Pokémon, or Pocket Monsters as it’s known in Japan, has become a worldwide phenomenon over its 24-year history! Created by Satoshi Tajiri and Ken Sugimori, Pokémon first debuted as a pair of Nintendo Game Boy games called Pokémon Red and Pokémon Green on February 27th, 1996, in Japan. Since its inception, the franchise has continued to release video games and has also spawned an anime series,manga, movies, a trading card game, toys, and many other types of merchandise—capturing the hearts of fans both young and old everywhere! Whether or not you’re a fan of the franchise itself, I’m sure you know the general premise. Embarking on grand adventures, Pokémon Trainers seek out creatures with special powers and capture them in small devices called Pokéballs. The trainers train, trade, or battle their Pokémon in order to “catch ‘em all” and/or become an unbeatable Pokémon Master! When it first debuted, there were originally 151 Pokémon in the first generation. As of the writing of this blog post, there are now eight generations (each with their own area in the Pokémon world, called a “region”) and a whopping 893 confirmed species of Pokémon and counting!
In this post, Pokémon superfans Chris S. and Devlen will be breaking down the pros and cons of each generation, followed by their own subjective rankings of the generations from best to worst along with their favorite starters from each region. As you read this, you will notice that Chris S. has taken both the core video games and anime into account when determining his order, while Devlen has mainly focused only on the video games and dabbled in the Pokémon design. Which one of them will you agree with more?
Generation 1 - Kanto
“I wanna be the very best. Like no one ever was. To catch them is my true test. To train them is my cause.” And with those opening lyrics, a young Chris was instantly hooked to the craze that is Pokémon! Every Saturday on Kids WB, I would wake up to catch the next adventures with Ash, Misty, Brock, and Pikachu! I started collecting and trading the cards with many of my classmates at school, though none of us knew how to play the game. And since I didn’t have my own Game Boy at the time, a generous friend of mine allowed me to borrow his along with Pokémon Blue. It wouldn’t be for another few years before I got my own console and the Yellow version of the game (because who didn’t want Pikachu following them around). Like many others, my love of first gen is wrapped in nostalgia from my youth. I recently replayed Yellow, and it doesn’t really hold up, to be honest. Of course, you can’t hold it against the creators since it was their first attempt at creating these games, but, my God, there were some frustrating aspects:
- The HMs that were required to advance but weren’t much fun to use in battle
- The limit on how many items you could carry
- The inability to catch more Pokémon if your box was full in the PC
- The move “wrap,” which prevented you from moving for an eternity
- Wasting way too many balls on catching even the worst Pokémon
In addition, the designs of the Pokémon in the game were rough due to the old technology of the time, but the anime and cards brought sleeker designs and more life to the creatures we now love. Even now, I have a poster in my cubicle of the original 151. And the original anime in the Kanto region is still entertaining to revisit now, as I recently rewatched it. Nostalgic, yes. But the franchise had a lot of room to grow. P.S. Charizard, my favorite Pokémon of all, was part of the OG crew.
Ever since I could remember, Pokémon captured my heart in a cozy Luxury Ball. My earliest memory is playing Pokémon Yellow on my couch while watching Cartoon Network. Even now, not much has changed—I still play Pokémon on my couch and watch cartoons or anime. Generation 1 had some of the most unique character sprites and designs and appealing gameplay. So let’s begin with how Satoshi Tajiri came up with the famous franchise of Pokémon. As a child, he loved catching and collecting bugs. Another factor that helped the development of Pokémon was his motivation to connect with others. Combining these core features kickstarted Pokémon's existence. So you have the main idea, what’s next? Well, the Pokémons' design!
The designs of the Pokémon Generation 1 roster are calculated and very creative. For starters, my favorite starter is the Squirtle evolution line, and I LOVE their turtle inspired design. Since turtles are normally found near water, it made sense to make this creature a Water-type. Another Pokémon design that most people know the franchise for is Pikachu! Fun fact: this electric mouse was decided as the mascot for the series last-minute from Clefairy because the company wanted to appeal to all audiences. Now there were some Pokémon designs that had to be altered for controversial reasons and others that needed to be updated from their first sprites, but as a whole, the first generation brought a creative look into what the world of Pokémon could be!
