The feeling of taking your GameBoy or any other Nintendo handheld gaming console and hearing the familiar sound of a Pokémon game launching is something that a true fan will understand, but will not be able to explain to someone else. It is a very unique and nostalgic feeling that most fans know very well and it is that feeling that inspired us to give you a list of the 15 best Pokémon games. The basic criterium we took into consideration was the impact the game had on the whole franchise and how it helped shape it, upgrade it and revolutionize it.
15. Pokémon HeartGold/Soul Silver (Generation IV)
We start our list of best Pokémon games with Pokémon HeartGold/Soul Silver (Generation IV). Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver were released in 2009 for the Nintendo DS console, becoming the first and only remakes released on that console. They were released as part of Generation IV, not long before the release of Pokémon Black and White, the two Generation V core series games. These two games were actually remakes of Pokémon Gold and Silver, the main Generation II games.
We started our list with Pokémon HeartGold/Soul Silver (Generation IV), among all the other games, because they were really solid remakes and examples of things done right in that aspect. Nintendo did a good job with remaking Gold and Silver for the Nintendo DS, continuing its trend started back in 2004 with FireRed and LeafGreen and starting somewhat of a tradition that would see us play more remakes over the years. HeartGold and SoulSilver kept the charm of the original Generation II games, utilizing the Nintendo DS’ technical achievements in creating an old-but-new gaming experience for the players. When compared to the original rendering, these two games were a true refreshment.
Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver were solid remakes that really made us remember Generation II with fondness. They also showed us that the Nintendo DS was capable of, thus earning a spot on this list without dilemma.
14. Pokémon FireRed/LeafGreen (Generation III)
Released in 2004 for the GameBoy Advance, Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen actually started Nintendo’s tradition of combining new technology and old games, i.e., making remakes of older games using new technological capabilities. These two games were the first such remakes, combining the technological standards of Generation III games with the narrative of the original Generation I games.
Although quite simple from today’s point of view – especially in light of the fact that we actually got to play Let’s Go Pikachu! and Let’s Go Eevee! – FireRed and LeafGreen were the must-have games back in 2004. Namely, players of the original Generation I games loved them and their story, but they were far inferior in terms of graphics and design, seeing how the original GameBoy and the GameBoy Color had their limitations. Now, the GameBoy Advance was a significant improvement in that field, as had been witnessed by the Generation III games earlier on, which is why the fans welcomed this remake with open arms. FireRed and LeafGreen changed next to nothing from the original games but made the games seem like completely new games with a completely new playing experience.
While FireRed and LeafGreen might not have revolutionized the world of Pokémon games, they did a lot for the evolution of the series and they likewise started a tradition that saw us play some truly amazing remakes over the years.
13. Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire (Generation VI)
Released a year after Pokémon X and Y, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire were remakes of the original Generation III games for the Nintendo 3DS; these games brought the charm of the original Generation III games (Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald), combining it with the technical possibilities of the Nintendo 3DS, which we witnessed not long before with the main Generation VI games.
Keeping the original narrative along with the original Hoenn region, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire managed to breathe fresh life into years-old games. The Hoenn region never looked better and the only reason that these two games are so low on our list is that they were very familiar when they came out. Nintendo did their best to combine the technical capabilities of the Nintendo 3DS with every reason because of which we loved the original Generation III games. Also, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire became the last Generation VI core games, making it the Generation with the fewest core series games; the next Nintendo 3DS games would likewise introduce Generation VII to the gaming community.
Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are two very good games with a lot to offer. They kept everything that made us fall in love with the amazing Generation III games, combining it with the technical aspects of Nintendo’s new console, thus creating a remake that did justice to the original, making the games quite popular and ultimately successful from a commercial point of view.
12. Pokémon Go (Generation VII)
After a lot of information and teasers, Pokémon Go finally came out in 2016, when it was available for download via the phone’s application provider. This is a very peculiar game when compared to all other Pokémon games throughout history and was the first of its kind to achieve global popularity in a very short time. Being Pokémon fans, we can absolutely agree that Pokémon Go is something truly special.
