Remembering MissingNo the legendary Pokemon glitch

Photo: Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield key art.. Image Courtesy The Pokémon Company International
Photo: Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield key art.. Image Courtesy The Pokémon Company International /

The legacy of one of the earliest glitches in the original Pokemon games with ‘MissingNo’ was one of the most notorious in video game history. Looking back over the years, does the glitch share a legacy with the franchise?

There is one aspect of the original Pokemon games that almost every fan and player of the franchise can recall encountering in Pokemon Red, Blue, or Yellow with how easy the games could glitch. Glitches were common in video games and treated like ‘Easter eggs’ in some series before the turn of the millennium. In the Pokemon franchise, there were just as many glitches in the first generation games that any player can interact with on the original Game Boy. Some fans stand by the concept that glitches are the only way to encounter Mew in the original series. There is one glitch that stands out above the rest that has a great legacy, and that is the infamous ‘MissingNo’ glitch.

MissingNo is an abbreviated nickname for, “missing number” due to the number of characters that could not fit when naming a Pokemon. The glitch is treated like a Pokemon that can be encountered in the game by the player and take any form of a sprite during the interaction. The sprite could take the form of any of the fossils found in the Pewter City Museum or a ghost from the Lavender Tower, but the most known that players have encountered was a stacked box barcode that looked like a large computer. The encounter of MissingNo in the original games is normally after a chain of events that the player must do in order to activate the glitch.

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Pokemon Schild of Nitendo. (Photo by Lukas Schulze/Getty Images) /

The most common interaction of MissingNo is known how to activate it in Pokemon Red and Blue (or Green from the original Japanese release). The glitch is performed by activating the “old man glitch” which requires the player to get past the obstacle of the old man in Viridian City and having access to the HM moves ‘Fly” and ‘Surf’. The player must talk to the old man in Viridian City and go along with the dialogue with not knowing how to catch Pokemon, which he proceeds to demonstrate how to battle and catch Pokemon. After the battle scene concludes and the old man finishes speaking, the player must fly immediately to Cinnabar Island. After the player lands, they must travel east to the coast of the island and start surfing on the coastline by traveling north and south repetitively. After encountering random Pokemon with different levels, there should be a random sprite that appears that either has the cry of Zapdos of Rhydon and will say, “Wild MissingNo appeared!” or anything related to it with modified characters.

The glitch has some crazy after-effects that impact the saved file of the player’s Pokemon game. The first thing that happens, is that item duplication will automatically happen to the player’s sixth item in their bag. This was the most common way that players had endless Master Balls or Rare Candies to maximize their strategy for the remainder of the game; although most fans found this method cheating when playing Pokemon. The MissingNo glitch also corrupted the Hall of Fame data that is stored in the PC if the player beats the Elite Four. Any recorded history of the party used when defeating the Elite Four would be generated with different Pokemon sprites and characters once the player has initiated the MissingNo The remaining interferences with the glitches only occur if the trainer has caught MissingNo and is either in their party or in the PC storage system.

Catching MissingNo and owning it in the game has more mystery and consequence in early Pokemon games. When wielding a MissingNo in a Pokemon party, it could cause the game to crash and possibly ruin some game data. Some trainers are luckier than most, especially with moving MissingNo to other Pokemon games. It is incredibly difficult to trade the glitch to Pokemon Gold, Silver, or Crystal version via the Time Capsule; however, there are other methods. Using Pokemon Stadium could be another potential medium to send the glitch from one generation to another. The character sprite of MissingNo in Pokemon Stadium takes the form of a substitute doll that resembles Rhydon. When MissingNo makes it to a generation two game, it could turn into a handful of different Pokemon in substitution as the glitch.

Reminiscing about the MissingNo glitch from the original games is almost like a staple when playing the original Pokemon games. When the Nintendo 3DS re-released the games for the Virtual Console, the glitch was still accessible on the original date of the games. With more advanced hardware with the Nintendo 3DS, the probability of the game crashing is less likely but pushed for more boundaries for the glitch to be wielded. However, it is impossible to transfer MissingNo via PokeTransfer and used in Pokemon Bank for future Pokemon title games. With the anniversary celebration with Pokemon GO Tour: Kanto coming up to be a homage for the Pokemon Red and Green version, what would be the possibility of featuring MissingNo in Pokemon Go? Would MissingNo in a mobile gaming app crash phones? The risks weigh out the benefits of including MissingNo for the event, but it would sure add to the nostalgia by adding another Easter egg.

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Glitches were a major part of the original Pokemon games that almost every trainer took advantage of. Cheating or collecting, the benefits of MissingNo made the game a lot different for each individual trainer. Even outside the Pokemon franchise, the glitch had a larger impact on video game culture as a whole. Even if there is never a new representation of MissingNo in a new Pokemon game, it will always be remembered as one of the most memorable glitches in the franchise.