We all love Pokémon. Pokémon are those cute little critters that you befriend and travel the world. We love capturing them, and we love collecting them all.
Of course, we also all love their games. Well, I at least like all their games. The Pokémon series has survived through the years by changing very little of the core gameplay. The gameplay in Sun and Moon is a lot more refined then let’s say Red and Blue. But the essentials are still the same. You encounter Pokémon in tall grass, you fight Pokémon, and you capture Pokémon with Poké Balls.
With so little difference between the games, which ones can we say are the best?
Best Pokémon Games, Ranked
We all have our favorites, and I enjoyed all the Pokémon games to an extent. However, after some careful thinking, I have come up with my ranking of all the mainline Pokémon games.
Pokémon Black and White are two great games in the franchise. Those games were able to shockingly create an engaging story, with an interesting main antagonist. The sequels, Black 2 and White 2, on the other hand, are a lot less appealing.
While I appreciate that Black 2 and White 2 is a continuation of the story that was told in Black and White, it isn’t nearly as engaging as the originals. It lacks the ambition that was seen in the first games. Black 2 and White 2 are probably the games I remember the least in the entire franchise, which says a lot. There was just something boring about my experience with these sequel games, which is something I will rarely say about in a Pokémon game.
Whereas Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 lacked the ambition, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon lack the innovation. The third and fourth games in the seventh generation of Pokémon games, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, are mostly the same games as the original Sun and Moon.
The gameplay is the same, the story is mostly the same, the graphics are the same, and the Pokémons are the same. While there are added features in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, like Team Rainbow Rocket, the games are still probably the least different “third” game in any Pokémon generation.
I felt like I needed to include Red and Blue higher on this list because they were the first. They started the whole Pokémon media franchise, and if it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t have Pokémon at all. Also, for the time they were released, Pokémon Red and Blue were great.
But the more I thought of it, I realize that I enjoy the remakes to Red and Blue more than I do for the originals. Red and Blue are tough to get into now, and it isn’t essential at this point. Let’s Go Pikachu and LeafGreen exist, so I have no need to go back to Red and Blue.
15. Pokémon Crystal
Similar to the issues I have with Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, there’s very little to differentiate Crystal between its predecessors, Pokémon Gold and Silver. Pokémon Crystal serves as the third game in the second generation of Pokémon games.
A successor to Gold and Silver, Crystal was hardly different from its predecessors. The gameplay and story are mostly the same, though this time the graphics have been given a big upgraded. The Pokémon are now given little intro animations, and it is pretty impressive for the time. Other than that, Pokémon Crystal isn’t that special.
14. Pokémon Yellow
The first third game in the Pokémon series, Yellow, was the third game that took place in the classic Kanto region. Base more on the anime, Pokémon Yellow lets players start with a Pikachu. The Pikachu will follow you around outside its Poké Ball, just like in the show.
The game is, without a doubt, a classic but suffers the same fate as the original Red and Blue. Future remakes make this game almost impossible to return to, outside of nostalgia. It is slow, and the visuals are lifeless compared to the vibrant colors of more modern games. Having Pikachu follow you around is a good gimmick, yet it doesn’t change the overall gaming experience.
Speaking of the remakes of Red and Blue, Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee is a very welcome return to form for the series. The most recent set of games to be released by the time of this writing, Let’s Go, has gamers return to Kanto, where we can capture the original 151 Pokémons again.
While I don’t think the previous games were terrible, in fact, far from it! But the franchise has increasingly become more complicated. Since the release of the original games, the franchise has included breeding, Mega Evolutions, Z-Moves, new ways to evolve Pokémon, and many more new gimmicks. It was nice to go back to where it all began, and only need to capture the OG Pokémon. The only thing that brings the game down is that super easy, and you can catch Pokémon by throwing Poké Balls rather than battling.
12. Pokémon X and Y
Pokémon X and Y, the sixth generation of Pokémon games, brought the franchise into the 3rd dimension. Beforehand, Pokémon games were 2D sprites. X and Y proved that Pokémon looks excellent with 3D graphics.
X and Y also introduce very few new Pokémon; only around 70 new Pokémon introduced in these games. This is a stark contrast to the 150 new Pokémon introduced in the previous generation. However, the fifth generation also had inferior Pokémon designs. X and Y may have less new Pokémon, but most of the new Pokémon they introduce have solid designs. Except for Barbaracle, who sucks majorly.
X and Y also introduce the Fairy typing and Mega Evolutions, forever changing how the game is played. The only real issue with the games is that the story and the evil team you face are super weak, especially compared to the previous generation’s narrative.
Probably the most controversial entry in the mainline series, Game Freak nearly condemned Sword and Shield to online criticism as soon as they revealed that a National Dex wasn’t making a return. Add in a visual style that many people, specifically highly critical fans, found to be incredibly lacking. The games were already deemed failures by a large portion of the fanbase before the games were released, with many proclaiming they are boycotting them, and even calling out Game Freak as liars and not trustworthy.
