The Pokémon franchise has, in every entry, showcased a brand-new professor -- sometimes more than one -- who helps lead you on your journey to greatness. Every Pokémon Professor has a central focus: evolution, breeding, moves or their relationship to human beings. The professors in the various Pokémon games rank as some of the most fascinating mentor characters in fiction, in part because they help you on your journey from an arm's distance while never truly leaving your side.
The following are the various Pokémon Professors present in the different Pokémon games. Anime exclusive professors like Ivy do not apply here, but both Professor Magnolias count. So, where do each of the Pokémon Professors rank? And how do they all compare to one another?
Pokémon Go's Professor Willow might very well have the distinction of being one of the few Pokémon Professors whose three assistants -- Spark, Blanche and Candela -- leave more of a splash than himself. Willow is there to give you Poké Balls and aid you on your journey to capturing Pokémon, with a specialty in Pokémon habitats. He started as an assistant under Professor Oak. Sadly, but very little of Professor Oak's memorability rubbed off on this blank slate of a character.
For as good as Pokémon Gold and Silver are, the Johto Region resident professor lacks the sheer charisma necessary to stand out. Professor Elm is a forgetful, absentminded Pokémon professor. At the start of the game, he tasks you, a ten-year-old child, with doing a job for him -- going to Professor Oak to collect a Togepi egg -- and, while you're gone, Silver robs him blind. Elm is a lot of things -- and his understanding of Pokémon breeding is key to the new game mechanics introduced in Pokémon Gold and Silver -- but he's kind of terrible at his job.
Professor Krane resides in the Orre Region, serving as the resident professor in Pokémon XD: Gale of Shadows. Krane's father, following the events of Pokémon Colosseum, developed a mechanical means to purify Shadow Pokémon. While Professor Krane ultimately proves essential to purifying XD001 -- Shadow Lugia -- he doesn't do too much independently. Rather, Krane's brother, Michael, does most of the work being the main protagonist of Pokémon XD. Krane exists as a unique figure in Pokémon lore, as the only Professor directly related to the protagonist. He's also relatively young and inexperienced. Still, as we see later on, there are far more compelling inexperienced Pokémon Professors in the Pokémon saga.
Professor Magnolia is an older woman nearing the end of her tenure as a Pokémon Professor. As such, she almost seems like she's putting in half the effort with you during Pokémon Sword and Shield. Professor Magnolia studies Dynamax Pokémon, which is a fascinating phenomenon in and of itself. However, she doesn't even give you your starting Pokémon in the game. Her most outstanding achievement is Sonia, her granddaughter and ultimate successor.
Cedric Juniper is a retired Pokémon researcher and Professor Juniper's father. While Pokémon Black and White and its sequel games, Black 2 and White 2, both feature Cedric Juniper, he's just a minor figure who helps you along the way by giving you valuable equipment and upgrades to your Pokédex. His focus on Pokémon distribution and biology leads to him making advances in Pokédex studies. Juniper is fascinating in that he travels the world, going out on missions and adventures in his old age. He's spending retirement the way people wish they could: just seeing everything.
Professor Hastings is an enigmatic figure in the Pokémon Ranger series. Residing in the Fiore region, Professor Hastings created the Capture Styler, a device that can transfer feelings of friendship and love toward Pokémon. However, Professor Hastings does stand as an aloof figure beyond that, acting with extreme haste and rarely thinking things through all the way. He isn't even from Fiore -- he's from Oblivia. Most of his history is hidden from the player, resulting in Hastings standing as an unknown figure.
Professor Juniper takes a more hands-off approach at times to your Pokémon journey. That's in part because she's studying the origin of Pokémon life itself. While Professor Rowan is more successful at uncovering some of those secrets, Juniper still stands as a significant figure in the games. While she stays in constant communication with the player throughout your journey, Juniper ultimately plays a small role.
Professor Birch is a big, outgoing man who loves traveling out in the wilderness. By all accounts, he was the first Pokémon Professor who you'd want to hang out with and go on a trip -- though, thankfully, not the last. Professor Birch's study is Pokémon habitats, which takes him out on the field into dangerous situations. He's the father of your rival -- Brendan or May -- and knew your father Norman since school age. After saving him from wild Zigzazoon at the start of the game, he goes out of his way to help you. He was the first professor to give you multiple generations of starting Pokémon. Professor Birch is just one of those people who is incredibly likable.
Professor Sycamore takes a very hands-on approach in Pokémon X and Y when guiding the player. This somewhat extra individual will challenge and reassess your skills throughout, even helping to strategize against Lysandre and Team Flare. One of the coolest bits about Professor Sycamore is that you get to fight him, and when you beat him, he gives you the Kanto Starters! Professor Sycamore focuses on Mega Evolution, one of the coolest new game mechanics to emerge in the Pokémon franchise. All around, this flamboyant professor remains one of the most memorable and fun entries in the saga.
While Professor Burnet initially only has a role in the Pokémon Dream Radar, she stands as a fascinating figure in Pokémon lore. Her focus isn't on Pokémon evolution or them in their natural habitats, but instead on Pokémon who reside in alternative dimensions and realities. As such, her role in the Pokémon games is instrumental. More interesting, Professor Burnet, despite debuting in Pokémon Black and White, would later reappear in Pokémon Sun and Moon, where her research would prove significant to the game's reality-warping plot.
Professor Rowan is a very stern man who studies Pokémon evolution. He's the first Pokémon Professor in the games to not live in your home town. He used to study under Professor Oak but left for Sinnoh because he realized it had much more to offer him. What fascinates Rowan is the ties between the various Pokémon and how the Sinnoh Region's lore might lead to some of life's secrets. However, while he is an intimidating figure who knows the secrets of the Pokémon universe, he's also regularly seen brooding about how the Veilstone Department Store has run out of Rage Candy Bars, which is just a real mood.
Professor Kukui is Professor Burnet's husband, introduced long after her journeys into alternate realities were established. As such, he had to do a lot to rise above his wife's legacy for players -- and he succeeded. Kukui beat Alola's League and possibly Kanto's Pokémon League too. He is a super enthusiastic man who goes out of his way to help you out on your journey while maintaining peace on the Alola islands. But neither that nor his studies in Pokémon attacks are what makes him interesting. No, what makes Professor Kukui memorable is that he regularly goes out as a masked wrestler named The Mask Royale. Even though everyone can tell it's Professor Kukui under the mask, he denies it. Kukui is just great.
Professor Sonia Magnolia
Professor Sonia is one of the most fascinating of the Pokémon Professors in the game. Throughout Pokémon Sword and Shield, the player watches as she figures out what to do with her life. Sonia used to be on her own Pokémon Journey, competing against the Pokémon League with Leon, only to realize it wasn't for her. Instead, she digs into Galar's profound lore and history. Throughout your journey, you watch her evolve and grow. When Sonia ultimately replaces her grandmother as Professor Magnolia, it's genuinely a cathartic moment because it feels as though her arc has come to fruition. We rarely see Pokémon Professors grow or change during the story, but Sonia is the exception.
No Pokémon Professor in the entire Pokémon franchise has left as large an impact as Professor Samuel Oak. From Elm to Rowan to even Kukui, he is the professor others turn to as the expert on Pokémon and their relationships to humans. Professor Oak has played a role in just about every major Pokémon game and several of the spin-offs. He's the professor most memed and referenced by fans too. His brother, Samson, even plays a key role in Pokémon Sun and Moon. He's the grandfather of Blue, one of the most famous of Pokémon rivals. There is simply no one who personifies the role of Pokémon Professor better than Professor Oak.