Pokemon Sword and Shield differences – exclusives, legendaries, gym leaders and more

pokemon sword and shield differences
(Image credit: The Pokemon Company)

If you're looking for information on the key Pokemon Sword and Shield differences you've come to the right place. As with other major installments to the series, developer Game Freak has released two versions of the Gen 8 adventure, delivering Pokemon Sword and Shield between each of the releases to help make your purchasing decision a little bit tricker. 

There's quite a bit to consider here too. Pokemon Sword and Shield gym leaders are different between the versions, there are slightly different Pokemon Sword and Shield Pokedex entries to look out for, as well as altered Gigantamax appearances, Legendary Pokemon, and more. We get into all of the major Pokemon Sword and Shield differences and exclusives below, so be sure to give this a read to help guide you between the two games. 

Pokemon Sword and Shield differences: Zacian and Zamazenta

(Image credit: Nintendo)

As is the norm, there are two Pokemon Sword and Shield Legendaries, with one exclusive to each version. Zacian, the one with a sword in its mouth, will be exclusive to Pokemon Sword. Guess which game Zamazenta will be in... Pokemon Gun! No, we're kidding; Zamazenta will be obtainable in Pokemon Shield. Both Legendaries are available through the game's main storyline. 

There is also a third Legendary called Eternatus, which is obtainable in both Pokemon Sword and Shield

Pokemon Sword and Shield differences: Exclusive wild Pokemon

Pokemon Sword and Shield exclusives

(Image credit: The Pokemon Company)

In each set of Pokemon games, there tends to be a few wild Pokemon that are exclusive to that specific version. For example, Pokemon Red had Ekans, Oddish, Mankey, Growlithe and a few more, while Blue had Sandshrew, Vulpix, Meowth, Bellsprout, and then some. That pattern has continued throughout the series, and it's the same for Pokemon Sword and Shield too. The only way to obtain the missing Pokemon in the other versions is by trading. Here's the full list of Pokemon Sword and Shield differences when it comes to wild Pokemon.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Pokemon SwordPokemon Shield
20Basculin (Blue Stripe)Basculin (Red Stripe)
25Galarian Farfetch'dGalarian Ponyta
26Sirfetch'dGalarian Rapidash
27Galarian DarumakaGalarian Corsola
28Galarian DarmanitanCursola
30Indeedee (Male)Indeedee (Female)

Pokemon Sword and Shield Gym leaders

Pokemon Sword and Shield differences: Allister & Bea

(Image credit: The Pokemon Company)

Another aspect of Pokemon Sword and Shield that will have some slight differences is with the gym leaders. There are two sets of Pokemon Sword and Shield Gym Leaders that will change according to which version of the game you have:

Stow-on-Side (Badge number four)

Pokemon Sword: Fighting Type Gym Leader, Bea
Pokemon Shield: Ghost Type Gym Leader, Allister

Chirchester (Badge number six)

Pokemon Sword: Rock Type Gym Leader, Gordie
Pokemon Shield: Ice Type Gym Leader, Melony

Pokemon Sword and Shield Max Raid Battle encounters 

(Image credit: Nintendo)

The new co-op multiplayer mode Max Raid Battles see up to four players take on a Dynamax Pokemon in the Wild Area. But on some rare occasions, you may encounter a Gigantamax Pokemon. During specific periods of time, there'll be an increased chance to meet a Gigantamax Pokemon, and which version you have will have a part to play regarding the Pokemon you may meet. 

The official Pokemon website has revealed that from November 15 - January 2020, Pokemon Sword players are more likely to encounter Gigantamax Drednaw, while Pokemon Shield players have a higher chance of encountering Gigantamax Corviknight. The Pokemon you may encounter are set to change over time for both versions. 

Still trying to be the very best? Here's how to soft reset Pokemon Sword and Shield. Once you're done with this adventure, you should look into Pokemon Legends: Arceus, and the upcoming Pokemon Scarlet and Violet

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Sam Loveridge
Global Editor-in-Chief, GamesRadar+

Sam Loveridge is the Global Editor-in-Chief of GamesRadar, and joined the team in August 2017. Sam came to GamesRadar after working at TrustedReviews, Digital Spy, and Fandom, following the completion of an MA in Journalism. In her time, she's also had appearances on The Guardian, BBC, and more. Her experience has seen her cover console and PC games, along with gaming hardware, for a decade, and for GamesRadar, she's in charge of the site's overall direction, managing the team, and making sure it's the best it can be. Her gaming passions lie with weird simulation games, big open-world RPGs, and beautifully crafted indies. She plays across all platforms, and specializes in titles like Pokemon, Assassin's Creed, The Sims, and more. Basically, she loves all games that aren't sports or fighting titles! In her spare time, Sam likes to live like Stardew Valley by cooking and baking, growing vegetables, and enjoying life in the countryside.

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