Pokémon is one of the best-selling and highest-grossing franchises on the planet, loved around the world for its games, anime series and movies. Where it all truly began though was with the game series with many of us falling in love with Pokémon Red and Blue and the original 151 pocket monsters that inhabited that now nostalgia-inducing game.
Now a whopping 24 years later since the western release of Pokémon Red and Blue, we’ve had over 120 Pokémon games with the main series and spin-offs. Pokémon is still going strong now with it’s modern entries on the Nintendo Switch building up to create a decent-sized catalogue. Regardless of where your Pokémon journey started, there’s an array of different titles to enjoy on Switch from fighting games, remakes or whole new open-world adventures Pokémons starting to broaden its horizons a bit with its Switch titles.
With all this in mind I thought it’d be a good idea to rank the best Pokémon games for Switch and give my picks for the Pokémon games I think are worth your time and money with some pros and cons. Without further ado, let's get into the best Pokémon games for Switch.
Release Date: 29th May 2018
Genre: RPG, Action Adventure
Trailer: Pokémon Quest - Official Announcement Trailer
Pokémon Quest is most certainly a mobile game with a Switch version. It was released on both iOS and Android as well as the Switch and you can tell that this was a game intended more for the mobile market. Moving to a blocky Roblox/Minecraft-inspired theme with Pokémon is an interesting visual style for a Pokémon game and it is pretty cute but the reality is that this just isn’t the best Pokémon title to invest your time in.
The main gameplay loop is taking your pokémon out to fight waves of enemies, but not with the regular battle mechanics of a Pokémon game it’s pretty much automatic with a couple of cooldowns you can press. You do this to gain items to strengthen your Pokémon and ingredients that allow you to attract new Pokémon. This is of course tied behind an energy system that you have to wait for or can pay to skip with microtransactions.
Pokémon Quest is free to play so there’s no harm in giving it a try but due to the microtransactions and energy system is just not something I’d recommend for a great Pokémon title.
Release Date: June 24th 2020
Trailer: Pokémon Café Remix Trailer
Another mobile-esque Pokémon game for the Switch is Pokémon Café Remix, a free-to-play puzzle game where you create drinks and dishes to serve to your favourite Pokémon. The puzzle mechanic revolves around using the Switch touchscreen to choose the face of many Pokémon in the puzzle board and drag them around the screen to match them with as many of the same faces as possible to create a chain. It’s pretty simple with different obstacles added to increase the difficulty with many stages to get through. Another game that is just okay, with a bit of Pokémon charm; it’s free-to-play and will probably hit some of those dopamine receptors if you’re a fan of puzzler mobile games. The microtransactions aren’t too invasive and the energy system is not as debilitating as the one seen in Pokémon Quest.
Release Date: 22nd of September 2017
Trailer: Pokkén Tournament DX - Launch Trailer
Pokémon meeting Tekken was one of the strangest crossovers but in a lot of regards, it does work pretty darn well. Released originally on the Wii U Pokken Tournament DX was ported to Switch back in 2017. Arcade fighting with a roster of 21 Pokémon from Charizard to Mewtwo is a pretty cool spectacle and if you’re a fan of both Pokémon and fighting games there's some fun to be had here and there’s some solid depth to it as a fighting game. It’s a bit of a niche within Pokémon spin-offs and not too much was added from the port except for a few new characters but if you can grab this one on sale it’s worth considering.
Release Date: 6th March 2020
Trailer: Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX - Overview Trailer
Remaking the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team and Red Rescue Team games from DS was not something we expected to happen but back in 2020 that’s what we got with Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Rescue Team DX. Mystery Dungeon is a lot of Pokémon fans' favourite spin-off and honestly has a better story than a lot if not all of the mainline games do. Combining roguelike elements and dungeon crawling you must guide your small squad of Pokémon through a selection of missions to increase your team's rank. There’s a lot to like here, it's a pretty solid remake with improved visuals and some nice quality-of-life additions.
