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Pokémon’s 25th anniversary: celebrating more than two decades of pocket monsters

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In 1996, a pair of cute monster-collecting roleplaying games launched on the Game Boy, giving birth to one of the biggest entertainment franchises on the planet. Over the last 25 years, Pokémon has continued to be a massively popular RPG series, but it has also spawned plentiful spinoff games, movies, shows, and more — from the early days of Red and Blue to the phenomenon of Pokémon Go to the surprise hit Detective Pikachu. At The Verge, we’re using this anniversary as a chance to explore how Pokémon evolved over the years and where it may be headed.

  • Jay Peters

    Feb 25, 2021

    Jay Peters

    Pokémon might be famous for its games, but it also has some great gadgets

    Photo by Sam Byford / The Verge

    Pokémon might be renowned for its cooperative gameplay, delightful spinoffs, and making an intimidating genre approachable, but the franchise also has a long history of creative and interesting gadgets.

    The series is bursting with technology. The original in-game pokédex clearly takes inspiration from early Palm Pilot-like devices, for example. And if you think about them, pokéballs are technological marvels: they somehow transform living creatures into particles that can be transported across the world (and in the TV show, the pokéballs can even shrink). So it’s not all that surprising that there have been many Pokémon-themed toys and hardware.

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  • Feb 24, 2021

    Taylor Lyles

    Pokémon makes an intimidating genre approachable

    Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

    Roleplaying games represent some of the most beloved titles ever created. Series like Final Fantasy or The Elder Scrolls are filled with huge, immersive worlds and deep lore to be explored. Yet, that scale and complexity can also make the genre seem overwhelming. What makes Pokémon stand out is its ability to attract a wide audience. It’s a perfect entry point for an otherwise intimidating genre.

    As the series turns 25 years old this year, the charm found in the first installments has been preserved and retained throughout the eight generations of the franchise. The format has stayed consistent; unlike typical RPGs with their elaborate and grandiose narratives, Pokémon maintains a very relaxed pace with a clear goal in mind.

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  • Andrew Webster

    Feb 23, 2021

    Andrew Webster

    Pokémon’s spinoffs are the series at its most adventurous

    Detective Pikachu.
    Detective Pikachu.

    Pokémon is a phenomenon, one that’s lasted a steady 25 years built on a foundation of approachable roleplaying games. On the DS, Nintendo’s bestselling piece of hardware, three of the top 10 bestselling titles are mainline Pokémon games. It’s a franchise that perpetually serves as a system seller despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that it evolves at a glacial pace. But that’s only true of the core Pokémon experience. While those RPGs have been infamously resistant to change, the many, many Pokémon spinoffs are a different story. In fact, many of Pokémon’s biggest success stories, from the blockbuster film Detective Pikachu to the staggering success of Pokémon Go, were a result of this experimental attitude.

    Without these offshoots, Pokémon wouldn’t be what it is today — and they’re still helping push the series into the future.

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  • Feb 22, 2021

    Jay Castello

    Pokémon is a huge hit because it’s cooperative

    Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

    When Pokémon launched 25 years ago, it did so twice simultaneously.

    Pokémon Red and Green (later made Blue for its Western release) are almost identical, but each has a few exclusive monsters. The fire puppy Growlithe is only available in Red, for example, while those searching for a Venus flytrap-like Bellsprout will need to pick up Green. Players can also trade with a friend who has the opposing version. What began as a fairly cheap trick to encourage invested fans to purchase the game twice or to pressure their friends into picking it up, has since become a cornerstone of the entire Pokémon franchise: it’s meant to be shared.  

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