2016 marks the 20th anniversary of the Pokemon franchise. The games were first released in 1996 and have since become a global icon. Since its inception, the series has branched out into more than a video game series and now includes anime, manga, movies, collectible card game, and more.

Just in the gaming realm, the series has also seen a number of spinoffs across a wide variety of platforms. Most players have played a Pokemon title and have fond memories of catching and fighting with the ever-growing list of monsters. Many still play it, and have done so for decades.

And now, on the eve of the next games in the legendary series, Pokemon Sun and Moon, here’s a quick look at the history of one of the most iconic and popular series to ever graced video games, and how. this series has become the titles we play today.

The idea for Pokemon came from Satoshi Tajiri, who wanted to share his love of catching insects with others. With Ken Sugimori, Tajiri founded Game Freak, creating the first concept of Pokémon, then known as “Capsule Monsters”. The idea was to create a game based on collecting, training, trading, and fighting monsters captured using the Game Boy’s link cable. Tajiri’s friend Shigeru Miyamoto introduced Capsule Monsters to Nintendo, and Nintendo began funding the project. Due to copyright issues, the game had to change its name from Capsule Monsters to “Pocket Monsters,” which was abbreviated as Pokemon.

After six years of grueling development (Game Freak almost went bankrupt), Pokemon Red and Green were finally released in Japan on February 27, 1996. Tajiri’s dream had come true, with the games featuring 151 monsters for players to capture. The concept of capturing these creatures in Pokeballs came from the Ultraman Ultra Seven TV show, as the protagonist was guarding monsters that would help him fight in small capsules.

Sales of Red and Green were modest at first, but saw a huge increase in sales after Mew’s discovery in games. Japanese magazine CoroCoro held a “Legendary Pokemon Offer” contest, in which twenty lucky winners could win a Mew. Soon after, Red and Green saw a huge increase in sales and were followed by a blue release later in the year, fixing bugs and improving the graphics and sound of the game.


1996 also saw the release of the Pokemon Trading Card Game. The first set consisted of 102 cards and became very popular. The growing franchise also received a manga that year. Then, in 1997, the Pokemon anime premiered in Japan. The anime followed Satoshi (renamed Ash in the US version), which was based on Red from the games, and his Pikachu. Pikachu’s popularity would ultimately lead the Pokémon to become the franchise’s mascot.

The titles reached western shores in 1998 under the name Pokemon Red and Blue. Along with the games, the anime also began airing in the United States, followed by the card game in 1999. The series had the slogan “Gotta Catch ‘Em All! And quickly became a global phenomenon. After the red and blue versions of the games, there was a yellow version, becoming the third Western game of this generation, a tradition that has remained in the series ever since.

Over the following years, a number of spin-offs were released for the franchise. The first title in the Pokemon Stadium series was released for Nintendo 64, bringing the franchise to 3D. Also released on Nintendo 64, gamers received Hey You, Pikachu !, as well as Pokemon Snap, which has become very popular and is one of the most memorable titles on the console. The Game Boy received Pokemon Pinball, as well as a video game version of the collectible card game. The first feature film of the anime was also released which was a huge success. Showcasing a number of new Pokémon, the movie began to bridge the gap between the original games and the next generation.


At the end of 1999, Pokemon Gold and Silver were released in Japan. The games would arrive in the United States in 2000. The second generation games took players to a new region and added 100 new creatures to find and capture. Gold and Silver also introduced a number of new features, such as a night and day cycle, Pokémon gender and the ability to spawn, and a friendship system. After initially completing the games, players were able to travel to the region from the original games and were able to experience these games again. A year later, a third version was released, titled Pokemon Crystal, and expanded on the story of gold and silver. The game also gave players the option of choosing the gender of the protagonists for the first time in the series.

