I’ve only been with GO Hub for a few months now, but if you’ve read any of my articles I think I’ve already established myself as a big fan of the main series Pokémon games. This was a bit surprising even to myself, as I like many of you got my introduction to the franchise in Pokémon GO.
I have a bit of an addictive personality. When I like something, I get really into it (I really wish this applied to my college coursework haha). Even after the initial hype around Pokémon GO began to wear off in 2016, I still found myself enthralled by the series. I tried to get my hands on as much Pokémon media as possible.
I was immediately drawn to the main series line of Pokémon games, created by GameFreak. I can tell you from experience that it can be a bit daunting to figure out where to start. I’ve ended up playing most of the instalments in the series over the past several years, and I think I’ve gotten a good sense of which games are the best introduction to the series. With the holiday season coming up, I figured it would be a good time to cover this topic, in case you, a friend, or a family member are interested in exploring the main series games for the first time.
Of course, the gaming consoles are definitely the more expensive aspects this endeavour. If you already own the consoles, then great! If not, you could potentially combine these completely unrelated images below and take these games for a “test ride”, so to speak.
Of course, these recommendations are all my own opinion. At the end of the article, I’ll have a short section covering the way I’d recommend playing each generation of Pokémon for the first time. I think that covers all the intro stuff, so now let’s get into the list!
For a TLDR of my recommendations, skip to the conclusion of the article
A Note About the Let’s GO! Games
In 2018, GameFreak released the games Let’s GO! Pikachu and Let’s GO! Eevee. These games were specifically designed to draw fans of Pokémon GO into the main series. They are a unique combination of aspects of both Pokémon GO as well as the main series games. Most notably, the catching mechanics are pulled almost directly from Pokémon GO.
Those of you who are familiar with the main series may have assumed that these games would be at the top of this list. While I don’t think they are a bad place to start, I don’t think they qualify as an introduction to the main series games. While there are ideas pulled from the main series, such as the basic battle mechanics, there are other key aspects, such as Abilities, Items, and more, that are notably missing. It is also possible to 2v1 every battle in the game, which definitely detracts from any challenge the game may have posed.
For younger kids, I would say it inches its way higher on the list. The colorful and cartoonish art style is fun, and it features the original 151, the most recognizable Pokémon in the series. However, there are other entries on this list that I think serve as a better introduction to the series as a whole.
X and Y/Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire
I acknowledge that I am extremely biased in this solution, but hear me out.
X and Y were the first official games I played the series (I have absolutely no idea how someone would go about playing an unofficial Pokémon game). I think this makes me the best authority to speak as to how well these games served as an introduction to the main series games.
X and Y were the first Pokémon games released for the Nintendo 3DS system. Just as every game introduced on a new system, they massively overhauled the graphics of the franchise, this time into 3D! The next installation in the series directly following X and Y were Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire (ORAS), remakes of the Generation 3 Ruby and Sapphire games from the Game Boy era. These put a new unique spin on the beloved Hoenn region, adding slight adjustments to the original game to create a brand new experience!
For the purposes of this article, I will be focusing primarily on X and Y. However, it is important to note that ORAS use the same mechanics, graphics, and other features. If you prefer Hoenn to Kalos, then most of what I’ll be discussing will apply to ORAS as well. Now without further ado, let’s take a look and why X and Y are (in my opinion) the best games in the main series to start with!
**for a TLDR, skip to the “XY Conclusion” section
First of all, let’s talk about game mechanics. X and Y were the games that introduced the Fairy type, meaning it was the first game that works with the type chart we are familiar with in Pokémon GO. The type chart in its current form hasn’t always existed. The Dark, Steel, and Fairy types didn’t always exist, and certain types were strong and/or weak against different types. However, Generation 6 was the last time the type chart was altered in any way. Every game since their release has used this type chart, including Pokémon GO. Of course, this doesn’t mean that GameFreak can’t shake things up in the future, but at the very least, it makes X and Y a good place to start.
