Pokemon Gold and Silver: Peak of a Phenomenon

The Gen 2 games opened up the gates for the later games in terms of innovation

Pokemon is a phenomenon that swept not only its native Japan, but the whole world. It is now the highest grossing media franchise in history, and has immensely evolved (pun entirely intended) during its near 25 year run. One particular set of games is also approaching its twentieth and it feels appropriate to look at where those games stand after receiving so many follow ups.

Gold and Silver extended the juggernaut of a craze that its predecessors started. These games, as well as the spinoffs and anime episodes they inspired, were fully fledged sequels of Red, Blue, and Yellow. They took the mechanics and setting of the first generation and expanded it. This separates Gen 2 from the following generations, which followed Gold and Silver’s practice of continuously changing, innovating and polishing the mechanics, but introduced regions that are much more individualized in their lore, Pokemon, and characters.

New but not Entirely New

Unlike its newer counterparts, Johto is fully connected to Kanto and never bothers hiding it. The region’s own professor, Elm, is overshadowed by his Kanto counterpart; Professor Oak introduces players of Gold and Silver to the world of Pokemon and is properly introduced early on in the journey. Sentret, Hoothoot, Spinarak, and Ledyba, Johto’s respective early game Normal, Flying, and Bug types, have no problem sharing their routes with Rattata, Pidgey, Caterpie, and Weedle, their Gen 1 equivalents. Team Rocket, the villainous team of the first generation, comes back in Gold and Silver, and the dialogue specifically indicates that the crime syndicate returned after three years of inactivity.

The Gen 2 Pokemon, paradoxically, stood out due to sharing the spotlight with their Kanto peers
Gold, Silver, Crystal, and their remakes are still the only Pokemon games that offer a full experience with two regions

Other connections to Gold and Silver’s predecessors become more obvious as the games progress. Members of the original cast of 151 Pokemon are just as common in the Johto region as they are in their supposedly native Kanto. Several Pokemon introduced in Gen 2 are part a Kanto-related family, whether they are pre-evolutions (Pichu, Cleffa, Igglybuff, Elekid, Magby, Smoochum, Tyrogue), evolved forms (Steelix, Blissey, Crobat, Scizor, Kingdra, Porygon2) or part of a branched evolutionary line (Politoed, Bellossom, Espeon, Umbreon, Slowking, Hitmontop). Lugia, one of the new legendary Pokemon and the mascot of Silver Version, even leads the trio of legendary birds from the first generation! That’s not even counting the Johto Pokemon that were introduced to the public before their debut generation, such as Togepi, Ho-Oh, Marill, Donphan, and Snubbull.

Red is still considered by many to be one of the finest examples of fanservice in the series

All of these blatant connections to Kanto comes to a logical conclusion when the game reveals that Johto and Kanto share the same Pokemon League, leading to the player fighting an Elite Four that still includes Bruno and now includes former Gym Leader Koga, cumulating into Lance, originally the last Elite Four member the player had to face, being the champion. A post-Red and Blue Kanto could be visited after beating Lance, and the player could challenge all of the original Gym Leaders except for Giovanni, who is replaced by Blue, the original champion. For one final hurrah, explorative players were rewarded with what is considered nowadays as an iconic surprise: an opportunity to fight Red, aka the player character of the first generation.


Gold and Silver also modified the gameplay in a way that made Red and Blue feel somewhat foreign in comparison. The introduction of concepts such as most Pokemon now having genders, Pokemon Eggs, and breeding, Pokemon being able to hold items, the Steel and Dark types, Shiny Pokemon, the in-game clock, the abandonment of the Special stat in favour of the Special Attack and Special Defense stats, and many more, polished the way of playing Pokemon like there’s no tomorrow. Even though there were only two sets of games at the time, the differences between the second generation and its older brethren were staggering. Not only did the Pokemon look the way the artwork and merchandise depicted them, with a few exceptions, but the universe we’ve come to familiarize ourselves with and love dearly became bigger.

The characters we already knew were still there, but feel a bit different from their last encounter with the player. Raising Pokemon and using them in battles became a different beast altogether, with the mechanics receiving layers of complexity that the later games would downright spoil. Suddenly, battling did not just consist of spamming the most powerful attack in your arsenal while using the occasional status move. The system still favoured brute force, but strategy was much more encouraged. Indeed, there is a competitive scene for Gold and Silver, and it is notorious for its reliance on the setup move Curse. Although it lacks contemporary staples such as abilities, natures, and the physical/special split, and it is starting to show its age after twenty years, the Gen 2 battling system is still rather accessible and comfortable enough to build a team with. It is rather easy to live with a Pokemon’s same type attack bonus not benefiting from its stats or the absence of a Pokemon’s innate characteristics that can be potentially game changing. On the flipside of things, it is rather difficult to endure an archaic bias towards the Psychic type, a Hyper Beam that does not need recharging when it KO’s, and an indeterminate amount of sleeping turns a la Generation 1.

