Pokemon is one of very few video game series that have stood the test of time over the past couple of decades. As gamers have seen franchises come and go, some dying horrible spin-off deaths, others just fading into obscurity, those darn pocket monsters have stood at the forefront of handheld relevance. Not only that, but they’ve also traveled outside of their original realm of gaming and still managed to make lasting impressions. With so many games existing under the brand name it can be hard to figure out where to start if you’re new. What’s worth your time? Is it better just to start with the newest and go from there? What about the console games? To that end, we’ve ranked the best Pokemon games of all time for you.
Please note, though, since there is such an abundance of games released in North America, we have excluded original versions of those titles that got remakes. Check out more features from us: Best Fire Pokemon, Best Water, Best Dragon, and more!
Best Pokemon Games
35. Dash (2005) – DS
Pokemon Dash comes across as the laziest cash-in in the entire franchise. Launching alongside the DS in Japan, and coming to North America a few short months later, it was the first game on the platform, and therefore the first to utilize the brand new touch screen functionality. Only it did so in the laziest way possible.
Dash puts players in control of Pikachu as they race through levels by quickly swiping in the proper direction on the bottom screen using the stylus. That is all. There are no other mechanics, and in single-player you have no choice but to be Pikachu.
Sure you can unlock maps shaped like other Pokemon by inputting your cartridge for either Ruby, Sapphire, FireRed, LeafGreen, or Emerald. But that would just suggest you and your poor DS to more vicious swiping in one of the most boring racing games out there.
34. Picross (2015) – 3DS
For Sudoku lovers, there are these kinds of puzzles. A timeless classic with a Pokemon twist that was perfect for gamers on-the-go. Unfortunately not much else was included in this title, so it’s hard to pin this any higher. But, as a puzzle game, it was solid.
33. Hey You, Pikachu! (2000) – N64
There’s just something about yelling at Pikachu that made young Pokemon fans cheer with glee. The game was very simple, utilizing the Voice Recognition Unit (the only game in North America to use it). You simply spoke to Pikachu and got him to do things, or assisted him with challenges.
The story was simple, having you meet a wild Pikachu and convince him to be your friend. As you went through the days you grew closer only to have it come to a head when you finally reached day 365, then things took a turn for the sad.
One funny little Easter egg in the game is that if you said “PlayStation” to Pikachu, he would become angry. Cute Nintendo, very cute.
32. Rumble Series on Consoles
The Pokemon Rumble series has seen four releases, with two of them being on console. Pokemon Rumble on the Wii in ’09, and Rumble U for the, you guessed it, Wii U in ’13. Neither of these games fared well out in the wild, and for pretty good reason.
Battling is fun, we all know that. The strategy of picking just the right creatures to take down an opponent, leveling them up and carefully selecting their move sets, and embarking on an adventure to win even more battles. The Rumble series has none of that. Instead it’s just mindless button mashing against hordes of other pocket monsters, with little to no strategy in very linear arenas.
Even worse, you couldn’t upgrade anyone unless you purchased the corresponding amiibo. So the one aspect where you could get some semblance of a classic experience was locked behind a paywall. The lackluster visuals on console, particularly the brand new Wii U, didn’t help matters either.
The games did offer some quick mindless fun, but they still ended up being largely forgettable.
31. Battle Revolution (2007) – Wii
Battle Revolution was far from any sort of revolution. While the console games up to this point had been trying to include new experiences for fans of the franchise, Battle Revolution was extremely bare bones. What you had were 11 colosseums with their own different effects. One may choose your Pokemon for you, while another may have a specific tournament style. You battled through each one in order to unlock others. There was no RPG element, no capturing, no adventuring, you simply rented the pocket monsters and did battle.
This particularly bare-bones approach to a console game made Battle Revolution a sort of oddball. The N64 allowed for the importing of your own Pokemon, playing the handheld games on a big screen, and a decent amount of mini-games. You’d expect that the more advanced Wii would be able to offer the same if not more, but it just didn’t.
