Based on a comment I made in my post berating Pokémon Platinum not so recently, I couldn’t get thought out of my head of actually ranking and talking about each of the Pokémon generations as a whole and ranking them due to my own personal taste and nostalgia. It might seem a bit clickbaity, but I don’t care, I really do get a kick out of writing these kinds of posts when it comes to Pokémon.
And when I get the bug to dip back into the franchise again after taking a break, it’s difficult to keep pretty much anything else out of my brain.
I guess I should give a little context so you know what kind of headspace I’m approaching this list from. Pokémon Red and Blue came out here in the U.K. on the 5th of October in 1999. I received a copy of Pokémon Red for my 11th Birthday two weeks later. Since then I’ve played every single mainline Pokémon game in the franchise, putting hundreds upon hundreds of hours into each individual generation.
The game that could turn this list on it’s head next year?
So, I’ve been here since the beginning. And feel like I’ve had pretty equal experience with each of the games over the years so that there is little “bias” involved in this list when it comes to a game passing me by or something. Additionally, when I talk about “generations” here, I’m going to be encompassing all of the games that are contained within that numbered generation.
That might seem a little unfair on some of the older games in the generation. But that’s just too bad for them isn’t it. Enough waffling though, let’s get into this list, starting with what I deem the worst Pokémon Generation:
Containing Gold, Silver & Crystal
Let’s be honest, there’s no collection of games sitting in this space that’s not going to leave someone angry with me about it. It’s not like I’m saying the second generation is bad or anything, it’s got some great things going for it. Silver is still one of the best rivals the franchise produced and the idea of finishing the game and then going and exploring the entity of Kanto after defeating the Pokémon league is a concept some corners of the Pokémon fans have never dropped in the time since.
But the game has a real problem when it comes to the level curve and amount of grinding required to progress through the story. For some reason, wild Pokémon throughout the routes seem to sit at a significantly lower level than all of the trained Pokémon around them. Which meant that you’d spent a lot of time just walking around in patches of grass to raise your Pokémon just a meagre few levels.
Something had to be at the bottom of this list, and honestly Gold and Silver are games I don’t often feet a drive to return to. Sure, there are some classic Pokémon I love introduced in this generation, but thanks to how this works; those Pokémon would go on to show up in basically all future games.
So the Pokémon themselves aren’t really a factor when it comes to creating this list. Maybe I should have mentioned that earlier?
Containing Sword & Shield
I’d like to say that my lack of enthusiasm for Sword and Shield comes from me finally “growing out” of the Pokémon franchise in my early 30s. But then I went and played the fan game, Pokémon Xenoverse which helped me remember why I had fallen in love with the games in the first place. I don’t really have any insight into what the inner workings of Game Freak are. Being a Japanese company, they’re pretty buttoned up about these things.
But as the scope of these games increases from a technical standpoint, I feel like they come at the expense of the game’s story. And based on the wild areas we saw in the base game and it’s expansions, they seem to be overreaching a little based on what the Switch can actually do.
There are some great things going for these games. The Britain inspired setting is of a particular delight to myself and the tournament style approach to its league structure is a fantastic change to the expected formula for the games. But like I said in this post back when the games had recently come out; the designers fail to really capitalise on this setting. It isn’t really supplemented by the evil team/legendary Pokémon aspect of the story either which ends up feeling like an afterthought by the time the story is over.
Dynamaxing and raid battles are concepts I wasn’t big on to begin with but then really grew on me by the time I spent some time messing with them, however, by the time Crown Tundra came out, I ended up bouncing off of Shield super hard and haven’t gone back to it since. On top of this, the upcoming Diamond and Pearl remakes aren’t filling me with any kind of confidence that this the eighth generation can creep any farther up this list.
Containing Diamond, Pearl, Platinum, Heart Gold & Soul Silver
I did originally have this one a little higher, but on some reflection and the fact that I just spent a whole post talking about how Platinum was super unambitious, I’s ended dropping down some. Like I said in that post; there are some fantastic Pokémon introduced in the 4th generation, but I’ve decided that’s not going to be a factor in how I rank these.