Moving forward, let’s discuss the gameplay. The main point of Pokémon is to catch and train your buddies by battling other trainers and working your way through the gym leaders ranks to become the champion. To spice up the plot a bit, we are introduced to an evil organization named Team Rocket that steals Pokémon and are the main gangsters of Kanto. I really liked this plot because it allowed the story to be broken up into different chapters and you could see how far you and your Pokémon have come on your journey.
Generation 2 - Johto
My favorite generation overall! What other games give you the chance to revisit another region to fight in 16 gyms rather than the usual eight?! Not to mention that your final challenge is battling Red, who you played as in the first generation games! Gold, Silver, and Crystal were game-changers to be sure! In fact, Gold has a special place in my heart as the first game of the series I actually got brand new at the store! Milestones from the second gen games included glorious color graphics and breeding your Pokémon (with cute baby pre-evolutions to boot). Plus, Crystal was the first game with moving Pokémon sprites and the ability to play as a female! We received two new types with steel and dark, as well as two new Eevee evolutions with a new method of evolution. The in-game clock worked in real time! Gen 2 also has the overall best roster of legendaries with Ho-Oh, Lugia, Celebi, Suicune, Entei, and Raikou. With the aforementioned final battle with Red and the moment when Ash parted ways with Brock and Misty, the games and anime all could have ended after this generation, and it still would have felt complete. Thank Arceus we got more, though!
Johto is honestly my favorite generation of all time! The games are fantastic, the story expanded from where the first generation left off, the new Pokémon designs are cute yet powerful, and tons more!
To get started, let’s begin with the games. Johto’s storyline begins two years after Team Rocket was disbanded by Giovanni and covers two regions: Johto and Kanto. With this expansion, we were able to collect 16 gym badges, besides exploring Kanto all over again. My favorite part of this is seeing how much Kanto changed from the last two years. Case and point, Cinnabar Island had a volcano erupt so the fire gym leader Blaine had to move his gym to the Seafoam Islands.
Not only that, Johto came with its perks. It introduced new characters like Professor Elm and gave old characters a bigger role in the plot like Lance the Dragon Trainer. Also, it introduced new ways of evolving Pokémon with items while trading and new stones to use. Even forgotten Pokémon were given attention by gaining new evolved forms that could diversify your teams. To list a few, Onix and Scyther could be evolved by holding a Metal Coat and trading with it, Gloom and Sunkern could evolve with a Sun Stone, and even Eevee could be evolved through max friendship in the daytime or nighttime. This encouraged trainers to try out some of the other Pokémon on their team and increase the replay value.
Continuing with the Pokémon designs, they were enhanced with more color thanks to the advancement of the GameBoy Color! Not only that, but they also created baby Pokémon forms that could only be obtained from breeding our beloved favorites from Kanto like Jigglypuff, Magmar, Pikachu, and countless others.
Overall, it seemed like this generation was going to be the final chapter of Pokémon. Team Rocket was officially disbanded, you explored a new region and saw the changes to the old one, and battled against the previous protagonist of Red, Blue and Green. I am so thankful Pokémon didn’t stop there!
Generation 3 - Hoenn
My passion for Pokémon as a kid died after the second generation because of bullying and the feeling that you were too childish to still like it when gen 3 came around. Fast forward to my college years, and my passion for the franchise was renewed when my fraternity brothers and I all decided to play Emerald! I also used the anime as background noise while doing homework and taking breaks to watch when major events were happening. I didn’t know what I had been missing! I loved the concept that playing as either the male or female character made the other one your NPC rival! It was also great to see two rival teams, Magma and Aqua, as the antagonists, who were fighting over the balance between land and sea. We got a new slew of unique Pokémon, including the waifu Pokémon, Gardevoir, whom I have used in almost every game since. May and her annoying brother, Max, replaced Misty in the anime, which I continued to enjoy until cringeworthy voices of new actors took the places of those we had grown to love when 4Kids owned the rights to the show; Goodbye, Veronica Taylor and Eric Stuart :(. Still, the third generation holds fond memories as I sit in my Secret Base or participate in contests.