The only plus side was that you could unlock some really rare Pokemon and transfer them to your handheld, which was good if you were struggling to find someone. But, outside of that, it was just looking at battles you could already play in better games. Sure they were pretty, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
30. Channel (2003) – GameCube
Pokemon Channel was like the Hey You Pikachu for the new age. You’d have your little buddy with you as you watch different channels on a virtual TV.
Most of the channels have gone missing at the start of the game, so it’s up to you and Pikachu to find them so that you can both be lazy couch potatos.
29. Rumble Series on Handheld (2011/2015) – 3DS
Unlike the console counterparts, the handheld iterations of the Rumble series were a bit more solid. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t suffer from most of the same issues. Like the games on both Wii and Wii U, Rumble Blast and Rumble World are extremely repetitive. They offer very little in terms of strategy, and the first game (Rumble Blast) has very little in terms of progression.
Yet the games fit the handheld much better than they ever could on console. The short spurts of insane, button-mashing action, the cute little Pokemon models, the whole toy backstory. It just made perfect sense on the 3DS. Rumble World even managed to include tons of unlockables and fun little things to do to extend the game.
They still weren’t the experiences most fans would have expected, or even wanted, but they managed to be fun little excursions that easily outshine their console counterparts. The smaller platforms manage to deliver larger experiences which is a bit surprising, but it certainly pulls them far ahead in the pack.
28. Shuffle (2015) – 3DS, iOS, Android
Pokemon Shuffle is one of those puzzle battle games that have been springing up in popularity over the past couple of years. You have a battle going on at the top, but on the bottom you must match rows and columns of Pokemon faces in order to attack. Special moves and combos can be triggered depending on the number and formation of your matches, and you can even catch them.
In fact, the gameplay is pretty easy to get into and highly enjoyable. The only thing holding this particular game back in the franchise is the freemium model that you see all over mobile app stores. The game is free, but items and lives are extremely limited leaving you to either wait a long period of time (30 minutes per life) or to pay out of your pocket to continue having fun.
This is one particular game that definitely suffers from not just being a basic retail experience.
27. PokePark: Pikachu’s Adventure (2010) and PokePark 2: Wonders Beyond (2012) – Wii
It was a 3D Pikachu adventure. Enough said. Needed to at least appear in this list of best Pokemon Games ever.
26. Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness (2005) – GameCube
Gale of Darkness was actually a sequel to Colosseum, and while it expands the roster, it doesn’t do much else differently. Because of that it wasn’t received well. Where Colosseum was brand new and innovative, Gale of Darkness just copy pasted, utilizing the same location, and even recycling a lot of the graphics. The story had lost its oomph by now, and fans wanted something more akin to the handheld games.
It was cool to ‘snag’ Shadow Pokemon in the first entry, but after that little experiment anything other than catching them outright lost its touch.
25. Ranger Series (2006-2010) – DS
The Pokemon Ranger series is yet another attempt at Nintendo making a completely different RPG as a spin-ff to the core games. Instead of capturing pocket monsters for your collection (completely foregoing that ever popular mantra of ‘gotta catch ’em all’), you can temporarily capture some of these critters for use in your quests as a park ranger.
Instead of battling in order to capture them, you instead drew circles around them using your stylus. It was an odd way of doing things, and in the first game it was particularly frustrating since you weren’t allowed to lift your stylus while trying to capture. Later games in the series allowed for more upgrades and better assistance from your partners (and even the ability to summon certain legendaries by drawing specific signs).
All in all, the series provided some interesting distraction between major releases, but none had that wow factor. Battling, capturing, and tournaments were removed for puzzles in a more action RPG style. You used abilities to clear debris knock things out of trees. It was fun, but it didn’t last.
Even with the enhanced visuals and slightly deeper story of the third game, Guardian Signs, it failed to deliver the huge experience fans had come to know and love. It’s not the worse spin-off series on offer, but it just can’t stand up to some of the bigger games within the franchise.
24. Trozei! (2006) – DS
Yet another Pokemon puzzle game was released in the form of Trozei! It’s a mix of Yoshi’s Cookie, Dr. Mario, and Tetris that has you moving different Pokemon heads to match three before they fill the screen too much and you get a game over.
