Pulse 10: Top Pokemon Games of All Time!

I was a little bit weirded out that Widro asked me to compile this top ten list for IP readers. Pokemon may be 11 years old now, but there have only been 26 Pokemon games released, 32 if you count the colour variants of each RPG, 33 if you count the original Pokemon Stadium which was never released in the US. We started with Pokemon Stadium 2, which NoA just re-named Pokemon Stadium. Kind of like Clock Tower. It’s hard for me personally to do a list like this when the pool to draw from is so limited. After all, 1 out of 3 Pokemon games makes the list. But hey, Widro made the request, and people never seem to get sick of me talking Pokemon for some reason, so let’s make it happen.

#10. Pokemon Pinball
Release Date 07/31/99
System: Game Boy Colour

Pokemon Channel almost made the list, but then Pokemon Channel doesn’t have the lasting appeal Pinball does. I remember playing this game while sitting through my college’s boring ass graduation ceremony while my girlfriend was playing the video game adaptation of the TCG. Almost 8 years later, I still pull this out from time to time.

What makes it so good? Two different pinball tables, each highly unique, yet still center around the same goal of capturing Pokemon. It’s also the first Game Boy game with a rumble feature courtesy of a AAA battery. It’s highly addictive and shows that Pokemon can be enjoyable even when not in the RPG format. Indeed for many, Pokemon Pinball was the start of a still growing fanbase that prefers the spin offs to the turn based RPG’s.

Why isn’t it #1? Well, it’s crazy hard. To capture the rarest Pokemon you pretty much have to be an idiot savant at Pokemon. As well, the physics engine isn’t as tuned as we’d see in the far superior GBA sequel. Finally, with the aforementioned GBA game readily available, the original really shows it age by being shown up in ever possible way.

#9. Pokemon Red/Green/Blue
Release Date: 09/30/1998
System: Game Boy

I’m sure it’s a shock to many that the original Triad of games are this low on the countdown, but it is in fact so. This is the game that started it all. The games that begat the most lucrative video game and merchandising phenomenon in the history of humanity. Pokemon RGB proved that the Game Boy could actually have quality RPG’s on. Ones that could rival the Sony Playstation and Sega Saturn for engine quality, if not graphics. It’s funny that a little 4 bit black and white video game would out sell everything else released for over three years.

What makes it so god? 151 playable characters that are amazingly customizable. You have to seek out and battle various Pokemon before you can add them to your roster. Back in ’96, trying to find all the Pokemon and discover all the different evolutions was incredible fun. And it was the first real RPG you could play against your friends. It was portable to boot! There were so many innovations to the entire RPG genre and technological achievements towards the Game Boy cartridges made possible by this one game. It’s the most influential video game of all time, even if it’s not the best.

Why isn’t it #1? The sequels of Gold, Silver and Crystal pretty much blew away any and all expectations with the advancements made to those games. The original Pokemon games also had some strong balance issues with Psychic and Electric Pokemon dominating the game, and the respective types they were meant to be weak too were underwhelming to say the least. Bug Pokemon and Ghost Pokemon were Psychic’s only weakness, yet they were constantly paired with Poison type, meaning Psychic would kill them instantly (Poison is super weak against Psychic Pokemon attacks). Jolteon and Zapdos tended to be massive cheese on the tourney level, and you’d sometimes see nothing but teams of Mewtwo/Alakazam/Zapdos/Jolteon/ and two other Pokemon (generally a Parasect and an Arcanine). When it came down to it, you really only had to catch about a dozen to be awesome at the game.

#8 Pokemon Snap
Release Date: 06/30/1999
System: Nintendo 64
People of all ages loved Pokemon. Yet a lot of people wanted Pokemon without the cockfighting. Enter Pokemon Snap, a game where you run around a wildlife refuge taking pictures of Pokemon in their natural environment.

What made it so good? It was a completely different tangent for the franchise to take. It was Pokemon without the leveling up, without the battles, and without the player vs. player aspect. It focused far more on hand to eye coordination and skill that strategy and munchkin style gaming. It also let developers finally truly animate Pokemon instead of still motion pictures on a screen accompanied by a midi voice file. Levels varied greatly in appearance, and you could repeat things until you got the perfect shot. Best of all, you could print your photos off at Blockbuster Video stores as stickers! There’s something satisfying about a game that actually let lets you have something to show off accomplishment wise other than a line in your Xbox Live tag.