Generation 3 was seen as the generation that brought back trainers who wandered off the Pokémon Champion path with even better Pokémon designs and new gameplay mechanics. As a fan who couldn’t get enough of it, I saw more and more of my friends playing the games after school. I still remember ordering Pokémon Emerald as soon as I found out about it and buying the Pokémon guidebook (which I still have to this day). Moving to the gameplay and region specifics, the Hoenn region brought an expansive ocean of possibilities and new Water-type Pokémon. One new mechanic they introduced was diving into the ocean and encountering hidden Pokémon of the deep like Clamperl and Relicanth. Also hiding in the deep sea was hidden caverns that the evil teams Magma & Aqua would use to find the legendary Pokémon. Speaking of the evil organizations, Team Magma and Team Aqua were pretty much the same in each game—the only difference is one favored the land over the water or vice versa. The last game mechanic introduced was double battles! Finally, we were able to battle two trainers at once and collect twice as many tears from when we beat them. Muhahahahaha.
Rerouting back to the Pokémon designs, this generation created so many uniquely designed Pokémon. So many that it would encourage fans to replay the game and try out a new team each time. One staple Pokémon I always had on my team was the Mudkip line, and what can I say, I love Mudkip! He was the perfectly balanced starter that could be a tank when you needed it and fire back all at once. Overall this generation became many trainers' favorite generation and one of my favorites to replay.
Generation 4 - Sinnoh
The “meh” generation, in my opinion. Sure, there were a few really good things. Cynthia is one of the strongest Champions amongst all generations, Ash’s Infernape in the anime was awesome, and we got two new Eeveelutions with Leafeon and Glaceon. We also got the god of all Pokémon (Arceus), along with those of time (Dialga), space (Palkia), and antimatter (Giratina), which are pretty cool concepts if you ask me. Other than that, the rest is forgettable to me. Dawn in the anime feels like a knock off version of May, and Paul (Ash’s rival in this series) is a jerk! We got some very strange evolutions to Pokémon from gens 1 and 2 (Lickilicky? Seriously?). And does anybody even know what Team Galactic’s goal was? There were a few good ideas in gen 4, but it doesn’t stand out like other generations do.
Sinnoh is another generation I really enjoyed (big shocker here). For starters, we finally got a penguin starter who turned out to be my most reliable team member. Not to mention the Route 2 bird had a MAJOR step up in its final evolution. Yes, I’m shining the spotlight on Staraptor. Not only were these two Pokémon always on my team, but they were also my anchors.
Going to the Pokémon designs of this generation, I also really liked them. They expanded upon the previous generations’ Pokémon that didn’t receive as much attention and gave them new evolutions (I’m starting to see a pattern here Pokémon). Personally, I really like it when forgotten Pokémon are given some limelight, especially when they’re overshadowed by new and better stat Pokémon. A few Pokémon that gained new evolutions were Rhydon, Tangela, Gligar, Dusclops, and several more!
Overall, Sinnoh had an interesting storyline and kickstarted the double screen gameplay on the Nintendo DS. It introduced a new evil team that purely wants to destroy the fabric of time and space. Pokémon Inc. improved original game mechanics and issues from the previous games and gave the player a difficult fight in the end with Champion Cynthia. As a stand-alone region, I would travel there, just have to make sure Team Galactic isn’t destroying the world when I visit.
Generation 5 - Unova
I wouldn’t say I hate gen 5; I just don’t like it. Starting the game, I had trouble choosing which starter I wanted. Not because they were all good, but because they all looked stupid. In fact, the majority of the new Pokémon looked stupid. We had a group of ice cream Pokémon (Vanillite, Vanillish, and Vanilluxe), three gear Pokémon with stupid names (Klink, Klang, and...Klingklang), two Pokémon that were literally trash (Trubbish and Garbador), and a bear with frozen snot hanging from its nose (Cubchoo). And if you want to choose from better Pokémon from previous generations...you can’t! The villain team for Black and White is PETA, er, Team Plasma. They want to liberate Pokémon from the servitude of humans while...also battling with Pokémon? (Side note: PETA actually has a parody game on their website called Pokémon Black and Blue). The two companions of Ash in the awful anime have annoying catchphrases that they say non-stop; Iris is always telling Ash, “you’re such a little kid,” and Cilan is always claiming he’s a connoisseur of practically everything. As far as I’m concerned, the only redeemable things in gen 5 are the complex character of N and a handful of decently cool Pokémon, which could fit on my team (Tirtouga, Zebstrika, Zoroark, Krookodile, Braviary, and either Reshiram or Zekrom depending on which game you got).
