‘Pokemon’ Nintendo Switch Games Ranked – SwitchArcade Special Edition

After ranking all of the Mario games, Final Fantasy games, and The Legend of Zelda games on Switch, it’s time to tackle another big franchise with a bunch of games on Switch. Pokemon, I choose you! Yes, let’s look at the games from everyone’s favorite decades-long fad to see how they all stack up. Note that I am not counting the games available via the Nintendo Switch Online retro console apps, but you can find a few of the spin-offs there as well. Since Jared is trapped in the Labyrinth of Crete right now and Mikhail is busy uploading a virus to an alien mothership, this is a great chance for me to list my highly dangerous opinions. Like before, I’ll be ranking all of the games from the very worst to the very best. I take sole responsibility for these potentially bad opinions. Let’s go!

11. Pokemon Quest

One of the earlier games from the franchise on Switch, Pokemon Quest launched alongside a mobile version and it feels very much like it was designed for that platform. It’s more of a time-waster than anything, and there really isn’t much strategy involved in the game. Fans of the series might want to give this one a shot, but I don’t recommend the Switch as the place to do it. It’s just better on a device that you can whip out at a moment’s notice.

10. Pokemon Unite

This is a MOBA and it’s another one with a mobile counterpart that was almost certainly planned first. It’s not a bad game overall and it makes for a nice entry point into the genre for those who want to dip their toes in, but ultimately it runs into the same problem most free-to-play games do: it’s going to want your money if you want to stay competitive.

9. Pokemon Cafe ReMix

Yes, I recognize there is a pattern forming here. Pokemon Cafe ReMix is another free-to-play game that shares roots with a mobile game, and it feels like a cousin to the now-defunct Pokemon Trozei. It still gets somewhat regular updates, and the core gameplay is certainly enjoyable in that free-to-play puzzler kind of way. There are plenty of stages to play, and you can see the various Pokemon dressed up as cafe staff. That is the kind of cuteness I like to see in my Pokemon spin-offs. You’ll probably hit some walls now and then difficulty-wise, but a little luck and persistance will see you through. Worth a try, at least.

8. Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu & Pokemon Let’s Go Evee

Okay, we’re out of free games now. So what is the least of the ones that want you to pay upfront? After a lot of hemming and hawing, I’ve decided that the Pokemon Let’s Go games are the unlucky winners. It’s not that these remakes of the original games aren’t enjoyable in their own way, because they certainly are. I still think these are great for very young kids in particular, since it’s easy for a parent to play along with them. But as far as games with the traditional Pokemon structure go, these probably have the lowest appeal overall. Forcing the new mechanics into a game design that wasn’t built for them resulted in an experience that just isn’t all it could have been.

7. Pokken Tournament DX

Through a bizarre series of events and confusing choices, Pokken Tournament DX is probably the best 3D fighting game on the Nintendo Switch. Its bones are made of Tekken and Bandai Namco certainly knows its way around the genre, so it’s little surprise it’s as good as it is. This was a very early release on the console and a Wii U transplant, and it includes all of the content from every version plus two new DLC characters. The original arcade game it’s based on is eight years old now, and it’s starting to feel pretty long in the tooth. It would have been nice to see it get more post-launch support or a follow-up by now, but this is nevertheless a high-quality fighter that Pokemon fans should really dig.

6. New Pokemon Snap

Pokemon fans clamored for years to get a follow-up to Pokemon Snap, and it was amazing to see it finally happen. The original game, on the Nintendo 64, came early in the franchise’s life and was for many players a powerful window into the world of Pokemon that the Game Boy simply wasn’t capable of replicating. Its photography-based gameplay was quite unique, and while start to finish it wasn’t particularly long, it was densely packed with secrets. This sequel is all of that, but a whole lot more. It’s also probably the best-looking Pokemon game on the Switch in terms of pure technical prowess. An excellent spin-off, even if it is impossible for it to have the same impact the original did.

5. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX

I can’t believe we’re more than six years into the life of the Switch and the only Pokemon Mystery Dungeon has been a remake of the original game. A very good remake, mind you, but what’s a Pokemon fan got to do to get more Mystery Dungeon love here? While the overall plot and gameplay mechanics are going to be familiar here for anyone who played the original, there’s no denying this is one heck of a facelift for the original Game Boy Advance/Nintendo DS game. The Mystery Dungeon roguelite structure has been a surprisingly good fit for the Pokemon world, and if you’ve never tried one before you really should. And what do you know? Here is one.

4. Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Pokemon Shining Pearl

While these games caught a lot of flak when they were revealed for breaking from the series tradition of using the newest mainline engine for remakes, I think Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Pokemon Shining Pearl were in some sense the truest the series has ever seen. Sure, the characters look a bit weird on the map, and there’s a real contrast to how they look in battle. But… isn’t that how the classic handheld games were? This set of games is a clear improvement on the original, and if you want a fully traditional Pokemon experience on the Switch, they’re pretty much your only choice.

3. Pokemon Scarlet & Pokemon Violet

The ranking of this set of games may well change after the DLC expansions arrive, but for now I really can’t put them any higher than this. I really enjoyed my time with Pokemon Violet, and roaming around the open world with my son was truly enjoyable even if there wasn’t a whole lot we could actually do together. The developer arguably bit off a wee bit more than it could chew here and it shows, but hopefully this ambitious step leads to better things in the future. Even as is, the new Pokemon designs are awesome, the new character designs are excellent, the largely non-linear progression is empowering, and the story is probably the best the mainline series has seen in a very long time. Fill out that world a bit more and tighten up the bugs, and this would have had a clean win.

2. Pokemon Sword & Pokemon Shield

Keep in mind that I am considering these games with their expansions installed. If you don’t have the expansions, I strongly advise getting them. They’re very good. Anyway, Pokemon Sword & Pokemon Shield sit in a weird position in terms of the mainline games. They’re a clear middle step towards the open world of Scarlet & Violet, but they don’t go all-in on the idea save for one of the expansions. The story in the main game is completely banal, but the actual gameplay mechanics and encounter designs are solid. It’s relatively glitch-free at this point, which is a bonus these days. I firmly believe time is going to be kind to this generation, and it’s one I highly recommend. Just… make sure you get those expansions, okay?

1. Pokemon Legends: Arceus

I realize I may be committing a faux-pas here by picking a non-mainline entry as my number one Pokemon game on the Switch, but I really love Pokemon Legends: Arceus. You get a really interesting plot (by series standards anyway), an unusual setting, a reasonably open world to explore, and some changed-up mechanics that help liven up the traditional gameplay bits that it adopts. One can only hope we haven’t seen the last of the Legends sub-series, as it’s one of the more surprising and well-built games to come out of the franchise in some time.

Well, that looks about right. As usual with any list, I’m sure most of you will disagree with some or all of it. Such is life. But if so, I’d love for you to comment below and let me know what your favorite Pokemon games are on Switch. I’m sure at least someone out there has some spicy takes to share! I’ll likely swing around again with another zesty ranking list in the future, but I haven’t decided what it will be yet. Thanks for reading!

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