ATB’s Best Games Ever: (6) Pokemon Red/Blue

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I like shorts! They’re comfy and easy to wear!

This is the list of At the Buzzer’s top 25 games of all-time, as voted on by the main ATB cast members and other friends of the show. We’re now getting serious in the top 10. For more information on how this whole thing works or for the other games on the list, check out the Related Links at the bottom of this post.

6) Pokemon Red/Blue (GB)

Chris: When I moved in eighth grade, I had to switch middle schools. I went from a big public school with a ton of friends I’d known for years to a private school across town where there were a total of 22 people in seventh and eighth grade. Combined.

pokemonredblueboxTrying to make friends from scratch was a tough proposition, but I quickly discovered that there was at least one thing quite a few of us had in common: Pokemon.

The Red/Blue phenomenon was just starting to sweep the nation around that time, and I had the advantage of owning a Game Boy and a Link Cable. That meant the world was my oyster. Need to turn that Machoke into a Machamp? I got the goods, brother. Unfortunately, I was also young and kind of dumb, so the main piece of my team was a Pikachu that knew Thundershock, Thunderbolt, Thunder and Seismic Toss. (I know, stupid. But I save at least a little bit of face by making the fourth move something that could hit Ground types, right? …Right?)

Pokemon changed portable gaming forever. Sure, you could link up and play two-player Tetris or Dr. Mario or something, but nothing like this. Pokemon encouraged players to work together, make trades to catch exclusive creatures they couldn’t find in their game, and then have their teams fight to the death. There was a certain magic to the formula that was so perfect that Game Freak has left it largely unchanged in the five generations of games since then — for better or worse. All the little details keep you coming back for more, the perfect experience on a portable system because you always want to get just one more badge, fight one more battle, catch one more Pokemon.

Red and Blue set a standard for gaming like few other series have. And if you someone managed to miss out all these years, you still have the unique opportunity to pick up Black/White or something and experience it yourself.

Shaun: In today’s day and age, we’re constantly assaulted by “Naysayers.” This group of sad, lonely individuals is quick to label everything popular as a fad, and dismiss people’s sincere affection as a misguided emotion that will only persist as long as it takes for them to come to their senses.

Well, Naysayers, when it comes to Beanie Babies, you were right.

When it comes to Poke-mania, you are dead wrong.

In fact, the fever started by Red and Blue is arguably stronger than ever. I don’t know what it is about this game, but everything about it is addictive, and appealing for different reasons. Perhaps you wanted to journey out and catch all 150 of the elusive creatures. Or maybe your emphasis was becoming the strongest trainer the world has ever known. Regardless of your mission, Red/Blue catered to you with great creature designs, and simplistic-on-the-surface RPG mechanics that blended accessibility with deeper complexities. All I know is that I will never love anything as much as my team of Charizard, Butterfree, Articuno, Lapras, Dragonite (!), and Mewtwo. Which is going to be an awkward conversation to have with my children someday, but I stand by my statement.

Maybe this is nostalgia talking, but I don’t even care: no other game has matched Red/Blue’s immaculate creature design, or featured such a strong cast of supporting characters. Gary would murder any of the other rivals in their sleep, Giovanni’s Team Rocket was the best in the series because they were sinister, but not ridiculously so (when certain villain plots in Pokemon teeter on the end of all existence, I think it’s time to reevaluate), and the gym leaders are all distinct and memorable — I don’t know if I could name a single trainer from Gold/Silver, but I can tell you all of Red/Blue’s trainers right now. In my sleep. Want me to? I’ll do it.

All of these elements came together to create THE best handheld game of all time, and one of the most influential franchises in gaming.

Don’t worry, Naysayers. You’ll always have Beanie Babies.

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MORE FROM AT THE BUZZER’S TOP 25 LIST

(7) Portal

(8) Final Fantasy VI

(9) The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

(10) Super Mario 64

(11) Kingdom Hearts II

(12) Persona 4 Golden

(13) Super Mario Bros. 3

(14) Halo

(15) The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

(16) Super Smash Bros. Melee

(17) Super Mario Galaxy 2

(18) Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

(19) Final Fantasy IX

(20) Star Fox 64

(21) The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

(22) The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

(23) Fallout 3

(24) StarCraft

(25) Bioshock

Best Games Ever: #50-26

Best Games Ever: #75-51

Best Games Ever: #100-76

Honorable Mentions

Introduction

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