Happy Anniversary to Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, the Worst Games in the Pokémon Series

NADIA used BACKTRACK! "Look, I'm not saying, they're bad, they're just boring."

Opinion by Nadia Oxford, .

Today, Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire for the Game Boy Advance celebrate their 15th (North American) anniversary. The official start of Pokémon's third generation introduced two-versus-two Pokémon battles, weather conditions, and two new legendary Pokémon: The temperamental Groudon and its eternal rival, Kyogre.

Despite being a big Pokémon fan back then (probably a bigger fan than any 23-year-old had a right to be), I didn't find myself smitten by Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire outside of its full-color graphics. Pokémon Gold and Silver are a huge leap over Red and Blue, but Ruby and Sapphire fails to make similarly wide strides over Gold and Silver.

Treecko used Stop Traffic! But it didn't work and he died.

For better or worse, Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire showed us what Pokémon's single-player formula is destined to be forever n' ever. Amen. I remember one reviewer complained about how Ruby and Sapphire lacks imagination (if you think complaining about Starter Pokémon's supposed unoriginality is a modern exercise, oh boy, do I have news for you), and they wondered if the Pokémon hype train was finally screeching to a halt. Big "No" on that one. Still, at the time, I wondered if maybe I'd outgrown Pokémon.

Luckily, Diamond and Pearl came along for the Nintendo DS about five years later and beefed up its single player campaign with Super Contests that let you show off how amazing Pokémon are at dancing. Also, Diamond and Pearl introduced Wi-Fi Pokémon battles. No matter how you feel about competitive Pokémon battling, that is a big deal.

"Where we're moving, we don't need roads."

Though Ruby and Sapphire presented a stumbling block, I've since come to appreciate Pokémon's single-player experience. More accurately, I've come to appreciate how Pokémon games' unique settings and interesting story points enhance the traditional challenge to become the Very Best. I really like how Pokémon Sun and Moon's Island Kahunas shake up the "Eight Gyms and Elite Four" pilgrimage, but I'd be OK with going back to basics if I have cool characters to talk to, and cool locations to explore. Ruby and Sapphire have neither of those, in my opinion (with the exception of Wally, who is a good boy who tries very hard and then demolishes you at the endgame).

Coarse. Rough. Gets everywhere.

Though I thought I just needed to look at Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire through a time-tunnel of ten years, returning to a new and improved Hoenn via Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire for the Nintendo 3DS still didn't endear me to the region very much. For all the flack IGN gets for the "too much water" remark it made in its review of the games, I understand the criticism: Hoenn is waterlogged, and having to call up your Lapras (and watch an animation) every time you want to cross a puddle is as much fun as licking the bottom half of a Trubbish.

While I think I've listed good reasons why Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire are the most "Meh" entries in the series, I recognize the games mark a lot of fans' first dip into Pokémon. That'd make Ruby and Sapphire special by default. If you're one of those people, I see you, and I salute you. I straight-up don't understand your generation's obsession with Hoenn's horns, though. Oh, GBA sound chip. You tried your best.

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Comments 20

  • Avatar for alexirish93 #1 alexirish93 6 months ago
    "Diamond and Pearl came along for the Nintendo DS about five years later and beefed up its single player campaign with Contests that let you show off how cool and amazing your Pokémon are."
    But...Ruby and Sapphire had those first...
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  • Avatar for nadiaoxford #2 nadiaoxford 6 months ago
    @alexirish93 You're right! I changed that to "Super Contests," since Pearl and Diamond's amazing dance shows were at the forefront of my mind when I wrote about the contests.
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  • Avatar for odaiba-memorial #3 odaiba-memorial 6 months ago
    "The worst games in the series."

    Thank you! People look at me when I'm nuts when I talk about Ruby and Sapphire like that. Glad I'm not the only one.Edited March 2018 by odaiba-memorial
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #4 MHWilliams 6 months ago
  • Avatar for MetManMas #5 MetManMas 6 months ago
    There were things I liked about Gen 3 (I'm a big fan of underwater exploration for one thing), but it definitely felt like a weaker entry in the series, despite being the origin point for dual battles and abilities.

