Those who brushed Pokémon Black and White 2 off as simply more of the same at the time were sorely mistaken. On a superficial level the Pokémon games have not changed much, and for good reason; the foundation that was placed way back in Pokémon Red and Blue was incredibly solid and engaging from the off. By adding more around it and tweaking things under the hood, the series has grown far beyond its humble monochromatic origins even if the pace of change is a little more glacial than some would like.
The naming of these entries, their status as the first 'direct' sequels in the franchise, and the fact that they weren't being released on the then-new 3DS console arguably did these games a disservice and masked their greatness. Make no mistake though, these are two of the finest games in the series.
Pokémon Crystal is the perfect swan song to what many fans consider the best generation of Pokémon games and the series' final Game Boy Color entry. It featured a plethora of welcome new features over the base games — including the ability to play as a female character for the first time — plus more things to do, tweaked graphics and UI, and a slight notch up in the challenge department.
Crystal took what Pokémon Gold and Silver did so marvellously and made Johto worth exploring once more – and Kanto for the umpteenth time for that matter. It truly proves that nostalgia is far from the sole factor that makes this game so great to pick up again.
Designated a mainline entry in the series by Game Freak itself, Pokémon Legends: Arceus feels like the result of the developers learning lessons for 25 years, refining the formula, and finally taking the franchise in a new, incredibly exciting direction. Technically it may stumble in places, but with an emphasis on extremely rewarding exploration, addictive catching mechanics, a fine roster of Pokémon and a genuine sense of scale that’s unlike anything in the series, Pokémon Legends: Arceus is up there with the greatest Pokémon games ever made in our book.
Pokémon Gold and Silver have always been a highlight in the Pokémon series and even now, decades since they were originally released, they remain a truly brilliant experience. Perhaps its indicative of the series' slow-and-steady iterative approach, but these games feel just as good as they did all those years ago.
They're fantastic games that evoke warm, fuzzy memories for anybody who played them all those years ago. Updating the original with a gorgeous splash of colour on GBC, adding 100 new Pocket Monsters, and throwing in the entire Kanto region for good measure (thanks, Satoru Iwata), even people who adore the entire series have been known to argue that Pokémon peaked at Gen II.
Pokémon Emerald is the upgraded version of Ruby and Sapphire, and — as you might expect — it was more evolution than revolution. It included some new story elements in the Hoenn region, updated the locations where you could nab certain Pokémon, allowed you to catch a greater pool of Pokémon than in its predecessors and added the Battle Frontier — a competition island you can visit after beating the Elite Four to earn badges, buy items and get new moves to teach your 'mon.
Perhaps a little lacking in 'wow' factor for Poké Fans who had been there from the beginning, Emerald was nonetheless solid entry in the Pokémon canon.
From the new characters to the addition of the Battle Frontier and an enhanced online experience, Pokémon Platinum certainly offered a lot of game for your money back in 2009. Instead of taking the easy way out and adding only a couple of minor things, Game Freak went out of its way to add a ton of worthwhile additions that were enough to warrant a purchase even if you'd previously travelled across the Sinnoh region in Pokémon Diamond & Pearl when they released two years prior. If you're only going to play one Gen IV game, this is the one.
The original Pokémon Gold and Silver games are fondly remembered by Pocket Monster fans all over the world, and with good reason: they introduced features that genuinely evolved the original Game Boy games, such as breeding and an in-game clock (not to mention colour!), features that have become series staples. Add in fan-favourite monsters and these remakes were always going to be well received.
Future games would trickle in additional quality of life features and other innovations, but some would argue it never got better than travelling across the land, searching far and wide in these DS remakes. The Game Boy originals may be a little hard to return to these days, but Pokémon HeartGold & SoulSilver strike the very best balance of nostalgia and that patented catch-'em-all gameplay.
Where does your favourite Pokémon sit in this list? Let us know your Poké-feelings in the comments below, and remember that the list above is dynamic and you can still potentially influence the ranking if you haven't rated your favourites yet.