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A quick history of the biggest Pokemon games and anime

Champion Ash Ketchum with Masters Eight trophy in Pokemon Ultimate Journeys anime

Pokemon is one of the most recognizable brands in the world and there are plenty of ways to get into the action with a trading card game, video games, anime, and more.

With over 25 years of history, there are few people who haven’t engaged with the Pokemon series in one way or another. Even people who aren’t gamers or anime fans will likely be able to identify the likes of Pikachu and Ash Ketchum.

There’s a lot to discuss when it comes to this enduring series and the frequent name changes and generational approach to the games might make it tough to keep everything straight. Here is the history of the Pokemon franchise and what the future holds for its many branches.

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet trainer flying on Koraidon

Pokemon games like Scarlet and Violet remain staples for Nintendo Switch

The Pokemon franchise began in 1996 with the releases of Pokemon Red and Green in Japan. The games allowed players to capture, trade, and battle creatures that ranged from adorable to terrifying. The release of two games at once became a staple of the series that continues to this day with Pokemon Scarlet and Violet.

While there were traditionally follow-up games that expanded on existing games with new content, Scarlet and Violet made DLC standard. After merging together its handheld and console efforts with the Nintendo Switch console, Nintendo and its subsidiaries began modernizing their approach to post-launch content.

Alongside the mainline games that come out in pairs, there have been many other Pokemon games of note. Titles like Pokemon Legends: Arceus and Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee offer a similar experience to the mainline games but with unique twists on the gameplay. 

There have also been many other games that leverage the Pokemon branding but feature completely different gameplay. Pokemon Snap is essentially a nature photography simulator, Pokken Tournament is a fighting game in the same vein as Tekken, and the list goes on.

Pokemon GO is technically the most-played Pokemon game

Though the mainline Pokemon games have shipped hundreds of millions of units over the years, they aren’t the most-played game of the lot. That honor technically goes to Pokemon GO, a mobile app that has been downloaded over 1 billion times.

Pokemon GO dropped in 2016 and became a pop culture sensation, with people of all ages downloading it. The augmented reality game has people walk around in real life to find and collect Pokemon using their mobile device’s GPS.

The mobile app has expanded in a number of different ways, adding the ability to trade and battle. There’s even a competitive scene that is a part of the annual World Championship alongside the TCG and mainline games.

Are Ash and Pikachu in the new Pokemon anime?

While the Pokemon games and TCG are both huge, there’s no overstating how important the anime was to the series’ rise. The adventures of Ash, Brock, Misty, and Pikachu were a daily dose of fun for young fans. The series was a must-watch afterschool program for many, with new episodes airing every weekday in its first season across many regions.

Ash and Pikachu remained at the center of the anime for over 25 years but the duo left the spotlight in 2023. The Pokemon Horizons series based on Scarlet and Violet stars a new duo in Liko and Roy, who will have Paldean starters Fuecoco, Sprigatito, and Quaxly as their signature partners. 

It’s unknown whether the adventures of Ash and Pikachu will end there. That said, there will be a new Pikachu that gets airtime in Horizons. This new “Captain Pikachu” will be partnered with airship captain Friede.

Will there be more Pokemon Legends games after Arceus’ success?

There hasn’t been any announcement about a follow-up to Pokemon Legends: Arceus, despite fans wishing for a Legends: Celebi title. The spin-off was still enough of a success that it would be surprising if it truly was one and done.

Pokemon Legends: Arceus was positioned to clear 15 million units sold as of December 2022. That retail success is comparable to mainline titles such as Sun and Moon, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, and Yellow. It was out-sold by Pokemon Sword and Shield, as well as Scarlet and Violet, but moved far more units than other spin-offs like Stadium, Mystery Dungeon, or Snap.

If the plan was always for Pokemon Legends: Arceus to be a standalone release, Game Freak and Nintendo will likely rethink that given the game’s commercial success. Whether that will translate into a new game coming out any time soon is unknown at this point.

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Written by Steven Rondina

Steven Rondina has been playing video games since he was a toddler and appreciates every genre out there. He has earned the platinum trophy in every Soulsborne game, is regularly Master Ball-ranked on the competitive Pokemon ladder, and has spent thousands of hours missing shots on Dust 2. His work has previously been featured by Bleacher Report and The Washington Post, and he was an Assistant Editor at WIN.gg. You can follow him on Twitter / X at @srondina.

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