Like I said in the individual post, Diamond and Pearl just seem unambitious compared to the games that came before them. They’re just pure escalation of what we’d seen before. And seeing as how they’re dealing with Pokémon of Time, Space and even the God of Pokémon. The only new thing the game brings to the is the underground.
And that’s a barren grind.
Even the existence of Heart Gold and Soul Silver can’t help propel this generation any further up my list. While they do add some neat new features, the core problems with those games, their levelling curve, still exists as it did in the original releases. It’s no wonder I’m less than enthusiastic about the Diamond and Pearl remakes coming out later this year.
Containing Sun, Moon, Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon
It might be because I’m playing through Ultra Moon again now as I’m writing this post, but I feel like I’m warming to the seventh generation a little compared to when it came out, where I would have said it was the worst generation of Pokémon games.
I appreciate the changes the developers tried to make to totally change up the basic format, removing the gyms and replacing them with the island challenge format. Additionally, the design of the islands in the world feel much more all encompassing. Alola is such a small collection of islands that it feels like you can actually step foot on every square inch of it. There are no sweeping landscapes or skyboxes jammed into the background.
If you can see a place, in all likelihood you can go there.
Additionally, I have to give a shout out to Team Skull as one of my favourite bad guy teams in the entire franchise. There’s a doofy wholesomeness to how hard they’re trying to be the bad guys when it reality they’re just trying to impress their boss, who himself isn’t really a bad guy. Plus the whole reveal of Lusamie as the bad guy at the end is pretty great.
Something that is made so much worse in the Ultra remakes when it’s swept under the rug in place of an evil legendary Pokémon.
Sun and Moon are growing on me the further they get from me and having being subjected to the generation that followed makes me appreciate this one all the more
Containing Red, Blue & Yellow (and Green I guess)
If you were to reply to this post, criticising me for putting this generation on the top half of my list and the Second Generation on the bottom. In part due to the sheer amount of bugs, glitches and exploits that these original Gameboy games are undoubtedly riddled with. I wouldn’t be able to refute you at all.
They’re unbalanced, broken and rife with truly bizarre sprite work. But isn’t that all just a part of their charm?
Those original games are classics, the games that began an entire cultural movement, and not, they’re not my favourite in the franchise, mostly revisited for nostalgia’s sake more than anything. You can’t deny that Pokemon wouldn’t be the franchise behemoth it is today without these games.
I still have my original Pokemon red cartridge that I received for my 11th birthday back in 1999. Although I not sure it still works, nor that any of the hardware that would play it still functions at all. But even as nostalgically resistant I generally am, I’d never dream of throwing those old games away.
Contains Black, White, Black 2 & White 2
Anyone who has been reading anything I have to say about Pokémon for any amount of time knows how much I love the 5th Pokémon generation. It’s the real under-appreciated gem of the franchise in my eyes. A game that was willing to break some moulds, take some risks and really do something different. Especially in comparison to how unambitious the 4th gen was.
While I’ll never tell someone who hates the way this game looks that they’re wrong, those blown up sprites are a small price to pay for what ended up being the best story told in a mainline Pokémon game, all mixed up with the cool concept of seasonal changes, triple and rotation battles and a real attempt at online integration with the dream world.
I love the gall of this game. It’s the closest it feels like Game Freak have come giving the franchise a reboot, albeit a soft one. In a world where people are still complaining about the national dex in Sword and Shield, it seems totally wild to me that Black and White just locked all of the older Pokémon away till after you beat the main story. Making so players had to use and learn to love the 5th generation Pokémon that were all they had to pick from throughout.
It was the most new ever Pokémon introduced in a single generation. And that includes the first one. I loved the way the game developed and put the characters through arcs, how they gym leaders all seemed to exist and work in the world outside of simply being the leaders of their gyms.
And most of all I loved how the game ended. The events that lead up to those credits rolling were a fantastic flipping of the traditional Pokémon game formula, and one that the franchise has never been brave enough to emulate again.