Release Date: 21st of July 2021
Genre: Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA)
Trailer: Pokémon UNITE Official Cinematic Trailer
Pokémon MOBA feels like something I said to a friend whilst getting destroyed in DOTA 2 at some point but it actually did happen. It’s not quite got the depth of a MOBA like League or DOTA and is more akin to Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm. Pokémon Unite is a fun game that you can easily jump into and out of without having to invest too much. Once again free-to-play so there’s no harm in giving this one a go. My biggest gripes with the game are as usual microtransactions, with a lot of pay-to-win mechanics with upgrading your Pokémon fighters giving the game a bit of a sour note. It’s not as bad as it was on launch for the pay-to-win elements but they’re still there and I’m aware that just makes this game a straight no for a lot of people so it’s important to mention. Other microtransactions include buying Pokémon to play with which is pretty standard for free-to-play MOBA games as there will usually be a rotation of free heroes for you to try out.
Release Date: 19th November 2021
Genre: RPG, Adventure
Trailer: Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl - Official Trailer
One of my favourite Pokémon games is Pokémon Platinum, I adored it so I had high hopes for the Pokémon Diamond and Pearl remakes on Nintendo Switch. Personally, I am not a big fan of the Chibi art style they went with for Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, it’s just not what I wanted from the Sinnoh remakes but I can understand a lot of people do like it. My other gripe is that they should have just remade Pokémon Platinum; a lot of the improvements from Platinum are not here and that feels like a miss to me. It’s still a decent remake but yeah it could have been a lot better.
The new features include an overhaul to the underground and then the expected QoL changes to things like HMs (hidden machines) and TMs (technical machines) so they’re not as frustrating as they were back on the DS games. Another game I think it’s worth picking up when it’s got a decent sale price.
I battled back and forth on where I was going to put Pokémon Scarlet and Violet on this list and ultimately I decided I can’t put it any higher because although I’m glad Game Freak took some risk and tried to broaden the horizons of a mainline Pokémon game there are simply too many issues.
Pokémon’s formula just works and it sells; I think this led to such a lack of innovation for the past 20 years and as someone who’s always been there things were beginning to feel stale, especially for the mainline games. I love Pokémon and I want new experiences; new designs and the same 8 badges and elite four formula were growing tiresome and a lot of us fans were dreaming of the Breath of the Wild inspired Pokémon game. Scarlet and Violet is a glimmer of hope for this reality a lot of us want so badly but also quite a solid reality check.
The game performs horribly on the Switch and there were a lot of glitches at release, things have gotten better with some patches but the performance is just inexcusable considering the money Game Freak generate from Pokémon. The sad thing is behind these negatives is a really fun Pokémon game but clearly, these developers are not getting enough time for these games and the polish is just not there. When you compare this to how titles like Mario Odyssey look and run on the Switch it’s simply not good enough; it’s easy to blame the hardware but there are plenty of examples of games that both run and look great.
However, there is fun to be had with a plethora of activities to do, getting around the world is more interesting than ever and the soundtrack is awesome. Oh by the way Pokémon just needs voice acting at this point to elevate it to the next level, and Game Freak can afford the luxury.
The 9th generation of Pokémon feels like a step in the right direction but straight into a huge puddle, I hope Game Freak can learn a lot from this title and that the 10th generation is going exceed all expectations. I’d still say these titles are worth picking up as long as you’re aware of the issues, bad framerates and performance for me are a real put off but I understand that’s not the same for everyone however it’s worth keeping in mind when considering picking up Pokémon Scarlet or Violet.
Release Date: 30th April 2021
Trailer: New Pokémon Snap - Official Trailer
After 22 years Pokémon Snap got a sequel and pretty much a full reimagining with New Pokémon Snap. A pretty basic loop of going to different locations and taking awesome photos of different Pokémon to increase a research-level which leads to Pokémon being more trustful with you so you can get even better shots with your camera. This one is for the people who just love the aesthetic of Pokémon, it's not complex and lacks depth but it’s really cute and just joyful. Just a lovely Pokémon experience.
