There have been dozens of Pokémon games released since the franchise first debuted over 25 years ago, with the main series leading the charge and numerous spin-offs offering a fresh take on everyone’s favorite Pocket Monsters. But which Pokémon games are the very best, like no game ever was?
IGN’s team of resident Pokémaniacs battled it out (with our words) and decided on this list of the Top 10 best Pokémon games ever made.
10. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
Pokémon Legends: Arceus is the newest game in the series, and early returns suggest that its fresh approach to monster collecting is resonating with fans. Similar to Pokémon Go, Pokémon Legends: Arceus puts more emphasis on collecting than battling, returning to the “Gotta Catch ‘Em All” ethos that drove the series in its heyday.
In our review we did raise concerns about Pokémon Legends: Arceus’ graphics and open world, which don’t quite do justice to its innovation. But in defining how we play Pokémon, the game boldly evolves how we explore, catch, and battle, rolling it all into an impressively seamless and addictively fun experience. In that, it deserves to be counted among the very best Pokémon games.
The original Pokémon Snap was a strange, wonderful little experience back in the day, well ahead of its time. And now New Pokémon Snap offers a magnificent reimagining of the joy of Pokémon photography. The sequel has more Pokémon, areas, puzzles, and photo possibilities than the original game ever could have dreamed.
New Pokémon Snap’s creatures are adorable and alive, interacting with one another, the world, and the player in increasingly delightful ways. It never fails to entice players to go on just one more expedition to solve the mysteries of how to get every single rare and beautiful shot. And the new DLC makes it worth further revisiting. New Pokémon Snap was the ideal expansion to one of the most inventive spin-offs ever, and that’s saying something.
8. Pokémon Sword and Shield
Pokémon Sword and Shield brought with it an impressive array of quality-of-life improvements for both casual gym-badge acquirers and competitive battlers alike. Not bad for a game that lacks a complete National Pokédex. Random encounters are largely replaced by Pokémon that frolic in the over-world, like the innovative new Wild Area, making exploration and backtracking smooth and easy; Pokémon’s moves can be changed at will at any Pokémon Center, so choosing a new one isn’t an agonizing decision shadowed by consequences; and with the introduction of new items like Nature mints and other breeding mechanics, battle-ready Pokémon are much more realistically within reach.
By removing these long-standing barriers, Sword and Shield allowed experimentation, creativity, and fun to flow like never before.
7. Pokémon Puzzle League
Pokémon Puzzle League is quietly one of the best-looking games on the Nintendo 64. Seriously. Borrowing heavily from the look of the anime circa the ‘90s, it includes clips, voice-acting, and other flourishes more commonly found on the disc-based systems of the era. It takes an otherwise unassuming puzzle game and positively drenches it in Pokémon, recreating the gym battles from the original games while also featuring duels with Team Rocket.
At its core, Pokémon Puzzle League is effectively a reskin of Panel de Pon — an outstanding Super NES puzzle game in which blocks are cleared by arranging colors in horizontal or vertical lines. Combined with the familiar look of the anime, it makes for an immensely entertaining competitive puzzle game that can drain away entire afternoons. Much loved among Pokémon fans and puzzle enthusiasts alike, it deserves to be remembered as an excellent Pokémon game in its own right.
6. Pokémon Go
In 2016, The Pokémon Company joined forces with augmented reality game developer Niantic to create Pokémon Go, the mobile game that took the world by storm. We all remember that magical Summer when it seemed like virtually everyone was outdoors on their own personal Pokémon adventure. What began with the simple premise of seeking out Pokémon to catch in real-world spaces has gone on to become an expansive mobile game packed with more than just Pocket Monsters.
Everything from PVP battling to Team Rocket has been added, making Pokémon Go an impressively robust game. And it shows no sign of slowing down thanks to numerous updates adding new Pokémon, special spawn events, and even Pokémon Go Fest where Trainers from all over the world meet up to play together, making Pokémon Go a one-of-a-kind, endlessly entertaining experience.
