Created by Satoshi Tajiri and Ken Sugimori, the Pokemon series started off with the smallest of beginnings before skyrocketing to international fame. The first two titles were released in Japan in 1996 for the original Game Boy console, and the franchise's success has only ballooned ever since.
Though many fans have played the games in their order of release as Game Freak produces them, there is in fact an overarching chronological story to each offering. It may not be readily apparent, but small details left in each major title point out events that have already transpired. This can include the mentioning of certain creatures, events, or characters that appeared in previous entries.
While the timeline can be a little muddled, now seems like a good time to refresh players on the sequence of events between each game and generation.
The story order of Pokemon's core series
1) Pokemon Legends: Arceus
Announced on the franchise's 25th anniversary, Legends: Arceus broke the mold in many ways with respect to gameplay. It takes place in the Hisui region, which was the original name of the Sinnoh region for many years.
Players take on the role of a modern-day character (canonically known as Rei or Akari) who is jettisoned into ancient Hisui due to the machinations of the Pokemon deity Arceus. There, they begin to make friends with the inhabitants of Jubilife village and conduct research on Pocket Monsters seen throughout Hisui.
Above the central mountain of Hisui is a large temporal disturbance, and players are tasked with investigating this phenomenon. The events ultimately lead to a showdown with Arceus and Sinnoh/Hisui's Creation Trio of Dialga, Palkia, and Giratina.
2) Pokemon Red/Green/Blue/Yellow, Pokemon FireRed/LeafGreen
Considered the central point of the larger franchise timeline, Pokemon Red and Green, along with the updated Blue and Yellow versions, were the games that started the series.
Players control the protagonist (named Red in the canon) who starts his journey in Pallet Town by selecting one of three different Pokemon (Charmander in the canon timeline). He aims to capture all original 151 creatures in the Kanto region and become the League Champion.
Along the way, Red battles his rival Blue, who is Professor Oak's grandson, as well as the sinister Team Rocket organization led by Giovanni. By the end of the story in these initial games, Red reaches his dream of becoming a Pokemon Master, and his exploits would come to be mentioned in several titles that take place after.
Later on, Game Freak went on to re-issue the Red and Green versions with upgraded visuals with the Game Boy Advance titles FireRed and LeafGreen, though these titles largely follow the same story as their originals. However, these remakes introduced a female protagonist opposite Red named Leaf.
3) Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald, Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire
The titles taking place in the Hoenn region such as Pokemon Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald rank among the fanbase's favorites. However, according to core series scenario writer Toshinobu Matsumiya, they take place at the same time as Red's adventures in Generation I. However, Matsumiya stated that this is because the Hoenn titles take place in a different universe.
The Generation III games and their remakes, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, follow the protagonists (canonically known as Brendan and May) moving to the Hoenn region and charting out their adventures.
Along the way, they battle each other as rivals and stop the devious machinations of Team Magma and Aqua. The two wish to reshape the face of the world and cover it in land and sea, respectively.
Eventually, the two protagonists awaken the primal Pokemon Groudon and Kyogre, who begin to battle for supremacy. After awakening the legendary creature Rayquaza, Brendan and May halt the ensuing environmental disaster.
The remakes Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire follow roughly the same premise, but provide Primal Forms to Groudon and Kyogre while also implementing the Mega Evolution phenomenon.
4) Pokemon Let's GO Pikachu/Eevee!
These two Nintendo Switch titles are considered quite the oddity in the larger Pokemon story, as they initially seem like remakes of Pokemon Yellow (though trainers who purchase Let's Go Eevee! receive an Eevee as a starter instead of Pikachu). However, things get a little weird when Red and Blue from Generation I make an appearance.
The Let's Go! protagonists Chase and Elaine follow in the two trainers' footsteps almost beat for beat. However, it is revealed that Red has resigned from his post as League Champion while Blue regales players with the history of their rivalry. Does this mean the Let's Go games take place after Generation I, or are they in a separate universe like the Hoenn titles?
So far, there's been little confirmation on the subject. For the time being, it appears Let's Go! certainly takes place after Generation I, but the finer details are unclear at best.
5) Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal, HeartGold/SoulSilver
Taking place approximately three years after Red's adventure through Kanto, Pokemon Gold, Silver, and Crystal are set in the Johto region.
