The Pokémon franchise has evolved a lot over the years. One way it has changed a lot over the course of recent installments is battle gimmicks. Most recent Generations of Pokémon introduce new mechanics and transformations that disappear within the following major installments. These gimmicks allow each new game to feel fresh, while also generating hype.
What makes a mechanic a gimmick is its exclusivity. Something like Double Battles is not a gimmick since it has appeared within nearly every game since its debut in Gen 3. Most would consider Pokémon XY‘s Mega Evolution to be the first gimmick introduced in the series, but a few Gen 5 mechanics will be included on this list too. The order of this list will be from worst to best.
Rotation Battles (Gen 5)
Rotation Battles were a type of battle that could only occur in Pokémon Black, White, Black 2, and White 2. The player and their opponent throw out three Pokémon at a time in this ruleset, but only one monster can fight at a time. Players can rotate the field so that a different mon on their team can attack. This is certainly a unique battle format, but it is a little lackluster compared to other generation’s gimmicks.
This type of battle is also extremely underutilized within the very few games it appears in. Players would be lucky to find even one opposing trainer who offers this battle format within most routes. In fact, many players likely have only encountered this battle format twice in their entire playthrough due to how out of your way you have to go to find opponents that fight in this format.
Gygantimax / Dynamic (Gen 8)
Dmax is a mechanic introduced in Pokémon Sword and Shield. It allows all Pokémon to turn into giant variations of themselves. Additionally, some Pokémon get their own unique forms called Gmax when growing big. Gmax are much more interesting than simply growing larger, but the amount of Pokémon that have the capability of Gmaxing are few and far between.
Dmaxing or Gmaxing will boost the user’s strength massively, which is both a blessing and a curse. The balance is off-set so much that both trainers are essentially forced to Gmax at the same time to counter each other out. This is good for story fights, but not so much for competitive play. On the positive side, this mechanic is actually used quite well in the main story. Every Gym Leader uses it, so you’re guaranteed to see this gimmick all throughout the game. That alone is a massive improvement on Rotation Battles.
Terastallize (Gen 9)
Every Pokémon in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet has a Tera Type. A Tera Type determines what that Pokémon’s type will become when they Terastallize. Essentially, all Pokémon can change what type they are in these games. Most Pokémon benefit from having a Tera Type that matches their original type since it powers them up further rather than changing their type, however, some Pokémon can do very well with a different type than their default.
For example; a pure electric-type will only be weak to ground-type attacks, so having a Tera Type that is strong against ground can help them counter their one and only weakness. This is slightly balanced by the fact that Terastallization can’t be undone after being activated until the Pokémon faints, so now they have that Tera Type’s weaknesses. Terastallizing is still one of the most overpowered mechanics despite this due to how much customization it offers. At the same time, that rich amount of customization does make it more fun to hunt for Pokémon with the best Tera Type’s.
Triple Battles (Gen 5)
The first two Generations of Pokémon only allowed 1v1 battles. Every mainline game since Gen 3 has also allowed 2v2, but for some reason 3v3 came and went. Only the Gen 5 and 6 games allow this battle format. Gen 6’s great online connectivity features can make it the most memorable 3v3 experience for those who do online battles a lot, but this mechanic did originate in the previous games.
Being able to control more monsters at once can create super unique battle circumstances that can’t be found in more simplistic formats. You have to balance your team in an entirely different way since the center Pokémon can attack or be attacked by any member of the opposing team. Monsters on the sides will usually only be hit by foes that are directly in front or diagonal from them, although some moves can cover the entire field. Triple Battles should’ve become a staple that stayed in the series. It’s such a simple concept, yet it completely changes some fundamentals in a good way. Unfortunately, it seems like this format will remain lost until the games it originated in are remade.
Mega Evolution (Gen 6)
One of the most popular mechanics amongst fans is Mega Evolution. Certain Pokémon can achieve a stronger form once per battle via a held item. This gimmick helped a lot of underwhelming Pokémon like Mawile become relevant again, but it also helped some already overpowered Pokémon become even stronger. These ascended forms are nonetheless charming and fun to use.
The biggest flaw of this gimmick is that it only applied to some Pokémon, which is something that most following gimmicks changed. Later mechanics would allow all Pokémon to access them, albeit not only get the exact same benefits from them. For that reason Mega Evolution only ranks second.
Z Moves (Gen 7)
Z Crystals are powerful items that can be held by a Pokémon. They will turn any move of their designated type into a powerful Z Move. These attacks are both flashy and powerful. Some Pokémon have exclusive Z Moves that give them unique animations and attacks while holding those crystals. These moves have a similar coolness factor to Mega Evolution while also simultaneously helping all Pokémon just like Gmax and Tera Types do.
Z Moves also feel a little more stunning than the gimmicks that came after due to the wide variety of animations for each type. Once you see one Pokémon Dynamax, there’s not really much else to see. Meanwhile, even after you see a fire type use a Z move there’s still seventeen other default Z Move animations to see. Add in all the unique Z Moves for specific Pokémon for a well balanced, diverse, and exciting gimmick that stays fresh throughout the entire story.