It’s 2017, and that means Pokemon has been around for 21 years. In that time, we’ve gotten dozens of games, 801 individual Pokemon, over 950 anime episodes, and an uncountable amount of merchandise.
One of the ways fans have broken down the series is by labeling different eras of the series as “Generations.” Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow, along with their spinoffs, are Gen 1, Pokemon Gold, Silver, and Crystal, and all of their spinoffs are Gen 2, etc.
I’ve been playing Pokemon for as long as I can remember, and I’m proud to say that I’ve played nearly every official Pokemon game ever made. As such, I’ve decided to rank my Top 7 Pokemon Generations, meaning I’ll be ranking them from my least favorite to my favorite.
Just a few things to note before getting to the list itself: Despite my hefty experience with most of the spin off games, this list will only be taking into account the main series RPGs, on account of Pokemon Sun and Moon having just recently come out, meaning they haven’t had time to grow a list of spinoffs. Also, I will not be taking any remakes into account.
7. Generation 6 (Pokemon X and Y)
I do not hate any main series Pokemon games. In my eyes, they all have something that makes them worthwhile, be it their story, their presentation, or just the Pokemon they introduced.
That said, Gen 6 is both my least favorite generation of Pokemon, and the first of three generations which I view as far inferior to the other four.
The biggest mechanic Pokemon X and Y introduced to the series was mega evolution. Through the use of mega stones, previously fully evolved Pokemon could now go one step beyond. While some viewed these new mega forms as unoriginal and game breaking, others became quite fond of them, myself included.
Pokemon X and Y were the first main series games to be in 3D, and for being the first of their kind, they look quite good, a few areas in particular looking truly stunning. Also, despite this being the developer’s first attempt at 3D, the game plays very fluently.
And sadly, that’s where the good ends with these games.
Not counting mega evolutions, a mere 71 Pokemon were introduced in this generation. This would be alright if the Pokemon were all amazing, but there are only a handful that I have strong feelings toward.
The story of these games is also, in my opinion, the worst in the series. It’s poorly paced, cliche, and most damaging of all, flat out boring.
Ultimately, while I don’t like X and Y too much, I do have an appreciation for them, being the games where I truly got involved with competitive play.
6. Generation 4 (Pokemon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum)
Looking at these games as games, they’re the worst. However, as Pokemon games, Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum are great.
The thing that really kills these games is the general speed of everything. Getting anywhere takes forever, battles seem endless with long animations and slowly decreasing health bars, and the pacing of the story is painfully slow.
As far as presentation goes, while the graphics are technically better than all of the generations which came before them, I find Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum to be rather ugly games.
The only positive to these games on a technical level is the soundtrack, which is quite memorable.
Now, a good soundtrack alone wouldn’t be enough to put this generation over Generation 6. However, where this game fails as a game, it more than makes up for it in aspects which are specifically Pokemon related.
The gym leaders, elite four, and champion are all likeable, especially the champion, Cynthia, the post game is massive compared to most other games in the series, and, best of all, the Pokemon introduced in this generation rock.
106 Pokemon were introduced in these games, including an abundance of evolutions and baby forms for older Pokemon, and, in stark contrast to Generation 6, there are very few that I don’t like.
Pokemon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum almost made me give up on a series I held dear. Thankfully, their immediate successor more than redeemed the series in my eyes.
More on that later.
5. Generation 1 (Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow)
The best of the “Weak Trio” as I call these bottom three generations, the original Pokemon games were fun to play in 1998, and they’re fun to play in 2017. Fun…but not without flaws.
Yes, these games are horribly outdated. But be it out of nostalgia or just their natural charm, I find the poor visuals, chip tune music, and glitches to all just be part of the experience.
All of those things that I complimented Generation 4 on? Generation 1 is better in every area.
The members of the Kanto elite four and the Kanto gym leaders are ingrained in the minds of all Pokemon fans, and, of course, these games introduced the original 151 Pokemon.