    I'm sure not being able to bring over Pokémon from Gen 2 and not being able to get many Gen 1 & 2 monsters until Colosseum, XD, and Fire Red/Leaf Green soured people on the games, too.
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  • Avatar for Macuelos #6 Macuelos 6 months ago
    Hoenn is definitely in my lowest tier for regions, and "7.8 too much water" was the reason years before I had ever seen the IGN review. For a completionist like me, someone who wants to collection all of the treasure *pump fist in the air* having to deal with surfing up and down the very wide water routes searching for treasure was an absolute pain. I was too cheap for Repels back then, so I had to deal with Tentacool and Wingull every few seconds. At least the music in Hoenn was amazing.

    At least ΩRΑS changed some things, I really love the new-and-improved PokéNav and searching for shaking grass or whatever it had to get Mons with Egg Moves, Hidden Abilities, and increased shiny chance.

    ...I'll still never forgive Hoenn for letting me meet a shiny Poochyena before obtaining Pokéballs, though.Edited March 2018 by Macuelos
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  • Avatar for PreposterousWhitey #7 PreposterousWhitey 6 months ago
    Preach Nadia! Was also let down by the legendaries, and frankly a lot of the common Pokemon designs. Especially with a lot of the cave-and-grass fodder types, which forced you to look at the same subpar designs dozens of times in any given dungeon.

    And the water really was too much. I say that as someone whose favorite type is water, no less. Plus the removal of the revolutionary real-time clock from GSC was a huge let down.

    My gen rankings:
    3Edited March 2018 by PreposterousWhitey
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  • Avatar for JamesSwiftDay #8 JamesSwiftDay 6 months ago
    Ruby and Sapphire was the beginning of diminishing returns for the franchise. I was a giant fan of the series before this game but since then I only dip my toe in once in a while (Diamond & Pearl, X&Y) but not much has changed each time I do.
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  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #9 LBD_Nytetrayn 6 months ago
    ...all I'm saying is that if they don't have Littens, then I find them all lacking.
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  • Avatar for Mr.Spo #10 Mr.Spo 6 months ago
    Yeah, having played since the first generation I'd have to agree - it left me a little cold on its original release. I enjoyed the remake more, but don't have a soft spot for it the way a lot of people do. Generation 2 was such a huge leap; but to be fair to Ruby/Sapphire, has Pokemon as a series had such a huge step-up since then? Admittedly I'm not up to date (haven't done any of the Sun/Moon games), but even with big presentational changes and streamlining in X/Y, nothing's ever matched gen 2 for me - especially the scope of the post-game content (leaving metagame/competitive gaming aside).
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  • Avatar for riderkicker #11 riderkicker 6 months ago
    Edited March 2018 by riderkicker
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  • Avatar for Minkukel #12 Minkukel 6 months ago
    I don't really see what Gens I, II and IV had over III.

    Gen I was glitchy and often poorly thought out.

    Gen II has the worst singleplayer in any mainline Pokémon. The Elite 4 is very low-leveled, and there's no stronger versions of them after you beat Kanto, so you're left with no real climax to the game. After you waltz over the Kanto gym leaders, all you have left is to grind your Pokémon 20 more levels to take on Red.

    Gen IV, then, added almost nothing to the formula except the physical/special split. I mean, Super Contests...I've never heard anyone care about those, and they're nothing more than variations on Gen IIIs contests. The underground was nice, but that's hardly that exciting. That, and Diamond and Pearl were soooooo sloooooow.

    Gen great, actually.

    Gen VI and VII meanwhile are quite a bit too easy (especially VI), and have characters that never shut up while also not really saying anything.

