What we want from the next mainline Pokémon game

Pokemon Sword Shield Pikachu
Pokemon Sword Shield Pikachu (Image credit: iMore)

From its origins on the Game Boy to its recent outing on the Nintendo Switch, Pokémon's simple gameplay loop, adorable monsters, and its ever-expanding world have captured the hearts and minds of gamers of all ages. Whether you grew up playing the games, watching the anime, or trading Pokémon cards, Pokémon has become a seminal part of pop culture, slowly growing with every new entry and running laps around its competitors. If you don't believe me, ask anyone in their 20's to sing Pokémon's opening theme song.

As Pokémon's 25th anniversary begins to pick up steam, the Pokémon Company has promised many different ways to celebrate the occasion, including a new Pokémon Snap game (titled, well, New Pokémon Snap) and a McDonald's promotion well worth the calories. But as we await the announcement of a new mainline entry in the series, we started thinking about what we want from a new Pokémon game.

The Pokémon formula that set the world ablaze in the late 90s has admittedly not changed much since then. While some may argue that if it's not broken, don't fix it, others have been desperately waiting for Game Freak to change up the formula. Here's what we want from the next mainline Pokémon game.

A fully realized open world

The Wild Area ice sector

The Wild Area ice sector (Image credit: iMore)

When we first heard about Pokémon Sword and Shield, we were sure that the first mainline console entry of Pokémon would take full advantage of the hardware at hand and deliver a version of Pokémon that we had never seen. Mario reached a new platforming peak with Super Mario Odyssey, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild totally reimagined the series as an open-world adventure, so surely Pokémon would be the next game to receive a dramatic redesign, right?

Well, for better or worse, Sword and Shield delivered more of the same. While it was enjoyable, it did feel like Game Freak had phoned it in a little bit, and the new features didn't add much to the overall experience. Well, except for one feature — Sword and Shield's Wild Area.

While it wasn't a truly open world, the Wild Area gave us a glimpse of what a Pokémon game could be like if it received the Breath of the Wild treatment. Pokémon wandering around in their natural habitats, free to be battled as you please. What we want from a new mainline entry is for the Wild Area is to be expanded, Breath of the Wild-style. We want to hunt Pokémon far and wide and explore a fully realized region of the Pokémon world. Breaking free of the linear framework would be the shot in the arm the series needs.

Switch up the capture mechanics

Pokemon Lets Go Catching Pikachu

Pokemon Lets Go Catching Pikachu (Image credit: iMore)

Pokémon Go was a huge success when it launched in 2016 and is still massively popular today. The augmented reality game introduced a new mechanic for capturing Pokémon. No battling or feeding required, just a flick of your finger to toss a Pokéball at a prospective catch. It was simple, and it was effective. This was expanded on in Pokémon Let's Go Eevee! and Let's Go Pikachu!, which borrowed the Go mechanics to make a beginner-friendly remake of the original Pokémon game.

The change was nice, but it wasn't exactly a game-changer, and fans argued that it oversimplified the already simple capture mechanics. How can you add challenge to the act of capturing Pokémon then? By making captures a puzzle.

Bugsnax, for example, has you capturing uniquely weird insects in creative ways. Every capture was a puzzle, and you need to be clever about how you approached each bug, making use of many of your tools and even other Bugsnax. While every one of the 800+ Pokémon doesn't need a puzzle to solve, adding this extra step would be a neat way to switch up the gameplay and really immerse the player into the Pokémon world.

Give us a real story already!

Pokemon Sword and Shield

Pokemon Sword and Shield (Image credit: Nintendo)

Older Pokémon fans may remember the Pokémon Colosseum games on the Nintendo GameCube. These games broke away from the traditional games by focusing on story and battling. Looking back, it was a flawed experience, but it was one that gave us a glimpse at what a story-based Pokémon game could look like.

Pokémon plot is mostly the same; you set out from your hometown to catch 'em all and become the next great Pokémon Master, traveling across the region to collect badges until you qualify for the Elite Four. You're accompanied by a rival, who is working towards the same goal as you, and you'll stumble upon some nefarious evildoer trying to use Pokémon for bad things. What if they made that B-plot the main plot?

We've been battling to be the best for twenty-five years now, but what if we were fighting for something deeper or more personal? What if Pokémon was ready to have a mature storyline that other RPGs enjoy? It doesn't have to be a world-ending event, but the addition of a serious plot with real stakes could infuse the overall adventure with more character. A story as memorable as our favorite Pokémon? Sign us up.

We can always dream, right?

Pokémon has proven itself to be much more than a fad. As competitors come and go, Pokémon remains an unstoppable juggernaut of a franchise, and it shows no signs of slowing down. While we may seem critical of the long-running franchise, it's only because we love it so dearly. The Pokemon games are some of the best games available on the Nintendo Switch, and we can't wait to play the next entry in the series. We just hope that Game Freak takes our suggestions to heart.

Now we open the floor to our fellow Pokemon fans. What would you like to see in the next Pokemon mainline game? Let us know in the comments.

Zackery Cuevas

Zackery Cuevas is a writer for Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore. He likes playing video games, talking about video games, writing about video games, and most importantly, complaining about video games. If you're cool, you can follow me on Twitter @Zackzackzackery.