Whether you’re diving back into the Sinnoh region after years or for the first time, knowing which Pokémon to catch early can be daunting.
It’s always good to get into the habit of catching every new Pokémon you discover as you explore Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, but there are a few early options that you need to snag for your team right out of the gate.
While a massive amount of Pokémon become available after you acquire the National Dex, the selection available earlier in the game isn’t quite as broad. Your team can always change as you get further along, but having a good foundation makes the early game much more manageable.
So, we’ve picked out eight of the best Pokémon to catch early in Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl.
1. Starly (Route 201)
Location: Route 201 is the very first route you’ll discover and the first opportunity to catch Starly.
As you start Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, Starly is going to be one of the very first Pokémon that you encounter in the wild. Despite how early it becomes available, Starly is a must-have for most teams.
Starly will evolve into Staravia at Level 14 and Staraptor at Level 34, with that final evolutionary stage boasting a Base Stats Total of 485 and a very strong Base Attack Stat of 120.
Wing Attack and Aerial Ace will be early go-to moves for this evolutionary tree, but you can also snag TM88 fairly early to use Pluck in place of Wing Attack.
If your chosen starter was Turtwig or Piplup, having Staravia on your team can be crucial when challenging Gardenia and her grass-type team in Eterna City at the game’s second gym.
Alternate Locations: Starly can also be caught on Route 202, Route 203, Route 204 North, Route 204 South, Route 209, Route 212 North, Lake Verity, and Great Marsh Areas 2, 3, 5, and 6.
2. Shinx (Route 202)
Location: Route 202 is the second route that you’ll discover and is located just north of Sandgem Town.
The next great early catch for players will be Shinx, and it’s also available very early in the game. Shinx ultimately becomes one of the stronger options in Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, but it’s got a lot of value as you’re working through the story as well.
Going up against trainers with a significant amount of flying-type or water-type Pokémon is not uncommon in the earlier stages of the game, and Shinx is the first option that you’ll have to counter them – unless you’ve chosen Turtwig as your starter.
Shinx evolves into Luxio at Level 15 and Luxray at Level 30, with the last step in that evolutionary line having a Base Stats Total of 523 with a Base Attack Stat of 523. You’ll get a little extra type coverage with Bite and Crunch later on, but the core strength of the Shinx line is having some of the best electric-type offense available.
If you chose Chimchar as your starter, which happens to be our pick for best starter in Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, you’re going to need Shinx early to handle any opposing water-type Pokémon.
Alternate Locations: Shinx can also be caught on Route 203, Route 204 North, Route 204 South, and Fuego Ironworks. Once you can enter the Grand Underground, it’s also widely available in multiple caves.
3. Magikarp (use Old Rod on Route 203)
Location: After acquiring the Old Rod, the first place that you can go fishing for Magikarp is Route 203.
One of the classics continues to be a perfect go-to, and that’s especially true in Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl if you opt not to choose Piplup as your starter. In order to acquire the Old Rod, you’ll have to head west in Jubilife City towards Route 218.
If you speak to the fisherman between those two locations, he’ll award you the Old Rod and open you up to go fishing on Route 203, Route 218, and just about anywhere your character can stand next to a body of water.
Magikarp may not have many strengths at first, but it’s a definite asset after reaching Level 20 and evolving into Gyarados. You’ll want to make sure to snag Magikarp as soon as possible, just to be sure that it’s immediately earning XP from battles and leveling up.
Gyarados is a great early option as a water-type, but its Total Base Stats of 540 really shine as the game progresses and you can acquire more TMs. Gyarados has a very versatile moveset with strong water-type, ice-type, electric-type, ground-type, fire-type, steel-type, and dragon-type available to be learned with TMs.
Alternate Locations: Almost every single body of water in Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, especially all of the ones that you encounter early on, will almost always spawn a Magikarp when using the Old Rod.
4. Budew (Route 204)
Location: Route 204 is the first location where you’ll have the opportunity to catch Budew; it’s located just north of Jubilife City.
With the exception of those who choose to kick things off in Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl by using Turtwig as a starter, most teams should snag Budew as early as possible. You’ll start seeing the benefits as early as the very first gym.
The first gym leader you’ll be up against is Roark. His trio of Geodude, Onix, and Cranidos are all rock-type, with two of the three being ground-type as well. Budew can sweep that gym without breaking a sweat, and it continues to be an asset as the story continues.
Budew evolves into Roselia when leveled up with high friendship during the day, but you’ll have to do a little more work later on to snag the Shiny Stone and evolve it into Roserade. The most reliable Shiny Stone location is on Iron Island, but you won’t be able to get there until you have access to the HM Surf.
Stun Spore is a great early option when catching Pokémon or in difficult battles. Your variety of grass-type and poison-type moves will be the most effective when a Shiny Stone can evolve Roselia into a Roserade to utilize its Total Base Stats of 515 and Base Special Attack of 125.
Alternate Locations: Abra can also be caught in Eterna Forest, Route 212 North, and Great Marsh Areas 2, 3, 5, and 6. Once you can enter the Grand Underground, it’s also widely available in multiple caves.
5. Abra (Route 203 or trade in Oreburgh City)
Location: Route 203 is the first location that you’ll be able to catch Abra, but you can also trade for one soon after in Oreburgh City.
Another classic remains a mainstay as Abra is still one of the best psychic-type Pokémon that you can catch very early on in Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. You can find them on Route 203, but Abra’s rare spawn rate and desire to run away can make catching one a bit frustrating.
If you’re having trouble catching one, head north from Oreburgh City to Route 207, catch a Machop, and then you can visit a girl in Oreburgh who will trade her Abra for your Machop. This traded Abra will level up more quickly but runs the risk of disobeying if it becomes stronger than your badges allow you to control.
