Author’s Note: This article first appeared on Mech Taco on March 6, 2012, as another installment in my series on odd moments in video game history.
Let us for a minute think of the late 1990s. It was a simpler time for the Internet, back when there were search engines named after butlers and SOPA could be confused with some kind of Greek cleaning product. It was a time when Pokémon was at the height of its mainstream popularity. Red and Blue had come out in 1998, followed by Yellow a year later, to massive popular success. Pokémon: The First Movie was a smash at the box office and the drive to “catch ‘em all” became the childhood obsession of the late nineties.
For fans of Pokémon, the late nineties were also time of wild speculation and rumor; fueled by the existence of legendary Pokémon such as Mew and glitches like MissingNo., there arose a wave of tales proclaiming the existence of other legendaries, and websites abounded enumerating the means to obtain them.
It was the reign of the Pokégods.
Bear in mind these were the days before Gold and Silver, during the first generation of Pokémon games when some people were not satisfied with just catching them all. Some were convinced (or willing to believe) that Nintendo had hidden other legendary Pokémon within Red and Blue, giving birth to the myths of the so-called Pokégods. The Pokégods were Pokémon that were not part of the original 150 that supposedly existed within the games; because they were so well hidden, they supposedly were new legendaries with overpowered stats similar to other one-time-catch-only Pokémon like MewTwo. They could only be obtained, so the legends and Angelfire websites went, through completing a series of drawn out objectives, such as catching all 150 Pokémon AND beating the Elite 4 100 times AND talking to a particular NPC 100 times (the thirsty girl whom you give soft drinks to in the Celadon City Department Store was a popular target).
It’s easy to laugh at them now, scoffing with our historical hindsight at the gullibility of the first-generation trainers who attempted them. As a young player immersed in Pokémon Red during the late nineties I read my fair share of “surefire” ways to catch them on one of a dozen websites, and I would be lying if I didn’t say I didn’t try one or two of them. We may roll our eyes at the people who concocted schemes for getting players to seek out new worlds beyond Nintendo’s established Poké-geography. But let’s not forget the context of the time. This was still a relatively early stage of video game communities on the Internet, so it was tougher to refute the claims, especially when many sites presented supposed evidence of the Pokégods’ existence. Moreover, the existence of MissingNo. and the item multiplier glitch gave credence to their possible existence. If MissingoNo. is hiding along the shores of Cinnabar Island, what other untold mysteries could the games contain? Also, considering the context of other games of the time, if Nintendo could make players run back and forth through Hyrule completing a series of inane tasks to obtain the Biggoron Sword, is it such a stretch to obtain legendary Pokémon through similar means?
Back in the late nineties, the websites with these so-called hidden tricks to get new legendary Pokémon were legion. Now nearly a decade later they are much more sparse, as the myths have largely been exposed for the quackery they were. The RAGECANDYBAR Pokégods Project is one of the few that exists, and the people over there have put together a pretty comprehensive history of the various rumors, trying to trace their origins, which as a historian I appreciate (another critical look at the Pokégod rumors can be found here). Here are a few others I have come across that explain ways to get them, either through in-game means of through a GameShark or GameGenie; one site is a little more skeptical, informing those who may attempt them that “some of these might not work” yet attests that some of them do in fact work.
Some of the most prolific rumors circulated around Mew. Nintendo gave Mew away at special events, and the only way to obtain one in the games otherwise was to use a GameGenie or GameShark to make one appear (although as I mentioned last time, players eventually found a way to legitimately catch Mew in the game). There were many different supposed surefire tricks for unlocking Mew. Some speculated Mew was a reward for completing the Pokédex, although it turns out all you got was a pat on the head from Professor Oak and a diploma from Game Freak without a legendary Pokémon to show for your labors.
Other rumors circulated around a mysterious truck parked near the S.S. Anne, with some suggesting that a Pokéball containing Mew was underneath it, provided you found a way to move the obstructing vehicle. The indie singer songwriter Alex Day, in his semi-nostalgic, semi-nerd-ragey song “Pokémon what Happened to You?” wrote “I miss surfing to the truck and using Strength to try and move it.” Other rumors also hinted at the existence of other Mew clones besides the legendary badass MewTwo (when I was first making my way through Red, my cousin claimed his cousin had something called MewSix; it all seems nonsense now but it didn’t hurt to believe).
Pikablu, later revealed by Nintendo as Marill, was also a target of many rumors, as the early reveal of images of Marill led players to believe it was another evolved form of Pikachu. A line in Pokémon Red and Blue led credence to these myths, as one NPC on Cinnabar informed players that a recently-traded Raichu had evolved. As a result numerous methods arose to either get to a secret area in the game where Pikablu could be caught or get Pikachu or Raichu to evolve into Pikablu. There were also ways to supposedly find and catch Togepi, which had been revealed in the television show well before the release of Gold and Silver.
In addition to the “official” Pokémon revealed by Nintendo there was a menagerie of totally made up Pokégods that were either supposed to exist in Red and Blue or were supposedly scheduled to release alongside Marill/Pikablu and Togepi in Gold and Silver. These included an evolved form of Flareon called Flareth, evolved forms of Venusaur, Charizard and Blastoise (Sapusaur, Charcolt, and Rainer, respectively), and an evolved form of Nidoking, appropriately named Nidogod (here’s a site that claims to have real GameShark codes to unlock all of them). To catch them you had to do the same kinds of shenanigans that were endemic of all the fake Pokémon “codes,” such as catch all 150 Pokémon without using a GameShark/Game Genie, beating the Elite 4 x amount of times, obtaining some fake evolution stone such as the Ice Stone or Mist Stone, or traveling to some mythical town (one code I read years ago actually expected players to travel to something called the “Pikaland”). My favorite of the fake Pokémon was probably Doomsay/Doomsday, which was supposed to be some kind of ghost type. A pretty genuine looking (and completely badass) sprite accompanied rumors of Doomsday, lending credence to the fact that even if he wasn’t in Red and Blue, he may be in Gold and Silver (this of course never came to fruition and Doomsay/Doomsday was just a fan creation). I also remember seeing an image of a rumored evolved form of Electrode, called Electron, that looked like a model of an atom.
Years have passed and the Pokégods have been all but forgotten. However, this has not meant the end of rumors of fantastical worlds where players can catch otherwise uncatchable legendaries. Following the release of Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald there were supposed codes and instructional videos on how to unlock super-rare Pokémon like Deoxys and Jirachi via the space station at Mossdeep City by somehow getting on the spaceship and heading to the moon.
No matter how many Pokémon Nintendo officially reveal, there will always be players who try to seek more. The codes for the Pokégods are a testament to just how far some people will go to try to catch them all.