Generation VII - Sun, Moon, Ultra Sun, and Ultra Moon

Image: The Pokémon Company

Get in the bag, Nebby! Gen VII does not lack creativity. A Hawaiian-themed quest to defeat the leaders of four islands packed full of colourful characters (including the hottest Pokémon Professor), a foundation for sick Pokémon accidentally summoning extradimensional beasts into the region, and a villainous team equal parts bumbling and endearing, we can’t say Pokémon Sun and Moon wasn’t entertaining. Sure, Hau isn’t the most interesting or nuanced rival, and the themes of family shown through Lusamine and her children fall as flat as a Stunfisk, yet we couldn’t help but to enjoy the wild ride.

The sequels, Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, change little in the way of plot; Necrozma features more prominently in it, but that’s about it. The true addition came in the post-game with the interdimensional invasion of Team Rainbow Rocket, a mega-villainous team made up of all the bosses of previous Generations. It didn’t keep us on the edge of our seat, but it was a fun little side-story that showcases some of our favourite villains.

Still, we much prefer our Pokémon adventures to be a little more grounded.

Rank: B for Blacephalon

Generation II - Gold, Silver, and Crystal

Image: The Pokémon Company

Gen II and its remakes deserve endless praise for packing Kanto into the postgame. It does not, however, deserve the same for its plot, yet we’d argue it fared a little better than Gen I in two key areas. First, the red-haired rival Silver has more nuance than Gen I’s ButtFace. From quite literally stealing and abusing Pokémon to coming to understand how to care for and treat them with kindness, he ranks high on our list of best rivals simply because he goes through legitimate character growth. Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver also reveals Giovanni abandoned him as a child, giving weight to his initially cruel demeanour.

Second, the subplots, such as stopping Team Rocket’s Slowpoke tail trade, getting Jasmine medicine to cure her Ampharos, and the lore behind the Bell Tower and the three Legendary beasts (which get more screen time in Pokémon Crystal), make Johto more memorable.

Unfortunately, everything to do with Team Rocket never pays off, despite hinting at a return of Giovanni. We hope one day – Pokémon: Let’s Go Togepi anyone? No? – Game Freak rectifies this.

Rank: B for Blissey

Generation III - Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald

Image: The Pokémon Company

Gen III hit a sweet spot when it came to plot, despite ditching an antagonistic rival for the meeker Wally. Hoenn’s highlight comes from the warring villainous teams, Magma and Aqua. While not particularly interesting in their own right, clashes with these bad guys felt more impactful than previous games as they strove to reawaken Kyogre or Groudon. And the climax, when Rayquaza descends from the heavens to tell Kyogre and Groudon to chill, ranks high as one of the most awesome moments in Pokémon history.

Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire’s Delta Episode added a bizarre but not unwelcome post-game story about – stay with us here – stopping a meteoroid housing Deoxys from crashing into the Hoenn region by riding Rayquaza into space. Steven, Wally, the repentant villainous bosses, and newcomer Zinnia receive some welcome closure to their arcs despite the ridiculousness that ensued.

Rank: A for Aggron

Generation V - Black and White, Black 2 and White 2

Image: The Pokémon Company

Gen V succeeds in every metric where other Generations failed. The mysterious N and his goal to liberate Pokémon from people made an alarming amount of sense, and we’d argue this gentle pseudo-antagonist has more characterization than any other character from all the Pokémon games. Ghetsis, the puppet-master pulling the strings of Team Plasma, also makes for a formidable primary antagonist. Throw in the fact that Cheren and Bianca, the two Unovan rivals, go through as much if not more character growth than Silver while reinforcing Pokémon Black and White’s poignant themes through their own struggles, and you’ve got our pick for best Pokémon narrative.

Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 picks up two years later, and while it never reaches the height of its predecessor, seeing the continued growth of Cheren and Bianca, taking down Team Plasma once and for all, and the return of N, makes it more engaging than most of the games on this list.

Rank: S for Samurott

Pokémon games don’t need an award-winning narrative to make for a good game, nor do they need complex characters for us to spend hundreds of hours playing them. Yet still, we sincerely hope the three stories coming to Scarlet and Violet take after Gen III and Gen V, introducing memorable characters that go through legitimate character growth before the adventure is through, along with a villainous team or two worthy of both our understanding and our ire.

But what do you think of nearly 30 years of Pokemon narratives? Vote in the poll below for your favourite, and let us know what you want for Scarlet and Violet’s story in the comments.

Poll: Which Pokemon generation has the best story?