Pokemon is Nintendo’s second most successful franchise behind Mario, having earned an estimated $100 billion in total revenue.
Much of that success can be attributed to how long the Pokemon franchise has been around—on February 26, we just celebrated Pokemon’s 24th anniversary. Impressive, no?
To commemorate in our own way, we wanted to rank every generation of Pokemon games (core games only, no spin-offs) and highlight the best and worst qualities of each one.
Join us as we revisit every Pokemon game generation, from Red/Blue to the most recent Sword/Shield!
8. Pokemon Sun/Moon (Gen 7)
Pokemon Sun/Moon (and their Ultra versions) as well as Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee were clear attempts by Game Freak to put new spins on the classic Pokemon formula.
Which may have been a good idea in theory, since they came out around the franchise’s 20-year anniversary. Sadly, these games were a slog to play through and underwhelmed players with their uninspired content.
The Z-Moves added in Pokemon Sun/Moon are interesting, but they feel like a downgrade from Mega Evolutions (which we got in the previous generation).
The Let’s Go! games brought a new format to the table, but were also the fifth time we’ve had to play through the Kanto region.
With each step forward that Gen 7 took, it took another one right back. In our eyes, it’s easily the worst Pokemon generation.
7. Pokemon Red/Blue (Gen 1)
Sorry genwunners, but I’ve got to be blunt with you: unless you’re chained to the first generation of Pokemon games by nostalgia and rose-tinted glasses, it’s really hard to care about them.
We’ve seen so many improvements upon the core gameplay elements of Pokemon since the initial release of Red/Blue/Yellow (Blue was initially released as Green in Japan)—improvements that, now that we’ve experienced them, feel essential.
Gen 1 is important, but only because it introduced us to this world that we’ve come to know and love. In hindsight, the first Pokemon game simply doesn’t hold up well to its successors.
6. Pokemon Sword/Shield (Gen 8)
Pokemon Sword/Shield represents the newest Pokemon generation as of this writing, and this is the generation that has received the most hate by far.
The primary reason for hate would be what fans have called “Dexit”—Game Freak’s decision to only include Pokemon from the Galar region; over 400 Pokemon were left out. And that’s heartbreaking for fans who have been moving Pokemon over from previous games after every release.
But if you can find it in your heart to pick up Pokemon Sword/Shield despite that, you’ll find that it isn’t all that bad.
Gen 8 has a phenomenal soundtrack, and its wild areas are densely populated. Player customization is also the best it has ever been—it truly feels like you’re the one on the adventure instead of some arbitrary character.
5. Pokemon Gold/Silver (Gen 2)
It hurts me to put Gen 2 in the bottom half of this ranking, given that it was the first generation I played. But Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal face many of the same problems that the Gen 1 games do.
Still, this generation was a defining one. Many of the gameplay mechanics introduced in Gen 2 have become staples of the franchise, including the weather, day/night cycle, breeding system, shiny Pokemon variants, etc.
Gen 2 also granted double the adventure time of its preceding generation, allowing you to play through both the new region of Johto and the previous region of Kanto.
That fact alone makes Gen 2 better than the generation that came before it… but not by much.
4. Pokemon X/Y (Gen 6)
If we’re speaking strictly about new content, Gen 6 was boring and unmemorable. But it’s ranked this high mainly because Pokemon X/Y and Pokemon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire brought the community together more than any other game in the franchise.
Then Gen 6 games breathed new life into all the Pokemon in the Pokedex at the time. Suddenly, all the little 2D critters we grew up with existed in three dimensions! That change alone made former players return to the franchise in droves.
Additionally, breeding for individual values (IVs) and training for effort values (EVs) was made much easier, which in turn made competitive battling more accessible to new players.
If you were an active Pokemon player between 2013 and 2016, you saw that the community was at its most active since the original release of the Gen 1 games—and that made the whole experience significantly more fun and engaging.
3. Pokemon Black/White (Gen 5)
Gen 5 is the black sheep of the franchise. It’s an anomaly, both in terms of its visuals and its storytelling. In fact, Pokemon Black/White and Pokemon Black/White 2 are so distinct from the rest of the franchise that it has Pokemon fans divided.
Fans usually refer to Gen 5 as either the worst or the best generation—rarely is it placed somewhere in the middle. If you ask me, it’s neither the best nor worst but it does lean more toward the positive side of the spectrum.
The environments in Gen 5 are psuedo-3D, making things as simple as crossing a bridge or climbing a waterfall an in-game spectacle. The battle sprites are subtly animated, giving the Pokemon so much more character.
What’s more, the narrative is fantastic! Few people actually cared about the story in Pokemon games until Gen 5 came out.
2. Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire (Gen 3)
Take a colorful region with solid Pokedex additions (Hoenn) and a re-imagined old region made even better (Kanto), and you’ve got Gen 3: a generation that does very little wrong.
It’s funny to think about, because Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald and Pokemon FireRed/LeafGreen were more or less set up to fail. They had to follow Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal, which was the best-selling game for the Game Boy Color.
And even though Gen 3 didn’t do as well commercially, these games revamped the stats system and made every individual Pokemon unique by adding abilities and natures. Double battles became the new standard for the competitive scene.
Given the above, I often recommend Gen 3 as the best Pokemon games for first-time players over any other generation.
1. Pokemon Diamond/Pearl (Gen 4)
The consensus seems to be that Gen 4 is the best Pokemon generation of all time, and I agree wholeheartedly.
Pokemon Diamond/Pearl/Platinum connected players around the world, adding Wi-Fi battles and the Global Trading System. It also introduced the physical/special split, which is easily the biggest improvement ever made to Pokemon’s battle mechanics.
Meanwhile, Pokemon HeartGold/SoulSilver is spectacular in just about every way. It’s just a bonus that the first Pokemon in your party follows you around the the whole time.
Gen 4 hits the sweet spot between being memorable in its own right and maintaining (or, in some cases, amplifying) the best qualities of the generations that came before it.