I’ve been a massive fan of Pokémon ever since I picked up Pokémon Silver for the Gameboy. I was a little late to the party, but have fallen in love with the franchise. Ever since then I’ve played every mainline game and even a few spin-offs, including the Mystery Dungeon and Pokémon Ranger series. What better way to show my love and appreciation for the series by making a big list of every generation of Pokemon ranked from worst to best?
Before I start, I’d like to let you know the rules which I set myself whilst writing this article. Since I’ve only played a handful of the spin-off titles, the quality of the main games will determine this list. I’m aware each generation has some excellent side games, but I haven’t played enough for them to affect my decisions. Also, whilst not as outwardly controversial as my Zelda ranking, I’d also like to politely ask people to keep it civil in the comments section if you disagree with any of the placements. Without further ado, let’s talk about my least favourite generation in the franchise!
8. Generation 8
Pokémon Sword and Shield may still be ongoing, but the lacklustre start to Generation 8 is disappointing. With a controversial pre-release, the game was always going to struggle to win over doubters. Cutting up the Pokédex and selling the missing monsters back as DLC was a move that didn’t particularly affect sales, but still irritated long-time fans. The pre-release of Sword and Shield was dominated by the news that you might not be able to battle with your favourite Pokémon. There were interesting changes made to the standard Pokémon format, but they were all overshadowed by one dominating feature.
Sword and Shield introduced the Wild Area, a massive expanse of space in which you could catch freely roaming Pokémon. It was an attempt to find a middle ground between the standard Pokémon games and the additional features introduced in Pokémon: Let’s Go. Unfortunately, all the Wild Area did was plop a massive amount of barren, uninteresting land between you and your objectives. It was Sword and Shield’s entire gimmick, yet it only felt boring and worthless. The game’s atrocious pop-in and draw distance didn’t help matters either.
In the end, Pokémon’s second ever game on the Switch is the most disappointing in the series so far. The story was mediocre and made no sense, the designs were goofy or not memorable, and a sizeable amount of my favourite Pokémon were ripped out for DLC. It was a decent game, but nowhere near the quality we expect from Nintendo.
7. Generation 7
This is the only entry that I can potentially see people disagreeing with. However, most of my problems with Generation 7 stem from Pokemon Ultra Sun and Moon rather than the initial games. Whilst Sun and Moon are enjoyable yet flawed adventures in a wonderfully creative world, Ultra Sun and Moon expands the story and adds so much unnecessary fluff that the games became tedious. People don’t buy Pokémon games for gripping narratives, yet Ultra Sun and Moon had so many plot threads and stoppages the game stops you every five minutes for a bit of plot or to introduce you to a new character.
Then there’re the trials themselves. In Pokémon Sun and Moon they’re fun and challenging, but in the ultra versions each trial is irritatingly tough. I like a challenge, but don’t when I feel like it’s unfair. Most trial Pokémon will inflict you with status effects or hold items which gives the AI a significant advantage. They feel like a matter of luck whereas trials in Sun and Moon provide a fair challenge.
I could go on for hours about how much I loathe Ultra Sun and Moon. I didn’t even get into the “call for help” system that made catching Pokémon needlessly difficult. Generation 8 might be my least favourite, but Ultra Sun and Moon are my least favourite games by a landslide. The quality of the original games just about saves Generation 7 from languishing at the bottom of this list.
6. Generation 6
My favourite thing about Generation 6 has to be Mega Evolution. If there was one gimmick I could bring back for the next Pokémon game, that would be it. The idea gave so many rejected Pokémon a new form to make them viable in battles once again. There are a few Pokémon that probably don’t deserve Mega Evolutions, but I love the concept and there were so many interesting designs. It was a genuine display of creativity from Game Freak, it’s just a shame that the creativity didn’t really expand into the games themselves.
Pokémon X and Y were games that reeked of Game Freak resting on their laurels. The amazing work done in Gen 5 was undone by reverting to the painfully worn out formula of previous generations. Team Flare lacked any kind of personality despite there being an amazing amount of potential in a fashion obsessed group of criminals. X and Y felt like Game Freak was going through the motions. The introduction of Mega Evolutions and a large amount of creative Pokémon designs weren’t enough to stop the game from feeling stale.
However, I found the remakes of Sapphire and Ruby very enjoyable. Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire took an already brilliant game and only made slight tweaks, some better than others. Adding a Mega Evolution to one of my favourite starters ever (Blaziken) only added to my enjoyment. Experiencing one of my childhood games in glorious 3D, that allowed me to fly above Hoenn on the back of a legendary Pokémon, is a major factor into my enjoyment. I would be lying if I said that nostalgia wasn’t a part of my decision making.
5. Generation 1
When I was putting together the list of every generation of Pokemon ranked, I was unsure of what to do with Pokémon Let’s Go: Pikachu and Eevee. I ran a Twitter poll and concluded that despite releasing on the Switch, these games are actually more of a retread of Generation 1 rather than Generation 8. Although it’s a controversial opinion, I loved Pokémon Let’s Go and thought they were fantastic recreations of the original games. They bridge the gap between Pokémon Go and the main series nicely.