Pokémon Go became the first augmented reality in the Pokémon franchise. Although the output is limited to your phone’s device, Pokémon Go still offers a lot of fun for the players, which explains why it is so popular, even after several years, which is a great achievement for a mobile game. Pokémon Go allows the players to become actual Pokémon trainers, capturing Pokémon in the real world, battling them, defeating Team Rocket, etc. The game has improved a lot on the original possibilities, thereby becoming better with each major update. The game did a lot to mimic the feel of the core games as much as possible, which helps explain the game’s popularity even today.
Pokémon Go is certainly a global phenomenon, and one of the biggest mobile games ever released. The authors of the game did a lot to bring the whole Pokémon-capturing experience to players around the world and they did a great job, of improving the game constantly and making it better.
11. Pokémon Trading Card Game (Generation I)
Pokémon Trading Card Game is a spin-off game released back in 1998 and rereleased in 2014. This is a Generation I game that actually wanted to bring the feeling of fighting with Pokémon Trading Cards instead of actual Pokémon and was a true “underground” classic among GameBoy Color gamers during the late nineties.
Pokémon Trading Card Game was and still is a very special game; it’s not the only trading-card-game-based video game, but it’s certainly the best and the most famous one. The concept was different from the core games, as Pokémon primarily manifested in the form of trading cards, which were used in battle to defeat opponents. The game followed the rules of the official Pokémon Trading Card Game and they even used digital replicas of actual Pokémon cards in the game, which was great despite the technical limitations of the time. The game never became a major hit for the company, but it became an “underground classic” that gamers liked to come back to, despite it being thoroughly different than the core series of video games.
Finally, the Pokémon Trading Card Game was a unique game in many ways and it is certainly something we’d recommend for those that want a different approach to the Pokémon games. It wasn’t anything special due to the technical limitations of the time, but it remains one of the most important Pokémon games in history.
10. Pokémon X/Y (Generation VI)
Up next on our list of best Pokémon games we have Pokémon X/Y (Generation VI). Pokémon X and Pokémon Y were both released in 2013 as the first couple of games for the new Nintendo 3DS, which finally gave us a 3D graphical interface for the core series of Pokémon games. These two games also introduced a new generation of Pokémon and further expanded on the series’ lore, but they are also the only two games that never received neither an expansion nor a rerelease, thus making Generation VI the only one to do that.
Pokémon X and Y were interesting games in that they revolutionized the perception of Pokémon games. Pokémon games have been, up to that point, 2D games with their graphics improving with each new generation, but still remaining predominantly 2D. With the new console now being able to utilize 3D graphics, these two games took advantage of that fact and created something new, foreshadowing the technical capabilities of the Nintendo Switch. The story was relatively good and the games did leave a mark on the gaming world, although they did not achieve the fame of some other titles, with people mostly perceiving them as transition games that would introduce us to games that were technically superior to even these ones.
Pokémon X and Y are solid games that gave their best to bring the series to a completely new level, a task in which they succeeded thanks to the technical capabilities of the new Nintendo 3DS console. They expanded the roster, they gave us a glimpse into the future of Pokémon games and they became products that certainly deserve a place on this list.
9. Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu!/Let’s Go Eevee (Generation VII)
Officially part of Generation VII, which introduced us to the Alola region, Let’s Go Pikachu! and Let’s Go Eevee! were the franchise’s first games for the newly-released Nintendo Switch. After FireRed and LeafGreen, these two games once again remastered the Generation I games, introducing Eevee as a second partner for the player, thus bringing more diversity to the original narrative.
Although these two games were just test games before the release of Sword and Shield, through which Nintendo wanted to show all the possibilities of the new Switch before releasing its core series games, they still managed to do the trick. The improved 3D graphics gave us another beautiful look at a well-known region, showing us that the new console was capable of and also what to expect from future games. One of the best narrative aspects of these two games is that they didn’t literally copy the original concept, but rather introduced some narrative changes that made the experience a bit more interesting, despite the familiar setting.
