Pikachu. That name alone should rattle some memories from most of you- be it Ash's Pikachu from the anime, evolving a Pichu all the way through its evolutionary line, or complaining about the myriad of Pikachu clones over the years (every generation gets one, from Plusle and Minun to Pachirisu to Moripeko). You might also just adore the whole family of Electric Rodents, from Pichu to Raichu.
Pikachu is one of the most recognizable characters in the world and has long been the face of the Pokémon franchise. It's one of the most cherished characters Nintendo has, too. Heck, one of the first tech demos for the DS way back in the day had you able to stretch out the cheek pouches on the Pikachu displayed on the touch screen!
But what if I told you that over the decades, for one reason or another, Game Freak has given our beloved face of all electric rodents the world over so many little variants? There is just such an unbelievable amount of different types of Pikachu. It's almost insane!
Best of all, you can get many of these by picking up used Pokémon games if you're lucky enough.
Surf's Up, Nidorinos
Probably the most famous of our Variant Pikachu family members is the Surfing Pikachu, first featured in Pokemon Yellow. You'd think being an Electric-type Pokemon would get you some kind of safety warning, but no, he's allowed to show up anyone who dares to try and take his surf crown.
The original Surfing Pikachu in Pokemon Yellow has been talked about endlessly as one of the most memorable parts of that game, and the legacy of this Pikachu, in particular, has been referenced with the surfer-themed Alolan Raichu in Pokemon Sun and Moon. It's also appropriately made a few appearances since, including recently being a download you could nab in Pokemon Scarlet or Violet versions on Nintendo Switch.
The Surfing Pikachu is probably a little infamous now. Your chances of having one from way back when Yellow first launched are a bit low. After all, the original battery on most copies of Yellow has probably worn out at this point. But you could always recreate one on a fresh save battery by going through Pokemon Stadium's Prime 2 Master Ball cup with a Transfer Pak team on Nintendo 64 to teach a Pikachu the move Surf there if you're hardcore.
Or, if you're looking at a 3DS- you could always try and see if a used 3DS has Pokemon Yellow installed. In the Virtual Console rerelease, the Pikachu you get as a starter can learn Surf as soon as you get the HM. But with the shutdown of the 3DS E-Shop earlier in 2023, there's sadly no easy way to get the original surf star and play his little minigame anymore.
Bought a Bag of Balloons with the Money We Got
Another famous one is the Flying Pikachu. This one you probably remember from the trading card game, where it was featured prominently on a promo card. It's also been featured in a few of the games too- such as Pokemon Snap- possibly most interestingly in Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver as a random encounter in those games' unique gimmick: The Pokewalker.
See, the Pokewalker was a neat little thing back in the ancient times of 2009. In the push to challenge childhood obesity, Nintendo was inspired to give a reason to get kids to go outside and move around and revived a concept similar to the little Pikachu virtual pets from peak Pokemania a decade before. Thus, a poké ball-shaped pedometer that doubled as a virtual pet- complete with Pikachu 2's interactivity with Johto games.
In some ways, you could consider it a pre-evolution of Pokemon Go. But one of the most interesting things was whenever they'd do a limited event- you'd download the information to unlock it through Wi-Fi.
I Don't Think Forests Are Supposed to Be Yellow, Nintendo
Yellow Forest is one of them, allowing you to get both the Flying Pikachu and its Surfing cousin by encountering it on the poké ball-themed virtual pet. Unfortunately, that means there's no legitimate way to obtain it on a fresh save anymore- you'd have to use something like an Action Replay DSi to do that. If you're lucky and can get ahold of both a copy of either game and the Pokewalker used, though, you might have luck and find it on the old save game.
Return of the Chonky Electric Mouse Pokémon
Pikachu's original design from the very beginning of Pokemania has gotten a certain memetic legacy now, as the chunky one. The Pikachu that's rotund like a spoiled house cat.
Pikachu now is a slim little thing, probably from all the adventures it's gone on with Ash at this point. Seemingly, Nintendo also decided to put the whole species on a diet in time for the Hoenn region, just so the anime Pikachu doesn't feel left out.
Make My Pocket Monster Grow!
But then we went to consoles with the Nintendo Switch. Two of the games on the console, Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield, introduced the region's gimmick- Gigantomax. Your Pokemon can turn into Kaiju-sized monsters to have an epic battle, fitting with the generation having a harder focus on Pokemon battles as sports entertainment.
And it turns out, that Gigantomax Pikachu, exclusive to Pokemon Sword and Shield, merely was storing all the fat for when he takes a giant form. This Pikachu will have their Electric attacks blowing out the enemy with thunderous ability.
We All Live in a (Cosplaying) Pokémon World
One of the most interesting things about Cosplay Pikachu is that she's got actual gameplay changes depending on her outfit. See, each one changes what Cosplay Pikachu's signature move is. That means that this Pikachu can use different attacks, like Rock Star Pikachu using Meteor Mash or Pikachu Belle having the Ice-type move Icicle Crash.
From the Top Rope- It's Pikachu Libre!
Okay, I lied a bit. I'm sorry. Please forgive me.
Cosplay Pikachu technically made an appearance in another game- as the lucha-themed Pikachu Libre in the fighting game Pokken Tournament. She's here to kick ass and take names in this spin-off game by the Tekken developers.
She's an extremely nimble little fighter and fully capable of handing you your butt. She's also generally seen as one of the better characters in the games, both the original Wii U release and its rebalance/port to Switch, so if you want to style on your friends- do it as this adorable little cutie.
Went To The Hat Store Today And Bought Myself a Hat, Ha-Ha-Ha
One could probably fill this list with variants of Pikachu that are just a Pikachu in a hat, but for the sake of everyone's sanity, I'm putting this little dude in a single heading. This is the time we've gotten Ash Ketchum's Pikachu (even when not labeled as his Pikachu), and in a cute show of anime accuracy, it's immune to Thunder Stone- meaning it can't be evolved, just like the animated Pikachu.
Yeah, they've given out the Pikachu from the anime a few times now, dating back from the original Sinnoh games on DS to Sword and Shield a few years back. Sometimes there's even something special about this one beyond the hats, like how the versions in Sun and Moon had a special Z-Move that only this Pikachu can do.
You're probably wondering why it took you so long to know- and, well, that's because he's been an event exclusive, like the Notch Eared Pichu from HGSS. It's been a thing a few times now, including Japanese-only events that you could only get on a specific airline.
Before Wi-Fi became part of our day-to-day lives in the early 2010s, Pokemon used to dish out exclusive Pokemon via events you physically had to go to a store to get. They'd oftentimes be on special cartridges that the store would have set up, and you'd be able to download it to your DS game. Once the event was over, you had to ship it back to Nintendo for the cartridge to be destroyed.
That includes the first few releases of the cap-wearing Pikachu.
How Do I Get it, Then?
To get them today, though, you gotta be lucky. A few of these carts have escaped destruction, either from people stealing them or otherwise not returning them to Nintendo, and have gone into the wild. These carts are times considered holy grails of Pokemon collecting, given how few of them can be known to have survived.
So if you're lucky, you could end up finding either the Generation 4 or Generation 5 distribution carts at Fair Game. They've come through a few times now, and not just the Pikachu promotional cart.
Give it a go. Come on down to Fair Game Retro Video Games and see if you can truly catch 'em all!