Ranking the best Pokemon games from worst to best (2024)

Ranking the best Pokemon games from worst to best (1)

Ranking the best Pokemon games is no simple task. As one of the most beloved series, everyone will have different entries they enjoyed the most. Whether it be because of a particular feature they include, a generation of Pokemon, or because they hold a fond nostalgia factor for you, there's a lot of passion for almost every Pokemon game out there. While we've seen all manner of adventures since the arrival of Pokemon Red and Blue, from the likes of Pokemon Go to Pokemon Sleep, we'll be focusing on the core games in the series here that helped shape each generation.

As one of Nintendo's biggest series alongside the best Mario games, we've seen Pokemon games on various platforms over the years. It's no surprise so many of them are also considered to be among the best DS games, best 3DS games, best GBA games of all time. Read on below to find our ranking of the best Pokemon games.

Recent updates

This ranking of the best Pokemon games was updated on March 22, 2024.

10. Pokemon Sun and Moon

Ranking the best Pokemon games from worst to best (2)

Developer:Game Freak
Platform: Nintendo 3DS

Pokemon Sun and Moon is like going on a tropical Pokemon-themed holiday. It’s vibrant, bright, and offers a slightly different experience than you're used to. The Alola region was nice breath of fresh air for the series, since it really changed up the setting and reflected its theme in its unique Alolan Pokemon variants. But, isn't wasn't all sunshine and sand. Some of the Alolan designs are quite unforgettable, although we’re pretty sure everyone will remember the mighty Alolan Exeggutor for the rest of their days.

The change from the typical gym battles was odd too, and made Sun and Moon felt a lot slower to get going than the earlier games. Plus, it's very light on the post-game content after you finish the main campaign. This doesn’t mean its a bad entry in the Pokemon series by any means, and it’s certainly more accessible for newcomers in certain respects - it just lacks the same feel. Pokemon Sun and Moon's lush world and interesting story are still worth working your way through, and it also has nice features that build on what was established in X and Y, including tons of character customisations options, and more of a social aspect.

Read our Pokemon Sun and Moon review here.

9. Pokemon Black and White

Ranking the best Pokemon games from worst to best (3)

Developer:Game Freak
Platform: Nintendo DS

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Pokemon Black and White is a little bit of an odd duck in the main series. It often gets overshadowed by other entries thanks to its less memorable Pokemon designs, but it’s maturer tone and interesting plot still help it stand out in the line-up. As the only game to get a direct sequel with Black and White 2, the fifth generation of Pokemon puts more of an emphasis on its storytelling, and plays around with the concept of right and wrong. The antagonists in this one aren’t so clearly as nefarious as Team Rocket always seem to be with their tail cutting habits and treatment of Pokemon. Instead, Black and White features Team Plasma, a group that believe Pokemon should be allowed to roam free and not be tied down by a trainer. It throws up quite a compelling dilemma with no obvious cut and dry answers. This version also has some graphical enchantments over Diamond and Pearl, with more appealing sprite animations in battle.

Read our Pokemon Black and White review here.

8. Pokemon Diamond and Pearl

Developer:Game Freak
Platform: Nintendo DS

When you compare them with the other games in the series, Pokemon Diamond and Pearl didn’t do anything too groundbreaking to really shake things up. One notable thing it did do, however, was bring Pokemon trading into the modern age. Instead of using a cable link, it made use of the Nintendo DS' WiFi connectivity to trade Pokemon with other players. While some new features did come into play too, most of them built on those that were already introduced in Ruby and Sapphire. Before the enhanced Platinum version came along, the animations had a habit of slowing down the battle sequences, which made the pacing feel a bit off. It does also deserve some credit for its story: the evil Team Galactic conduct science experiments to try and take control of the Legendaries in the Sinnoh region in some rather weird ways, but it’s not as gripping as other stories we get to experience.

