(This might be a little niche for some, so I’ll forgive you for skipping this)
Unless you’re a diehard like me, you probably missed the fact that, over the weekend, Nintendo released Pokemon Gold and Silver for 3DS. There was nothing new, it wasn’t updated or anything. It was just the original Game Boy Color version available for download on the Nintendo eShop. Heck, I’m as plugged in to the Pokemon world as anyone, and I didn’t know about it until Friday night, when I immediately bought it. For only $10, it seemed like a no-brainer. After all, this was one of my favorite games of all time, and, if you count Game Boy as a true video game console (which I usually don’t), the first video game I ever owned. Might as well download it for a rainy day. Unsurprisingly, from the second I purchased Gold (I originally had Silver and later Soul Silver, so I figured I’d see how the other half lived), it began calling my name. I started playing the next day. And, more than anything else, it made me want to write about Pokemon, because, besides sports and myself, it’s the thing I’m most passionate about. I know, I know. It’s stupid and I should grow up. Well, I don’t really care. I’ve lost out on countless opportunities to spread my social wings so I could stay in and play Pokemon. I once played White for thirteen hours in one day. In the post-Generation II worlds, I’m willing to spend entire days catching the same Pokemon over and over again until I get one with the nature I’m looking for. I live to EV train and super train and, at one point or another, have pretty much known every single Pokemon’s strengths and weaknesses. Point is, I care way too much about Pokemon, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I’d rather be passionate about something juvenile and make-believe than not care about anything at all. So yes, I am still single.
Anyway, now that that’s out of the way, I can focus on the issue at hand. My previous Pokemon posts have been exclusively about my Pokemon football league (round 3 possibly coming soon?), but now that I’m back in to Gold and with Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon looming, it’s time to unveil the Official Brian’s Den Pokemon Rankings. This only takes main series hand-held games into account, so no Pokemon Stadium 1 or 2, no Colosseum, no Snap, no nothing. Only the true games. Also, Crystal is excluded because, somehow, it’s the only main series game I’ve never played. It may seem impossible once I get to the actual rankings that I would have skipped the third entry to the Johto games, but it’s true. Literally every other generation I’ve played at least one of the initial games and the third game, but Crystal remains unplayed. Maybe one day. As always, if you disagree with these rankings, you’re wrong.
- Gold/Silver/Heart Gold/Soul Silver– I’ve decided to include any remakes in with their original counterparts because it’s less work for me, but even if they were two separate entities, it wouldn’t change much. It’s my personal opinion that Gold and Silver are easily the greatest Game Boy games of all time. They may also be the greatest games of all time, period. The way the world looks is perfect. The colors are so bold and work perfectly every step of the way. It has the greatest 8-bit soundtrack of all time. It has the luxury of using the first two Pokemon generations, two of the strongest generations. It has much more plot than Red and Blue, but doesn’t overdo it like the later games tend to do. I think the first erection I ever got was when I discovered you could face all the Kanto gym leaders after you beat the Elite Four. It’s literally two full Pokemon games in one. Its a perfect Pokemon experience. The fact that the DS updates could take all that and make it better still blows my mind.
- X/Y– The first Pokemon game to come to 3DS (and the only reason I bought a 3DS)(Diamond and Pearl were also the only reason I bought a DS)(The only reason I’ll get a switch is when they release a Pokemon game for it, honestly), X and Y might be the most heavily anticipated Pokemon game I can remember (keep in mind I had just turned 4 when Red and Green first came out in Japan, so the whole “awareness of what other people are excited for” and “looking forward to something for a long time” didn’t develop for a while). To say that it didn’t disappoint would be an insult to the game. It surpassed all my wildest expectations instantly. The world is a beautiful, diverse wonderland unlike anything ever seen on hand-held game devices, and features a charming (I think) batch of new Pokemon to go with it. The new features such as Super Training and Pokemon-Amie added a brilliant new layer of gameplay that somehow brought me even closer to my fictional companions. Adding the Fairy type was another A-plus move by a game series that is no stranger to them. Sure, the plot is very over-the-top and many of the new features make raising Pokemon ridiculously easy, but that didn’t stop me from spending 150+ glorious hours in Kalos.
- Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald/Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire– The only instance where I prefer the original to the remake, I came reaaaalllllly close to putting this number 2, if only for the simple fact that the finally, finally, introduced the ability to run. Words can’t express how important that was. Hoenn is a top three region: it has my second favorite soundtrack, my personal favorite generation of Pokemon, and, for the first time, weather. The plot was a little overwrought, but I think I’ll probably stop criticizing the actual plots of these games because the nature of media made ostensibly for children is to have extreme, binary plot points where it’s easy to differentiate between right and wrong. But I never emotionally matured after 6th grade, so that’s fine with me. Also, it’s easy to look back and say “yeah, no duh it worked,” but it was a pretty big risk at the time to stage a Pokemon game in a region totally disconnected from the Kanto/Johto continent. Ruby, Sapphire, and, to a slightly lesser extent, Emerald, are near perfect gaming experiences that suffer only because their contemporaries are divine gifts given unto us by a higher power.