In 2002 (2003 in North America), the third generation of the series was released: Pokemon Ruby and sapphire. The games had made their way to the Game Boy Advance and introduced 135 new monsters for players to capture. The games always followed the story of a kid going on an adventure to become a Pokémon master, but also made some improvements. These new features included Pokémon contests, double battles, abilities and natures for each Pokémon, as well as increased EV and IV training. Some complained that Ruby and Sapphire were too similar to previous games, but the features introduced in the games would become important parts of the series. This generation continued the trend of a third title, with the release of Pokemon Emerald, which once again took the original games of this generation and made them better.


With three generations of games to their credit, it was then, in 2004, that Game Freak released the first remakes of the series. Pokemon FireRed and LeafGreen have taken the world of red and blue and made it better with the improvements the series has made over the past 8 years. The Games introduced wireless connectivity to the franchise through a Wireless Adapter for Game Boy Advance that comes with the games.

Between 2004 and 2007, Nintendo continued to find room for more spin-offs. Among these were Pokemon Coliseum and XD, 3D titles that took place in the Orre region. Games has also started to take a different approach to the franchise. The Mystery Dungeon series saw the player transform into Pokémon, while the Ranger series placed players in the role of Rangers roaming the land of Fiore, instead of trainers.

In 2006 (2007 in the United States), the main series made its leap to the Nintendo DS with the release of Pokemon Diamond and Pearl. The games introduced over a hundred new creatures to capture and took advantage of the DS’s native Wi-Fi to allow gamers to interact wirelessly. The games brought the time system back, set up visible gender differences, and created a separation between physical and special movements. Two years later, the third game of the fourth generation, titled Platinum, was released. The title brought new forms of some of the game’s legendaries, as well as updates similar to those implemented in Emerald.


The following years saw the release of more spin-offs, including entries in the Mystery Dungeon and Rangers series. However, 2009 (2010 in the West) saw the release of another series of remakes: HeartGold and SoulSilver. Similar to what has been done for FireRed and LeafGreen, the games have been improved for the current generation. They also came with Pokeball shaped pedometers that could interact with the games. The titles had a number of cool features, such as the ability to have your Pokémon follow behind its trainer. HeartGold and SoulSilver have become the best-selling games on Nintendo DS, with more than 12.5 million copies sold.

Then, in 2010, Game Freak released Pokemon Black and White. The games would make their way to the United States in 2011. Black and White added 156 new monsters and served as a revival to the franchise. The biggest new roster of all generations to date, the title pair judiciously made these 156 Pokémon the only ones you would encounter until the end of the game. The black and white featured a complete graphic overhaul and took advantage of the DS’s Wi-Fi capabilities. They also broke the tradition of a third title released later. Instead, Black 2 and White 2 came out in 2012 and were direct sequels to Black and White, continuing the story told in those games. It was the first time that a Pokémon game in the main series received a direct sequel.

2013 then saw the series make another leap to a new platform. Pokemon X and Y were released worldwide for 3DS in October 2013. X and Y saw the series go 3-D for the first time on a portable console, and have once again introduced a number of new collectible creatures. X and Y gave players the ability to customize their trainers and introduced Mega Evolutions. A year later, the third iteration of remakes was introduced, with the release of Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. Once again, the games have been updated to match the current generation and have received new content for players to enjoy. Breaking even further from tradition, the sixth generation has not seen a third episode or sequels. The game took place in the region of Kalos, on the model of France.


In 2015, Pokemon made a jump into a new genre with the arcade release of Pokken Tournament. This arcade fighter then saw a release on the Wii U in 2016. The year also saw the release of Pokemon GO, an augmented reality title for iOS and Android devices. The game was a huge success when it was released, even though it only contained the original 151 Pokémon.

For the 20 years of the series, it has been announced that a new generation of titles will be released in November 2016: Pokemon Sun and Moon. The seventh generation will introduce new Pokémon again and bring more new features to the series. Sun and Moon will introduce four-lane battles for all and develop customization of X and Y trainers. Z moves will also debut in Sun and Moon, along with Alolan Pokemon, first-generation Pokemon variants.


Sun and Moon may be the seventh generation of games in the series, but they’re proof that even after 20 years, Pokemon is still going strong.