The protagonists Ethan and Kris are inhabitants of New Bark Town. They set out into the world of Pokemon after being sent on a delivery by Professor Oak to his hometown friend Professor Elm. During this time, a red-haired youth named Silver breaks into Professor Elm's lab, and steals a Pocket Monster on a revenge mission to take down the remnants of Team Rocket.
As Ethan and Kris take the Pokemon League challenge, they battle Silver on multiple occasions as well as the remnants of Team Rocket in Johto. After capturing the legendary Lugia/Ho-Oh and the trio Entei, Suicune, and Raikou, Ethan and Kris become League Champions of Johto.
However, the story doesn't end there as the two depart for Kanto to take the region's league challenge as well. This ultimately leads to a final battle on Mt. Silver between the protagonist and Red, who has seemingly stepped down as the champion and has gone into isolation from the trainer community.
The Generation IV remakes HeartGold and SoulSilver follow the same story conventions, but with improved visuals, new species from outside the Johto region via transfers, and a new female protagonist named Lyra.
According to Matsumia, these remakes are in an alternate timeline that take place at the same time that the games Pokemon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum do.
6) Pokemon Diamond/Pearl/Platinum, Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl
Returning back to the Hisui region (now known by the name Sinnoh) after several years, Pokemon Diamond, Pearl and Platinum follows the exploits of the trainers Lucas and Dawn, who are the protagonists of the game.
Beginning their journey after watching news of the Red Gyarados of the Lake of Rage seen in Generation II, Lucas and Dawn undertake the Sinnoh league challenge.
They do this while battling their rival Barry and the devious Team Galactic, who aim to summon the legendary creatures Dialga and Palkia that created time and space long ago. Fortunately, the legendary Lake Trio of Uxie, Mesprit, and Azelf appear to prevent Sinnoh from being overwhelmed.
In the Platinum version, Lucas and Dawn are also drawn into a battle with Giratina, master of the Distortion World, after the creature captures Team Galactic's leader, Cyrus. Ultimately, the two overcome their challenges and become masters and League Champions in their own right.
The remakes Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl for Nintendo Switch follow the same events. However, they provide much more advanced in-game technology when compared to their predecessors, along with new locations such as the Grand Underground.
It remains unclear if these remakes take place in a different universe like some others, or if they are retcons of the original Generation IV titles. However, one thing that is certain is that they occour approximately three years after Red's adventure.
7) Pokemon Black/White
Somewhat murkily placed in the official timeline, Pokemon Black and White versions take place in the Unova region and follow the exploits of the trainers Hilbert and Hilda.
Much like the trainers before them, they set out into the region to become masters and champions. However, these two encounter the seemingly noble Team Plasma that believes in freedom for all Pocket Monsters.
Unfortunately, Team Plasma's means to achieve liberation involves taking over the world. After their fall, the trainers battle the team's Seven Sages co-founder Ghestis, who aims to use Team Plasma to his own ends.
Alongside the legendary dragons Reshiram and Zekrom, Ghestis is defeated and trainers return home to Nuvema Town. However, the character Looker tasks Hilbert and Hilda with stamping out Team Plasma's remaining Seven Sages.
During this final undertaking, the two trainers make their way to the Giant Chasm, leading to a battle with the Pokemon Kyurem that can splice its DNA with Reshiram and Zekrom.
The Forces of Nature Landorus, Thundurus, and Tornadus can also be captured in Unova during inclement weather that begins to crop up. In the final moments, the trainer Cynthia, Sinnoh's Champion, faces off against Hilbert/Hilda and remarks that they remind her of young versions of Lucas/Dawn.
Given the technological advancements in the world compared to Diamond/Pearl/Platinum, Black and White clearly take place after the Generation IV titles, though it's unclear as to just how many years the two are separated by.
8) Pokemon Black 2/White 2, Pokemon X/Y
Taking place two years after the events of the original Black/White games, Black and White 2 are two of the few true sequels to a previous game in the timeline aside from Gold/Silver/Crystal.
Players fill the shoes of new trainer protagonists Nate and Rosa as they undertake their gym challenges and quests to become masters like many trainers before them.
However, two years have passed, and there have been some notable changes. These include gym leaders Brycen and Lenora stepping down from their posts, Iris becoming League Champion, and Team Plasma giving up their world domination plans. Despite this, some of the former Seven Sages stand in the trainers' way, though some like Rood aim to help instead.
