Is there such a thing as a “bad” Pokémon game? It could be argued that the latest Pokémon Scarlet and Violet titles have their problems, but nearly every entry in Game Freak’s franchise is beloved in some way. That makes picking the best ones both highly subjective and extremely tricky, but we feel these are the top 10 Pokémon games.
Tip: learn how to play games with a Nintendo Switch emulator on Windows.
1. Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow
Platforms: Game Boy and Game Boy Color (available on the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console)
Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow hold a special place in the hearts of many gamers. As the original trio of games that started the Pokémon phenomenon in the late 90s, they laid the foundation for one of the most successful and enduring multimedia franchises. Pikachu is a more famous mouse than Mickey! These games introduced the basic gameplay mechanics and world design that have since been refined and expanded in later iterations. The simple, yet addictive, formula of capturing, training, and battling with the titular creatures has resonated with millions of players around the world, creating a sense of nostalgia that’s hard to match.
- Opportunity to experience the 151 original Pokémon and the regions that inspired later games
- Still a massively addictive and fun game
- Graphics dated by modern standards
- Music gets old FAST
Good to know: if you don’t have the right Nintendo hardware to experience these classic games, you can still get that authentic handheld feeling with a modern handheld emulation console.
2. Pokémon Gold/Silver/Crystal
Platforms: Game Boy Color (available on the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console)
Pokémon Gold, Silver, and Crystal are significant milestones in the evolution of the Pokémon franchise, building on the foundation laid by the original Red, Blue, and Yellow games. As the second generation of the series, these titles introduced 100 new Pokémon, expanding the total roster to an impressive 251. In addition to the new creatures, these games also brought several innovations that would become staples of the franchise, such as the introduction of a real-time day and night cycle, breeding mechanics, and new types, like Dark and Steel.
- Some of the meatiest classic Pokémon games with a 30-hour main campaign
- Pokémon Crystal features Kris, the first-ever playable female character in the core series
- One of the more challenging generations regarding game balance
- Modern players could find the battles a little slow
3. Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are masterful remakes of the third generation of Pokémon games, originally titled Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire. Released for the Nintendo 3DS, these enhanced versions of the beloved classics breathe new life into the Hoenn region with updated graphics, fresh gameplay mechanics, and the introduction of Mega Evolutions. These are also my all-time favorite Pokémon games!
- Best of both worlds: a nostalgic journey through the Pokémon world and modernized adventure packed with exciting new elements
- Updated story that will give new experiences to fans of the originals
- Some of the more linear games in the series
- Features such as Mega Evolutions may make the games too easy
Tip: Pokémon even has its own Pokémon TV app for Nintendo Switch. Check out more non-game apps for the console.
4. Pokémon FireRed/LeafGreen
Platforms: Game Boy Advance
Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen are exceptional remakes of the original Pokémon Red and Green games, revitalizing the classic adventure for a new generation of fans. Released on the Game Boy Advance, these remakes expertly combine the charm and nostalgia of the first generation with updated graphics, enhanced gameplay mechanics, and the addition of new content. By striking a delicate balance between preserving the core elements that made the original games so memorable and incorporating features from later generations, FireRed and LeafGreen offer players a fresh and engaging experience that remains true to its roots.
- More palatable version of the original Game Boy titles
- Post-game content offers something new, even for hardcore fans of the originals
- Still as linear and basic as the original games
Tip: the Game Boy Advance has one of the best game catalogs of all time, many of which can’t be played anywhere else. Luckily, there are many excellent GBA emulators for almost every platform.
5. Pokémon Diamond/Pearl
Platforms: Nintendo DS & Switch (Remastered)
Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, the fourth generation of Pokémon games, really pushed the franchise forward in terms of both gameplay and technology. Released for the Nintendo DS, these games fully utilize the system’s capabilities, featuring updated graphics, an engaging touchscreen interface, and innovative online functionality.
- The new and expansive Sinnoh region introduces 107 new Pokémon, bringing the total to an impressive 493
- New gameplay mechanics, such as the Physical-Special move split and the introduction of the Global Trade System
- Online features of these games no longer work
Note: Diamond and Pearl have both been remastered as Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl for the Nintendo Switch.
6. Pokémon Black/White
Platforms: Nintendo DS
Pokémon Black and White were bold and innovative, with a fresh experience that challenged and reinvigorated the series formula. This fifth generation of Pokémon games introduces players to the Unova region, a land inspired by the New York City metropolitan area, brimming with a diverse array of locales and an entirely new set of 156 Pokémon.
- Brings a more mature and complex narrative that explores themes of truth, ideals, and the ethics of using Pokémon in battles
- Deliver a unique and engaging experience that respects the series’ legacy and pushes it in a new direction
- During the main storyline, only new Pokémon from the Unova region are available
- After completing the main storyline, there is limited post-game content
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7. Pokémon X/Y
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
Pokémon X and Y stand as a landmark entry in the Pokémon franchise, marking the series’ transition into the realm of 3D with style and finesse. As the sixth generation of Pokémon games, X and Y whisk players away to the stunning Kalos region, a vast, France-inspired landscape teeming with beauty and charm. These titles introduce a host of new features, including 72 new Pokémon, customizable trainer avatars, and the exciting Mega Evolution mechanic. With its fully-rendered 3D graphics, enhanced battle animations, and an immersive overworld, Pokémon X and Y usher the series into a new era while retaining the core elements that have made it a beloved staple for decades.
