Pokémon has been a mainstay in gaming and pop culture for 25 years, but the “catch 'em all” juggernaut wouldn't be here without the mainline series of games.
Pocket monster nostalgia is still strong in 2021, with fans excited to replay the Sinnoh-based games with the new Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl.
Here's our ranking of every mainline entry so far, divvied up by region.
8: Alola Region: Sun, Moon, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon
Generation seven is a confusing one. It was stuffed with unnecessary cut-scenes and gave us two sequels that were more or less the same with slight storyline expansions and meant the franchise left the 3DS behind with something of a whimper.
The legendary and starter Pokémon designs are brilliant, but having no gyms was a downer – completing Island challenges reduced the adventure to a series of mini-games, broken up by Pokémon battles.
7: Hoenn Region: Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald
Generation three represents the awkward teenage years of the Pokémon franchise. With Junichi Masada taking the helm for the first time, Pokémon’s first GameBoy advance outing took a few wrong turns.
Yes, it brought significant enhancements including abilities and natures alongside overhauls of IV, shiny and berry calculations. It also flooded trainers with HMs and removed day and night cycles.
Team Magma and Team Aqua also had no idea what they were doing. Their main goal is to revive Kyogre or Groudon to create bigger oceans or landmass respectively. What they didn’t account for is the destruction that comes with it. Having such a fundamental flaw in two wealthy criminal organisations breaks immersion and damages the overall narrative. Ultimately, new features and lower difficulty levels dulled the overall experience.
6: Kanto Region: Red, Blue and Yellow
Nostalgia is a big part of generation one, but the rest of the game just doesn't cut it compared to newer instalments. It featured our now-standard narrative, introducing a great rival and Team Rocket to the world alongside most core mechanics still in use today.
The series has always provided new trainers with three main starter Pokémon: grass, water, and fire types alongside a Pokédex. The region's professor, of course, still provides these. Pokémon centres and Pokémarts have also been at the core of every town in some capacity for buying items and healing Pokémon.
The goal of every game (even generation seven) was to beat the Elite Four and win the Pokémon League, and while Game Freak has tweaked this formula in multiple ways in the years since, it still exists today.
Let’s not forget the legendary Pokémon Zapdos, Moltres, Articuno and Mewtwo. It was a solid foundation for the franchise to grow on. And yes, the golden nugget bridge Mew and ‘Missingno’ glitches still work a treat.
5: Johto Region: Gold, Silver and Crystal
The Johto region featured 100 new Pokémon and it blew fans' minds, offering a whole new region to explore while also including Kanto once players have finished the game.
Johto also introduced the day and night cycle, as well as the inclusion of a built-in clock function, the ability for Pokemon to hold items, and even Pokemon breeding alongside two new types – Steel and Dark.
The Johto generation arguably stands as one of the biggest steps forward in the Pokemon franchise.
4: Sinnoh Region: Diamond, Pearl and Platinum
Generation four introduced physical and special typings to attacks, which balanced out battles but nerfed fan favourites from generation three.
The Global Trade System made its debut in Diamond and Pearl, making it easier than ever to catch 'em all, and the new connectivity options didn’t stop there as WiFi allowed for online battles, trades and voice chat, which still works on fan-made servers.
107 new Pokémon made their debut in Diamond, Pearl and Platinum, including fan favourites like Lucario, Togekiss, Infernape and Garchomp. Let’s not forget some of the best legendary lineups featuring Arceus, Palkia, Giratina, Dialga and Darkrai.
3: Unova Region: Black, Black 2, White and White 2
Generation five questioned the morality of Pokémon trainers with the introduction of Team Plasma. By indoctrinating 'N', a Pokémon trainer into their belief system of freeing Pokémon from trainer enslavement, a narrative full of twists and turns unfolds.
The Unova games introduced the first dark/dragon type Pokémon in the Hydreigon evolution line and a DNA-borrowing legendary, Kyurem and introduced Triple and Rotation battles.
Generation five also did away with the 'enhanced' third version title in place of direct sequels, with Black 2 and White 2 introducing the Pokemon World Tournament with opponents including characters from prior generations.
2: Kalos Region: X and Y
Pokémon’s 3DS debut gave Pokémon the kick it needed at the time. Featuring fully rendered 3D models of every known Pokémon, this was an exciting time to be a Pokéfan.
Featuring some great Pokémon designs, buckets of event Pokémon, revised online functionality and a great storyline, X and Y was the full package for trainers.
X and Y also introduced super training, a way to train IV and EV stats for competitive play. Most importantly, Kalos introduced mega evolution. By giving certain Pokémon a mega stone, they can evolve past their final forms into a temporary evolution with some insane stats and a new attack, and it was a treat to see classic Pokemon like Charizard gain a brand new variant – even if only for one battle.
1: Galar Region: Sword, Shield, The Isle of Armor and The Crown Tundra
Generation eight has received its share of flack online thanks to the national Pokédex not being included and the perceived stagnation of the franchise.
Yes, the tree textures could have been better, but Sword and Shield offered some excellent quality of life improvements. Accessing the Pokémon storage system from a player’s backpack has been long overdue, and the majority of popular Pokémon are present, alongside a snappier battle system.
The most significant improvements are the game's various wild areas, open environments with free-roaming Pokémon added a new level of immersion. Fans may have baulked at shelling out for the expansion pass, but both Isle of Armor and The Crown Tundra added plenty of returning monsters – including some stunning new versions of Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres.
What do you think of our ranking? Which Pokemon generation is your favourite?