Best Pokémon Games Ranked - Every Pokémon game from worst to best

Since its debut in 1996, Pokémon has become the world’s biggest franchise. Starting with the primitive Red and Green in Japan, PokéMania has stayed strong for over two-and-a-half decades. But with 20 games in its mainline series alone, what is the best Pokémon game?

For this list, we’ll look at every major entry in the Pokémon franchise since its release. Across nine franchise generations, and five console ones, we’ll see just which PokéAdventure is the master.

Of course, you might not agree with our list, and that’s completely fine. After all, every Pokémon trainer has their favourite entries, and ours are likely to differ from yours. However, this is our take on the franchise. Anyways, onto the list!

Pokémon Red and Green

Pokémon Red and Green Game Boy box arts
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The first release the franchise ever had, Pokémon Red and Green are Japan’s debut Pocket Monsters games. While absolutely groundbreaking upon release, and still infinitely replayable, the first release of Pokémon has a lot of issues.

Firstly, Red and Green are substantially worse than Red and Blue, the American and European versions of the games. The games are notoriously buggy, even more so than the Western release, but they’re still great games.

The worst part of Red and Green is its balancing, an issue that plagues every release of Kanto before Fire Red and Leaf Green. Psychic-type Pokémon completely break the game, having no weaknesses and being one of the only types to take advantage of Special Attack stats.

Nevertheless, Red and Green are instant classics. They forged millions of childhoods and they’re still great games, especially if you’re easily swayed by nostalgia.

Pokémon Red and Blue

Pokémon Red and Blue box arts
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Technically separate releases, Red and Blue are mostly the same as their Japanese counterparts. Nevertheless, there are some noticeable differences. For example, a healthy dose of bug fixes, some mild censorship and massively improved sprites that actually look like Pokémon.

Despite this, Red and Blue still suffer from the overpowered nature of Psychic types. Pokémon Red was the first game I ever owned — so it does hurt to put this so low — but, objectively, it’s not the best Pokémon game on this list. In fact, it’s one of the worst.

Pokémon Yellow

Pokémon Yellow logo and fat classic pikachu sprite
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The final Gen 1 release on the original Game Boy, Pokémon Yellow started the series’ iconic “third entry” trend that has only just been buckled. Released in 1998 in Japan, the “Special Pikachu Edition” is the only mainline game to be directly inspired by the anime.

In Yellow, you have a Pikachu for your starter, just like the anime’s protagonist Ash Ketchum. Furthermore, your rival has an Eevee which will evolve differently depending on how you play.

Other changes include the ability for Pikachu to follow you in the overworld, battling Jesse and James, the addition of Officer Jenny and Nurse Joy and redesigned sprites to resemble the official Sugimori designs.

Pokémon Diamond and Pearl

Pokémon Diamond and Pearl box arts showing Dialga and Palkia
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Since the release of the Kanto games, Pokémon has come a long way. By the time of the DS, Pokémon has filled its Pokédex with over 330 different creatures. But for all its advancements, the initial releases of the franchise’s fourth generations were rather unsatisfying.

While the game itself is fun with intriguing new locales, fan-favourite characters and awesome new monsters, Diamond and Pearl and slow and meandering. The Sinnoh region itself is awesome, but the way you move around is mind-mumblingly slow.

Battles play out slower than they ever have before with one-hit KOs taking longer to deplete than the bar from Pointless. Even surfing is slow! You’ll also have to deal with some of the worst encounter rates in the franchise’s history when filling out the Pokédex. Yes, we’ve all searched for Munchlax, and we all hated it.

With that said, Diamond and Pearl are still fun games, and we’d still recommend them, albeit not at their current pre-owned prices.

Pokémon X and Y

Both legendary creatures from Pokémon X and Y
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The first 3D mainline Pokémon games, Pokémon X and Y are important entries in the long-running RPG series. Bringing the franchise late to the Nintendo 3DS, X and Y saw a huge shift in focus for the franchise.

Set in the region of Kalos, X and Y feel rather unfinished. Areas are cramped and small, its story feels rushed and it never really gives the region of Kalos any time to shine, but it’s still a fun time.

By far the best part of X and Y is the addition of Mega Evolutions, a sadly abandoned mechanic that gives powerful Pokémon even more powerful forms. While not every Mega Evolution is a hit — Mewtwo Y is foul — there are enough cool evos to make the mechanic worthwhile. Will it ever come back?

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl

The keyart for the remake games Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl
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Controversial remakes of Diamond and Pearl, the most recent Pokémon remakes are hated by a large number of fans, and we can see why. Typically, Pokémon remakes bring old regions in line with modern designs, but BDSP are straight 3D conversions of their original counterparts.

The game’s art style isn’t as strong as it could be, and its changes and additions aren’t anything to write home about. However, it changes to game speed make it at least more palatable to replay than the original versions.

