Best Pokemon Games: Ranking All The Main Pokemon Games

Pokemon is the highest-grossing media franchise of all time amounting to an incredible $90 billion over its lifetime. This incredible feat is not accomplished by accident, the Pokemon franchise has under its belt a successful TV show, a popular merchandise line, and a great card game. However, what most fans think about when it comes to Pokemon are the games. Pokemon has seven generations of games, and two new games coming out in the winter of 2019. Unfortunately, not all games hit the mark so let’s take a look as we rank all the Pokemon games from worst to best. For this list I will rank each game, however, I will bundle together the games and their re-releases only if they feel like they didn’t add enough to truly stand out (and to stop this list from being too long). The Pokemon formula is very tricky to rank, but I have tried my best to see which games do enough to truly stand alone from the others of the same generation.

12. Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, Sun and Moon

Release: November 18, 2016, November 17, 2017
Console: Nintendo 3DS

The lastest Pokemon games of the franchise, unfortunately, gets the honor of being the worst game of the franchise. Sun and Moon are the fastest-selling games in the franchise, but that is mostly because of the success of Pokemon Go bringing in new players willing to try out the games. Sun and Moon take place in the Alola Region, a Hawaii inspired tropical region that is secluded from the rest of the world. As a game both Sun and Moon were very experimental, due to the seclusion of the region the games do not have Gym Leaders, nor a Pokemon League. Instead, we have the trails which are serious of mini-games resulting in a boss battle with a Totem Pokemon. This was also the smallest pool of Pokemon ever introduced, and a majority of them were alternate versions of existing Pokemon. The best part of the game is the story which is about wormholes opening up around the islands releasing Ultra Beast Pokemon. However, the story suffers from bad pacing issues. Ultra Sun and Moon did not do much to stick out from the original games, except by fixing most of the pacing issues in the story. So if you want to experience the lastest games I recommend playing Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon.

11. Red and Blue

Release: February 27, 1996                                                                                                                                                Console: Game Boy and Gane Boy Color

Red and Blue are the most important games in the franchise, however, they are also the messiest. As the first games of the series, the games introduce the player to the world of Pokemon. The black and white, strange pixellated world of Pokemon. At first glance, the games are an impressive achievement for the original Gameboy. However, the games lack balance and compare to the other games these are barebones. However, it is the potential that the games show that keep them from the bottom, but it is that untapped potential that would soon be realized.

10. HeartGold and SoulSilver

Release: September 12, 2009                                                                                                                                              Console: Nintendo DS

HeartGold and SoulSilver released to coincide with the 10 year anniversary of the original Gold and Silver. The story just like the original also follows the same beats. However, the change of hardware made the mechanics of the original games feel truly realized. From the day and night cycle to having your partner follow you, however, it is the addition of the newer mechanics that hurts the game. The DS screens didn’t feel fully realized when compared to the other pokemon games that came before it. Also, the biggest gimmick of the game was the pokewalker, a step tracker that raised your pokemon while you walk outside. It wasn’t really necessary, and if you start a new game while having a pokemon inside the tracker you are never getting that pokemon back. The game does enough to separate itself from its predecessor, but not enough from the games of the same generation.

9. Yellow Version

Release: September 12, 1998                                                                                                                                              Console: Game Boy

Pokemon Yellow started the pokemon formula of having two games introduce the generation and a third entry that combines each version, and adds more features. This formula changed in recent years, but Yellow was the first game that started it. The story is still the same as you play as a young boy trying to collect each badge to join the Pokemon League and become champion. At the same time, you cross paths with team rocket and try to stop their plan of world domination. However, what truly made Pokemon Yellow so special was the popularity of the Pokemon anime. Unlike the first games, you now had Pikachu walking by your side. You were also given other pokemon such as Squirtle and Charmander by talking to NPC, all these are references to the way Ash gained his pokemon in the show. Pokemon Yellow was special because you felt like you were playing as Ash, and the character you created would ultimately become canon in future titles.

8. Gold, Silver, and Crystal Version

Release: November 21, 1999                                                                                                                                            Console: Game Boy

Gold and Silver are the sequels to the original games. The story takes place a year after the original taking place in the Johto region a region next to Kanto separated by mount Silver. Just like before you play a young trainer trying to become Pokemon champion. The story flows from the first as a new team known as Neo Team Rocket is trying to bring back their old boss Giovanni in order to take over the world. Almost every character is connected to something from the previous game making your actions from the last game feel important. Your rival Silver is revealed to be the son of Giovanni, your old rival from the original Red and Blue has become the eight gym leader in Kanto, and you get a chance to battle your original character from the first game. What places these games above the originals are the mechanics that became staples to the main franchise from the day and night cycles, game balancing, and breeding. Gold and Silver even let you travel back to the Kanto and fight the gym leaders from that region. When it comes to sequels Gold and Silver are amazing, and easily some of the best that the franchise has to offer.

7. LeafGreen and FireRed

Release: January 29, 2004                                                                                                                                                  Console: Gameboy Advance

LeafGreen and FireRed are the remakes of the first games, they didn’t add anything new that hasn’t already been used in the other games that generation. What places them so high on the list is the fact that while the first games are important, they feel like they are a product of their times. Pokemon did not get there definitive looks until yellow, the games were in black and white, and controlling the player was a drag. LeafGreen and FireRed serve as love letters to the original games while at the same time modernizing them with the small quality of life improvements that made the games a joy to play.

