11 best Pokemon games in 2024, from Colosseum to Scarlet & Violet

11 best Pokemon games in 2024, from Colosseum to Scarlet & Violet
Images via Game Freak | Genius Sonority | Bandai Namco Studios | Niantic

Written by 

Ben Williams

Last updated 

9th Jan 2024 13:00

Contents

There are over two decades' worth of Pokemon games, allowing trainers to do everything from taking pictures of 'mon as they meander their natural habitats to battling gym leaders in exchange for badges - but which ones are the best of the best?

Even when not considering the most recent entry, Scarlet & Violet, and the Teal Mask and Indigo Disk DLCs, there's still a wealth of mainline games and spin-offs which have come out over the years. 

Best Pokemon games

#11 - Pokemon Scarlet & Violet

image of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet with Sprigatito, Quaxly, and Fuecoco
Click to enlarge

Pokemon Scarlet & Violet details:

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch
  • Release date: 2023

Despite not making it into the top 10, Scarlet & Violet are still worth an honourable mention. Stepping into the shoes of an academy student going off on an assigned 'Treasure Hunt' to explore the Paldea region, the latest Pokemon game does well in setting itself apart from those of the past with an extra RPG twist: interweaving three story paths that can be completed in whichever order you choose.

Whether deciding to take the traditional Pokemon route of challenging gym leaders to become the champion, taking on the enemy bases of Team Star, or battling legendary Titan Pokemon across the land, Scarlet & Violet gives you some degree of control in its grand adventure - including some fantastically shocking twists and turns as you try to solve the story's mystery. 

What's more, Scarlet & Violet offers players brilliant free post-launch content. Utilising Tera Raids - events with bosses using the game's Terasalization mechanic - Scarlet & Violet have released a steady stream of challenging limited-time events to make players come back to battle and catch uniquely powerful 'mon. 

However, the game's string of continuous content and bonus events doesn't take away from the technical issues that have been plaguing its appeal since day one. To this day, still suffering from numerous technical issues like choppy framerates and frequent pop-ins, Scarlet & Violet's remaining instability makes exploration - one of Pokemon's core elements - feel like a glitchy chore.

#10 - New Pokemon Snap

Key Art from New Pokémon Snap, one of the best Pokemon games
Click to enlarge

New Pokemon Snap details:

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch
  • Release date: 2021

A follow-up or remake of Pokemon Snap - one of the most beloved titles on the Nintendo 64 - had been anticipated for almost 20 years. Despite all of the high expectations built up by the time of this sequel's release, New Pokemon Snap is a charming addition that does justice to and builds on its predecessor's legacy. 

With more creatures, puzzles, and areas to explore - all brought to life by the Nintendo Switch's more modern technology - New Pokemon Snap beautifully captures the wonder of photographing Pokemon in the wild. Amongst the various Pokemon spin-offs out there, Snap is still among the most engaging and more than deserves one of the top spots.

#9 - Pokemon GO

Key art of Pokémon Go featuring Lugia, Zapdos, Articuno and Moltres flying around the logo
Click to enlarge

Pokemon GO details:

  • Platform: Android, iOS
  • Release date: 2016

Beyond its initial summer 2016 launch that saw attention from the masses right into the mainstream, the free-to-play Pokemon GO's initial lack of wider features and limited Pocket Monsters later saw a massive drop-off.

However, those who stuck around have been continuously rewarded with the AR game's constant evolution, as opposed to an array of forgettable mainline Nintendo games released in the last decade. 

Trading, Gift exchanging, Team Rocket battles against Giovanni, Shadow Pokemon, regular Spotlight Hour events, and a constant stream of new 'mon to catch are just a few reasons why the game has built up such a dedicated fanbase.

There are so many reasons why other franchises like Harry Potter and The Witcher have tried and failed to accomplish what Niantic has with Pokemon GO. But in short, it's because Pokemon GO is versatile, addictive, and (most importantly) fun. 

#8 - Pokemon Black & White 

Key art from Pokémon Black and White, one of the best Pokemon games
Click to enlarge

Pokemon Black & White details:

  • Platform: Nintendo DS
  • Release date: 2010

The start of Pokemon's fifth generation was a time of resurgence for the franchise. Released 14 years after the first games, Black and White saw the return of numerous players who had dropped off during Gen 4, along with a new legion of younger fans. 

With that, Black and White was a perfect fit, essentially serving as a soft reboot that lets you only collect 156 new-gen Pokemon, the highest amount of any generation since Gen 1, until the post-game.

Exploring an abundance of new concepts with a much more down-to-earth narrative than what we'd seen before, Black and White's exploration into the moral and ethical implications of catching wild Pokemon through brilliant rival 'N' still has Black and White standing out today.  

