An Objective Ranking of Shiny Pokémon

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It’s 2019 in Pokemon GO, and at times the game feels like one massive shiny hunt. The first wave of Unova Pokemon was released this week, and already several new shiny forms have been introduced to the game. While we’re waiting for more new Pokemon, we thought it would be fun to take a look at all of the different shiny forms from generations one through four and find a way to rank them objectively. There are many different criteria people might try to use to claim that some shinies are better than others; one of them is that the regular and shiny forms are actually different from each other instead of just a slight, hardly distinguishable adjustment in all of the main colors (looking at you, Gengar). 

While you might raise some objections to this criterion, this is something we can actually quantify by looking pixel-by-pixel at the two forms and comparing their values. Every pixel has an RGB triple (represented in hexadecimal) that encodes the redness, greenness, and blueness of the point on a scale from 0 to 255. After pulling the sprites from the game data, we can compare the corresponding pixels $(r_1, g_1, b_1)$ and $(r_2, g_2, b_2)$ from the shiny and nonshiny forms of the same Pokemon using the Euclidean distance formula:

\[L^2 = \sqrt{(r_1 - r_2)^2 + (g_1 - g_2)^2 + (b_1 - b_2)^2} \]

and take the average of these values among all non-transparent pixels. We carried out this computation for every generation one through four Pokemon in each of its different forms, giving each a theoretical score between 0 and 443.4, with higher scores indicating that the shiny and non-shiny forms are very different. In reality, scores ranged only from 7.3 to 182.6, with an average score of 55.4. Here are the full results:

Ranking of all generation 1-4 shiny Pokemon

Disclaimer: This methodology is quite tough on Pokemon with certain features, such as translucent wings, that don’t vary much or at all in color between the standard and shiny forms. Butterfree is a damn fine shiny, but receives a miserable score of 15.7 because its wings account for such a large portion of its sprite. Sorry, Butterfree. We’ll make it up to you later.

In addition, there are subtle differences between some of the male and female forms, but with the exceptions of Hippopotas and Hippowdon, the color palettes are similar enough that the scores between male and female forms are quite close to each other. Unless noted otherwise, scores are for male versions (just because it was easier to code it this way).

Finally, we had to discard Gastly from the rankings, for the simple fact that its sprite isn’t in the same relative location in the two corresponding image files. But you don’t need our rankings to tell you that shiny Gastly is pretty great, and as you’ll see, much better than the rest of its line.

The Best Shinies

#5: Alolan Graveler (Score 142.6): Shiny Kantonian and Alolan Geodude and Graveler are some of the coolest shinies in the game. This one ranks highest out of the family, with Alolan Geodude not too far behind. There’s probably a joke about polishing a turd in here somewhere.

#4: Politoed (Score 144.7): The cotton candy shiny! By far the coolest of the otherwise underwhelming Poliwag family, the contrast between the light green-and-yellow and the blue-and-pink makes it the best item evolution shiny in the game.

#3: Heracross (Score 146.2): Pink Heracross is the highest ranking generation I-IV shiny yet to be released in Pokemon GO, and also the highest of all regional Pokemon in these generations. Maybe we’ll see it for the ultra bonus unlock in 2020.

#2: Espeon (Score 147.0): This one might be a bit controversial. While there are many people who don’t love shiny Espeon (or green shinies in general), there’s one thing that can’t be argued: it sure is different from the standard form.

#1: Azumarill (Score 182.8): It’s not even close, folks. Blowing everything else out of the water by a whopping 35 points, yellow Azumarill is the king of all shinies. The whole family is fantastic, and makes the thought of hatching another Azurill that much less painful. Plus, shinies do more damage.

Top 20 Best Shinies by Average Pixel Distance
Dex # Name Form(e) Sprite Score Gen 1-4 Sprite Rank
184 Azumarill 182.8 1
196 Espeon 147 2
214 Heracross 146.2 3
186 Politoed 144.7 4
75 Graveler Alola 142.6 5
188 Skiploom 140 6
382 Kyogre 136.1 7
74 Geodude Alola 134.8 8
137 Porygon 130.2 9
233 Porygon2 124.9 10
202 Wobbuffet 124.1 11
78 Rapidash 123.9 12
219 Magcargo 119.9 13
215 Sneasel 119.8 14
77 Ponyta 119.7 15
474 Porygon-Z 118.8 16
222 Corsola 117.1 17
268 Cascoon 116.2 18
204 Pineco 115.7 19
75 Graveler Kanto 115.5 20

The Worst Shinies

#7: Wingull (Score 10.0): What happens when you take a mostly neutral-colored shiny and change blue stripes to green? Pretty much nothing.

#4: Claydol (Score 9.4): This one might be a bit unfair, but Claydol receives an extremely low score because the only thing that changes in the shiny variant is the color of its eyes. At least if we get this shiny family, it might soften the blow of having another Baltoy nest in town a bit.

#3: Typhlosion (Score 8.7): Another shiny that’s nearly identical to its normal form, at least when it’s standing up. If the picture of the sprite had captured a different angle, Typhlosion probably wouldn’t have made the list.

#2, #5, and #6: Wormadam (Plant 9.7, Trash 9.4, Sandy 8.4): These ones are straight up awful, and I defy anyone to say otherwise. Shiny Mothim is cool, but the rest of the family looks essentially the same in their shiny and regular forms.

#1: Haunter (Score 7.3): We all know how bad shiny Gengar is (its score of 14.9 puts it at the 20th worst) but shiny Haunter is even worse, differing only in the color of its tongue. If I had three shiny Gastly, I’d be tempted to transfer two of them.