Why isn’t it #1? Well, you can’t do the sticker thing anymore, the game was always the same every time you played it and highly linear compared to the customization of the RPG’s, and it definitely appealed to only a sub-sect of Pokemon fans where the RPG’s seemed to actually draw millions in to enjoying the genre. Finally, the only games that really followed this format were Cardcaptor Sakura and the Fatal Frame series. It just wasn’t as influential or appealing as the other fame closer to the #1 spot on our list.

#7. Pokemon Yellow
Release Date: 10/19/1999
System Released on: Game Boy Color

The third game from 1999 on the countdown! The original games had been out for a year. Millions had beaten the games and played with their friends. Many people owned copies of both games in order to catch all 150 Pokemon. Yet people wanted more. And so Game Freak looked at the last time a single game dominated the entire industry. They pulled a Street Fighter II: Championship Edition and made some slight edits to the story and gameplay and released the edit as a whole new game. Skeptics whined that it was a cheap cash-in while diehard fans waited in line for this remixed version of the first Pokemon RPG. As soon as it was released, the critics shut up because it turned out Pokemon Yellow was not only different enough from RGB to be a whole new experience, it was distinctively better.

What made it so good? All new graphics that made the Pokemon look better than ever for a start. A storyline more in synch with the cartoon made the game feel fresh and different, and the addition of Jessie and James made everyone mark out a little bit whenever they showed up. A huge bonus was that in yellow, you could catch each of the three starters from Red, Blue, and Green. This also sold plenty of copies of the cart. Of course, the big feature was that Pikachu was your starter. Even better, Pikachu had the actual voice acting of Ikue Ootani in the game. For the first and only time Pikachu would say “PIKA CHUUUUU!” and other variants of its Pika language while battling. You have no idea how many copies this sold simply due to this one little addition. It’s a shame it never happened again.

Why isn’t it #1? Well, because it was still the same game that we saw at #9 but with some massive upgrades. However generation 2 and 2.5 of the Pokemon RPG’s would prove to be even better upgrade wise with new Pokemon and a ton of new features. Also, and it pains me to say this, Pikachu sucks in the RPG’s, and having him as your starter, no matter how freaking adorable they made him in this game was far more a burden than a blessing when all was said and done. Yet, as we will see later on, Pokemon Yellow’s particular Pikachu isn’t done with the countdown yet.

#6. Pokemon Diamond and Pearl
Release Date: 04/22/2007
System: Nintendo DS

Four years and one month after the disappointment that was the Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald generation of Pokemon, Game Freak came back with a vengeance. It’s only been out for a little while, but this game has recharged the Pokemon franchise far more than anyone ever expected.

What made it so good? Basically GF learned from the negative feedback and backlash against Pokemon R/S/E and cleaned up their act. They gave people more of what they wanted, which was more human vs. human contact and brought back all the stuff people loved from the second generation that they inexplicably took out for the third generation. R/S/E was an obvious drop in quality from Gold/Silver/Crystal and Diamond & Pearl felt like a true quality sequel to the best of the best. With the addition of Wi-Fi, the changes to the Pokemon Contests, the Underground, and some very cool new Pokemon, it’s no wonder people were lining up outside stores at dawn for this game. It’s also the most balanced of all the games in terms of story mode. The 150 obtainable Pokemon are all pretty equal with each other in terms of abilities and powers. There’s no really bad Pokemon to choose from and oddly enough Flying and Poison, two types that were shunned in the original series because of how dominant their weaknesses were are now some of the best in the game. What a turn-around!

So why isn’t it #1? A few reasons. There are some small quibbles like Surfing is now done at a snail’s pace and the language lock out on the carts screws over early adopters who imported the Japanese games and thus can’t do anything with certain Pokemon you can’t even get in the US yet. The main reason is that quite simply, although we fans and reviewers alike are all clamoring about how much of an upgrade this is from R/S/E, that the truth of the matter is it’s basically the second generation RPG’s with Wi-Fi and a touch screen. Even then, it doesn’t have the secondary secret story mode those games did. Also, when you compare the massive amount of improvements and changes between g3 and g4 and then the ones between g1 and g2, well it’s not quite as impressive. Diamond and Pearl are hands down going to be the best selling games of 2007 and will easily named when we talk the best RPG’s ever made regardless of systems…but there’s still 5 Pokemon games that outdo even the newest addition to the Pokemon family in terms of quality.

