Ranking the best Pokemon games is a recipe for trouble. Does your list focus solely on the core series, eight generations of Pokemon games that have featured on Nintendo's handheld consoles across four decades? Or does it extend to some of its superb spin-offs, such as Pokemon Go and Pokemon: Let's Go, Pikachu? What about 1998's Pokemon Trading Card Game on the original Gameboy, is there a place for that too?
After much consideration, we've settled on the former, sticking exclusively to the core series which kicked off with Pokemon Red and Blue in 1996, and most recently birthed Pokemon Sword and Shield in 2019. We now look ahead to Pokemon Legends: Arceus, and Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, but, in the meantime, here are the best Pokemon games available right now ranked from worst to best.
8. Pokemon Sun and Moon
Pokemon Sun and Moon is like going on a tropical Pokemon-themed holiday. It’s vibrant, bright, and offers a slightly different experience than you're used to. The Alola region was nice breath of fresh air for the series, since it really changed up the setting and reflected its theme in its unique Alolan Pokemon variants. But, isn't wasn't all sunshine and sand. Some of the Alolan designs are quite unforgettable, although we’re pretty sure everyone will remember the mighty Alolan Exeggutor for the rest of their days. The change from the typical gym battles was odd too, and made Sun and Moon felt a lot slower to get going than the earlier games. Plus, it's very light on the post-game content after you finish the main campaign. This doesn’t mean its a bad entry in the Pokemon series by any means, and it’s certainly more accessible for newcomers in certain respects - it just lacks the same feel. Pokemon Sun and Moon's lush world and interesting story are still worth working your way through, and it also has nice features that build on what was established in X and Y, including tons of character customisations options, and more of a social aspect.
7. Pokemon Black and White
Pokemon Black and White is a little bit of an odd duck in the main series. It often gets overshadowed by other entries thanks to its less memorable Pokemon designs, but it’s maturer tone and interesting plot still help it stand out in the line-up. As the only game to get a direct sequel with Black and White 2, the fifth generation of Pokemon puts more of an emphasis on its storytelling, and plays around with the concept of right and wrong. The antagonists in this one aren’t so clearly as nefarious as Team Rocket always seem to be with their tail cutting habits and treatment of Pokemon. Instead, Black and White features Team Plasma, a group that believe Pokemon should be allowed to roam free and not be tied down by a trainer. It throws up quite a compelling dilemma with no obvious cut and dry answers. This version also has some graphical enchantments over Diamond and Pearl, with more appealing sprite animations in battle.
6. Pokemon Diamond and Pearl
When you compare them with the other games in the series, Pokemon Diamond and Pearl didn’t do anything too groundbreaking to really shake things up. One notable thing it did do, however, was bring Pokemon trading into the modern age. Instead of using a cable link, it made use of the Nintendo DS' WiFi connectivity to trade Pokemon with other players. While some new features did come into play too, most of them built on those that were already introduced in Ruby and Sapphire. Before the enhanced Platinum version came along, the animations had a habit of slowing down the battle sequences, which made the pacing feel a bit off. It does also deserve some credit for its story: the evil Team Galactic conduct science experiments to try and take control of the Legendaries in the Sinnoh region in some rather weird ways, but it’s not as gripping as other stories we get to experience.
5. Pokemon X and Y
Pokemon X and Y took Pokemon into the world of 3D on the Nintendo 3DS and let us experience its universe like never before. It was a significant change from the other titles that came before it, and felt like it truly marked the start of a new era for the long-running franchise. The charming sprites of yesteryear turned into gorgeous 3D models on the handheld, which elevated the battle sequences to new animated heights. The Pokemon-Amie system was also introduced for the first time, which lets you interact with your Pokemon companions and form bonds with them. It was a welcome touch that finally let you pet and play with your favourite battling buddies. X and Y also brought in a lot more customisation, allowing you to change the look and style of your trainer. While it is only cosmetic, it added to the role-playing element of the experience in a fun way. X and Y propelled the series forward and laid down the groundwork for what was to come in Sun and Moon. It also introduced yet more interesting Pokemon, including the addition of the fairy-type, as well as new social features. While it isn't quite as good as some of the earlier games, it’s one of the best looking entries in the franchise so far, and will always be notable for transitioning the main Pokemon series into the realm of 3D.
