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Games that defined the Decade: Pokemon Go proved that evolution and community is the key to greatness

(Image credit: Niantic)

We're celebrating the end of an incredible 10 years for games, movies, and TV shows. Pokemon GO is one of the games that defined the last 10 years of play, placing 22nd in our 100 best games of the decade rankings. Be sure to check out the full list to see if your favourites made the cut.

Niantic's promise of Pokemon brought to life via the medium of an augmented reality smartphone app, it seemed too good to be true. While the company's previous mobile game, Ingress, turned people's real-world environs into a battle between two factions, could that same energy translate into a nostalgia-fuelled Pokemon adventure in the palm of your hand? Early trailers promised Charizards residing amongst clifftops, Pikachu scampering through picturesque city streets, and at that point it all seemed too good to be true.

And for some, it was that, just a pipe-dream. You couldn't stumble upon a hyper-realistic Pokemon in its natural habitat; Gyarados couldn't be found leaping out of the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, you didn't have to travel to an electrical power plant to find a Voltorb, and Pigeotto was found on the ground rather than soaring through the skies. 

A world trying to catch 'em all

(Image credit: Niantic)

"The game is a safe haven for players of any age, it gives people a reason to get out of the house"

But that didn't stop millions of people playing it in those first early months. And I mean everybody. Kids, parents, grandparents, the miserable bloke who lives a few doors down from you and never says hi as you walk past on a morning… Immediately, the sense of community spirit was incredible, with people taking to the streets, glued to their phones even more than ever, all for the same reason; fictional monsters you can search out and collect.

Although that initial surge of popularity dampened, Niantic's dedication to updating and improving the game means that the community passion for Pokemon Go continues to soar, with the game hitting one billion downloads earlier this year. Even if half of those are new players, that means approximately 7% of the global population have played Pokemon Go. 

When the game launched, it arrived with just the original 151 Pokemon, but in the months and years that followed, Niantic has transformed its initial basic gameplay offerings to the behemoth the game is today. New events and mechanics are introduced frequently; the monthly community days bring back the sense of spirit found during that summer of 2016; and there are over 600 Pokemon to seek out and catch. Team Rocket has even made a recent appearance, as have much-requested features like trading and PvP battling.

The core mechanics of collecting and catching haven't changed much over these two years, but for the most engaged players it's a constantly evolving Pokemon paradise found right in their back yards - or at least their local towns - where thriving Pokemon communities lurk in Discord and take over towns on community days. For most, the goal is to simply fill out as much of the Pokedex as possible, but it's this desire stemming from childhood to be the very best, like no-one ever was and catch 'em all that keeps players returning.

With over three generations' worth of Pokemon still to be added and innovations in gameplay arriving frequently, Pokemon Go has a lot to offer for anyone interested in those pesky pocket monsters. Those who fell to the wayside shortly after launch will wonder what warrants it being included as a game of the decade, but the answer to that is simple: it's less about how Pokemon Go plays, and more to do with what it means.

A dream come true

(Image credit: Niantic)

The game is a safe haven for players of any age, it gives people a reason to get out of the house and do more exercise, explore countries they've never visited before in search of rare regional Pokemon, make friends and acquaintances throughout their local community, and so much more. 

There's a community that will never stop playing Pokemon Go, but not because it's a rich experience with deep elements but rather because Pokemon Go reminds me that there are still plenty of good people in the world. And, for me, it's a crucial way I connect with my father who lives on the other side of the country, especially as he was the one who first introduced me to Pokemon Blue back in the day. Cheers, Niantic.

One of the resident guide writers around these parts, give me a game and I will write every "how to" I possibly can or die trying. The youngest member of the GamesRadar team, I have an unhealthy addiction to Football Manager, shouting at the TV as Manchester United slowly descend from greatness, and playing Pokemon Go on the bus to and from the office.