The Evolution Of Pikachu

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By Jay Michael – 13th August 2015
The Evolution Of Pikachu

Life is ever-changing, people grow old, fashions shift, and Pokemon get new artwork.

Every single creature featured in Game Freak’s super-franchise has its own collection of drawings, sprites and 3D models. Pikachu however, has been through more shake-ups than most.

From palette changes to severe weight loss, everyone’s favourite electric mouse has had a lot of redesigns over the years. Below, I’ll take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly.

White Belly (1996)

Ken Sugimori’s earliest artwork often depicts Pikachu with a belly-patch; this feature is even present in its original Red and Blue sprites. Why the patch was removed still remains a mystery, perhaps to differentiate it further from its 3rd Stage evolution Raichu?

A white-bellied Pikachu peeks out from behind Blue and Red.

A white-bellied Pikachu peeks out from behind Blue and Red.

In its first 100% official drawing, Pikachu looked a lot more like the version that would eventually be used in the anime; its facial features made smaller and its belly-patch removed. Pokemon Yellow used this design as a basis for the creatures’ sprite.

A further 2 designs followed during Generation I, the first – used for a promo-card to accompany the original Pokemon movie – remains chubby and small, while the second is slightly thinner and more streamlined.

From left to right: Pikachu's first official artwork - Its original GameBoy sprite - Its promo-card drawing - Its GameBoy Color sprite - Its Gen I re-design.

From left to right: Pikachu’s first official artwork – Original GameBoy sprite – Promo-card drawing – GameBoy Color sprite – Gen I re-design.

A Lighter Shade of Yellow (2002)

Pikachu’s next major change came with the Gameboy Advance and the arrival of Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire. Sugimori’s old drawing style had long gone and with it went Pikachu’s little pot-belly.

In its new artwork, Pikachu had become lighter in color and much more elongated. Strangely, its in-game sprite seemed to retain the deeper shade of yellow present in previous years.

Pikachu's coloration has faded over the years

Pikachu’s color varies a lot.

Subtle Switches (2006)

Pikachu’s design remained much the same for the release of Diamond and Pearl for Nintendo DS. Its head however, did become slightly smaller and its sprite was fixed to light yellow. Meanwhile, Ash’s Pikachu in the anime retained a dark yellow hue and featured chubbier legs and arms than in-game sprites.

Ash's anime Pikachu looks pretty different from Diamond and Pearl's versions.

Ash’s anime Pikachu looks pretty different when compared to Diamond and Pearl’s versions.

Unleash the Beast (2012)

Black and White featured a Pikachu very similar to that seen in Diamond and Pearl, however, with the arrival of Pokemon Conquest – a cross-over between Pokemon and Japanese strategy RPG Nobunaga’s Ambition – the little mouse discovered its wild side.

Rather than the cute human-like stance it normally adopts, Pikachu is drawn in a much more animalistic manner; down on all-fours, growling, and with an angered expression.

The most ferocious Pikachu of the lot came in a spin-off game.

The most ferocious Pikachu of the lot came in a spin-off game.

Coming Full Circle (2013)

With the release of Pokemon X & Y – and the introduction of 3D models – Pikachu’s design came full circle. Its current sprite looks more like its original design than many other drawings and is, at least in my mind, the best representation to date of what Pikachu should look like; cute with a cheeky smile. In addition, for the first time ever, rather than its usual cry, Pikachu says its name when encountered in the wild.

No matter how cool Pikachu may look in Nobunaga’s Ambition, at the end of the day, it is the mascot for the whole Pokemon franchise and one of the most recognisable Nintendo characters of all time… It didn’t get there by growling at people, it got there with its boyish charm and its oversized yet cute features.

Pikachu returns to it's cute and chubby design for Pokemon X/Y and Pokemon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire.

Pikachu returns to it’s cute and chubby design for Pokemon X/Y and Pokemon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire.


Who knows what the future holds for Pikachu and his design? One thing is for sure, there will definitely be more of them.

Which one is your favorite? Tell us in the comments below and make sure to check out our other Pokemon articles:

A New Pokemon Has Been RevealedTop 5 Pokemon That Deserve An EvolutionTop 5 Pokemon That Should Be Related