There are some additional mechanics in place that also help make this a good first choice. For starters, let’s start with TM’s. In the main series, Technical Machines work a bit differently. Each TM will teach a Pokémon one specific move, rather than randomly pulling from that Pokémon’s move pool like they do in Pokémon GO. Not all TM’s are compatible with every Pokémon, as each Pokémon has a specific learnset, similarly to Pokémon GO. The TM’s for each individual move must be obtained by the Trainer, either through exploring the map or visiting certain shops, before it can be taught to a Pokémon.
Originally, TM’s were single use, similar to how they are in Pokémon GO, so if you wanted to teach Flamethrower to two different Pokémon, you would need two copies of the Flamethrower TM. However, in Pokémon X and Y, TM’s have unlimited uses. That means that once you find or buy the Flamethrower TM, it can be used to teach Flamethrower to as many different Pokémon as you want. This was a feature introduced in Pokémon Black and White, the instalment just prior to X and Y, but there are a few other features that still put X and Y above the rest in my opinion.
If you look around online for even a little bit, you may hear that Pokémon X and Y are the easiest games in the series, maybe a little bit too easy. One of the biggest factors that contributed to this is known as the Universal EXP Share.
All Pokémon require Experience Points, or EXP, in order to level up. Levelling up is key for raising a Pokémon’s strength, learning new moves, evolving, and more. EXP could be earned by defeating an opposing Pokémon in battle, whether it was in the wild or against another Trainer. Prior to Generation 6, a Pokémon would only earn EXP if it was sent out into battle against the defeated Pokémon. The only way for a Pokémon to gain EXP without battling was through a Held Item called the EXP Share. While this helps, it is limiting for multiple reasons.
X and Y introduced a new feature to help solve this problem, the aforementioned Universal EXP Share. Instead of being a Held Item, it is a Key Item, which acts as a passive boost. With this item, every Pokémon in your team will earn EXP, regardless of whether or not they participated in the battle. It takes some practice getting used to balancing your team’s EXP throughout a playthrough, so the Universal EXP share is a welcome addition if you decide to start with X and Y.
Generation 6 was also the beginning of a new trend for each subsequent Generation in the series. X and Y introduced the first Battle Gimmick, a flashy new mechanic that can be used mid-battle. Generation 6 brought us Mega Evolution, a mechanic that we are very familiar with in Pokémon GO. Throughout the story, you will experience Mega Evolution for the first time, eventually able to wield it for yourself. It is extremely well integrated into the story, and while it may be a bit overpowered, it’s still a lot of fun to tear through the Kalos region with some super-powered Pokémon at your side!
A common complaint for long time Pokémon fans looking to return to the series is that there are too many new Pokémon. Seeing as we have just passed the 1000 Pokémon mark, I would say this is a somewhat fair assessment. Fans are hesitant to jump into the newer games for fear of not seeing any of their favorites.
First off, almost all of the Pokémon up to Generation 6 have been introduced in Pokémon GO. Niantic’s method of introducing new Pokémon ensures that each new addition gets their time in the spotlight, which is definitely a positive. As you make your way through Kalos, there won’t be many unfamiliar faces that you’ll encounter along your journey.
Additionally, X and Y had a lot of older Pokémon integrated into the region, even by the standards of when the games were released. In addition to being able to choose one of the Kalos starters at the beginning of the game, you are also gifted a Kanto starter later in the story. You will also encounter a Lucario that you can add to your team just a little further through your adventure. The Legendary Pokémon of Kanto are also featured in the game, alongside the roster of newer Legendaries. New and old fans alike will be able to play with their favorites amongst the new faces to the series.
I know I just rattled off a lot of information there. TLDR: X and Y are great games to take a first step with into the Pokémon franchise. Aside from my own personal bias, there are a variety of quality-of-life features implemented that make the game a bit easier to learn, understand, and play. Pokémon GO players should be familiar with most of the Pokémon in the game, seeing as Niantic has introduced us to most of the Kalos Pokémon in addition to Mega Evolution. X and Y have received a lot of criticism for being some of the easier games in the series, but I don’t think that this detracts from their value, especially as a first experience with the main series. I would encourage everyone to take the journey through the Kalos region if you haven’t already!
Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald/Fire Red and Leaf Green
The next entries from the list are from the Game Boy Advance era. These consoles featured the debut of Generation 3 and the Hoenn Region, which are among the most beloved games in the series. It was also during this era of the series that the Pokémon Company introduced the concept of remake games with Fire Red and Leaf Green, additional entries retelling the Generation 1 games, but with updated Generation 3 graphics and mechanics.
Similarly to last time, I will primarily be focusing on the Hoenn Region games of Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald, but much of what I will discuss applies to Fire Red and Leaf Green as well. These games are particularly notable, as they are the best games to play through Kanto with (in my opinion). With that being said, let’s take a look at why the Generation 3 games have cemented themselves among the greats of the Pokémon series!
**same last last time, skip to the “Generation 3 Conclusion” section for a TLDR
Old but Gold
This may sound a bit silly, but allow me to explain.
There’s something about older video video games that hits different. While more recent games hold merit due to updated graphics, better storytelling, and intuitive mechanics, older games have a certain charm to them. The 8-bit graphics are nostalgic, yet so full of of color and life! The chibi-style characters fit perfectly into the world around them, and the few 2D Pokémon models sprinkled throughout, such as the Poochyena attacking Professor Birch in the picture below, add so much depth to the overworld.
In addition to the graphics, The Generation 3 games are the perfect balance of old, but not too old. They still bring all of the nostalgia, but without the jankiness and rampant bugs that unfortunately plagued the earliest entries in the series on the Game Boy. Those games of course still have value, but definitely don’t hold up to multiple playthroughs. By this point, Game Boy had really ironed out a lot of the kinks in their base game model, and the Generation 3 games are more more cohesive experiences because of it. The fact that these games are still highly repayable almost 20 years later is a huge credit to their creators!
One of the major selling points of the Generation 3 games was a new way to battle with your team of Pokémon: Double Battles! This allowed you to send out two of your Pokémon at the same time to battle two of your opponents’ Pokémon!
Double Battles are introduced pretty early in the game, with a battle against a pair of twins along your journey to the first gym. They were further featured in your battle for the 7th Gym Badge against the twin Gym Leaders Tate and Liza! Double Battles were a new and engaging way to play the game. Some moves, such as Earthquake or Surf, were able to hit both opponents at the same time, adding extra value to already powerful moves. Additionally, there was more strategy involved. What if one your Pokémon is strong against the opponent, but the other is weak to them? Do you instruct one Pokémon to play offense while the other makes a defensive move? What happens if both of your opponents double up their attacks into one of your Pokémon? The possibilities are endless!
Double battles have become a staple of main series Pokémon battles. They are much more complex and exciting, which is the reason that they are the battle style of choice for the official competitive format, VGC. Be on the lookout for these exciting battles as your journey through the Hoenn region!
Generation 3 also debuted another main series mechanic that has been a staple of the games ever since: Abilities. Every Pokémon received at least one passive Ability that have revolutionized the way the game is played. For example, your starter will have an Ability based on their typing: Overgrow for Grass starters, Blaze for Fire starters, or Torrent for Water starters. Each of these abilities function basically the same: if the Pokémon with this ability is below 1/3 HP, then their Grass, Fire, or Water moves respectively will have a 50% boost in power. This can be especially helpful in the early stages of a playthrough, potentially allowing you to get out of a sticky situation with an extra powerful attack!
The Hoenn games were able to show off the new Abilities mechanic in a similar way to Double Battles: through a Gym Leader battle! In the battle for the 5th Gym Badge, you’ll face Norman, the father of the player character and a master of Normal type Pokémon. You may think that Normal types are boring, but Norman’s ace is the ultra powerful Slaking. Slaking boasts an astonishing base stat total of 670, the same as Groudon and Kyogre! In order to balance this, Slaking is cursed with an Ability called Truant. This Ability only allows Slaking to use a move every other turn. This battle shows you that Abilities cannot be ignored, and are a crucial part of any Pokémon battle. Abilities were and continue to be a central part of every Pokémon battle, and this all started in the Generation 3 games!