7. Pokemon X and Y

Ranking the best Pokemon games from worst to best (5)

Developer:Game Freak
Platform: Nintendo 3DS

Pokemon X and Y took Pokemon into the world of 3D on the Nintendo 3DS and let us experience its universe like never before. It was a significant change from the other titles that came before it, and felt like it truly marked the start of a new era for the long-running franchise. The charming sprites of yesteryear turned into gorgeous 3D models on the handheld, which elevated the battle sequences to new animated heights. The Pokemon-Amie system was also introduced for the first time, which lets you interact with your Pokemon companions and form bonds with them. It was a welcome touch that finally let you pet and play with your favourite battling buddies.

X and Y also brought in a lot more customisation, allowing you to change the look and style of your trainer. While it is only cosmetic, it added to the role-playing element of the experience in a fun way. X and Y propelled the series forward and laid down the groundwork for what was to come in Sun and Moon. It also introduced yet more interesting Pokemon, including the addition of the fairy-type, as well as new social features. While it isn't quite as good as some of the earlier games, it’s one of the best looking entries in the franchise so far, and will always be notable for transitioning the main Pokemon series into the realm of 3D.

Read our Pokemon X and Y review for more

6. Pokemon Scarlet and Violet

Ranking the best Pokemon games from worst to best (6)

Developer: Game Freak
Platforms: Nintendo Switch

2022's Pokemon Scarlet and Violet might not have had the most bug-free Switch launch of all time, but when it comes to the more modern franchise releases, it's certainly one of the most ambitious. Raids are back, and although the graphics are often clunkier than they are fluid, it's still a good time to be had. With two new rideable Pokemon and a unique multiplayer mechanic, our review hit the nail on the head when Joel Franey claimed it as "probably the most interesting mainline Pokemon game in a long time – for better and worse."

Read our Pokemon Scarlet and Violet review here

5. Pokemon Legends Arceus

Ranking the best Pokemon games from worst to best (7)

Developer:Game Freak
Platform: Nintendo Switch

This entry in the main Pokemon series is as close as the franchise has gotten to a reboot in its storied history. (And there are even arguments as to whether it should be considered "mainline" in the first place.) It's the first game that really opens up the world, giving you chance upon chance to run into Pokemon the wild - just like you would if we did live in a world populated by the little pocket monsters. With an incredible story (that takes you back to a time in the world of Pokemon we'eve never seen before) and new gameplay elements that give the series a bit of a refresh, Pokemon Legends Arceus is a fantastic addition to the franchise that takes the tried-and-true formula and expands it outwards. If you love Pokemon, you'll love this.

Read our Pokemon Legends Arceus review here

4. Pokemon Sword and Shield

Ranking the best Pokemon games from worst to best (8)

Developer:Game Freak
Platform: Nintendo Switch

Pokemon Sword and Shield was one of the most anticipated games of 2019, and with good reason. As the first entry in the core Pokemon series to land on Nintendo's hybrid console, Sword and Shield opened us up to the world of Pokemon like never before. The Galar Region made for a delightful setting based on the UK, and it's easy to sink several hours in its expansive Wild Area catching all the roaming Pokemon and uncovering everything it has to offer. The Galarian form designs also nodded to aspects of the UK, and getting to bond with all the critters using the new camp feature was a welcome touch. In our review we said it's a "Pokemon game for a new generation," thanks to some of the more accessible features it introduced, allowing new players to ease into the formula we know and love. While it might be a touch easier than other entries in the series, Sword and Shield offers a fantastically memorable experience with a cast of colourful characters and Pokemon. And it's easily the best-looking Pokemon game to date.

Check out our Pokemon Sword and Shield review here

3. Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire

Ranking the best Pokemon games from worst to best (9)

Developer:Game Freak
Platforms: Game Boy, Nintendo DS

While a lot of formula remained unchanged, Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire took the series into a vibrant world of colour on the GameBoy Advance. The Pokemon sprites popped from screen like never before, and the magical start up screen is hard to forget. It was also the first Pokemon game to introduce a lot of elements and features that continued throughout the series. 2v2 double battles popped up for the first time, and Pokemon were also attributed with different Natures which affected their overall stats.

