How to Play the Pokemon Games in Chronological Order

By | November 16, 2022

The mainline Pokemon games make up one of the best-selling video game franchises of all time. From Pokemon Red and Blue to the latest entries in the series, these games have amassed a huge audience that just keeps coming back for more.

If you haven’t played all of the Pokemon video games in the series, however, you may find yourself in a bit of a dilemma trying to figure out where to start. Most of the major titles in the series are excellent standalone games to dive into, but if you want to start from the beginning, there are two different ways to play in order: Chronologically or by release date.

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Which Pokemon Games Should You Actually Play First?

Choosing where to start boils down to what Nintendo console you currently have. If you only have a Nintendo Switch, you can start with Let’s Go Pikachu or Let’s Go Eevee, which are kind of like remakes of the original Yellow version from 1998. You can also play Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl for another remake experience. Pokemon Legends: Arceus is also an option, but it is very different from the other mainline games.

If you’re wanting to dive right into Pokemon Scarlet and Violet when it comes out, it’s worth noting that you likely won’t be missing out on any overly pertinent information from the previous games. The only games in the main series you might not want to jump right into is Black 2 and White 2 as those are sequels.

How to Play the Pokemon Games in Chronological Order

The Pokemon timelne may seem pretty linear at first glance, but without enough obvious details to go off of, it can be pretty confusing to try to follow the chronology from title to title. Luckily, a now deleted tweet from Toshinobu Matsumiya has given us a starting point for some of the games. For the rest, we can only make educated guesses based on a few key details witin the games.

1. Pokemon Legends: Arceus

The first game in the chronology is very clearly Pokemon Legends: Arceus seeing as it’s set in a time when the relationship between humans and Pokemon was only just starting to form. You spend a large portion of your time running around a vast open wilderness catching and battling wild Pokemon, and the people you interact with are clearly just beginning to understand the world of Pokemon. This game features crafting and research tasks, which greatly differentiates it from the usual gym battle formula we are used to.

Though we don’t know just how long ago Pokemon Legends: Arceus takes place compared to the other games in the series, we do atleast know that it seems to feature the ancestors of Diamond and Pearl characters.

2. Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow

As the original games in the series, Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow are up next in the timeline. Bringing the first-generation Pokedex and introducing us to the classic Pokemon game formula, these best-selling games are what started it all.

Although we can’t know for sure that these Game Boy games are up next in the timeline, the deleted Tweet from Game Scenario writer Toshinobu Matsumiya confirmed that the series starts with these. The technology featured in the game is also fairly limited compared to some of the newer games — though still advanced enough to bring fossils back to life!

Bonus: Pokemon FireRed and LeafGreen

Pokemon FireRed and LeafGreen are remakes of the original Red and Blue games and thus are at the same exact point in the timeline. Much of the plot is the same as the originals with some key differences — including visiting the Sevii Islands after becoming champion of the Elite Four.

3. Pokemon Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald

Pokemon Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald brought all new Pokemon and throws you into the Hoenn region — which is some distance from both the Kanto and Johto regions. Considering this game features the third generation of Pokemon and some new technology, it seems most likely that it would take place after both Red and Blue and Gold and Silver. However, according to that same deleted tweet from Matsumiya, Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire take place at the same point in time as FireRed and LeafGreen.

This also means that Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are at the same point in the timeline here seeing as they are remakes.

4. Pokemon Gold, Silver, and Crystal

As the second game in the series (in terms of release date) Pokemon Gold and Silver take place three years after the events of Red and Blue. With some exciting new Gen 2 Pokemon and some of the best post-game content in the series, Gold, Silver, and Crystal were an excellent follow up to the original games. By traveling to the Kanto region after becoming the champion of Johto, you get a firsthand look at the passage of time. You even get to battle the protagonist from the first games, Red, who is quite strong.

This placement in the chronology also applies to the remakes: HeartGold and SoulSilver. Although the remakes offer some additional content, they are essentially just updated versions of the originals.

5. Pokemon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum

In terms of series release order, Pokemon Diamond and Pearl came a few years after Ruby and Sapphire. However, we now know from that deleted tweet from Matsumiya that Diamond and Pearl actually takes place at the same time as HeartGold and SoulSilver. This may seem a little bit confusing considering the advancements in technology we see in Diamond and Pearl, but we can likely just chalk it up to the actual date the games were created rather than the chronology within the Pokemon universe.

This would also mean that the remakes, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are set in the same point of the timeline. Though the timeline gets a bit wonky with the inclusion of Fairy-type Pokemon considering those weren’t introduced until X and Y.

