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In the games
In the core series Pokémon games, Pokémon can be released using the Pokémon Storage System. However, a Pokémon cannot be released if it is the only Pokémon in the player's party. Once the Pokémon is released, it is removed from the player's possession and cannot be encountered again.
In Pokémon Yellow, it's not possible to release the starter Pikachu, or any other Pikachu with the same original Trainer and original Trainer ID as the player. If the player tries to release it, Pikachu complains and the attempt fails, but this doesn't affect Pikachu's friendship. Pikachu may still be traded to another game and released there (including a separate Pokémon Yellow game with a different Trainer name and/or ID). If Pikachu is traded to another game, evolves into Raichu and is traded back to its original game, it can be released normally in its original game.
In Generation III and Generation IV, if the player attempts to release a Pokémon that is the only Pokémon in their party or PC that knows a certain HM move, it will immediately return. In Generation III, these moves are Surf and Dive. In Generation IV, they are Surf, Waterfall, and Rock Climb, as well as Fly in HeartGold and SoulSilver.
Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu and Let's Go, Eevee!
In Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee!, releasing Pokémon is also called transferring, like in Pokémon GO. A player can transfer up to 30 Pokémon at once to Professor Oak, who will award one stat-specific Candy (of varying sizes) for each Pokémon transferred, each Candy's stat corresponding to what that Pokémon may yield if caught in the wild. For every 50 Pokémon of a common species the player transfers, Professor Oak will award a Candy specific to that Pokémon's species. After every transfer, Professor Oak will tell the player the total number of Pokémon he or she has sent over.
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series
In the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series, the player can remove Pokémon from their team by saying farewell to them. In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team and Blue Rescue Team, this can be done by visiting them in their Friend Area. In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time and Darkness, and Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky, this can be done at the Chimecho Assembly. In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity, this can be done at the Quagsire Assembly. In Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon, due to the removal of random recruitment, Pokémon cannot be removed once they have connected with the player's team.
In Red Rescue Team and Blue Rescue Team and Explorers of Time, Darkness, and Sky, if Legendary or Mythical Pokémon are said farewell to from their Friend Area or Chimecho Assembly, they will reappear in dungeons again, unless they were recruited as a story event rather than by being defeated.
Pokémon Ranger series
In the Pokémon Ranger series, Pokémon are captured with the Capture Styler and are released automatically when they have performed a task such as aiding the player in battle or using their Field Move, and can be released from the menu.
Pokémon Rumble series
In Pokémon GO, the player can choose to transfer a Pokémon to Professor Willow. Pokémon transferred to Professor Willow cannot be taken back, equivalent to releasing the Pokémon in the core series games. When a Pokémon is transferred to the professor, the player will also receive a Candy for that Pokémon's species.
In the anime
Throughout the Pokémon anime, a Trainer releases a Pokémon for several reasons. The Trainer may see it as weak, as Damian did with Charmander and Paul with Chimchar. The Pokémon may have to do something that requires it to leave (such as Ash and his Butterfree, as well as Ash and his Pidgeot). Another common reason is that the Pokémon does not listen, frustrating the Trainer, much like when Dawn caught Pachirisu. To guarantee release, some Trainers destroy the Poké Ball, as seen with Jessie and her Dustox.
In the Sun & Moon series, the Ultra Guardians' primary objective is to capture Ultra Beasts that find their way into the Alola so they can be safely be released and sent back where they came from via Ultra Wormholes.
Pokémon released in the anime
- Damian's Charmander (prior to Charmander – The Stray Pokémon; caught by Ash)
- James's Gyarados (Pokémon Shipwreck)
- Ash's Butterfree (Bye Bye Butterfree)
- Ash's Pikachu (Pikachu's Goodbye; returns)
- Jessie's Shellder (The Evolution Solution)
- Meowzie (prior to Go West Young Meowth)
- Ash's Pidgeot (Pallet Party Panic)
- The Mayor of Trovitopolis's giant Bulbasaur (prior to The Mystery Menace; adopted by Nurse Joy)
- Ash's Lapras (Viva Las Lapras)
- Zachary Evans's Yanma (Wings 'N' Things; re-caught)
- The Magikarp salesman's Victreebel (Here's Lookin' at You, Elekid)
- James's second Victreebel (Here's Lookin' at You, Elekid)
- Jessie's Arbok (A Poached Ego!)
