Of all the new Pokémon games out this year, the one I’m most excited for isn’t new at all. It’s, in fact, the first game I ever fell in love with, a game I’ve sunk hours and hours into, played until its literal death: Pokémon Silver, which is heading to Nintendo 3DS eShop on Sept. 22.
Pokémon Silver — and its partner game, Pokémon Gold — ranks highly on the lengthy list of games in the franchise, and it’s also near the top of my own favorites. I’ve got plenty of personal bias here, if we want to talk about it, but let’s take a look at the facts. By almost all objective measures, these Game Boy Color games represent the best of what Pokémon has to offer. Their upcoming, current-gen debut, courtesy of the 3DS Virtual Console, is at once a small re-release and a major cause for celebration.
Pokémon Gold and Silver comprise the second generation of Pokémon games, along with their shinier cousin, Pokémon Crystal. When they launched in Japan in 1999, they were revolutionary. Just three years after making Pokémon Red, Blue and Green, Game Freak iterated on nearly every element of the series.
Here’s a brief rundown of what Pokémon Gold and Silver introduced to the franchise:
- A real-time, day and night cycle
- Male- and female-gendered Pokémon
- The ability to breed Pokémon
- Baby Pokémon
- Held items
- Shiny Pokémon
- Dual-typing for Pokémon
- Steel- and Dark-type Pokémon
- Friendship/happiness-based evolution
- Tracking how many experience points a Pokémon needs to level up
Those are all significant additions, and it’s difficult to imagine Pokémon games without many of them. Perhaps modern players take them for granted, in fact, which makes now the best time for Gold and Silver to return.
There’s at least one feature completely unique to Pokémon’s second generation games, though. (Spoilers for a 17-year-old game ahead.) After players traversed all of Johto, the games’ primary setting, and defeated the Pokémon League, they were given another task: They had to return to Kanto, where the original Pokémon games took place, and collect another full set of badges.
Pokémon Gold and Silver not only contained a complete original game, but it absorbed its predecessor, reimagining its unforgettable world. This makes it twice as long as any other Pokémon game — it’s the definition of the ideal post-game. Game Freak has bizarrely never attempted to introduce this concept into any Pokémon game since, leaving Gold and Silver as the lone titles with such an expansive adventure at the fore.
The legacy of Gold and Silver is not lost on longtime fans. When The Pokémon Company released the Nintendo DS remakes Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver in 2009, they received rave reviews and went on to sell nearly 13 million copies. The remakes fetch higher resale prices than nearly any other major Pokémon game; should you find a copy of one of them at GameStop, it will set you back $49.99 — and that’s for a pre-owned one. (These games originally cost $29.99 new.)
When Gold and Silver are out on eShop this fall, they’ll have several benefits that only modern hardware can provide. They’ll be available at a much lower price point typical of Virtual Console games. They’ll never have their batteries die out, unlike the original cartridges, so players can continue to play in real time ad infinitum. And they’ll make use of the Pokémon Bank app, so that second-gen Pokémon can carry over to newer titles, like November’s newly announced Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon.
Yes, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are intended as the true marquee Pokémon titles for 2017. But it’s hard to get as excited about them when compared to Gold and Silver’s re-release. The Pokémon Company hasn’t said much about these Sun and Moon retellings yet, but heading back into versions of games still fresh on my mind is admittedly less compelling than the chance to head back into a world I first fell in love with 17 years ago.
Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon will likely be rewarding experiences, to be sure. But Gold and Silver are tried and true, and the only Pokémon games out this year that I already know are essential for all fans.
Update (Sept. 22): Pokémon Gold and Pokémon Silver are now available in the Nintendo 3DS eShop. Each game costs $9.99.