The Top 10 Core Pokémon Games


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This is a guest post by Alex Crawford who worked with our Twitter followers to create a comprehensive list of the best Pokémon games!

In 1996 Pokémon Red and Green were released in Japan, and two years later Red and Blue were released in North America. These games would go on to spawn one of the most successful entertainment franchises of all time, and change the face of humanity as we know it. In the last 20 years, Nintendo has released 16 games spanning seven generations, all of them with unique stories, unique regions and unique Pokémon. The newest installment, Sword and Shield, will be released in November.

Butterfree vs Charmander retro card art

There is nothing quite like catching a Pokémon you have been fiercely battling and finally making them your own. Getting your first level 100 Pokémon is an accomplishment you won’t forget (Swampert in Emerald, what up?). There are over 800 Pokémon that fans all over the world have fallen in love with. Yes, some may just be bags of trash or other common household items, but that bag of garbage can shoot poison out of its mouth. Pokémon games give you a sense of adventure not found in many other games and that spirit has lived on throughout the series.

It’s hard to pinpoint any game that was bad in the series. Each game is unique and fun in its own way. Fans have long debated which games reign supreme forever. Each generation takes us to a new location with Pokémon to be discovered and adventures to be had. Which Pokémon game is the best? We ranked the top 10 below!

The Bottom of the Bunch

Before we get to the Top 10, here are the bottom 6 in order (many which have been perfected with an upgraded release later in the generation):

  • 16: Black / White
  • 15: Sun / Moon
  • 14: Diamond / Pearl
  • 13: Fire Red / Leaf Green
  • 12: Gold / Silver
  • 11: Ruby / Sapphire

Top 10 Best Core Pokémon RPGs

10: Ultra Sun / Ultra Moon

The latest adventure in the Pokémon series takes us to the beautiful Alola Region. Sunny skies and warm beaches are hard to beat. Fans loved the art style and fun characters in Alola. The games also introduced “Alolan Form” Pokémon who looked different than they did in Kanto. Raichu’s Alolan design is one of my favorites in the series, plus psychic and electric is great typing. Game Freak took risks with these games and that’s what made them fun, the change from gym leaders to Kahunas and Trial Captains was a nice surprise.

The main story was full of memorable moments and produced a fun yet challenging adventure. Just an overall great Pokémon game with a ton to explore.

9: Black / White 2

Black and White 2 are probably the most underrated games in the series. When Pokémon Black and White 2 were released, Pokémon was starting to feel stale to a lot of fans. These games helped breathe life back into the series. They took place in Unova Region and featured an interesting story with great characters and an array of fun new Pokémon. This game also features one of the best soundtracks in the whole series. Pokémon Black and White 2 made the games feel larger than life even though they were handheld, and the rest of the games that were released after followed suit.

These games also feature some of the most fun post game content in the series to keep you hooked long after you top team Plasma.

8: Red / Blue

Pokémon Red & Blue

Red and Blue (and Green) were the games that started it all. When you first fired it up and watched Nidorino and Gengar fighting, you had no idea what was in store. Team Rocket were the main villains in the game and are the most well-known villainous team in the entire series. The Pokémon designs were great, the story was interesting and fun, and the feeling of winning your first Pokémon League is something you never forget. The reason they are not higher on the list is because the titles lacked not only the complexity, but also conveniences found in later titles.

Pokémon knew that had something special on their hands and every game after this was built on the back of Red and Blue. However, these games are still timeless no matter how many games Game Freak releases.

7: Emerald

Pokémon Emerald

Pokémon Emerald is where Game Freak really started to find their groove. They continued to improve on their tried and true Pokémon formula, while adding in new features such as the Battle Frontier. Team Aqua and Magma were in a fierce rivalry that made them some of the most memorable villains in the game. The double battles added a little extra fun to the game, and being able to catch Kyogre and Groudon was awesome. You cannot discuss legendary Pokémon without bringing up the monster that is Rayquaza. The trio of Groudon, Rayquaza and Kyogre is the best in the series. 

Hoenn features some of the best Pokémon, gym leaders and areas to explore. All together Pokémon Emerald is simply amazing.

