Pokemon Games, Ranked From Worst To Best
- Pokemon Sword and Shield
The most recent games in the Pokemon canon for Nintendo Switch made some significant changes, some more popular than others. The most controversial change came before the game was even released with the announcement that The Pokemon Company would break with tradition and no longer have support for all prior Pokemon, as the Pokedex had ballooned to massive size. It did add a total of 81 new monsters, as well as 13 regional variants, though.
Sword and Shield traded the previous two games’ Mega Evolutions for a new element of growing your Pokemon to kaiju-size using Gigantimaxing–which went hand-in-hand with a new giant raid boss mechanic. The games also introduced the Wild Area, special zones within the game world teeming with visible wild Pokemon roaming free. In the Wild Area, you had free control over the camera to scope out Pokemon and engage them at will for battles and captures.
Pokemon Sword and Shield are also the first Pokemon to introduce large-scale post-launch expansions. The Isle of Armor and The Crown Tundra DLC packs came in the summer and fall after release, respectively, and reintroduced some of the Pokemon that had been removed from the initial game, along with new Pokemon and variants.
- Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire
The Game Boy Advance brought the third generation of Pokemon games, Ruby and Sapphire. By this point, the template had been set for what a new Pokemon game would be: another truckload of monsters to collect, a new story, and some new features. This time, the games got a graphical upgrade from the Game Boy versions, along with Double Battles that use two Pokemon at a time. These versions also brought about Pokemon abilities for further strategic customization. Plus, you could link with up to four players at a time instead of only two. At the same time, some players felt the series was already starting to become rote, and the difficulty importing Pokemon from the previous Game Boy generations caused some stir among fans.
- Pokemon X and Y
The first entries on the 3DS, Pokemon X and Y, were released in 2013 but remained popular for a long time afterward, due to their sheer quality, game balance, and wealth of features. These entries were the first to use a fully 3D presentation, and introduced the new Fairy Pokemon type to help counterbalance the powerful Dragon type. This generation also introduced the new Mega Evolutions, which would let fully evolved Pokemon temporarily take on a special new form. And on top of all that, the games still peppered in new content and quality-of-life features, like sky battles, horde battles, and a Tamagotchi-like mode called Pokemon-Amie. While they stuck to tradition like many other Pokemon games of its era, X and Y were just well-crafted enough that fans didn’t mind too much.
- Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow
The original games that started a global phenomenon. These Game Boy classics lack some of the fit and finish that would come in later iterations of the franchise, but they still hold up incredibly well. All of the major pieces that make a Pokemon game great are present here, including a lengthy monster-catching story, charming chiptune music, a rival character nipping at your heels, and of course, the existence of rare and hard-to-find legendary pokemon. These games set the template for all that was to follow, and included some of the most all-time iconic Pokemon designs, like Charizard, Pikachu, and Gengar.
Pokemon Red and Blue were released first, encouraging the cross-game trading aspect that continues to to be a staple of the series. Pokemon Yellow followed just a year later in America, capitalizing on the massive breakout popularity of Pokemon with an enhanced version that paid direct homage to the popular anime cartoon series. In Yellow, instead of picking your starter Pokemon, you’re given a Pikachu just like Ash on TV (though you can obtain the three starters later). Just like in the anime, your starter Pikachu remains his cute little self and never evolves into Raichu. Some of the trainers were also either added or had their appearances changed to more closely resemble the anime series.
- Pokemon Gold, Silver, and Crystal
Nestled between the series’ humble beginnings and a feeling of deja vu that set in for many of its sequels, Pokemon Gold and Silver were the sophomore effort that hit the sweet spot for many fans. Released on the Game Boy Color, these sequels brought back all of the original Pokemon from Red and Blue with new enhanced looks, while adding another 100 new pocket monsters to collect. Like Red and Blue, it was heavily reliant on a trading mechanic, with Gold and Silver offering slightly different collections to encourage eager trainers to engage with their community and friends.
But far from a simple retread, Pokemon Gold and Silver introduced almost as many new mechanics and features to the series as the original. Those included a day-night cycle and weekly calendar, so certain Pokemon would only appear at certain times of day or on specific days of the week. Pokemon gained the ability to hold items that would restore health or improve passive stats. Gold and Silver introduced new “Shiny” Pokemon, extremely rare variants with special coloring and enhanced stats. They also added not one but two new pokemon types: Steel and Dark, to counter Poison and Psychic Pokemon, respectively. And they introduced Pokemon breeding, which let players pair their favorite monsters to produce a new egg that would hatch into a Pokemon that inherited stat bonuses from its parents.
Pokemon Gold and Silver remains one of the most content rich iterations in the franchise. In addition to the eight gyms in the Johto region, Gold and Silver took players back to the original Kanto setting for a second set of badges, effectively making the experience feel like two games in one.
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Pokemon Gold and Silver are still considered by many fans to be a high-water mark for the series. Like Red and Blue, Gold and Silver received an enhanced version called Pokemon Crystal. This was mostly similar to Gold and Silver, though it had a few notable additions. It let players pick their character’s gender for the first time, it added new start-of-battle animations, and it introduced the Battle Tower for a gauntlet of Pokemon bouts. Gold and Silver also received critically acclaimed remakes, Heartgold and Soulsilver, on the Nintendo DS in 2009.
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