This roster is far from flawless. But for every bland, unoriginal design, there’s a really cool Pokemon to make up for it. Again, possibly because of nostalgia, the Gen 1 lineup is still one of my favorites.
The story is much simpler than the ones in future games, and frankly, with two exceptions, its better than all of the overly complex stories. You’re just a kid out to catch them all, become the Pokemon League champion, and who occasionally meddles in the plans of Team Rocket, essentially a bunch of mobsters.
However, the true star of this story is your rival. I didn’t mention the rivals in the previous entries because they’re so bland they’re not worth mentioning, but your rival in these games is the best the series has ever produced.
The one. The only. The man we all named either Gary or Assface…
Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow served as an excellent template for future games. However, in terms of pure quality, they would be surpassed multiple times over the course of two decades.
4. Generation 5 (Pokemon Black and White and Black and White 2)
Ladies and gentlemen, the games that reinvigorated love for the franchise!
When I was a kid, the first two generations were already out, and I played the games from them all the time. For gens 3 and 4, I got the games as soon as they came out. However, when Pokemon Black and White were released, I had no intention of getting them. I’d even stopped watching the anime at this point.
Thankfully, on my first birthday following the release of the Gen 5 games, my brother got me the best gift he’s ever gotten me: A copy of Pokemon White.
I started the game with low expectations, and as such, was blown away. Because despite what some fans of the series will tell you, Black and White are absolutely fantastic.
Generation 5 introduced 156 Pokemon, the most introduced in any generation. They aren’t all my favorites, but they’re certainly a very creative bunch.
The graphics were a huge step up from generation 4, with a very appealing art style to boot. Your rivals, Cheren and Bianca, while friendly, were the best rivals we’d gotten since generation 2.
The elite four and gym leaders weren’t the most memorable, but more than making up for that is the story of Pokemon Black and White. N is a fascinating character, and the debate over Pokemon rights serves as both a good theme in its own right, while also serving as a satire of real-world complaints launched at the series.
Taking place two years after the first games, Black 2 and White 2 don’t have quite as strong a narrative as their predecessors, but the stellar post-game serves as an adequate substitute.
Generation 5 made me fall in love with the series all over again, and as it stands now, it’s right in the middle as far as my favorites go.
3. Generation 2 (Pokemon Gold, Silver, and Crystal)
Pokemon Gold is the Pokemon game I have the most nostalgia for. It was the first game in the series I played, it was the first game in the series I completed, and it was the first game where I got a Pokemon to level 100, that being my Typhlosion.
However, even taking nostalgia out of the equation, these games are still objectively some of the best made in the franchise.
Pushing the Game Boy Color to its limits, these games had, in my eyes, the most appealing visuals up until Generation 5. The soundtrack is also one of the best in the series, and actually, the top three generations have the top three soundtracks.
While I don’t want to talk about the remakes of these games, HeartGold and SoulSilver, I will quickly mention that they absolutely butchered the soundtrack of the original games.
These games introduced 100 new Pokemon, and it’s definitely one of the best rosters we’ve ever seen. Along with plenty of other fan favorites, this generation also introduced my favorite Pokemon of all time, Umbreon.
All of the flaws from Generation 1 were ironed out in these games, leaving the gameplay to be as smooth as butter.
The story of these games is nothing compared to Generation 5, and especially the next entry on the list, but for a GBC game, it’s good enough.
Plus, while the main plot was nothing special, the character development of Silver was done expertly. He’s no Blue, but his character development from a jerk who only cares about himself to someone who takes care of his Pokemon well is great to see.
Lastly, we have the two things everyone remembers about this generation.
Whereas other games only allow you to travel through one region, here, once you’ve completed the Pokemon League in Johto, you get the privilege of going back to Kanto and fighting all of the gym leaders from Generation 1.
And then, there’s the final battle. While the battles with Blue and Ghetsis are filled with greatness, they really can’t compete with getting to battle Red, the player character from Generation 1.