5. Pokémon Emerald
Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire were worthy successors to Gold and Silver, introducing double battles, abilities, and natures, but it was Pokémon Emerald that took everything that was good about those games and truly polished it into something legendary. Perhaps the most fleshed out “third” version in the history of the franchise, it brought forth several worthwhile changes–and top among them was the Battle Frontier, which made for the most complete and rewarding post-game content in the series.
With seven different “Frontier Brain” trainers to challenge across the seven distinct facilities, it offered a serious challenge to Trainers that arguably hasn’t been met since. It’s a testament to its enduring quality that even two decades after release, Pokémon Emerald stands as one of the best Pokémon games ever made.
4. Pokémon Conquest
Pokémon Conquest is a unique and unmissable Pokemon game. Yes, this pairing of Pokemon with strategy game Nobunaga’s Ambition came entirely out of left field, but it works so astonishingly well that it finds itself among the best Pokemon spin-off titles out there. Pokemon Conquest exists in its own fantastic world with its own rules, in which warriors link with Pokemon instead of catch them, and grow and “evolve” right alongside them.
Collecting sets of both the vibrant characters (occasionally drawn from history), and cool Pokemon put a new spin on catching them all. On the battlefield, the environmental obstacles and positioning added an extra strategic layer to Pokemon’s familiar, element-focused battle system. As a strategy RPG, Pokemon Conquest has its own unique flare drawn from both of its sources, making the combo twice as sweet.
3. Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen
Sure, Pokémon Red and Blue (or Green) are the games that started it all, and deserve to be lauded for establishing the worldwide monster-catching phenomenon in the first place. But Game Freak proved with FireRed and LeafGreen that nostalgia isn’t everything, and even the most rose-colored originals can be improved upon.
FireRed and LeafGreen are fantastic remakes, introducing numerous new features such as a recap of previous activities, a first attempt at wireless trading and battling, a brand new area in the Sevii Islands, and all the massive improvements to typing, battling, and Pokémon moves that had been added in generations since. Red and Blue may maintain a warm place in our hearts all these years later, but by far the best way to re-experience the excellent region of Kanto is through FireRed and LeafGreen.
2. Pokémon Black 2 and White 2
Gen 5 was a revolutionary era for the Pokémon franchise, and the first-ever direct sequels Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 encapsulate everything that made it so great. The original Black and White games set a solid foundation by introducing the Unova region filled with all new Pokémon, a captivating story with an all-time great rival (N), and music that absolutely shreds–and then the sequels made it all soar to new heights. The massive Pokédex features creative monster designs and unique typings, and most notably mixes in legacy Pokémon that make early-game team building much more exciting. The story builds on the events of the first games, offering an epic and hard-earned payoff to the overall narrative. And visually, Black 2 and White 2 take full advantage of the Nintendo DS hardware to deliver breathtaking 3D vistas, dense cities, cinematic bridge traversals, and intricate details throughout. Not to mention, Black 2 and White 2’s post-game is incredible–catch numerous legendaries, sharpen your battling skills at the Black Tower or White Treehollow, and try your luck in the Battle Subway or the Pokémon World Tournament. These games offer a definitive Pokémon experience.
1. Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver
Simply put, Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver are as good as it gets. After all, the original Pokémon Gold and Silver were near perfect sequels. They expanded on the first generation’s Pokédex, added two new types that significantly balanced out the weakness/resistance chart, and famously included the entire Kanto region as a bonus to players who beat Johto’s Elite Four. Later, Crystal took those games, added an option to play as a male or female trainer, animated Pokémon sprites, and enhanced the story with a focus on Suicune.
Then, somehow Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver took those original games and made them even better in virtually every way possible, updating the graphics, including several core and quality of life changes from the Gen 4 games, and created an experience that we can definitively say is the best Pokémon has ever been. Nothing in Pokémon–and we mean nothing –has been as thrilling, challenging, or downright rewarding as fighting Red and putting everything you’ve got into being the very best, like no one ever was.
And that is our list of the Top 10 best Pokemon games of all time. Thanks for watching! Now that we’re done, head to the comments and let us know your thoughts and hot takes on the list. We know you’ve got ‘em. And let us know YOUR favorite games in the Pokemon franchise. See you next time, on IGN!