Every Pokémon Game Narrative, Ranked From Best To Worst

Pokémon games won’t be winning a Hugo Award for their narratives anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean our many myriad adventures have been without interesting story beats. From Kanto to Galar, whimsical teams of villains have strived to dominate Pokémon and humans, Trainers have risen to stop them, and Legendary Pokémon have almost always emerged to destroy PokéHavoc.

Recently, the Pokémon gifts for Pokemon Scarlet and Violet revealed that the Paldea region will have three separate stories. With the ninth generation of Pokémon on the horizon, what better time to put in order all the stories that have come before?

Despite what we said in the headline, let’s start with the worst first. Read on to find out which generations – and their remakes – we thought had the most compelling stories and which we found ridiculously nonsensical…

Generation VIII – Sword, Shield, Isle of Armor and The Crown Tundra

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Image: The Pokemon Company

We wish there was a letter grade lower than F to honor the history of Gen VIII. Game Freak managed to take the worst parts of a Pokémon story and put them in Galar. Rather than just being a boring rival, Hop comes across as quite annoying – especially during combat. His character arc of wanting to defeat his brother to become the champion of Galar never comes to fruition, as the player defeats him at every turn and becomes champion instead. As a matter of fact, Pokemon Sword and Shield would have gone better if we took on the role of Champion Leon’s younger siblings and Hop had a separate role.

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Hop isn’t even the worst. Team Yell, the villainous team in Galar, simply acts as an annoying fan club for another league challenger and somehow becomes more memorable than Team Flare (which we’ll get to). And at the climax of the story, the opposing Chairman Rose interrupts the championship match with Leon to bring about the “Darkest Day”, which basically means destroying the Galar region by awakening Eternatus.

Rose does this to prevent an energy crisis predicted a thousand years from now. He could have waited until after the league game, don’t you think? His plan doesn’t even make sense – to awaken Eternatus, a Pokémon that can destroy Galar so that there won’t be a Dynamax energy crisis in the distant future. What?

A weak post-game quest doesn’t save Sword and Shield, nor the admittedly funny characters introduced in Isle of Armor and Crown Tundra DLC.

Rank: An obvious F for Flaapple

Generation VI – X and Y

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Image: The Pokemon Company

The stories of Pokémon live and die with their rivals and villains. Unfortunately the four competitors one Pokemon X and Y – Serena/Calem, Shauna, Trevor, and Tierno – combined have as much character growth as a Magikarp left in a PC box. Team Flare isn’t faring much better, and neither is their leader Lysandre. In the story his goal is to use the power of Xerneas/Yveltal to activate the “ultimate weapon” to kill all humans and pokemon because humanity sucks or something and he wants to make everything more beautiful. The whole thing is rushed and comes into the second half of the game like Game Freak forgot about Lysandre by the time development was almost complete.

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There’s also a 3,000-year-old King who reunites with his lost Flower Pokémon and creates one of the most mesmerizing scenes in Pokémon history, but somehow that’s less silly than Gen VIII.

Rank: F for Floette

Generation IV – Diamond, Pearl, Platinum

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Image: The Pokemon Company

Before Gen IV, Game Freak continuously improved on the previous stories. This is where they dropped the PokéBall. A fascinating villain team? Not here. Cyrus, the leader of Team Galactic, makes a few pretentious appearances before saying goodbye after a battle with the climate Pokemon Diamond and Pearl. What about a rival with depth? Unfortunately, Barry is about as deep as the shallow end of the pool at Misty’s gym.

Pokemon Platinum helped by giving Cyrus a proper degree after Giratina sucked him into the distortion world. And we’d be lying if we said we didn’t enjoy the lore surrounding the Legendaries of Sinnoh, or appreciated Cynthia as one of the better champions – and definitely the scariest. But even with those few saving graces, we struggled to remember key plot points even after playing Pokemon Brilliant Diamond not a long time ago.

Rank – D for Drifblim

Generation I – Red, Blue and Yellow

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Image: The Pokemon Company

We can’t fault the original Pokémon games too much for lacking a polished storyline on the original Game Boy. Pokemon Red and BlueThe simple story of an adventure of collecting eight gym badges and defeating the Elite Four laid the foundation for every game that followed.

In Gen I and its remakes, Team Rocket causes a ton of trouble to keep things going, from breaking into a house to steal the TM Dig, a hostage situation involving Mr. Fuji that resulted in the death of a Marowak, and the Infiltration of Silph Co…to steal the Master Ball plans. The revelation that Team Rocket boss Giovanni is the eighth gym leader blew our pre-adolescent minds. The rival – Blue, Gary, ButtFace, whatever – also added a level of animosity that we wish they would give back to future generations.

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The Reissues – Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen, Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee – Add some extra lore to the thin plot but nothing major to make the story stand out.

Rank: C for Charizard

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