Transferring Pokemon From the GBA to the Modern Games is an Insane and Convoluted Ballet

Transferring Pokemon From the GBA to the Modern Games is an Insane and Convoluted Ballet

Bringing Pokemon from Gen 3 to the new games is like delivering a breech Miltank calf: You gotta twist and pull a little.

Happy 15th anniversary to Pokemon FireRed and LeafGreen. Before Pokemon Let's Go for the Switch remade the Kanto region in living color, FireRed and LeafGreen came to the Game Boy Advance and let us experience a bright new take on 1996's Pokemon Red and Blue.

Though Pokemon's core concept hasn't changed much across its 20+ years of existence ("Catch 'em All, baby"), many of the franchise's parts have changed to accommodate players' changing tastes. The elimination of random encounters in Pokemon Let's Go is a good example. Limited resources on the Game Boy made it impossible for Game Freak to let us see a Rattata before we bumbled into it, but modern systems are more than capable of letting us observe Pokemon as they frolic in their natural habitats.

But even as Pokemon grows along with us, it's not always possible for Game Freak to go back and modernize older games like FireRed and LeafGreen. The remakes were born in an awkward time. The internet was certainly a thing by then, but the Game Boy Advance wasn't exactly internet-ready. Trading Pokemon between players was still performed with the Game Boy Advance link cable, though FireRed and LeafGreen dipped a claw into wireless tech by packing the games with the Game Boy Advance Wireless Adapter.

Nowadays, the Nintendo 3DS's built-in Wi-Fi lets people trade Pokemon with ease; the average person has their cranium pierced by atomized Bidoof data whizzing through the air at least twice a day. What about those Pokemon parked forever on your FireRed and LeafGreen cartridges, though? Is it possible to help your prized childhood Charizard "PUKE FART" ascend to 3DS games like Pokemon Sun and Moon (and presumably into Gen 8)?

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a click on an eBay link. Source: GiantBomb | Nintendo

It's possible, but the process is a Gogoat rodeo—and it's potentially expensive. The trick is to bring your beloved monsters to the Pokemon Bank, a sort of digital waystation that makes it easy to withdraw and deposit Pokemon from Wi-Fi enabled games.

The journey off the analogue plane is a harrowing one, however. Surmounting it isn't unlike watching a Magikarp make that vital leap that carries it from the seas and into the skies as a mighty Gyarados. Can you do it? Is your bond with your Pokemon friends strong enough to make the jump? We'll see.

Assemble Your Hardware (Bring Cash)

Ten-hut. In order to undergo this Great Pokemon Migration, you'll need a few vital tools:

  • Pokemon FireRed and/or LeafGreen (naturally)
  • A copy of either Pokemon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum, or Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver (all for the Nintendo DS)
  • A copy of Pokemon Black or White, or a copy of Pokemon Black 2 and White 2 (also for the Nintendo DS)
  • A Nintendo DS with a Game Boy Advance cartridge slot. In other words, you need an original Nintendo DS "phat" or a Nintendo DS Lite. The Nintendo DSi is off the table; it lacks a cartridge slot.
  • Another Nintendo DS. A 3DS or DSi is OK.
  • A 3DS with the Pokemon Bank app
  • Plenty of spare time. You need to beat the Elite Four in Pokemon Diamond / Pearl / Platinum or HeartGold and Soulsilver as well as Pokemon Black / 2 White / 2 before you can make the necessary transfers. That'll gobble up anywhere from 60 to 70 hours.
  • A Pokemon friend you love very much, and are willing to undergo this ridiculous ordeal for
'Member this fellow? He remembers you. You'll need to get re-acquainted on the road from the GBA to the Pokemon Bank. | Nintendo

If you're a Pokemon fiend, you might already have everything you need. If you have some gaps in your collecting history, prepare to hit up eBay. Thankfully, your shopping spree shouldn't bankrupt you, but you'll want to make smart purchases. A copy of Pokemon HeartGold or SoulSilver can easily reach $150 USD, but that's only if it's in-box and packed with the PokeWalker accessory (the Tamagotchi-inspired precursor to Pokemon Go). A loose copy shouldn't run you over $20 USD, and a refurbished Nintendo DS Lite shouldn't run far over $40 USD.

Used copies of Pokemon Diamond, Pearl, Platinum Black, White, Black 2 and White 2 are likewise very affordable if you're buying loose game cartridges. Just don't let your cat bat them under the couch when your back is turned. If you want to begin your journey from Pokemon FireRed or LeafGreen for some reason, be prepared to shell out over $50 USD for a loose cartridge.

These are small expenses, but they add up. All told, you might wind up spending close to—or more than—$250 USD for this great Pokemon journey. Is it worth it? Let the determined eyes of PUKE FART guide your conscience.