Let’s Go Pikachu! and Let’s Go Eevee! were truly great and user-friendly games that became an unexpected hit for Nintendo. Despite being very familiar, they still managed to offer more than enough to attract new players and satisfy the old ones
8. Pokémon Black/White (2) (Generation V)
Coming out in 2010 and 2012, respectively, Black and White, i.e., Black 2 and White 2 introduced the fifth generation of Pokémon to the world and continued the company’s Nintendo DS slate of games. A total of four core series games were released, but there was something very special with this series, as it was the first time since Generation I that Nintendo released two upgraded versions of the main games rather than a third expansion game.
Introducing us to Unova and Team Plasma, these two video games further expanded the story and they significantly improved the graphics, leading to the semi-3D rendering of the sixth generation games, X and Y. The visuals seemed even more realistic and these four games dug into the mythology of their respective region further than some earlier games, with the exception of Emerald. What they changed was the release method, as the company just decided to release two updated (expansion) titles to the game that introduced the variations of Kyurem in the game.
Black 2 and White 2 didn’t improve much on the original Black and White games, but they expanded upon the story and brought some new narrative elements, which is why they are still worth the play, alongside the main games.
7. Pokémon Diamond/Pearl/Platinum (Generation IV)
Released in 2006, Diamond and Pearl, and in 2008, Platinum, these three games launched the fourth generation of the franchise and also were the first Pokémon games for the newly-released Nintendo DS console. These games were part of the core series of Pokémon and they kept the same gameplay concept as the games from previous generations.
This series’ main forte is its plot, especially if you consider the Platinum version, which significantly expanded the known universe and even introduced a new realm. A lot of the other aspects have remained the same and we cannot really say that the Generation IV games brought much novelties compared to Generation III, but aside from the traditional expansion of the Pokémon roster, the game did improve on the graphics and, in a way, foreshadowed the 3D graphic which would arrive with the later generations and newer consoles. These games also continued the tradition that began with Generation II, with two main core games and a third game that further expanded the fictional universe of the former with a new Legendary Pokémon.
These three games have certainly helped the evolution of the Pokémon franchise, but their biggest forte remains a very strong story that was even further improved with the introduction of Giratina in Platinum.
6. Pokémon Stadium 2 (Generation II)
Released in 2000, Pokémon Stadium 2 was probably the biggest Pokémon game for a non-GameBoy-related console. It was a big hit for the Nintendo 64 and a game that brought something more to the whole franchise. Pokémon Stadium 2 featured a similar concept to its predecessor, but it included more Pokémon, better graphics, and more gaming possibilities.
The game was also famous for bringing Generation II Pokémon into full 3D for the first time. Like its predecessor, it was made exclusively for the Nintendo 64 and allowed players to upload and battle their Pokémon from Red, Blue, Yellow, Gold, Silver, and Crystal, thus featuring wider connectivity, with the use of a Transfer Pak. The game’s location was a town called White City and it had several modes and battle styles. The Japanese version also has the capability to use the Mobile System GB from the Japanese version of Pokémon Crystal. This game has the ability to utilize the Nintendo 64 Expansion Pak, but it is not required.
As far as Stadium 2 is concerned, it is a game that, despite its retro status, deserves such a high spot on our list because it brought so much joy to fans and players and because it is definitely the best among the non-GameBoy-related games from the whole franchise.
5. Pokémon Gold/Silver/Crystal (Generation II)
Pokémon Gold and Silver came out back in 1999 for the GameBoy Color console and were followed by Pokémon Crystal, an enhanced version of the original games, in 2000. These three games introduced the second generation of Pokémon, adding an additional 100 species to the full roster. The protagonist traveled around the Johto version, with him being able to travel back to Kanto (from the Generation I games) in Crystal. The games were a massive hit back then, but their historical value has depleted over the years.
Namely, the Gold and Silver games brought color to the franchise and some additional animations. Some new concepts were introduced, also, but nothing revolutionary really. So, besides a new set of Pokémon and a new region, the technical upgrades weren’t really that big compared to the Generation I games. It was still the same graphic design and the same game, but it had color. Sure, back then – it was a big thing, but after more than two decades, it’s really not that of a big thing in retrospect. Crystal was a bit better story-wise, but also nothing extraordinary.
These two games were re-released as HeartGold and SoulSilver versions in 2009 for the Nintendo DS, using Generation IV graphics.
