Who Wins a Pokémon Tournament When Trainers Can Pick Any Gaming Hero?

Hope Corrigan
TV Games
TV Games Pokémon Nintendo

Standing at the precipice of the stadium with the crowd roaring in your ears, you know you’re ready for this. Ever since scientists discovered Pokéball technology that allowed trainers to capture any creature from video game history and battle them, Pokémon tournaments have changed dramatically.

When you have the combined gaming universes at your fingertips, more than ever, the power is in your hands. But what kind of power did you choose?

Over the past few weeks, we’ve polled the community to see which gaming characters (from any gaming universe) they’d like to have in their Pokéball. Now it’s time to see who would win.

The tournament takes place in one on one Pokémon… ish battles with eight trainers, seeded randomly. Each trainer has one Pokéball and the winner advances to the next round. And the first match involves one frightened Italian…

Mario vs Goku, Kirby vs Sans, Arceus vs Kratos, Saitama vs Yoshi.
Here's what the tournament looks like after the seeing.

Mario vs Goku

The two trainers approach the field, turn their caps backward in the ritualistic expression of determination, and throw their Pokéballs onto the field. Out pop Mario and Goku — sure they’re confused, but they can hear the referee explain the rules of combat and understand they are in a tournament. Both are quintessentially good guys but are also not the type to back down from a fight; they can figure out the rest of this bizarre situation later.

It’s easy to write Mario off straight away for this fight but there might be a reason so many of you chose him. You see, Mario could actually be quite a bit stronger than he appears. According to some theories, Mario is actually likely to be a very strong martial artist. His punches can crumble bricks with over twice the speed of some of our best martial artists and the dude has fought dragons.

That’s just his arms — the legs are really where this former Jump Man excels, as we’ve seen him take down most enemies by just landing on them. The speed and height of his jump combined with the speed of his descent indicates that Mario comes from a planet with eight times the gravity of Earth. That’s impressive — but it’s also why we’re certain Goku has got this one.

Goku, the ever smiling protagonist from the DragonBall series, would quite simply crush Mario into star dust — or he would if he wasn’t such a nice guy. Gravity training is Goku’s specialty and has been a repeat feature throughout the series. Even pretty early on in the Dragon Ball Z series Goku travels to King Kai’s planet where he trains in 10x Earth’s gravity conditions. Later, he uses a gravity machine to train while travelling to Planet Namek. A malfunction in the machine caused him to train in 100x Earth’s gravity to the point where he gets used to it.

When you pile on all of Goku’s other abilities and Mario probably not having access to any power ups, after a brief conversation while fighting Goku would end it swiftly and kindly without even breaking a Super Saiyan sweat.

Kirby vs Sans

If the intro to the campaign mode in Super Smash Bros Ultimate taught us anything, it’s that Kirby is one of the most survivable characters in the roster. The pink puffball has also been described as having infinite power in the 3DS game Planet Robobot back in 2016. This all means that when it comes right down to it, Kirby may well be unkillable. Unfortunately for Kirby, in a Pokémon battle killing is not the aim — and it doesn’t take too much to knock them out. Kirby’s main ability is also the famed vacuum mouth which gains him the power of his enemies – but it’s exactly this that could give Sans the upper hand.

In Undertale, Sans is a chill skeleton dude who likes to make puns and generally have a good time. Most players will probably only see him like this, but if you’re cursed enough to complete a genocide run towards the end you’ll see his true power, you brother killer.

Sans says hello to his date.
When you're as powerful as Sans, you don't feel the need to flex.

Sans is a seriously difficult boss and many (including us) believe him to be the hardest in the game. He starts out with a monstrous attack which comes as such a shock that the inexperienced are almost certain to get hit by it. If Kirby was to take that whopping, we’re sure the referee would declare him unable to battle — at least for that fight.

But there’s another twist: Sans wouldn’t fight. It takes so much to get Sans to raise a hand against you in Undertale, we can’t see him participating in a tournament battle even just due to laziness. Sans won’t care how many badges you have and may as well have the ability Truant or maybe even Comatose but on steroids. This hands Kirby the win much like when Charizard cost Ash the battle against Richie at the Indigo League.

