Top 25 best Pokemon games ever, ranked
For 27 years, Pokemon games have captured the hearts of minds of players both young and old. The diverse portfolio of titles is extensive and exhausting. So, we’ve gone through every title and picked out the 25 absolute best Pokemon games ever, and ranked them too.
From a business, cultural, social, and entertainment standpoint, Pokemon is just about as influential as any. TV, movies, games, toys, collectible cards, you name it, Pokemon has done it a hundred times over. 1996 was the inception of the franchise, and it’s since gone on to bring in over $100 billion across all of its media.
Its video games have certainly accounted for a lot of this. There are believed to be well over 100 Pokemon games in existence and they have comprised half a billion copies sold. So, narrowing down the absolute best and ordering them is no mean feat.
However, we feel it can be done. Without further ado, let’s run through the top 25 games in the series and see if we can rank ’em all!
Best Pokemon games of all time, ranked
25. Pokemon Let’s Go, Eevee! & Pikachu!
Pokemon Let’s Go, Eevee! and Pikachu! were the first Pokemon titles to grace the Nintendo Switch in November 2018, and are straight remakes of 1999’s Yellow for the Game Boy Color.
Unlike any other entry in the series, they used GO’s ring format for catching monsters – which were fully visible in the overworld for the very first time. Also, the refreshed graphics make Let’s Go one of if not the best looking Pokemon games ever made.
Whilst unique it’s clear that these games were designed strictly for Pokemon GO players and ended up alienating core fans as a result. They’re too easy, lack depth, and try too hard to pander to Generation 1 fans.
24. Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl
Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl are “faithful” remakes of the original Diamond & Pearl DS titles. Set in the Sinnoh region, you’re tasked with saving the world from Team Galactic and its evil leader Cyrus.
While it does keep many aspects of the originals, there’s also new content like an overhauled Grand Underground, a new HM mechanic, the ability to walk with your Pokemon outside their Poke Ball, and a lot more.
Despite introducing some interesting new features, these Generation 4 remakes didn’t do the originals justice. The overly simplistic visuals and missing key content such as the Battle Frontier and Distortion World make it difficult to enjoy.
23. Pokemon Masters EX
Pokemon Masters EX is the franchise’s take on gacha, a unique genre of games where players rely on random rolls to acquire characters they like. With Pokemon having so many fan-favorite companions and characters it’s a natural fit.
Masters EX did get off to a rough start when it launched in 2019, but developer DENA has since implemented a range of quality-of-life improvements. The experience is now F2P friendly and offers a significant amount for players to do.
Admittedly, the very existence of Pokemon Masters EX is controversial given the gambling connotations of gacha, and that Pokemon is a franchise that has mass appeal to children. Even so, it’s a fun enough game that has its audience.
22. Pokemon Unite
Pokemon has never been afraid to try out new genres and that’s no more evident than with Unite. Pokemon Unite offers an easier entry point into the MOBA genre for those looking for a simpler and more streamlined experience than the likes of DOTA or League of Legends.
If treated like the extremely casual and laid-back experience it’s intended to be there’s a surprising amount of fun to be gotten out of Pokemon Unite. However, it suffers from serious balance and gameplay issues that prevent it from offering any serious competitive value.
Furthermore, the MOBA formula doesn’t lend itself well to a controller, and even less so mobile. The genre was always built on the back of mouse and keyboard and converting that to controller has proven difficult. Despite its flaws, Unite is a decent game that some Pokemon fans will enjoy.
21. New Pokemon Snap
The original Pokemon Snap game offered a wonderful chill experience where players could see wild Pokemon in their natural habitat. Over twenty years on and we finally got a sequel and it didn’t disappoint.
New Pokemon Snap continues right where its predecessor left off, letting players explore various levels to take exciting photos of Pokemon. There are all sorts of secrets and hidden areas to find, but it’s the relaxing nature that really sets apart this spin-off from other Pokemon games.
While a great game it’s hard to rank this too high on the list as it’s quite limited in scope. The story doesn’t last that long and while the visuals are solid they aren’t as impressive as some other Switch exclusives. This is still a strong entry though that is well worth playing at least once.
20. Pokemon Red, Blue, Green & Yellow
For convenience, we’re bundling the entirety of Gen 1 together as they function much the same just with each installment having slight variances.
