By The Numbers: The Pokemon series

March 2, 2011

With Pokemon Black and White releasing this weekend, we took a look at the series. Which game was best? We look at the numbers.

Our categories: This time, we used three factors to determine rank, each with two facets: sales, using both pure totals ($) and ranking sales as a percentage of systems sold (%); reviews, with both aggregate score (#) and the word from Nintendo Power (N); and legacy, with staff rating each game on its merits at the time of release (<) and now (>).  

Our analysis: Some game had to place last, and Emerald ended up here mostly because its review scores were clearly at the bottom. At this point, the games media had begun to tire of iterative releases, and Emerald really didn’t bring much to the table. All “bonus” entries in each generation rate lower than the main games here, so that’s something to keep in mind.

Our analysis: Crystal was the lowest seller in the series’ history by a long shot, and it’s understandable: there were fewer people with the Game Boy Color to play it. It implemented features that became central to the series later, and as a result, it gets a boost in retrospect.

Our analysis: By the time Pokemon Platinum was released, it was well past the window to share in the Diamond/Pearl sales, so it was relegated to second- or third-copy status for most. It added some replay value, and the most dedicated of players enjoyed it quite a bit.

Our analysis: Yellow was the first substantial iteration in the series, and it tailored to a rabid fanbase that just wanted things to be a bit different. Starting the original adventure with an Electric-type made things tough going, but players stuck with it to experience something close to the TV show. Heading back to it now, the changes are a bit painful and hold little nostalgia.

Our analysis: What happened to this generation? All indications at the time were that it held up as a fine member of the series, with high sales and a glowing review from Nintendo Power. Our theory: the world, new creatures and atmosphere just weren’t as iconic as the original two, and later entries simply passed it technologically.

Our analysis: Nostalgia is nice. Of course, some reviewers call it “stagnation” and possibly “laziness,” so FireRed and LeafGreen takes a hit from critics. It was great to experience the original’s charm without the original’s lack of polish, but we can easily see this losing all appeal with a second Red/Blue remake.

Our analysis: What may be an otherwise mediocre entry in the series was boosted by this: everyone and their mother (literally, in this case) owns a DS. Only the original games have outsold Diamond and Pearl, and that was with a nationwide craze to fuel it.

Our analysis: With a game so critically acclaimed (its aggregate rating is clearly best), the recent remake was a no-brainer. (We’ll get to that one in a second.) It practically doubled the content of the original, whereas later games created one new world to replace another.

Our analysis: The only thing holding HeartGold and SoulSilver back from the top of the list? Pure sales. It’s possible that the number will grow slightly, but probably not, and with the $5 premium caused by the inclusion of the PokeWalker, Nintendo’s probably happy anyway. All technical improvements aside, Black and White will have a tough time with this game so fresh in players’ minds.

Our analysis: How can the original not land on top? To most, the best games in the series are the first and the most recent, and one of those keeps changing. The game was central to a craze that enveloped the world, and even the aftershocks we’re experiencing about fifteen years later are impressively large. This one has the legacy sewn up. An interesting side note, though: Nintendo Power only gave this game a 7.2.

What do you think? What did we get wrong? Let us know in the comments.