Pokémon and the Mystery of Mew


The year is 1998: Following the release of games Pokémon: Red and Blue, the new games are popular throughout the United States. However, this was not always expected, as it was a game that was released very late into the Game Boy’s life cycle during its Japanese release. Then a question arises: how did the game become so popular? The best answer perhaps comes from the elusive Pokémon that was only available through an in-game glitch – the 151st Pokémon, Mew. The informant shares one of these urban legends on how to capture the elusive Pokémon, and why it was so important in the success of the games as a whole.

Informant Information

The informant is older brother to a friend of mine, and he has played the original Pokémon games when they were released in the United States at the age of 6. While he has stopped playing the newer games, he has a first-hand, nostalgic experience on the first generation of Pokémon – the subject of this entry.

Informant: “Mew was the shit. All the kids were talking about it all the time in class! I heard that you had to use dig* next to this one truck to get it, but when I tried, no dice. That was better than this one kid, though – he was told that he had to beat the Elite Four** exactly 100 times to catch Mew… he did it and absolutely fucking nothing happened. Nothing.”

*A Pokémon move usable outside of battle
**The four trainers encountered before facing against the strongest trainer: the champion

Collector: “[laughs] Did anyone you knew at the time actually have a Mew?”

Informant: “Not anyone I personally knew, but I always heard that somebody knows a person who does – I personally think they were all lying. I don’t think anybody in that elementary school actually knew how to get a Mew. That’s probably what got them talking, you know? It was the mystery of it that was so cool.”


The urban legends created and circulated by players on how to obtain Mew added to the mystique of the Pokémon: This added to the desire to obtain it, resulting in more urban legends, and this positive cycle resulted in the extended popularity of the Pokémon franchise. Another key reason for the popularity of these urban legends came from the lack of widespread Internet usage during the time. Since a quick search from Google was unavailable in 1996 – or any other search engine, for that matter – it was much harder to verify or dispute the urban legends since only a handful of players outside of Japan knew how to obtain Mew through an in-game bug and how those steps worked. Overall, the Pokémon franchise was able to create folklore, and therefore create a large folk following through Mew, ensuring the franchise’s success over later generations.