Strangely enough, I haven’t played Black & White 2 that many times since they came out. I just suppose it goes to prove how strong of an impact the first Black had on me even after all these years.
Contains Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald, Fire Red & Leaf Green
If the first two generations were Nintendo and Game Freak finding their way with this franchise still and the forth generation was the overdoing it; the third Pokémon generation was just about as perfect as those game could ever hope to be.
While I said that I’d been playing the franchise since the first game, and spent hundreds of hours playing both of them, Ruby was undoubtedly the game in the franchise I felt the most strongly about when it came out. I obsessed over these games. Playing them every single day even after I had done literally every little thing there was to do in them.
Abilities, Contests, Trainer Card Stars. There was a depth and breadth of things to do in those games that blew the previous two out of the water. And then they only got better when Emerald came out, adding the Battle Frontier: and end game battle theme park that really had some fun with the battle mechanics and really showed you how difficult these games could be.
The fact that more modern games never continued these types of end game content always irked me. The Frontier was the thing that started me learning about IVs and EVs and when my Pokémon fandom truly become obsession.
I haven’t even mentioned Fire Red and Leaf Green either. The original games remake in the Gameboy Advance engine… they’re amazing individual games. It’s too bad they were also the first games that ingrained this sense of entitlement from the fandom.
They’re all amazing games, ones that still absolutely hold up both in terms of how robust they are mechanically and how they look. Good sprite work never goes out of date and these five games are just as timeless.
Contains X, Y, Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire
Mega Evolution. Need I say anymore? It’s a mechanic that made me excited about Pokémon again in a way I don’t think I felt since seeing those first scraps of information about Gold and Silver back when I was 12 or 13. Mega Evolution isn’t the only thing propelling this generation of games to the top of my list though.
Off the back of Black and White, I had super high expectations of the sixth Pokémon generation. Especially when we learned they were moving away from sprite based graphics and starting to use polygonal, 3D models. The games were going to look like Pokémon Stadium! That was more than enough to get me excited for them.
And they didn’t disappoint. The games of the 6th generation felt like the first ones that started to implement a bunch of user friendly features to make the more hardcore of the fanbases’s lives a little easier. The EV dojo replacing tine consuming EV grinding, pal park adding reliable ways to get Pokémon with better IVs and hidden abilities.
Anyone lucky enough to get a ditto in their pal park became a Rockstar in the community.
And while it felt like Black and White where Game Freak were taking a big risk in alienating their fans who wanted to continue using their favourites, X & Y managed to find that perfect balance of new and also throwing a bone to the more nostalgically driven members of the fanbase. They let you pick one of their new starters, and then allowed you to pick another from the original trio a few hours later.
In fact, all of the Mega Evolutions were nostalgia bait if you think about it. With all but two of them coming from Pokémon of the first four generations. I liked X and Y a lot, but alone I don’t think they top this list. It’s the other games within the gen that propel the sixth from a top three finish to number one with a bullet.
That’s because Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are the greatest individual Pokémon games ever made.
A combination of the visual style and mechanics introduced in X and Y combined with the setting and story of Ruby and Sapphire; the games I was the nostalgically most tied to from my childhood. They’re just peerless games in the franchise in my opinion and really made picking the top entry of this list a no brainer in my opinion.
I’d already spent a lot of time playing Pokémon Platinum and the fangame Xenoverse following that in the build-up to writing this list. But I spent the last week in Whitby and only had my DSs with me for company during the downtime and long drives back and forth and so have myself back in again now. Playing and highly enjoying going through Fire Red for the 15th time.
*tugs collar nervously*
But yeah, it goes without saying that this is all my opinion. If you have some strong feelings about how this list is ordered and want to let me know how yours would differ, just let me know in the comments. At the end of the day, I feel like most Pokémon fandom is based in childhood nostalgia, and if you want to tell me how wrong I am about Diamond and Pearl then please go ahead.
But I’ll still persist that Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl need to do something like chucking Dynamaxing into there if they want me to buy them. I’m not into the idea of a straight remake when I still own every Pokémon game I ever played.