With numerous Pocket Monsters titles released across Nintendo platforms and mobile devices since 1996, the task of ranking the best Pokemon games has gotten only bigger over time. With a timeless premise and its older games still enjoyable today, picking between classics like Yellow or Silver against the latest like Scarlet & Violet or Legends: Arceus remains a tough decision in 2023.
Amongst the many Pokemon games available, you’ll find our picks for the best ‘mon titles available to play right now below, ranked from worst to best. No matter the level of fan you are, you’ll without a doubt find an entry you’ll want to play next to channel your inner Pokemon Trainer.
Best Pokemon games
11 – Pokemon Scarlet and Violet
Although unable to make it into the top 10, Scarlet & Violet are still worth mentioning amongst the best Pokemon games. Under the premise of being an academy student going off on an assigned ‘Treasure Hunt’ to explore the vast Paldea region, the latest Pokemon title does well in setting itself apart from those of the past with an extra RPG twist: interweaving three story paths you can complete in whichever order you choose.
Whether deciding to take the traditional Pokemon route and challenge gym leaders to become the champion, taking on the enemy bases of Team Star, or battling legendary Titan Pokemon across the land, Scarlet & Violet gives you extra agency in the grand adventure – including some fantastically shocking twists and turns as you try to solve the story’s mystery.
Amongst the modern Pokemon games on Nintendo Switch as well, Scarlet & Violet have done best in free post-launch event content. Utilising Tera Raids – events with bosses using the game’s Terasalization mechanic – Scarlet & Violet have released a steady stream of challenging limited-time Tera Raids to make players come back to battle and catch uniquely powerful Pokemon.
However, for Pokemon fans who won’t want to invest the time to grind and strategise for the game’s bonus events – or even those who do – Scarlet & Violet’s string of continuous content doesn’t take away from the technical issues that have been plaguing its appeal since day one.
To this day, still suffering from numerous technical issues like choppy framerates, frequent pop-in or even losing save files, Scarlet & Violet’s remaining instability makes exploration – one of Pokemon’s core elements – feel like a glitchy chore. Even with the Teal Mask DLC release date almost here, the core game’s technical problems are enough to fill players with scepticism towards the upcoming expansions.
10 – New Pokemon Snap (Nintendo Switch)
A follow-up or remake of Pokemon Snap, one of the most beloved titles on the Nintendo 64, had been anticipated for almost twenty years. Despite all of the high expectations built up by the time of this sequel’s release, New Pokemon Snap is a charming addition that does justice to and builds on its predecessor’s legacy.
With more creatures, puzzles, and areas to explore – brought to life by the Nintendo Switch’s more modern technology, New Pokemon Snap beautifully captures the wonder of photographing Pokemon in the wild. Amongst the various Pokemon spin-offs out there, Snap is still among the most engaging and more than deserves one of the top spots.
9 – Pokemon GO (Android and iOS)
Beyond its initial summer 2016 launch that saw attention from the masses right into the mainstream, the free-to-play Pokemon GO’s initial lack of wider features and limited Pocket Monsters later saw a massive drop-off. However, those who stuck around have been continuously rewarded with the AR game’s constant evolution, as opposed to an array of forgettable mainline Nintendo games released in the last decade.
Trading, Friends, PvP battling, Gift exchanging, Team Rocket, Shadow Pokemon, regular community events, and continuously adding new ‘mon is not only why Pokemon GO enjoys a dedicated fanbase who have stuck with the game – it’s also why it has also seen a booming amount of lapsed players returning to catch Pokemon on the go.
There are so many reasons why other franchises like Harry Potter and The Witcher have tried and failed to accomplish what Niantic has with Pokemon GO. But in short, it’s because Pokemon GO is versatile, addictive, and, (most importantly) fun.
8 – Pokemon Black and White (Nintendo DS)
The start of Pokemon’s fifth generation was a time of resurgence for the franchise as a whole. Released fourteen years after the first games; Red, Blue, Green; Black and White saw the return of numerous players who had dropped off during Gen 4, along with a new legion of younger fans.
With that, Black and White was a perfect fit, essentially being a soft reboot that lets you only collect 156 new-gen Pokemon. This was the highest of any generation since Gen 1, until the post-game.
