Today is officially Pokémon Day (Thursday, February 27th), so Gamify would love to take this opportunity to highlight some of our favourite Pokémon games that have been released over the years across numerous generations of gaming platforms.
If you feel that we have overlooked an essential Pokémon playing experience, please let us know in the comments below. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the list of our 10 favourite Pokémon games for Pokémon Day.
Pokémon Snap (N64)
Ok, so we’re kicking this list off with more of a spin-off Pokémon game, rather than your stock standard Pokémon RPG game entry, and with good reason too.
This game was released on the Nintendo 64 at a time when the system’s world building ability was celebrated.
This game’s purpose was for the user to snap candid shots of Pokémon characters in their natural habitats. Pokémon Snap focused more on the beauty of these magical creatures rather than your ability to crash them into one another within an arena.
Pokémon Snap is undoubtedly one of the most popular and nostalgia-stoking Pokémon games to ever go to market. You play as Todd, a photographer enlisted by Professor Oak to ride along in a glorified minecart, taking pictures of first generation Pokémon. The only control you have is where you point your camera and when you take a picture, as well as being able to occasionally use items.
You ride through climate-themed levels like Beach, Volcano and Cave snapping pictures of Scythers, Ponytas and the legendary Articuno. Professor Oak periodically gives you new items and upgrades that make you backtrack through courses to find every Pokémon, sometimes using items to cause evolutions. Being able to manipulate the environment and interact with Pokémon while running through pretty short levels was exciting.
Pokémon Snap combined problem solving, speed and accuracy to create an addictive and unique Pokémon experience.
Pokémon Stadium (N64)
Pokémon Stadium is one of the earliest and strongest examples of bringing our pocket monster friends to 3D. The game used the standard turn-based battling system, rendering all of your favourites from the original 151 first generation lineup in all their glory.
You battle trainer after trainer, working your way up through Kanto Gym Leaders, the Elite Four and the final Champion as well. The emphasis on immersive battling really sold this game for many when it first released.
Working your way through the stadium cups and playing multiplayer against your friends is an instant injection of nostalgia and a reminder as to why you enjoyed this series so much in the first place.
The major pull factor for this game though, comes in the form of the N64’s Transfer Pad system. This controller attachment allows for players to insert their copy of Pokémon Red, Blue, or Yellow in order to use their personal collection in the game’s exciting 3v3 battles.
This also gives you the ability to win prized Pokémon that you can then transfer back. The popularity of this game at the time lead to Pokémon Stadium becoming the top-selling Nintendo 64 game of 2000.
Pokémon Go (App)
Pokémon Go is the most successful Pokémon game of all time in terms of player count (well deserved too). The mobile experience was an immersive one that stepped boldly into unique gameplay territory, as the game lets you, not some character but you yourself, be a real-life Pokémon trainer within your real world environment.
Utilising AR technology, and your smartphone’s GPS system, Pokémon pop up whether you’re walking down the sidewalk or hanging out in your own backyard. Giving you the opportunity to then potentially catch & collect an array of unique pocket monsters.
This game had a strong social premise to it, as well as a foundation in physical activity gameplay. Something we can all agree more games need to tap into in the future.
Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow (GB)
How could we make a list like this without mentioning the games that really launched the series phenomenon in the first place.
Partly due to nostalgia, partly due to how these games still feel great today, generation one’s trio of excellent Pokémon to this day, still has the best collection of Pokémon. The original 151 will never be forgotten and neither will Ash’s first adventure. From the opening moments in Pallet Town to choosing your first starter to racking up gym badges and defeating the Elite Four, these games just feels right.
These games introduced the first 151 Pokémon, including series favourites Pikachu, Charmander, and Eevee, and included awesome features for the time, like allowing you to link two Game Boys together to perform multiplayer battles and to trade Pokémon.
A reoccurring theme across these games seems to be the connectivity and social aspects these games bring about.
What's surprising today is how little the formula has changed over the years. The basic concept and game structure is still very much in place, as you still control a character from a third-person perspective, explore an overworld, perform turn-based battles, and catch Pokémon in the wild. Besides the occasional feature add on and the obvious graphical improvement, the almost replicated experience of Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow proves that they nailed a winning game formula back in the mid 90s and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Pokémon Sword & Shield (Switch)
This game is the first entry on this list to truly utilise a modern gaming system. The Switch system brought upon a vast technological improvement from some of the earlier entries. Sword and Shield has the advantage of being new and shiny, so it’ll be fascinating to see how our thoughts about the game evolve and settle over the coming months and years. And of course, updates and patches mean that no game is set in stone anymore and Sword and Shield will likely change over time, too.
