Fans of the original Pokémon games will remember the late game search for Legendary Pokémon - the flying trio Articuno, Zapdos, Moltres as well as the elusive Mewtwo and Mew in Red, Blue and Yellow, while in Gen 2's Gold, Silver and Crystal, Legendary canines Raikou, Entei, Suicune and final Pokédex entries Lugia, Ho-oh and Celebi.
However, from summer 2017, things have changed, and as part of a huge Gym rework we'll now seem them appearing, at some point, in the future.
How Legendaries will work in Pokémon Go
It's finally been confirmed as true - as reported by Eurogamer's Tom Phillips - that special, high-level Raids are the way Legendaries will be distributed.
However, at this point info on Legendary Raids is still developing, but here's what we do know to be true, thanks to Tom's hands-on and additional community datamines:
- You'll need a Legendary Raid ticket to start a Legendary Raid.
- Legendary Raid tickets are earned as a rare item drop from taking part in potentially hundreds of Raid Battles, for which you currently need to be a certain level.
- Then, a special Legendary Egg will appear over a Gym when a Legendary Raid goes live. You'll have a limited amount of time to get there and take part before it begins.
- It's currently believed Legendaries won't be allowed to defend Gyms - possibly as not affect game balance - but should still prove useful in attacking Gyms.
You can learn everything we know about Raids in general in our Pokémon Go Raids and Raid Bosses guide, but Legendary Raids, as we mention above, will operate slightly differently.
What we know about Legendary Pokémon Mewtwo, Mew, Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres, as well as Raikou, Entei, Suicune, Lugia, Ho-oh and Celebi in Pokémon Go
Before we even heard their presence was confirmed in the big Gym rework, we already knew the various Legendaries were in the game.
That's thanks to some good old-fashioned datamining. NesstendoYT on YouTube was one major player, who dug through the game's files to discover that the above first generation Legendary Pokémon are indeed listed in the game:
Their absence in the game led to plenty of speculation, particularly with one of the strongest and most famous Legendary Pokémon - Mewtwo - being the focus of one of the game's first trailers, showing crowds of people teaming up to fight it, whittling down its health as a timer ticks down before capturing the Pokémon in a packed Times Square, suggesting that Mewtwo and other Legendaries could be unlocked through public events rather than random encounters.
As for Gen 2's Raikou, Entei, Suicune, Lugia, Ho-oh and Celebi, they've appeared in datamining efforts, too, with their stats showing up alongside the likes of the birds, Mew and Mewtwo.
These stats reveal them to be among the best Pokémon in our Pokémon Go tier list, with Mewtwo and Ho-Oh having some of the highest base attacks in the game, more so than existing creatures Alakazam and Dragonite.
The datamine also revealed that these creatures have no capture rate at all, suggesting they will be captured differently to other creatures in the game.
When will Legendaries be added to Pokémon Go?
We know how Legendaries are coming then, but when?
In an interview with Wired Germany (via Den of Geek, Niantic CEO John Hanke said "with certainty that we will see [legendaries] more this year" - so expect them to finally arrive in 2017 - at least that narrows it down!
The biggest suggestion to date comes from a five word acceptance speech from Niantic during the 21st Annual Webby Awards: "This summer will be legendary", a heavy hint we'll finally see something in the coming months:
That seems to have been corroborated by the latest trickle of information, where Niantic suggested that "Legendary Pokémon and battles between players" are set to arrive some time this summer.
Whether this happens at the same time as the implementation of the new Raids feature or a little while after is unknown, although things certainly do at least appear to be tying together quite nicely at this point.
Want more help with Pokémon Go? As well as our Pokémon Go tips, tricks and guides page, you can look up the Gen 2 Pokédex on how to catch the most recent creatures, using Special Items such as the Dragon Scale and other methods. We also explain big the Gym rework update, Raids, Raid Battles, and Raid Bosses, how to get Legendary Pokémon, and promo codes, and there's also info on changes to how to get PokéCoins, Eevee evolutions, Egg hatching distances, the tier list and best Pokémon, the best moves and movesets and Buddy distances. Plus, you can read about the Pokémon Go Plus accessory works, and even our XP chart.
The first Legendary Pokémon spotted in Pokémon Go - but how did it appear?
Back in early August of 2016, before any of this official news was even close to being announced, a player topped a Gym in Ohio with an Articuno, which is said to be the first Legendary appearance in the game. Multiple players verified the sighting, but how the player got the creature is in question. Amazingly, the owner claimed she received the Pokémon as part of an apology from developer Niantic after contacting them via email about an issue..
Other possibilities could be an exploit that has edited the creature's data to appear in the game, an error that has seen one spawn accidentally, or a glitch turn another Pokemon into the famed Legendary, similar to a case reported by a user who had their wild Caterpie transform into a Charizard once in their possession.
What else we know about Legendary Pokémon in Pokémon Go
Finally, it's also worth pointing out - for history's sake, at the very least - that all this time there's been a hunt of Legendary Pokémon in plain sight, with users who have progressed to level 5 and interacted with a gym find themselves invited to one of three teams - Team Instinct, Team Mystic, or Team Valor - which are shown to be tied to Zapdos, Articuno and Moltres respectively. Could participating in teams play a part in how you unlock these particular Pokémon? It could still be the case that those Legendary Birds are tied to special Team-specific Raids at some point down the line.
The addition of Pokémon Go's Buddy system also paves the way for players to earn Candy and power up rare creatures without the need to catch any more - perfect for ultra rare Pokémon such as Legendaries. Meanwhile, the eventual arrival of Ditto - which was just as elusive as the Legendaries for sometime - is at least a sign that Niantic have been slowly working their way towards introducing all of the game's missing Pokémon.
In the meantime, an upcoming update will introduce Pokémon trading to help flesh out the gaps in your Pokédex, and our Pokémon Go guide, tips and tricks page to pick up a few pointers you might not know.
Additional reporting by Chris Tapsell.