5 reasons Pokemon has been a gaming mainstay for 20 years

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Above all, video games are meant to be just one thing: fun. Fun for everyone."

- Satoru Iwata-san, GDC 2006

The late Satoru Iwata-san was a huge believer of Pokemon, and sacrificed many hours of his life towards furthering the series of video games. During his time at Nintendo, he played a large role in their partnership with the Pokemon Company.

It's no wonder why Iwata-san fell in love with the series as soon as he found it; Pokemon was destined to strike a chord in the hearts of everyone on Earth since the day it was born.

Pokemon Pikachu

Two games that started as a simple "Catch, Trade, Battle," concept have evolved into a megalithic franchise over the past 20 years.

What makes Pokemon such a huge hit when so many others have tried - and failed - to capture the heart of a fun trading game? Click ahead to find out 5 reasons why the Pokemon series has been shredding the charts since 1996!



A main series Pokemon game has never found its way onto a home console, despite two decades worth of begging from eager fans. The Pokemon Company isn't deaf - they've certainly heard the pleas. They continually choose to go with Nintendo's handheld platform to make Pokemon a widely available game.

Not only do Nintendo's handhelds sell better than their home consoles, they are far more accessible! It is so easy to turn on your Nintendo 3DS and play a few minutes of Pokemon X or Pokemon Y whenever you have a slot of free time.

Pokemon Umbreon  Pokemon Espeon

Maybe a main series Pokemon game could push a few Wii U sales, but how many people would be missing out on a fantastic adventure? This leads to a substantially smaller player-base, which doesn't help anybody in the end.

Pokemon thrives on the portability of Nintendo's handheld systems and would severely suffer without it. These are Pocket Monsters we're talking about, not the stuffed animals you leave on your bed!

Easy to Pick Up and Play

Pokemon - on the surface level - is a really easy game to play. You pick out your own personal companion and use them to battle and/or capture other Pokemon.

To keep the gameplay from growing stale, Game Freak has a semi-logical elemental typing system that all Pokemon and their move sets are categorized by.

Each main series game has two major goals for the player to accomplish. Traveling the region to collect all 8 Gym Badges and defeat the Elite Four is considered the ultimate goal, and doesn't change much from game to game. To make up for the missing story, the player also becomes the force that drives away the hearts of criminal teams that plague each region.

Pokemon Pyroar

Every Pokemon game in the series is part of a strict pattern, but this works to the series' advantage. Returning players will always know what to expect and new players will have an easy time learning how to play.

You don't have to be skilled to play - heck, you don't even need to memorize all of the type weaknesses! Pokemon is made for everyone to enjoy.


Deep Competitive Mechanics

Despite the simple exterior, Pokemon games have always had sets of hidden stats that play directly into the competitive meta-game, with a diverse move pool to support it.

With each passing generation, it has became easier to obtain competitive-ready Pokemon, but the competitive community seemed to be on a completely different dimension until now.

Competitive Pokemon Aegislash  Pokemon Aegislash Blade

The sixth and most recent generation greatly streamlined the process of obtaining high-quality Pokemon. No longer is there a giant skill gap between competitive and casual Pokemon players, and more people are trading and battling within the competitive community than ever before!

Each Pokemon is Unique

Not all fans are excited for new species, but even the most critical ones can admit that every Pokemon has its merits. It doesn't matter how identical two species are, both are special in their own unique way.

A Pokemon is more than just their typing. Different species have different abilities and move sets. Even if those are identical, Pokemon have drastically different stat spreads from one another!

Pokemon Geodude  Pokemon Roggenrola

This gives all players virtually endless potential to test and inspire the perfect team to suit their playstyles. Anything goes in the world of Pokemon!


Catch. Trade. Battle.

Contrary to popular belief, The Pokemon Company doesn't release two games simultaneously to trick us into buying two copies. No, it is actually a lot more clever than that.

Ever since the early planning stages, Pokemon was being made to give people a new type of experience in a game. The Pokemon Company wanted to turn the hobby of collecting things like cards or action figures into a complete game that people can play and collaborate on.

However, if they placed all the creative pocket monsters they worked tirelessly on into just one game, there would be very little incentive to trade Pokemon.

Pokemon Alakazam Trade  Pokemon Gengar Trade

The trading mechanic Pokemon introduced is the singular most important feature in the entire series. Without it, Pokemon would have been doomed from the start.

As Minecraft recently reminded us, the best advertising for any game comes from word-of-mouth. In a 1996 world without the almighty link cable, would you honestly feel at all compelled to introduce your friends to Pokemon Red or Pokemon Blue?

Pokemon has come a long way in 20 years, and it's not finished yet. While many fans are eagerly awaiting the next main series game, The Pokemon Company has some plans for the future with Augmented Reality.

Instead of taking you out of the real world and into a digital one like Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality takes real world locations and events and 'augments' those with virtual stats and gameplay.

Microsoft's HoloLens is a great example of how AR will look like in the future. In reality, AR games have been coming out on Smart Phones for a few years with varying degrees of success. They haven't really caught on, but this may change with Nintendo's next mobile game: Pokemon GO.

Pokemon GO Charizard

What has kept you coming back to play Pokemon since 1996? How do you expect Pokemon will evolve with all the recent advances in technology? Celebrate 20 years of Pokemon with us in the comments below!

Published Oct. 14th 2015

Featured Correspondent

Autumn is a freelance writer that grew up on GameFAQs walkthroughs trying to suss out how to get through her favorite PC and Nintendo games. These days she's a capable game pioneer, mapping out guides and tips so players of all skill levels can join in on the fun.


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