Arceus vs Kratos

In a battle of gods, we have war vs creation. Kratos has battled countless gods so in a weird way he certainly has experience over the Sinnoh legend. However, Kratos was truly only ever a demi-god by birth and has only really demonstrated having physical powers.

Superhuman strength, some magical abilities, almost indestructible, plus he gets that sweet axe that comes back to him, as well as the Blades of Chaos. Kratos would also absolutely see a majestic creature like Arceus and probably try to kill it, and show Atreus how in a foiled attempt at fatherly bonding.

Kratos and Atreus standing together God Of War
He's trying to be a good dad, but he's still angry as hell.

This is where things don’t go so well for Kratos because when Arceus gets upset, historically the only way to solve that problem ended up being time travel:

Kratos has actually time-travelled before. God of War II was all about it — but to do so he had to find the Sisters of Fate. The sad thing for Kratos in this tournament is in a battle of two gods, he’s in the wrong universe. Where he comes from, he’s the master of serial deicide. But what if all those pantheonic powers are wrapped up in one godly entity?

Arceus has the power to create all of this universe, has been shown in the anime to stop time, and make things vanish. In a head-on purely physical battle, the God of War might have taken this fight. But Arceus would almost certainly pass judgement on his violent ways before he was able to.

One-Punch Man nervous looking Saitama
It's hard to imagine Saitama losing any fight, but what if he misses a sale at the market?

Yoshi vs Saitama

Yeah nah, sorry Yoshi. Yoshi is, at best, about the same strength as Mario but with harder feet. This little dino does not stand a chance against One Punch Man and there are a couple of reasons for this.

Saitama may not be the most motivated man on his planet but he certainly is the strongest and maybe the silliest. He would take one look at Yoshi and almost certainly have to ride him, as he is also a pretty big videogame fan. Yoshi might even be cool with this, since after all, they’re always up to help a guy out. This means that even though Saitama isn’t always that interested in a fight he’d be doing something to engage with Yoshi which means we aren’t going to see a Sans style forfeit this time around.

The issue here is Saitama’s pure strength. Even if a fight broke out and Yoshi got a good lick in and turned him into an egg, he’d punch his way out of it or, heaven forbid, out of Yoshi before the egg had even formed. We’re hoping Yoshi has the good sense to just lay down and take the loss rather than be turned into dino bites.

Here’s how our bracket looks so far:

Goku, Kirby, Arceus, and Saitama have advanced in the tournament.
Let Round 2 begin...

Goku vs Kirby

After reigning victorious in their previous battles, Kirby and Goku are both set to face off. This is a particularly tricky match up because both of these characters have been shown to have a sort of infinite potential when it comes to their power and similar weaknesses.

There are a lot of factors here. Both Goku and Kirby are also kind of naive. Goku has the tendency to not use his full power, wanting to have fun in a fight. Kirby can eat and absorb most of Goku’s attacks. Both fighters have the potential to learn moves from each other.

As for strength, Kirby has canonically destroyed a planet with a single karate chop whereas Goku hasn’t really done anything quite like that — even though he certainly could.

Goku using Ultra Instinct
Goku unleashing Ultra Instinct. It's super effective.

During the Tournament of Power Goku harnesses a new ability called Autonomous Ultra Instinct. This is so strong that he’s able to take down Jiren who’s proven to be stronger than Destroyers or Gods of Destruction.

One of the gods himself, Beerus, comments that he believes Goku is stronger than him in this form. During an earlier fight with Beerus the exchange of blows between Goku and the Destroyer had the potential to destroy the universe. Hell, Goku shook the entire universe just by appearing in it.

Beerus can easily destroy a planet, having done so with the tap of his fingernail. So if Goku has the potential to be stronger than him, he’s likely stronger than Kirby – even without using his ultimate and somewhat unstable form.