Exploring an abundance of new concepts with a much more down-to-earth narrative than what we’d seen before, Black and White’s exploration into the moral and ethical implications of catching wild Pokemon through brilliant rival, N, still has Black and White stand out today.
7 – Pokemon Colosseum (Nintendo GameCube)
This Pocket Monsters series has seen many spin-offs, but by far the most interesting is arguably the most overlooked – one profoundly answering the question, “What if you could steal other people’s Pokemon?”. That was the wonderful Pokemon Colosseum.
Made for Day One Pokemon fans who were at the time entering their teen years, developer Genius Sonority decided to make an RPG older audiences had never seen from the franchise before. Even in the 2020s, Colosseum stands tall as the most adult and gritty Pokemon game to date, both in tone and narrative.
A story of Pokemon having their hearts closed artificially to become wicked and soulless fighting machines, you playing as a former villain tasked with stealing them from a corrupt organisation, doing so with the tool you formerly used for evil – all set in a desert, crime-ridden dystopia – truly makes Pokemon Colosseum stand alongside its JRPG inspirations like Final Fantasy VII and Persona 2.
As a Pokemon game, it is not only of the most distinct but one of the most challenging, made even better by its vibrant soundtrack. Although mostly forgotten by gamers, the impact of 2004’s Pokemon Colosseum is still felt today within the literal shadows, with its iconic Shadow Pokemon being an exciting part of Pokemon GO since 2019. As far as borrowing concepts go, it’s not hard to understand why.
6 – Pokemon Platinum (Nintendo DS)
Diamond and Pearl, along with their remakes, are lower-but-passable iterations of the typical Pokemon adventure experience. However, it’s 2009’s Pokemon Platinum that was and still is the peak of what the modern-day Sinnoh region has to offer, going above many other games that preceded it.
Utilising a plethora of improvements through the Wi-Fi Plaza, new Pokemon, the Battle Frontier, additional characters, and a much-improved story – Platinum took the foundations laid out by Diamond and Pearl and constructed one of the finest examples of the words “value for money” from a Pokemon game.
5 – Pokemon Black 2 and White 2 (Nintendo DS)
The only Pokemon games to ever be given a numbered title, Black 2 and White 2 also serve Black and White as the first connected follow-up to a previous Pokemon game since Gold and Silver did so to Red, Blue, and Green. Although, Black 2 and White 2 are the only sequels of the same Pokemon generation.
With what we were given, it’s a shame we haven’t had more Pokemon games like this. Even though based in the same region as its predecessor, Black 2 and White 2 brought an array of new content. This included new areas of Unova, previous-gen Pokemon, and the brutal but awesomely challenging Pokemon World Tournament and Battle Subway.
All of the above brought an entirely new experience, which only added to what made Black and White so refreshing. By being a direct sequel, the best of Black 2 and White 2 lies in the continuing of Black and White’s story, carrying on N’s unforgettable arc and better connecting the legendary Kyurem with the overall plot.
When combined with Black and White, Black 2 and White 2 make for the only combination of mainline Pokemon games that make for a consistent and narratively massive Pokemon outing.
4 – Pokemon Emerald (Game Boy Advance)
Pokemon’s third generation brought a good few interesting changes first seen in Ruby and Sapphire, from Double Battles and Abilities to Pokemon Contests, stat-altering Natures, and full-colour visuals courtesy of the Game Boy Advance. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until Pokemon Emerald that the true potential of Gen 3 was established.
Although brimming with additional third-version improvements like Platinum did for Diamond and Pearl, Emerald majorly delivered major enhancements on Ruby and Sapphire on two fronts: story and challenge.
Supplementing the campaign in the already great Hoenn region, Pokemon Emerald takes the story to an epic scale by making Rayquza the star legendary – putting you in the middle between Team Magma and Aqua rather than being pitted against one the other.
The second big improvement of what ranks Emerald amongst the best Pokemon games is the post-game introduction of the Battle Frontier: having you take on seven dauntingly difficult Frontier bosses at different facilities to test your skill. If you wanted to be pointed to a time before Pokemon games became too easy, this was the peak of high difficulty.
3 – Pokemon Legends: Arceus (Nintendo Switch)
After almost a decade of an increasingly stale taste in new Pokemon games building up to its release, Legends: Arceus injected the reinvigoration the franchise needed so desperately needed after twenty-six years in business – being is the absolute best Pokemon game on current-gen hardware by far.