What of the noticeable updates that Sword & Shield bring to the tried and true RPG formula is that Pokémon are now just out and about instead of being hidden in randomised encounters, so in-game grind & player frustration is greatly reduced.
With 400 Pokémon to catch and the addition of the Dynamax system to power up your monsters, Pokémon Sword and Shield can keep you busy for hours, though the removal of longtime monsters from the game, including Psyduck and Squirtle, does mean you can’t catch ‘em all this time.
Pokkén Tournament (Wii U)
Pokkén Tournament, is the first game under the Pokémon banner that lets you completely control a Pokémon in battle. When you discover that this game was developed by the team at Bandai Namco (the developers of Tekken), there is a lightbulb moment of realising that a Pokémon Tournament game with Tekken roots, is a winning combination that should have happened a long time before now.
While fighting games tend to have a more hardcore lean and steep learning curve, the development team wanted a game that is accessible to both casual and hardcore gamers.
Pokkén Tournament allows players to choose from 23 different Pokémon, with an additional 36 Support Pokémon to choose from. Though it’s a fraction of the actual Pokémon roster, every character in Pokkén feels unique and offers players various play styles to choose from.
The fighting game market is already deeply saturated, this game isn’t going to set the world on fire but it is an often overlooked game, considering just how fun it is.
Pokémon Emerald (GBA)
Pokémon Emerald is the ultimate version of Ruby and Sapphire, and it was more evolution than revolution. It included new story elements, updated where you could catch certain Pokémon, and allowed you to catch a greater pool of Pokémon than in its predecessors.
Another awesome thing about Emerald is that it introduces the Battle Frontier. Without doubt, if you are a true fan of the Pokémon franchise you MUST experience all that this game has to offer.
Pokémon: Let’s Go (Switch)
This game works a fine line between being considered a mainline Pokémon game and a spin-off title. After all, it’s a largely faithful remake of Pokémon Yellow (classic!) rendered in beautiful 3D visuals that are so nice that they’ve diminished my views on the original (only slightly).
Complete with battling, the gym badge progression, and the Elite Four, this game tries to bring you something familiar but in a whole new cosmetic look.
Where Let’s Go differs from Yellow is in the act of catching Pokémon.
Using the mobile game Pokémon Go as an influence, a simplistic catch mini-game commences when running into a wild Pokémon. Let’s Go also depicts wild Pokémon roaming the overworld, so you always know what you’re getting into beforehand. Pokémon: Let’s Go is a wonderful melding of two types of Pokémon games, providing a little something for everyone.
Pokémon Platinum (DS)
Pokémon Platinum is the enhanced version of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, Platinum’s gameplay stays true to traditional Pokémon mechanics. Players explore a large area, which ranges from mountains to bodies of water, grasslands, populated areas, and snowy expanses. Similar to previous titles, players have their Pokémon fight turn-based battles against other Pokémon.
The big change in handheld gaming at this point is the addition of a Wi-Fi Plaza. This included a bunch of mini-games that up to 20 players could participate in – a first for the series. You could also record battles, trade anonymously over the internet, and many Pokémon received new forms. Once again proving that the team at Nintendo really do value to social aspect of players engaging with each other as they collect and battle it out.
Pokémon HeartGold & SoulSilver (DS)
In first place we have, of course, Pokémon HeartGold & SoulSilver, the Nintendo DS remake of the former best Pokémon Gold and Silver. It never really got any better than this, did it?
With a user rating of 95% it was hard to overlook this game.
HeartGold and SoulSilver were designed to be faithful to Gold and Silver, while including a bunch of improvements that had been introduced to the franchise since. These include Yellow's ability to have a partner Pokémon follow you around, and the new features included in Pokémon Crystal, the previous ultimate version of this title.
Just as Platinum brought WiFi connectivity to earlier generation handheld gaming systems, HeartGold & Soulsilver followed in its footsteps and perfected it with a superior game.
So there you have it, that's our list of favourite Pokémon games, let us know if you feel we left any vital gaming experiences out.