The Hoenn region features a plethora of fan favorites that you can catch and add to your team throughout your journey. It is still early enough in the series’ lifespan that the Pokédex has a decent variety without being too overwhelming. The majority of the Pokémon you’ll come across were originally discovered in the Hoenn region, but there are plenty of familiar faces from Generations 1 and 2 to be found as well. At this point, every Pokémon from Generations 1, 2, and 3 have been made available in Pokémon GO, so you won’t come across any unfamiliar faces throughout your journey. It’s a great chance to see some of your favorites from Pokémon GO in a brand new way!
Generation 3 Conclusion
TLDR: The Generation 3 games may be some of the older entries in the series, but they definitely haver maintained their value ever since their introduction. They are the perfect combination of early Pokémon charm while also being polished enough to stand the test of time. The Hoenn region is among many fans’ favorite regions, and Kanto is obviously a classic. If you have the chance, I would highly recommend any of these games!
Scarlet and Violet
The final entry on this list is the most recent entry in the series: Pokémon Scarlet and Violet! Scarlet and Violet will take you on a journey through Paldea, a region with varying biomes surrounding a massive crater in the middle. Scarlet and Violet have revolutionized the Pokémon franchise in a multitude of ways. Let’s take a look!
once again, skip to the “Scarlet and Violet Conclusion” section for a TLDR
The Latest Entry
As stated in the introduction, Scarlet and Violet are the most recently released games in the series. But what does this mean?
First of all, it is likely the Pokémon game that most other Trainers are playing right now. Scarlet and Violet have been out for about a year, so anyone who was interested in playing the game likely has had the chance to. Additionally, the majority of Pokémon gaming content created online will likely be related to Scarlet and Violet, whether it be promotions for the series, content creators, or other forms of media.
Additionally, this means that Scarlet and Violet is the game that Game Freak and The Pokémon Company are focused on at the moment. Thanks to the online capabilities of the Switch, Game Freak is able to utilize a live service game development model. This allows them to continually update the game as needed. This can be as minor as pushing bug fixes to something as big as introducing new Pokémon!
The biggest thing that this has allowed Scarlet and Violet to do is provide a consistent flow of events for Trainers to participate in. Simply by connecting to the internet, Trainers can get access to exclusive Tera Raids, Mass Outbreaks, and other limited time events. Some of the most exciting events are the Mighty Tera Raid events, where Trainers can battle a 7-Star Tera Raid and capture a Pokémon that isn’t usually available in the Paldea region, such as Charizard or Greninja. These type of events will likely continue until the release of a new game in the series, so there’s no time like the present to dive in!
This is something I never thought I would be praising a Pokémon game for. Pokémon was notorious for being a relatively cookie cutter game, where you receive your starter, challenge the 8 Gym Leaders, thwart the plan of an evil team of criminals, and eventually challenge the Elite 4 and ascend to the rank of Champion. There isn’t much depth to the story, as it isn’t really required. In the past, Game Freak has tried to shake up the formula in one way or another, but up until this point there hasn’t been much progress.
While Scarlet and Violet’s story is nothing ground-breaking, it was a major step in the right direction. The characters you meet along your journey have actual character arcs and see some real development over the course of the game. Especially with Nemona, Arven, and Penny, the primary rivals in the game, you actually care about where their stories will go. It’s a nice change of pace, and will hopefully pave the way for even better storytelling down the road!
Newest Game Mechanics
Scarlet and Violet feature a variety of quality of life features that have made these games a standout in the series. There are of course some of the more technical updates, such as battle mechanics and whatnot, but most people likely don’t care about those as much.
The new battle gimmick for this generation is known as Terastalization. This allows Trainers to change the typing of their Pokémon once per battle allowing for some unique battle strategies that have never been possible before. Each of the Gym Leaders in the region will Terastalize their ace Pokémon, so be prepared to face this new powerful battle mechanic throughout your journey!
One of the biggest updates made in Scarlet and Violet is the improvements for overworld Pokémon encounters. While this is a feature that had been introduced in previous titles, it was far from polished. In Scarlet and Violet, the overworld encounters are near seamless, allowing for a much more immersive and realistic experience. The Pokémon move through the world and interact with the Trainer in realistic ways, and the game feels so much more alive because of it!