Release Date: 15th November 2019
Genre: RPG, Adventure
Trailer: Pokémon Sword and Shield Trailer
Another mainline entry on the list is Pokémon Sword and Shield which is the first core Pokémon game that came to Nintendo Switch. Set in the Galar region that is inspired by my homeland the UK Pokémon Sword and Shield played it pretty safe with the trusted Pokémon formula whilst adding some cool new mechanics like max raid battles. Dynamax was the new battle mechanic here which allowed you to supersize one Pokémon making it an absolute beast, it looked pretty great but also could trivialise the game somewhat, not that Pokémon games are particularly difficult in the modern age.
The wild area felt like a step in the right direction with encounters being out in the overworld and Pokémon finally trying something a bit new but it was plagued with framerate issues that harmed the experience. A solid entry with some cool new Pokémon designs but the first main series game where they decided to cut a lot of previous Pokémon (bad move). Sword and Shield are maybe just a bit too safe for what was expected for a new generation of Pokémon on Nintendo Switch. I must say it was great to play this at release and be able to enjoy the 8th generation of Pokémon in both handheld and on sat on my sofa with the Nintendo Switch.
Release Date: 16th November 2018
Genre: RPG, Adventure
Trailer: Pokémon Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee! Trailer
Everybody loves the original 151 Pokémon and the Kanto region, therefore making games taking us back is a pretty easy win because they sell very well. Now Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee and Let's Go Pikachu strip back a lot of the more complex mechanics of Pokémon like IV’s, EVs and even abilities making battling a lot simpler. There are also no wild battles, with wild encounters now being catching events where you will swing your Joy-Con in an attempt to catch the wild Pokémon. You’re of course joined by Eevee or Pikachu depending on your version of the game who you can dress up and is a seriously strong battle companion as well.
The reason I’ve ranked these so highly is I am a sucker for the original 151 like a lot of Pokémon fans are and also I just think these games are fantastic as an introduction to Pokémon, I played this one through with my nephew and he had such a great time; it's a great way to revisit Kanto and I highly recommend it if you’re okay with the simpler mechanics.
If you managed to get through my essay about Pokémon Scarlet and Violet (sorry) regarding steps in the right direction Pokémon Legends: Arceus nailed that by shaking up the formula. This game made me more excited for Scarlet and Violet due to it releasing 10 months before as I thought wow if this is where they’re going the 9th-gen games are going to be incredible, but you know how that went.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus sends us back in time to the world of Hisui which is the Sinnoh region before it had that name. Rehauling the battle system to be faster and removing abilities-held items etc. The game is more about catching them all and going out exploring to find Pokémon out in the world. You’ll have a level associated with research tasks that will be for example: catch 5x of this Pokémon or battle this many or even evolve that Pokémon. Completing tasks increases your research level which means you can progress the main story.
Filling out the Pokédex in Legends Arceus is just satisfying, this game rewards catching more than any other Pokémon game and isn’t that what it should be about? The overworld is big and you can get around it with a selection of Pokémon friends whether it be flying or surfing across open waters. The main issue is the overworld feeling a tad empty and the performance here still isn’t perfect but nowhere near as bad as Scarlet and Violet but Game Freak you do need to start doing better with how these open worlds look.
There are some awesome boss fights scattered throughout the game each with its own mechanics, legendary pokémon to hunt down and just plenty to do. There’s a lot of game here as long as you enjoy the battling and catching mechanics which I thoroughly did. Pokémon Legends: Arceus takes the top spot for the best Pokémon game on Nintendo Switch.
So there you have it my ranking for the Best Pokémon games for Switch. Do you agree with me? I know I’ve been pretty brutal on some of these and some of you may disagree with me and I’m keen to hear what you think. Let me know down in the comments what your favourite Pokémon games have been for the Nintendo Switch.
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