6. Pokemon Black and White

Featuring the fifth-generation of new Pokemon, Black and White was the second mainline game to come out on the Nintendo DS. Although we don’t know exactly when the story takes place in the Pokemon universe, we do that it takes place after Diamond and Pearl thanks to Matsumiya’s tweet. Since there aren’t any obvious links to the previous games, we can only assume that Black and White takes place more than 3 years after Red and Blue.

7. Pokemon Black 2 and White 2

As a true sequel to Black and White, Pokemon Black 2 and White 2 offer a fairly obvious transition through the chronological timeline. We see changes where gym leaders pass on their duties to the next generation, Team Plasma has advanced their plot, and there is a new Champion. Between all of these things, we know that roughly two years have passed since Black and White, progressing the timeline forward in an uncharacteristically linear fashion.

8. Pokemon X and Y

As the first game in the series to allow payers to explore and battle in 3D, Pokemon X and Y was a fresh take on the classic Pokemon formula. While this is largely due to it being the first title in the series to be a Nintendo 3DS game, it definitely helped set up future games. While we don’t know exactly when the game fits in the chronology, thanks to Matsumiya we atleast know that X and Y take place at the same time as Black 2 and White 2. However, it’s possible that it is set in a different universe due to Mega Evolution being a thing.

9. Pokemon Sun and Moon

Happening a few years after X and Y, Pokemon Sun and Moon takes us to the Alola region. While we don’t have any information from Matsumiya about where this game fits in the timeline, it features a few characters from X and Y that indicate that time has passed between games. An adult Red and Blue also make an appearance, though their exact age isn’t revealed, so we still don’t know exactly how much time has progressed since Red, Blue, and Yellow.

This also means that Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon take place at the same point in time as they are essentially remakes of Sun and Moon with some additional content.

10. Pokemon Sword and Shield

With the arrival of the Nintendo Switch came the first Switch-exclusive mainline Pokemon game: Sword and Shield. Featuring a brand-new region, new Pokemon, and the introduction of Gigantamax, Sword and Shield is essentially a soft reboot of the series. So that being said, we have no idea where it fits on the chronological timeline. There aren’t really any hard references to the previous games, so there is no way of accurately fitting it into the known Pokemon universe.

One of the only clues we have about the timeline comes in the form of new technology. The addition of the Rotom Phone seemingly places us further in the chronology than Red and Blue at the very least, but that’s all we can really gather. It’s possible that Pokemon Sword and Shield simply takes place in an entirely different universe than any of the other games.

11. Pokemon Scarlet and Violet

As the latest entry in the series, Pokemon Scarlet and Violet brings all-new Gen 9 Pokemon and the open-world Paldea region to the Nintendo Switch. The game doesn’t arrive until Friday, so we unfortunately don’t have enough information to try to accurately place it on a timeline. That being said, if it follows the chronological structure of previous mainline games, it’s possible that it takes place at the same time as the events of Pokemon Sword and Shield.

How to Play the Pokemon Games by Release Date

I you want to play the games in the order they were released rather than try to attempting to go through the convoluted chronological timeline, here are all of the mainline Pokemon games by release date:

  1. Pokemon Red and Blue – February 27, 1996 – Game Boy
  2. Pokemon Yellow – Game Boy – September 12, 1998 – Game Boy
  3. Pokemon Gold and Silver – November 21, 1999 – Game Boy Color
  4. Pokemon Crystal – December 14, 2000 – Game Boy Color
  5. Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire – November 21, 2002 – Game Boy Advance
  6. Pokemon FireRed and LeafGreen – January 28, 2004 – Game Boy Advance
  7. Pokemon Emerald – Sepember 16, 2004 – Game Boy Advance
  8. Pokemon Diamond and Pearl – September 28, 2006 – Nintendo DS
  9. Pokemon Platinum – September 13, 2008 – Nintendo DS
  10. Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver – September 12, 2009 – Nintendo DS
  11. Pokemon Black and White – September 18, 2010 – Nintendo DS
  12. Pokemon Black 2 and White 2 – June 23, 2012 – Nintendo DS
  13. Pokemon X and Y – October 13, 2013 – Nintendo 3DS
  14. Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire – November 21, 2014 – Nintendo 3DS
  15. Pokemon Sun and Moon – November 18, 2016 – Nintendo 3DS
  16. Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon – November 17, 2017 – Nintendo 3DS
  17. Pokemon Sword and Shield – November 15, 2019 – Nintendo Switch
  18. Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl – November 19, 2021 – Nintendo Switch
  19. Pokemon Scarlet and Vilolet – November 18, 2022 – Nintendo Switch

Looking for additional Pokemon content? Check out our guide to the best Pokemon movies and Pokemon Video Games for more.