Unova was an interesting region to say the least. It offered a lot of potential to be a great region, introduced a few new gameplay mechanics, but overall it wasn’t one of my favorites. To kick off Unova, let’s begin with the starters. I personally didn’t like any of the starters because of their designs (sorry Oshawott fans). They had a boring design that just confused me even more when they evolved. An example of this is Snivy. It begins on two legs and arms, evolves and still stands on two legs and arms. Then in its final evolution, it loses its legs and its arms are very small leaves that you wouldn’t expect to be arms. Um…what happened there. This confusion inspired me to box my starter and make a Lillipup my starter.
The gym leaders in the first game had a much bigger and better role in the storyline than the second part. Spoiler alert, towards the end of the game when you’re going to fight N for the champion spot, the gym leaders come to your aid to distract Team Plasma’s Sages. That scene still gives me chills a bit. Another interesting thing this generation introduced is having two rivals! The only problem is they would share the spotlight which caused their characters’ to be less fleshed out. To summarize, this generation left me confused and hitting myself. The Pokémon designs weren’t really memorable, the plot seemed copied and pasted, and it didn’t leave me with fulfillment. I just hoped the next generation snapped me out of confusion.
Generation 6 - Kalos
This was a reemergence of Pokémon to me. Maybe it’s because X and Y came out when I was in college, and that’s when I started to get back into the franchise. Or maybe it was that Nintendo and Gamefreak were making it seem as though Pokémon was going through a reawakening. If you need proof, the X and Y anime in English used the original theme song we all know and love! The quality in the games’ graphics between 5th gen on the DS to the 6th gen games on the 3DS is massive! The games also gave me my second favorite Pokémon, Greninja, and introduced Mega Evolution to make some of the most popular Pokémon look even cooler! Meanwhile, in the anime, Serena is on par with Misty and Brock as my favorite companion for Ash, and Ash has the best team of Pokémon he has ever had! Clemont and Bonnie are...okay. Some may claim that the games were too easy, but I felt like this was a good way to introduce newcomers to the franchise while also giving veterans a new adventure with a bit of nostalgia. To be honest, there aren’t a whole lot of gen 6 Pokémon I love, so instead X and Y were fun games to use a variety of Pokémon from different generations in my team (especially since most of my favorites could Mega Evolve).
*hits self in confusion* Owwww! Well, as you can probably tell Kalos is my least favorite region of Pokémon. Where do I even begin? First off, I’m not a fan of the game’s plot. Personally, I never felt like there was a sense of urgency whenever I dealt with Team Flare. It just seemed thrown into the plot whenever it seemed like it most convenient. Another thing I didn’t like about the games is there was way too much hand-holding. By the time I did face the evil team leader, my team was WAY too overpowered and his Pokémon fainted after one hit…which brings me to my next point, your rivals. For some odd reason, Pokémon thought it was a great idea to give your character not one, not two, but four rivals. *hits self in confusion again* Personally I felt no attachment to any of these rivals because they all had to share the rival spotlight and weren’t given enough light to have a deeper personality. To be honest, I don’t even remember their names because they didn’t make a lasting impact on me.
Traveling forward to the Pokémon designs, they weren’t terrible. I actually liked the starters this round and broke out of my Water-type choice rut and chose Fennekin as my prime choice. It had a great typing of Fire and Psychic that complemented its stats perfectly. And its final evolution of Delphox made me feel like I was controlling a flame wizard which was pretty sweet. Lastly, they introduced a new mechanic called Mega Evolutions that allowed certain Pokémon to evolve past the three evolution line to a temporary form in battle. My personal favorite Mega Evolution was Blastoise because it gained three bazookas to use. Overall, generation 6 had the potential to be one of my favorites, but with the plot dragging on and the constant hand-holding, it left a bitter taste in my mouth.
Generation 7 - Alola
Alola! From what I’ve heard from others, gen 7 isn’t liked by many. As for me, I really enjoy it! I think we can agree that the animation of the Sun and Moon anime is...different. Personally, I haven’t watched much of it in comparison to the other generations’ series. As for the games, I loved them! I know that people complain that we had trials instead of gym battles to earn badges, but I thought it was a great change of pace! The roster of new Pokémon in Alola is probably one of my favorites overall next to generations 1 and 2 (aside from the ugly Bruxish). Among them, we received an archer owl (Decidueye), our first fire/poison type (Salazzle), a cute rock puppy who can evolve into three different forms (Rockruff into Lycanroc), a small fish who can school together with its own kind to make a gigantic monster fish (Wishiwashi), and the adorable ghost that disguises itself just to be loved (Mimikyu). Not to mention we have the Island Guardians and Ultra Beasts! And you have to admit that Alolan Marowak is one of the coolest Pokémon ever! The human characters are a lot of fun, too! Does everybody remember the memes of Lillie shoving Nebby the Cosmog into her bag? Even Team Skull’s ridiculous moves were entertaining! I have yet to give the anime my attention based on Ash’s strange new design. But, as for the game, I had a blast!
