10:00 am EST, November 29, 2019

The 10 best ‘Pokémon’ games of the 2010s

The best Pokémon games of the 2010s range from side games, to main series entries, and everything in between.

The Pokémon series has fallen even more into the limelight in the 2010s thanks largely to the blockbuster mobile game Pokémon GO recapturing adult audiences that grew up loving the Pocket Monster games. With its original audience involved once more, the Pokémon brand has reached new heights, in both quality and success.

But the best Pokémon games came well before Pokémon GO hit in 2016. A long and involved franchise, the Pokémon main series games have been doing a lot of things right for well over 20 years.

The best Pokémon games have definitively hit in the last 10 years (save for Pokémon HeartGold/SoulSilver, which released in 2009 for the Nintendo DS). What are the top Pokémon games of the 2010s? Check out the 10 best Pokémon titles that have made capturing, training, and befriending those cuddly little monsters oh so satisfying.

The best ‘Pokémon’ games of the 2010s

10. ‘Pokkén Tournament’

best Pokémon games pokken tournament

Pokkén Tournament was a revolutionary game in the Pokémon series, as it was the first game to take a Street Fighter/Soul Calubur approach to Pokémon battling. Switching between both 2D and 3D planes, Pokkén is a highly technical game that requires memorizing combos and counters ala Mortal Kombat and Injustice.

Pokkén‘s main story is somewhat accessible, but the competitive scene for this fighting game requires the utmost skill, talent, and knowledge for this niche Pokémon game. While type-matchups didn’t play into the way Pokémon battle in this arcade hit, it’s probably the most technically complicated and rewarding video game in the series.

9. ‘Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire’

best Pokémon games omega ruby alpha sapphire

Ruby and Sapphire are standout Gameboy Advance titles that deserve their own praise and accolades. The originals serve as a great basis for the remakes of the Generation III Pokémon Hoenn games, making for a thrilling and somewhat overwhelming adventure. Flying around on a Latios/Latias is incredible, as is fighting through some of the game’s toughest battles with the added challenge of Mega Evolutions.

Gen III has the best new Pokémon in the series, giving this overstuffed remake a lot for fans to dig into. I’ll always hold Ruby/Sapphire close to my heart. The remakes were great, but they had really big shoes to fill.

8. ‘Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu!/Eevee!’

Pokémon let's go pikachu eevee boxart

Revisiting Kanto is always a treat, even if it is a very overhyped region. The Let’s Go games are very easy beginner games meant to transition Pokémon GO players into the main series Pokémon flow, but that doesn’t make them any less fun. As any Pokémon can follow you in the overworld (a feature borrowed from masterpiece titles HeartGold/SoulSilver), and some can be ridden, the Let’s Go titles gift players some of the best wish fulfillment they could have wanted.

The motion controls are gimmicky, but if you know what you’re signing up for, they can be pretty fun too. The post-game is pretty neat, as is completing the game’s Pokédex. They serve as a great introduction to the Pokémon games on the Nintendo Switch and have hopefully opened the door for more Switch Pokémon titles to come.

7. ‘Pokémon GO’

Pokémon go

There’s no denying the cultural importance of Pokémon GO. There’s something to be said about a game that elevates one of the most profitable entertainment series in the world from being in pop culture into pop culture. For the first time in history, Pokémon fans were able to compete in a real-world AR game against other players. It’s free to start and encourages playing with others to take on Gyms and Raid battles.

Battling takes a seat on the sidelines for the catching-them-all focus of GO, making this mega mainstream hit an addicting (and cashgrabby) venture for the Pokémon series. A good portion of the 2010’s pop culture was formed around and with Pokémon GO, and that impact will be felt for quite some time.

6. ‘Pokémon Sword/Shield’

best Pokémon games sword and shield

The first main series Pokémon games for the Switch are solid, mostly amazing, and a healthy step forward for the 23-year-old monster capturing series. With such an involved series of over 900 creatures, it would have been easy for Sword/Shield to pale in comparison to titles like Diamond/Pearl. Thankfully, the adventure game takes great strides in terms of the meta of the series, along with the online potential of the Nintendo Switch.

Related: Sword and Shield review: Giant, dynamic, surprising adventure games

Dynamaxing is fun, and the Wild Area is breathtaking. Unfortunately, a limited Pokédex and lackluster environmental visuals hold Sword/Shield from being the ultimate best Pokémon games. At that, they are can’t miss Pokémon titles, and are sure to please both longtime fans and born-again Pokémon GO trainers.

