Pokémon X and Y are about to release. Many dedicated trainers are playing through past games in the franchise to prepare their team for the sixth generation. Now seems like the perfect time to take a look back and see how each of the five previous generations of Pokémon games compare to one another.
For the purpose of this list, remakes will be left out.
Fifth Place: Pokémon Diamond and Pearl
The move from the Game Boy Advance to the Nintendo DS came not with a bang, but a whimper. Fatigue was starting to set in as a familiar story was told: pick a grass, fire, or water type, defeat eight gym leaders, become the champion of the Pokémon League, and fill your Pokédex. The game’s online play brought the franchise into the modern era of gaming, but did little to leave a lasting impression. Seriously; I can’t remember the region or the legendaries. The games felt that generic. That said, Diamond and Pearl gave us Infernape. For that, I’m thankful.
Fourth Place: Pokémon Black and White, Pokémon Black 2 and White 2
After gen 4, many wondered if Game Freak would be able to breathe some new life into the franchise. I’m not suggesting that Pokémon was endangered; far from it. Still, it would have been nice to see some innovation. While the originals provided a memorable landscape, they still lacked in terms of innovative gameplay or story. The sequels, however, improved on the story aspect of the franchise. The combination of nostalgia, re-travelling Unova, and an intriguing plot combined to help Black 2 and White 2 stand out as the cream of the crop when it comes to the DS games.
Third Place: Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire
In my opinion, this is the visual pinnacle of the franchise. Pokémon looked absolutely beautiful on the Game Boy Advance. Our trainer looked slick, the Pokémon sprites colorful, and the region alive. The starters were well received, and for good reason. It’s also of note that this is the only time I’ve picked a non-fire starter (Swampert for life). However, the most impressive thing about this generation was its ability to move the franchise forward. The area felt bigger, the stakes felt higher, and the battles felt stronger. This was helped by the addition of double battles, which added an additional layer of strategy to the games. While it's not the leap forward that Gold and Silver were, Ruby and Sapphire were still a good forward step for the franchise.
Second Place: Pokémon Red and Blue
This is where it all began. Arguably the most memorable of Pokémon generations, Red and Blue are a massive achievement in not just the franchise, but handheld gaming. The urge to explore the world of Kanto has been relatively unmatched in the video game medium. The desire to connect with friends to battle and trade was, in a word, addicting. You saw someone else’s collection and went “I need one, now!” Still, those Psychic types were just so incredibly strong. Looking back, it’s hard not to realize that the franchise needed more Pokémon, types, and balancing.
First Place: Pokémon Gold and Silver
The cream of the crop. The pinnacle of the franchise. One of the best RPGs ever made.
Gold and Silver are Pokémon perfection. The game’s scope was massive; after completing Johto, you returned to the familiar landscape of Kanto. It felt like home, but felt fresh and new as well. The nostalgia fueled your desire to explore and see what’s changed. The day/night cycle required you to check familiar locations to see who was hiding in the grass.
Yet the biggest reason why these games are the best the series has to offer are the improvements they brought. The new types did a fantastic job of balancing things out. Breeding changed the way we train Pokémon forever. The cellphone has been present in some way/shape/form since. This was a major step forward for the franchise, setting the core for the future. Sadly, it’s the only major step forward the franchise has taken. Still, when the core is this good, it’s easy to see why people still have a desire to catch ‘em all.