An extensive list of new abilities were also first introduced in this entry, which were specific to different types - this really added more depth to the battles compared to the games that came before. Contests were also brought in to add new challenges to the gameplay. The Hoenn region was a great setting, and the Legendary Pokemon Groudon and Kyogre - who could summon a specific weather element into battle - were very memorable. Since Ruby and Sapphire built upon what Silver and Gold established without veering off into any drastic new direction, it didn’t feel quite as special.

Several years after its release in 2003, an updated edition followed in the shape of Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire.

2. Pokemon Red and Blue

Ranking the best Pokemon games from worst to best (10)

Developer:Game Freak
Platforms:Game Boy, Nintendo 3DS

Going back to where it all began, Pokemon Red and Blue set us on the path to be the very best, like no one ever was, and we haven’t looked back since. The world of Kanto still feels just as magical as it ever did, and the original 151 Pokemon are the most memorable in the franchise’s history for their wonderful designs. Who can forget the classic starter Pokemon, Bulbasaur, Squirtle, and Charmander? The first games captured our imaginations and made us wish with every fibre of our being that we could really be trainers in the real world. Thankfully, Pokemon Go helped us get closer than ever to realising that dream, but you still can’t quite beat the classic Pokemon experience. The Gameboy graphics have a nostalgic charm you don’t quite get with the later entries, and it’s still very playable to this this day, which is a testament to just how good it is. While it established the long-running series we all know and love, it doesn’t quite make the top spot.

The delightful Pikachu Edition Pokemon Yellow - that enhanced the classic games with everyone’s favourite electric mouse - was just the icing on the cake.

1. Pokemon Gold and Silver

Ranking the best Pokemon games from worst to best (11)

Developer:Game Freak
Platforms:Game Boy, Nintendo 3DS

After Pokemon Red and Blue put the world into a Pokemon frenzy, the sequel had some big shoes to fill. Fans everywhere for eager for more, and thankfully Silver and Gold delivered just that in the best way possible. Bigger and better than before, the second generation introduced 100 excellent and memorable additions to the Pokemon library, along with two new Pokemon types, and a whole host of new moves. It brought in some interesting new features that changed up the game in fun new ways.

Introducing a day and night cycle added time-specific challenges, and brought in some Pokemon that could only be caught at certain times of day. Silver and Gold still had all the hallmarks that made the first games so enjoyable, but it expanded the experience to cement itself as the superior Pokemon game. And better yet, when you reach the end of the game, you get to unlock the Kanto region from Red and Blue which allows you to revisit all of the gyms and trainers. Silver and Gold was a giant leap forward for the franchise, and nothing has quite compared to it since.

Pokemon Crystal then came swooping in as a shiny enhanced remake of Silver and Gold, and it's especially notable sinceit was the first ever Pokemon title that let you decide whether you want to play as a boy or a girl. Thankfully this became a mainstay feature in every game that followed.

If you're looking for the best Switch multiplayer games, we have you covered.

Ranking the best Pokemon games from worst to best (12)

Heather Wald

Senior staff writer

I started out writing for the games section of a student-run website as an undergrad, and continued to write about games in my free time during retail and temp jobs for a number of years. Eventually, I earned an MA in magazine journalism at Cardiff University, and soon after got my first official role in the industry as a content editor for Stuff magazine. After writing about all things tech and games-related, I then did a brief stint as a freelancer before I landed my role as a staff writer here at GamesRadar+. Now I get to write features, previews, and reviews, and when I'm not doing that, you can usually find me lost in any one of the Dragon Age or Mass Effect games, tucking into another delightful indie, or drinking far too much tea for my own good.

With contributions from

  • Rollin BishopUS Managing Editor
  • Alyssa Mercante
  • Jasmine Gould-WilsonStaff Writer, GamesRadar+
  • Joe DonnellyContributor

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