The first Pokemon games were released in Japan in 1996, and judging by how the franchise is going, the last ones will be released long after the human race has gone extinct. The popularity of Pikachu and his cuddly, laser-ey friends is seemingly unstoppable, and every new "generation" of Pokemon brings more items, more techniques, and more monsters.
However, there is something special about the original games. Are they the best games in the series? No. Compared to the later entries, Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow feel very dated, and even a little broken at times. But there are moments in them that will never be recreated or topped, no matter how fancy 2025's Pokemon Orgasmic Platinum is.
So, to celebrate these bastions of our childhood, I'm gonna run down seven things from the original series that will always be the best, like no one ever was... or ever will be.
The original Lavender Town music
Just after you exit the confines of Rock Tunnel, you're faced with Lavender Town. It's fitting that Lavender Town is the place where Pokemon are laid to rest, considering that Rock Tunnel is so brutal that most of your creature team should be breathing their last right about then. But the thing that sticks out most about Lavender Town is the theme, this creepy little tune that is haunting in its simplicity. Back when I was in elementary school, a kid spread a rumor that someone's cousin's uncle's brother's grandson had once listened to the Lavender Town theme and gone insane over it.
With that said, there's a video of it above. Listen to it a few times. See what happens!
The final showdown with your rival
Most of your rivals in Pokemon, starting somewhere around Ruby/Sapphire and going forward, aren't much of a problem. Imagine if you managed to create a high-leveled Pokemon team, all while knowing absolutely nothing about Pokemon, and you have most of your rivals from the later installments. The same can't be said for your rival in the first game, aka Professor Oak's Grandson. Driven to madness by his own grandfather's inability to remember his name, your rival does his best to counter you at every corner. He even technically beats the game before you, and sits at the end of the Pokemon League, just waiting to 1) Make fun of you, and 2) Beat your Pokemon to 8-bit pulp.
When you find out you're not real
Oh yeah, there is that one time in the first games where you find out that you're not real and that everything in the Pokemon world has been constructed by the actual company that develops the Pokemon games. It kind of creates a big Westworld scenario (which I wrote a whole fan theory about), and I'm surprised that the player doesn't immediately flee the office screaming "WHAT IS REAL? WHAT AM I? HELP ME DIEEEEEEEEEEE."
The bizarre trainers you meet
Before it was decided that the notion of someone gambling was far too mature for a game about thrashing people's pets into unconsciousness, you could fight the Gambler trainer class. They were the same as most other trainer classes -- middle-aged men squatting in tall grass, waiting for 10-year-olds to walk by. But, in their spare, less creepy time, they apparently made a living gambling.
It reminds me of the Channeler, a ghost-possessed woman in the Pokemon Tower that says "Give...me...blood..." at your fourth grade character when you approach her. Nintendo would later change this, but when you're a kid, you never forget that time you were happily strolling around with your Pikachu, and someone invited you to partake in some light cannibalism.
The fact that it starts with pure combat
Modern Pokemon games, starting with the second generation, use the game intros to illustrate the fact that the Pokemon world is a beautiful place full of wonder and mystery. Pokemon Red and Blue used their intro to illustrate the fact that Pokemon just want to kill each other. It lets you know that, while harmony between a trainer and their Pokemon is important and all, it's more important that you make these things fight so hard that they're physically forced to evolve.
Pokemon Yellow's Pikachu party
The next releases are Pokemon: Let's Go Pikachu! and Let's Go Eevee!, which feel like Nintendo desperately trying to say "Come on. This isn't all about Pikachu. There are many other wonderful Pokemon out there for you to collect."
But in 1999, I got Pokemon Yellow, and boy, the message it gave me could not have been more clear: This IS the Pikachu show. Look at him kick past lasers, and surf, and fly around on balloons, and shock the crap out of you. Look at him do all the things that other Pokemon can't. Pikachu is the John Cena of Pokemon. No matter how much they try to hide it nowadays, they can't get past the fact that all their eggs are in a little electric mouse shaped basket.
The constant walking back and forth
In recent Pokemon games, you're given an item called the Exp. Share, right off the bat. The Exp. Share allow you to share the experience points that you earn from battles with all of your Pokemon, regardless of whether they were in the fight or not. It makes leveling up way easier, and it also decreases the amount of time you spend wading around in the grass.
But I miss wading around in the grass sometimes.
I won't say "KIDS THESE DAYS DON'T KNOW HOW TO WORK," because anyone that makes a broad statement like that is usually barely coherent, but all of the grinding around, slowly leveling up your Pokemon so that you can finally beat that gym leader or Elite Four member made the victories feel so much more special and so much more earned. Nowadays, Pokemon feels a lot more handhold-y, like I'm constantly having someone remind me of what I'm supposed to do, rather than figuring it out for myself.
That said, it might just be due to the fact that I'm a 29-year-old playing games that are designed for someone a third my age. No, it couldn't be that. It couldn't be.
Oh no. Could it?