Pokémon is a game that has stood the test of time, and continues to sell well now, despite it being over 20 years old. What made this game popular in 1996, and how has it changed over time in order to make it feel the same, yet not repetitive? To keep things simpler, I'll be focusing on the core series games, and not spin off games like the Mystery Dungeon
series, Pokémon Rumble
, etc. Without any further ado, let's go into why I think Pokémon is so popular:
It provides a personal experience
Two people playing the same Pokémon game could have completely different experiences, and I'm not just talking about the alternate versions per generation (E.g. Diamond and Pearl). The story itself may not be very different, but the experience will be. This is because not only can you name your character in Pokémon, making it feel more personal (Especially if you name them after yourself), but you can pick your entire team, moveset, nicknames, and much more.
It caters to all kinds of people
Pokémon at its core, is quite simple and is like a glorified rock paper scissors, making it easy for younger children to play and enjoy it, but it also has complicated features that most casual players don't care about. These include EVs and IVs which slightly alter a Pokémon's stats. For most players, this isn't very important, but for competitive players, this could be the difference between winning a world-wide competition, and losing it. This, along with some other features like hidden abilities, is why Pokémon has a good competitive scene.
Each game feels unique, because each new generation adds a new region to explore
It is familiar, but not boring
Pokémon as a whole has not changed much considering it's been out for over two decades. It's still about a young teenager wanting to defeat eight gym leaders, the elite four, the champion, and their rival, in order to become the region's champion. The more recent games are also about defeating an evil group and preventing them from misusing a legendary Pokémon which would result in a catastrophe. Even though the story does not change too much, each game feels unique, because each new generation adds a new region to explore, new pokemon to catch, new characters to love or hate, and new mechanics (Such as dressing up which was added in Generation VI). Each new game also looks better, in terms of graphics, but the game never relied on graphics to sell.
It can be replayed
As aforementioned, graphics were never Pokémon's strong part, and each playthrough can feel unique, which is why it's not uncommon for players to play each game multiple times. I played Pokémon LeafGreen once in 2008, once in 2010, and once more in 2016. Each time I played it, I picked a different starter, caught different Pokémon, and taught them different moves, which is why it never felt boring to me.
It feels nostalgic
This point is only true for people who have played Pokémon games before. Meeting an old Pokémon, perhaps one you caught and trained in a previous Pokémon game, can feel quite nostalgic, and the remakes as a whole feel nostalgic as well (E.g. Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire).
It's easy to get invested into the Pokémon universe
The Pokémon universe evolves with each new game, and it’s a very rich universe. New things are constantly being added, like mega evolutions and Z-moves, which help to make the universe feel like it's growing. If you do get intrigued by the universe, and want to learn more about it, there's a ton of spin off games, movies, trading cards, and more that you can play, watch or collect.
There are a lot of people who thought Pokémon was a phase people would go through and that it would die down after a couple years, but time has proven that Pokémon is more than a phase, it's a part of people's childhood. It is a game so loved, that people have bought entire consoles for them (Myself included), which is why I doubt it'll die down anytime soon.