- James's Weezing (A Poached Ego!)
- Misty's Togetic (A Togepi Mirage!)
- Paul's Starly (×3) (When Pokémon Worlds Collide!)
- Paul's Stantler (Different Strokes for Different Blokes)
- Dawn's Pachirisu (Twice Smitten, Once Shy!; re-caught)
- Paul's Chimchar (Glory Blaze!; caught by Ash in Smells Like Team Spirit!)
- Austin's Dustox (Crossing Paths)
- Jessie's Dustox (Crossing Paths)
- Shamus's Tepig (prior to The Battle Club and Tepig's Choice!; caught by Ash)
- Cilan's Basculin (A Fishing Connoisseur in a Fishy Competition!)
- Unnamed Trainer's Croconaw (prior to The Pirates of Decolore!; adopted by Officer Jenny)
- Unnamed Trainer's Azumarill (prior to The Pirates of Decolore!; adopted by Officer Jenny)
- Unnamed Trainer's Octillery (prior to The Pirates of Decolore!; adopted by Officer Jenny)
- Unnamed Trainer's Ducklett (prior to The Pirates of Decolore!; adopted by Officer Jenny)
- James's Inkay (Facing the Grand Design!; returns)
- Jessie's Wobbuffet (A Fork in the Road! A Parting of the Ways!; returns)
- Ash's Goodra (Beyond the Rainbow!; rejoins briefly from Valuable Experience for All! to Facing the Needs of the Many!)
- Ash's Greninja (Facing the Needs of the Many!)
- James's Mareanie (Fighting Back the Tears!; returns)
- Ultra Guardians' Buzzwole (A Mission of Ultra Urgency!; caught by Ash)
- Ultra Guardians' Blacephalon (Twirling with a Bang!; caught by Lillie)
- Ultra Guardians' Xurkitree (Twirling with a Bang!; caught by Lana)
- Ultra Guardians' Stakataka (The Long Vault Home!; caught by Ash)
- Ash's Poipole (Securing the Future!; rejoins in Exhibition Unmasked! after evolving into a Naganadel)
- Ultra Guardians' Pheromosa (Beauty is Only Crystal Deep!; caught by Ash)
- Ash's Naganadel (Dreaming of the Sun and Moon!)
- Jessie's Mimikyu (SM146)
- James's Mareanie (SM146)
In the manga
Various manga touch on the aspect of releasing Pokémon.
In the Pokémon Adventures manga
Pokémon Adventures arcs often culminate in the capture of a Legendary Pokémon, but these are almost always released afterwards, Diamond's Regigigas, nicknamed Reg, and Black's Reshiram being notable exceptions. Pokémon shown to be released include Red's Vee while under Team Rocket's control and Yellow's Seadra.
Team Plasma's ultimate goal has been to convince Trainers to release their Pokémon. In Pokémon Black and White, it is revealed that their leader, Ghetsis, wanted to make himself the only Trainer to own Pokémon in Unova, making him the region's leader almost by default. N, Team Plasma's king, appears frequently to the player to battle him or her and convince them to release their Pokémon. Each time, he appears with a different team—using the Memory Link in Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 confirms that N released his Pokémon after battles with the player, and the player may encounter and catch them again.
Although there were apparently no other instances of anyone releasing their Pokémon in the games, several Trainers are seen releasing their Pokémon whenever Team Plasma holds a speech in Pokémon Adventures. Black himself owns a Pokémon (Galvantula) previously owned by another unseen person, and now uses on his team after he decided to keep him after Team Plasma's first seen speech and he agreed to be with him. White herself also released her company's Tepig, Gigi, although this was against her own will, as it was technically Gigi who left White after she learned about her battle capabilities.