Abra evolves early into Kadabra at Level 16, but you’ll have to trade it with someone to evolve it into Alakazam and get the Total Base Stats of 500 that comes with that final form. If you’re unable to do that for any reason, even using Kadabra with its Total Base Stats of 400 and a Base Special Attack of 120 will be very strong in the main story.
While the biggest strength of this line is its psychic-type moves, you’ll also find a wide variety of moves via TMs, including electric-type, steel-type, fairy-type, dark-type, grass-type, and fighting-type moves able to be learned. Whether just a Kadabra or evolved into Alakazam, both can help against the second and third gym.
Alternate Locations: The only other location that you can encounter Abra is Route 215, and it’s got the same rare spawn rate for all three times of day as Route 203.
6. Misdreavus (Eterna Forest, Shining Pearl exclusive)
Location: Eterna Forest is the first location where you’ll be able to capture Misdreavus after dealing with the first Team Galactic debacle at Valley Windworks.
While there aren’t many version exclusives between Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, this is one that can give you an early edge if you’ve got Shining Pearl. The counterpart exclusive on Brilliant Diamond is Murkrow and Honchkrow, but most of their strengths can be handled by Starly or other Pokémon.
For those with Shining Pearl, you’ll be able to snag Misdreavus as a very early ghost-type team member with a mix of ghost-type and psychic-type moves as well as some type variety available with TMs. You’ll need to get a Dusk Stone on Victory Road, the Galactic Warehouse, or within the Grand Underground to evolve your Misdreavus into Mismagius.
Once evolved, you’ll have a Mismagius with Total Base Stats of 495, but that puts it just behind the original mighty ghost-type Pokémon, Gengar. Anyone with Brilliant Diamond that still wants a ghost-type will instead need to snag Ghastly, but it can’t be found quite as early as Misdreavus.
Ghastly first shows up in the Grand Underground, and it would also come with the additional challenge of needing someone to trade with if you hope to evolve that Ghastly all of the way into a Gengar. Regardless of which one you go with, both ghost-type options provide a variety of type bonuses as you work through the story.
Alternate Locations: Once you’ve unlocked the Grand Underground, you’ll be able to encounter Misdreavus in Stargleam Cavern or Crystal Caves, but it remains exclusive to Shining Pearl.
7. Ponyta (Route 211)
Location: Route 211 is the first location where you’ll have the opportunity to catch Ponyta; it’s located just east of Eterna City.
One of the struggles in the original Pokémon Diamond and Pearl has now returned with Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, but it’s one that only certain trainers will come up against. Unfortunately, Gen. IV’s early game is relatively devoid of options for fire-type Pokémon.
While that’s not an issue if you chose Chimchar as your starter, it leaves anyone who picked Turtwig or Piplup in need of another fire-type option. Ponyta is the first one that you’ll come across, and it remains an early-game favorite for many.
Upon arriving in Eterna City, make sure to head east to Route 211 to snag a Ponyta before taking on Gardenia at the Eterna City Gym. Ponyta is the perfect counter to Gardenia’s grass-type Pokémon, but it remains a strong choice as the core story progresses.
After it evolves into Rapidash at Level 40, you’ll have Total Base Stats of 500 and a very speedy fire-type to dispose of grass-type, ice-type, and steel-type enemies on a consistent basis. Rapidash also has a few hidden moveset gems from TMs as it can learn Solar Beam, Iron Tail, and Poison Jab.
Alternate Locations: Ponyta can also be caught on Route 210 South, Route 214, and Route 215. Once you’ve unlocked the Grand Underground and acquired the HM Strength, Ponyta will also spawn in Typhlo Cavern or Lava Caves.
How to get Mew, Jirachi, Manaphy, and Phione in Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl
While they aren’t necessarily Pokémon that you’ll be trying to catch, there are three extremely rare mythical Pokémon available fairly early on in Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. The one that all players will have access to, for now, is Manaphy and its hatched form, Phione.
The active Mystery Gift event at launch for Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl allows players to receive a free Manaphy egg which you can hatch into the mythical water-type Pokémon. If you later breed that Manaphy with a Ditto, the subsequently hatched egg will always be a Phione.
Mystery Gift won’t be available until after you’ve defeated the first gym, and you’ll have to detour to the TV Station building in Jubilife City to have a brief chat with a TV producer on the third floor. When you have the option to choose an answer, go with “EVERYONE HAPPY WI-FI CONNECTION,” and he’ll unlock the Mystery Gift for you.
All players, even those who don’t have Nintendo Switch Online, can use an internet connection to take advantage of the Mystery Gift to grab the Manaphy egg. This event won’t be active indefinitely: players only have until February 21, 2022, to redeem that Mystery Gift.
The catch with Mew and Jirachi is that you’ll need save data from other titles. In order to claim Mew, your profile must have save data from Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee or Let’s Go Pikachu. In order to claim Jirachi, your profile must have save data from Pokémon Sword or Pokémon Shield.
For both of them, head to Floaroma Town and speak to the old couple standing in a field of flowers in the southeast corner of the area. If you’ve got the necessary save data, you’ll receive a Level 1 Mew and a Level 5 Jirachi.
While snagging two psychic-types and an unorthodox water-type like Manaphy aren’t necessarily the best strategic options to have on the same team, all three of these Pokémon are extremely powerful and relatively well balanced. For players who feel as if getting one of these mythical Pokémon so early gives them an unfair advantage, you can simply toss it into your PC and use a different team in the main story.
So, be sure to catch and level up the best early Pokémon listed above to ensure that you have a mighty team in Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl.