Pokémon is now 20 years old, with the celebrations having included a Pokémon Direct and the release of the gen 1 Game Boy titles on the 3DS Virtual Console. It's become one of the most important franchises for Nintendo both commercially and in broader terms, with a popular culture presence and sustained level of success that point to another 20 glorious years.
It's a series that evokes all sorts of emotions and memories, so for this celebration we gathered the thoughts of many of our contributors. Check them out below and then share your own Pokémon memories in the comments.
Joe Merrick - Webmaster of Serebii
As someone who has been with Pokémon from before it even hit the UK, there are a load of Pokémon memories that I have, so it's sort of hard to try and pinpoint the best ones.
One of my favourite memories has to be during Diamond & Pearl's Japanese release. This was before the time of leaks and it came out right in the first week of my final year of university, so I had to really juggle things. The exploration of the games, uncovering Pokémon that nobody had seen before is something that doesn't happen often, especially in this age of leaks, and that is something that I will never forget.
The best Pokémon memory though is all of my interactions with the community. I have often been unable to attend events, but have been able to more and more of late, and the best thing is definitely the community. While there are some toxic parts, when you go to actual events everyone is so nice to each other. Meeting other fans of Pokémon is always the best.
Pokémon to me is just a huge part of my life now and has been through all six generations. While some games are better than others, and some spin-off games are just a torture to play (thanks, Pokémon Dash), it's just something that's always fun to me. Here's to the next 20 years.
Pokémon's appeal will always lie in the real-world connections I've had with people while playing.
As an eager, Game Boy Pocket-toting 10-year-old when Pikachu & co. hit North American shores in 1998, Pokémon made a huge impression on me right from the start. I had read all the previews in Nintendo Power, looked up as much information as I could find on the Japanese releases, and had saved up for months to be able to afford a copy of Blue when it finally released. In fact, my parents were kind enough to let me be late to school on release day morning so that I could be at Toy's 'R' Us first thing to pick up my copy. I was expecting to wait in line and get to retrieve my copy from enormous Charizard- and Blastoise-adorned displays, based on pictures I'd seen of various Japanese game launches, but I ended up being the only person there before opening, and having to ask several times if they had any in the back — no one working the floor had heard of it!
For my 10-year-old self, carefully opening the cardboard pack, popping in the cart, and sitting down for my first taste of what would become a lifelong series of adventures, it absolutely lived up to the hype. But as much fun as I had roaming around Kanto on my own, the best part of Pokémon for me has always been about playing with people. I was lucky enough to have some link-cable buddies at school, and though I was never super into battling, we had a great time trading, sending beloved high-level 'mon on field-trips to friends' games and completing our PokéDexes. We also got pretty into the TCG when it came out, and I actually very happily rang in the millennium by playing Pokémon card matches with my mom!
Since the Red-and-Blue days, Pokémon's become something that I've hopped back throughout my life, and always with someone special. Driven by wistful nostalgia in my senior year of college, I played through SoulSilver on the DS for the first time while my sister played through HeartGold; though we were halfway across the country from each other, we had a blast trading online and texting each other updates on our PokéWalkers' adventures! A few years later, when my fiancée and I were in North Wales, we stumbled across some clearance-priced copies of Pokémon Pearl and Pokémon White in TESCO. We had our 3DSes ready, and that lucky find kicked off a month of Pokémon adventures for us, where we'd sit on park benches exploring Sinnoh and Unova, swapping stories and peeking over each others' shoulders. A few years after that, when Pokémon X and Y launched, we were living in California, and drove an hour to pick up our pre-ordered copies, only to spend the whole night playing on the rug, awestruck by our now-3D monster friends and the brand new world to explore.
So as much as I love the monsters, the music, the adventure, and the JRPG template that introduced me to my now-favourite genre of games, for me, Pokémon's appeal will always lie in the real-world connections I've had with people while playing. Whatever the future holds for the series, I know I can count on sharing it, and I can't wait to hop into the next big adventure with my family and friends!
Ah Pokémon, Pokémon, Pokémon. What would I have done as a child without those games? No seriously, the picture above is evidence of my trusty Game Boy Color never leaving my side - even if I travelled to the other side of the world to Australia!
The Pokémon series was undoubtedly my favourite franchise growing up. I always thought that if I were to have been born 20 years prior to my birthdate and created a video-game brand, it would've been something very similar to the theme of finding and obtaining rare species of creatures in the wild. Not only did I used to enjoy catching bugs as a child, but I often drew my own made-up animals, so when Pokémon did arrive in '96, you can imagine how engrossed I was - it simply hit home. It contained, and to some extent still does, all the ingredients I adore in a video-game brand.
While I'm not as big on the series now due to personally feeling it's shied from its roots (although I have and still will play every main series game), I'm super-stoked about its 20th anniversary later this month - mainly because it, along with Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda figuratively formed my childhood. The memories I have regarding Pokémon are limitless, from catching a shiny red Donphan on a sliver of battery life on a long car ride, to organically discovering Mewtwo as a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Melee and going nuts.
A young traveller with the world at their finger tips – that's the exact thrill the original games provided and what made them so brilliant at the time.
However, the main batch of memories stem from my second favourite game(s) of all time; the second generation games that are Gold, Silver, and Crystal. I've written a feature article on our "Why We're Still Playing…" series, so have a read if you're interested in why I adore these titles so much.
Anyway, Happy 20th anniversary Pokémon, and here's to 20 more!
When I reflect on what the Pokémon series has evolved into over the years, I think of the first generation of pocket monster games released on the Game Boy and the unrivalled sense of adventure they provided at the time. The games, in contrast to other titles available on Nintendo's original handheld, felt limitless. The sheer scale of the journey players embarked on was what made Red & Blue so thrilling.
Setting out in hopes of becoming a Pokémon master, knowing one day you would return with a much greater understanding of the world. Items like the bicycle and various HM such as Surf and Fly only enhanced the sense of adventure.
A young traveller with the world at their finger tips – that's the exact thrill the original games provided and what made them so brilliant at the time. It was a chance for the youth of this era to transport to a digital world where they were free of homework and house chores and could instead focus on the seemingly more difficult task of catching all 150 Pokémon.
After my dad installed a giant, neighborhood-defining satellite dish in our back yard, I spent much of my formative youth manually tuning its positioning, as if I were a NASA engineer in training. Behind me, a 15 foot dish could be seen through my dining room window, loudly swiveling and creaking at each press of my complicated remote. On the other end, a giant, big-screen TV with the dimensions of a swing set displayed whatever I managed to unearth from its scrambled hiss. This routine mostly produced little, until the day I discovered a Mexican television show where people talked about video games.
These fresh, excitable TV hosts reviewed new titles, interviewed gaming celebrities, and ended each episode in games of 4-player Diddy Kong Racing and Goldeneye 007 face-offs, among many others. For me, this show's most impressionable segment would end up being a field piece from what must have been an early-era gaming expo, where a muted interview was being held with someone in a giant, yellow mouse costume. Immediately enthralled, I recall running to my mom to come as quickly as she could. Using a dial-up modem, I discovered the game was set to arrive on September 28, 1998, and soon reserved it at a local store: a red version. I picked it up on launch, alongside a Game Boy Pocket, and even received a blue pouch that featured that same yellow mouse as a bonus.
Ask me today what the original Pokemon is like, and I will regale you with tales of wanderlust. Up for discovery are creepy-crawly caves, an abandoned warehouse, and intense, escalating battles, which in my youthful innocence, brought my heartbeat up through my ears. The accompanying television show, launching alongside the release of the original titles, served as an additional, daily exhibit of the pocket monsters I had discovered that same week. After being confronted with the voice and scale of an Abra or a Venonat in the morning, I would then hurriedly run to school to confirm with my classmates how their depictions matched our mental images. Of course, virtually everyone I knew was also watching and playing along. Identical memories undoubtedly decorate countless childhoods: many fondly, some forgotten, but unmistakably prolific.
As if growing proportional with my fanaticism, the series grew and grew, until it could seemingly grow no more, and yet it still continues on. Now 20 years removed from the purchase of my first Game Boy, Pokemon is now not just a game, but an institution. If you decide to revisit the original titles here on their digital re-releases, or perhaps are even playing them for the first time, it is best to approach them not with just retrograde amusement, but with a similar curiosity and gaiety that established the originals as an important franchise.
Cheers to you Pokémon, for introducing a generation to a world of games and a universe loved globally.
My Pokémon experience started in of all places, a school bus. When I was around six years old, my best friend brought this new toy called a Game Boy Advance that he got for his birthday. He showed me this one game, full of creatures and a world that of which I had never seen before. That game was Pokémon Ruby. Everyday, we would sit together and experience the world of Hoenn, battling trainers with his Torchic and gathering gym badges.
From that point on, the damage had been done and I was hooked. I went home and begged for this thing. It took a while because even though the GBA SP was in full swing, I never received any of the main series GBA Pokémon games, besides the awesome Pokémon Pinball. Then, in 2006, my goal was accomplished with the release of Pokémon Diamond. This was my first adventure in a Pokémon game alone, and was a fantastic experience. My family would go camping every year, and that game became my means to pass the time while relaxing in the wilderness. Beating the Elite Four, catching my first legendary, all of that happened in Pokémon Diamond. I think today my save is logged at 90 hours and I will hold onto that a piece of my gaming history. Also, for the record, my first starter was Chimchar, the best generation four starter hands-down.
Now, every new Pokémon release is a great time for me. Experiencing a new region and new creatures never seen before not only alongside friends, but a flourishing internet community is amazing. After going back and playing the older titles like Blue, Silver, and Sapphire with an experienced mind, I can fully understand why these games captured the hearts of a generation.
It seems crazy to think that Pokémon is only one year older than I am. Despite the fact I missed out on the golden age of Pokémon in the early 2000s, the franchise continues to march along with a huge army of supporters close behind. Cheers to you Pokémon, for introducing a generation to a world of games and a universe loved globally, and becoming a part of my life that I will forever hold in high regard.
I'm one of those people who were fortunate enough to experience the first generation of Pokémon through a child's eyes, since the craze started when I was about 4 or so years old. My introduction to the world of Pokémon was through Pokémon Blue, given to me for my birthday (since it was well known that I loved my Game Boy). As the old line goes: the rest is history. Needless to say I was hooked and played the games as obsessively as any other peer of mine. I stuck with it, too. I played well into my high school years when such "childish" things as Pokémon were unfashionable, and I was playing during my undergraduate years when it was suddenly back in style again. Pokémon has been not only a consistently high-quality experience, but it has also been a way for me to make lasting friendships and meet some amazing people.
Don't count me among the people who think Pokémon needs some sort of "reboot" to freshen things up. I think the series really excels when it shakes things up within the existing formula, like the handling of the regional Pokedex in Black and White. Generation 5 has really cemented its place as my favorite in the series precisely because it threw me into a world with all new Pokémon that I didn't know (in addition to having what I think is the strongest narrative in a Pokémon title and amazing music). I still go back and replay Black and White from time to time just because I like the feeling of "new" that it gives me, much like the original games did.
To this day I remain an avid player. I strategize, plan, hatch eggs for hours on end. I kind of pride myself more on Pokémon theory nowadays than I do on application, meaning I spend more time advising my friends on battle strategies than I do battling myself. We always joke that I'm more of a Pokémon Professor than a trainer, which suits me just fine. The folks in charge of the series have done a great job of making it engaging and deep for all kinds of players, and I think that's why it continues to be so successful. Here's to many more years of battling and training!
Narelle Ho Sang
The folks in charge of the series have done a great job of making it engaging and deep for all kinds of players, and I think that's why it continues to be so successful.
You know those Pokémon toys and trading cards that come in Happy Meals sometimes? I have my share of them. I've also got a Bulbasaur keychain that's seen better days. A strange, misshapen Pikachu squeak toy plush from Chinatown. A Slowbro shirt from Nintendo NYC, and once in awhile, the original Pokémon theme song from the anime gets stuck in my head. Do I have the games though? Not really. But I have the one that matters most: Pokémon Snap.
I know, I know. I can hear the groans, boos and hisses from here. I never quite understand Pokémon's appeal when my friends relay stories about how they grew up with the franchise. Excited talks of their favourite starters are lost on me. I just didn't grow up with Pokémon. I played Pokémon Black some years ago, which was my first real main game and I haven't played another since. I thought it was okay. It wasn't bad. It wasn't great. It didn't appeal to me in the way I was expecting a JRPG to appeal to me. That's probably what part of the problem was - I was expecting something else, and ruined part of the charm of the series for myself.
Pokémon Snap, however, after all these years, is a game I wish they'd make another of, even if it wasn't that great. As much as the main games in the series have passed me by, I love the idea of the Pocket Monsters. Not so much collecting them to fight but I adore their designs. Many of them are adorable and weird, and the regions of Pokémon brim with activity and life. The game spoke to my love of photography, as simple as it was. Getting the best shot was a challenge I wanted to be involved in. But it wasn't just about the 'best' shot. Pokémon is a wild sci-fi fantasy, and I liked Pokémon Snap for being a strange experiment which armed players with a camera to photograph that bizarre wonder. It felt like an outsider's peek into the strange world belonging to the Pokémon, and a different kind of exploration.
My admiration for Pokémon far transcends any other video game series. For me, Pokémon almost single-handedly represents my childhood. If I was to summarise my childhood with 5 or so key words, Pokémon would be one of them. The series had a massive influence on me as a pre-teen and, for a year or so, it took over my life. I'd spend my Saturday mornings watching the Anime, pour my allowance into buying booster packs in the hope of obtaining a rare and elusive card, and the rest of my time allowed me to become a Pokémon Master myself through the wonders of the Game Boy's little monochromatic screen.
One of my most vivid Pokémon memories was of the day (some 15 years ago) that I received the pièce de résistance of my trading card collection. A friend of mine who lived up my street had a shiny Charizard in his collection - at the time, the holy grail of the Pokémon Trading Card Game. When I discovered that this mystical wonders existed a mere 50 yards up the road from my house, I knew then - I had to own it. I frantically compiled a collection of 3-4 of my better cards, hoping that the allure of multiple shineys may coerce him into parting with his wondered possession and marched down the street to propose a swap. I handed over the cards and watched him attentively as he pondered over the proposition. "He's never going to trade", I thought to myself. "Everyone has Machamp, he won't want Machamp…". But to my delight - the deal was agreed, and until my school banned Pokémon cards for good (the killjoys), I felt like an absolute King.
It's moments like this that I look back on fondly. Pokémon not only had the ability to raise my spirits all those years ago, it continues to do so to this day. Remembering those warm summer evenings - sitting out and trading Pokémon cards with my friends will always bring a smile to my face. Pokémon isn't simply a Video Game franchise - to me, and to many others, it was and will continue to be a huge part of our lives for many years to come.