One of the most unexpected yet exciting features implemented in Scarlet and Violet is the ability to play the game in co-op with up to three other Trainers! While multiplayer features have been a part of Pokémon games since Red, Blue, and Yellow, these games take multiplayer to the next level. You are able to see the other Trainers in your party on the map, watch each other encounter wild Pokémon, battle in Tera Raids together, and so much more! This feature is a welcome addition to the series that will hopefully be included in instalments to come!
Downloadable Content, or DLC, is a way for game developers to release expansions for existing games. This often requires some decently powered hardware in order to support such an expansion, and seeing as Pokémon was confined to handheld devices rather than some of the more substantial consoles, it seemed as though this wouldn’t be a possibility for the series. However, the Switch is able to support this type of content, so Game Freak have started releasing DLC expansions for their base games starting with Sword and Shield.
Scarlet and Violet’s DLC expansions have been titled “The Secret Treasure of Area Zero”. For $30 USD or its equivalent in your country, Trainers can get access to a new expansion story that builds upon the narrative established in Scarlet and Violet. The story is split into two parts: The Teal Mask, which was released earlier this year, and The Indigo Disk, which is set to release later in December. These stories will feature new encounters with Legendary Pokémon, Paradox Pokémon, new Trainers, and so much more!
The DLC is by no means required to enjoy Scarlet and Violet. I had a couple hundred hours logged in the game before the DLC was even announced (I don’t have a problem, shut up). They are exactly what DLC is meant to be: an expansion to add experiences to an existing, already complete game!
Scarlet and Violet Conclusion
Generation 9 has been a great addition to the Pokémon franchise. Among many other additions, we have officially passed the 1000th Pokémon mark. Many people never thought we would make it to this point, but Scarlet and Violet are proof that over 20 years later, the Pokémon franchise is not only alive, but better than ever before!
TLDR: Scarlet and Violet are great not just because they are the most recent entries in the series. The live service approach, updated mechanics, compelling story, and DLC all contribute to making this one of the best entries in the series. They are a great place to start your main series Pokémon journey!
Best Game for Each Generation
These three picks have been my personal favorites out of the main line Pokémon games, but that isn’t to say that there aren’t other great games in the series. Each have their merits, even with less popular entries such as Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. However, the selections I’ve listed only cover a few of the nine generations. Before we wrap up this article, I figured I would list my personal picks for experiencing each of the nine different regions and generations. I’ll keep this list short, since I’ve definitely rambled on enough. Let’s take a look!
Generation 1, Kanto – Fire Red/Leaf Green
As mentioned in the Generation 3 section, Fire Red and Leaf Green are amazing remakes of the original Generation 1 games. While the original games of Red, Blue, Green (Japan only), and Yellow are the games that started it all, they unfortunately suffer due to the era they were made in and its limitations. Fire Red and Leaf Green encapsulate everything we love about the Kanto region with the updated mechanics of Generation 3. These games are an instant classic!
Generation 2, Johto – Heart Gold/Soul Silver
Similarly to the original Generation 1 games, the original Johto games of Gold, Silver, and Crystal feature limitations based on the original Game Boy engine. That being said, the Generation 2 games are extremely advanced for their time and are definitely worth checking out. However, Heart Gold and Soul Silver are some of the most popular entries in the series. Admittedly, they’re one of the few installments that I haven’t had the chance to play. These games feature Generation 4 mechanics, and were the first entry where you could have your partner Pokémon follow you around in the overworld! They make for a much smoother Johto experience while still capturing the magic of the original games.
Generation 3, Hoenn – Emerald
For the first four generations of Pokémon games, Game Freak released the primary two entries in a generation, followed by a third “enhanced” version. For Generation 3, Ruby and Sapphire were the initial release, and Emerald was the enhanced version. While Ruby and Sapphire are not bad games by any means, Emerald provides for a much more well rounded experience. The story will feature both Team Magma and Team Aqua, the villains in the other installments, as well as more characters and story elements than the original games. It is also the game that introduced the National Pokédex for all players, regardless of if they could trade or not.
While Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are amazing enhanced remakes of Ruby and Sapphire, they don’t capture as much of the charm of the Hoenn region as the original games do. They’re definitely worth playing, but Emerald is definitely the best way to experience Hoenn for the first time in my opinion.
