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The Best Pokémon Games: Ranked

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Nobody has the time (or patience) to document every single Pokémon game in existence and rank the entire franchise in a catch-all list. And let’s be honest, it wouldn’t make much sense, either. After all, how does one even begin to compare the merits of Pokémon Stadium with Pokémon Snap? A fool’s errand. What is possible (and absolutely worth courting controversy for) however, is taking a magnifying glass to the core RPG series, discussing the pros and cons of each, and their rightful placement in the ever-growing hierarchy of Pokémon games. Let’s get the (Poké)ball rolling…

Game Freak’s attempt to infuse the series with a more mature—though still child-friendly—storyline in Black & White didn’t land with the impact it had hoped. The result, instead, being a noticeable disconnect between content and story. Couple that with some of the most uninspired creature designs of any generation, and you’ve got what can only be described as a swing and a miss.

Credit where it’s due, Game Freak finally attempted to shake up the formulaic nature of Pokémon’s Gym Crawl for the first time ever with Sun & Moon. But their replacement, unremarkable puzzles (and that’s stretching it) book ended by a clash with a more powerful version of an already existing ‘Mon, felt like little more than wasted potential. The lack of any meaningful post-game content did little to keep hardcore Trainers around, either, though the latter of these complaints would be somewhat remedied a year later in new and improved versions, Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon.

The first (and currently only) time that Game Freak has ever tried its hand at delivering direct sequels to an existing generation, Black 2 & White 2 inch out their predecessors’ thanks to some rejigged world maps and the inclusion of the Pokémon World Tournament, a terrific post-game activity that allowed players to challenge Gym Leaders and Champions from previous entries. Some much-needed quality of life improvements thrown in for good measure made recommending the pair much easier, though some issues, namely the lack of any interesting new Pokémon, keep them out of the top 10.

Adding more Pokémon from past games to catch, added story emphasis on the box Legendary and the inclusion of Team Rainbow Rocket were all welcome additions for Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon. Sadly, a near-identical Island Challenge quest and several forgettable mini-games far from justified shelling out full price for what was ultimately a mild incremental upgrade over the original Gen 7 entries.

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Pokémon’s debut on Game Boy Advanced ushered in a new era for the franchise. But what Ruby & Sapphire boasted in technical advancement, it lacked in innovation. The Gen III titles would also mark the first instance of essentially requiring a purchase of both games to catch every available Legendary and experience all the story, the latter of which differed drastically (i.e. Team Magma vs. Team Aqua) depending on the version. Bonus points have to be awarded for the genuinely tough-to-solve post-game Regi hunt, however.

A controversial placement for many veteran fans, perhaps, but while Red & Blue are responsible for kicking off the franchise, they’ve long since been surpassed by more modern installments. The absence of gender (and therefore breeding), Shiny hunting and much, much more that’s taken for granted today results in a thoroughly vanilla adventure worth checking out for the legacy aspect alone, but little else, especially as several remakes since universally improved upon the source material.

No, they’re not to everyone’s tastes, but that’s the point. Game Freak achieved exactly what it set out to do with the Let’s Go! games: deliver a more casual-friendly entry into the universe for new and prospective Trainers alike. By wholesale ditching the deep RPG systems intended for competitive players, the Switch spinoffs served a dual purpose of giving the developer time to acclimatize itself to new hardware in the Nintendo Switch, the end result being a joyous experience for all ages to enjoy.

Boasting arguably one of the series’ best narratives (a low bar, we know) and a delightful world based on France’s capital of Paris, X & Y deserves recognition for pushing the envelope in more ways than one, not least Mega Evolution. Besides giving previously overlooked critters such as Audino and Banette some much-needed love, the mechanic delivered a huge shake-up of the series’ increasingly stale competitive metagame and remains, by a country mile, the best ‘gimmick’, far outstripping Z-Moves and Dynamaxing in entertainment value and ingenuity.

No doubt a direct result of Mega Evolution’s instant popularity, Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire would continue the trend of adding new temporary forms for existing Pokémon, iterating on the feature with unique attacks and a revamped story accounting for the phenomenon. Particular praise goes to the pair’s postgame Delta Episode, however, for introducing a new form for fan-favorite Rayquaza as well as an origin story for the Legendary and its enemy, the extraterrestrial Deoxys. The optional content remains one of Game Freak’s best-written and well-paced stories.

Wegotthiscovered.com

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