Join us as we countdown our picks for the top ten toughest Pokémon trainers to beat from across the core series of Pokémon games.

The Pokémon series has been around for well over twenty years. And in that time we have been graced with so many iconic battles and moments. But which of these illustrious trainers stand can truly call themselves the very best? It's time to make a list of the toughest Pokémon trainers out there!

We will attempt to answer that question here today as we countdown the top ten toughest Pokémon trainers in the franchise

The Top ten hardest trainers in Pokémon

10 - Professor Kukui (Sun & Moon)

Starting off this list we have a bit of a surprise entry in the form of Professor Kukui from Pokémon Sun & Moon. This was a surprising battle on all fronts as it marked the first time that Pokémon fans got to face off against a regional professor in a proper match. And, it most certainly delivered in a big way.

A tough professor makes one of the toughest Pokémon trainers around.

(Image taken from Bulbapedia)
(Image taken from Bulbapedia)

While many have criticized the game for being a bit easy when it came to the battles in this game, Kukui brought a level on intensity that many were not expecting. His team is very well-rounded like various trainers in the past. He also possess the starter Pokémon that is stronger against yours, which adds an extra layer of difficulty.

Then, there's his trusty Braviary, which possessed plenty of speed and power. Let's not forget Snorlax as well, all presenting a bit of grueling match.

Not a bad way to cement yourself as Alola's first ever league champion.

9 - Whitney (GSC/HGSS)

There's dozens of gym leaders that have graced the franchise across it's lifespan. Many of them stand as beloved characters in the eyes of the community. But there are a select few of these trainers that can unnerve a player more than Whitney does.

(Image taken from Pokémon Wiki)
(Image taken from Pokémon Wiki)

The normal type gym leader made her debut in Pokémon: Gold, Silver and Crystals in the 2009 remakes, Pokémon Heart Gold & Soul Silver. Although she is only the third leader you face on your journey across the Johto region, she is without question the most infuriating of them all.

Though her Clefairy isn't much of a threat, the real challenge lies with her infamous Miltank. While this cow is a figurative and literal tank, it also possesses incredible speed and attack stats for an early stage boss fight.

Alongside its downright unfair stats, Whitney's Miltank also possesses a move set which is designed to frustrate players. We advise you bring plenty of healing items to this fight, and perhaps to do some meditation after you've managed to take down her Miltank. Who knew cows could factor into the toughest Pokémon trainers so much?

8 - Ghetsis (BW/B2W2)

A Pokémon game is nothing without some big bad adults that need to be taught a lesson by our protagonists. But there aren't many as high on the evil scale, nor on the difficulty side of things, as Ghetsis.

The leader of Team Plasma, from 2011's Pokémon: Black & White, stands as one of the most iconic villains in the franchise, and for good reason.

While he makes several appearances throughout the game's story, it isn't until the very end of the story that you fight Ghetsis. And his team is just about as monstrous as he, especially his Hydreigon. Though his team is strong, what makes this fight particularly challenging is that occurs immediately after your final clash with your antagonist, N.

It leaves you with no time to heal up your team in-between battles. He reappears as the main antagonist of the game's sequel, Pokémon: Black & White 2, but he isn't nearly as challenging in that game as he is in Black & White.

7 - Lance (GSC/HGSS)

Lance is the first Pokémon league champion to be featured on our top ten list, and he certainly is not the last. The former Elite Four member truly lives up his new role as a league champion in Pokémon Gold, Silver & Crystal as well as in the 2009 remakes HeartGold & SoulSilver.

(Image taken from Pokémon Wiki)
(Image taken from Pokémon Wiki)

Although parts of his team are fairly easy to deal with, provided that you have been doing an appropriate amount of training up to this point, the main challenge comes in the form of his three Dragonites.

Because having to fight one clearly wasn't hard enough.

The three dragons live up to their pseudo-legendary status as they can take a lot of punishment and deal out plenty of their own.

Oh, and there is also the matter of Lance having access to some Full Restores. Because, after all, you don't become a champion without knowing how to spam healing items.

6 - Giovanni (USUM)

(Image taken from PokéCommunity Daily)
(Image taken from PokéCommunity Daily)

Giovanni, the original villain of the Pokémon series and still the most iconic one. The leader of Team Rocket and one-time Gym Leader of Viridian City was always considered to be a terrifying foe. But it wasn't until he made his grand return in Pokémon: Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon post-game storyline that he truly exemplified his stature as a villain.

His team is beefed up version of his gym team, and they can really pack a solid punch. But the real heavy hitter of his team comes in the form of an all-powerful Mewtwo. Clocking in at level 70, the psychic juggernaut is truly a force to be reckoned with as it is.

With the addition of a Mega Stone, it is able to become even more of a menace. Depending on which version of the game you are playing, you will find yourself up against either Mewtwo X or Mewtwo Y.

Both of which are capable of sweeping teams if you are not careful.