23. Mystery Dungeon Series (2006-2015) – DS and 3DS
Mystery Dungeon games are a series that places players into randomly generated dungeons where they must battle enemies and can build teams as well as collect items. They are rogue-like by nature where your failure results in you losing everything and having to restart. Nintendo thought it a good idea to mix this with the world of Pokemon, but it didn’t fare too well.
Playing as a Pokemon is fun, but after a while the repetitive nature of dungeon crawling starts to weigh down on the experience. Add to that the relatively small roster of the games, and overly simplistic stories and dialogues, and you have an experience that pales in comparison to the core series.
The most recent iteration, Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon (3DS, 2015) seems like maybe the series is finding its stride, though. Better humor, much more focus, and pretty as well. But still, it misses the mark on what makes Pokemon such a great property in the first place, and that’s why it falls so far to the bottom of the list.
22. Colosseum (2004) – GameCube
Pokemon Colosseum was the first RPG in the series to appear on a home console. It didn’t feature the same freedom to go anywhere and catch everything that its handheld counterparts did, but it was a taste of what players wanted for years. Tasked with ‘snagging’ and purifying dark Pokemon, players were led on an adventure through a bran new region (Orre) as they try to save all of the Pokemon in the world. Decent visuals for the time and an interesting story led to a glimpse of the potential of the franchise in the future. Now if only Nintendo would take another stab at it and do something great for the upcoming NX.
21. Emerald (2005) – Game Boy Advance
Emerald is a lot like Yellow and Crystal in that it provided a condensed version of the two games preceding it (Ruby and Sapphire). The major difference is that this iteration had much more drastic changes than either of the two ‘director’s cuts’ did. Battles were revamped to add more 2-on-2 battles, as well as two trainers vs. one opportunities. Locations were shifted and added to make it possible to catch almost all of the third Gen Pokemon, and some of the creatures from Gen II were thrown in as well.
The biggest addition was most definitely the Battle Frontier, though. After becoming the champion you could head to one of the seven different challenge areas. You could earn rewards and even Frontier Symbols (which were basically a whole new set of badges).
20. Pokemon Pinball (1999) – Game Boy Color
There’s just something about pinball that makes it hard to resist. The games are addictive with the simple act of keeping a ball in play as you whacked it across the board. Things get interesting when combined with the world of Pokemon.
Like in other games within the franchise, players are able to catch critters, only they must do so in a pinball game by triggering events and hitting certain bumpers. You filled your Pokedex by playing one of the two tables (Red and Blue based on the first generation games).
It was fun, and very engaging, even if it wasn’t the usual RPG fare. While many spin-offs managed to miss their mark, you can’t go wrong with some pinball action.
19. Black 2 and White 2 (2012) – DS
Black 2 and White 2 are interesting for several reasons, but the main one is the fact that these are the first direct sequels in the Pokemon franchise. The games take place in the Unova region from the previous versions two years later. Locations that were under construction are now complete and different. Characters you dealt with previously are now doing different things with their lives, and even the enemies, Team Plasma, have undergone a shift.
Graphically and gameplay wise, Black 2 and White 2 are very alike their predecessors. New features such as the Pokemon World Tournament and Pokestar Studios are thrown in for some extra side activities. While it may not have an abundance in terms of new, it’s cool to see some solid continuity within the games and to be able to witness the effects you’ve had on the region.
18. Pokemon Pinball: Ruby & Sapphire (2003) – Game Boy Advance
You know what’s better than pinball? More pinball. And that’s something that the developers figured out after the first Pokemon Pinball. The gameplay is basically the same as the last iteration, only this time much more expansive. You still have only two tables (this time based on Ruby and Sapphire), but the new Travel Mode allows you to switch regions within the table.
There is also the new Egg Mode that allows you to hatch and potentially catch a Pokemon.
It’s a slightly upgraded version of the last pinball game, but it makes all the difference and is still tons of fun.
17. Puzzle League (2000) and Puzzle Challenge (2000)
The Pokemon Puzzle games brought that Candy Crush addiction before mobile phones were popular. In these match three puzzle games, you had to act fast as you faced against opponents at the same time.