Let’s be honest though: As kids, we all thought this was Ash.
2. Generation 7 (Pokemon Sun and Moon)
The newest additions to the series are, without question, the most finely crafted games in the main series of Pokemon RPGs. However, my own personal bias has allowed one generation to rank above them on this list, and by the process of elimination, you already know what number one is.
Before we get to that though, we must discuss some of the things that make Sun and Moon so brilliant.
These games are by far the most cinematic Pokemon games we’ve ever seen. With a heavy emphasis on what’s actually an interesting story, a villain who’s essentially Ragyo Kiryuin from “Kill la Kill”, and the magnificent bunch of bumblers known as Team Skull, Sun and Moon possess the best narrative in any Pokemon game.
While Generation 6 brought the franchise into 3D, Generation 7 perfected it! The visuals are absolutely gorgeous, and, for the first time, the player is not confined to a grid of any sort, able to move around with complete freedom.
As said in the previous entry, the top three generations have the top three soundtracks. However, the order is not the same, as Generation 7 has, bar none. the best OST in the series.
Whereas other games have only had a few standout characters, Generation 7 has introduced a plethora of likeable and interesting characters. I love Lillie and her family, I love the Trial Captains, more on them in a moment, I love Team Skull, and I love your rival, Hau.
Hau: The video game character my girlfriend thinks is more attractive than me.
Sun and Moon changed a lot about the series. Gone were tedious, move-slot wasting HMs, and in their place is Poke Ride. Gym Leaders are gone too, having been replaced by Trial Captain, each with their own unique trial and Totem Pokemon.
Generation 7 has so far introduced 80 Pokemon. While this is a small amount, unlike Generation 6, all of these Pokemon are great! And, rather than adding more Mega Evolutions, these games introduced all new Alola Forms for an assortment of Kanto Pokemon, essentially making them all new Pokemon.
Sun and Moon are brilliant games, and by the end of Generation 7, it may be the best. For now though, that title still belongs to…
1. Generation 3 (Pokemon Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald)
I’ve never played Pokemon Sapphire…but Pokemon Ruby and Pokemon Emerald were my childhood.
Between the two games, I put in literally over 2000 hours. I may have played Pokemon Blue, Pokemon Yellow, and Pokemon Gold before these games, but they were the ones that made me a lifelong Pokemon fan.
I’ll fully admit that on a technical level, these games aren’t the best in most areas. The soundtrack, while very memorable and enjoyable, is still outclassed by Generation 7’s soundtrack, and I know that some people don’t care for the OST’s focus on the use of trumpets and french horns.
These games aren’t the best looking, and they weren’t even the best looking when they came out.
So, even with all of my nostalgic bias, how can I justify putting Generation 3 at the top?
Well, first off, I believe these games to be the most fun to play and replay. Even after over a dozen playthroughs, I’m not even close to being tired of them.
Helping this is that this game’s opening goes by very quickly. Contrast that with Gen 7’s prologue which, while well crafted, still takes up the better part of two hours.
The Gym Leaders are all great, especially your father, Norman, who I believe to be the best Gym Leader in any Pokemon game, and likewise, I believe this generation to have the best elite four of them all.
Generation 3 also has both the best bunch of starters in the franchise, and debatably the best group of Pokemon as a whole.
As for the story, it’s absolutely ludicrous, focusing on two groups of Eco-terrorists, one out to expand Earth’s land mass, and the other out to expand the ocean. It’s like something you’d find in a Saturday morning cartoon, and I love it!
While Ruby and Sapphire’s were lacking, Emerald has far and away the best post-game in the franchise, with its expansive Battle Frontier.
If I were making this list purely objectively, Gen 2 would be at the top, Gen 7 would still be in 2nd, and Gen 3 would be in 3rd.
However, this list is subjective, so Generation 3 takes home the crown.
Do you agree with my list? What’s your favorite generation of Pokemon? Who’s your favorite Pokemon? Let me know in the comments!