Pokémon Sword and Shield are out in the wild now, and despite garnering negative reactions from some fans because of a limited Pokédex, the games have earned a lot of positive reviews and also become the fastest-selling Nintendo Switch titles to date. So what’s next for the franchise?
With the Pokémon franchise having been around for decades, there is plenty of past form for us to consider here. There are a few obvious options that might hold clues as to what Game Freak, Nintendo, and The Pokémon Company could have in store for their core critter-catching RPG franchise going forward.
We put our thinking hats on and came up with a few logical options that may or may not prove to be accurate. But for now, these are the best guesses we’ve got as to where the Pokémon franchise is going…
Big Updates to Sword and Shield
To start with a bit of a curveball, let’s consider this: in the years since we last received new mainline entries in the Pokémon franchise, it has become a lot more stylish for games to have post-launch support in the form of DLC, live services, season passes, and other such mechanics that keep a game going for a decent period of time.
Could Game Freak try to take Sword and Shield down this path, adding more elements to the games over a year or more to keep us engaged with the Galar region for longer? Could the developers even follow the lead of certain fans by adding extra Pokémon into Sword and Shield to complete that controversial Pokédex? A big update could be interesting, but it would also be a departure to the previous form of the franchise.
Sequels to Sword and Shield
Ever since Pokémon Yellow remixed Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue, this has become something of a tradition: each new generation of Pokémon games tends to get some form of a sequel. It could be a standalone title that blends its predecessors together (like Pokémon Yellow) or another pair of games that keep the story going (like Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, which followed Sun and Moon).
If the team at Game Freak is sticking to it old playbook, then it might be wise to put money on some form of sequel to Sword and Shield appearing on shop shelves a little ways down the road. Some extra Pokémon, a couple of new features, and a slightly different story are normally what you’d expect from such a release.
Give Gold and Silver the “Let’s Go” Treatment
Between the major new entries in the franchise, Game Freak has a tendency to keep the Pokémon fandom engaged by releasing snazzy new remakes of our old favorites. The last of these projects resulted in Pokémon Let’s Go: Eevee and Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu, which were Nintendo Switch reimaginings of the Generation 1 experience. After revisiting Kanto with Pikachu and Eevee, it seems sensible to assume that a trip to Johto could be on the cards next.
This would mean revisiting Generation 2 – which consisted of Pokémon Gold and Silver and the sequel Crystal – on the Nintendo Switch, giving Chikorita, Cyndaquil, and Totodile a chance to shine with modern graphics and features. This would also allow a new generation of players to experience the thrilling twist at the end of Gold and Silver – you also get to surf over to Kanto to tackle the original eight gyms in a whole new way.
Remake X and Y Instead?
It would mean breaking the sequence of remaking the Pokémon games in order, but there are reasons why revisiting Pokémon X and Y would make a lot of sense right now. It would make more sense, in fact, than jumping back to the Gold and Silver era.
This is because X and Y were set in Kalos, a region of the Pokémon world that was based on France. And since Sword and Shield‘s Galar region is based on the UK, we’re only a Pokémon version of the Eurostar away from popping over to Kalos. Wouldn’t it be cool to move between Galar and Kalos and connect up different generations of Pokémon games?
A popular fan theory, now debunked, predicted that the France-like Kalos region would be accessible in Sword and Shield. But since that didn’t end up happening, we’ll just have to hope for a Nintendo Switch remake of X and Y instead. A project like this could serve as a classic-game remake and a Sword and Shield sequel at the same time. And also, since X and Y never got a sequel, the Kalos region is well overdue some attention.
And finally, it’s worth considering what the next wave of Pokémon games might do differently to the ones we’ve played before. As much as it’s fun to guess what the next games will be called, perhaps it’s more interesting to ponder what sorts of gameplay experiences they’ll offer. Is there a big change on the horizon, or is this franchise stuck in the past?
Ever since The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild came out and revolutionized what a Zelda game could be, fans have been hoping for a Pokémon game that will give Game Freak’s franchise a similarly massive overhaul. The Let’s Go games took some steps in promising directions (putting wild Pokémon in the over-world) and Sword and Shield do too (allowing players to move the camera in the mini-open-world of the Wild Area), but the turn-based combat remains the same, the towns feel tiny, and the character models are still more cartoonish than anything. Some things have changed, but other facets of the Pokémon experience have stayed the same as they’ve always been.
Here’s hoping, whatever the title on the box of the next Pokémon RPG game might be, that Game Freak continues to add new ideas and grow the scope of what this franchise can do.