The Pokémon series will always be one of my favorite video game franchises of all time. I grew up playing Pokémon Red before I fully learned how to read and watched VHS tapes of the anime TV show. Since then I’ve improved my reading skills and better appreciated every new game and generation released. Ranking the entire series was a nearly impossible task, but after thoroughly assessing each game’s Pokémon, stories, villains, gyms and other criteria, here is my list of Pokémon generations from least to most favorite.
#6. Generation 5: Black and White
Putting the fifth generation at the bottom of the list by no means makes it bad, it’s just my least favorite. Black and White and Black 2 and White 2 took more risks than past games, but not everything paid off. Barring trainers from catching any old Pokémon at first set these games apart, but lots of these new creatures are some of the worst in the entire series. Even the starter Pokémon and legendaries aren’t very memorable. It’s as if developer Game Freak looked around the room and made Pokémon out of the first inanimate objects they saw. The conjoined ice cream cones of Vanilluxe, handsy coffin Cofagrigus and sentient gears Klinklang are utterly weird designs. And let’s not forget about Garbodor, the literal pile of garbage.
Team Plasma and the mysterious trainer N had lofty goals compared to the other games’ antagonists. Their mission to liberate all Pokémon from their trainers was grounded and morally gray in a typically black and white world. The first-ever direct sequels in the series, Black 2 and White 2 gave an interesting look at how the Unova region changed after two years and featured new and old characters, cities and gym leaders. This bold move worked well, but mostly for fans invested in the generation’s plot. Story aside, Pokémon games are about catching ’em all, and the atrocious additions in this generation hold it back a lot.
#5. Generation 4: Diamond and Pearl
The fourth generation debuted a lot of really great Pokémon, but besides that Diamond and Pearl were safe and unmemorable entries. Even the sequel Platinum didn’t introduce much else to stand out or be worth playing. These games showed signs of the Pokémon formula growing a little too stale and in need of fresh changes. This generation of Pokémon was the last to be able to recapture some of the classic appeal of most of the earlier games’ creatures. Diamond and Pearl had some highlights, like Infernape, Garchomp and Lucario, and they created lots of evolutions and pre-evolutions of Pokémon from prior generations. However, most of these Pokémon have annoying evolution methods, like holding specific items or knowing certain moves.
Diamond and Pearl suffer from an overload of legendary Pokémon. I’d say only half of them are interesting, like Dialga, Darkrai and Giratina but the others are forgettable. Having Pokémon that can control space and time and created the universe seem a little too all-powerful compared to other legendaries. Their lore and Team Galactic’s plan to destroy the Sinnoh region and remake the universe are a tad too cosmic and grandiose for the series. It’s a drastic change from the maniacal, but mostly harmless villains from the other games. This was also the first Pokémon game to appear on the Nintendo DS, but it wasn’t the game changer many fans were expecting.
#4. Generation 6: X and Y
The first series entry on the 3DS can be divisive due to the debut of Mega Evolutions and the fairy type. Personally, I think Mega Evolutions revitalize some forgotten Pokémon and make them more relevant; however, some of the Mega Evolutions make the classic creatures looks worse and overpower them. It’s disappointing that this generation introduces the fewest new Pokémon of any game, too. I like the changes fairy types bring by weakening dragon types and making poison and steel types more useful. Classic Pokémon like Jigglypuff and Clefairy seem natural to be made fairy types, but the new Klefki, Slurpuff and Aromatisse have pretty hideous designs.
Seeing Pokémon in 3D for the first time blew my mind. The graphics alone make this a revolutionary game in the series. The ability to slightly customize your trainer, ride Pokémon in a couple areas and learn about ancient Pokémon history and a Pokémon war are also welcome additions. Team Flare and the boring story are the games’ low points. The forgettable villains are oddly concerned with making the world beautiful and the story focuses on uncovering Mega Evolutions for too long. Otherwise this generation takes some nice risks, has a great mix of old and new Pokémon and sets the bar for graphics going forward.