When you consider this, it’s got to be Goku who wins this fight but Kirby and Goku would probably become amazing friends during it. The post fight meal they’d share would be incredible.

Arceus surrounded by lightning.
Just the god of creation, no biggie.

Arceus vs Saitama

Arceus still has the whole ‘god of this realm’ thing going for it but we also know that in regular Pokémon fights, it behaves like a fairly normal Pokémon. People can and have used Arceus in the Pokémon games and it can and has lost. So it stands to reason, that as long as Arceus doesn’t feel like its life is actually threatened by a hunt-happy demigod, it’ll probably be more inclined to play by the rules.

Saitama is also excited by the possibility of challenge, so we might not even have to bribe him with a free wig to fight. This means we have a Pokémon fighting a human which feels like an ethical debacle in itself, let alone working out who would win.

Saitama’s power is yet to be fully understood or explored – it seems even he doesn’t really have a grasp of how he got to be an absolute powerhouse of a hero. He’s called One Punch Man for a reason. He can destroy anything in one – seemingly limitless – punch. That said, in his epic showdown with the planet-buster Boros it did take more than one punch. In fact, consecutive normal punches and one serious punch were required to to kill him and even then, he wasn’t disintegrated.

There’s also the fact that Saitama names his punches at all. This implies he sees them as a percent of his strength and has control over that. Is a serious punch, as strong as he can do? Unlikely, especially as his strength seems to rise to the required occasion. He also has the benefit of using punches, which are probably fighting type moves, all things considered. This happens to be Arceus’ weakness.

Arceus’ signature move is called Judgement. If that meant sitting there to judge Saitama, it could be quite effective. Instead it essentially rains down meteors onto the opponent. This is something the Caped Baldy could absolutely handle.

A moveset which included something like Confuse Ray might have a better shot but Arceus can’t learn that one. Perhaps other psychic moves could work but in the original webcomic Saitama faces off against Tatsumaki – a psychic user – and she can barely move him.

In a fair fight with both players acting essentially like Pokémon, Saitama comes out victorious over Arceus, probably after one normal punch.

Goku vs Saitama

Both characters square off after popping out of their respective balls, knowing they’re in the finals. Saitama is immediately jealous of Goku’s hair. That’s probably not all he should be jealous of.

The fact of the matter is that Saitama has never faced off against someone even a fraction of the power of the universe-shaking Goku. The Saiyan has fought countless planet destroyers and Saitama’s only faced off against one. We already know that the titular ‘One Punch’ isn’t necessarily all it ever takes to defeat a tough opponent and Goku is far stronger than Boros was.

Yet throughout the Boros fight, one gets the feeling Saitama wasn’t heavily challenged. That’s in contrast to Goku who has routinely been on death’s door, and thrives off the struggle.

Goku is also familiar with being ported into unknown worlds and universes, whereas Saitama doesn’t have this experience but also probably doesn’t much care to understand what is going on right now.

Boros lies dead and nearly disintegrated.
There's a good chance Goku would end up looking like this, and Saitama would still be jelly of the hair.

From what we’ve seen so far, Saitama always rises to the occasion but this has been fairly incremental. How much can his body take with the level of improvement that would need to occur in a single Pokémon match? Furthermore, we’ve only seen how he stacks up against opponents of his own universe — not that of any other.

While the excitement of facing off against someone as powerful as Goku would certainly fuel Saitama to a point, the exertion would likely be too much. If not physically, then certainly mentally. It’s a hard case but we don’t see it being worthwhile for Saitama to try to reach Goku’s skill in the span of a Pokémon fight. He’d just miss far too many grocery sales with how long it would probably take. They both may also both have some reservations about levelling the Pokémon Universe in the process of their battle.

So after a constantly evolving battle, Goku takes the championship — but only on the condition that he buys lunch with the winnings.

Hope Corrigan
Secretly several dogs stacked on top of one another in a large coat, Hope has a habit of writing and talking far too much about video games and tech. You can usually find her whinging about how Jet Set Radio Future never got a sequel on Twitter.