    Gen III might not be the biggest step a franchise has ever taken from one game to the next, but it is the most well thought out one when it comes to difficulty balance and the likes.
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  • Avatar for yuberus #13 yuberus 6 months ago
    Ah, the game that killed my huge interest in Pokémon. I tried with Leafgreen and Pearl (and HeartGold) but man... just never got me hooked again. The steps back in gameplay and the awful map just did nothing to endear me, and I couldn't transfer my Pokémon from Silver! Ugh.
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  • Avatar for TheWildCard #14 TheWildCard 6 months ago
    I've never played the original Ruby and Sapphire, but I love Emerald and quite enjoyed the 3DS remakes. In fact I think it has my favorite campaign in the series (low bar I know). Not sure why but there's something about the map and the pacing that I like about the region. And while it may not have as many outward new ideas, but how it handled stats was a pretty important step in creating the more solid foundation of modern pokemon games. And come on, the set of starter pokemon are the strongest outside of gen 1! I know lot of people dislike it just due to the fact you couldn't transfer their pokemon from the older games to it, but that never bothered me since I only played it after binging the gen 4 games in college.
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  • Avatar for Leo14444 #15 Leo14444 6 months ago
    Deleted September 4000 by Unknown
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #16 Roto13 6 months ago
    @Hoolo The reaction to that IGN review of the remakes was so weird to me. People were upset because the reviewer said there was too much water. Dudes, the originals had too much water. It was a problem then, it was completely believable (and turned out to be true) that there would be too much water in the remakes.

    I still think Diamond and Pearl are the worst Pokemon games, though. Whatever problems Ruby and Sapphire have, Diamond and Pearl's battles are so excruciatingly slow that I can't stand to play them now. Supposedly Platinum speeds the battle system up a bit like the Gold and Silver remakes, so that one is probably fine.
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  • Avatar for nickpeterson #17 nickpeterson 6 months ago
    Wtf are talking most hated about thoses 3 inculding emarld were some of the best games in the series interesting pokemon lots of serects cool thinks to do every one i know loved them
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  • Avatar for Soniccomment #18 Soniccomment 6 months ago
    Nope, nuh-uh, wrong(bah opinions). Of all the games I played(up until XY), Diamond and Pearl were the worst by far. Screw your stupid slow-moving snow, what an absolutely idiotic idea. Worst roster of new pokémon ever, including starters; I couldn't even find a full party of 6 that I liked and that is pathetic. Never heard anybody care about those contests. I'm not a genwunner by any stretch as I believe B&W had one of the best set of new monsters.
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  • Avatar for Macuelos #19 Macuelos 6 months ago
    @Roto13 Diamond and Pearl had more problems than just a slow battle system (which I forget because I only ever go back to Platinum). There's also a severe lack of some types, resulting in Gym Leaders/Elite Four with only 2 out of 4 Pokémon of their preferred type. At least the region was mostly interesting, as opposed to Hoenn. If anything, ΩRΑS improved the water routes, letting you surf at 2x speed with a Sharpedo (but only with Sharpedo, I think). It's still a pain in RSE though.
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  • Avatar for odaiba-memorial #20 odaiba-memorial 5 months ago
    @Minkukel Gen II's single-player campaign is far from the worst. It's probably better if you think of it as two separate games that got combined into one (as the Kanto sections weren't originally planned to be included). The game climaxes with the Elite Four, and everything after that is just gravy.

    At the time, Gen II was mind-blowing. Full color, almost double the amount of Pokemon, being able to explore Kanto again, backwards-capable trading with the previous games, two new types to fix Gen I's biggest strategic balancing issue (i.e. overpowered Psychic types), the addition of Pokemon genders and breeding, a complete overhaul of the inventory system, shinies, the PokeGear allowing to re-fight trainers you've already defeated, Pokemon swarms, and internal clock with day, night, and week cycles that affected wild Pokemon encounters and in-game events, splitting the Special stat into two which completely rebalanced some Pokemon entirely, equipping items to your Pokemon, the Pokemon Friendship mechanic... There was a LOT of new shit in Gold and Silver.

    If Gen I was the prototype, Gen II was the final product. In my opinion, the franchise has never seen a leap quite that large, proportionally. Every generation after that just seemed to be refining and adding to what Gen II already perfected. Gen III and IV, especially, represent the least significant jumps in quality the franchise has seen to date. Edited 3 times. Last edited March 2018 by odaiba-memorial
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  • Avatar for Leo14444 #21 Leo14444 5 months ago
    Deleted March 2018 by Leo14444
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  • Avatar for Dpullam #22 Dpullam 5 months ago
    I imagine the new revisions of these titles are alot better on Nintendo eDS now. Everything about the games I have seen make them look like pretty solid entries. To be fair though, I am not much of a Pokemon guy.
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