Pokemon is one of the most iconic franchises to ever grace gaming. While fans of the Pokemon series are patiently awaiting the release of the brand new games announced by The Pokemon Company (Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Pokemon Shining Pearl are coming late 2021, and Pokémon Legends: Arceus is coming early 2022), there's no better feeling than going back and checking out classic Pokemon games. But what are the best Pokemon games?
Each of us has our favorite Pokemon games, and while all of them are fantastic in their own way, some are simply better than others. So, here are the best Pokemon games ranked from worst to best — plus our answers to some frequently asked questions in case you're looking for a certain type of Pokemon game.
Editors Note: For the purpose of this article, we combined the remakes of certain generations with the original versions.
9. Pokemon Black and White and Pokemon Black and White 2 - 2010
The Pokemon Company
Perhaps one of the darker games in the Pokemon series, Pokemon Black and White, and Pokemon Black and White 2 was released in 2010. Similar to Sun and Moon, it received a mixed opinion when it initially released. This was due to multiple reasons. First, the story that was set in the Black and White region was one of the weaker ones we've seen in a Pokemon game. This was in large part due to Team Plasma, one of the less interesting villains. This is combined with the Unova region and the Pokemon that were introduced in this region. Similar to Sun and Moon, there were some highlights in this region. But, for the most part, they were lacking in comparison to some of the other games we're going to dive into later in this article.
Moving on, Black and White unfortunately also suffered from being the first Pokemon game on the Nintendo 3DS. It was a revolutionary console in its own department, but it was clear at the time that the software was tricky to develop for Black and White. The game was highly anticipated, as it was coming off the tail end of the amazing Diamond and Pearl titles. Nevertheless, there's still a good reason to check out Pokemon Black and White.
The game offers some unique battle animations with it being on the 3DS. And while the villains were lacking, the gym battles and the Elite 4 were above average in comparison. Do not slack on Black and White, even if it the last game on our Pokemon games ranked article.
8. Pokemon Sun and Moon and Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon - 2016
The Pokemon Company
Released in 2016, Pokemon Sun and Moon was Pokemon's last entry on the 3DS and one of the most experimental Pokemon games we've seen from the series. The game forged gym battles in favor of Pokemon trials. The Aloha region featured a Pokemon trial per island and also incorporated Totem Pokemon. Essentially, these were overpowered Pokemon that players would have to challenge to progress past a certain area. Similar to gym battles, but many trainers around the world could not grasp this concept when it first released.
While the game had mixed results in terms of trials and Totem Pokemon, there were some aspects of the game that were delightful. In terms of Pokemon that were introduced during the seventh generation, there are some notable faces that fans of the series still go back to.
Some of these notable faces include:
- Rowlet evolution line
- Jangmo-o evolution line
These titles also introduced the Beast Pokemon, a rather bizarre concept for The Pokemon Company. The debate is still up in the air whether or not fans love these Pokemon or not. One of the areas in which Sun and Moon lack is certainly in post-game content. With little to do after the credits roll, it's tough to justify having this game ranked any higher.
7. Pokemon Sword and Shield - 2019
The Pokemon Company
This one may come off as a tad controversial because the game was only released in 2019, but hear us out. While Pokemon Sword and Shied was the first Pokemon game released on the Nintendo Switch, it was also one of the series' most ambitious projects in recent memory. Sword and Shield implemented a fantastic feature in the form of the Wild Area, a massive part of the Galar Region where Pokemon would spawn throughout in the overworld. While in the Wild Area, the weather would also decide what Pokemon would spawn, an excellent concept from Nintendo. Since this was the first time Nintendo tested this feature out, it received a decent amount of criticism from fans.
For starters, many trainers thought there could have been so much more done within the Wild Area. It's essentially half the Galar Region, and there's not much to do in the Wild Area besides catching Pokemon and participating in Dynmax Raids. On the topic of raids, these were mini-boss battles in which you could partake with online friends or NPCs. The Pokemon you could find in these battles were also much stronger than regular Wild Pokemon, but there was never an incentive to partake in these battles.
We can't forget the backlash Pokemon received prior to the game's release due to the lack of a National Dex. A staple in every Pokemon game was left out this time around, and fans of the series did not hold back in criticizing Pokemon for this decision. While they've done a decent job in implementing more Pokemon in the form of expansion packs, the initial blunder by Pokemon cannot be forgotten.
All-in-all, Pokemon Sword and Shield is by no means a bad Pokemon game. We're sure Nintendo is going to take the feedback from this title and fine-tune their next main series game that we should expect around 2022.
6. Pokemon Let's Go Pikachu and Let's Go Eevee - 2018
The Pokemon Company
While this Pokemon game was technically the first to be released on the Nintendo Switch, it was not the first main series title. Instead, it was a showcasing of the Nintendo Switch's features with a remake of the classic Kanto Region titles. For the purpose of this article, we don't think the Let's Go games classify as direct remakes of the Red, Blue, and Yellow iterations. Simply due to the fact that the mechanics within the game are far different from a standard Pokemon game.