Well Pokémon, you finally did it. You used a Full Heal on me and I snapped out of confusion! To say the least, Alola region regained my confidence in Pokémon after having two regions fail to impress me. And with its release, it brought even more new mechanics that made the game kinder to new Pokémon fans while giving the old fanbase several callbacks. I actually liked the starters here. Each of them had their own personality traits that attracted all sorts of players. My personal favorite was the Litten line because of its black and red color scheme. Not to mention new Alolan forms to classic Pokémon such as Exeggutor, Ninetales, Sandslash, and several others. These new forms helped spice up the competitive side to player vs player battling.
One great new mechanic they introduced were Z-moves which allowed players to power-up a move into a scary attack that could make or break a battle. I really liked these new moves (and even the signature z-moves) because they always kept you on your toes even when you had the matchup. The last feature that I thought was really handy was how they disposed of HM moves or Poké Ride, which allowed you to do the same thing as the HM moves except you didn’t need to give up a move slot on your Pokémon. To summarize, this generation allowed old and new Pokémon fans connect, which is what Satoshi Tajiri dreamed of.
Generation 8 - Galar
Ah, the newest generation. Originally, I wasn’t planning on getting Sword or Shield since it just didn’t look interesting to me. Even now, I haven’t entirely made up my mind on it. The story in the game isn’t particularly interesting or new, though I do like that the region is based on England. And, of course, we all know about the controversy that Sword and Shield would be the first games without the capability of filling out the complete national Pokédex. So much for “gotta catch ‘em all,” right? The Isle of Armor expansion has given us some good, additional material to enhance the game, and at the time of writing this, I am hoping the Crown Tundra expansion will give us even more great content! The Gigantamaxing and Dynamaxing mechanic is an interesting concept, but ever since it was announced, I thought the designers were reaching a bit too far and running out of good ideas. As far as the anime goes, I have yet to delve into any of the Journeys series or Twilight Wings. Is this generation really uninteresting to me, or am I just getting more fatigued by the continuous growth of the franchise? We are now at 893 Pokémon and counting! I guess only time will tell, since we still have a lot to anticipate for the continuation of gen 8.
Last but not least, we’ve arrived in the new region of Galar! I really enjoyed this region because the graphics were finally updated to a new revolutionary console, aka the Switch. Finally we are able to run around and see how the Pokémon behave in the wild. My favorite moment is when I was chased for dear life by a Snorlax when I barely had three badges. Obviously my Pokémon didn’t stand a chance and there was a lot of high pitch screaming. Wild Pokémon chases aside, this generation brought a fresh new look into the world of Pokémon and really captures all fans in a nice Masterball.
Another favorite feature of mine is the sheer amount of Pokémon you’re able to catch and find. Not only did this generation bring its own new Pokémon designs, but it allowed you to go back a few generations and find ones that were too rare or unpopular ones. I believe this generation gave the players boxes full of rare Pokémon they plan to make teams with. Going back to the Pokémon designs, I think this generation brought some memorable ones. My favorite starter line is the Grookey evolution because I love a great green monkey. Another staple of my team is Boltund because who can resist this good boy vibes! Overall, I really enjoyed exploring the mysteries of the Galar region and training new Pokémon.
Chris’s ranking and favorite starter for each generation
- Johto (Gen 2) - Totodile
- Kalos (Gen 6) - Froakie
- Kanto (Gen 1) - Charmander
- Alola (Gen 7) - Rowlet
- Hoenn (Gen 3) - Treecko
- Sinnoh (Gen 4) - Chimchar
- Galar (Gen 8) - Scorbunny
- Unova (Gen 5) - Snivy...maybe
Devlen's ranking and favorite starter for each generation
- Johto (Gen 2) - Cyndaquil
- Kanto (Gen 1) - Squirtle
- Hoenn (Gen 3) - Mudkip
- Sinnoh (Gen 4) - Piplup
- Galar (Gen 8) - Grookey
- Alola (Gen 7) - Litten
- Unova (Gen 5) - Oshawott
- Kalos (Gen 6) - Fennekin