A player character in the world of Pokémon is the protagonist of the games, the avatar of the player. Player characters are usually remarkably silent, only able to answer yes and no to questions. This is so that the player can "fill in" what they imagine the character is thinking, feeling and acting, thus immersing the player within the world of the game.
In the mainstream games, the player characters are always Pokémon Trainers beginning their Pokémon journey. While most player characters start their journey at the age of 10, the player characters in Generation V are set to be older. At the conclusion of their journey, most will have conquered a Pokémon League's eight Gym Leaders and Elite Four, and become the Champion. Later games offer additional sidequests, although the main plot of the game is propelled by the Pokémon League challenge.
Those who do the above will most often start their journey in their hometown by getting, or shortly before getting, a starter Pokémon, a Pokémon that appears very early in their native region's Pokédex, and is of the Grass-, Fire-, or Template:Type2. The region's native Pokémon professor will always give them this, as well as a Pokédex.
In Pokémon Crystal, and each game in the main series which followed it, players were also able to pick the gender of the lead, more often than not to match their own. Each player character in the first four generations of games has been aged ten; however the player characters in the upcoming fifth generation are expected to be older.
Aside from the standard that many of the games' player characters take in their journey, there are also several other ways in which other player characters complete their journey, such as Wes and Michael who must defeat Cipher and free all of their snagged Pokémon from their Shadow state.
To date, only one player character has reappeared from an older generation in a role other than that of the player. In Generation II and IV, when Ethan or Kris/Lyra travels to Mt. Silver and reaches the deepest point of the cave, Red is found, utterly silent as he was under the player's control. At the time of these games' respective releases, Red's Pikachu was the highest-leveled Pokémon owned by an in-game Trainer (Barry's fully evolved starter Pokémon temporarily surpassed the standard set in Gold and Silver until the release of their remakes, HeartGold and SoulSilver).
In the Pokémon Ranger series, Solana, Lunick, Kellyn, Kate, Natsuya and Minami are not Pokémon Trainers, but instead Pokémon Rangers. They use the Pokémon they have captured with the Capture Styler to help them along the way. They also have partner Pokémon that follow them wherever they go.
In the Mystery Dungeon series, players play as actual Pokémon for the first time. Unlike most other Pokémon games, the player actually talks, but is given pre-generated phrases to say to questions.
Three unnamed player characters appear in Pokémon Stadium series. Japanese-only Pokémon Stadium featured one boy character, whose design was likely based on Red. However, for the sequel a brand new boy character has been created. This player has also made it to Pokémon Stadium 2, where he was given a female counterpart. She appears when a player uses a Pokémon Crystal Game Pak with the girl chosen in the saved game.
|Front||File:Red main sprite.png||File:Y Red.png||File:FRLG Red.png||File:GS Gold.png||File:C Gold.png||File:HGSS Ethan.png||File:RS Brendan.png||File:E Brendan.png||File:DP Lucas.png||File:Pt Lucas.png|
|Back||File:Redback.png||File:GS Gold Back.png||File:HGSS Gold Back.png|
|Female||Name|| No female
|Leaf|| No female
|Front||File:FRLG Leaf.png||File:C Kris.png||File:KotoneHGSS.png||File:RS May.png||File:E May.png||File:DP Dawn.png||File:Pt Dawn.png|
Card GB series
|Female||Name|| No female
|Game||Stadium (Japan)||Stadium||Stadium 2|
|Male||Image||File:S S2 Player Boy.png|
|Female||Image|| No female
|File:S2 Player Girl.png|
|Game||Ranger||Shadows of Almia||Locus of Light|
|Front||File:Lol Natsuya f.png|
|Back||File:Lol Natsuya b.png||File:Lol Natsuya b w.png|
|Front||File:Lol Minami f.png|
|Back||File:Lol Minami b.png||File:Lol Minami b w.png|
Mystery Dungeon series
- See: Starter Pokémon
In the anime
In the anime, five of the player characters have been given major roles, three of them in the main anime series. Ash and Ritchie represent Red (their game counterpart), being based on him in appearance as well as basic history. At the beginning of Advanced Generation, May was introduced in order to better represent Generation III to viewers, as both Misty and Brock are characters native to Generation I. Likewise, at the beginning of the Diamond & Pearl series, Dawn joined Ash.
Jimmy and Marina appeared in The Legend of Thunder! special, taking a similar role to Ash and his companions, fighting Team Rocket members to protect legendary Pokémon. While the protagonists of Generation II were not represented in Ash's party, these two filled the roles as the anime counterparts to Ethan and Kris.
- Despite the fact Generation I had no female playable character, there have been more female protagonists than male, with four boys and five girls throughout the main series. This is because Kris is the female protagonist in Pokémon Crystal and Lyra in Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver, while Ethan is the male protagonist in each of the games.
- None of the male player characters from the main series (or their counterparts) have encountered Ash. Jimmy was the only one besides Ash to have more than merely a cameo. Counting all Pokémon games, the only male player characters to have encountered Ash are Kellyn of Pokémon Ranger: Shadows of Almia, Natsuya of Pokémon Ranger: Locus of Light and Todd of Pokémon Snap.
- Leaf is the only player character from the handheld games so far not to appear in the anime either through a cameo or a counterpart.
- Kellyn, Kate, and Todd are the only player characters who do not wear any sort of headgear.
- Red's dialog during his appearance as an NPC in Generation II and Generation IV references the Pokémon games' player characters' status as silent protagonists. His dialog with the player character(s) of those games consists only of ellipses and an exclamation point when he is defeated.
- This is not necessary, since the ellipses were implied in Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald as the player speaking, which means these ellipses may mean an effect of 'Insert what you'd have said in FireRed and LeafGreen.'
- All player characters of the same gender have had the same list of default names since Generation III, with the exception of game-specific names such as Landon and Sean (for Brendan) or Terra and Marina (for May). The game-specific names have always been related to the title of the game, with the exception of those of the Hoenn characters' names, which are related to the powers of Groudon and Kyogre.
- In the main games, the given Japanese names of the male player characters (as NPCs) all end in ki (キ). This excludes Red's appearance in Generations II and IV, as he is not a player character during the games when he is an NPC. Inclusively, Lunick's Japanese name also ends in ki.
- All the female player characters have had blue eyes in some form. Kris, May, Dawn, and the female character from Pokémon Black and White have blue eyes in all their sprites and artwork. Leaf has blue eyes in her trainer sprite and Lyra has blue eyes in her overworld sprites.
- Michael is the only player character with red hair.