Within the Let's Go titles there's a large emphasis on the Nintendo Switch's motion controls and catching Pokemon. Taking elements from the popular mobile game Pokemon Go, you used your Joy-Cons to fire Pokeballs at Pokemon, and you essentially are forced to capture every Pokemon you see in the wild.
This was a fantastic game to showcase the Switch's features, and fans enjoyed playing through the Kanto Region once more. Furthermore, the game is visually pleasing to most players. The fact that your lead Pokemon follows you throughout your journey is amazing. Let's Go Pikachu and Eevee is one of the simpler Pokemon games we've seen in recent memory, but it's also one of the best in this department. It's a casual experience that fans loved so much they're looking forward to the potential announcement of a brand new Let's Go announced featuring the Johto region.
5. Pokemon X and Y - 2013
The Pokemon Company
This is the point in our "Pokemon games ranked worst to best" piece where it may become a tad controversial. This is due to the fact that a lot of discussion among Pokemon trainers has been where exactly to rank Pokemon X and Y. Some of you may have this game towards the bottom of your tier list, while some of you may have it exactly where we are placing it: towards the middle. X and Y are some of the most underappreciated Pokemon games in our eyes. This generation introduced the beloved Greninja evolution line, which was voted one of the best Pokemon over recent years. There are also some notable Pokemon such as Scrafty, Aegislash, and Haxorus in this game.
X and Y also presented players with the opportunity to catch and use all three of the Kanto region starting Pokemon. This was one of the first times this option was presented to us as players, and it's one of the best features of the game. The Kalos region itself is also an above-average one in comparison to other regions. There are some notable locations throughout, but it's far from the shining star of X and Y.
Some of the reasons why X and Y are ranked so high on our best Pokemon games list is that this title introduced a lot of features that have become standard in the series. Starting off, the Fairy-type was first seen in X and Y. This typing is one of the best we've seen and adds a whole other level of strategy in battles. This was also the first Pokemon game where Mega Evolution was implemented. Pokemon transforms into overly powerful forms of themselves. It's an amazing concept that has also become standard to this day. There are a lot of features that have been forgotten when talking about Pokemon X and Y. We're just glad we have this opportunity to refresh your memory.
Now, the next flurry of games are in a class of their own.
4. Pokemon Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald, and Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire - 2002, 2004, and 2014
The Pokemon Company
The next four Pokemon games on this list are largely viewed as the undisputed top four games. For our list, we have the Hoenn region at the bottom of the top four. But there are amazing features of these games that cannot go unnoticed. Generation three added some of the best Pokemon we've ever seen. All three of the starting Pokemon were widely viewed as one of the best in the franchise. There are also countless Pokemon still relevant in modern-day Pokemon titles such as the Ralts evolution line and the Bagon evolution line. What can we say, Hoenn region is stellar.
The third Pokemon generation was also the first time we got to experience double battles, a certain battle where we could control two Pokemon at the same time. It's been a standard feature in games ever since then. Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire were the pioneers of the third generation, and it was not for another two years that we would see the release of Pokemon Emerald. The latter took all of the concepts and basic principles from the original Hoenn titles and implemented a more grounded story.
This series of Pokemon games were also viewed as some of the best because of the post-game content in each title. This was due to the addition of the Battle Frontier in Pokemon Emerald, which is easily one of the primary reasons these games sit atop many people's list. Essentially, the Battle Frontier was an island off the coast of the Hoenn Region that players could only access after they completed the Elite 4 and defeated the Pokemon Champion. During the Battle Frontier, you're able to challenge all sorts of terrifying Pokemon trainers, and there are also some wicked rewards.
The remakes of the Hoenn Region, which were released in 2014, also did a beautiful job of incorporating some of the Nintendo 3DS features into these beloved games. Mega-evolution was more than relevant in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. These remakes are some of the best in the entire franchise.
3. Pokemon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum - 2006 and 2008
The Pokemon Company
Taking the third spot on our list is the Sinnoh region, home to Pokemon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum. Generation four features some of the best Pokemon from a main series Pokemon game. These were the games that introduced new evolution forms to a lot of generation one and two Pokemon. The final form of these already beloved Pokemon was the icing on the cake. We were greeted with amazing Pokemon such as Magnezone, Magmortar, Electivire, Togekiss, and many more.
The story of Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum was also one that stood out among other Pokemon games. Team Galatic was heavily concerned with the powers of the legendary Pokemon in these games. If you don't already know, Dialga and Palkia are the Pokemon that govern space and time. So, the story surrounding Pokemon Diamond and Pearl is one connected to these elements. We see the importance of Team Galatic throughout the game. Another beloved aspect of the story is your rival Barry -- along with the gym leaders we see over the course of the Sinnoh region. Some of these gym battles will pose a threat. The games do an excellent job at showcasing the power of the Nintendo DS.