Don't give me that attitude. I didn't invent this drawn-out process. Source: GiantBomb | Nintendo

Upgrade to the National PokeDex

Generation 3 (which includes Pokemon Ruby, Sapphire, and Pokemon FireRed and LeafGreen) was the first to introduce Pokemon's "National PokeDex." The National PokeDex unifies the Pokemon species scattered across different regions, and you need to gain access to it if you want to bring your FireRed and LeafGreen Pokemon into the modern world.

Thankfully, you don't need FireRed or LeafGreen's National PokeDex to migrate your Pokemon from either game. Don't breathe yet, though. You need to aquire the National PokeDex in your chosen Gen 4 game, and the process is a bit of a marathon. Get fired up like a Machamp on arm day and go for it.

In Pokemon Diamond and Pearl: See all 150 Pokemon in the Sinnoh PokeDex. You don't necessarily have to catch them or fight them. Seeing is believing. Talk to Professor Rowan after you've done the thing.

In Pokemon Platinum: See all 210 Sinnoh Pokemon before talking to Professor Rowan.

In Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver: Beat the Elite Four and board the S.S. Anne to get your National PokeDex. Do not bother to look for Mew under the truck. She is not there.

...How? Source: GiantBomb | Nintendo

Do Your First Transfer

Now you're ready to bump your Pokemon up a generation. Put your copy of Pokemon FireRed or LeafGreen into your DS's Game Boy Advance cartridge slot. Put your prepped Gen 4 game of choice in the DS cartridge slot. Turn it on and choose "Migrate Pokemon" from the main menu. Select your lucky Pokemon for the trip and away they go. Just be aware they can't be sent back to Pokemon FireRed or LeafGreen. We go forward. That's the nature of growth.

Visit Pal Park to Pick Up Your Buds

You need to perform a bit of a song and dance to retrieve your Pokemon in Pokemon Diamond, Pearl, Platinum, HeartGold, or SoulSilver. Find Pal Park in your chosen Gen 4 game. It's on Route 221 in Pokemon Diamond / Pearl / Platinum, and in Fuchsia City in Pokemon HeartGold / SoulSilver.

In Pal Park, Professor Oak explains how the process works. You basically have to run around Pal Park, encounter your transferred Pokemon, and throw a PokeBall at them so they can again know the agony of captivity.

PUKE FART's migration from his old analogue backyard to the sweeping digital savannah is almost done. Almost.

Bump Your Pokemon into Gen 5

Now it's your second DS's time to shine. In Pokemon Black, White, Black 2, or White 2, visit the Pokemon Transfer Lab on Route 15 and talk to the staff. When you've received your instructions, enable Wireless Play.

Make sure the DS containing your Gen 4 game is on. Choose "Download Play" from the DS or 3DS's main menu. Look for the ID number of your Gen 5 game and agree to the download. Choose the Pokemon you want to move into Pokemon Black, White, Black 2, or White 2. Again, this is a one-way trip. Growth, going forward, and all that.

When the transfer is done, you need to play another mini-game to officially bring your Chosen Ones into Gen 5. Thankfully, you don't have to rustle them from the wild this time. Just throw PokeBalls with your stylus and nab whichever Pokemon you want to transfer. Uncaught Pokemon dissolve into brightly-colored puddles—just kidding. They go back to Gen 4.

Your caught Pokemon are automatically transferred to your Black / 2 White / 2 PC boxes.

Uhhh will this be on the test? | Nintendo

Use the Poké Transporter Tool to Transfer Your Pokemon to the Pokemon Bank and Start Fighting

Alternatively, you can just eat a big sandwich and take a nap.

Whatever you decide, be assured you're in the home stretch. For the final step, you need a 3DS equipped with the Pokemon Bank App and a copy of the free Poké Transporter app (you should receive the option to download it when you download the Pokemon Bank). Use the Poké Transporter to ship your Pokemon from Gen 5 to the Pokemon Bank. From there, you can pull and deposit them as needed.

Congratulations to you and PUKE FART. What a gongshow. Is all the effort and money worth it just to modernize a silly digital monster, though?

'Course it is. Yes, the rigamarole you undergo to transfer your Pokemon from Gen 3 to the Pokemon Bank is borderline insane, but people have done it, and they continue to do it. Starter Pokemon are as precious as pets, plus they eat far less and don't bother you to use the bathroom at the freezing hour just before dawn.

The fifteen-year journey from Pokemon FireRed and LeafGreen isn't elegant, but it's still a remarkable work-around given the platforms it spans and the technology it gradually introduces from generation to generation. Pokemon's been around since we slipped game cartridges into portable systems with black and white screens, and now it's thriving in this world of accessible Wi-Fi, high speed internet, and GPS. It's practically a miracle we can reach back as far as FireRed and LeafGreen and pull our pals into the hyper-connected present.

(Special thanks to Thonky)

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Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve,, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

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