It’s no secret that Pokemon is one of my favourite video game franchises, where Pokemon Red was one of, if not the first game I ever played when I was a child. Over the years, the series has grown and evolved with each new piece of hardware. In today’s post, I wanted to take a walk down memory lane and give my own personal ranking of the mainline games.
8.) Gen 7 – Sun & Moon/Ultra Sun & Moon
My spot for the worst mainline entries has to go to the Sun and Moon games. If I’m being honest, I hardly enjoyed these ones at all, due to various reasons. The biggest issue, was perhaps just how much hand-holding the game did to the player, where you were constantly being told exactly where you needed to go, with next to no exploration. This would be a returning problem in its successor. Also, it was by far the easiest game in the series, where pretty much every trainer you met rarely had more than two Pokemon (most had just one). I also found the new Pokemon designs to similarly be the worst batch. Overall, while the setting was decent enough, the series continued to be heavily simplified and made painfully easy.
7.) Gen 8 – Sword & Shield
The first mainline entries on a home console have begun with a whimper. The possibilities with the much stronger hardware were huge, yet Sword and Shield ended up being a big disappointment. While I loved the Galar region as a setting, its overall design was weak and uninspired. The game featured far less routes than previous games, whilst also making each of them almost completely linear and short, with no off-the-beaten paths. There was no dungeons, only two, very short caves, and a couple of equally linear woods. There was pretty much no exploration at all in the game, despite the fact that nearly all previous games had much more to explore. The story was tacked on at the end and the post-game was also ridiculously minimal. The Wild Area was similarly bland, lacking content and exploration. A strong point of the game was definitely the Pokemon designs, which easily rank as one of the best sets. If there was one word to describe Sword and Shield, it would be lazy.
6.) Gen 6 – X & Y
The first games on the 3DS were pretty solid entries in the franchise and the best of that era (excluding remakes). The French inspired Kalos region was a beautiful setting, with varied landscapes for you to explore. The brand new Pokemon-Amie feature allowed you to interact with your team like never before, where you could grow the bond with your pokemon to receive various perks. Furthermore, Mega Evolution remains the best new addition the series has ever introduced. It did have its downsides, such as the weak Team Flare and forgettable champion. It also began the franchise’s decline in difficulty, opting for increased simplifications and lack of real challenge.
5.) Gen 5 – Black & White/ Black & White 2
If there’s one thing that makes the Black and White saga stand out, it’s the story. This was really the only entry that felt like Game Freak put effort into making a real narrative. Team Plasma’s apparent motives of “liberating Pokemon,” was surprisingly compelling, while the character N remains the series’ most developed individual. Other hights include some great Pokemon designs (looking at you Larvesta), and the last time the mainline games offered a real challenge. The region’s overall design was a weak point though, which was pretty linear in design, although it still offered plenty of room for exploration in caves, dungeons and other areas. It’s worth mentioning that this was first time there was a proper sequel that continued the narrative, whilst offering many new locations. They were overall, great games.
4.) Gen 1 – Red, Blue & Yellow/Fire Red & Leaf Green
Now I know what you’re thinking, there was a lot of broken mechanics in the original games. While this was certainly true, there was just so much to love about these entries, coupled with the fact that they began the biggest media franchise of all time. Kanto remains such an iconic setting in video game history, not just for the Pokemon franchise. Who could forget Pallet Town, Viridian Forest, or the creepy Lavender Town. The original 151 Pokemon remain the best in the franchise, while the music was equally brilliant and memorable. The Game Boy Advanced remakes not only ironed out the mechanical failures of the original, they were able to retain the style of those originals as well. I love these games, but their flaws do hold them back from being in the top three.
3.) Gen 4 – Diamond, Pearl & Platinum
It was really hard to choose the positions for these last three games, as they are all excellent in their own right. However, for my number three spot, the Gen 4 games sit confidently in that position. Beginning the DS era of games was no easy feat, and they succeeded in nearly every aspect. Sinnoh was a well designed region that had an interesting layout, where the only issue came from the requirement to have so many HM’s to move through Mt Coronet. The Distortion World in Platinum was such a unique area, that was a blast to traverse. For me, these games also had the greatest Champion in the entire series, Cynthia. She was easily one of, if not the most difficult, while her battle theme was epic.
2.) Gen 3 – Ruby, Sapphire & Emerald/Alpha Sapphire & Omega Ruby
This might be a controversial pick, but generation 3 was such a brilliant set of games. The Hoenn region offered the greatest variety of locations and ways of traversal. These include beaches, forests, deserts, the open seas, underwater, islands and more. It introduced the revolutionary double-battles, which would not only be great for the single player going forward, but also the online scene. Contests would be another brand new, optional activity that would breath new life into the formula. It’s a shame they weren’t explored much more later in the series. The new set of Pokemon were great, where one of my favourite evolutionary lines (Trapinch, Vibrava and Flygon) was created. One downside was the curious removal of the day-night cycle, although this returned in Diamond and Pearl. The 3DS remakes also added further improvements, such as the ability to glide across the map to reach brand new areas on Latios/Latias.
1.) Gen 2 – Gold, Silver & Crystal/Heart Gold & Soul Silver
There are so many things that are great about generation 2. It is often people’s favourite in the series (Heart Gold and Soul Silver especially), and for good reason. It’s partially due to the Johto region itself, which is great for the most part, if a bit too linear. However, it was the fact that after completing the main region and beating the Elite Four, you could then travel back to Kanto and gather the eight badges there. After all this, you could then fight the secret boss, the protagonist from the first games, on top of a mountain. It was the ultimate callback and such well crafted fan service. The game was also pretty challenging, where particularly tough fights were the gym leaders, Whitney and Claire. The DS remakes managed to improve upon what was already a phenomenal game, adding quality of life improvements, an expanded story and the fun, “Pokemon Olympics.” Heart Gold and Soul Silver will go down as one of my top 20 games of all time.
Thanks for reading! How does my ranking match up with yours? Let me know in the comments. For all things gaming, stay tuned to Honest Gamer.
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