We can't talk about Diamond and Pearl and not bring up one of the best characters ever introduced in a Pokemon game: Cynthia, the Champion of the Sinnoh region. You'll encounter her over the course of the game from time to time. Once you get the opportunity to battle her to become the Champion, you better prepare yourself. This is regarded as one of the most challenging Elite 4 battles. Primarily because of her Garchomp, the staple of her Pokemon arsenal. Garchomp is one of the strongest Pokemon found in the Sinnoh region, as it possesses high attributes and a killer moveset.
2. Pokemon Red, Blue, Yellow, Fire Red, and Leaf Green - 1996, 1998, and 2004
The Pokemon Company
These are the first games in the series. Pokemon Red and Blue were the original Pokemon games released to players worldwide. Many people consider the games to be the best games in the series. But for our best Pokemon games list, we put the Kanto region games at number 2. Although these games started the series, they're still among some of the best games to ever be released. The remakes aren't too shabby either.
Since this was the first Pokemon game, it doesn't have the flashy features that we see relevant in modern-day Pokemon games. Nevertheless, these games implemented all of the basic Pokemon features we've grown to love in every installment. For starters, the original 151 Pokemon are without a doubt some of the best The Pokemon Company has ever designed. These Pokemon are synonymous with the franchise. Pokemon such as Charizard, Squirtle, Mewtwo, Pikachu, and more are still present in every Pokemon game.
The story is also one of the most simplistic yet one of the best in the series. The classic Team Rocket is one of the most recognizable faces in gaming. Their battle against the main protagonist over the course of the game is easily one of the best-crafted stories we've come across in a Pokemon game.
We've grown to love the Rival, Gary/Blue, and Professor Oak over the years. The latter is essentially the best Pokemon Professor, and he often makes appearances in new Pokemon titles. Your rival in this game is one that truly pushes you over the course of the story. It's identical to how Gary acts throughout the anime of Pokmon.
Nostalgia is a factor that weighs into other trainers' rankings of their best Pokemon games. While nostalgia obviously plays a big role when we're ranking classic games, generation one gets all the praise compared to the number 1 games on our list: generation two, the best Pokemon generation and set of games in our eyes.
1. Pokemon Gold, Silver, Crystal, Heartgold, and Soul Silver - 1999, 2000, and 2009
The Pokemon Company
That's right! The second generation of Pokemon games, which were released as solely Gold and Silver in 1999, is number 1 on our list. These games elevated all the core aspects of the original Pokemon games. They also added some unique features to this generation that made the games the best of all time.
For starters, generation two is when Shiny Pokemon, rare Pokemon that offered a different color scheme as opposed to their standard form, were officially introduced into the series. These Shiny Pokemon have captivated the Pokemon realm in recent years, and a large part of the player base will dedicate their time to hunting them.
Next, generation two was also one of the only Pokemon games to feature TWO Regions. Yes, if you haven't played these games, you get to experience the ravish Johto region and partake in a brand new Pokemon game. You head back to the setting of the original games and take on all the gym battles and Elite 4 of the Kanto region. We haven't seen any other Pokemon games really experiment with this concept, which is another reason fans love generation two. The game is essentially two Pokemon games in one. And that's tough to beat!
Generation two also has some of the coolest Legendary Pokemon. Ho-Oh and Luigia feature some of the deepest yet outstanding lore. This is consistent with the Legendary Dog Pokemon. The Rival in these games has motifs that are unlike others in previous Pokemon games and ones to follow.
The Johto region games have some of the best features in the series. And, they open creative avenues such as Shiny Pokemon and multiple Pokemon regions in one game. You can never go wrong creating a new save within these games. Let's hope the next Let's Go titles are based around this generation.
Which Pokemon game is the best?
In our opinion, generation two offers the best Pokemon games and main series games.
What is the best main series Pokemon game?
Like we answered in the previous question, generation two offers the best Pokemon games and main series games :)
Which Pokemon game is the most fun?
Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum or Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald, and Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are the most fun Pokemon games in our opinion. Double battles, cool Legendary Pokemon, new Pokemon evolutions, and deep post-game content all factor into our decision.
Which Pokemon game takes the longest?
The longest Pokemon game per main story length is Pokemon Diamond and Pearl, which clocks in at around 41 hours! This is subjective to your playstyle, though. The more XP you grind and the more Pokemon you catch, the longer you play the game.
So, what do you think of our best Pokemon games ranked list?
What rankings, if any, would you change?
Let us know in the comments section below!
Hero image via The Pokemon Company
This article was written by Nick Farrell, a multi-platform editor and writer in the games industry.