5. ‘Pokémon Trading Card Game Online’

Pokémon trading card game online

The Pokémon Trading Card Game has always had accessibility issues. As kids, many Millenials collected and traded Pokémon Cards, but there’s a general consensus here: we didn’t actually know how to play the game. With damage counters, prize cards, and status ailments all up to players to calculate, the physical PTCG can still be a lot to get into.

Thankfully, the free to play Pokémon Trading Card Game Online tears down the barrier behind playing the still-sell-like-hotcakes Pokémon cards, and makes playing Pokémon in a different lens incredibly fun. The PTCG acts as a separate universe from the video game series, as Pokémon are often given Typings that aren’t canon, and Type matchups are completely different. If you want to spice up your Pokémon battling experience, check out the user-friendly and addicting PTCGO.

4. ‘Pokémon X/Y’

best Pokémon games x and y

Pokémon X and Y weren’t afraid to create a brand new meta, nor were they afraid to change up the type of storytelling the Pokémon series had relied upon for nearly two decades. Other than Pokémon Colleseum, X/Y are easily the darkest Pokémon games. They tell a complicated story of a world war, loss, and how society picked up the remains of what existed to advance into the 21st century.

The newly discovered Mega Evolutions gave once irrelevant Pokémon a chance at battling again. The models for Pokémon like Mega Gengar and Mega Mewtwo Y were inspired, exciting, and made me feel like I was a 10-year-old, once again discovering Pokémon for the very first time. X/Y ushered in an epic era of Pokémon for the Nintendo 3DS and set the bar for just how evolved each new entry would go on to become.

3. ‘Pokémon Sun/Moon’

best Pokémon games sun and moon

Sun and Moon know that you love Kanto, and that’s okay. The new Alolan forms of favorites like Ratatat, Diglett, and Raichu weren’t just cute; they were interesting. Also interesting were the Island Challenges, which were a new take on the Gym Leader formula. While fans were apprehensive about the lack of Gym Leaders, the end result was that of a really dynamic and exciting adventure. Without a formula to go by, Sun and Moon forged a new path without reserve.

The top three in this best Pokémon games list sit a bit higher than their predecessors not only because of their amazing gameplay, but also their interesting story elements. Sun and Moon‘s Tapus and Ultra Beasts made for a chilling, epic tale that made playing Pokémon feel fresh, if not brand new. They are the best 3DS games in the Pokémon series, outpacing many side games and their alternate story clones Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon.

2. ‘Pokémon Black/White’

Pokémon black and white

The story in Black and White proved that for the first time, the script of a Pokémon actually mattered. With much less fodder than Ruby/Sapphire and Diamond/Pearl, Black and White told a tale of the troubled youth N and the psychological grooming of his foster father Ghetsis. Team Plasma was like a more functional, actually scary Team Rocket. Under Ghetsis’ powerful direction, Plasma knew what they wanted and how to get it, regardless of how many people had to be mowed down in the process.

The technical scale of Black and White is a marvel, especially for the Nintendo DS. It pushed the dual-screen handheld past what was thought to be possible, as sprawling cities, epic camera movement, detailed battle sprites, and an extensive main game were all mixed into what was nearly a perfect Pokémon game.

1. ‘Pokémon Black 2/White 2’

best Pokémon games black 2 white 2

The best Pokémon games of the 2010s are Pokémon Black 2 and Pokémon White 2. The Johto effect of revisiting a region for a good amount of the story in a sequel is exclusive to Generations II and V. It’s a powerful means of storytelling, as it gives players a strong basis of built-in plot significance right from the getgo. With sequel titles Black 2/White 2, the stakes are amped up to 100, as N teams up with the player to help take down Team Plasma once and for all.

Exclusive to Black 2/White 2 is the amount and variety of Pokémon throughout the game. Starting from the once rare babies like Riolu and Azurill appearing at the early game Floccesy Ranch, the games continue to throw in Pokémon from all five Generations in all Trainer battles. As Black/White gave proper dues to the new Pokémon of the Generation, Black 2/White 2 were given license to cater to any Pokémon from any walk of life. These games were truly the most challenging in the entire main series, and stand as one of, if not the best, Pokémon games of all time.

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