Pokemon Games; We look at the great games from 1996 to now!

Written by Daniel Nesbitt.

Pokemon Games have been around for such a large amount of most of our lives. Game Freak celebrated their 20th anniversary in 2016 with a whole host of content. We appreciated an abundance of giveaways, highly anticipated game releases and much more. It was truly the year of Pokemon. Each game has been uniquely different but always able to engage with its audience with similar mechanics. Pokemon Sun and Moon changed the formula but has been a huge success, selling almost 15 million copies. Pokemon Go was a huge success and, despite its flaws, truly went viral having more installs than Tinder and more time spent in app than Facebook in only a week. The Pokemon Anime has been going for just as long as the games, with the Sun and Moon season seeing a complete overhaul. Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire were some of the best GBA games, earning themselves remakes for the 3DS. But where did it all start? It is time to go back to the beginning, to Pokemon Red and Blue.

Generation 1 - Red, Blue and Yellow

 
The most important choice: Bulbasaur, Charmander, or Squirtle?

Pokemon sprang into the gaming world in February 1996 with two simultaneous releases on Gameboy: Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue. Developed by Game Freak and published by Nintendo, these games were a ground breaking success, partly thanks to a fun new mechanic in gaming: Trade. Red and Blue, who were almost identical bar their exclusive pokemon, required you to complete your Pokedex via cable connection trade with friends. This new mechanic meant that a community began. Just a year later in 1997, the Pokemon Anime aired, giving the universe its emotional core, emphasizing the supportive relationship between pokemon and trainer. Then comes Pokemon Yellow in 1998, introducing a new mechanic inspired by the anime: Pikachu, as your starter and friend, following you around outside their pokeball, as well as giving the player access to all 151 Pokemon without the need for trade. Finally, Pokemon: The First Movie debuted at number one in the US; a testament to how loved this series was. But there that was just the beginning...

Generation 2 - Silver, Gold and Crystal

 

 Silver and Gold followed in 1999. The new Gameboy Colour hand console added vibrancy to our favourite series. It also brought with it 100 new Pokemon to collect which were again, split exclusivly accross the two games. The world expanded as the game thrust us in to a new area: the Johto region. New characters greeted us, new mechanics like breeding began, and even new items to increase the playability were introduced. A stand-out new feature was The Legendary Dog Trio: three hard to catch Pokemon that would flee and scatter without pattern. The act of catching these critters was a game of luck; they would roam around the world, never being found in just one spot. Like Yellow before it, Crystal debuted with the full pokedex of Generation 2 available in 2001.

Generation 3 - Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald

 
Male Pokemon character walking throuhg a puddle in Sapphire
Hoenn - the region of so so so much water.

One year after the Gameboy Advance is released, Game Freak is back with Ruby and Sapphire, my favourites in the series. This generation gave us a huge graphical update, 135 new Pokemon to catch and some innovative mechanical changes. This Generation sprang life into the series with new mechanics like Pokemon abilities, double battles, and a choice of what gender your character could be. And for the first time, the two different games offered more exclusive content beyond just pokemon - Each game also had a slightly different story with different enemy teams too! Ruby's Team Magma wanted to raise Groudon to make more land for Pokemon to run free. Sapphire's Team Aqua want to wake Kyogre to raise the sea level so the Pokemon could always swim. As always, fight with your pokemon friends to save the day. Again, the third installment Emerald combined these two stories, bringing together both legendaries and Rayquaza. The huge additions and world building made these Pokemon games some of the best in the series.

Generation 4 - Diamond, Pearl and Platinum

 

 Diamond and Pearl debuted on Nintendo DS, adding touch screen support to the Pokemon games. It also added 107 new Pokemon to the roster, bringing the total up to 494. These Pokemon games recieved criticism from fans and critics over the flawed graphics and audio. But it did see the start of a huge feature within the games: WiFi connection. Welcome to the Underground, a cool cave system under the Sinnoh region. Secret bases were born and players participated in minigames to recieve items. WiFi connectivity also allowed players to access the Global Trade Station. This game changing technology meant you could trade Pokemon with people all over the world, expanding the community into the online universe. Platinum came in 2008, mashing the two games together and bringing with it the Distortion World, used in later games.

Generation 5 - Black and White

 
The starting Pokemon in the Black and White games.
Snivy, Tepig, and Oshawatt. Which starter did you pick?

Generation 5 was an interesting set of Pokemon Games. The game boasted 156 new Pokemon... but that was it. Only those 156. Well, until you finished the game at least. Whereas in other games, you would see your old favourite Pokemon as well, Gen 5 wanted to give you that whole new world experience. As well as new Pokemon we also received new ways to battle: Rotation and Triple battles. Rare Pokemon spawns became easier to spot with grass rustling or dust clouds formed in caves. Double battles were also brought back but could now be encountered in the wild. The final installment in the generation was actually two installments: Black 2 and White 2. The games take place two years after the originals and introduced Pokemon Forms. This meant that the old Legendary Pokemon returned with a new modern look and even more power. 

