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Released Pokémon are Pokémon that have been caught by a Pokémon Trainer, but are sent back into the wild.
In the games
In the core series Pokémon games, Pokémon can be released using the Pokémon Storage System. However, a Pokémon cannot be released if it is the only Pokémon in the player's party. Once the Pokémon is released, it is removed from the player's possession and cannot be encountered again.
In Generation III and Generation IV, if the player attempts to release a Pokémon that is the only Pokémon in their party or PC that knows a certain HM move, it will immediately return. In Generation III, these moves are Surf and Dive. In Generation IV, they are Surf, Waterfall, and Rock Climb, as well as Fly in HeartGold and SoulSilver.
In Pokémon Yellow, the starter Pikachu will refuse to be released by its original Trainer.
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series
In the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series, the player can remove Pokémon from their team by farewelling them. In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team and Blue Rescue Team, the player can do this by visting them in their Friend Area. In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time, Darkness, and Sky, the player can do this at the Chimecho Assembly. In Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon, due to the removal of random recruitment, Pokémon cannot be removed once they have connected with the player's team.
In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team and Blue Rescue Team and Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time, Darkness, and Sky, if a Legendary or Mythical Pokémon is farewelled from its Friend Area or Chimecho Assembly, it will reappear in its dungeon again, unless it was recruited as a story event rather than by being defeated.
In Pokémon GO, the player can choose to transfer a Pokémon to Professor Willow. Pokémon transferred to Professor Willow cannot be taken back, equivalent to releasing the Pokémon in the core series games. When a Pokémon is transferred to the professor, the player will also receive a Candy.
In the anime
The blue coloring indicating release
Throughout the Pokémon anime, a Trainer releases a Pokémon for several reasons. The Trainer may see it as weak, as Damian did with Charmander and Paul with Chimchar. The Pokémon may have to do something that requires it to leave (such as Ash and his Butterfree). Another common reason is that the Pokémon does not listen, frustrating the Trainer, much like when Dawn caught Pachirisu. To guarantee release, some Trainers destroy the Poké Ball, as seen with Jessie and her Dustox.
Pokémon released in the anime
In the manga
Various manga touch on the aspect of releasing Pokémon.
In the Pokémon Adventures manga
Pokémon Adventures arcs often culminate in the capture of a Legendary Pokémon, but these are almost always released afterwards, Diamond's Regigigas, nicknamed Reg, and Black's Reshiram being notable exceptions. Pokémon shown to be released include Red's Vee while under Team Rocket's control and Yellow's Seadra.
Team Plasma's ultimate goal has been to convince Trainers to release their Pokémon. In Pokémon Black and White, it is revealed that their leader, Ghetsis, wanted to make himself the only Trainer to own Pokémon in Unova, making him the region's leader almost by default. N, Team Plasma's king, appears frequently to the player to battle him or her and convince them to release their Pokémon. Each time, he appears with a different team—using the Memory Link in Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 confirms that N released his Pokémon after battles with the player, and the player may encounter and catch them again.
Although there were apparently no other instances of anyone releasing their Pokémon in the games, several Trainers are seen releasing their Pokémon whenever Team Plasma holds a speech in Pokémon Adventures. Black himself owns a Pokémon (Galvantula) previously owned by another unseen person, and now uses on his team after he decided to keep it after Team Plasma's first seen speech and it agreed to be with him. White herself also released her company's Tepig, Gigi, although this was against her own will, as it was technically Gigi who left White after it learned about its battle capabilities.