5 - Steven (RSE/ORAS)

(Image taken from
(Image taken from

The second Champion to make this list of elite trainers, and believe me Steven is no push over. His team is built in a somewhat similar fashion to Lance's in that there is a particular theme that goes with it. In this case, Steven's team is based around rare-minerals and remnants of the past.

Unlike with Lance, all of his Pokémon are very unique which requires you to really think about what you are doing when up against them.

While he is the main Champion of the Hoenn region, it is in Pokémon Emerald where Steven is at his most dangerous. In this particular game all of Steven's Pokémon eclipse level 75, which is significantly higher than Emeralds' champion Wallace.

He does take up the mantle of champion once again in the series' remakes Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire where is Metagross receives a mega-stone. But even then there are few trainers in the Pokémon franchise that hold a candle to the monster that Steven was in Emerald.

4 - Blue (RBY/FRLG)

(Image taken from
(Image taken from

A list of the top ten toughest trainers in Pokémon would not be complete without the inclusion of the series' first league champion. And as far as champions go, Blue still sits comfortably near the top.

The man who served as our first ever rival was, for all intents and purposes, the one person we all wanted to beat. Even more so than the game's main villain Giovanni. Because he was an arrogant, yet highly skilled opponent who was constantly pushing us to the limit. So, it only made sense that the final battle of the original storyline should be against Blue.

Like with every other encounter with Blue, you immediately start on your back foot as his Pokémon are significantly higher leveled than yours will be. He will also have the starter Pokémon that is strong against your one leading a line of equally fearsome beasts.

And like the Elite Four before him, Blue also has access to healing items. But it is because of all of this adversity that beating him feels all the sweeter.

3 - Red (GSC/HGSS)

(image taken from SpaceBattles)
(image taken from SpaceBattles)

We've now arrived at the top three of this list, and this is by far one of the most iconic and unique trainer battles across the core series. That, of course being the battle against Pokémon Trainer Red--the protagonist from Pokémon: Red, Blue & Yellow.

Now depending on which edition of these games you will be given a slightly different experience when facing Red. Mainly in regards to the members of his team and their levels.

But, the core of his team remains very much the same, and they are all terrifying.

Especially his Pikachu, which is the highest base-level Pokémon of any trainer in the series' history. He also possess the three Kanto starters who each have access to their primary type's ultimate moves.

All of this plus the addition of his epic battle theme, and the incredible backdrop of Mt. Silver culminates in awesome, yet incredibly challenging fight that very few come close to matching.

And it isn't everyday that you are presented with a chance to fight against yourself.

2 - Cynthia (DPPT/BDSP)

(Image taken from Pinterest)
(Image taken from Pinterest)

It should come as no surprise to see Cynthia near the top of this list. Since her introduction with the release Pokémon: Diamond, Pearl & Platinum the Sinnoh region's champion continues to strike fear into the hearts of all those would seek to challenge her. Which more than reflects her status as the "Queen of Pokémon."

From the moment you walk into her chamber, you hear her iconic piano track before the start of her equally memorable battle theme. Both of which set you up for an epic battle like no other. And she starts of with a bang in the form of Spiritomb who, at the time of the original release, was one of a select few Pokémon that had no type weaknesses.

To defeat Cynthia is to well and truly conquer greatness in the world of Pokémon. But there is one more trainer out there who well and truly gives her a run for her money. And, funnily enough, it is somebody quite close to her.

The toughest Pokémon trainer: Volo (Pokémon Legends: Arceus)

(Image taken from IGN)
(Image taken from IGN)

Finally, we have reached the summit of this list. And waiting for us up top is without question the toughest trainer battle to have ever graced the Pokémon franchise. The one and only, Volo--Cynthia's ancestor. We first meet Volo at the start of 2022's Pokémon Legends: Arceus, where he introduces himself as a wandering merchant. He then proceeds to make several appearances as he provides aid and guidance for the protagonist at various points.

It isn't until you complete the main storyline that we learn of Volo's true nature, revealed to be the true challenge of the game. He then promptly challenges you to battle, with a familiar piano composition playing in the background.

Not only does he share a battle theme with Cynthia, they also share a similar taste when it comes to picking powerful Pokémon as his team is almost identical to hers from Pokémon: Platinum; the only difference being that he has a Hisuian Arcanine in place of Cynthia's Milotic.

But that barely scratches the surface when it comes to how difficult this battle is. Because lurking in the shadows is Volo's secret weapon; Giratina. To say that Giratina is a pain to deal with would be an understatement. Because you have to defeat Giratina twice.

Added bonus: If you lose at any point in these three stages, you start the battle again from the very beginning. That makes this the longest fight of any core series game, but also by far the most difficult.

And there you have it, our list of the top ten toughest trainers in the Pokémon franchise. Is there anyone you think we left out? Feel free to voice your opinion on the matter by heading to our Twitter page.

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