Generation 6 - X and Y

 

2013 saw the first worldwide simultaneous release of a Nintendo published game, the first Pokemon game for the 3DS. The Kalos region, heavily inspired by French Culture, gave us only 72 new Pokemon. However, it introduced bigger mechanics to the series: Fairy type and Mega Evolutions. The fairy type balanced the Dragon type Pokemon, changing the entire meta of the game. Mega Evolutions provided fully evolved Pokemon (like Charizard, Lucario, Mewtwo, etc.) with a new temporary evolution. With the use of Pokemon's Mega Stone, a new level of power can be reached for the Pokemon and their trainer. O-powers came in as well, giving the game an extra boost. Horde Battles became the bain of my existence. Beating five Pokemon at once instead of just one!? Gamers loved the extra challenge. However, much the the dismay of the fans, Generation 6 did not get a third installment.

Generation 7 - Sun and Moon

 
The Alola Region, a huge change for the Pokemon Games.

Sun and Moon reignited the series when the Alola Region turned the Pokemon games model on its head. The latest release graced us on November 2016 on the 3DS. The usual new pokemon designs joined the game, this time with 81 new pokemon, but it was the Alolan forms people couldn't stop talking about. New updates of your old favourites were made, including a steel type Diglett, a flame weilding Marowak, and blue-eyed psychic Raichu. Not only did this changed the way they looked, it also changed their type and move sets. Instead of the usual gym-based road to the Pokemon League, we were now taking Trials for each island. These Trials had you in battles that lead up to the Totem Pokemon, an uber-powerful version of regular Pokemon found in the area. Once the trial was beaten, you took your reward: a Z Crystal which strengthens your pokemon when held by the corresponding type. Ultra Beasts, new training mechanics, split map, and updated 3D graphics were all added to the game, plus loads more. Check out a whole host of the new features in the video.

 
 

Pokemon games remakes

 

Some games are so nice, you have to play them twice! And for Pokemon, there's been 6 remakes so far! Eight years after the original game, FireRed and LeafGreen storm into the limelight and fans everywhere rejoiced. Borrowing graphics and mechanics from Ruby and Sapphire, these new games dominated the market in 2004. Successful items like 'Experience Share' joined the games but the story and world remained exactly the same. Gold and Silver had a makeover in to HeartGold and SoulSilver for the DS. Touch screen support, beautiful graphical updates, and the return to the pokemon following you as your friend made these Pokemon game remakes shine. A Pokewalker was also introduced; a Pokeball pedometer that connected to the game and let you train your Pokemon while not playing. Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby joined the line-up of remakes on the 3DS. These remakes gained the Mega Evolutions seen in X and Y as well as a 3D graphical upgrade. The Delta Episode also expanded the story and unlocked the chance at rare legendary Pokemon.

Pokemon Go

 
What a lovely spot to catch an iconic Pokemon.

One of the biggest apps in history, Pokemon Go encouraged fans all over the world go outside to catch 'em all. Pokemon Go is an Augmented Reality game where you walk around in the real world to find Pokemon in the game. Players pick between one of three teams, bringing back the feeling of community that made the orginal games so popular. Popular landmarks and monuments are now Pokestops where you could meet fellow trainers and collect essential items, including Pokeballs. The game was a monumental triumph... for a few weeks. Despite the enormous initial success, fans felt frustration due to server overloads and glitching. The issues meant many fans chose to delete the app. However, those who've held on are rewarded as the problems are slowly being resolved and the game gives it's first big pokedex update. Originally the game only spawned generation one characters but on February 6th of 2016, Genration 2 pokemon were released, revamping the game. While we understand the frustrations felt by fans, we have high hopes for the future of this game!

Pokemon Trading Card Game

 

We can't talk about Pokemon Games without mentioning the trading cards and their digital countreparts. Pokemon cards were the hot new thing in the playground when I was a kid. It was a whole new way to catch 'em all, as you collected, traded and battled in this whole new way. The card game even recieved a digital version, the Pokemon Trading Card Game for the Gameboy Colour. Recently an online counterpart has enjoyed success, known as Pokemon TCG Online where you can play on your computer or your phone. New cards are constantly coming out as well, like the Sun and Moon expansion that came out on February 3rd, 2016. Not only is it a competitive game, the cards themselves are also very, very collectible and can be worth serious money.

Other Pokemon Games

 

Several smaller Pokemon Games deserve praise as well. Pokemon Pinball, Pokemon Duel, My Pokemon Ranch, Pokemon Shuffle, the Mystery Dungeon Series, and so much more have made their mark on the community. It's clear that Game Freak and Nintendo have done more than just make a game. They've made a world. Twenty years is no small feat and there's no doubt they'll be going for twenty more. The series is so monumental, that I haven't even had time to discuss all the fan made games, the figurines or the Pokemon Center shops. If you have never played a Pokemon game, grab a copy and discover it for yourself. My favourite, and what I think is on of the best GBA games of all time, is Generation 3, Ruby and Sapphire. Come join the world. Join the community. You gotta catch em all!