#7 - Pokemon Colosseum

Key art from Pokémon Colosseum, featuring the protagonist Umbreon and Espeon
Click to enlarge

Pokemon Colosseum details:

  • Platform: Nintendo GameCube
  • Release date: 2004

The Pocket Monster series has seen many spin-offs, but Colosseum is by far the most interesting and is arguably the most overlooked, profoundly answering the question, 'What if you could steal other people's Pokemon?'

Made for Day One Pokemon fans who were at the time entering their teen years, developer Genius Sonority decided to make an RPG older audiences had never seen from the franchise before. Even today, Colosseum is the most adult and gritty Pokemon game to date, both in tone and narrative. 

A story of Pokemon having their hearts closed artificially to become wicked and soulless fighting machines, you play as a former villain tasked with stealing them from a corrupt organisation, doing so with the tool you formerly used for evil. Set in a desert, crime-ridden dystopia, Pokemon Colosseum stands alongside its JRPG inspirations like Final Fantasy VII and Persona 2.

As a Pokemon game, it's one of the most challenging as it is distinct, made even better by its vibrant soundtrack. Although mostly forgotten by gamers, the impact of 2004's Pokemon Colosseum is still felt today, with its iconic Shadow Pokemon being an exciting part of Pokemon GO since 2019. As far as borrowing concepts go, it's not hard to understand why.

#6 - Pokemon Platinum

Key art from Pokémon Platinum, one of the best Pokemon games
Click to enlarge

Pokemon Platinum details:

  • Platform: Nintendo DS
  • Release date: 2008

Diamond & Pearl, along with their remakes, are slightly smaller in scope than typical Pokemon entries. However, it's 2009's Pokemon Platinum that was - and still is - the peak of what the modern-day Sinnoh region has to offer, going above many other games that preceded it. 

With improvements like the Wi-Fi Plaza, new 'mon, the Battle Frontier, additional characters, and a much-improved story, Platinum took the foundations laid out by Diamond & Pearl to construct one of the finest examples of the words 'value for money' from a Pokemon game. 

#5 - Pokemon Black 2 & White 2

Cover art for Pokémon Black 2 and Pokémon White 2
Click to enlarge

Pokemon Black 2 & White 2 details:

  • Platform: Nintendo DS
  • Release date: 2012

The only Pokemon games to ever be given a numbered title, Black 2 & White 2 serve Black & White as the first connected follow-up to a previous Pokemon game since Gold & Silver did so to Red, Blue, and Green (although Black 2 and White 2 are the only sequels of the same Pokemon generation).

For me, it's a shame we haven't had more Pokemon games like this. Despite being based in the same region as its predecessor, Black 2 and White 2 brought with them a wide array of new content, including new areas of Unova, previous-gen Pokemon, and the brutal but awesomely challenging Pokemon World Tournament and Battle Subway.

These features helped it to feel like an entirely new experience, only adding to what made Black & White so refreshing. By being a direct sequel, the best of Black 2 & White 2 lies in the continuing of its predecessor's story, carrying on N's unforgettable arc and better connecting the legendary Kyurem with the overall plot.

When combined with Black & White, Black 2 & White 2 makes for the only combination of mainline Pokemon games that make for a consistent and narratively massive outing. 

#4 - Pokemon Emerald

Key art from Pokémon Emerald showing legendary Pokémon, Rayquaza
Click to enlarge

Pokemon Emerald details:

  • Platform: Game Boy Advance
  • Release date: 2005

Pokemon's third generation brought a good few interesting changes first seen in Ruby and Sapphire, from Double Battles and Abilities to Pokemon Contests, stat-altering Natures, and full-colour visuals courtesy of the Game Boy Advance. Nevertheless, it wasn't until Pokemon Emerald that the true potential of Gen 3 was established. 

Brimming with additional third-version improvements like Platinum did for Diamond & Pearl, Emerald delivered major enhancements on Ruby & Sapphire on two fronts: story and challenge.

Supplementing the campaign in the already great Hoenn region, Pokemon Emerald takes the story to an epic scale by making Rayquza the star legendary, putting you in the middle between Team Magma and Aqua rather than being pitted against one or the other. 

The second big improvement that ranks Emerald amongst the best Pokemon games is its post-game introduction of the Battle Frontier. Here, you'd take on seven dauntingly difficult bosses at different facilities to test your skill, and it's arguably one of the most difficult titles within the franchise.

#3 - Pokemon Legends: Arceus

Cover art from Pokémon Legends Arceus
Click to enlarge

Pokemon Legends: Arceus details:

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch
  • Release date: 2022

After almost a decade of increasingly stale games, Legends: Arceus was the reinvigoration the franchise needed after 26 years - and is the best Pokemon experience on current-gen hardware by far.