- Black/White/Black 2/White 2– As I literally just said, Pokemon games typically don’t lend themselves to too much nuance and character complexity, but Black and White really change that. There were story elements and plot beats that, frankly, we had never come close to seeing before in a Pokemon game, and haven’t really seen since. It’s not saying a whole lot, but the character N is far and away the most complex, most developed, and most well-written character in Pokemon history. For large portions of Black and White (and parts of Black and White 2) the villain team isn’t necessarily cut-and-dry pure evil. They actually have genuine motives that aren’t “let’s just destroy the world and see what happens.” Both games had more mature storylines than every other Pokemon game, and, while I certainly appreciate and mostly love the levity the other games provide (when they aren’t veering into melodrama in the third act), it’s nice to have at least one game that sort of challenges you in an emotional way. Being based on New York City, Unova offers an urban feel that comes as a welcome departure from the typical fantasy-RPG maps of the other games. Yes, it’s a goofy generation of Pokemon, but for the most part they embrace it (maybe my favorite touch ever put in a Pokemon game is the fact that Vanillite, the ice cream cone Pokemon, can be found outside what’s essentially a giant meat freezer). Probably the most underrated games in the Pokemon saga. (Side note that doesn’t really factor in to the ranking: while playing White for the first time, my final battle against the villain leader was easily the most epic battle in the history of Pokemon. I have no idea how long it lasted. It could have been thirty minutes, it could have been an hour, it could have been ten hours. I used so many revives and full restores and swapped out party members so many times it’d make your head spin. It was the most intense few minutes of my entire life. The world could have ended around me and I wouldn’t have noticed, I was so locked in. I wish there was a recording or literally any evidence whatsoever, but, alas, you have to take my word for it.
- Red/Blue/Fire Red/Leaf Green– I know, I know. “What are you doing? How are they not number one? What about my childhood?” Look, I hear you. I respect everything Red and Blue represent. They were the first, they have classic, classic Pokemon that still rank as the number one generation for pretty much everyone but me (and I have it second), Gary is easily the best rival, the best starting Pokemon, it’s the most challenging by a mile. Hell, Dragonite is still my favorite Pokemon ever. I’m not putting them this low for attention or to throw out a hot take. This is what I actually believe. Think about Red and Blue: there’s virtually no plot whatsoever, Kanto, while the first region, is pretty nondescript in all honestly, and there’s so many goddamn bugs. And I don’t mean Weedle and Caterpie. Psychic types are totally overpowered. With only a weakness to bug type (and only three bug type attacking moves, none of which were powerful) and without the division of special attack and special defense, most psychic types were virtually unstoppable. Look, I get it, I take Pokemon too seriously, but these things matter to me. And without the amazing Game Boy Advance remakes (which rectified everything that was wrong with the games, updated the graphics, and added some interesting subplots), they might rank even lower. That’s not to say don’t play these games. They’re important pieces of the culture at large, but if you somehow haven’t played the original Pokemon games, Fire Red and Leaf Green and much more enjoyable experiences.
- Sun/Moon– I know it was met with universal acclaim by critics, but the people I talked to who actually play Pokemon games were kind of divided on Sun and Moon. “Where are the gym leaders?” “It’s too easy.” “Feels too much like a series of mini-games not a real Pokemon game.” Every single one is a valid complaint. But, personally, I loved Sun and Moon. I thought it was fresh, I thought it was original, I thought every new thing they added worked. The plot is actually pretty crazy, in a good way, and complements the world around it in a way that only Ruby and Sapphire can really match. I loved the four islands and how each one had a different personality, and thought the island trials were clever and a good way to switch things up from the tried and true “8 gym leaders” formula. No generation of Pokemon fit their region better, and it gets bonus points for Alolan Exeggutor. These were great, great games, and I know Ultra Sun and Moon will be great too.
- Diamond/Pearl/Platinum– I feel really bad for this generation of Pokemon games. Much like Godfather 3, Diamond and Pearl suffer greatly under the weight of the larger franchise. If they were called literally anything else, Diamond and Pearl would be considered classics. And they’re still great games! I actually think the plot and region are some of the more interesting ones because of the emphasis it places on history and mythology, and it introduces a lot of cool and important Pokemon. It also brought Pokemon into the (relatively) current gen. Being the first to arrive on DS, it laid the groundwork for most of the side features and display elements you see in the newest games. But there’s just something about it that kind of makes it forgettable. I think it’s only fault is that it’s not the other games in the series.
- Yellow– I just wanted to separate this as a protest against Pikachu. Pikachu sucks and isn’t worthy of its own game, regardless of how popular the show is.
There you have it. As I said before, if you disagree, you’re probably wrong. Don’t forget who the expert is, here. Who else do you know who’s willing to devote countless hours of his life just so he can have enough experience and data to compile a power ranking for a stupid website? The answer is no one, that’s who. Now go catch ’em all.