Pokémon has built up a legacy that can be traced back to 1996, when the first games in the series, Pokémon Red and Green, released for the Game Boy in Japan. Since then, the franchise has gone on to solidify its presence in both film and television while consistently releasing new mainline and spin-off Pokémon games for every Nintendo home console and handheld device.
With the next entries, Pokémon Sword and Shield scheduled to release later this year, we’ve created a timeline to highlight every generation of Pokémon. Bear in mind, this list only includes “core” Pokémon titles and subsequent remakes and does not feature any of the spin-off games.
Pokémon Red, Green, and Blue (GB) – 1996
Released exclusively in Japan, Pokémon Red and Green are the very first games in the series, along with an enhanced Blue version that came shortly after. These games would introduce the capturing, training, battling and trading mechanics the series is known for in addition to the original 151 species of Pokémon.
Pokémon Red and Blue (GB) – 1998
Two years later, Nintendo would release revamped versions of Pokémon Red and Blue in the U.S. They would go on to become a cultural phenomenon as the games’ formula appealed to players of all ages, regardless of their prior experience with video games. The original Green version would not be released outside of Japan.
Pokémon Yellow (GB) – 1999
A year later, Pokémon Yellow is released, this time allowing trainers to explore the Kanto region with a Pikachu that appeared on-screen and followed the player outside of battles. The game was intended to mirror the presentation of the Pokémon anime, which was quite popular at the time. Although the Japanese version of Blue is technically the first instance of Nintendo releasing a ‘third version’, Yellow is generally considered to be the official start of this release strategy.
Pokémon Gold and Silver (GBC) – 2000
The second wave of Pokémon games to release would include a lot more features and improvements over the first generation. The hardware capabilities of the Game Boy Color allowed Pokémon Gold and Silver to utilize a wider color palette, include more in-game collectibles, and feature more gyms than any other Pokémon game to date.
They introduced new characters, added 100 new Pokémon, and provided players with the new Johto region to explore. After completing the main story, players were able to travel to Kanto and take on the original eight gyms, nearly doubling the playtime. Pokémon Gold and Silver also mark the first appearance of Dark and Steel-type Pokémon as well as the ability to breed Pokémon.
Pokémon Crystal (GBC) – 2001
Pokémon Crystal stands out for being the first time players were given the option to choose their character’s gender in a Pokémon game. From there on, the feature would become a staple for new mainline games still to this day. Pokémon Crystal is also the first entry in the series to feature animated Pokémon sprites.
Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire (GBA) – 2003
Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire signified not only a new generation of Pokémon but also a new generation of Nintendo handhelds as the first mainline games to release for the Game Boy Advance. They introduced 135 new species and featured much more detailed environments compared to previous games.
Other highlights included new stat-based Pokémon natures, 2v2 battles, and more side activities in the form of Pokémon contests and Secret Bases. However, this generation is often criticized for not including every existing Pokémon species, with only 202 out of 386 making an appearance. This would become a point of contention among fans and a recurring issue for future generations.
Pokémon Emerald (GBA) – 2005
Pokémon Emerald arrived two years after Ruby and Sapphire and introduced the Battle Frontier, a post-game area where players could battle other powerful trainers in exchange for “Battle Points,” currency used to purchase special in-game rewards.
Pokémon Diamond and Pearl (DS) – 2007
Fans would have to wait four years before they were able to play Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, the longest gap between generations to date. This is due to the fact that the games were developed for the new Nintendo DS and had to utilize the handheld’s dual-screen functionality.
Pokémon Diamond and Pearl added 107 new Pokémon and feature the most legendaries of any generation, including Arceus, a Pokémon attributed with creating the universe in Pokémon lore.
Pokémon Platinum (DS) – 2009
Pokémon Platinum had players return to the Sinnoh region, although this time they would encounter an alternate dimension where the legendary Pokémon Giratina could be found. The game also added new forms to existing legendaries and the return of the Battle Frontier from Emerald.
Pokémon Black and White (DS) – 2011
Pokémon Black and White would introduce 156 new Pokémon, more than any other generation, in addition to the Unova region, where players were once again tasked with defeating all eight gym leaders before challenging the Elite Four. This generation brought about new battle styles like Rotation and Triple Battles, both of which would not return in later games.
