What are the best Pokémon games? Ranking such awesome games proved a lot more difficult than we first anticipated, given how many of them end up being among the best games of their particular generation.
We deliberated for many hours here at Nintendo Life Towers to decide the order of these turn-based RPG collectathons. We then popped all of the pros and cons and nostalgia into a pot, gave it a big stir, and waited for the result to reduce to the spicy list you see below.
To be clear, this is just the mainline entries – the games that introduced a new generation of Pokémon to the mix, their sequels, and the ultimate versions of those games. And yes, Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee! is included; after all, it is a mainline Pokémon game in the same sense that all of the remakes are. If Pokémon Ultra Sun and Moon, Pokémon Crystal, or Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are fair game for the list, Let's Go is fair game! You won't be finding Pokémon Smile, though.
So, read on for where each of the mainline Pokémon games sit in our ranked order, from the less good to the very best of the best.
If this list has made you feel all warm inside about the series, then feel free to redress the balance with this list of 11 times the Pokémon series was really evil. Kinda.
Pokémon Diamond & Pearl is the first DS entry in the monster-collecting franchise, and it introduced a bunch of new features. For the first time ever, you could play over the internet and battle other trainers globally, or use DS Wireless to play locally. Other new features include increasing the times of day from three to five, a revamp of the moves system, and, of course, a brand new generation of monsters.
So far it all sounds pretty positive, so why does it sit at the bottom of this list? Well, the general gameplay flow wasn't really changed all that much from its predecessors, and both the visuals and audio were a little disappointing at the time. It's still an excellent game – as all mainline Pokémon games are – but the lack of a gameplay revamp and the underwhelming audio-visual aspect did hurt it somewhat.
Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon suffer from similar issues to Diamond & Pearl. This is an expanded version of the seventh generation Sun and Moon, and includes new story elements, Ultra Beasts, and new forms for the Legendary Pokémon Necrozma. Alongside all of this is the ability to surf, take photos with your Pokémon, and to collect Totem Stickers.
There are definitely some nice new features there that provide more of what you love from Sun and Moon, but it's not enough to bump it above the other mainline Pokémon entries.
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Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire were the first entries in the franchise to grace the Game Boy Advance, and introduced double battles, allowing each trainer in a battle to fight with two Pokémon, and multi battles, which saw two teams of two trainers battle each other.
The Pokémon themselves were also changed up a little bit, with each species now having innate abilities like being immune to certain moves. Each individual Pokémon also had a nature, which affects the statistics of that Pokémon directly.
Next up is Pokémon X and Y, the first Pokémon pair for Nintendo 3DS. It introduced the sixth generation of Pokémon, fully 3D visuals for the first time in a mainline Pokémon game, and allowed you to completely customise your trainer's appearance.
Other exciting new additions include the ability for certain Pokémon to Mega Evolve temporarily into a more powerful form, battles that take place in the sky with flying Pokémon, and Horde Encounters, in which you can take on five Pokémon at the same time.
Pokémon Yellow is the ultimate version of Pokémon Red and Blue. You automatically started with Pikachu as your starter Pokémon, which was given a voice and personality, and followed you around on the overworld map. Over time, your Pikachu would react to your actions, and its feelings for you would change. There was also a brand new surfing minigame in which you could surf on Pikachu's back.
We feel like Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu and Let's Go, Eevee! does enough to beat Yellow, the first attempt to create the ultimate version of Red and Blue, but isn't quite up to the remake standards of FireRed and LeafGreen. But that's okay – Let's Go was designed to help ease in the brand new audience brought in by Pokémon GO to the core games ahead of the latest entry Pokémon Sword and Shield.
It's also likely that a few of the quality of life features will make it into future games too, like catch combos, being able to see the Pokémon you can catch, and perhaps some form of motion controls.