An illustration of Pokémon trainers.

A Comprehensive History of the Pokémon Franchise in Honor of Its 25th Anniversary

The groundbreaking video game series proves that it still looks good at 25 by rolling out games that offer new perspectives on the beloved Sinnoh region.
October 17, 2021
8 mins read

Pokémon celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and in its quarter of a century of existence, the Pokémon Company has built itself into one of the most influential and recognizable franchises in the world. Pokémon content comes in many different forms, from older games on the Game Boy to releases today on the Nintendo Switch. This year, fans were ecstatic to see Pokémon Diamond and Pearl getting both a remake and premake, with both games set to be released this winter.

The video game series began in February 1996 with the Japanese release of Pocket Monsters Red and Green. Instantly becoming an explosive hit, the game sold a total of 300 million copies. The game steadily made its way from console to console, becoming more and more popular with each release. Deciding whether or not to take the game global was a big hurdle for Nintendo, and many at the company didn’t think that the game series would do well overseas, especially in North America. However, Hiroshi Yamauchi, the president of Nintendo at the time, saw a challenge in the American market and decided to take a chance. Luckily, the games took off globally, and became a huge success in America and all over the world.

These original games of Red, Green and Blue were lumped together with Pokémon Yellow — a special edition of the game — and became immensely popular, with the collection being ranked at No. 7 on the list of best-selling video games of all time. Coming in with 47.5 million units sold, it beats out other classic games such as Nintendo’s release of Tetris and Namco’s Pac-Man. Pokémon is referenced several more times on this list, taking the 24th spot with their second-generation release of Pokémon Gold and Silver, the 31st spot with the seventh generation release of Pokémon Sun and Moon and remakes Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, and the 35th position with their fourth generation release of Pokémon Diamond, Pearl and Platinum.

Diamond and Pearl has been referred to as one of the best in the series, with the original games being the first release of a mainline game on the Nintendo DS. The Nintendo DS line is still to this day the top-selling handheld system ever, with a total of 128.9 million units sold. The fierce popularity of the DS paired with the popularity of the Pokémon series made Diamond and Pearl one of the most successful games of the time, and it quickly brought about another Pokémon pop culture takeover.

The success of these games’ release seemed to revive the world’s love for the franchise, especially in America. Among many other new features, internet connectivity through WiFi came in as an especially popular change, bringing the game into the present. Through WiFi connection, players were now able to trade, battle and voice chat with players who were on the other side of the world. Expanding players’ abilities to interact with one another in this way really helped to expand the reach and popularity of the series’ games.

The original games were released in 2006 in Japan, with Platinum coming in two years later. This means the remakes are coming about 15 years after their initial release. As Diamond and Pearl transform into Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, the Sinnoh region will be featured again in a premake known as Pokémon Legends: Arceus.

However, some say that the fourth generation of Pokémon really dropped the ball in terms of what players wanted, and a few current fans are already setting their expectations low for the upcoming remakes. Opinions online seem to be divided, as some think the pre-release trailers show unpolished and awkward-looking graphics. These comments seem less prevalent these days as more and more trailers are released, showing updates on gameplay and graphics. Many fans have been excited for the remakes for years, since players have known for a while that this game would inevitably come out.

Historically, the franchise’s games have a formula they follow when it comes to releases. After every game that showcases a new region in the Pokémon world, there will be a remake of the next game in line that’s due for a remake. Generation 3 (which took place in the Hoenn region) was last to be featured in a remake on the Nintendo 3DS in 2014, with Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. However, when the Nintendo Switch came out, Nintendo decided to make a remake of the Generation 1 game Pokémon Yellow, which was titled Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! and was released in 2018.

Since then, players have been crossing their fingers for a long-awaited remake of the Sinnoh region. According to this formula, the next remake would be of the Generation 5 games Pokémon Black and White, but some believe the region may be passed up because of their existing remakes Pokémon Black 2 and White 2. Most likely, future Pokémon journeys are not being thought about at Nintendo right now, as they are shifting the entirety of their focus to other long-anticipated games coming out soon.

While Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are criticized for looking a little too much like the original games to some fans, no one was expecting the gameplay of Pokémon Legends: Arceus. In what looks like a cross between Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Monster Hunter, players have a unique opportunity to travel to the distant past of the Sinnoh region. New gameplay features riding Pokémon, being able to encounter wild Pokémon in the overworld and taking on missions to find different species of Pokémon. This approach is different from anything that fans have seen in a Pokémon game before, which has appropriately excited many.

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are set to release on Nov. 19, while the premake Pokémon Legends: Arceus is set to release shortly after on Jan. 28, 2022. Both games will be released on the Nintendo Switch.

Peyton Conner, Indiana University

Writer Profile

Peyton Conner

Indiana University
Interactive and Digital Media with a Specialization in Game Production

Peyton Conner is a student studying game production and graphic design at Indiana University. She hopes to take her passion for games worldwide and create positive change in the video game industry.

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