By shaking up the whole formula, Pokemon: Legends Arceus took Pokemon back to its roots and in time. In a unique Breath of the Wild-style setting in an ancient Sinnoh, the RPG's focus on catching Pokemon - paired with its story of thinking of Pokemon as wild and dangerous creatures - reawakens the sense of wonder that comes with hunting Pocket Monsters.

Arceus is made even better when watching and interacting with 'mon in the overworld. Introducing mechanics like crafting, Strong and Agile Styles, and Primal Pokemon, Legends: Arceus' gameplay feels packed with features that aren't generational gimmicks like Sun & Moon's Z-Moves, X & Y's Mega Evolutions, Sword & Shield's Dynamaxing and curry-making, or Scarlet & Violet's Tera Raids. 

Yes, Pokemon Legends: Arceus had a few minor technical issues upon release, but when compared to Scarlet & Violet, Pokemon: Legends Arecus is an undisputed masterpiece.

#2 - Pokemon FireRed & LeafGreen

Key art from Pokémon Fire Red and Pokémon Leaf Green, showing Charizard and Venusaur
Click to enlarge

Pokemon FireRed & LeafGreen details:

  • Platform: Game Boy Advance
  • Release date: 2004

The original 1996 games will always be held dear in our hearts - as well as the delightful Let's Go Pikachu and Eevee - but it's Red, Blue, and Green's 2004 remakes that are the finest takes on the first Pokemon journey. 

Given its source material, FireRed & LeafGreen is as classic a Pokemon adventure as any. Choosing your starter; Bulbasaur, Charmander, or Squirtle; you'll travel across the land of Kanto, searching far and wide for the original 151 Pokemon. Along the way you'll take down the villainous Team Rocket, battling your way up the gyms and Victory Road to become Champion.

This first iteration of the beloved Pokemon formula still looks great in the timeless 32-bit art style. What's more, incorporating Gen-2 and Gen-3's improvements followed the original games with new types, moves, strategies, and a decent post-game exploration of the Sevii Islands. Pokemon FireRed & LeafGreen still hold up as sensational experiences with plenty of innovation for all manner of fans.

What is the best Pokemon game?

#1 - Pokemon HeartGold & SoulSilver

Key art from Pokémon Heart Gold, one of the best pokemon games
Click to enlarge

Pokemon HeartGold & SoulSilver details:

  • Platform: Nintendo DS
  • Release date: 2010

Released in 1999 on the Game Boy Color, Pokemon Silver & Gold was everything a sequel should be, taking what was done so well in Red, Blue, and Green, and expanding on its building blocks to make the series better than ever. That was only made clearer when both games were remade on the Nintendo DS in 2010 as HeartGold & SoulSilver. 

Including over 100 new Generation 2 Johto Pokemon, HeartGold & SoulSilver carried over everything its namesakes excelled at, bringing it to new life in Gen 4's stylish pixel art style that holds up today as the best-looking 2D Pokemon games.

Breeding, day and night cycles, trainer rematches, Shiny Pokemon, friendship levels, new Poke Balls, additional moves, and the balancing Dark and Steel types, were all introduced in Gen 2 - and are still mainstays today.

These Pokemon staples are at their best when coupled with HeartGold & SoulSilver's story, becoming a sleek, heart-filled, and epic tale in both versions. Of course, the true thrill lies in the scope, as your journey of challenging gyms and becoming Champion here doesn't end in your home region.

You're also able to visit the Kanto region and take on the gym leaders of the previous game for sixteen gym badges in total, still the biggest amount of any Pokemon title. The cherry on top is finally getting to face Red - the protagonist of Red, Blue, and Green - to become the true champion. It's a pinnacle of boss battles for a sequel and remains one of the best in gaming. 

Pokemon HeartGold & SoulSilver are the best Pokemon games not only because they recapture the masterfully crafted and incredible value for money that Gold and Silver were as sequels to the original games, but also because their sheer amount of content never drops in quality. That's even more so with the incredible care put into these remakes, making them an everlasting classic and the best of what Pokemon has to offer.

Now that you know which Pokemon games are best, here's a rundown of games like Pokemon GO. Alternatively, our Pokemon homepage has all the guides you'll need to help you become the ultimate trainer. 

Ben is a Senior Guides Writer at GGRecon. Alongside his BA (Hons) in Business Management is a wealth of gaming and entertainment writing experience, having previously occupied roles as a Copywriter in e-commerce at Overclockers and Guides & SEO Writer at GameByte and FragHero. When not whipping up guides and reviews, Ben’ll be off playing the latest Pokemon games, Overwatch 2, Spider-Man, The Witcher, and Final Fantasy - all before reading manga and listening to Ice Nine Kills.

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