- The first truly modern games in the series, recommended for any modern player
- Exciting, well-paced gameplay
- No real sidequests or post-game content
- Performance issues on original 3DS hardware
- Doesn’t really use the 3D feature of the 3DS much
8. Pokémon Sun/Moon
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
Pokémon Sun and Moon represent a bold departure from the traditional Pokémon formula, ushering in a wave of innovation and revitalizing the series for a new generation. Set in the vibrant and diverse Alola region, inspired by the culture and geography of Hawaii, these games infuse the franchise with a renewed sense of wonder and exploration. The seventh generation of Pokémon games introduces 81 new species and a unique mechanic known as Alolan forms, which give classic Pokémon a fresh look and new typings. Sun and Moon also break away from the series’ staple gym battles, replacing them with the inventive Island Challenge Trials and grand battles against powerful Totem Pokémon and Island Kahunas.
- New region that looks and plays like nothing before in the series
- Awesome tropical takes on classic Pokémon
- Slow starter (but worth it!)
- Like X/Y, Sun and Moon really grinds on 3DS original hardware
The Best Unofficial Pokémon Games
The world of Pokémon fan games is a thriving and creative landscape, where passionate developers and enthusiasts reimagine and expand upon the beloved franchise. Some of the best unofficial Pokémon games pay homage to the original series and introduce fresh mechanics, captivating stories, and inventive concepts that breathe new life into the Pokémon experience. Among these fan creations, Pokémon Uranium and Pokémon Insurgence stand out as exceptional examples of the innovation and dedication that drives the fan game community.
Tip: even if you’re playing these fan Pokémon games on a PC, you can still make it feel like an official game by using console-specific controllers.
1. Pokémon Uranium
Pokémon Uranium is an ambitious project that took nine years to develop, resulting in a polished and expansive game that rivals its official counterparts. Set in the Tandor region, this fan game introduces over 150 new fan-made Pokémon and a gripping story that explores the consequences of nuclear energy on the environment and the Pokémon world. With features like an online trading and battling system, a refined battle interface, and even a new Nuclear type, Pokémon Uranium showcases the creativity and passion of its developers, offering a unique and engaging experience that both pays tribute to and expands upon the franchise.
- Fresh new ideas packed into a nostalgic package
- Strong challenge made by fans who are aiming at experienced players and not younger audiences
- Not officially endorsed or supported by The Pokémon Company or Nintendo
- Difficult for players to find and download legally because of takedown requests due to copyright concerns
2. Pokémon Insurgence
Platform : PC
Another standout fan game, Pokémon Insurgence, transports players to the conflicted and mysterious Torren region. Boasting a darker and more mature narrative, Insurgence explores themes of rebellion, cults, and the struggle for power in a Pokémon world. With its intriguing plot, impressive sprite work, and a slew of additional features, such as secret bases, online battles, and the ability to catch almost all Pokémon from previous generations, Pokémon Insurgence delivers a fresh and immersive experience that pushes the boundaries of what a Pokémon game can be.
- Darker, more mature story compared to the official Pokémon games, with cults and a mysterious force threatening the region
- Introduces Delta Pokémon: alternate versions of existing Pokémon
- Same legal and quality concerns as Uranium apply
- Game’s darker and more mature storyline may not appeal to all Pokémon fans, particularly younger players
Good to know: expand your Steam library by adding non-Steam games. We detail the process for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between a regular Pokémon game and its "third version" or enhanced edition?
A “third version” or enhanced edition of a Pokémon game is an updated version of a pair of games from the same generation. These updated versions typically feature expanded content, improved gameplay mechanics, and new story elements. Examples include Pokémon Yellow for Red and Blue, Pokémon Crystal for Gold and Silver, and Pokémon Platinum for Diamond and Pearl.
What are the different generations of Pokémon games?
The Pokémon games are divided into distinct generations, each introducing new regions, Pokémon species, gameplay mechanics, and storylines. The main series games in each generation are as follows:
- Generation I: the Kanto Region (Pokémon Red, Green, Blue, and Yellow)
- Generation II: the Johto Region (Pokémon Gold, Silver, and Crystal)
- Generation III: the Hoenn Region (Pokémon Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald)
- Generation IV: the Sinnoh Region (Pokémon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum)
- Generation V: the Unova Region (Pokémon Black, White, Black 2, and White 2)
- Generation VI: the Kalos Region (Pokémon X and Y)
- Generation VII: the Alola Region (Pokémon Sun, Moon, Ultra Sun, and Ultra Moon)
- Generation VIII: the Galar Region (Pokémon Sword and Shield)
- Generation IX: the Paldea Region (Pokémon Scarlet and Violet)
How do trading and battling with other players work in Pokémon games?
Trading and battling with other players are essential aspects of the Pokémon experience. In the main series games, players can connect with one another via a link cable, local wireless communication, or online to trade Pokémon and engage in battles. Trading allows players to complete their Pokédex and obtain Pokémon that are not available in their version of the game, while battling provides an opportunity to test their skills and strategies against other trainers.
Image credit: Sydney Butler
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