For 25 years, the Pokemon franchise has found a way to reinvent itself for each generation. Players both new and old find themselves captivated by these cute little monsters. Maybe it’s the drive to complete all 893 Pokemon (yes, it’s not 150 anymore) that keeps players coming back. Or perhaps it’s the sense of adventure, that feeling of sprinting towards a brand new world. Or maybe Pikachu’s just too cuddly for any generation.
Whatever the case, there’s no denying how far the Pokemon series has soared for more than two decades, which is why we decided to rank down all mainline games from each generation in commemoration of the franchise that inspired generations to venture out in the world and catch ’em all.
Considered by many as the direct sequels to the Generation 1 titles, Pokemon Gold, Silver, and Crystal took great strides in enhancing the experience seen in the original games. Aside from adding 100 Pokemon on top of the original 151, Generation 2 implemented a day and night cycle that prompted trainers to consider the time of day they should catch specific Pokemon. Dual-type Pokemon also debuted in this generation, adding a strategic layer to the way battles are fought.
Moreover, the second generation introduced five new legendaries (the Three Legendary Beasts, Ho-Oh, and Lugia) and a spectacular final boss fight between the player trainer and Generation 1’s protagonist, Red.
If anything, the third generation of Pokemon games introduced a number of “firsts” into the franchise. Generation 3 debuted a nature mechanic that influences the way a Pokemon’s stats grow. For example, Brave-natured Pokemon increases their ATK sharply over time, while Relaxed-types focus on enhancing their DEF stats. Knowing the correct nature for your Pokemon will give you a direct advantage in battle. Trainers became more considerate of the way they train their parties, thanks to Gen 3’s EV (Effort Value) and IV (Individual Value) system.
Lastly, the third generation introduced the idea of adding an expanded story beyond the main campaign of a Pokemon title, which is actually helpful for keeping players stuck to the game for a while.
There’s no way we’re counting out the generation that started it all. Generation 1 titles may not have the deeper mechanics introduced in succeeding generations, but they have the best collection of Pokemon and adventures for any fan of the franchise.
There’s no way we can forget the opening moments in Pallet Town – choosing your first starter, racking up gym badges, defeating the Elite Four, and finally beating your rival in one, last battle. Everything about the first generation feels right, and there’s something about Gen 1’s streamlined identity that still brings a smile to our faces. It’s definitely magical, and will forever hold a spot in our Pokemon-throbbing hearts.
Thanks to the debut of the Nintendo Switch, it has become possible for Game Freak to deliver a fully 3D mainline Pokemon game for long-time fans of the franchise. Pokemon Sword and Shield introduced us to the Galar region, a British-themed area that features a plethora of Wild Areas, diverse locales, and exciting dungeons. Generation 8 also introduced the Dynamax mechanic, a feature that allows trainers to grow their Pokemon in gigantic forms during specific battles within certain Dynamax-compatible areas.
The initial absence of beloved starters such as Charmander and Squirtle may have felt like a bummer, but fortunately, Game Freak responded with the inclusion of an Expansion Pass that enabled players to traverse to two new regions and catch ALL legendaries (yes, ALL OF THEM). Talk about adding value to your hard-earned money.
Generation 6 introduced several milestones when it debuted on the Nintendo 3DS. X & Y served as the first true 3D-rendered titles in the franchise, switching the player perspective from a top-down view to a closer, behind-the-body third person angle, which added a deeper sense of scope to the games. The sixth-generation also debuted Mega Evolution, a unique mechanic that allows Pokemon to assume brand new forms and stats.
While the storyline is subpar and Gen 6 only added a handful of 72 new Pokemon, there’s no denying how stylish and magical the Kalos region is, leaving you venturing towards its expanse for hours.
While Generation 7 isn’t as good as its predecessors, Sun and Moon introduced interesting mechanics to the fold. For instance, players are required to complete dungeon quests, beat certain powerful Pokemon, and fight island kahunas to secure badges. Moreover, your Pokemon may now dish out spectacular finishers, thanks to the addition of the Z-Move feature.
Generation 7 took us to the Alola region, a Hawaii-based continent replete with everything you’ll see across a tropic country. Sun and Moon also introduced the concept of regional variants for a handful of Pokemon. For example, an Alolan Sandslash is an ice-type Pokemon, while Alolan Raichus lean more into psychic moves.
Generation 5 may have failed to introduce new mechanics to the franchise, but there’s no denying the number of milestones it brought to the plate. The B/W games added a whopping number of 156 new Pokemon to the Pokedex and took players to the various areas of the expansive Unova region, replete with various dungeons and diverse territories.
The series also featured a well-written story that involved god-tier Pokemon and their influences on the mainline continuity. B/W may have felt just the same as its predecessors, but the series is still worthwhile to play.
Generation 4 played an important role in showcasing where the franchise would actually go. Aside from looking visually better than the previous generations, Gen 4 debuted online trading and battling, which define the landscape of competitive Pokemon gaming up to this very day. It also added 107 new Pokemon and implemented a dual-screen schematic that worked perfectly for the Nintendo DS.
Unfortunately, Gen 4 felt more of a stopgap than an actual breakthrough, and the lackluster story didn’t really help in enhancing the player experience. Still, the games are still worthy of checking.
It’s been 25 years, and the Pokemon series momentum still keeps its pace. From the humble resides of Pallet Town to the diverse region of Galar, here’s to hoping we’ll see more vibrant adventures for more years to come. Happy 25th anniversary, Pokemon!
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