The Pokemon series was my absolute favorite as a kid, and I have continued to have a love-hate relationship with it into my adult life. It’s a series designed for kids, but it’s one that I seem to have a hard time letting go of completely. Every character and Pokemon brings up so many memories for me: Memories of friends, family, and even strangers that I was able to meet and bond over Pokemon with.
As a kid, nothing used to beat walking around my neighborhood with my GameBoy and a link cable looking for people to trade and battle with. I learned every kid’s name in my area that way, and it was great. But that was peak Poke-mania. There have been quite a few games since then, and I have some thoughts on which are my favorite.
A quick disclaimer: I will not be including the remakes in this as I have the least experience with them, and I want to stick to the original experience for all of these games. With that, let’s peer into the wild grass and see which entry is coming up first.
10. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon Blue Rescue Team
When I was a kid, I had very little knowledge of what games were out there and how they differed from one another, so you can imagine my surprise when I received Blue Rescue Team as a gift. After taking the quiz and receiving my Pokemon persona as Treeko, I was immediately hooked into this world.
It really is just that easy sometimes. Going around and taking out other Pokemon with my team and rescuing scared and isolated Pokemon was a lot of fun for me at the time. I may not have played it as much as some of these other titles, but it certainly is a highlight of my childhood.
9. Pokemon Trozei
I realize that placing Trozei on this list at all, let alone beneath Blue Rescue Team, might seem controversial but hear me out. Sometimes the stress of being a 14 year old can really wear on you. You have little say in whether you are going on that family vacation to Maine or if you have to spend all day in the middle of nowhere watching a sport you don’t care about.
Pokemon Trozei was there with all its little puzzling Pokemon heads to help me chill out when Pokemon Emerald grew old, and Ranger was giving me blisters.
8. Pokemon Red and Blue
These games suck. But they are so good too. Red and Blue are the blueprint that Game Freak is still trying to outgrow, and they helped millions of us to become Pokemon fans. Despite the terrible balancing and broken mechanics, I love the ridiculous and simplistic designs of the Pokemon and the music is some of the most iconic in the series.
Kanto is one of the best-designed maps in the series as well. I might never play this again, but I can’t not appreciate what it did for me and so many others. Still hoping we will visit Kanto in a huge cross-region game one day.
7. Pokemon Snap
As a child, I loved Pokemon Snap because it offered something that the other Pokemon games didn’t really, and that was making our knowledge and curiosity of Pokemon part of the fun. What happens when you bait a Pikachu to a Surfboard? What happens when you piss off an Elctabuzz? What if I bully this Charmeleon until he falls into lava?
Pokemon Snap allowed us to interact with Pokemon like we had never before, and I have always appreciated the level of creativity that went into the first title. While it doesn’t hold any surprises for me anymore, I still boot it up regularly and play through with a smile on my face.
6. Pokemon Stadium
Okay, another guilty pleasure of mine. Pokemon Stadium is filled with some of the most repetitive and unfair gameplay in the entire franchise. It makes it almost impossible to beat without using a GameBoy adaptor and your own copy of Pokemon Red. Despite all of this, I can’t stop returning to it.
I love slowly making my way through the gym gauntlet and stadium challenges with the rental Pokemon. It feels like an added challenge and one that I don’t get often from the mainline games. Also, the mini-games are incredibly slept on, and you all should try them if you haven’t. I need a Pokemon equivalent to Mario Party to release yesterday.
5. Pokemon X and Y
By the time that Pokemon X and Y released in 2013, I had completely fallen out of Pokemon. It seemed like my time, and I was about to graduate high school. However, YouTubers and even my peers convinced me to give it another go, and I ended up playing over 200 hours of X in the first month.
I know people complain about the difficulty, but ALL of the mainline games are easy. I just loved the new Pokemon, mega evolutions, and the improved online functionality. Playing against strangers felt like such an easy process compared to what I remember in older games. I really hope Game Freak brings back mega evolutions in whatever their next mainline title is because it’s easily my favorite new mechanic they have added in recent years.
4. Pokemon Ranger
This was probably the weirdest spin-off back in the day next to Pokemon Channel. You were a Pokemon Ranger and didn’t catch Pokemon like how everyone else does with a ball. Instead, you used a special top that spun around the target Pokemon, and this was mirrored by drawing circles on your DS bottom screen.
The story was one of the more engaging I’ve ever experienced in a Pokemon game, and the last few Pokemon I had to catch were excruciating on my fingers as I rapidly drew circles, almost breaking my screen. It was worth it, though, because those of us who put the work in got a free Manaphy. A cause worth tendinitis at age 12.
3. Pokemon Emerald
Honestly the pinnacle of Pokemon mainline storylines, Pokemon availability, and in-game action. Team Aqua and Team Magma are my favorite enemies in these games, and their threat to everyone felt so much more real than whatever Team Rocket was doing. Seeing the scale of legendaries was also cool, like with Groudon sitting in a pool of lava.
It felt like so much happened in these games, and it has one of the best post-games in any Pokemon game with a revamped Battle Frontier. You can’t beat the value here.
2. Pokemon Colosseum
Arguably the most difficult and yet balanced Pokemon game made to date. Pokemon Colosseum was the first big console Pokemon game to actually allow us to go off on our own adventure. This one was saving Pokemon from being enslaved as Shadow Pokemon which used a weird mechanic where this strange girl could sense shadows on Pokemon or not.
Nonetheless, the restriction on catchable Pokemon, emphasis on double battles, and competitively designed enemy teams made this a Pokemon game that I actually had to think a little to play. What a fantastic change of pace!
1. Pokemon Silver
I’ll be honest, this is at number one for pure nostalgia. Pokemon Silver was technically my first Pokemon game (though I got Red and Blue the same week). I couldn’t read yet, so I had to randomly progress through the game and ask my older friends for guidance. In time, I memorized how to get around without being able to understand what people were telling me.
The sound design from the soundtrack to the Pokemon cries transports me to the ‘90s while the mere sight of Whitney’s Miltank gives me war flashbacks. It’s probably aged horribly, but I wouldn’t know. I just have some of my fondest gaming memories locked up in this one.
Full Disclosure: I have played Pokemon Legends: Arceus but I want to give it a little more time to sit before I commit to saying it’s one of my favorites. However, I will say that it’s REALLY good. Full review next week though!