Top 20 Worst Shinies by Average Pixel Distance
Dex # Name Form(e) Sprite Score Gen 1-4 Sprite Rank
93 Haunter 7.3 547
413 Wormadam Sandy 8.4 546
157 Typhlosion 8.7 545
344 Claydol 9.4 544
413 Wormadam Trash 9.4 543
413 Wormadam Plant 9.7 542
278 Wingull 10 541
50 Diglett Kanto 10 540
352 Kecleon 12.5 539
412 Burmy Plant 12.6 538
136 Flareon 13.2 537
304 Aron 13.8 536
362 Glalie 13.8 535
412 Burmy Sandy 13.8 534
51 Dugtrio Kanto 13.9 533
118 Goldeen 14 532
242 Blissey 14.4 531
174 Igglybuff 14.7 530
150 Mewtwo Armored 14.8 529
94 Gengar 14.9 528

A Different Approach: Accents

If you’re unhappy with the above approach, we also decided to try a different criterion. Instead of considering the entire sprite in our analysis, we could also consider only some of the pixels -- the ones that are most different between the shiny and nonshiny forms. This way, Pokemon that are mostly similar but have some interesting accents, like Butterfree, Wingull, and Umbreon, receive a better ranking due to the larger differences on a small portion of their sprites. In the following rankings, we considered the 2% of pixels that differ the most; we call these the accent pixels. The average distance between accent pixels is 131.8, and Pokemon scores ranged between 35.5 and 355.4.

The Best Accent Shinies

#4: Yanma (Score 282.7): Shiny Yanma features a blue accent in the areas where its standard form is red. Looking forward to the worldwide release of this one soon!

#3: Azumarill (Score 289.2): Turns out Azumarill is still great by this metric, which makes sense since it ignores the white dots that look the same on both forms. Not the best this time, though.

#2: Mothim (Score 324.7): As we saw with Yanma, blue accents instead of red makes for a great score by this metric. Mothim redeems its family and ranks as the highest unreleased shiny from the first four generations. When that day comes, hopefully you’ll find a male one.

#5 and #1: Rapidash (279.8) and Ponyta (355.4): Let’s just take a moment to appreciate how awesome these two are. The flames are the story here. Both Rapidash and Ponyta have the same body color in their shiny and normal forms, but their manes are about as different as any features on any Pokemon in the game. Ponyta’s richer blue gives it the edge over Rapidash and makes it the best shiny by this metric.

Top 20 Best Shinies by Accent Pixel Distance
Dex # Name Form(e) Accent Score Gen 1-4 Accent Rank
77 Ponyta 355.4 1
414 Mothim 324.7 2
184 Azumarill 289.2 3
193 Yanma 282.7 4
78 Rapidash 279.8 5
213 Shuckle 279.4 6
130 Gyarados 269 7
148 Dragonair 262.4 8
233 Porygon2 261.9 9
107 Hitmonchan 254.9 10
385 Jirachi 251.9 11
121 Starmie 250.8 12
146 Moltres 247.1 13
120 Staryu 246.5 14
73 Tentacruel 245.2 15
199 Slowking 242.8 16
318 Carvanha 239.7 17
196 Espeon 238.4 18
137 Porygon 236.3 19
48 Venonat 235.7 20

The Worst Accent Shinies

#5: Persian (Score 51.7): Don’t like the sickly green glow about shiny Persian? Neither do we.

#4: Garchomp (Score 51.2): When Garchomp inevitably gets its community day, lots of people are going to be sorely disappointed. Gible and Gabite are decent, but we’ll be focusing on the candy, not the shinies for this CD.

#3: Igglybuff (Score 50.4): At least shiny Jigglypuff and Wigglytuff have green eyes. Igglybuff has nothing going for it.

#2: Gengar (Score 43.5): We expected this one, right? Whie Gengar is slightly differently-colored all over, saving it from a position on this list under the first metric, it doesn’t have any standout highlights, making it the second worst shiny by this one.

#1: Blissey (Score 35.5): One day, gyms all over town will be anchored by shiny Blissey. And we won’t even know the difference.

Top 20 Worst Shinies by Accent Pixel Distance
Dex # Name Form(e) Accent Score Gen 1-4 Accent Rank
242 Blissey 35.5 547
94 Gengar 43.5 546
174 Igglybuff 50.4 545
445 Garchomp 51.2 544
53 Persian Kanto 51.7 543
450 Hippowdon Male 53.7 542
322 Numel 54.9 541
119 Seaking 56 540
136 Flareon 57.9 539
484 Palkia 58.1 538
440 Happiny 58.6 537
248 Tyranitar 58.7 536
303 Mawile 59.7 535
86 Seel 61.1 534
143 Snorlax 61.7 533
305 Lairon 63.2 532
432 Purugly 63.4 531
473 Mamoswine 63.9 530
477 Dusknoir 64.5 529
292 Shedinja 64.6 528


One pattern we observed when compiling these rankings is that many of the best shinies tend to be from the Johto region. This turns out to be true on average by either metric, while shinies from the Sinnoh region are least different.

Ultimately, shiny preference is a subjective matter, and your criteria may be different from these, but it’s interesting to see some of our common picks for favorite and (especially) least favorite shinies justified by the math. You can find the full list here.

With more Pokemon from the Unova region on the way, we’ll be sure to update these rankings  when the bulk of the new generation is released. It certainly looks like we’ll have some more great shiny forms to collect quite soon. Happy hunting!

About the Author(s)

Chris is a contributing writer for GamePress and administrator of the pogoraids Discord/Reddit community, focusing primarily on speed raiding and PokeDraft content. Some day he'll be an actual professor.