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Games That Came Before ‘Pokemon Legends Arceus’

The Pokemon series comprises eight generations of RPG games released across over 25 years. Today, we're putting every main entry game in order to show you the overarching timeline--just in time for the release of 'Pokemon Legends Arceus'!
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The newest mainline entry in the franchise, Pokemon Legends Arceus, takes players thousands of years into the past. It offers players a chance to see the Sinnoh region long before the events of Pokemon Red and Blue. This has some players wondering where the rest of the main series entries fall on the series’ timeline. Is it possible to put all the Pokemon games in order?

Putting the Pokemon Games in Order

The Pokemon franchise has been going strong for over 25 years now. Each mainline game is mostly self-contained, with some notable exceptions like Pokemon Black 2 and White 2 serving as direct sequels to earlier entries. As such, it’s a bit difficult to pin down the exact franchise timeline.

Pokemon Legends Arceus Screenshot
Image Credit: Game Freak | The Pokemon Company | Nintendo

However, thanks to a (now-deleted) tweet from series scenario writer Toshinobu Matsumiya, Poke-fans can learn the rough timing of each entry in the primary RPG series. Here is the entire Pokemon timeline laid out in chronological order!

Pokemon Legends Arceus

The latest mainline entry in the Pokemon series is also the earliest game in its timeline. Arceus takes place 2,000 years before the events of Pokemon Red and Blue, the first titles released in the US. Players explore the ancient Sinnoh region, known in the game as Hisui, and work to compile the area’s first Pokedex. 

Since the game takes place in antiquity, this Pokedex isn’t a high-tech handheld device. Instead, it’s a notebook, full of the player’s hastily-scribbled field notes about the various monsters they encounter in the wilderness. Likewise, the game’s Pokeball’s aren’t modern metal constructions but are made from wood instead. Even the iconic Voltorb appears wooden in this era! 

The legendary Pokemon Arceus plays a pivotal role in this entry’s storyline. Players remember this creature from the fourth-generation entries, Diamond and Pearl. Trainers refer to Arceus as the “first Pokemon,’ and legends hold that he created the world and the creatures that inhabit it.

What secrets does Pokemon Legends Arceus contain regarding the history of the Pokemon world? You’ll have to play the game to find out!

Pokemon Red and Blue

Red and Blue were the first American entries in the Pokemon series, released by Game Freak in 1998. They’re updated versions of the Japan-only 1996 games Pokemon Red and Green, featuring bug fixes and some minor graphical improvements. The American and Japanese versions follow the same basic storyline, though. The protagonist, Red, sets out from Palette Town in the Kanto region on an adventure to earn eight gym badges and become the Pokemon League Champion.

The stakes aren’t very high in this introductory adventure. Red doesn’t save the world from any diabolical schemes. Instead, he stops a criminal organization named Team Rocket from stealing Pokemon and selling them on the black market. 

According to Matsumiya’s tweet, the first generation of Pokemon games takes place simultaneously with the third generation of games. So, next, let’s look at Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire.

Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire

Game Freak launched Ruby and Sapphire in 2002, but the games take place at the same time as Red and Blue. The protagonist of the third generation fights a much more urgent battle than Red as they adventure across the Hoenn region. They face either Team Magma or Team Aqua, villainous organizations bent on terraforming the planet.

Team Magma worships the legendary Groudon and seeks to use his power to dry the oceans and leave only land behind. Their rivals, Team Aqua, venerate the marine-based Kyogre and want to cause a global flood to obliterate dry land. That’s a bit more pressing than Team Rocket snatching a few pets. 

Notably, the remakes Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire aren’t in the same timeline as the original third-gen games. Things get more complicated in those entries.

Pokemon Gold and Silver

Pokemon Gold and Silver hit stores in 2000, and serve as direct sequels to Red and Blue. Players journey through the Johto region, which lies immediately west of Kanto. After gathering eight gym badges in Johto, the protagonist can travel east across Mt. Silver to revisit the Kanto region. 

Gold and Silver take place three years after Red and Blue, as evidenced by the remnants of Team Rocket noting that their leader Giovanni disappeared three years prior. In a fan-pleasing twist, players can battle a slightly older Red atop Mt. Silver in this title, facing off against his iconic Pikachu and Charizard. 