Unique to the fifth generation is the Dream World, a special area that could only be accessed via the Pokémon Global Link website and would allow players to befriend Pokémon with unique abilities that were not normally obtainable in-game.
Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 (DS) – 2012
Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 would mark the first delineation from the series’ traditional release formula which included a third version of the most recent games. Instead, these sequels would see players returning to the Unova region two years after the events of Black and White, exploring new areas and encountering several Pokémon that were previously unavailable.
Pokémon X and Y (3DS) – 2013
Two years later, the series would transition to the newest Nintendo handheld, the 3DS, with the release of Pokémon X and Y, both set in the Kalos region. This generation would include more options for customizing your character’s appearance, such as different hairstyles, skin colors, and clothing. Most notably, X and Y were the first mainline games to feature fully-3D graphics for environments, characters, and Pokémon themselves, of which 72 new ones were added.
The sixth generation also made a number of changes to the battling system by introducing “Mega Evolutions” and a new Fairy-type. Lastly, the addition of Pokémon-Amie and Super Training granted players more opportunities to interact with their Pokémon and improve their stats. Despite expectations of a Pokémon Z release, X and Y would not receive a third version or sequels.
Pokémon Sun and Moon (3DS) – 2016
Pokémon Sun and Moon maintained the 3D visuals of the previous generation while adding 81 new species of Pokémon and the new Alola region. Additionally, some existing Pokémon were given new “Alolan forms” that would change their appearance as well as typing. Mega-Evolutions had returned alongside the debut of “Z-moves,” powerful moves that could be performed once per battle by Pokémon holding a special item.
A change that remains controversial among fans is Sun and Moon’s departure from the structure of previous entries, in which players would take on the eight gym leaders before battling the Elite Four. Instead, the games required players to complete a series of “trials” before they would be able to take on an island’s “Kahuna”.
Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon (3DS) – 2017
A year later, sequels Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon would be released. Set in the same Hawaiian-inspired Alola region from Sun and Moon, they provided an alternate storyline and introduced new characters, Pokémon species, and Pokémon forms.
Pokémon Sword and Shield (Switch) – 2019
Slated to release later this year, Pokémon Sword and Shield will be the first mainline games to release on a Nintendo home console and marks the start of the eighth generation. Although it’s currently unknown how many new Pokémon will be included, 11 have been officially revealed, including the two main legendaries, Zacian and Zamazenta. News of Game Freak’s decision to not include every species of Pokémon has resulted in backlash from fans who wish to see older generations represented.
Sword and Shield will see both Z-moves and Mega-Evolutions removed in favor of a new kind of Pokémon transformation called “Dynamax”, which can be triggered once per battle and causes a Pokémon to become massive in size and have their attacks boosted for three turns. The upcoming games will feature a new cel-shaded art style and include new “Max Raid Battles” where players team-up to take down powerful Dynamax Pokémon.
Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen (GBA) – 2004
Released shortly after Ruby and Sapphire, Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen are enhanced remakes of the original Red and Blue games presented with updated sprites and visuals that were more in line with the current gen’s appearance at the time. These games also saw the return of a female playable character and benefited from more recent features like the Vs. Seeker.
Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver (DS) – 2010
Released between Pokémon Platinum and Pokémon Black and White, HeartGold and SoulSilver were content-packed remakes of two of the beefiest entries in the series. Included is the option to have any Pokémon follow behind the player character as well as an alternate version of the original games’ story that incorporates elements of Pokémon Crystal.
Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire (3DS) – 2014
Having released one year after X and Y, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire would benefit from the previous games and feature 3D visuals as well as online battling/trading. The remakes follow the structure of the originals closely while introducing new “Primal Reversion” forms for Groudon and Kyogre, and allowing the player to use Latios or Latias to fly around the Hoenn region.
Pokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! (Switch) – 2018
Released nearly two decades after Pokémon Yellow, Pokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! took the traditional Pokémon formula and added many of the catching and battling mechanics present in Pokémon Go, an AR mobile title that skyrocketed to popularity in 2016. Players return to the Kanto region for a familiar adventure, this time featuring fully-3D, high-definition visuals thanks to the capabilities of the Switch.
Whether its PC or console, AAA or Indie, New-York born and raised Justin has a natural curiosity to seek out hidden gems and share them with other gamers. He also maintains his own YouTube channel in addition to writing and managing the social media profiles for GamingScan.