When talking about Gen 1 though, my heart will always belong to Fire Red and Leaf Green. After Pokémon Silver, these games dominated my childhood and I still enjoy them to this day. I love the open level design that allows you to take gyms in whatever order you like. I also still think Generation 1 has the most creative designs out of all the games up to the present day. However, the games have some problems, especially trainer battles, and the story is very lacking when you compare it to modern titles. It would be very unfair to rank Generation 1 any higher due to nostalgia. They aren’t bad games, in fact they’re great, but they haven’t withstood the test of time as well as I’d like.
4. Generation 5
I think like many people, my interest in Pokémon started to wane a little before Generation 5. Pokémon Black and White never really grabbed my attention, and it was only until recently that I actually played them. Surprisingly, I found that Black and White had the best story out of all the other games I’ve played. Both of your rivals have unique characteristics and aren’t the standard “irritating rival” stereotype. Bianca and Cheren were worthy rivals and made the game more of a challenge with the inclusion of two rivals instead of just one.
Gym Leaders played a pivotal role in the story, and the visuals were the best I’d ever seen at the time. Generation 5 was also the only one to have direct sequels leading on from the first games. Black and White 2 was an attempt to make Pokémon much more story-driven, and Game Freak succeeded mostly.
But there is a reason this generation is only taking fourth spot. Black and White and their sequels didn’t have the greatest Pokémon designs and are the weakest of all the games in this area. Casting my mind back, I can only name four or five Pokémon I like, and that’s with playing the games recently. Also, the legendary designs are too busy and are a prime example of too much detail being a bad thing. In conclusion, Generation 5 is a noble attempt at a couple of story-driven Pokémon games, but the weak designs somewhat spoil it.
3. Generation 2
As I alluded previously, Pokémon Gold and Silver were a massive part of my childhood. They were the first games I played in the franchise, which consequently introduced me to gaming. It’s now over fifteen years later and I’m still playing the games today. If it wasn’t for these games, I might not be right here writing the words you’re reading. Even distancing myself from how much of an effect the games had on me as a kid, Pokémon Gold and Silver still hold up surprisingly well today.
If you can get past the over twenty-year-old graphics, it’s still a very enjoyable game. Even though the game’s setting is an entirely new region, Game Freak attempted to take aspects of the first and transfer them to a sequel. Characters would bring up story events from the first game, and the final fight with Red is such a momentous occasion. Travelling from one region to another was a great way to extend the game’s life, but also something amazing for fans of the older games. Generation 2 was also the introduction of Ampharos, and he’s my favourite Pokémon ever.
2. Generation 3
Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire may beat them in graphical prowess, but a remake almost never beats the charm and personality of the originals. Many people consider Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald as the pinnacle of the Pokémon franchise, and you could easily make that argument. Hoenn is my favourite setting for a Pokémon game and the graphics amazing for a game on the Gameboy Advance. Whenever there’s a discussion about games that have aged well, Pokémon Emerald has to be on that list for me.
Generation 3 also has arguably the best trio of starters. Every time I play the games I’m always torn between the three. Swampert and Sceptile are both incredible Pokémon, and they always make me think about picking them before I eventually end up choosing Blaziken. The same goes for pretty much all the designs. Some of my favourite Pokémon from the entire franchise started out in Generation 3. Breloom, Swellow, Ludicolo, Sharpedo, and Aggron are all top tier Pokémon and you can’t change my mind.
However, Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald take second place because of one thing. Whilst most of the game is excellently paced, the games lose steam in the last quarter. They’re also the worst games for making you teach your Pokémon HM’s. The addition of Dive and Waterfall made the final parts a chore to get through. If there’s anything I’m glad the modern games got rid of, it’s the mandatory use of HM’s.
1. Generation 4
The general consensus amongst fans is that Generation 4 is the best, and I have to agree. Between 2006 and 2010 was Pokémon’s golden era, having 3 main games and 2 side games released within four years. Not only that, these games were brilliant, cementing themselves as childhood favourites for a generation of gamers. But we’re here to talk about mainline Pokémon games. Many, current company included, consider Pokémon Platinum to be the best game in the series. The game is paced perfectly, has fantastic designs, a great story and provides a challenge for veteran players. Just the name “Garchomp” is enough to send shivers down spines.
But not content with a blockbuster like Pokémon Platinum, Game Freak released my favourite Pokémon game just one year later. I won’t go too much into SoulSilver and HeartGold too much as I’ve just talked about why I like Generation 2 so much. However, Game Freak took a cherished game from my childhood and made it better, something which so many developers try and fail to do.
And that’s my list of every generation of Pokemon ranked! It’s important sometimes to take a step back and appreciate the effort Game Freak has put into its games over the past two decades. Of course they can be criticised, but the vitriol they receive when games aren’t perfect is unfair. They’re capable of so much more than what they’re producing at the moment, and I share in that frustration. But before you type that nasty comment on Twitter, think back to when they made games like Platinum and SoulSilver and think of how much they’ve done for the gaming industry.
Thanks for two great decades Game Freak, and here’s to another two!