Your matches meant your opponent would have a tougher time as their blocks stacked up, but the same would be true for you, too.
16. Sun and Moon
Pokemon Sun and Moon was incredibly innovative, that’s for sure. It was the first game to do away with the gym system, and replaced it with something called Island Challenges, a new feature that embraced the game’s Hawaiian theme. It also introduced Alola forms, a really neat idea on paper which saw some classic Gen 1 Pokemon change types to adapt to their surroundings in Alola. For example, the traditionally Fire typed Vulpix, lives in the snowier areas of Alola and became an Ice type instead. Also the story line was probably one of the darkest and most coherent in the series to-date.
What holds it back a tad is that the innovations, didn’t really have the same impact of some of the other, higher rated main entry games. The Island Challenges were definitely very different and a brave move, but it wasn’t necessarily better or more enjoyable to everyone. Most of them consisted of a small puzzle to solve, and then a fight against a Totem (super-charged) version of a Pokemon. Alola forms were a great idea, but underutilized compared to say Mega Stones and Mega Evolutions.
The z-crystals felt a bit gimmicky, and weren’t that impactful in competitive play, and finally, the were way too many legendary Pokemon, to the point of excess thanks to the additions of the ultra beasts.
15. Crystal (2001) – Game Boy Color
Crystal took the base of Gold and Silver and expanded on it. Suicune, one of the three Legendary Beasts, had a new story revolving it, and Pokemon that you could only catch in specific iterations of the game were now available. New changes to the gameplay were made such as trainer interaction with the player through the cellphone, and the ability to use the Pokemon Pikachu pedometer to earn items.
The biggest addition introduced by Crystal, though, was the ability to choose a female protagonist. Up until this game (the 6th in the series) you could only play as a boy. Having the option made the experience a lot more inclusive and became a mainstay in the core series of games.
14. Platinum (2009) – DS
This ‘directors cut’ compiled all of the new features and beast of Diamond and Pearl into one game. Unfortunately it didn’t have as many upgrades as similar games of the series (Yellow, Crystal, etc.) had. The Wi-Fi area now supported up to 20 players, but focused mainly on minigames. You could also record certain battles and share them, as well as take screenshots. And there were a few new characters thrown into the mix.
There were graphical updates added as well, such as animated trainers, and lights on some buildings. But, when it came to gameplay, Platinum was most definitely the smallest upgrade in the franchise.
13. Diamond and Pearl (2007) – DS
Diamond and Pearl are often overlooked in the grand scheme of things even though it did bring a lot of changes to the series. The return of night and day saw many new changes including more periods being important, lighting having an effect on battles, and specific days offering opportunities to catch specific critters.
Then theres the Poketch, which is pretty much a smart watch. It utilizes the Nintendo DS’ second screen, and allows players to better organize their adventure as well as provides useful tools such as a calculator.
The Sinnoh underground area was great as well. You could customize a base, play minigames, play with others, and find rare, otherwise unobtainable Pokemon for your collection. All of this combined with the Wi-Fi capabilities of the new handheld made for the most advanced Pokemon game and one of the best Pokemon games.
12. Black and White (2011) – DS
Black and White were the first games in the series since Gold and Silver to transform how the game was played on a large scale. Unlike the other versions, since players were in a new region (Unova) that was very far from the previous ones (Johto, Kanto, Hoenn, and Sinnoh), so older Pokemon were rare. But, thanks to something called the Dream World, players were able to encounter beasts from just about anywhere, and that allowed them to capture them in Unova.
New battle types, such as Triple and Rotation, mixed things up quite a bit. And the Battle Subway (think Battle Towers) allowed for those looking for challenges to find some. Everything was animated this time around, and many more 3D elements were included for a much more modern look to the game. There was also a ton of new internet connectivity added in to fully usher Pokemon into the current age.
The biggest addition was definitely seasons. Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter made for unique experiences, and since they rotated each month they kept players occupied as new opportunities arose with the changes in the weather.