Players technically have a "rival" character in Hugh, but he's not determined to become League Champion. He instead aims to recover a Pocket Monster from Team Plasma, who still have some sinister elements despite their alleged disbanding.
It becomes apparent that Ghestis has succeeded in overtaking Team Plasma and successfully capturing Kyurem, with Nate and Rosa being driven to free the dragon Pokemon. With Team Plasma's ultimate downfall, the two trainers continue on their journey and become League Champions.
During the World Championship, Red and Blue return for the first time since Generation II as participants in the Champions Tournament. However, they look roughly the same age as they did in FireRed/LeafGreen.
While Nate and Rosa were battling across Unova, another adventure was underway in the Kalos region, according to Toshinobu Matsumiya. This is where Pokemon X and Y come into play, allegedly part of a universe known as the Mega Universe, where the phenomenon of Mega Evolution has been discovered.
The trainer protagonists in these titles are Calem and Serena, who are undertaking the region's league challenge while combating the sinister Team Flare.
After an ultimate weapon was utilized to end a war in Kalos 3,000 years before the games' events, Team Flare's leader Lysandre imprisons AZ. The latter is the former King of Kalos, who used the ultimate weapon to revive his fallen Floette and end the ancient war.
Using the power of the powerful Legendary Pokemon Xerneas and Yveltal, Calem and Serena manage to stop the ultimate weapon's destructive potential and reunite AZ with his beloved Floette, bringing peace across the Kalos region.
9) Pokemon Sun/Moon, Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon
While Pokemon Sun, Moon, Ultra Sun, and Ultra Moon had their fair share of criticisms, there's no denying how significant they are to the franchise's broader timeline.
The games take place in the Polynesian-inspired Alola region and follow the characters Elio and Selene. The two are on a quest to defeat the Kahunas of each island in Alola, the equivalent of the championship challenge found in other regions. Along the way they meet a young girl named Lillie attempting to protect the legendary creature Cosmog.
As the protagonists adventure through Alola, defeating Totem Pokemon, their rival Hau, the Kahunas, and the goofy but determined Team Skull, a wormhole opens from Ultra Space and unleashes the otherworldly Ultra Beasts.
The Aether Foundation, originally appearing to be a beneficial organization determined to heal and protect Pocket Monsters, is driven to a power-hungry ambition due to the appearance of the Ultra Beasts. Cosmog eventually reaches its full power and becomes Solgaleo/Lunala. The Legendary Pokemon Necrozma appears as well, bringing darkness to Alola.
With the assistance of the Ultra Recon Team, Elio and Selene enter Ultra Space and defeat/capture Necrozma. In do so, they save Alola from the overwhelming darkness.
Once they become League Champions, the two protagonists enter the Battle Tree competition and encounter an older Red and Blue, who were invited to be bosses of the tree. After being defeated, Red bestows Elio and Selene with Mega Stones for Blastoise, Charizard, and Venusaur.
As Elio and Selene assist the Ultra Recon Team in rounding up the final Ultra Beasts, they return home to rest before disaster strikes again in the form of Team Rainbow Rocket.
Giovanni and Team Rainbow Rocket, which is comprised of multiple villains from across the timeline, overtake the mansion of the Aether Foundation's Lusamine. They aim to create an army of Ultra Beasts to dominate the many universes revealed in the Alolan games' story.
Fortunately, Elio and Selene manage to stop Team Rainbow Rocket, but Giovanni teleports to a new universe, beaten but not broken.
The most major significance in the Sun/Moon's debut is the confirmation that multiple universes exist within the franchise's canon. This explains why certain remakes and spin-offs feature more advanced technology and mechanics like Mega Evolution while their predecessors did not.
This also undoubtedly convolutes the timeline somewhat. However, the Alola region games did a fairly good job of explaining the differences between universes even if they didn't fill every plot hole.
10) Pokemon Sword and Shield
Another reboot of sorts similar to X and Y, Sword and Shield takes place in the Galar region but is quite difficult to place in the official timeline.
Players assume the role of young trainers, canonically known as Victor and Gloria. The two adventure through the Galar region to become champions and investigate the unusual Gigantamax phenomenon that sees Pokemon become supersized and powerful.
