Pokémon. It’s a series that’s hugely popular around the world, and it’s been around a long time. I’ve made it no secret that I’m a huge fan of the series.
Several changes have been made throughout the life of the franchise, whether they were minor (think PokeMarts being moved to inside the Pokecentres), or major (3D models replacing sprites).
Today, I’d like to talk about my favourites and least favourite generations based on these changes and other factors. Seeing that I’ve played at least one game in each generation, I feel like I’ve experienced enough of what I like and dislike about each one to make an informed, valid opinion.
Obviously, there’s going to be bias here. And I’m not saying that this is definitively right or wrong, it’s just my opinion. If my seventh place choice is your favourite or vice versa, that’s awesome- and I totally understand.
Also, we’re only talking main series this time. No side-games, console entries, or fan games/rom hacks.
Let’s do this.
Seventh Place- GEN 6
Games: X/Y, Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire
This is a controversial generation, mostly because of the drastic changes to the identity of the series. Gone is the birds-eye camera. Gone are the sprites. It became more of a visual experience to play Pokémon, and though it looks fantastic here (and continues to look fantastic in the following generation), I personally prefer the sprite art. Whether it’s through nostalgia or not, I’m not sure (I grew up with Generations 1 and 4), but I simply prefer the expressive sprites to the models that often look a little too plain to me. (Except for Growlithe and Arcanine, who’ve never looked better.) I also found myself bored with the majority of the music, with only one standout in each X/Y and Omega/Alpha.
That’s not my real issue with Gen 6 however. The real problem is the campaigns. They’re way too easy and short, especially considering the series’ past. An experienced player can likely complete X/Y in 30 hours, and Omega/Alpha in 20. That’s absurdly short, considering I put over 200 into Pearl. X/Y also isn’t the most engaging of plots, and other than the improved visuals and ridiculous number of legendaries, there’s no real reason to play the Ruby/Sapphire remakes.
Mega Evolutions are a cool idea, but the animations to get to them are far too long and makes me not want to bother with the mechanic.
That all said, there’s redeeming qualities to this generation. The improved visuals lend themselves to character customization well, and X/Y is an alright jumping on point for new fans. There’s just so many better Pokémon experiences out there.
The Delta Episode was awesome, though.
Sixth Place- GEN 7
Games: Sun/Moon, Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon
A fair amount of what I said about Gen 6 can be put here, but almost everything’s been improved. Alola looks terrific, and the new/redesigned Pokémon of this generation are extraordinary. The music in Sun and Moon is also some of the series’ best.
The bad: Sun and Moon are NOT friendly to veterans of the series. The beginning of the game is way too slow, with the game taking around two hours to get past the tutorial. The game holds your hand way too much even after that. Pokémon will survive hits if their happiness is maxed out because of their bond to you, which I don’t really like. The game will also tell you which moves are super effective and which ones aren’t, which I wish I could turn off. NPC’s will heal your team more often than ever before.
Sun and Moon are also the most plot-driven games in the series, which is okay, but the cutscenes are a problem. There’s way too many unskippable videos where nothing important happens, and it feels like they were just inserted to artificially extend gameplay time at some stages. Even the cutscenes that are important to the story take way too long.
In conclusion, this generation isn’t bad, but I’d change a lot of the direction that the series is trending toward. I haven’t played the recently-released “Ultra” versions of Sun and Moon yet though, so hopefully it gets better.
Fifth Place- GEN 5
Games: Black/White, Black 2/White 2
I feel like this is the only generation I can’t judge quite fairly yet, as I’ve yet to play Black 2 or White 2, which are apparently the definitive games in the generation. Based on Black 1 though, here are my thoughts.
The finale of the sprite art generations! Let’s get the graphics out of the way first, because they have not aged well. The moving sprites look pretty bad, although the majority of them have a ton of personality to them.
That said? I like them better than the models we have now. They could use some polish, and the entire bottom screen is in need of a redesign during battle, but I think I’d have preferred it if they continued down this route then go completely three-dimensional. The overworlds look similarly unpolished, but pretty impressive for the original Nintendo DS.
The difficulty is much more balanced in this generation than the two that follow it, with a campaign that never gets too difficult, but also isn’t something you can breeze through with no challenge.
In battle, things are fast-paced, which I love. Playing through a battle is just a joy, with the animations looking great. I also love the multiplayer system of having items, but restricting it based on the number of turns that have passed.
I also have to talk about the music, which is some of the series’ absolute best. The Team Plasma themes are absolutely excellent, and the atmosphere through Unova is just stellar.
Overall, I think this is a great generation that’s absolutely worth playing. I actually think that it’s a great place to start for new fans as well.