Released in 1996, Pokemon Red was where it all began. These classic titles were Pokemon’s earliest entries introducing the very core mechanics that have gone on to define the series. From type match-ups to catching Pokemon, it all began here.
Although obviously important to Pokemon’s history, the original games are rough to play these days. They are flawed, buggy, and generally outclassed by their successors. Even so, it’s hard to not respect these games as they are both franchise and genre-defining entries.
19. Pokemon X & Y
Like Sun & Moon, Pokemon X & Y also released on the 3DS – this time in October 2013 in the West. It brought trainers to the Kalos region and introduced 72 new species with Generation 6.
It paved the way for future games in the series, as it was the first set of titles to use an eight-directional grid when walking instead of four and allowed players to move diagonally for the very first time. It also introduced Mega Evolution, a mechanic that was sadly dropped in later titles but it remains a fan favorite.
Although X & Y are reasonable installments, they suffer from being too easy, having dismal post-games, and lackluster characterization. The last point is unfortunate given that these games followed Generation 5 which has some of the franchise’s best characters.
18. Pokemon Colosseum
This Nintendo GameCube classic Pokemon Colosseum was arguably one of the best games on the system, throwing players into the Orre region to reclaim Shadow Pokemon from the clutches of the evil Team Cipher who were closing off ‘mon’s hearts to shut off their emotions.
Not only was the story absolutely phenomenal, but the battles felt immersive and fleshed out for the time. It wasn’t like the Game Boy Advance titles where Pokemon moved slightly when hit – they actually fully performed moves and reacted when hit.
And we gotta give credit where credit’s due: Miror B made the game 100 times more fun. If you know, you know.
17. Pokemon GO
It’s hard to deny that Niantic’s Pokemon GO hasn’t changed the mobile gaming space since its release for iOS and Android back in July 2016. In fact, the Nintendo collaboration reached a billion global downloads in early 2019, and a whopping $3 billion in revenue.
Being able to play the beloved franchise on your phone while on the move is a heavy seller for many, and it’s understandable that the idea of seeing your favorite monsters “in real life” would excite even the toughest of trainers.
The game is constantly being updated too, with many new events, Community Days for the chance to catch rare monsters, and special tasks added throughout the year. It’s by no means a traditional Pokemon game but it serves well as a casual game to play on the move.
16. Pokemon Crystal
Debuting in 2001, Pokemon Crystal refined the experience offered by Gen 2’s opening entries, Gold and Silver. These games focused on taking what made Gen 1 so popular and building on it to create the best Pokemon game yet.
This generation saw the arrival of several key features including a playable female trainer, sprite animations, vibrant colors, breeding, and farmable berries. It also introduced two new types and held items that still play a huge role in battling to this day.
Unfortunately, much like Gen 1, Crystal can be a little tricky to enjoy at times these days. It holds up better than Red & Blue but still suffers from its terrible level curve, underwhelming Pokedex, and while having two playable regions sounds exciting Crystal’s rendition of Kanto leaves a lot to be desired.
15. Pokemon Sword & Shield
Released in November 2019 for the Nintendo Switch, Pokemon Sword & Shield brought a new region into the mix – Galar, which is based on the United Kingdom – as well as a new Dynamax and Gigantamax battle feature.
With the addition of the Galarian Pokedex, players saw hundreds of new monsters added to the mix, and new special regional forms for familiar favorites such as Ponyta, Corsola, and Weezing.
Unfortunately, Sword and Shield will probably be remembered more for the Dexit controversy that saw the National Dex cut entirely and hundreds of Pokemon become unobtainable for the first time in a mainline entry. Even so, these were fun enough entries that are fun to revisit from time to time.
14. Pokemon Sun & Moon
Transporting Kanto Trainers to a location loosely based on Hawaii, Pokemon Sun and Moon saw players take on trials in the Alola region, in place of the traditional Gym battles known throughout the series.
The Pokedex also got an upgrade and was replaced by the Rotomdex – an actual Pokemon in the form of the infamous guidebook. Plus Z-Moves allowed Pokemon to nuke each other once per battle creating some spectacular animations in the process.
All in all, these are solid entries that offered something new to a series that was badly in need of it. They do suffer from pacing issues with the early game being especially slow, something that its sequel would later fix.
