Pokemon Games Ranked

Duncan Schiller, MVC writer

The Pokémon franchise is about leaving home, setting out on an adventure, making friends and thwarting evil. The main way the player can achieve these goals is with the help of Pokémon, creatures that will battle for the player in turn-based combat. There are eight mainline games, or generations, in the Pokémon franchise. Many have a favorite Pokémon game, so it is time to answer the question: which Pokémon game is the best one?

In last place is the most recent generation: generation eight. Pokémon Sword & Shield is set in Britain, and the premise is simple, with no real evil-doers threatening anything until the very end of the plot, and even then, the villain only really has about an hour of story importance. 

One downside to this game is the constant breaks in gameplay when the player reaches a new city. A representative for the gym challenge stops the player, and gives them a minute-long tour of the city, which is an annoying break in immersion. Plus, rather than routes, this game has the wild area, a large free-roam plain for encountering wild Pokémon. The new idea gets driven into the ground when it happens after every town, to the point where it acts like filler content to a degree. 

One final gripe with this game would be the low amount of effort put in regarding the Pokémon themselves. These games decided to cut half of the national dex from the roster of available Pokémon, severely limiting the player’s ability to vary their team. They each cost $60, and have two DLCs available for $15 each.

In seventh place is generation four, Diamond & Pearl. These games introduced something known as the physical-special split. Previously, attacks had a physical or special attack type based solely on their elemental type, rather than the contents of the move. So, for example, the attack dragon claw was a special move, despite being a slashing attack made by claws. This was revolutionary, but a major drawback is that this game essentially has a ten minute unskippable cutscene that starts it. It also tends to coddle the player, with underleveled enemies, repetitive tutorials, and easy gym leaders.

The first game in the series, Red & Green, is not very high on this list, only placing sixth. However, despite the primitive graphics and gameplay, it is still very memorable. The first 151 Pokémon are introduced in this generation. This game pits the main character against both their friend and rival, Blue, and the evil mafia-like Team Rocket. The plot of this game is simple, but that is to be expected, as it is the first game, and was simply testing the waters. This game has several memorable points, from the ominous music that plays in Lavender Town, to the broken Pokémon MissingNo. Overall, a solid game for the time, and the remakes are still fun to play today.

Pokémon X & Y is next, and was not very well received by critics. The premise for the villain team was amazing: pseudo-terrorists that want to restart the world with an ultimate weapon. However, the gameplay and story itself was underwhelming. The mega evolution gimmick was introduced in this generation, but was not used past this game, except in the Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire remakes. Overall, not much to say about this game.

Generation seven is fourth on this list, with several changes to core gameplay mechanics. Instead of gym battles, the player must complete trials, and then battle a very powerful totem Pokémon. Also, the main gimmick in this game are Pokémon that players can ride in the overworld to help them complete tasks. Z-moves are the other gimmick in this game. Z-moves are a very powerful single-use attack that have a short cutscene that plays when used, and these were well-received by the public. The remakes have the player battle against alien Pokémon from another dimension, the Ultra Beasts. These freaky pseudo-legendaries are backed by the powerful Necrozma, who stole all of the light from its dimension. Overall, these were neat games.

Moving on to the top three games, generation three, Pokémon Gold & Silver, is still commonly played today, and actually takes place in two regions, a feature unique to this generation. Once the main game is completed, the player can go back to the region in Pokémon Red & Green, and play through the game another time, against stronger trainers and gym leaders. This is the only game where the player can become the champion of two regions. This game also introduced held items, which can activate during battle.

Now, ranking first and second place was difficult. Both games have a special place in my heart, and both have incredibly high ratings from critics. The close second belongs to Pokémon Black & White. These games have an amazing plot and creative gym designs. It also introduced the battle subway, where the player can take part in several consecutive battles to win powerful items. While it was not very well rated on release, over time, people realized how much of a gem these games really are. The plot has the player try to take down team plasma, a group of radicals who want to release all Pokémon. It has a twist ending, and it greatly shocked me the first time I played it, which was a welcome change of pace.

Finally, in first place, taking the title of best Pokémon generation, is generation three. Now, Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire were great on release, but the third game, Pokémon Emerald, is the reason so many streamers play the game. It blends the two games perfectly, and there are two villainous teams in this generation. One wants to flood the world, while the other wants to set it on fire. They have interesting stories and motives, and in Pokémon Emerald, players can battle both of these teams. Plus, the new versions allow mega evolution, and let the player fly around in the skies on a Pokémon.

With the release of Pokémon Scarlet & Violet right around the corner, it is the perfect time to make lists like these. If you have a list like this, feel free to email it to me, as I would love to read it. Email me at [email protected] if you have one of these lists.

Advertising mini-billboard for Pokemon Violet and Scarlet.
Frontside image of the case for the new Pokemon Violet game, sold at GameStop.
Case and packaging for the new Pokemon Scarlet game, sold at GameStop.
Cases for the Pokemon Scarlet and Violet games on the GameStop shelf.
A colorful poster for Pokemon Scarlet and Violet