Pokemon Diamond and Pearl

We’re relying on Matsumiya’s tweet again for this one. According to the developer, 2007’s Pokemon Diamond and Pearl take place at the same time as Gold and Silver. As such, we know these games also take place three years after Gen 1 and Gen 3. 

The Sinnoh adventure is disconnected from the events of the first three Pokemon titles, though. There’s no evidence in the game to indicate that it takes place before or after any other entry. Diamond and Pearl also have no direct sequels, making Matumiya’s tweet pivotal in determining where they fit into the overarching timeline. 

Interestingly, their remakes, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, don’t occur in the same timeline as Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. More on that later.

Pokemon Black and White

Pokemon Black and White came out in 2010 and featured a new regional Pokedex of 151 new Pokemon. Players visit the Unova region, which is geographically distant from Kanto, Sinnoh, and Hoenn. It’s hard to pin down how much time, exactly, has passed since Gold and Silver and Diamond and Pearl. However, a few clues can give us a rough idea.

A character named Caitlin appears as a member of the Elite Four in Unova. Players first met her in Platinum, the enhanced third entry in the Diamond and Pearl series. In that game, she appears to be roughly 14 years old. In Black and White, she looks about a decade older. So, Black and White take place approximately ten years after Gen 2 and Gen 4!

Pokemon Black 2 and White 2

Black 2 and White 2 are the only direct numbered sequels in the franchise. These titles explicitly state they take place two years after their predecessors or fifteen years after Gen 1. This is where things get a bit confusing. Matsumiya states Black 2 and White 2 take place at the same time as Pokemon X and Y, but it’s not in the same continuity as those games. 

Now let’s talk about the Mega Timeline.

The Mega Timeline

Game Freak introduced the concept of Mega Evolution in X and Y, released in 2013. At the time, fans assumed Mega Evolution was a recent development or otherwise localized to the Kalos region. However, the feature makes a return in the 2016 games Pokemon Sun and Moon. Likewise, the Gen 3 remakes, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire include the shape-shifting superpower.

These three titles all play out in the same timeline but have little connection to the main continuity. 

This isn’t a fan theory, either; a few lines of dialogue in these games confirm that Mega Evolution is native to an offshoot reality. A minor character in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire notes that the Hoenn region they inhabit has a mirror sibling where Mega Evolution doesn’t exist. That’s the Hoenn trainers first saw in Ruby and Sapphire!

Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are the earliest chronological entries in the Mega Timeline. They inhabit the same time period as Gen 3, but the story takes a few noticeable turns. For one thing, Groudon and Kyogre each have Mega Evolutions that impact the plot. The remakes also introduce a follow-up scenario called the Delta Episode, which confirms that the battle against Teams Magma and Aqua took a different turn in this timeline.

See related: Three New Pokemon Games for Switch Have Release Dates

Pokemon X and Y

It’s easy to pin down exactly when X and Y take in the Mega Timeline–fifteen years after Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. Since Matsumiya confirmed X and Y and Black 2 and White 2 happen contemporaneously, it’s simple math to determine how much time passes between these entries. 

Pokemon Sun and Moon

Pokemon Sun and Moon take place roughly two years after the events of X and Y. The game doesn’t explicitly state how much time has passed since heroes defeated Team Flare in Kalos. But vigilant fans will notice Professor Sycamore’s assistants, Sina and Dexio, look about two years older in these games. 

The first-generation protagonist, Red, and his rival, Blue, make cameos in Generation 7. The two appear to have aged about 17 years since their adventures in an alternate universe version of Kanto! 

Pokemon Sword and Shield

It’s almost impossible to fit Sword and Shield into either the Mega or Original Timeline. Trainers in the Galar region don’t use Mega Evolution and instead employ a similar mechanic called Gigantamax. No characters from earlier entries make any cameo appearances in these games, and the events of past Pokemon titles have no bearing on the storyline.

In short, it’s hard to say when Sword and Shield take place or if they even inhabit either of the timelines we’ve seen up to this point. Without a helpful tweet from a developer or a follow-up tie-in with a direct sequel, Generation 8 leaves Pokemon superfans to guess when Sword and Shield occur!