Pokémon Gold and Silver are the best games in the 20-year-old series. And we’ll now be able to play them without busting out our ancient Nintendo portable systems.
While Pokkén Tournament coming to the Switch and Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon for the 3DS might have been the flashier announcements to come out of Nintendo’s Direct stream today, we also learned that the original versions of Pokémon Gold and Silver are coming to the 3DS via the system’s digital store for older games, the Virtual Console. For Pokémon fans, this is great news. Gold and Silver first came out for the Game Boy Color in 1999 in Japan and 2000 in the U.S. These are the best games the series has ever seen, and this is the first time in nearly 20 years that people will be able to play them in their original forms without jumping through retro hoops. They were also big financial hits, selling over 23 million copies.
Gold and Silver gave us a giant Pokémon adventure with just enough improvements to make it more convenient than its predecessors, but it didn’t add so many extra and features that it felt bloated (compared to modern Pokémon games, where you can enter your critters into fashion shows).
Pokémon fans come in multiple ages. Some older players were kids when Pokémon first made it big in ’90s. Newer fans are today’s kids that are more familiar with recent games like Sun and Moon or Pokémon Go. Releasing Gold and Silver digitally can serve both audiences while making money for Nintendo. Nostalgic gamers will appreciate the chance to return to a game they loved, while younger Pokémon could be curious about the franchise’s earlier games.
Either way, a steady stream of Pokémon releases keeps the franchise relevant. That’s why Nintendo is always releasing new games like Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, remaking older ones like Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby, or just re-releasing classics like Gold and Silver.
Last year, I ranked each generation of Pokémon. A generation in that franchise denotes major releases in the main series, which always come out in pairs (Red and Blue, Gold and Silver, Ruby and Sapphire, etc.). I put Gold and Silver, the second generation, at the top spot. That list didn’t include last year’s Sun and Moon, but I’ll tell you now that Gold and Silver remain in the lead.
2000 was during the height of the first wave of Pokémon fever. The first games, the cards, and the cartoon had all become big hits. People were anticipating the first true sequels with a kind zealousness I haven’t seen again for the series. Every single hint of a new Pokémon would drive fans crazy with anticipation.
And Gold and Silver did not disappoint. It played similarly to its predecessors, but it introduced many improvements that have stayed with the series ever since. Pokémon could hold items that could help boost their stats or automatically heal them in critical situations. You could also see how close each critter was to leveling up during battle thanks to a handy bar under their name. You didn’t have to go through menus to find that information any more.
You also had the 100 new Pokémon, which introduced favorites like the egg-shaped Togepi and the legendary bird Lugia. We also had new evolutions for old Pokémon, like the new Eevee forms Espeon and Umbreon. Gold and Silver also introduced Pokémon breeding. Two similar Pokémon could produce an egg, giving you a fresh level 1 Pokémon that would have stats and moves based on its parents. You could only get some baby Pokémon this way, including the new form Pikachu, Pichu.
Gold and Silver managed to add the right amount of depth to the formula without mucking it all up. It was also a huge game. After you explored the new region, Johto, you got to go back through the towns from the original game. This all ended with a climatic battle against Red, the player character from the first generation.
Nintendo has actually remade these games for the DS via SoulSilver and HeartGold. DS games still work on the 3DS, so you can still play the remakes today. Those updates feature improved graphics and new features from more recent Pokémon games. But purists will still enjoy experiencing the originals.
It would have been nice if these were coming out to the Switch, but Nintendo has not released any details about a Virtual Console service for its newest system. It will give those who pay for its $20 a year online service access to a selection of classic games, but Nintendo has only announced Nintendo Entertainment System titles Super Mario Bros. 3, Balloon Fight, and Dr. Mario for that service. Also, those classic games won’t be available until 2018. So, I don’t expect Gold and Silver on the Switch any time soon.
But the 3DS is still a great home for these classic games. Last year, Nintendo released Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow on the 3DS Virtual Console. Those games are even older than Gold and Silver, and they managed to earn 1.5 million downloads on the 3DS. Gold and Silver will likely also find success on the platform.
This is a fantastic chance to remember what Pokémon was like at its very best. And it’s an easy for way for Nintendo to make some money.