual region of Kanto, an adventure began in 1996 with a choice within the circle of life: grass, fire or water. Two of the choices were worthy considerations in normal circumstances, but the fire stood out as the clear-cut choice.
Upon selection emerged an orange lizard with a yellow belly and a tail with a constant burning flame at the end. Upon opening its mouth, a loud “Char” belts out.
20 years after its debut in Pokémon Red and Blue versions, Charmander remains one of the most iconic Pokémon in the video game’s franchise. Casual fans see an adorable lizard on a similar popularity level as Pikachu, the franchise’s mascot. Passionate gamers see the basic form of what eventually evolves into Charizard, one of the most powerful original Pokémon in the game.
— Pokémon (@Pokemon) February 28, 2016
Charizard is the ultimate goal for competitive players picking Charmander, but it’s hard not to get past the adorable charm the baby lizard has when it smiles at its trainer with its tail bursting in a flame of excitement. This cuteness is on display in the Nintendo 64 game Pokémon Snap where the user could throw apples at a Charmander on the volcano level, which would lead to an entire herd emerging to happily eat and dance.
Players picking Charmander in the original Pokémon Red and Blue games actually had a disadvantage during the first two gyms with Brock’s rock and Misty’s water Pokémon easily resisting Charmander’s fire attacks. Despite these disadvantages, Charmander appeal was so strong that players picked it anyway and took the extra effort to overcome these disadvantages.
In the original anime television show in the late 1990’s, the protagonist Ash Ketchum rescues the abandoned Charmander from near-death and covers the flame on its tail during a rainstorm. Charmander then joins Ash’s team where it becomes his second most used Pokémon after Ash’s Pikachu.
Charmander has notable celebrity appeal as well. UFC star and Pokémon fan Ronda Rousey stated that she always chooses Charmander when starting a new game.
Although the original generation of Pokémon players are now in their adulthood, Charmander’s appeal is still widespread amongst old and new players. Today you can walk into stores such as Spencer’s and Hot Topic and find Charmander apparel. And yes, your friends will still make fun of you if you chose Bulbasaur, the grass starter, rather than Charmander.
The allure of orange, fire-breathing lizard remains strong. No need for evolution, Charmander remains a perfect creature to represent one of the most popular video game franchises.