Hint: The most-played Pokémon games are part of the Game Boy family of games.

In Japan, it would be nearly impossible to find anyone under 50 who hasn’t at least heard of Pokémon, the massively successful Japanese franchise introduced to the world in 1996 through a pair of games developed by Game Freak. As one of the most successful video game franchises of all time, it’s also certainly one of the most beloved by children and adults around the world. With over 25 years of game releases at this point, we were curious to know which specific games have touched the most people’s lives.

Gameage R&I, a top Japanese marketing research and consulting firm specializing in the game industry, recently released the results of a December 2022 internet survey they conducted to determine the most-played games in the Pokémon universe. 2,604 men and women between the ages of 15-59 responded to their questions.

▼ Used Pokémon games for the Game Boy at a shop in Tokyo’s Akihabara neighborhood

1,029 people, or 39.5 percent, of survey participants responded that they have played some kind of Pokémon game, which also includes those outside of the core RPG series and even the Pokémon Trading Card Game. They were then asked to list which individual games they have played, resulting in a ranked list of 27 total games. While all core Pokémon RPG games feature commonalities such as the player’s goals of defeating the Elite Four to become the Pokémon Champion and complete their Pokédex by catching all species of Pokémon, the individual games vary in terms of their unique regions, storylines, supporting characters, and the Pokémon that appear within.

▼ Every core Pokémon RPG over nine Generations of games begins with the player choosing a starter Pokémon. Which Generation I starter would you choose from Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle pictured below?

Let’s take a look now at the top ten game responses as well as the percentage of the 1,029 participants who have played those games.

Top 10 Most-Played Pokémon Games

10. Pokémon FireRed & LeafGreen (January 2004): 17.2 percent
9. Pokémon Trading Card Game (October 1996): 17.3 percent
8. Pokémon Go (July 2016): 20.8 percent
7. Pokémon Black and White (September 2010): 22.8 percent
6. Pokémon Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition (September 1998): 24.1 percent
5. Pokémon Blue (October 1996): 24.2 percent

Rounding out the top five most-played games at 24.2 percent is Pokémon Blue, a standalone Generation I Game Boy game that served as a revised version of Pokémon Red & Green. It was originally available only by mail order before being released to the general public. Don’t be confused because the international releases of Pokémon Red & Blue were actually based mainly on the game engine from this Japanese version of Pokémon Blue, not the original Japanese versions of the very first games Pokémon Red & Green.

4. Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire (November 2002): 26.1 percent

Coming in fourth place at 26.1 percent is Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire, the first entries in Generation III and the first Pokémon games released for the Game Boy Advance. The games put the player in the center of a race to stop battling crime factions Team Aqua and Team Magma from awakening a legendary Pokémon that could wreak havoc on the world. They also introduced double battles and Pokémon Contests to the typical gameplay elements of the Pokémon video game universe.

3. Pokémon Diamond & Pearl (September 2006): 28 percent

▼ Used Pokémon Diamond & Pearl games (upper left) at a shop in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro

28 percent of survey participants responded that they have played Pokémon Diamond & Pearl, the first installments of Generation IV and the first Pokémon games released on the Nintendo DS platform. The main storyline featured the player attempting to defeat the evil Team Galactic. Generation IV Introduced important new mechanics such as the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection as an exciting capability of the Nintendo DS. Pokémon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl as well as prequel Pokémon Legends: Arceus were also the most recent in the line of Pokémon game remakes that were based on the original Pokémon Diamond & Pearl games, being released in November 2021 and January 2022 respectively.

2. Pokémon Gold & Silver (November 1999): 37.1 percent

Pokémon Gold & Silver, at 37.1 percent, are the second-most played Pokémon games. Released for the Game Boy Color, these games’ introduced Generation II and expanded on the gameplay of Generation I with plenty of new features such as Pokémon breeding and a real-time internal clock that influenced in-world events. It was also the first time that 100 new Pokémon species were added to the universe, including ever-popular legendary Pokémon Ho-Oh and Lugia.

1. Pokémon Red & Green (February 1996): 48.7 percent

Well, there really couldn’t be any more logical or nostalgic answer to the question of the most-played Pokémon games than Pokémon Red & Green for the Game Boy. 48.7 percent, or essentially half of all survey participants who have played at least one Pokémon game, have played the earliest Pokémon entries. These games were the world’s introduction to the Pokémon universe from which everything else grew. They introduced all of the very basics of gameplay and series staples such as the catching, trading, and evolving Pokémon, gym battles, and an in-game rival for the player. Interestingly, Pokémon Red & Green were never actually released as-is outside of Japan. The original Pokémon installments known as Pokémon Red & Blue overseas were actually a combination of Pokémon Red & Green and subsequently released special edition Pokémon Blue (see fifth place above). In any case, you just can’t beat the originals.

▼ To answer the earlier question about choosing a Generation I starter: It’s Charmander. You’ve got to go with Charmander.

In case you’re curious, the least-played Pokémon game according to survey participants is Pokémon Card GB2: Here Comes Team Great Rocket!, which was released exclusively in Japan in March 2001 for the Game Boy Color. Only 4.7 percent of participants responded that they have played this game. In addition, despite only being released last month, newest entries to the Pokémon world Pokémon Scarlet & Violet currently rank at 20th place at 10.7 percent.

The above rankings also reveal that each of the top eight games, released in a 20-year span between 1996-2016, were played by more than 20 percent of the survey participants. The average number of games that participants noted playing is 4.6 games.

▼ There are many climactic scenes through the nine Generations of games, but taking on the player’s rival and reigning Pokémon Champion in Generation I is perhaps the most pivotal moment for every first-time player.

In addition, the survey also revealed some interesting generational trends related to game consoles and the age ranges of players. In terms of consoles, 75.1 percent of survey participants have played games in the Game Boy family (10 games total reflected in the results), 53.1 percent in the Nintendo DS family (9 games total reflected in the results), and 28.9 percent in the Nintendo Switch family (6 games total reflected in the results).

Viewing data through the lens of age, games in the Nintendo DS family were the most played by teens (83.3 percent) and those in their 20s (72.1 percent). Meanwhile, games in the Game Boy family were by far the most played by those in their 30s (95 percent), 40s (81.9 percent), and 50s (81.4 percent). In particular, those in their 30s were roughly the target audience of 10 years old (when in-game children begin their Pokémon trainer journeys) when Pokémon Red & Green were first released and took Japan by storm. It’s perhaps no wonder then that close to 100 percent of them have picked up a Game Boy after seeing TV commercials for the games, watching the Pokémon anime, reading the Pokémon manga, or borrowing games from their older siblings. As the first generation to grow up with Pokémon naturally by their sides, there’s also a sweet trend for this generation to now pick up a Nintendo Switch to play the newest Pokémon games with their own children.

▼ These two handheld consoles were the playground envy of different generations of kids.

As a member of what I call the “OG Pokémon generation” myself, I’ve poured hours and days of my life into my own quest to become a Pokémon master over various Generations of the games. Don’t worry though, Mom and Dad, because all that effort wasn’t for nothing. After all, Tokyo University students ranked the Pokémon series at the very top of their list of video games for cultivating smart kids.

Source: Livedoor News
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