By shaking up the whole formula, Pokemon: Legends Arceus took Pokemon back to its roots and in time. In a unique yet fascinating Breath of the Wild-style setting and narrative in an ancient Sinnoh, the early 2022 RPG’s honed focus on catching Pokemon – paired with its story mechanic of thinking of Pokemon as wild and dangerous creatures – Legends: Arceus reawakens the sense of wonder that comes with hunting Pocket Monsters.
Arceus is made even better when watching and interacting with each Pokemon in its active overworld. Introducing mechanics like crafting, Strong and Agile Styles, and Primal Pokemon, Legends: Arceus’ gameplay overall feels packed with features that aren’t just generational gimmicks like Sun and Moon’s Z-Moves, X and Y’s Mega Evolutions, Sword and Shield’s Dynamaxing and curry-making, or Scarlet and Violet’s Tera Raids and picnics.
Yes, Pokemon Legends: Arceus had a few minor technical issues upon release. Be that as it may, patches and a nine-month distance now only makes us look back at the Hisui adventure with a fondness toward the prosperity of advances it brought to Pokemon as a whole. Plus, compared to the technical disaster that is Scarlet and Violet, Pokemon: Legends Arecus is an undisputed masterpiece.
2 – Pokemon FireRed and LeafGreen (GameBoy Advance)
The original 1996 games will always be held dear in our hearts, as well as the delightful Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee. Nevertheless, it’s Red, Blue, and Green’s 2004 remakes in FireRed and LeafGreen which are the finest takes on the first Pokemon journey.
Given its source material, FireRed and LeafGreen is as classic a Pokemon adventure as any. Choosing your starter; Bulbasaur, Charmander, or Squirtle; travel across the land of Kanto, searching far and wide for the original 151 Pokemon, taking down the villainous Team Rocket, battling your way up the gyms, and Victory Road to become Champion.
This first iteration of the beloved Pokemon formula still looks nostalgically great in the aged but timeless 32-bit art style. What’s more, incorporating Gen-2 and Gen-3’s improvements followed the original games with new types, moves, strategies, and a decent post-game exploration of the Sevii Islands. Pokemon FireRed and LeafGreen still hold up as sensational experiences with a perfect level of innovation for all manner of fans.
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What is the best Pokemon game?
1 – Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver (Nintendo DS)
Released in 1999 on the Game Boy Color, Pokemon Silver and Gold was everything a sequel should be: taking what was done so well in Red, Blue, and Green, before expanding on its building blocks to make the series better than ever. That was only made clearer when both games were remade on the Nintendo DS in 2010 as HeartGold and SoulSilver.
Including Generation Two’s 100+ new Johto Pokemon, HeartGold and SoulSilver carried over everything its namesakes excelled at, bringing it to new life in Gen 4’s clean yet stylish pixel art style that still holds up today as the best-looking 2D Pokemon games.
Breeding, day and night cycles, trainer rematches, Shiny Pokemon, friendship levels, new Pokeballs, additional moves, and the introduction of the balancing Dark and Steel types, were all introduced in Gen 2 and are still mainstays in the Pokemon games of today.
However, these Pokemon staples are still at their best when painted on the canvas of HeartGold and SoulSilver’s story and these remakes’ gameplay adjustments – becoming a sleek, heart-filled, and epic tale in both versions. Of course, the true thrill of HeartGold and SoulSilver lies in the scope. Like their Gen 2 equivalents, these are the only Pokemon games where your journey challenges gyms and becoming Champion doesn’t end in your home region.
You’re also allowed to visit the Kanto region and take on the gym leaders of the previous game for sixteen gym badges in total, still the biggest amount of any Pokemon title. The cherry on top is finally getting to face Red – the protagonist of Red, Blue, and Green – to become the true champion. It’s a pinnacle of boss battles for a sequel and remains one of the best legendary in gaming.
Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver are the best Pokemon games because not only do they recapture the masterfully crafted and incredible value for money that Gold and Silver were as sequels to the original games, but also because their massive quantity of content never sees a drop in quality. That’s even more so with the incredible care put into these remakes that make them an everlasting classic and the best of what Pokemon has to offer.
That’s a wrap on our list covering the best Pokemon games of all time. Be sure to check out our Lists homepage for even more game recommendations, or check out our Pokemon homepage for the latest guides and news.