4. Pokémon (Ultra) Sun/Moon (Generation VII)
Released in 2016, Pokémon Sun and Moon were big hits for the Nintendo 3DS console, despite being the third Pokémon game for the console, after Generation VI’s X and Y and the re-designed Generation III games Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. Enhanced versions of the original games with additional stories, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, were released in 2017, also for the Nintendo 3DS; this was a move similar to the release of Black 2 and White 2, as the companions of the original Black and White games.
These games take the protagonist through the Alola region and introduce the seventh generation of Pokémon, which had 81 new Pokémon. It followed the same basic pattern, although it changed a lot of things, most notably the drastic changes in Gym battles from the previous games. It also introduced Ultra Beasts to the franchise.
This game was revolutionary in the sense that it was the first to intrude realistic 3D graphics into the franchise, significantly upgrading the 3D graphics from X and Y, and Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. This was a transitional game in the sense that it foresaw the introduction of full 3D graphics in the Generation VIII games. Although X and Y introduced Mega Evolutions into the games, we still think that these games (especially the Ultra versions) have offered more to the franchise in general.
3. Pokémon Sword/Shield (Generation VIII)
We’re slowly reaching the top 3 best Pokémon games and in the third place, we have Pokémon Sword/Shield (Generation VIII). Pokémon Sword and Shield were released worldwide in 2019 for the Nintendo Switch console. These long-awaited games introduced the eighth generation of Pokémon, adding an additional 81 Pokémon to the roster. They are set in the Galar region and follow the same basic pattern as the previous games, but with a lot of tweaks and changes that helped the franchise reach new heights.
These games are the first Pokémon games to use fully 3D graphics like other consoles and the first to rely heavily on online cooperation to pass certain challenges. It is also the first game to remove the traditional surprise encounters in tall grass, as you can now see the wild Pokémon roam around the map. Another first for the game is the introduction of DLCs, meaning that the game can constantly evolve.
The reason we put these games in the middle of our list lies in the fact that they are very recent and that we haven’t had the chance to see their historical impact on the development of the franchise so maybe we’ll come back to this list and reevaluate it after some years have passed.
2. Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald (Generation III)
The Ruby and Sapphire versions were released in 2002, while Emerald, an enhanced version of the original games, was released in 2004. These games started the third generation of the franchise, introducing a new region (Hoenn) and an additional 135 Pokémon, which was a record at the time.
These games followed the same narrative pattern as the previous ones, with little changes to game mechanics. The Emerald version added something to the story and introduced Rayquaza to the roster. Since they were the first main-series games released for the GameBoy Advance console, they brought a lot to the franchise itself.
The color was now fully added to the game and the graphics improve drastically when compared to the previous installments. This formula was used in a lot of future games until another big improvement in Generation VI. The animations also became better and more fluid and the possibilities were expanded. These three games deserve our second spot because not only have they been very influential in the history of the franchise, but are also examples of the biggest inter-generation improvements in the franchise, as all the later installments had their changes somehow foreshadowed in the previous installments, while these three games still present a giant improvement compared to Generation II.
1. Pokémon Red/Blue/Green/Yellow (Generation I)
The first place on our list of best Pokémon games goes to Pokémon Red/Blue/Green/Yellow (Generation I). The legendary first generation of Pokémon games with its 151 Pokémon and a franchise gameplay model would capture generations of fans around the world. These games might not be revolutionary – they’re very simple, colorless, and pixelled – but they have started a franchise that we all love and this is why they absolutely deserve the first spot. They have launched the franchise – and that is the biggest contribution a game can make.
The player’s journey through the Kanto region started in 1996 when Nintendo launched Pokémon Red and Green in Japan. Pokémon Blue came out later that year, while a special edition game, Pokémon Yellow, came out in 1998. Red and Blue went on to become global hits, while Green was only released in Japan and was never translated into English or any other language (there are unofficial translations available for download, but those are pirated games) officially. Yellow was basically the same game, with the change being that the player had to use Pikachu as his starter Pokémon and the Pikachu had to be on his roster all the time, following the player around, which was a nod to the anime series that launched that same year.