Pokemon Sun and Moon are nearly upon us, and the seventh generation seems to be ushering in big things for the Pokemon series. Not only do Sun and Moon seem to be bringing some significant changes to the age-old Pokemon formula, but it’s also the 20th anniversary for the franchise. With that in mind, it’s time to rank the existing six generations from best to worst!
1. Generation 4
The games that brought Pokemon to the DS weren’t all that impressive on their own, and one needs to look no further than the introduction of Bidoof to know that. While I don’t have strong opinions either way on Pokemon Diamond and Pearl, I will say that I enjoyed my time with Pokemon Platinum, and I think there’s an argument to be made for Platinum being the best enhanced version of the series.
If those three games were the only titles released in this generation, then you’d see it ranked further down the list. But they weren’t. Generation four also saw the release of Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver, which are undoubtedly the best Pokemon games released to date.
Yes, they’re just remakes at the end of the day, but they are masterful in their execution, bringing the second generation titles up to date in the process and giving players plenty to pursue as they play through the longest and most enjoyable campaign featured in the series. If you were to ask me to make a list the games I consider to be perfect, Pokemon SoulSilver and HeartGold would be at (or at least near) the top of it. The only thing wrong with these games are their cringe-inducing names.
2. Generation 6
With the latest generation, Pokemon makes its way to the 3DS, and though it experiences some growing pains in the process, the end result is still successful. Pokemon X and Y did quite a bit to make the Pokemon series feel fresh, from adding the new fairy type to knock the all-powerful dragons down a few notches to bringing the main series into a fully 3D world for the first time.
I think the Kalos region is well made in many regards, and the Friend Safari ends up being one of the coolest and most useful features I’ve ever seen in a Pokemon title. I’m hoping to see something similar appear in Pokemon Sun and Moon, but if such a feature exists, Nintendo has been tight-lipped on it so far.
It’s true that X and Y stumble in some places, but the generation really hits its stride when we move into Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. While I wouldn’t consider ORAS to be quite as good as HGSS, they do manage to give them a run for their money.
Super secret bases are a blast to hunt down and decorate, and the list of legendary Pokémon players can catch in the post-game borders on absurd. The DexNav is also one of the best Pokemon hunting tools ever featured in a main series title. A solid release all around, Pokemon ORAS elevates generation six from great to superb.
3. Generation 2
You’re already aware of my fondness for HeartGold and SoulSilver, but those games wouldn’t be as good as they are without the source material from generation two to draw from. While Game Freak and Nintendo laid down the framework for the series with Red, Blue, and Yellow, they refined the formula to the point of mastery in every sense of the word.
Nearly everything is improved in the second generation, from graphics to world building. The 100 new Pokemon introduced in Gold and Silver are, in my opinion, the strongest expansion monsters in the series, featuring fan favorites like Ampharos, Tyranitar, and Umbreon.
Gold and Silver would have been excellent entries in the series if the games ended when you defeated Johto’s Elite Four, but they didn’t. Instead, Gold and Silver shipped the player off to Kanto and tasked them with exploring the region featured in Red and Blue. The games end with a bang too, pitting players against the Red, the trainer from the first games, in a challenging battle on top of Mount Silver. A joy to play from start to finish, I’d still be playing Gold and Silver today were it not for their enhanced remakes.
4. Generation 3
I know that Ruby and Sapphire served as the introduction to the Pokemon series for a lot of players, but personally, this generation never resonated with me until they were revamped in ORAS. The Hoenn region is merely so-so, and that’s a criticism I think remains true even with the stellar work Game Freak and Nintendo did on Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. Even though the Pokemon series jumped to the more powerful Game Boy Advance with Ruby and Sapphire, it just didn’t feel like the series was taking the step forward it should have.
This generation also saw the release of Pokemon FireRed and LeafGreen, which while good in their own right, begin to fall a little short when compared to the subsequent HeartGold and SoulSilver. However, these releases did bring us back to the all-too-familiar Kanto region, and gave those who were just starting their Pokemon adventures a look into how the series started. Generation three, I would say, is the first generation in the Pokemon series to hit that “good, but not great,” spot on the ranking spectrum.
5. Generation 5
Pokemon Black and White were, in many ways, a departure from the standard Pokemon formula. In Black and White, players would only encounter new Pokemon in the region of Unova until defeating the Elite Four. This is an idea I can definitely get behind on paper, but in practice, it doesn’t really hit the mark because Black and White‘s roster of new Pokemon ultimately left something to be desired.
I know this generation had a few fan favorites with Pokemon like Krookodile and Zekrom (which is one of my favorite legendaries), but I’ll never forget the time that I decided to catch an ice Pokemon and was greeted by an ice cream cone with a face as one of my only options. My feelings on Vanillite serve as a good gauge for my feelings on generation five as a whole: kind of weird, a little off-putting, and not entirely there.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate generation five’s attempt at giving Pokemon an actual story to follow, and the animated sprites were a welcome change to the static images we’d been stuck viewing for the past 15 years. I thought Black 2 and White 2 were solid improvements over the originals as well, but as a whole, I’m not drawn to this generation like I am with games from generations four or six.
6. Generation 1
I know. I have some explaining to do. Nostalgia, as many of you have hopefully already realized, is a very powerful thing. Memories of playing Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow as a kid or battling your friends over a Game Boy link cable are very dear to a lot of people. “Generation one had the best Pokemon, the best gym leaders, and the best region,” people will undoubtedly say when asked to name their favorite generation.
The problem, I think, is that we may be using the word “best” when we actually mean “memorable.” Of the people who would actually take issue with the first generation being at the bottom of the list, how many of you have actually played one of these games recently?
I don’t just mean play it for 20 minutes before turning the game off and never returning to it again. No, I mean actually seeing one of Red, Blue, or Yellow through to completion. I have, thanks to Nintendo’s decision to bring those three titles to the 3DS eShop.
It pains me to say it, but Red, Blue, and Yellow have not aged well. They’re still fun to play, but they’re very rough around the edges. The sprites are no good, the games are glitchy, certain moves don’t work properly, and psychic-type Pokemon are ridiculously overpowered. The worst part about it is that there just isn’t much to do in these games.
Later games offered nice little distractions like beauty contests or secret bases, but when those extra features are stripped away and you really only have the main goal of defeating the Elite Four to chase, the game becomes a slog at some points. RBY‘s middle stages tend to drag, and by the time I had defeated Giovanni at the Viridian City gym, I was dreading the trek through Victory Road that was ahead of me. Yellow improved things by shaking up wild Pokemon locations and granting you all three starters from Red and Blue, but at its core, it’s still a generation one game.
Ranking generation one at the bottom of the list doesn’t mean that these are somehow bad games. I enjoy all of the games in the Pokemon series, and I appreciate RBY for what they are: the beginning of a great game series. That’s the thing, though – Red, Blue, and Yellow were only the beginning. The series has improved so much since then that to continue to hold up generation one as the best the francise has to offer because of your fond memories isn’t quite fair when things have only gotten better.
So there you have it, my personal ranking of all six Pokemon generations. Now I want to see what your list looks like, so post a comment with your rankings below.