Every Classic Game Boy Pokémon Game, Ranked

Originally released as Pokémon Red and Green in Japan, North America received the game two years later in 1998 as Red and Blue. The Pokémon series first Generation introduced many design concepts that are still used in Pokémon games decades later, even in the Galar region’s Pokémon Sword and Shield which was released in 2019. At the start of the game, players control the silent protagonist “Red” who leaves their home in Palletown to become the very best trainer in the region. Before setting off to defeat every Gym Leader and claim all eight Pokémon League badges, players are also tasked by Professor Oak to find and catch every Pokémon in the Kanto region to complete the Generation 1 Pokédex.

While many players will argue that Pokémon Red and Blue still has the best Pokémon designs in the series even over two decades later, the classic RPGs are held back by the Game Boy’s limitations. Compared to later titles, Red and Blue’s pacing is at times a slog, and the game also has its fair share of bugs. So much so that the game has become infamous in the speedrunning community, due to players finding a substantial amount of glitches to exploit for fun. Pokémon Red and Blue is still a solid game with an incredible cast of Pokémon, but it’s largely a stepping stone for what the series would eventually become – and that’s completely okay.

#6 – Pokémon Yellow (1999) Helped Kick Off The Anime

Following the release of the critically acclaimed Game Boy RPG Red and Blue, the Pokémon anime made its debut in North America in 1998. The series was a massive hit as viewers around the world fell in love with the Pokémon anime’s trainer Ash Ketchum and his Pokémon partner Pikachu. To tap into the massive success of the anime, the Pokémon Company released an enhanced third version of Pokémon Red and Blue for the Game Boy in 1999 called Pokémon Yellow. The new version of the hit RPG, changed characters to match the Pokémon anime and even included Pikachu as players Starter Pokémon.

While Pokémon Yellow is pretty much the exact same game as Red and Blue, the special re-release included additional features and largely cleaned up the bugs featured in the original game. Because players have to start the game with Pikachu instead of a choice between Charmander, Squirtle, and Bulbasaur, Pokémon Yellow is actually a bit more challenging than Red and Blue in the first half of the game. Overall Pokémon Yellow is a faithful re-release of Generation 1, just with a few additions such as the Starter Pikachu which walks out of its Poké Ball behind the player. Fans of the Pokémon anime will not want to miss out on this one.

#5 – Pokémon FireRed & LeafGreen (2004) Were New Evolutions For The Franchise

In 2004 Nintendo released a handful of classic games on their newly launched Game Boy Advance console. As a part of this initiative, Game Freak released the first-ever Pokémon Remake Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen. While largely another faithful re-release of Red and Blue, the Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen remakes included much more drastic changes than Pokémon Yellow. Because of the Game Boy Advances upgraded console specs, the Kanto region got a vibrant and colorful graphical makeover.

More importantly, Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen came packed with extra content, such as the new southern region, the Sevii Islands where players could catch Gen 2 Pokémon from Pokémon Gold and Silver. The Game Boy Advance remakes also included many additional features, such as Pokémon breeding in the Day Care on Four Island, and the ability for players to now pick a female protagonist at the start of the game. While some fans may prefer Pokémon Yellow due to its purity and preservation of the original games, Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen holds up a lot more in 2022 as the definitive way to play Pokémon Generation 1.

#4 – Pokémon Gold & Silver (2000) Were Direct Sequels To Red & Blue

A sequel to Red and Blue, Pokémon Gold & Silver was released in 2000 just two years after the series first launched in North America. The Generation 2 RPG introduced players to the Johto region and managed to be even more expansive than its predecessor with its extensive story and map. Considering how iconic Red and Blue’s Pokédex was, it’s impressive that many fans today consider Pokémon Gold and Silver to also have some of the series’ best Pokémon designs. The Gen 2 Johto Pokémon Starters Cyndaquil, Totodile, and Chikorita are still some of the most popular starting Pokémon in the entire franchise.

Like Generation 1, Pokémon Gold and Silver had a major influence on the series moving forward such as its introduction of Held Items, Pokémon Genders, Pokémon Breeding, and the wildly popular Shiny Pokémon mechanic. The RPG also has one of the series’ bests twists ever, as players discover that they can go to the Kanto region after beating the game. The incredible post-game feature essentially adds Red and Blue to the story as a bonus. Pokémon Gold and Silver also introduced the new Steel and Dark-type, making it not only one of the best classic Pokémon games but also one of the most important regions in the whole series due to its many innovations.

#3 – Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire (2002) Were The First GBA Pokémon Games

Building off the foundation that Gold and Silver laid down, Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire featured one of the series’ most ambitious maps to date. Released in 2003, Ruby and Sapphire were the first Pokémon titles to land on the Game Boy Advance. Pokémon Gen 3’s Hoenn region had a water-themed world so impressively large, that it almost feels impossible today that the portable console was able to handle such a groundbreaking map in 2003.

Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire also saw the first appearance of the expanded version of the Pokémon Storage System that the series still uses today, as well as the new weather status mechanic. Most important of all, the Generation 3 RPG introduced Double Battles, Pokémon Natures, and Pokémon abilities which have all had a profound impact on the series. Ruby and Sapphire also featured some of the coolest Legendary Pokémon designs, with the debut of Rayquaza, Latios, and Latias. The star of the show though really is the Hoenn region’s adventurous story and exciting map that is still quite a feat today.

#2 – Pokémon Crystal (2001) Perfected Gold & Silver

In 2001, Game Freak released an enhanced version of Generation 2 with Pokémon Crystal. Similar to Pokémon Yellow, the Pokémon Crystal edition was a re-release of Pokémon Gold and Silver. While it’s largely an exact port of the Johto region RPG, it also includes a handful of improvements such as fixed bugs, and additional sprites. The revised edition is much more balanced, such as the inclusion of Kanto Fire-type Pokémon Growlithe earlier in the game for players who choose Totodile and Chikorita as their Pokémon Starter instead.

The most important change Pokémon Crystal brings, however, is the new storyline featuring the Legendary Beasts Entei, Raikou, and Suicune. While the Legendary trio was in Gold and Silver, they now play a much larger role in Pokémon Crystal’s story, especially Suicune. At the end of the day, Pokémon Crystal is just a tidier version of Generation 2 and is still the best version of Gold and Silver that can be played on the classic Game Boy consoles. Decades after its release, many Pokémon fans still fiercely argue that Pokémon Crystal is the best game in the entire series.

#1 – Pokémon Emerald (2004) Is The Best Classic Game Boy Advance Pokémon Game

Pokémon Emerald was released in 2005 and is the third edition of the Ruby and Sapphire games. Although the original Generation 3 RPGs were also on the Game Boy Advance, Pokémon Emerald received many upgrades that were first introduced in 2004’s FireRed and LeafGreen. Unlike other Pokémon complete editions that would release in the future such as Alola’s Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra MoonPokémon Emerald is mostly a faithful re-release of its predecessor without any major sweeping changes.

Pokémon Emerald is simply the best version of the Gen 3 that can be played on the original Game Boy consoles. Like Ruby and Sapphire, the game shines with its epic story and adventurous map. The third edition of the game is just more refined, with Gym Leaders now having revamped teams and an improved overworld with increased double battles with NPCs. When it comes down to the best Pokémon game from the Game Boy era, most fans generally are split between Hoenn and Johto. For those who love Generation 3, you can’t pick a better game to play on the Game Boy Advance than Pokémon Emerald.

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