Everyone who plays Pokémon has one generation or game that they think higher of than every other one. Whether for nostalgic, gameplay, or plot reasons, there is something about it that just makes it better. Some people stick to nostalgic roots and favor Generation 1. Some people go for advanced gameplay and mechanics and prefer Generation 6. For multiple reasons, I’ve always had a love for Generation 3 – specifically, Pokémon Ruby. All main three games, as well as the Gen 1 remakes, from Gen 3 are, in my opinion, the best from the Pokémon franchise. Not only are they great for the series, but they are also quite beautiful.
“Pokémon Ruby” and “Pokémon Sapphire” were the first games released from Gen 3 in 2003, with “Pokémon Emerald” coming out in 2005. These games were revolutionary for the Pokémon franchise. These games introduced the double battle and, with that, moves that affect multiple Pokémon on the same field. This new battle type would later lead to other battle types in future installments, such as triple or rotation battles. Double battles are also the kinds used in national Pokémon competitions. Gen 3 also introduced natures and abilities, which helped greatly in terms of competitive battling as well as overall gameplay. Imagine how battling would be without having the abilities like Intimidate or Synchronize. Without natures, EV training would be much harder to do or maybe not exist completely. Gen 3 was also the first generation to introduce weather conditions – that being snow, rain, sandstorms, and sun. Not only does this affect regular gameplay, but it also greatly affects competitive battling. Having residual damage from Sandstorm or Fire-type move boost from Sunny Day no longer be there would have a huge impact on battling. Gen 3 also was the only game to have multiple types of bikes, which were the Mach and Acro bikes. The Mach bike was incredibly fast and allowed the player to ride up steep slopes to unexplored areas. The Acro bike was designed for tricks, such as popping a wheelie or hopping. This allowed the player to travel across unreachable areas. Overall, Gen 3 was a huge improvement for the Pokémon franchise and has had a lasting impact on competitive battling as well as general gameplay since its release.
Not only was Gen 3 an improvement in terms of battling and mechanics, but it was also a great improvement in terms of graphics. While many Pokémon players love the nostalgic graphics from Generations 1 and 2, their 8bit quality is obviously not superb. Gen 3 improved their graphics to a smoother and more colorful design. I love everything about the design of those games. It has the perfect combination of nostalgic, not quite-perfect graphics while also being a vast improvement over the old ones. I love the chibi-esque design of the characters, and the animation for them running is hilarious. We could even see doors open in this game!
The design for Pokémon in-battle is also a unique touch. While “Pokémon Emerald” is the only game that shows the Pokémon moving, all of the Pokémon sprites look much livelier. I love the animations for each move as well. Everything about the battling and overall gameplay of Gen 3 is very fast and smooth, which works well with its sleek graphics. (Fast forward to Gen 4, when all of that is ruined. It’s so…slow…) The animations for the Mach and Acro bikes are also interesting. The bikes add to the interaction between the player and the environment that’s lacking in other Pokémon games. While all of the other games use bikes purely for speed, Gen 3 uses them to make the world more explorable and interactive for the player. The addition of Hidden Bases also adds to the interactivity of Hoenn. Even after you beat the game, you can spend hours finding all of the secret areas on each bike or decking out each Hidden Base you find.
Speaking of environments, the story for Gen 3 relies heavily on the theme on humans interacting with their environment. This makes it fitting that the player interacts with the environment so much throughout the game – it makes the story that much more personal. The addition of weather conditions to these games also helps the story. This story is the darkest and, in my opinion, the best out of every Pokémon game. There are two rival teams for you to compete against; Team Magma and Team Aqua. While the story varies slightly with each game, the plot is relatively the same. Team Magma wants to use a Blue Orb and awaken the legendary Pokémon Groudon so they can expand the land. Team Aqua wants to use a Red Orb and awaken the legendary Pokémon Kyogre so they can expand the sea. Not only are these wishes drastic and dark, but they are actually acted upon throughout the game. Unlike other teams that ultimately fail, both teams end up getting what they want, which is waking up each legendary. They then realize the horrible mistake that they’ve made. This makes the message of conserving the environment much more prominent. Not only is this a great story, but it also shows a theme and message that I am very much behind. The fact that the story slightly differs with each game is also interesting. In “Ruby”, Groudon is awakened and creates a worldwide drought. In “Sapphire”, Kyogre is awakened and creates intense rainstorms. In “Emerald”, the player must awaken a third legendary, Rayquaza, to calm both Kyogre and Groudon down. Overall, this story is the most interactive, dark, impactful, and interesting story that the entire Pokémon franchise has to offer.
The music of Gen 3 is also revolutionary for the franchise. Unlike the first two generations, which only had very simple, synthesized beeps, Gen 3 includes the first use of synthesized instruments. Those trumpets during the title screen get me every time. The addition of synthesized instruments created for a more updated atmosphere, as well as a more positive environment, which contrasted well to the dark story. While I love the nostalgic feeling of Gen 1 and 2’s music, the music of Gen 3 is just so much better. It also helped impact the soundtracks of future installments, leading to great tracks such as Professor Sycamore’s theme in “Pokémon X” and “Pokémon Y”.
I could go on for days about how much I love Generation 3. I am biased because I grew up playing “Pokémon Ruby” all the time, so it has an emotional and nostalgic connection to me. However, looking at it now shows me how great of a generation Gen 3 really is. While “Fire Red” and “Leaf Green” are great remakes, my heart still remains with the original trio. Whether you love or hate these games, you have to admit that they were revolutionary for the Pokémon franchise as well as mechanically beautiful.