Furthermore, new additions such as the revamped underground are far superior to the original version. Nevertheless, it’s small improvements here and there, and the original’s style is far better than this playmobil rip-off.

Pokémon Gold and Silver

The box arts for the 3DS versions of Pokémon Gold and Silver Game Boy games
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The first true sequels to Pokémon Red and Blue, Gold and Silver kept the PokéMania momentum going into the new millennium. A massive expansion of the franchise, the sequel introduced heaps of new Pokémon, an all-new region and brand-new mechanics.

Gold and Silver are brilliant entries and some of the best Game Boy RPGs around. The journey throughout Johto is a huge improvement from Kanto, adding more mysteries and lore than the original ever had.

Locations such as the Ruins of Alph and the Bell Tower are unforgettable additions. Even Goldenrod City, the region’s biggest haven, is a vast step up from anything seen in the original Kanto games.

On top of that, finishing the Johto region also gives you access to all of the original Kanto region as well. Furthermore, finishing Kanto lets you fight Red, the first game’s protagonist, on top of Mt. Silver in the most epic battle the series has ever had.

Pokémon Crystal

Pokémon Crystal Box Art showing legendary Pokémon Suicune
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Just like Pokémon Yellow, Crystal is mostly the same as Gold and Silver. However, a number of major additions have been made that allow the game to stand above its original counterparts.

For starters, Crystal is the first Pokémon game to allow you to select a gender, allowing anyone to play as a female trainer, known as Kris (Crystal). Furthermore, Pokémon are now animated, bopping around when encountered.

Nevertheless, it’s mostly the same game as before but slightly improved. It may not be the best Pokémon game ever made, but it’s certainly the best Game Boy Pokémon game. 

Pokémon Sword and Shield

Pokémon Sword and Shield keyart
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Not the newest game on this list, Pokémon Sword and Shield are unfortunately controversial titles in the long-running franchise. The first true generation on Nintendo Switch, these fairly new releases are great games, but not the best Pokémon games around.

The region of Galar feels like a prototype for what a traditional Pokémon game could be on the Switch. Split between typical routes and the wide-open Wild Area, Sword and Shield often feel at odds with itself. This is even seen with its graphical quality; some bespoke cities look gorgeous whereas the Wild Area looks bland and lacks detail.

Nevertheless, Sword and Shield is a fun game, and while it may be too easy, Dynamaxing your Pokémon into huge stadium-filling beasts never fails to hype us up.

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet

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The most recent Pokémon game is a controversial title, to say the least. Scarlet and Violet are still fresh in everyone’s minds. While the games have been lambasted for their technical issues, they’ve also been praised for their clever advancements of the Pokémon gameplay loop.

Moving the series into its first true open-world gameplay, Scarlet and Violet is close to being a true Pokémon adventure like we can see in the anime. While it’s clearly unpolished and rushed, it has a charm that no other game in the series has.

At this point in time, it’s uniqueness is a large part of its ranking on this list. It’s far from the best, but also not as bad as the controversies say it is. Furthermore, playing a Pokémon adventure in true multiplayer is a far more enjoyable feature than many fans have given it credit for.

Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee

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Another unique title on this list, Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee are a set of Kanto remakes that drastically change up the series’ traditional gameplay. In this title, you’ll play through the typical Kanto journey while catching Pokémon in the same way as Pokémon Go.

It’s a far more relaxed game than a typical Pokémon adventure, and it’s more designed around shiny hunting than any other game in the series. Furthermore, it’s by far the best-looking mainline game on the Nintendo Switch.

While its simplistic gameplay loop may not be for everyone, the Let’s Go games are fun and unique titles that every fan should play. If you’re a Kanto nostalgia-nerd like us, there’s a lot of fun to be had here!

Pokémon Fire Red and Leaf Green

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The first GBA Pokémon games are unforgettable, but they’re far from the best in the series. As the first proper remakes of the Kanto region, Fire Red and Leaf Green are fantastic games in the series.

A marked improvement over the original games, Fire Red and Leaf Green fix a lot of issues with their original counterparts. While there were some complaints back in the day about remaking Kanto mere years after its debut, these are some of the truest Pokémon titles around.

Despite its positives, Fire Red and Leaf Green don’t overhaul Kanto enough to make it an instant play against any other version of the region. Furthermore, there’s still one more way to play through the region that isn’t on our list yet.

Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire

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For many, these are the Pokémon games that defined a childhood. Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire are truly monumental games in the series, creating one of the best regions the series has ever seen.

The region of Hoenn does rely a bit too heavily on water-type creatures, but the region itself is beautifully varied. From treetop villages to ashen volcanos, Hoenn has the varied world of a true JRPG.

Of course, as much as I adore the look of original Hoenn, there are better versions of this region.

