In 2023, Pokemon Red will celebrate 25 years since its release in North America. The game helped spawn not only a series but helped define the RPG genre. Starting from small beginnings, the Pokemon franchise is worth over $90 billion today and owes its success to the original game.
So, today, in celebration of the 25th anniversary, we will be breaking down the five best reasons to buy and play Pokemon Red. Let’s jump into the Kanto region together and explore the tall grass for this legendary title.
The most obvious and compelling reason to go back and play Pokemon Red, or play it for the first time, is nostalgia. Released in 1996 on the Game Boy, Pokemon Red is as classic and retro as players can get in the Pokemon franchise. The Game Boy features the iconic green screen with 8-bit graphics that will bring back a wave of memories.
Modern players will probably enjoy Pokemon FireRed more due to its updated graphics, color, sprites, etc. However, it differs from the original in quite a few ways in its gameplay, like having Dark or Steel-Type Pokemon, featuring more islands, additional Generation II Pokemon, and more.
Replaying Pokemon Red brings players back to the series’ roots and reminds them why they fell in love with it in the first place. If not for nostalgia, playing Pokemon Red, even for a few minutes, will give you an appreciation for the game and growth over time.
Admittedly, Kanto can look and feel bland compared to future regions in the franchise. There is not much to the area besides the select cities, the volcano, and the Pokemon League. Players will spend most of their time in grass areas that all look the same. But this doesn’t mean it’s terrible and can actually help make for a better experience.
For players who play Pokemon Red, the standards and expectations will change. You can see how Kanto evolves in games like Pokemon Gold, which features the Kanto region at the end along with the Johto region. These small changes in the game make the world feel more alive and dynamic, like it’s ever-evolving.
If the consensus that Kanto is the worst region, comparatively, is true, then starting there would be the best option. Each game will have a better region, making them more fun to explore after Kanto. While it may sound strange to use a common criticism as a reason to play the game, you have to remember that Pokemon Red was the first.
There was nothing else to compare it to at the time. As mentioned before, Kanto isn’t a bad region at all; it’s quite fun to explore. But compared to other regions that used Kanto as a foundation to build on, it can lack, which is expected of any title that comes first in a series.
Nothing beats the classics; the same goes for the original 151 Pokemon. Gamers and pop culture, in general, have ingrained these Pokemon in their minds. Pikachu and Charizard are recognized by people who have never played a Pokemon game before, adding to the iconic nature of the game.
It’s true that in later titles, you can still find and capture the original 151, along with the hundreds of other Pokemon added. However, the experience isn’t the same. Pokemon Red was released at a simpler time when catching creatures in the tall grass was exciting and new. Each of the 151 Pokemon were expertly crafted and designed.
Each one spawned standards and key features for their type that would later go on to help design over 1000 Pokemon. They were simple but effective in making kids excited to find each one.
Some Pokemon today can look very exotic or uninspired, but the first Generation of Pokemon all fit the fantasy mold without going too far over. One of the best achievements in gaming is going back to catch all 151 Pokemon or catching Mewtwo for the first time.
This one may be good or bad, depending on your play style. In Pokemon Red, Pokemon cannot hold items, meaning no Exp. Share. Every Pokemon will have to be leveled up individually, which heavily contrasts the later games in the series. Modern titles tend to have Exp. Share that distributes experience points to every Pokemon in your party.
Some players have criticized this mechanic, claiming it makes the games too easy. It’s too easy to have overpowered Pokemon, as they can sit on your team and do nothing while high-level Pokemon level them up. For those players, Pokemon Red has the most grinding required, spending time with each Pokemon as they level and evolve.
This may give players a stronger connection to their team if they have to level every Pokemon they come across. However, as mentioned, this is only for specific players. On the opposite end of the spectrum, players love Exp. Share due to it reducing wasted time. Sure, any player can grind, but it makes the experience a chore and can lead to players using fewer Pokemon out of fear of having to level them up.
If you are the type of Pokemon fan who enjoys the leveling experience of Pokemon individually, Pokemon Red is perfect. For those wary of it, the game is still worth playing for the other reasons mentioned.
Mainline Pokemon games have not changed much over the years. Sure, there are some key differences or features the titles have tried, but they all follow the same format. Players start from humble beginnings in a small town before being thrown into the tall grass and traveling from town to town battling Gym Leaders. While stories are happening in the background, many players only play to become the Pokemon Champion.
But what does this have to do with Pokemon Red? Well, everything. Pokemon Red started the franchise as we know it, and it’s because of the formula it created that Pokemon remains the same. Whether or not this is good for the series is another topic, but there’s no denying that Pokemon Red has one of the most timeless gameplay experiences.
Journeying around the Kanto region for the first time or the hundredth time never gets old. For players who are only familiar with the newer Pokemon games on the Nintendo Switch or 3DS, they should check out Pokemon Red. It may have flaws like any other game, but it was ahead of its time and created an unforgettable experience.
In the modern world, Pokemon Red doesn’t fit the standards of how a game should look. Players have difficulty playing on a mobile device like the Game Boy when they have phones, a 3DS, or a Switch. It does have its flaws and drawbacks, but playing a game shouldn’t be based solely on looks.
Pokemon Red is a timeless experience, which is why modern Pokemon games have not strayed far from its formula. If, after 25 years, games are still being inspired and drawn to the original title in a series, it stands as a testament to how great it truly is.