#5 Hey You Pikachu
System Released On: Nintendo 64
Release Date: 11/05/2000

It s a video game in which you can use a microphone to talk to and interact with a Pikachu. As anyone really surprised that this was a system seller to young children and teenaged girls everywhere? It was Seaman for the less Leonard Nemoy inclined gamer.

What makes it so good? You mean besides it being a dream come true for every Pokemon obsessed person on the planet. You can play fetch with Pikachu. You can tell him to eat strawberries. You can watch him shock you if you use profanity or praise Sony. You can go on trips and eat food and go fishing and play piñata and so much more. All with Pikachu. Honestly, this game is so addicting and fun because of all the things you can do, not only with Pikachu…but TO Pikachu. Watch Pikachu get scared by other Pokemon. Watch Pikachu attempt second degree murder on other Pokemon with Thunderbolts. It’s exactly what I had always wanted in a Pokemon game: the ability to interact with the Pokemon world without having to be a trainer and watch cute little animals use their mutant powers to pummel each other. This is one of the reasons I love the quasi-sequel Pokemon Channel as well, albeit to a much lesser extent,

So why isn’t it #1? The big reason is that it was 100% dependent on getting the microphone attachment to work consistently, which was a pain in and of itself. Some were perfect. Others were less than sufficient for relaying commands to your Pikachu. If the microphone started to go, you were out a game as Nintendo didn’t sell spares. Even now it’s hard to find a high quality copy of the game. The original $70 price tag was also a bit of a mind blower when most games were only $49.99 in 2000 for the Saturn or Playstation. In all, the game is amazingly cute and fun and highly original, but when all was said and done, most people wanted their Pikachu to fight rather than fly a kite or run around your virtual lawn. Too bad for them.

#4. Pokemon Puzzle League/Pokemon Puzzle Challenge
Systems Released on: Nintendo 64/Game Boy Color
Release Date: 09/01/2000 (PPL)/12/04/2000 (PPC)

I know, this is a bit of a cheat considering it is two separate games, but they came out so close to each other and they’re basically the same game. PPL/PPC is a puzzle game similar to Tetris Blast. You have these different coloured boxes and your goal is to line up three or more of the same colour to make the blocks disappear. The lines of blocks are steadily rising though and if you let them reach the top, then it’s game over! Each game had the same premise, but both the N64 and GBC had special exclusive modes of play. As well, the N64 game focused on the TV show characters and storyline while the GBC game focused on the characters of Gold/Crystal/Silver.

What makes it so good? Pokemon Puzzle is easily one of the best puzzle games ever made. It’s easy to learn, has many different modes of play, and has enjoyable music and excellent graphics on either system. It’s addictive and challenging and is one of those puzzle games that seems to only get better with age. Indeed, if you look at the current big puzzle game in the industry right now, Puzzle Quest, you’ll notice it’s basically a remake of Pokemon Puzzle League/Challenge, right down to having a story mode. Seven years later, I still play this more than Tetris, Yoshi’s Cookie or any other puzzle game. It’s a shame Pokemon Trozei wasn’t even a tenth as good as this one.

So why isn’t it #1? Well, to be honest as much as I love this game, it’s not really a true Pokemon game. It’s remake of an old SNES game called Tetris blast with Pokemon characters and storylines stuck in. Because of this I almost didn’t include it on the list. But then, if this was a Mario list, the US version of Super Mario Bros 2 would be on there for sure, and THAT’S not a real Mario game, so I said what the heck. It’s an amazing game that was considered one of the best of the year for both systems it was released on. If it had been an original game, it could have easily scored the #1 or #1 positions on this countdown. Instead this Tetris game in Pokemon clothing has to settle for a respectable 4th place. That being said, do whatever it takes to find a copy of this game!

#3 Pokemon Gold/Silver
System Released On: Game Boy Color
Release Date: 10/14/2000

A little more than two years to the day Pokemon first hit North American shores, the much anticipated sequel came out. There was no way it could live up to the hype. After two years straight on nonstop Pokemania anywhere and everywhere the sequel was sure to suffer from the sophomore jinx that happens to every big title from Legend of Zelda to Ikari Warriors. Guess what? Not only did the jinx not happen, but Gold and Crystal blew everyone away with how superior they were to the original. These games easily became not only the best RPG’s ever made for the Game Boy Color, but were the best RPG(‘s) released in 2000.