6. Ruby and Sapphire, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire

Release: November 21,2002 and November 21, 2014
Console: Nintendo 3DS

The third generation of Pokemon arrived with Ruby and Sapphire introducing the Hoenn Region and the second biggest pool of pokemon to be introduced at the time. The games followed the same beat as the others, however, this time you are stuck in the middle of a war between two new teams, Team Magma and Team Aqua. Both teams are trying to achieve their goals of either flooding the world or drying up the world. The interesting part about the storying is that despite following the same beats, depending on which version you play the main team you are trying to stop is either Magma or Aqua. These changes impacted your play style since you needed to create a team that could counter the enemy you are facing. The games also introduced pokemon contests a mechanic that let you become a star by making your pokemon stand out in appeal. Raising your pokemon’s appeal also impacts their stats, creating a new form of training. Despite coming out years later the reason why I placed Omega Ruby and Alpha Saphire in the same position is that unlike the other games on the list, despite adding cutscenes these games really are just flat out remakes of the original that didn’t add anything, and they really did not feel necessary.

5. Emerald Version

Release: September 16, 2004                                                                                                                                              Console: Game Boy Advance

When it comes to mechanic Emerald doesn’t change too much, but what it does do is add one of the best end game content that franchise has had, The Battle Frontier. A series of stadiums that each possesses its own gimmick in order for you to advance to battle the frontier head. The Battle Dome was an elimination tournament, while the Battle Factory gave you rental pokemon to use. The variety and pure difficulty of the battle frontier made it an instant fan favorite. As for the story, Emerald combined both games making you face both Magma and Aqua. The game was also more character focus with the introduction of some of the most iconic characters in the franchise Wallace, and Steven Stone. They both played a massive role in the game, with the gym leader also joining in instead of feeling secluded from the main story. However, it would be later on where the franchise truly blended all the characters together into a massive story. Pokemon Emerald is the first game that truly felt like a combination of the games that came before it.

4. Black 2 and White 2

Release: June 23, 2012                                                                                                                                                        Console: Nintendo DS

Black 2 and White 2 broke the Pokemon formula, instead of being the third game combining the original, they are full-on sequels. Unlike, Gold and Silver, you play new characters still in Unova two years after the original games. As you traveled throughout the games you truly feel the impact of the first games, and how each character was affected by it. The world evolves, and it was really interesting to see it all play out. The story has a returning Team Plasma after they failed to trick the world into releasing all their pokemon so that they can easily take over. Now they are more aggressive and are no longer hiding under the veil of pokemon liberators, as they attempt to awaken an ancient pokemon in order to take over the world. Black 2 and White 2 also offered more variety with Pokestudio letting you become a movie star, the hidden grotto, and Battle Tower. Even after wrapping up the great story, you always had something to do.

3. X and Y

Release: October 12, 2013                                                                                                                                                Console: Nintendo 3DS

Pokemon X and Y had a tough job ahead of them, being the first games on the 3DS these were the first introduction to 3D. X and Y are easily the most visually appealing games in the franchise, along with one of the best soundtracks. The Kalos region also introduced Mega Evolution a meta defining mechanic that added a temporary evolution that grants the pokemon a massive power boost. This is also one of the biggest cast of characters in the game, however, these are also some of the weakest gym leaders in the franchise. You don’t really have a rival, instead, the story is more about a large group of friends working together trying to save the world. The story revolves around the evil Team Flare trying to recreate an ancient weapon that was used to wipe out the world. As a stand-alone story, this is by far one of the most satisfying stories I have ever played in a Pokemon game. The game also includes a post-game story that introduces one of the best and tragic characters in Pokemon Emma. X/Y is a complete game, it is a shame that we never got the third game and Mega evolutions were quickly thrown away and replaced with Z moves. X/Y feels like the forgotten sons of the franchise, but when it comes to quality this is by far one of the best games.

2. Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum

Release: September 28, 2006                                                                                                                                              Console: Nintendo DS

I still remember the backlash that these games got when they were first introduced, at that point people thought that the franchise ran out of ideas, that the starters look bad, and boy were they wrong. To say that these are some of the best games in the franchise is not an understatement. Diamond and Pearl took the directions that the games were heading into and showed how amazing they can be. The introduction of the second screen made multitasking in the game feel so seamless. Battles no longer felt cluttered with the top screen focusing only on the battle while everything else was done at the bottom. Contest made a return with tighter mechanics, and the games introduced some of the best gym leaders, the Battle Frontier also made a comeback with similar challenges, and easily the most iconic Champion Cynthia. Some old pokemon also obtained new evolutions. The story is about stopping Team Galactic trying to use the power of two of the strongest pokemon of all time in order to create a new dimension, however, as a result, they accidentally awakened an evil pokemon. The story wasn’t just amazing with iconic scenes such as the explosion of Lake Valor which has you navigate through walls of Magikarps, but also the addition to the lore that fuels pokemon discussions up to this day. Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum add so much to the formula that they all easily earn their spot on this list.

1. Black and White

Release: September 18, 2010                                                                                                                                            Console: Nintendo DS

Pokemon Black and White truly are a combination of all the other games. The games want you to feel like they are a reboot of the franchise, a fresh start that all the way from the opening moments make you feel that you are truly on a new adventure. The game story just like the others is about a young trainer wanting to become a pokemon champion, early one you are introduced to Team Plasma self proclaim Pokemon liberators, their leader is making a speech convincing people to release all their pokemon. The story is more mature, and the cinematics truly makes the games stand out. The games introduce triple battles, and rotation battles, along with more pokemon. However, the biggest introduction that the games has, is the introduction of N, easily the most iconic character in all of pokemon. I don’t want to spoil anything about this game because this is a game that has to be experienced. With an amazing story, amazing mechanics, and the best pool of Pokemon. Pokemon Black and White are truly the best pokemon games in the franchise.

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