#3. Generation 1: Red and Blue
The first Pokémon games and the original 151 hold special places in many people’s hearts. They kickstarted the Pokémon phenomenon that has stuck around for 20 years and launched one of the most successful video game franchises ever. These games started everything: the rival, the professor, the gyms, the Elite Four, the evil team, the trading, the catching ’em all. Arguably all of the Pokémon have become instant classics and some will live on in pop culture forever. Mew and Mewtwo’s backstory, the original starters and the ghost of Marowak are some other highlights of the first games. But take off the nostalgia goggles for an objective look at the beloved first generation and it may not be as perfect as many fans like to remember.
Looking back, the first games had glitches, not-so-great graphics and unbalanced stats and types. The following games fixed most of the problems and balanced its mechanics, but it can’t be overlooked in Red and Blue. Remember when ghost types didn’t affect psychic types? Or when Pokémon couldn’t hold items? What about when there was no special attack and special defense? All that was present in generation one. It’s surprising to remember that Gengar’s evolution line were the only ghost types. Dragonite’s line were the only dragon types and Dragon Rage was the only dragon move. Taking another look at Jynx, Muk and Electrode might convince fans that the first generation wasn’t all perfect, but it was an amazing start to the series.
#2. Generation 2 Gold and Silver
Gold and Silver perfects what the first generation started and introduces new features that have become staples of the series. The new in-game time system allows certain Pokémon to only be caught during the day or night, and some events only occur on certain days of the week. Trainers can now breed Pokémon at the Day Care center, create new Pokéballs with Apricorns and catch ever-elusive shiny Pokémon. The new steel and dark types added extra strategy and depth to battling, in addition to Pokémon’s held items. More balance came from type and move changes and creating special attack and special defense stats.
Most importantly, the entire Kanto region from the first generation is available after beating the Elite Four. Eight more gyms and more Pokémon await trainers who can travel back and see how the region has changed between games. This is by far the most post-game content of any game in the series. Team Rocket and the annoying rival Silver also proved to be great antagonists. Lots of single-evolution Pokémon received evolutions in later games, but some like Dunsparce, Shuckle and Stantler are still duds. The HeartGold and SoulSilver remakes reinvigorated this generation with better graphics and helped it live on as one of the series’ best.
#1. Generation 3: Ruby and Sapphire
Here it is. I love the third generation so much. Emerald is my favorite third game of any generation and Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are the masterful remakes of nearly perfect games. This generation has an amazing balance of great new features, story elements, locations and most importantly: Pokémon. The games debut Pokémon abilities and natures, which add more strategy to training and battling, and exciting double battles. Participating in Pokémon Contests and creating secret bases don’t affect the story in any way, but they’re fun excursions apart from the main game. Emerald’s Battle Frontier offers tons of difficult battles after the Elite Four, too.
The Hoenn region has tons of standout environments, and even though many people critique the abundance of surfing in the games, it connects to the story well. The forests, mountains, deserts, islands, coasts, volcanoes, tropics, caves, oceans and seafloor caverns make the world exciting to explore. The excellent lore of Groudon and Kyogre creating the land and sea complements the region’s geography and Team Magma’s and Aqua’s motives. Their dastardly plans to expand the land or sea respectively by controlling the legendaries feel cohesive to the overall story and world. These are the only games to have two different teams of villains in each version, which gave them both a unique feel.
It comes down to personal taste, but I love so many of these Pokémon’s cool designs and charm. Starters like Torchic and Mudkip, early catches like Tailow, Seedot and Poochyena, awesome final evolutions like Aggron, Salamence and Metagross, and legendaries like Rayquaza, Groudon and Deoxys are some of my all-time favorites. This generation had a great mix of new and old Pokémon, which gave it the ultimate nostalgic and refreshing feel.
The seventh generation comes out on November 18 with Sun and Moon, and I’m excited to see how they fall in the ranking. Do you agree or disagree with my list? How would you rank the Pokémon games? Let me know in the comments!