What makes it so good? 100 new Pokemon, a stronger story, better graphics, a 24/7 clock keeping the game in real time, the Pokephone which allowed you to stay in contact with other trainers you had encountered, Pokemon having genders, Pokemon making babies, Pokemon having the ability to hold items, and two new Pokemon Types in Dark and Steel were just a few of the reasons the game was so good. It also offered a mystery gift ability in which two Game Boy Colours could communicate and cause a mystery items to appear on each Pokemon cart within through the infra-red communicator in the systems. Most of all though was the fact you were getting two RPG’s in one. After you beat the game, your main character could travel to Kanto and then battle all the original Gym leaders and return to the familiar sites of Pokemon Red, Blue, and Green. You’d get to see what happened to your Rival in the two years since the original game. You’d get to see Brock and Misty and if you were lucky, you encounter Red/Ash in the last reachable location in the game. You could even transfer your original Pokemon over to the new games via the time machine. And some? Some would gain new abilities like your Pikachu from Pokemon yellow who would come over with an item that would double its Special Attack. This put this little un-evolved Pikachu into Mewtwo levels of damage. Crazy,

Looking back it’s amazing at how much they added to the series with the advent of the second generation of the RPG.

So why isn’t it #1? Two reasons. The first is that as great as the game was, the eventual upgrade was even better in the same way Yellow was so much better than RGB. The other game, well, it simply managed to be the best game between Crystal and Diamond/Pearl and remains the best game in its genre by pretty much everyone who has played it. With that kind of competition, Gold and Silver have to settle for the bronze.

#2. Pokemon Pinball R/S
System Released On: Game Boy Advance
Release Date: 08/26/2003

Notice this is the only GBA title to make the list. The GBA years were a dark time for Pokemon. Ruby and Sapphire were lackluster and took out a lot of the advancements found in Gold and Silver. It was a definite step back in terms of quality and naysayers said it was proof that Pokemon had lost its step. Then came Pokemon Pinball R/S, which is arguably the best pinball video game ever made (not counting actual pinball games like the Addams Family one). That’s saying something considering the GBA had Metroid Pinball and Pinball of the Dead as well. There hasn’t been a video game adaptation of pinball that comes close to all that you could do in Pinball R/S. The only hope of anything coming close is the eventual Pokemon Pinball P/D.

So why is it so good? It has the strongest pinball engine ever made. It has two wildly different tables, multiple ways to catch Pokemon, multiple bonus rounds, a ton of neat power ups, excellent music and arguably the best graphics on the GBA. Even Pokemon haters can’t help but get sucked into this game, making it the perfect gateway to hook your friends on Pokemon.

So why isn’t it #1? Because in the end, Pokemon will always primarily a Role Playing franchise. Those are the games that will appeal the most, sell the most, and remain the core of series. In the end no mater how amazing the spin off title is, it can’t the best of the best of the Pokemon RPG’s. For non RPG gamers though, Pokemon Pinball is the game for you!

#1 Pokemon Crystal
System Released On: Game Boy Color
Release Date: 07/29/2001

And here it is: The #1 Pokemon game of all time. Released less than a year after Gold and Silver, Crystal hit the shelves and was not only a vast improvement over the other second generation Pokemon games, but it still remains the standard bearer for the entire series to this day. If you can only buy a single Pokemon game, it might as well be this one.

What makes it the best? Even more advances. They range from huge things like Pokemon being animated for the first time so that there is actual movement on the screens to smaller but no less notables like being able to choose a girl skin for your main character and the ability to use your Pokephone to receive calls from other trainers when they find items and evolutions stones for you instead of just rematches for battles. There’s also a large overhaul of the story, the ability to catch both Lugia and Ho-oh instead of simply one or the other ala the previous carts, and most of all, instead of having to track down all three of the constantly running legendary trio, Suicuine chooses to come to you as there is some sort of bond between you and it.

Pokemon Crystal is mostly the same game as Pokemon Gold and Silver, but the changes to the story, sound and graphics make it a far superior choice. This was the absolute apex of Pokemon as there is not a single aspect of this game that could be rated below excellent. Pokemon Crystal is easily amongst the ten best RPGs ever made, standing along titles like Persona 2, Valkyrie Profile, Shining Force, Dragon Force & Shadowrun. This and Digital Devil Saga 1 are the best RPGs released in this decade. You owe it to yourself to see why.