13. Pokemon Ranger
Some fans criticize Pokemon for being stale and lacking innovation. However, this series has its moments of releasing truly unique games that offer an experience like no other. Pokemon Ranger is the perfect example of this being one of the DS’ best games.
Ranger tasked players with catching Pokemon using a unique circle drawing mechanic using the DS stylus. It worked extremely well and did a fantastic job of selling the Nintendo DS’ unique selling point, its touch screen.
Unfortunately, this series has more or less been killed off with the Switch not having a touchscreen suitable for such gameplay. Even so, we hope that this incredible spin-off title can make a return one day in some form.
12. Pokemon FireRed & LeafGreen
As mentioned previously, Gen 1 is an iconic yet flawed generation that can be frustrating to play. Yet that doesn’t mean there’s not a good way of enjoying Kanto in 2023. Pokemon FireRed & LeafGreen are Gen 1 remakes released in 2004 that fix most of the original’s problems while keeping their charm.
Just about every notable update from Gen 2 and 3 made its way into FireRed & LeafGreen. GameFreak also added the Sevii Islands, Vs. Seeker, expanded the story, plus much more. So much more in fact that this article would go on for another 1,000 words if I listed everything.
For those wanting to enjoy Kanto at its best look no further than these gems. They are a great example of what a remake should be like and we can only hope that future remakes are more like this and less like Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl.
11. Pokemon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire
2014 saw the release of the remakes of 2002’s hit Game Boy Advance titles, Ruby and Sapphire. Aptly named Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, they brought the 2D pixel game to the modern era on the Nintendo 3DS.
One of the main selling points for Pokefans was the ability to Mega Evolve Pokemon, a mechanic carried over from X & Y. Several iconic Generation 3 Pokemon were given Megas including the starters, Altaria, Salamence, and Rayquaza.
Speaking of Rayquaza, the Delta Episode post-game was a highlight with the nostalgia finale with Deoxys being a treat for long-term fans. It’s just a shame that ORAS cut the Battle Frontier which was one of Emerald’s most defining features.
10. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky
Although critics weren’t overly fond of Explorers of Sky on release it remains a fan favorite amongst the Pokemon community. This 2009 DS exclusive was the enhanced version of Explorers of Time & Darkness, bringing several new features to the iconic roguelikes.
Explorers of Sky saw the introduction of lookalike items, additional Pokemon, Shaymin Village, Spinda’s Café, four new starters, and the Special Episodes. The Special Episodes were particularly popular as they expanded the narrative with emotional backstories and redemption arcs.
To this day Explorers of Sky is considered one of the best story-focused Pokemon games ever made. It may not be to everyone’s taste but for those it resonated with this was an instant classic.
9. Pokemon Black & White
Pokemon Black and White for the Nintendo DS arrived in the West in March of 2011, and they have consistently been dubbed as having one of the best storylines in the entire series. Set in the Unova region, players are pitted up against Team Plasma – a fiendish group hellbent on causing destruction.
150 new Pokemon were introduced in the game’s Gen V Pokedex, making it the largest addition to the roster at the time since 2002’s Ruby and Sapphire for the Game Boy Advance.
With wonderful sprite work and possibly the series’ best story to date there are a lot of reasons to play Black and White. However, it loses points for locking out all past generation Pokemon until the post-game and having so many lazily designed Pokemon that added little to the roster.
8. Pokemon Scarlet & Violet
Pokemon Scarlet & Violet are regarded as game-changers for the Pokemon franchise, mainly because they’re the first truly open-world games in the series, but also because they broke records on release.
Set in the Paldea region, the games give you the freedom to go wherever you want to at your own pace. There are three main storylines – Gym Battles to win, Titan Pokemon to defeat, and Team Star Leaders to take down – and loads of post-game content that make it incredibly engrossing.
Its performance issues at launch were bad and made it harder to enjoy what is clearly an otherwise strong entry. The transition to open world gameplay is huge for Pokemon and the Area Zero post-game was nothing short of breathtaking.
7. Pokemon Black 2 & White 2
Returning to Unova in 2012, Pokemon Black 2 and White 2 were the sequels to B&W on the Nintendo DS. Set two years after the events of their predecessors, the games opened up new locations and added three Gym Leaders, as well as a brand new Champion.
