A Pokeball known by devoted Pokémon used to catch ’em all. PHOTO COURTESY OF PUBLIC DOMAIN PHOTOS
Colin Vanden Berg
Nintendo’s Game Boy Color was a game-changer. Suddenly, you could play video games everywhere you went, and at a more feasible price. It didn’t matter that the games were very basic and the screen was tiny. That was until one game which came out in 1998, that took handheld gaming from a fun novelty to a worldwide phenomenon.
That game was Pokémon Yellow, the updated remaster of Pokémon Red and Blue versions for the Game Boy. 24 years later, The Pokémon Company runs the world’s most profitable media franchise and is about to launch its ninth generation with “Pokémon Scarlet & Violet” versions.
This list is for Pokémon fans, and lengthy explanations for key terms like “Pokémon “Generation,” “battle,” “gym,” “move,” “level,” “evil team,” “region,” “elite four,” and “PC box” will not be included for brevity’s sake. The only necessary clarifying term is “pokedex,” which refers to the collection of Pokémon that defines each generation of games.
8. Gen 4 (Pokémon Diamond,” Pokémon Pearl,” “Pokémon Platinum,” Pokémon Heartgold and Pokemon Soulsilver)
“Pokémon Platinum” was many people’s first Pokémon Game and hooked them on the franchise, for good reason. It expanded the lackluster pokedex, fleshed out the story, and added several features to make the game more playable. All these additions were badly needed, and one good game (three including the Gen 2 remakes “Pokémon Heartgold” and “Pokémon Soulsilver”) plus the major update to the move system did not save Generation 4 from aging like cottage cheese.
7. Gen 2 (“Pokémon Gold,” Pokémon Silver,” and “Pokémon Chrystal”)
Gen 2 fixed a lot of problems with Gen 1, but included several of its own. Namely, the level-scaling is atrocious. The term “level grinding” (defeating random Pokémon and NPC trainers on a loop to prepare for the next boss battle) exists mainly because of Gen 2. That being said, Gen 2 shares much in common with Gen 1. They both have a lot of charm but suffer from serious design flaws that make it impossible to consider ever revisiting them through emulator or otherwise.
6. Gen 1 (“Pokémon Red,” Pokémon Blue,” and Pokémon Yellow)
The games that started it all are actually a bug-filled mess. I’m not talking about Bug-type Pokemon, I’m talking about game-breaking glitches and coding oversights. Players could possibly be trapped in a dungeon, and the Psychic-type was so absurdly overpowered that the limitless team-building options that make “Pokémon” games so special weren’t really available in Gen 1. These glitches don’t really impede what is actually a fantastic group of games, though.
Gen 1 ultimately gets the edge over Gen 2 because the pokedex is better and most of what made Gold, Silver, and Chrystal so special was the ability to revisit the Kanto region and see the charming Gen 1 characters again.
5. Gen 6 “Pokemon X,” “Pokemon Y,” Pokemon Omega Ruby” and “Pokemon Alpha Sapphire”)
Generation 6 introduced the amazing Mega Evolution mechanic, made repels easily reusable among other quality-of-life improvements, and included the best pair of remakes to date with “Omega Ruby” and “Alpha Sapphire.” The switch to 3D graphics was mostly seamless, and the Battle Chateau offers some of the best postgame content in the series. Unfortunately, “Pokémon X” & Y” just aren’t good games. They’re way too easy and the story is quite bad.
4. Gen 8 (Pokémon Sword, Pokémon Shield, Pokémon Brilliant Diamond, Pokémon Shining Pearl,” and “Pokemon Legends: Arceus.”)
Speaking of bad stories, the plot of “Pokémon Sword & Shield” makes no sense. Chairman Rose is an even worse villain than “Pokémon X & Y’s” Lysandre. Unlike with the Gen 6 games, however, the subplots with the ancillary characters are quite interesting, even without the strong post-game story. Gen 8 also has one of the best-ever pokedexes and the level scaling is great. Fans are a bit torn on “Legends: Arceus,” though, with opinions ranging from “best Pokémon game ever” to “a waste of time that’s not even a main series game.”
3. Gen 7 (Pokémon Sun, Pokémon Moon, Pokémon Ultra Sun” and Pokémon Ultra Moon,” “Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee)
Gen 7 mixed up the format like no Pokémon game had done before. The player no longer challenges Gyms and Gym Leaders but Trial Pokémon and Island Kahunas. The shake-up works refreshingly well, and the story is quite good particularly in “Sun & Moon.” The pokedex is excellent; the characters are great especially in Ultra Sun, and the features are with the exception of the Pokefinder are perhaps the best in the franchise
2. Gen 3 (“Pokémon Ruby,” “Pokémon Sapphire,” & “Pokémon Emerald”)
IGN gave an infamously rated Ruby and Sapphire 7/10 for “too much water.” The water, however, is the point. Ruby and Sapphire are all about nature and its impact on people and Pokémon. In spite of (or perhaps because of) all the water, Ruby and Sapphire have the best map in the series. Every town and location is unique and fun to explore. The pokedex is incredible (it has the best starter trio in the franchise) and the characters are all great especially in the Gen 6 remakes (your character actually has a father!). Even the contest mechanic is a lot of fun. If the games were a little bit harder and the story a little bit better this would easily be the top pick.
- Gen 5 (“Pokémon Black, Pokémon White,” Pokémon Black 2 & Pokémon White 2)
The first place to start with Gen isn’t the story, which is the best in the franchise, or Pokedex, which gets better with each passing generation. It’s the graphics. Pokémon has never looked better and will never look better. After that, take almost every positive trait of Gen 3 (minus the bonus content, the starters and the actual dad character) and apply it to Gen 5. The map, the characters, the themes, the level scaling: all flawless. Even the pacing is incredible, spacing out the heavy dialogue and cutscenes far better than Gens 7 and 8 which also have wordy stories. Gen 5 is the gold standard for Pokémon, and will likely remain so for many years to come.