Players are joined by their friend and rival, Hop, who is the younger brother of the Galar champion Leon, on their journey. Along the way, they are beset upon by Team Yell, who aim to make the Dark-type trainer Marnie the League Champion by any means necessary.
The Macro Cosmos organization also stands in Victor and Gloria's way, who awaken the vicious Legendary Pokemon Eternatus to solve a future energy crisis. However, it begins a rampage of destruction, and is discovered to be the source of the energy causing Gigantamax transformations.
With the assistance of the heroic Pocket Monsters of Galar, Zacian, and Zamazenta, the protagonists manage to defeat Eternatus and end the Macro Cosmos crisis.
Victor and Gloria then proceed to complete the Galar league challenge and defeat Leon, becoming the undisputed champions of the region. After defeating Hop one final time, the two head back out into the world after the former declares his intent to become a professor.
While it's unclear how long the timeline has elapsed between the previous games and Sword/Shield, technological advancements such as the Rotom Phone seem to indicate that the Galar region offerings are very far along in the chronology.
However, without additional confirmation from Game Freak, it isn't clear as to when Sword/Shield specifically occur or if they're in an alternate universe.
11) Pokemon Scarlet and Violet
The latest releases by Game Freak and The Pokemon Company, Scarlet and Violet include a sizable number of gameplay and quality-of-life improvements. They take place in the Paldea region, inspired by the nations of Spain and Portugal.
Players assume the role of a trainer (canonically known as Florian or Juliana) who recently joined Paldea's Naranja/Uva Academy. They are assisted by their neighbor and rival Nemona as the academy announces a Treasure Hunt, intended for trainers to venture into the region and discover their own personal treasure.
On their travels, Florian/Juliana befriend the likes of Arven, a trainer and cook. He who seeks to find the Herba Mystica to restore the health of his injured Mabosstiff, as well as Penny.
Penny is the former leader of the rogue Team Star, who rose up against their bullies at the academy and set up bases throughout Paldea to await her return. Trainers also befriend the Legendary Pocket Monsters Koraidon and Miraidon, who they discover wounded on a beach.
After becoming League Champion, finding all the Herba Mystica, and defeating Team Star, which allows them to return to school, Florian/Juliana descend into the depths of the mysterious Great Crater of Paldea.
There, they discover creatures from the past or future (depending on the game version) and the presumptive source of the Tera Crystals, which allow Pokemon to Terastallize and enhance their powers. At the base of the crater, the trainers encounter the enigmatic Professors Turo and Sada, who are Arven's estranged parents.
It is revealed that during their research in the Great Crater, hoping to allow the Paradox (future/past) species and their contemporary counterparts to coexist, things got out of control.
Koraidon and Miraidon were the first creatures to emerge from the professors' time machine. However, they lost to one of their own species in a territorial dispute and ultimately retreated where they met Florian/Juliana.
In an attempt to avoid damage to Paldea, Turo and Sada sealed off the crater's research area. They created an artificial intelligence in their likeness to keep an eye on the situation to avoid catastrophe. However, during a battle between the Koraidon and Miraidon, Turo and Sada shielded the weaker Pokemon and died in the attempt.
As Florian/Juliana discover this, the AI created by the professors attempts to guide the protagonists to shut down the time machine and bring balance to Paldea.
Unfortunately, before the time machine can be deactivated, the AI goes into a protective state and challenges Florian/Juliana to a battle. At the end of the battle, the AI uses the aggressive Koraidon/Miraidon that killed the professors. The protagonist overcomes this Legendary Pokemon thanks to the efforts of the Koraidon/Miraidon they had saved at the beginning of the journey.
After saving Paldea, the protagonists, Penny, Nemona, and Arven head home, having found their personal treasures as the academy had instructed.
While the placement of Scarlet and Violet within the timeline aren't clear cut, even with the history classes players can take at the academy, there are signs that they're the latest chronological entry in the core series.
Things like the Rotom Phone and time machines have existed in the past. However, the creation of an artificial intelligence that can almost perfectly mimic a human being is an advanced scientific undertaking. This implies that that Scarlet/Violet are well into the future compared to previous outings.
Additional details may later emerge that further clarifies the core series' timeline. However, Scarlet and Violet appear to be the most modern entries in the franchise at the moment, and therefore the most recent.