Like the first titles, the post-game added sections that were inaccessible previously, such as the Skyarrow Bridge, and the Battle Institute. They received a user score of 7.7 on Metacritic, and a critic score of 80, as people had mixed feelings about returning to the Unova region.
Having a direct sequel is fantastic and it’s a shame Game Freak hasn’t tried this again. Unova was always a region full of personality, great storytelling, and wonderful characterization so it makes sense to build on that. They didn’t add much gameplay wise but Black & White 2 are still some of the best entries.
6. Pokemon Platinum
The definitive game of Gen IV, Pokemon Platinum brings Diamond & Pearl together and bundles them up into an excellent experience.
Set in the Sinnoh region, it follows the player as they try to save the world from the clutches of Team Galactic boss, Cyrus. The story is filled with twists and turns that keep you entertained every step of the way.
Platinum offers a wonderful blend of effective storytelling, an iconic elite four, and solid gameplay that does little wrong. Plus the additions of Looker, the Distortion World, and various quality of life improvements made this the definite Generation 4 title.
5. Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness
Set five years after the events of Colosseum, Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness focuses on a new Trainer called Michael who vows to thwart Team Cipher in their plans to achieve world domination.
Not only are there new Pokemon to purify but Shadow Lugia also plays a massive part in the story, and the game’s final showdown is one of the best events in the entire franchise – it’s THAT epic.
With it being 17 years since its release, fans are crying out for a remake or remaster of the two GameCube games, and we’re right there with them! Please, Nintendo.
4. Pokemon Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon
Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon saw the return of the Hawaii-inspired Alola region in November 2017 – this time with an alternate storyline to its predecessors.
Five new Pokemon and a handful of Z-Moves were added, as well as improvements to the Rotomdex such as it growing affectionate towards the player, and being able to obtain items through the Roto Loto – a feature that gave the creature extra powers.
These are fantastic examples of how to do an enhanced version with Ultra Sun & Moon fixing a lot of the original pacing issues, expanding on Ultra Beasts, and introducing a legitimate end game in Ultra Warp Rides..
3. Pokemon Legends: Arceus
Pokemon Legends Arceus was the shake-up that many Pokemon fans had been waiting for. The semi-open world game takes players back in time to an ancient Sinnoh known as the Hisui region, where they’re tasked with surveying distinct environments to create the first Pokedex.
What made this spin-off so exciting was the way you could interact with wild Pokemon. Sneaking up and catching creatures on the go, running away from dangerous Alpha Pokemon that wouldn’t hesitate to attack you, or simply observing each species in its natural habitat was incredibly refreshing.
This is one of the best entries in Pokemon and proves that Game Freak is still capable of genuine innovation when it tries. It’s not the prettiest game but that’s forgivable since the gameplay loop and story are so memorable. Hopefully, we see more Legends games in the future that build on Arceus.
2. Pokemon Emerald
Like Platinum is to Gen IV, Pokemon Emerald is the better version of Gen III. Not only does it include the Battle Frontier, but you can also catch Rayquaza.
There’s not just one villainous team, either: both Team Aqua and Magma fight to assert dominance and wake Groudon and Kyogre up, meaning players have twice the work if they want to save the Hoenn region.
Though we added Omega Ruby and Sapphire later down this list, it’s hard to argue that the nostalgic charm of Emerald’s 2D graphics and the midi-style soundtrack doesn’t deserve to give it a high spot – almost top, but not quite there.
1. Pokemon HeartGold & SoulSilver
Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver are the 2010 Nintendo DS remakes of the 1999 Game Boy Color Gold and Silver games, which introduced Generation 2 for the very first time.
It retells the story of the Johto region and actually opens up to Red, Blue, and Yellow’s Kanto region in the post-game, making it a giant compared to recent games in the series like Sword & Shield which just has a handful of small events after the main story.
These are the most complete games in the Pokemon series to date, offering a ton of content to do, legendaries to catch, and the most epic conclusion seeing you battle Red on top of Mt. Silver. These are incredible games that every Pokemon fan needs to play.
That’s everything for our ranking of the best Pokemon games of all time! While you’re here, check out some more Pokemon content below:
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