The Pokémon franchise has made its mark by being a relatively polished series brimming with monsters to catch. However, its earlier games are full of bugs and glitches that are ingrained in the memories of longtime fans. Whether it's entering Glitch City through Red and Blue's Safari Zone or Surfing on land in Ruby and Sapphire, certain bugs have become a source of entertainment in themselves. However, few glitches have achieved the infamy of MissingNo., which has even sparked theories that suggest it is actually one of the series' most powerful critters.
MissingNo. (an abbreviation of "missing number") is a glitch that appears in the Generation I games. It is usually encountered through the old man glitch, where the player must speak with the old man located north of Viridian City, allow him to demonstrate how to catch a Pokémon, then immediately Fly to Cinnabar Island. Surfing just east of the island can spawn several glitch Pokémon, with MissingNo. being the most recognizable. While its inclusion is clearly unintended, MissingNo.'s origins in the lore continue to be a source of fun speculation within the community.
One of prominent theory surrounding this enigmatic creature is that it's related to the most powerful Pokémon around: Mewtwo. Mewtwo is a clone of Mew, the progenitor of all Pokémon, and is designed to be superior in every way. Many fans like to think that Ditto is one byproduct of Mewtwo's creation since, like Mew, Ditto can transform into any other Pokémon. MissingNo. may have a similar relationship with Mewtwo, but as a failed prototype rather than an unintended consequence of its creation.
The first and most obvious point in this theory's favor is MissingNo.'s location, Cinnabar Island, where both the Pokémon Mansion and Pokémon Lab are located. Scattered around the mansion are journal entries from the scientist that used to call it home. They describe the discovery of Mew and how it led to the birth of Mewtwo, which turned out to be so powerful that it couldn't be controlled. The fact that Pokémon Mansion is now a decrepit husk suggests that it was either destroyed by Mewtwo in a fit of rage or burned down by the scientists in an attempt to cover up their mistake. The nearby lab likely aided in the creation of Mewtwo, but its study of fossils also connects it back to MissingNo.
Like Mew, MissingNo. can take on several different forms. Two of these forms (the skeletons of the now-extinct Aerodactyl and Kabutops) connect it directly to the Pokémon Lab. In Red and Blue, the Pokémon Lab allows players to revive fossils, so we know that its scientists are familiar with ancient Pokémon DNA, a familiarity that may have come from studying Mew. The scientists may have attempted to create a Mewtwo prototype with the ability to mimic all Pokémon just like Mew, but since these particular specimens no longer existed, it proved difficult.
This initial experiment clearly didn't pan out, since MissingNo. only replicates the skeletons as they appear in the lab. The scientists likely deemed MissingNo. a failure and released it into the wild near Cinnabar, where it remains as a formless but powerful Pokémon that would go on to serve as the foundation for the creation of Mewtwo and fossil restoration.
Obviously, Game Freak never intended for MissingNo. to exist, and it certainly couldn't have imagined that fan theories about a glitch in the original Pokémon games would persist 25 years later. Regardless, MissingNo. remains a testament to the creativity that is intrinsic to both Pokémon and its thriving community of fans.
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