6: X / Y

XY art

When Pokémon made the leap to the 3DS, fans were excited. When the trailer dropped for X & Y that excitement rose to infinity and beyond. The updated graphics were the best they had been in the series and the story was bigger and better than ever. Game Freak took all the improvements they had for BW2 and took the series to new heights. Kalos was a bustling metropolis with so many places to explore from big cities to small villages. Goodra also made this game perfect, along with the tons of other well designed and memorable new Pokémon. Plus, this game introduced one of the best mechanics in the series in Mega Evolution.

One thing that made this game stand out was how many Pokémon where available from the beginning, something the games after this one have continued to do.

5: Platinum

Giratina, Palkia and Dialga

Pokémon Platinum has the best storyline in the series. After playing Diamond and Pearl you wondered how they were going to add something new. Well, Game Freak decided to make Platinum super difficult, and add another dimension where you could catch a giant ghost. If that was not good enough, Sinnoh featured some of the most interesting and unique places in any of the games. Pokémon Platinum is also where we got to really start diving into the lore of Pokémon…praise be to Arceus.

Combine that was the great Pokémon designs and art style, there really isn’t anything bad you can say about Pokémon Platinum (so don’t even try).

4: Crystal

Pokémon Crystal. Those two words flood you with nostalgia and take you back to simpler times. I am sure we all can remember the opening sequences of Suicine running across the field and Pichu looking up at you wondering what happened. Once you give your rival a name and really get into the game, it is impossible to put down. Very few battles are tougher in this series than beating Whitney’s Miltank, or Claire’s lineup of dragons. Not to mention this game features one of the most iconic lines in video game history with “…”

The memories of the original Pokémon games may fade, but the games themselves will not. You can replay Crystal right now and it is still as good as any Pokémon made today. Go get a copy on the virtual console right now.

3: Yellow

Pokémon Yellow

Everybody loves Pikachu. The cuddly little yellow mouse gets his starring role in this Game Boy Color game. The game follows a similar story to the Anime, where Ash misses out on one of the three starts and ends up with Pikachu. Pikachu will forever be the goodest boy of all the good boys. There was nothing better than getting all three starters and mowing through the Elite Four with Pikachu, Charizard, Blastoise and Venasaur. Plus, you could catch Mew, and dominate the whole game if you want.

Pokémon Yellow was released on the virtual console and after a play through you can see how well it has aged. 20 years later and it is still one of the best games ever made.

2: Heart Gold / Soul Silver

Pokéathlon

What if you remade three of the most beloved games in the entire franchise? You end up with Pokémon HG/SS. The upgraded graphics make exploring both Kanto and Johto that much more thrilling. Most notable about these games are the art design, the story and the gym leaders. Each gym leader offers a unique challenge and this game is hard to breeze through unlike some other (looking at you Black and White). I think HG/SS has the best run of gym leaders in the entire series, plus you get to re-battle the original 8. They also have the second-best legendary lineup behind RSG. I mean who doesn’t love majestic birds and colorful puppies.

I also desperately miss having the Pokémon follow you around, removing them might be the biggest mistake Game Freak has made in the series aside from making an ice cream cone a Pokémon.

1: Alpha Sapphire / Omega Ruby

Mega Sceptile

Simply put, Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are perfect games. Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby are remakes that combines Sapphire, Ruby and Emerald into one game. They also included a new story after you beat the Elite 4, and feature the best lineup of starters. (Mudkip is the most perfect Pokémon in the series, but that is for a different article). The Hoenn region is one of the most beloved places in the Pokémon world, and the 3DS really brought it to life. Re-exploring the beach, to the volcano to the mountains was breathtaking. Reliving the story again makes you realize just had great these games are.

Watching Kyogre and Groudon fight on the 3DS screen felt like watching a 4K movie on an 80-inch screen. Not to mention you can catch almost every legendary in the series and fly on the back of Latios/Latias. When you combine everything people love about Pokémon, these games check all the boxes.

Wrapping Up

Ranking these games is tough because they are all so great in their own ways. Pokémon has come so far since the release of Red and Blue, and I know the release of Sword and Shield on the Switch will usher and new an awesome era of Pokémon games.

What are your favorite games and Pokémon? Let us know in the comments! Head to our Discord for discussion about Pokémon Sword & Shield! Don’t forget that we’re also currently voting for the best Hoenn starter as well!

Thanks for reading

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pokejungle

Paul studied journalism just to write better articles about Pokémon. He still resides in Tokyo, Japan.