Did Gary's Raticate Really Die in Pokemon Red and Blue?

Raticate
RIP Raticate?. Image © Nintendo

The Pokemon series has given birth to some strange legends and rumors—-everything from haunted cartridges to in-game music that supposedly drives young players mad. Whereas “Pokemon Lost Silver” is a cleverly-built fan game, and “Lavender Town Syndrome” is a legend that was built off a notorious episode of the Pokemon anime, there is one lingering Pokemon tale that’s impossible to prove or disprove: The Legend of Gary’s Dead Raticate.



Gary Oak is the most popular name for the player’s rival in Pokemon Red/Blue for the Game Boy. He goes by other names, including Blue or whatever custom name the player gives him at the start of the game (possibly a swear word). Gary is infamous in the Pokemon fandom for always being one step ahead of the player. If for example, you choose Charmander as your starting Pokemon, he automatically chooses Squirtle and gains a permanent tactical advantage over you, since water-type Pokemon trump fire-types.

Gary is arrogant, but likeably so. That may be why the Pokemon fandom still wonders about the disappearance of one of Gary’s Pokemon, and goes as far as to wonder if the player character (Ash or Red, depending on the name you choose) is responsible for its death.

The player character encounters and fights against Gary several times throughout his or her journey. Since Pokemon is a game that revolves around capturing and training Pokemon, both characters’ stable of Pokemon grows as the game progresses.

Every Pokemon trainer has favorites, though, and that includes Gary. His lineup changes little throughout Pokemon Red/Blue, with one exception.

About midway through the game, you battle Gary on a ship named the SS Anne. His team includes a level 19 Pidgeotto, a level 16 Raticate, a level 18 Kadabra, and a level 20 version of his starter Pokemon.

Most of these Pokemon are the evolved versions of Pokemon he fought you with earlier in the game, Including a Rattata that became Raticate before your battle on the SS Anne.

However, the next time you meet Gary, his Raticate is gone. Instead, he has a level 25 Pidgeotto, a level 23 Gyarados, a level 22 Growlithe, a level 20 Kadabra. So what happened to Raticate?

Some Pokemon conspiracy theorists believe the answer lies in the location of the player’s struggle against Gary: Pokemon Tower in Lavender Town. Pokemon Tower is infamous for being a Pokemon graveyard, and whereas the player visits the location to investigate a haunting, it’s not clear (at first) why Gary is there. Some fans assume Gary’s in Pokemon Tower to visit the grave of his missing Pokemon--his Raticate.

But if that’s the case, how did Raticate die? According to popular theory, Raticate was badly hurt in the battle against the player on the SS Anne. Because of the confusion on board the ship, Gary wasn’t able to get to a PokeCenter fast enough to heal Raticate, which resulted in the rodent’s death. In fact, some fans claim that when Gary meets the player in Pokemon Tower, Gary asks, “Do you know what it’s like to have a Pokemon die?”

So, how about it?

Did Gary’s Raticate die as a result of a particularly rough battle? Again, there’s no easy “yes” or “no” answer, but it’s not very likely.

For one thing, Gary never asks the player if he or she knows what it’s like to have a Pokemon die. Instead, he says, “What are you doing here? Your Pokemon don’t look dead! I can at least make them faint! Let’s go, pal!” That’s a causal bit of banter for a kid with a dead Pokemon, especially if he’s (supposedly) facing down the person responsible for the death of his beloved pet. By contrast, some of the other mourners in Pokemon Tower mention their dead Pokemon by name.

Moreover, when you beat Gary, he admits that he came to the Tower to catch a Cubone and a Marowak.

However you look at it, there’s little indication that Gary is in the Pokemon Tower to visit the grave of his Raticate. Admittedly, none of this explains why Raticate is absent from Gary’s roster. We never learn exactly where the giant rat went to, but here’s a decent guess: Gary simply “boxed” the critter--that is, stored him along with the rest of his surplus Pokemon. Rattata and Raticate are decent Pokemon to start a game with, but they quickly become outclassed unless they’re groomed in a very specific way.

There you have it: Gary visits Pokemon Tower to catch a Cubone, and Raticate is probably still alive--though languishing in storage can hardly be called living, anyway.

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