11. Conquest (2012) – DS
Pokemon Conquest was the oddest announcement ever. It mixed Koei properties with Pokemon. No, not in some Dynasty Warriors-esque way. Rather, a mix of Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Pokemon. You had characters from Dynasty Warriors and the like mixed in and training different Pokemon.
The mechanics were basically like Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics where turn-based strategy prevailed on a battlefield.
10. Pokemon GO
Pokemon GO is the most unique game on this list, mostly due to the fact that instead of your typical game it’s a mobile app. The fact that it’s an app shouldn’t deter you though, this is a solid experience that brings the dreams of a lot of players to life. Instead of controlling some kid on an adventure on your handheld, you actually are that kid. The game uses your GPS to place pocket monsters all up in the world around you using augmented reality (AR).
It comes as no surprise that the game has blown up, reigniting the passion to be the very best in old fans and creating new ones in its wake. The game has also been bringing millions of people together as they encounter one another out in the wild.
Friendships are forged, Pokemon are caught, and nothing could be better. Even better, the game is still growing, with more looking to be added all the time, and features to help bring the experience closer to the classics.
9. Pokemon Trading Card Game (2000) – Game Boy Color
No, you’re not reading that wrong, there is an actual Pokemon video game that was based on the trading card game. In it you play as a young boy who travels the world challenging NPCs in the tabletop game. It was a wonderful alternative to the cards if you were trying to save some money (those cards could be very expensive), but outside of that if you could get a core Pokemon game, there was no real reason to get this one.
It was cool that they went the digital route of the highly popular game, but choosing between actually collecting monsters and playing with virtual paper? Yeah, no contest. There was a sequel, but it never left the shores of Japan, not officially at least. No doubt that it’s one of the best Pokemon games.
8. Stadium (2000) – N64
Pokemon Stadium was an odd but highly enjoyable game that was actually the first console entry for the franchise. Instead of a full on RPG, the game focused on four tournaments where you can battle it out for supremacy and a few mini-games.
The biggest draws were being able to transfer any of your Gen I (Red, Blue, and Yellow) into the game and see them beautifully rendered on the big screen.
You were also able to play those Gen I games on your big screen through the N64 by using the Transfer Pak that came with new copies of Pokemon Stadium. As simple as the whole thing was, it was very well received, and although not exactly what everyone hoped for the game was a blast to play. We couldn’t keep going without giving this one a mention in our list of the best Pokemon games.
7. Stadium 2 (2001) N64
Pokemon Stadium 2 was more of the same, only this time the developer (HAL Laboratory) decided to throw in some much needed variety. You could still transfer all of your pocket monsters into the game (Gen I and II only), and there were still tournaments to get into. But outside of that functionality, the mini-games got much more limelight this time around.
The second entry in this series felt much more like a party game with the mini-games sometimes centering around specific beasts and using all of the gimmiks you saw in other N64 titles. It was fun, much more enjoyable with multiplayers, and had a much larger roster to play with and unlock in your Pokedex. While it’s a sequel, it’s definitely one of the best Pokemon games.
6. FireRed and LeafGreen (2004) – Game Boy Advance
Red and Blue where the games that got it all started here in North America, but the original releases in Japan were Red and Green. For the remake of the classic the developers decided to go back to the original color combination and gave us FireRed and LeafGreen. These re-iterations contained all the classic elements players knew and loved but also threw in all of the advances made in the franchis up to that point.
That means Pokemon now had genders, could carry items, and were able to breed. Pokemon from Gen II and III could be found as well, and you could even venture out of the Kanto region and into an entirely new area, the Sevi Islands, to catch some critters. Red was no longer the sole protag to choose from either. You could play as Leaf, a female trainer, as well.
FireRed and LeafGreen were perfect examples of how to build on a classic without having it lose its identity.
5. Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire (2014) – 3DS
Being remakes that came during the latest generation of handhelds sure gave Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire a leg up. At their cores, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are the same games that older fans would remember from 2003. All of the story and locations were still present in some form, and the abundance of new pocket monsters roamed the lands waiting for you to catch them. But, it’s the additions on top of the already impressive games that make these two such standouts.
Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire allow the player to move in full 3D in many locations (although there are still a few 2D areas). It also brings another element from X and Y: Mega Evolutions. Not only do you get to see Mega Evolutions for the ones introduced in the previous games, but more than 20 new ones were thrown in as well.
The story had also been expanded, along with some brand new characters and instances. Older folks you may remember now have revamped appearances to fit the modern generation, and this resulted in a fresh looking game. Even Secret Bases have been overhauled, allowing for more customization and new interactions with other players.
During a time when ‘remasters’ and ‘remakes’ have been running rampant, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire feel like brand new games, and that helps to make these some of the best Pokemon games out there.
4. Pokemon Snap (1999) – N64
What is there to say about Pokemon Snap that hasn’t already been said a million times before? Did you walk around on an intense adventure? No. Did you spend your time capturing these powerful creatures for your own use? Not in the way you’d probably expect. Were all the different pocket monsters from Gen 1 in the game? Nope. Yet the game still managed to be absolutely amazing.
You were Todd Snap, Pokemon photographer extraordinaire and all you did was sit inside of the Zero-One (the automated vehicle you sat in throughout the game) and take pictures of the creatures in their natural habitats. There were easter eggs, fun secrets you could unlock by messing with the critters, and the ability to save your masterfully snapped photos (which you could then print out as stickers at select retailers).
It was a surprisingly zen experience that required very little of the player.
3. X and Y (2013) – 3DS
X and Y were the first games to feature fully 3D visuals. Characters, Pokemon, locations, battles, everything was 3D and fully animated instead of some sprites. Also new to the games were Mega Evolutions which allowed certain pocket monsters to evolve even further for the duration of a battle. Giving players much more control of their experience, X and Y allowed trainers to customize their appearance. No longer did everyone just have to look the same.
Outside of these features, though, X and Y largely adhered to the advancements of the previous games, except when it came to time.
For some reason, the developers didn’t think it was necessary to include the time of day and/or season systems that really helped to expand the previous games. X and Y is definitely the best looking game to date, but the exclusion of such prominent features that made the Black and White series, and HeartGold and SoulSilver so great was definitely a missed opportunity. No doubt at all that it’s one of the best Pokemon games.
2. Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition (1999) – Game Boy Color
Yellow was the game everyone that had watched the animated series wanted. Red and Blue allowed us all to be trainers, but Yellow let everyone be just like ash and have a Pokemon that was truly your friend. The little beast of your choosing would walk right along with you throughout your adventure to be the greatest trainer in the world.
It was also the first game in the series to release for the Game Boy Color, and it upgraded all of the things you could do in the original games. You could think of it as a sort of directors cut that took the first adventure and made it absolutely perfect.
1. HeartGold and SoulSilver (2010) – DS
Arguably the best games in the Pokemon series, Gold and Silver received proper upgrades on the Nintendo DS 10 years after their initial release. All of the great new additions to the series such as the Vs. Recorder, female protagonists, animated sprites, new quests from games like Crystal, revamped time system, and amazing visuals were thrown in.
All of the upgrades made HeartGold and SoulSilver feel brand new to those who fell in love with the originals, and created something up to snuff for newcomers familiar with games such as Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum. All of Gen II returned, with their own exclusivity based on the version you purchased, but you could now also obtain Gen III and IV through trading or obtaining them in game (applies only to those from the Hoenn region).
The game that helped to shape the future of the series into something much more immersive had gotten even better.
That does it for our list of the best Pokemon Games of all time! Let us know down below which ones are your favorites!
35. Pokemon Dash (2005) - DS
Pokemon Dash puts players in control of Pikachu as they race through levels by quickly swiping in the proper direction on the bottom screen using the stylus. That is all. There are no other mechanics, and in single-player you have no choice but to be Pikachu.
Sure you can unlock maps shaped like other Pokemon by inputting your cartridge for either Ruby, Sapphire, FireRed, LeafGreen, or Emerald. But that would just suggest you and your poor DS to more vicious swiping in one of the most boring racing games out there.