4. Pokemon Sword and Shield
Pokemon Sword and Shield was one of the most anticipated games of 2019, and with good reason. As the first entry in the core Pokemon series to land on Nintendo's hybrid console, Sword and Shield opened us up to the world of Pokemon like never before. The Galar Region made for a delightful setting based on the UK, and it's easy to sink several hours in its expansive Wild Area catching all the roaming Pokemon and uncovering everything it has to offer. The Galarian form designs also nodded to aspects of the UK, and getting to bond with all the critters using the new camp feature was a welcome touch. In our review we said it's a "Pokemon game for a new generation," thanks to some of the more accessible features it introduced, allowing new players to ease into the formula we know and love. While it might be a touch easier than other entries in the series, Sword and Shield offers a fantastically memorable experience with a cast of colourful characters and Pokemon. And it's easily the best-looking Pokemon game to date.
3. Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire
While a lot of formula remained unchanged, Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire took the series into a vibrant world of colour on the GameBoy Advance. The Pokemon sprites popped from screen like never before, and the magical start up screen is hard to forget. It was also the first Pokemon game to introduce a lot of elements and features that continued throughout the series. 2v2 double battles popped up for the first time, and Pokemon were also attributed with different Natures which affected their overall stats. An extensive list of new abilities were also first introduced in this entry, which were specific to different types - this really added more depth to the battles compared to the games that came before. Contests were also brought in to add new challenges to the gameplay. The Hoenn region was a great setting, and the Legendary Pokemon Groudon and Kyogre - who could summon a specific weather element into battle - were very memorable. Since Ruby and Sapphire built upon what Silver and Gold established without veering off into any drastic new direction, it didn’t feel quite as special.
Several years after its release in 2003, an updated edition followed in the shape of Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire.
2. Pokemon Red and Blue
Going back to where it all began, Pokemon Red and Blue set us on the path to be the very best, like no one ever was, and we haven’t looked back since. The world of Kanto still feels just as magical as it ever did, and the original 151 Pokemon are the most memorable in the franchise’s history for their wonderful designs. Who can forget the classic starter Pokemon, Bulbasaur, Squirtle, and Charmander? The first games captured our imaginations and made us wish with every fibre of our being that we could really be trainers in the real world. Thankfully, Pokemon Go helped us get closer than ever to realising that dream, but you still can’t quite beat the classic Pokemon experience. The Gameboy graphics have a nostalgic charm you don’t quite get with the later entries, and it’s still very playable to this this day, which is a testament to just how good it is. While it established the long-running series we all know and love, it doesn’t quite make the top spot.
The delightful Pikachu Edition Pokemon Yellow - that enhanced the classic games with everyone’s favourite electric mouse - was just the icing on the cake.
1. Pokemon Gold and Silver
After Pokemon Red and Blue put the world into a Pokemon frenzy, the sequel had some big shoes to fill. Fans everywhere for eager for more, and thankfully Silver and Gold delivered just that in the best way possible. Bigger and better than before, the second generation introduced 100 excellent and memorable additions to the Pokemon library, along with two new Pokemon types, and a whole host of new moves. It brought in some interesting new features that changed up the game in fun new ways. Introducing a day and night cycle added time-specific challenges, and brought in some Pokemon that could only be caught at certain times of day. Silver and Gold still had all the hallmarks that made the first games so enjoyable, but it expanded the experience to cement itself as the superior Pokemon game. And better yet, when you reach the end of the game, you get to unlock the Kanto region from Red and Blue which allows you to revisit all of the gyms and trainers. Silver and Gold was a giant leap forward for the franchise, and nothing has quite compared to it since.
Pokemon Crystal then came swooping in as a shiny enhanced remake of Silver and Gold, and it's especially notable since it was the first ever Pokemon title that let you decide whether you want to play as a boy or a girl. Thankfully this became a mainstay feature in every game that followed.