Generation 4, Sinnoh – Platinum
Similarly to Generation 3, Sinnoh’s enhanced version of Platinum is the ideal way of playing through the region for the first time. The original installments of Diamond and Pearl hold a special place in a lot of Trainers’ hearts, they have some significant flaws, but the biggest is that a large portion of the Sinnoh Pokédex are unobtainable, whether the items needed for evolution were unobtainable or the Pokémon just wasn’t included in the game to begin with. The Diamond/Pearl Regional Pokédex was so limited that some prominent Type Specialist Trainers, such as Gym Leaders or Elite Four members, didn’t have enough Pokémon of their chosen type to fill out their team!
Platinum vastly improves upon this, with much more of the Pokédex available. There are some changes, such as the order you challenge the Gym Leaders in, but most of them are positive ones. Additionally, you will get to venture into the Distortion World, an alternate dimension with some trippy graphics!
Trainers were anxiously waiting for Sinnoh remakes, which we were eventually given in the form of Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. Unfortunately, these games fell short of almost everyone’s expectations. While there were some nice improvements, these games were a disappointment for most of the Pokémon community. Again, not bad games, but Platinum still holds the crown for the best way to experience Sinnoh for the first time.
Generation 5, Unova – Black/White
The Unova games are some of the better entries in the series in my opinion. Prior to Scarlet and Violet, these were the games that were widely considered to have the best storytelling in the series. Black and White were also the first games to completely limit the Pokémon options to only the brand new generation, at least until you become Champion. In other games, you could expect to see some returning faces, such as Magikarp, Zubat, Geodude, and more. Limiting the available Pokémon to only Generation 5 Pokémon was a great way to help Trainers become accustomed to the newest additions to the series.
It should be noted that the other Generation 5 games, Black 2 and White 2, are not remakes of Black and White, but are direct sequels. The story picks up right where the original games left it off. For this reason, I recommend Black and White as the best way to experience Unova for the first time, but Black 2 and White 2 are just as good, if not better, than the originals
Generation 6, Kalos – X/Y
Kalos is the first entry on the list that hasn’t received a remake yet, so X and Y are the only ways to experience Generation 6 as of now. As mentioned previously, these are among my favorite games and are a great way to get started with main series games!
Generation 7, Alola – Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon
Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon were remakes of Sun and Moon that were released directly after their predecessors within the same generation. Black and White were the only other games to have their remakes/sequels released directly following the original. However, unlike Black 2 and White 2, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon were enhanced versions of the original story. The games feature a lot of quality of life updates and a much more engaging experience overall. They are definitely the best way to experience Alola for the first time.
Generation 8, Galar – Sword/Shield
Just like Kalos, the Generation 8 games have yet to receive a remake, so Sword and Shield are the only ways to experience the Galar region. These games do have a DLC, however, so there is a way to help enhance your Sword and Shield experience.
Generation 9, Paldea – Scarlet/Violet
Again, these are the only games where you can travel to the Paldea region. As they are the most recent entries, this should be expected. However, seeing as these games are still currently receiving support, they are a great way to get into the main series!
Honorable Mention, Hisui – Legends: Arceus
Legends: Arceus was a surprise entry in the Pokémon series to be sure. It is far from a traditional Pokémon game, but is an incredible experience nonetheless. It takes place in the Hisui region, which would eventually be renamed the Sinnoh region many years in the future. While I wouldn’t recommend these games as a first entry in the series, I would highly recommend that every Pokémon fan play this game at least once.
If you made it this far, thank you! Once again, I have managed to ramble on for a seemingly endless amount of time. If you’re looking for a gift for a Pokémon fan for the upcoming holiday season, this article is basically my drawn-out recommendations. Hopefully some of what you have read was helpful in some way!
TLDR for the whole article: if you are a Pokémon GO fan looking to get into the main series games, I would recommend X and Y, Emerald, or Scarlet and Violet. While Let’s GO! Pikachu and Eevee were designed to be first entries for Pokémon GO fans, they aren’t the best introduction to main series games in my opinion. However, there are no wrong ways to get into the main series!
I think that covers pretty much everything. Best of luck on your journey through main series Pokémon!