Pokémon Platinum

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The best version of the original Sinnoh games, Pokémon Platinum is the definitive version of the fourth generation. However, it also makes marked improvements over its predecessors which make it one of the best Pokémon games around.

Alongside new Pokémon, updated colours, better balancing and new areas, Platinum also fixes the region’s biggest issue: speed. Thankfully, Platinum is a much, much faster game than Diamond and Pearl ever were.

Additionally, the third game also adds the Distortion World, one of the coolest set pieces in Pokémon history. While this may not be the best Pokémon game, Platinum will always be one of my favourites.

Pokémon Sun and Moon

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A breath of fresh air in the Pokémon franchise, Sun and Moon was the first game in the series to move away from the traditional Pokémon formula.

The tropical region of Alola, inspired by Hawaii, is a colourful and vibrant locale. Due to its more relaxed nature, the game abandons the series’ traditional gyms for trials. However, there are battles with trial captains that replace normal gyms.

Sun and Moon also removed mega evolutions, instead using the far less cool Z Moves. However, a decent number of regional forms did lessen this blow.

Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon

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The final Pokémon entries on 3DS, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are decent expansions of their original counterparts. An expanded Pokédex, minor story changes and new mechanics, USUM is the the best version of Alola by far.

Despite this, there are not enough new additions to really make these games a must play. While they do make the originals rather redundant, they’re still fun 3DS games.

Pokémon Emerald

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The final GBA Pokémon game, Pokémon Emerald is a great expansion of the original Ruby and Sapphire. While only featuring minor changes, this is still a must-play game in the series.

Emerald sees the series’ first introduction of the Battle Frontier, a brilliant post-game addition that allows you to fight a ladder of trainers. Furthermore, you can now rematch trainers and gym leaders, letting you spend even more time in the game.

While it’s not the most feature complete Pokémon title around, Emerald is a truly great addition to the franchise.

Pokémon Legends: Arceus

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Technically a high-budget spin-off, Legends: Arceus is so close to being the Pokémon journey we’ve always wanted. Focused on the discovery of Pokémon, you adventure through ancient Sinnoh, cataloguing creatures through catching. 

In this Pokémon game, you can sneak up on a Pokémon and catch them without battling. Furthermore, powerful, larger Alpha Pokémon are available for you to catch and use in battles.

While battles are still in the game, complete with new mechanics, most of the game is focused on your Pokédex. If you’re interested in the franchise merely for collecting creatures, this is the game for you.

Pokémon Black and White

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Inspired by America, Pokémon Black and White brings players to the unique region of Unova. Stripping out all previous Pokémon in favour of an all-new Pokédex, a point of contention at the time.

However, the first Unova game is saved by one of the best stories and characters in the entire series alongside a brilliant overworld. While it may not be as graphically impressive as later games, Black and White’s world still feels as alive as any RPG has.

Pokémon Black and White 2

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Almost the best Pokémon games of all time, Black and White 2 are all-time greats in the franchise. A true sequel of Black and White, these games are some of the biggest and best games the series has to offer.

The game’s massive Pokédex is fully animated, giving us the best 2D battles the series ever had. Furthermore, truly smart AI make battles truly challenging for one of the only times in the entire franchise.

What makes Black and White 2 truly great is its perfect post game. Absolutely chock-full of content, finishing the main story is far from the end. There’s no nostalgia here: Black and White 2 are just that good.

Pokémon Heart Gold and Soul Silver

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Gorgeous remakes of the Johto Game Boy games, Pokémon Heart Gold and Soul Silver are damn near perfect experiences. Taking everything great about Johto and dialling it up to 11, these remakes are almost the best Pokémon games ever made.

Not only is Johto here in a new and improved form, but so is the entirety of Kanto. As the only version of Kanto to be remade in DS graphics — surprisingly — this is a welcome treat.

Heart Gold and Soul Silver take everything great about the original Johto games to create a near-perfect package. If fighting Red on top of Mt. Silver was cool before, you’ll die of excitement playing it here.

On top of being a fantastic remake, HGSS also lets any Pokémon follow you around, a returning feature that some modern games still don’t do properly. Nevertheless, it’s here and it’s fantastic; just like the rest of the game.

Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire

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3D remakes of Ruby and Sapphire, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are top-tier Pokémon games. While some may disagree, the ORAS remakes mark the top of the quality bar for Pokémon releases.

Not only do these remakes perfectly recreate some of the best games in the series, but they do so with enough new additions to make them feel like completely different experiences. It has the Hoenn charm without being just a simple retread.

For example, the ending of ORAS sees you riding a Mega Rayquaza into space in order to fight Deoxys. Can you get any cooler than that? No, you can’t, and that’s just one of the reasons this remake takes the top spot.

Even if ORAS isn’t your personal best Pokémon game, you can’t deny it’s a fantastic entry in the series. It has everything you could ever want… except the battle frontier… that’s still coming…

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