Of course, the controversy did little to deter the two games sales; the games became the fastest-selling titles on the Nintendo Switch and received mostly positive reviews. While few would argue that these two games are the best in the franchise, Sword and Shield are still entertaining games. The graphics for the game are mediocre, and the Wild Area isn’t fully fleshed out. In spite of that, the games succeed thanks to the excellent new wrinkles it adds to the Pokémon lore. Gym battles never felt more intense despite being still incredibly comfortable, and the cast of new characters are memorable and likable. Sword and Shield are far from the best, but nowhere near the worst in the mainline Pokémon games.
10. Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire
I hate to say, but I agree with IGN. There’s too much water. The Hoenn region in Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire contains way too much of the ocean. You are continually surfing from island to island. The game felt longer than it needed to be. It doesn’t help that Ruby and Sapphire do not have many memorable moments in the story and setting.
With that said, what keeps Ruby and Sapphire this high is the fact that the games are still excellent overall. The battle system is more refined than the previous games in the franchise, and the graphics were the best the series had at that point.
These generations of games also brought in some of the most iconic Pokémons to be introduced outside the first two generations. Personal favorites are Gardevoir, Absol, Flygon, and my boy Sceptile.
Though the remakes of Ruby and Sapphire aren’t as loved as the originals, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire did everything almost better. It is essentially the same game, yet not as slow or tedious. It’s faster, and the new 3D graphics look amazing.
Several story elements and character redesigns were added to these remakes, making the story a little bit more memorable. Weirdly enough, the most exciting story stuff happens in the post-game. The post-game introduces an enigmatic Zinnia and incorporates the Legendary Pokémon far better than the originals.
Of course, the game still has issues of forcing players to swim everywhere, but nothing is perfect.
8. Pokémon Black and White
Pokémon Black and White takes everything from Diamond and Pearl and improves in areas that needed it the most. The game was faster and more polish than its direct predecessor, and the graphics were a noticeable step up.
Black and White also have a compelling story mode. These games bring up the fact that Pokémon are confined to Poké Balls, and are mainly used by humans to be tools. The villains are not malicious; they are necessarily animal rights activists who want to release all Pokémon from their balls. N, the main antagonist, is a fascinating character. For once, Pokémon had a compelling narrative that challenges preconceived notions of the franchise.
The only reason why this game isn’t higher is that I believe the Pokémon designs introduce in these games are the weakest in the entire franchise. Black and White had about 150 new Pokémon, the same number as the first generation. You can tell the artists were creatively stretched thin, as some of these new Pokémon are just lame. One of these new Pokémon is an Ice Cream Cone. Despite that, Black and White’s story and gameplay make it one of the best in the series.
7. Pokémon Diamond and Pearl
While my lists are usually subjective, meaning they are mostly based on my own opinions and taste, for this list, I try to be a little bit more objective. I’m aware of the popularity of certain games in the franchise, so I try to be fair and add in extra points for some of the more popular entries in the series. Like I said at the top, I love all these games. There hasn’t been a lousy Pokémon game in my mind.
The reason why I bring this up is that I think having Pokémon Diamond and Pearl this high end may be the most controversial listing on this feature. The fourth generation of games may be the most divisive in the entire franchise, with some fans loving it, while others loathe it. I am squarely on the latter.
Diamond and Pearl were the entries that I was the most into. I love the Pokémon, I love the region, I love the Gym battles, and I love the new mechanics in the game. My Pokémon Pearl has the most hours I’ve ever put in any Pokémon game. The issues with the games stem from the very, VERY slow battle system. However, it never personally bothered me. The fourth-generation has always been my favorite, and frankly, I don’t care what anyone says.
6. Pokémon Gold and Silver
What many consider to be the best games in the franchise, Pokémon Gold and Silver, was the natural progression from the original Pokémon games. A day and night setting was incorporated in these games, and certain Pokémon was only available in certain times of the day. Steel and Dark types were introduced, adding more complexity to the gameplay. Breeding was introduced, meaning Pokémon eggs and baby Pokémon like Pichu was formally revealed.
The game didn’t change the gameplay too much, but it didn’t need to. The other added things were more than enough to have it this high on this list. The additional new Pokémon are a little bit bland, though still solid overall.
Gold and Silver also had the pleasant surprise of including the entire Kanto region from Pokémon Red and Blue. After you were done with the Johto region, you can go straight to Kanto and do the same thing again. My main problem with these games is that I always find them to be the most difficult ones to finish. There aren’t any right places to level up your Pokémon, and some of the trainer fights are legit too hard.
Pokémon Sun and Moon followed X and Y’s footsteps and similarly decided to focus more on quality rather than quantity. Rather than having over a hundred new Pokémon like Black and White did, Sun and Moon only introduced a modest amount of new Pokémon.