Fourth Place- GEN 1
Dated? Yes. But honestly, it’s a point that’s wildly overstated unless you’re looking for the same stat-based gameplay that Red/Blue’s counterparts hold. Let’s get the not-so-great out of the way first and expand on that for a moment.
The statistic design and balancing in Red/Blue/Yellow is borderline broken. You’re not finding the analytical part of Pokémon in the Game Boy originals. Berries didn’t exist yet, Abilities weren’t a thing, IVs and EVs were far from fleshed out, and items were extremely primitive.
But if you take off the parts of Pokémon that you rely on in sims like Pokémon Showdown?
The result is an entry that’s still a lot of fun, even in 2017.
The cities are well designed, the difficulty is appropriate throughout, and the campaign is engaging and a nice length. The game still has a sense of achievement when you master Silph Co, beat Giovanni for the final time, or become the champion. There’s a fun factor to these games that’s still there today.
The sprites are sometimes really strong for a Game Boy game, and sometimes a complete trainwreck. It has too many glitches. But I still have fun when I go back and replay it. Is it nostalgia? Maybe. But remember, I also grew up with Gen 4, and I still believe Gen 1 holds up.
In my opinion, It’s still worth playing all the way to the end to get Mewtwo, whether you’re a new player to the series or an experienced one. That said, if you are indeed new, there’s a perfect generation for you still ahead in this list.
Third Place- GEN 3
This is when Pokémon started to mature. Abilities were introduced, and the entire statistical part of the game started to become more and more prominent. It’s the definitive way for new players to experience Hoenn (unlike what The Pokémon Company would like you to believe with the remake), and it’s a remarkable journey.
The visuals are great, but the battling is close to it’s best in the series here. The pacing is excellent both in the story and the battles, and the difficulty level is perfect. This is also the first generation to include contests, and the Contest Hall will do an excellent job of eating your spare time.
If I had any complaint about Generation 3, it’s that I’m not a huge fan of the music. It all feels pretty low-energy and I don’t find myself listening to it very often.
The Gen 1 and Gen 2 games have a retro feel to them that may turn off new players, but Ruby and Sapphire don’t in any way. Everything feels incredibly fresh on original hardware, and I highly recommend it.
Second Place- GEN 2
Johto is the best region in the franchise. The design, the locations, and the feel is just phenomonal, whether it’s in the GBC originals or the remakes, which we’ll discuss soon.
It’s a common saying that Gold/Silver is Red/Blue with more polish and battles that aren’t broken. I think The Pokémon Company figured out what worked and what didn’t in between the two entries, and emphasized what worked in the GBC entries. The end result is phenomonal.
The sprites are much improved from Generation 1, the music is just as good with more life to it, and the battles are far more polished. To add to that, after you’re done in Johto, you can experience Kanto again in a situation where time has passed from Red/Blue.
The Pokémon introduced in this generation are also extremely well designed, with many of my favourites owing their existence to these games. (Hello, Umbreon and Tyranitar)
I’d dive deeper into this Generation, but this is close to as good as it gets for the franchise. You can pick Gold or Silver up on the 3DS virtual console.
First Place- GEN 4
Here we are at the absolute best of what the series can offer. Let’s go rapid-fire on why D/P/P is one of the best games and easily the most replayable game in the franchise.
Engaging campaigns, Great region with tons of diverse areas to explore, Safari Zone, Contest Hall, Underground, Battle Tower, huge amounts of postgame content, and great multiplayer.
That’s not even including the great music, fantastic side-missions, excellent visuals, and a ton of well-designed new Pokémon to find and catch.
It’s harder to explain why a video game is good, compared to explaining why one is less than stellar. But Pokémon Pearl is a game I sunk an insane amount of time into, and I believe it’s one of the two best Pokémon experiences you can have, whether you’re new or experienced with the series.
Really, my only complaint with D/P/P is that in-battle, the pace is slower than I would have liked. Everything else is fantastic.
If that’s not a glowing enough endorsement for this Generation, how’s this to continue the praise-
I believe Pokémon HeartGold/SoulSilver is the best entry in the entire series.
Take everything I said about Generation 2, improve the visuals and music, add almost everything great about D/P/P (aside from contests and underground), speed up the in-battle experience, add the fantastic PokeAthlon… and you have these games.
If you like Pokémon even a little bit, add Pokémon HeartGold or SoulSilver to your collection immediately. Then, when you’re finished, go seek out Pokémon Diamond, Pearl, or Platinum. You won’t be disappointed.
That’s the list. Like I mentioned at the beginning, if you agree, that’s awesome. If you’re new to the series, hopefully you love whatever you do decide to pick. If you disagree, that’s cool too! Tell me what order you’d put them in the comments below or catch me on Twitter @PatrickMSports.