But not all of them are created equally. Some are almost necessary, saving an entire Generations from themselves, while others end up squandering the potential of their base game (albeit only in one specific case.) X and Y notably didn’t get a third version, but every other main game in the franchise has. From Yellow and Japan’s version of Blue to the inevitable Pokémon Jericho Nine Millimeter, the franchise will always have an intimate relationship with its third versions.
7 Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon
Sun & Moon are divisive games, but they certainly aren’t bad ones. The whole experience is more handholding than ever, but the story’s good and the difficulty curve isn’t too bad, leading to a main game that falls somewhere in the middle as far as Pokémon games go. Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, though? Well, they’re another story entirely.
They do make some decent contributions to the game side of things, but the handholding is just as bad (if not worse in some places) and the story has taken an almost unrecognizable beating, turning one of the better Pokémon plots into one of the worst, if not outright the worst. USUM are obtrusive, annoying games that only shine in their metagame.
6 Japanese Blue
Everyone knows that Japan had four version of Generation I– Red, Blue, Green, and Yellow– but most often miss the reason why: Pokémon Green was essentially broken. It was a glitchier, shoddier version of Pokémon Red, outright requiring Game Freak to develop Pokémon Blue to ensure the whole gimmick of the game worked.
Naturally, Nintendo of America only localized the versions which worked. Pokémon Blue doesn’t even feel like a third version in a modern context, but it’s the very first one. It doesn’t change or alter the game as far as the surface level goes, but it makes the experience much smoother overall– which is more than USUM brings to the table.
Pokémon Crystal is a great game, but mainly because Gold and Silver were already standout titles for the Game Boy Color. To its credit, Crystal is the first game to really turn Legendary catching into an event beyond “just find them,” improving GS even further. Other than that, there’s a mini-arc with Suicune that helps add some time to the main game & the Battle Tower makes its first appearance.
Most notably, however, Crystal introduced female playable characters to the series. From here on out, each Pokémon game would allow players to choose between a male and female avatar. Beyond this, though, Crystal is more in-line with Gold and Silver than Yellow was with Red, Blue, and Green. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is worth making note of.
Pokémon Yellow may not have actually been the series’ first third version, but it’s the first one that ends up making substantial and recognizable changes to the game. Yellow plays out more like an arranged mode than anything else, very subtly changing the main game– from making it harder in some areas to making Pikachu the only starter.
It’s a more focused RPG as a result, and it doesn’t quite capture that Gen I Pokémon feel, but it’s a great game nonetheless and the best version of Generation I (though not the best version of Kanto). Pokémon Yellow is even available on the 3DS eShop, making it one of the easiest Pokémon games to play through today.
3 Black 2 & White 2
Generation V was met with a considerable amount of apprehension for committing itself hard to only new Pokémon in Black and White’s main game and, while this wasn’t a flaw, Black 2 and White 2 did choose to address things by going all out with fan favorites as catchable Pokémon in Unova. It’s pandering, but it’s very well done.
Not just that, it ends up working well since Black 2 and White 2 play out like love letters to the entire franchise– especially in the post-game. In retrospect, it was Game Freak saying goodbye to the 2D era of Pokémon before transitioning to 3D models for X and Y. They’re massive games bursting with content, and arguably two of the best RPGs on the Nintendo DS.
It’s debatable whether or not Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire necessarily needed a third version, but anyone who was already familiar with the series at the time can likely attest to some slight disappointment to the third generation of Pokémon. The day and night cycle brought no visual change, most Kanto and Johto Pokémon were gone, and the last third of the game was littered with water. Yes, it’s a bit of a meme, but it’s a legitimate problem with Hoenn as a Region.
Still, the games were great and the gameplay had never been better! Which made it all the more surprising when Emerald shook Gen III to its core, releasing after Gen I remakes, and trimming almost all the fat from Ruby and Sapphire. It’s a better balanced game with a better story, a better post-game, and more than enough fantastic content to make up for what Gen III ended up losing in the transition from Generation II.
Diamond and Pearl were in desperate need of third versions. They’re good games, but they’re aggressively slow and they’re a bit lacking when it comes to content. The main story is solid, but there’s not that much meat to the main game. Thankfully, Platinum fixes that and then some, turning Generation IV into one of the franchise’s best.
Platinum improves the story considerably with better dungeons and greater depth for Cyrus; the gameplay is faster and tolerable; and the post-game is huge, rivaled only by Emerald and Black 2 & White 2. Platinum might very well be the best Pokémon game of all time.