Even though there were very few new Pokémon introduced in this region, everything else about this generation is just fantastic. The Alola region is one of the most fully fleshed regions in all of the Pokémon. You understand the culture and people of Alola. Alola forms were also introduced; Alola forms are previously introduced Pokémon that are given new looks and typing. It was an excellent new addition in Sun and Moon.
These games also did the impossible, and finally removed HMs. In past games, you need to teach your Pokémon party HMs to progress through the story. In Sun and Moon, you don’t need to teach your Pokémon HMs. Instead, you need Ride Pager and can call in a Pokémon to help you traverse the land. Sun and Moon also have a thoughtful story. The games also introduce the hilarious Team Skull. These games set up an excellent foundation, a foundation they squandered with Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon.
4. Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen
Probably the best version of the original Pokémon games, FireRed and LeafGreen were the first releases on the Gameboy Advance. The sprites are not only better in FireRed and LeafGreen; the gameplay is also less broken. I love the original Red and Blue, but those games were barely working. There were so many bugs!
FireRed and LeafGreen don’t have those bugs and instead expand the original games. The games incorporate features introduce in following Pokémon games, like breeding and running. The remake’s version of classical Pokémon music is phenomenal, and seeing Kanto again is always a delight. The Vs. Seeker was also introduced; the Vs. Seeker is a device that allowed you to see which previously fought trainers you can rematch. The device allowed you to grind against trainers, which is cool.
FireRed and LeafGreen, most importantly, included post-game content. The Sevii Islands were new areas introduces for these games, and they added so much content. It had more Pokémon, more trainers, and it was new land to travel in. Whereas Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee are graphically superior remakes, FireRed and LeafGreen have more content and are more challenging. It is the best version of the classic games.
3. Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver
For a hot second, I was going to have Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver be number one. Gold and Silver are often ranked as one of the most popular Pokémon games, and their remakes, HeartGold and SoulSilver, are considered to be the quintessential versions of those games.
It’s hard to argue against that; HeartGold and SoulSilver are really good games in the franchise. They had the elements that I love in the original games and upgraded them with more added features. The games are faster, more polish, and looks better than the originals games. HeartGold and SoulSilver have the bonus of having any Pokémon follow you around. It isn’t just Pikachu, now any Pokémon can follow you outside of battle.
HeartGold and SoulSilver are entertaining games in the franchise; however, when I thought about it more, I love two Pokémon games more. Not only that, similar to the original Gold and Silver, I find HeartGold and SoulSilver a little bit too repetitive. Leveling up your Pokémon takes forever, and there isn’t any right place to grind.
The fourth generation of Pokémon is my personal favorite, but I understand why some may not like it. Pokémon Diamond and Pearl do have slow gameplay, and there are a lot of areas in the region that are not fun to traverse in.
With that said, no matter what you feel about Diamond and Pearl, you can’t deny that Pokémon Platinum is a vast improvement. The third game in the fourth generation, Platinum, is a retelling of Diamond and Pearl. Though the gameplay is still a little slow, many parts of the game are revamped. The Pokémon Gyms are more complicated than they were in previous games. The gyms are now more like mini-dungeons to traverse in, with each gym having its gimmick. The game also added a new area called the Distortion World, another dimension where the laws of gravity aren’t the same as in the realm.
The Distortion World showed off the game’s graphical capabilities, and also served as an excellent area to have your fight with the Legendary Pokémon Giratina. Platinum also balances things out, adding in more Pokémon that weren’t in Diamond and Pearl.
Pokémon Platinum did everything that a third Pokémon game needed to do. It may have been at its core the same as Diamond and Pearl. However, the small touches it includes makes a world of difference. If you didn’t like Diamond and Pearl and decided to skip Platinum, please reconsider. Platinum makes vast improvements and deserves to be played by all fans of the series.
1. Pokémon Emerald
Pokémon Yellow and Crystal may have been the first “third” Pokémon game in the series, Pokémon Emerald perfected the formula. A successor to Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, Emerald retells the same story in the Hoenn region. Except with a twist; you fight against both Team Aqua and Team Magma.
Not only that, you are capable of fighting and capturing every legendary. In the previous games, you were limited to a specific set of Legendaries. Not in Emerald, most Legendaries are up for grabs. You can capture Groudon, Kyogre, and Rayquaza in the same game.
The other inclusion to the story adds in more stakes, and you do believe the world is in danger. The game still has that pesky “Too Much Water” thing I despised in the other games taking place in Hoenn, yet this time I don’t mind it as much. The game doesn’t feel as bogged down with all the surfing. The new elements introduce in Emerald makes the game feel like a brand new experience. It’s the best game in the Hoenn region, the best “third” Pokémon game in a generation, and my favorite Pokémon game of all time.
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