Catch ’em all, fight ’em all, snap ’em all: These are the best Pokémon games

best pokemon games pokken tournament screen
In 1996, a game inspired by the old-fashioned hobby of insect-collecting improbably became one of Nintendo’s biggest franchises. Twenty years later, Pokémon has become its own media kingdom, spawning a long-running cartoon, movies, toys, and a theme park, among other things. Even with all that cross-media success, games are still the backbone of the franchise. With the incredible success of Pokémon Go, and a pair of upcoming 3DS games, Pokémon Sun and Moon on the way, it seems like as good a time as any to examine Pokémon’s long and winding back catalog, and see what they did well and what they did not.

Writer’s note: For the sake of simplicity, the remakes are not included in the rankings.

Ranks 1 through 3

#1. Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal

Although many fans who played the original Pokémon games may swear that the first generation was the best, those games today feel like a rough draft. The series’ second wave of games, Pokémon Gold and Silver, built on that foundation and added several new features that remain with the franchise to this day. New features, such as a day and night cycle, not only made the world feel more organic, but gave players a reason to return to areas at different times.

The addition of 100 new Pokémon led to arguably the best lineup in the series’ history. The new roster added two new Pokémon types, Steel and Dark, which shook up the competitive balance of the game — Dark types added a much needed weakness to Psychic — and expanded the range of character designs. Perhaps the biggest gameplay change was the addition of breeding. Players could breed two compatible Pokémon to produce a new one with the species of the mother and the abilities of the father, allowing dedicated players to create Pokémon with otherwise impossible move-sets. Aesthetically, the second-gen monsters still felt fresh, without resorting to the overly complicated designs that would plague the series’ later entries.

And of course, the second generation games were massive. In addition to Johto, a starting continent with its own collection of cities and gyms, players could eventually return to Kanto, the setting of the first game. This allowed players to return to the classic towns and battle their respective gym leaders. The world of G/S/C was not only massive but deep, with several optional areas and dungeons to explore off the beaten path.

#2. Pokemon Black/White, and their sequels

Five generations in, Pokémon needed to shake things up. Although its visuals had slowly improved with each pair of games, its core structure had not changed: pick a Pokémon, battle through eight gyms and an Elite Four, and thwart a costumed team of villains along the way. Nintendo was already leaning heavily on nostalgia, releasing remakes of both the first- and second-generation games. The series needed new ideas, and it got them in Black/White.

Black/White served as visual jump forward as well as a creative reset for the series. Developer Game Freak made the controversial decision to create an entirely new lineup of 156 Pokémon. Players could not catch or use any classic Pokémon until after beating the Elite Four (essentially the final section of the game). In an effort to add more variety to battles, Black and White introduced triple battles, where two teams of three Pokémon fight at once, and rotation battles, in which each trainer selects three Pokémon and may rotate through them freely. Though neither were used to great effect, they showed Black/White’s commitment to trying new things. All of these features, combined with some of the best character designs since the second generation, made for a fresh adventure.

#3. Pokemon X and Y

The first Pokémon games for the 3DS took full advantage of console’s distinctive features. Not only did these games include 3D environments, but, in a first for the handheld games, the Pokémon were rendered as polygonal models instead of sprites. The game’s setting, modeled after France, is also probably the lushest in the series.

Unfortunately, while it is a very nice to look at, X and Y is one of the shallowest game pairs the franchise. For the most part, players follow a straight path from town to town, cutscene to cutscene, without the strange diversions that past games had. Adding “Flying Battles” (in which only flying Pokémon can participate) and horde encounters (in which multiple wild Pokémon appear) spices things up occasionally, but neither feature feels substantial. Overall, X and Y make some smart decisions to keep the games looking and feeling modern, but a shallow story and setting ultimately leave them feeling hollow.


‘Fortnite’ removes the Infinity Blade weapon after player backlash

Following player backlash over the Infinity Blade weapon's inclusion in Fortnite's battle royale mode, Epic Games decided to remove the weapon from the game completely. It was not limited to a special mode.
Smart Home

Espresso On Demand: The five best Nespresso machines

Most people still trek down to their local coffee shop to get an espresso or a cappuccino, but you don't have to. A Nespresso machine can put coffee shop quality espresso on your kitchen counter.

The best iPhone deals for December 2018

Apple devices can get expensive, but if you just can't live without iOS, don't despair: We've curated an up-to-date list of all of the absolute best iPhone deals available for December 2018.
Home Theater

The best Dolby Atmos movies for your home theater sound as good as they look

If you've got your hands on some sweet Dolby Atmos gear, the next step is to find films that take advantage of it. These are our picks in every genre for the best Dolby Atmos movies currently available on Blu-ray and streaming services.

Trash at 'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate'? Use this guide to train up and get good

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the biggest game in the entire series, and it can be overwhelming for newcomers not used to the universe-colliding fighting game. Here's what you need to know when you're starting.

Here's where Xur is and what he has for wares this week in 'Destiny 2: Forsaken'

The weekly vendor in Destiny 2: Forsaken always brings Exotic weapons and armor, some of the toughest loot to find in the game. Here's everything you need to know to track down Xur: Where he is, when he shows up, and what he's stocking.

Want every suit in 'Marvel's Spider-Man' for PS4? Here's how to get them all

Marvel's Spider-Man features a whopping 33 different suits for Peter Parker to wear as he swings across New York City knocking out baddies. Here are all the suits and how to unlock them.

Everything about 'Red Dead Online', including its new microtransaction store

Red Dead Online will gradually rolled out to Red Dead Redemption 2 players via a beta. We've got all the details about the beta's suite of competitive and cooperative modes, as well as what to expect going forward.

HDR monitors are beginning to have an impact. Here are the best you can buy

HDR isn't the most common of PC monitor features and is often charged at a premium, but the list of available options is growing. These are the best HDR monitors you can buy right now.
Virtual Reality

Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive: Prices drop, but our favorite stays the same

The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are the two big names in the virtual reality arena, but most people can only afford one. Our comparison tells you which is best when you pit the Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive.

Xbox One X vs. PS4 Pro: Which console is more powerful?

Far from cooling down, the console wars are only getting more intense. We compare Microsoft's Xbox One X to Sony's PlayStation 4 Pro to help you decide which premium console is right for you.

Find the perfect weapon in 'Call of Duty: Black Ops 4' multiplayer with our guide

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 has several different guns to choose from in its multiplayer mode, and they're split across multiple classes. Here's a guide to all of them and when you should use them.

New ‘Stardew Valley’ content on the way, as game’s maker freezes next project

Stardew Valley creator Eric Barone said that he will continue working on new content for the indie farming simulator. The developer previously said that he will devote all his time to his next game, but that has been placed on hold for now.

Underwater survival game ‘Subnautica’ free on Epic Games’ online store

The award-winning underwater survival game Subnautica is currently available as a free download on the Epic Games store. The Steam challenger looks to attract players with a new free game every two weeks.
1 of 3