The Johto anime was also the only time the main characters, down to their appearance, were the same as the previous saga

Gen 2’s Legacy, Twenty Years Later

The original 151 Pokemon and the games that introduced them will probably always represent the franchise to the common folk. It’s only normal, they are so unbelievably iconic and their impact on pop culture, especially that of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, cannot be underestimated. However, Gold and Silver and what they brought to the table are the things that kept the “Pokemania” going. They took everything from the originals and gave more development to those concepts. The world was unapologetically connected to what Red, Blue, and Yellow introduced, and the tweaks made to the gameplay and visuals dedicated themselves to specifically improving the immersive experience offered by the first games. Even the supplementary media follows a similar pattern: Stadium 2 was a direct sequel to another spinoff released on the same console, but for the first generation, and the anime featured the same trio of Ash, Misty, and Brock in their classic attires, a trend that would stop with the Gen 3 episodes. Gold and Silver came out at the peak of the initial Pokemon craze and rounded it off with its sister game, Crystal, and the eventual conclusion of the Johto anime that involves Ash departing for Hoenn without his former companions. It wouldn’t take long for Brock to start travelling with Ash again, but that’s beside the point.

While the other generations of Pokemon decided to distance themselves from each other to a certain extent and contribute to the franchise in a way that would focus on simply polishing and enriching the gameplay, the generation that brought us Johto ironically individualized itself by complimenting what its predecessor had to offer and heavily focusing on its relationship with Kanto. If Pokemon actually ended after two generations as intended, Gold and Silver would have been a spectacular finale.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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  1. Ah, the memories of gold and silver, my first pokemon game, like when the time I spent 80 dollars thinking gold was completely different.

  2. semiklaus

    I had yellow but both my brothers had gold and silver they eventually gave there gold and silver to me because I was younger they grew out of Pokemon I played up to ruby and stopped playing missing diamond pearl and fire red leaf green this game was like an addiction now I am in my 20s and still play

  3. Savanna

    My favorite generation of Pokemon games. So much nostalgia~

  4. Joseph Cernik
    Joseph Cernik

    When my son was a lot younger, I took him to Pokemon tournaments. I remember him with his pile of cards versus someone on the other side. I stored his cards away for him. I’ll email him the link on this article, he might enjoy remembering Pokemon.

  5. Ma Berrios

    I love these games so much but there are a couple things that ruin them for me. First is how long it takes to grind. They tried making the game a bit more open world-y by allowing you to choose which Gym you wanted to fight after defeating Mort, and levelling became such a pain in the ass after that, and second, the save battery. I get that this couldn’t be helped but it still exists so i’m gonna bitch. Because the clock inside the cartridge is CONSTANTLY ticking away, it drains the battery and when that battery goes, everything goes. All your pokemon and gym badges, everything is destroyed. It’s impossible to change the battery without erasing everything, so you’re fked.

  6. love this games so much, i remember that christmas when my mom gave me pokemon gold along with the pokemon edition gameboycolor

  7. I personally can’t stand these games. Gen 1 was okay, but Gen 2 is just boring in my eyes. The level curve is god awful, Johto is boring and Kanto is crappy, and most Pokémon are completely useless and the ones who are good don’t learn good moves until much later. (Ex. 1: Quilava has Ember till 31.) However, I understand that these games mean a lot to people and I respect that, but I personally never had fun with these games. At least, not as much as other gens.

    • Cyndaquil learns flamethrower at level 48, i had a Cyndaquil until level 48 so i could evolve him to Quilava at 49 and to thyplosion at 50:p after that it was ready for pkmn stadium 2!

  8. Beauregard

    i heard somewhere that red and green werent too popular at the time when they came out, because of the sprites. When pokemon blue came out in Japan, they fixed the sprites to look a whole lot better, that is what made it popular

  9. Pokemon Platinum was my first RPG ever and Piplup was my first Pokemon. I like all the regions of Pokemon but especially Sinnoh. Hoenn is my second favorite. But Sinnoh is my favorite region of all.

  10. Gen 1:Okay! Not the best,But IT was alright!
    Gen 2:Even Better…
    Gen 3:Overrated…But good pokemon…
    Gen 4:Game Freak,Shut up and take my god damn money please.
    Gen 5:Again Game Freak,Please shut up and take my money.
    Gen 5 Sequals:^
    Gen 6: I can’t judge it Sorry…

    • Gen 1: Awesome
      Gen 2: Even better
      Gen 3: Overrated, but still good
      Gen 1 remake: Better than original gen 1, but not as good as Gen 2
      Gen 4: Good
      Gen 2 remake: FUCKING PERFECT!!!!
      Gen 5: Good, even though the pokemon are ice cream and garbage bags
      Gen 5 sequels: Great!
      Gen 6: Soon… 😀

  11. They are probably the best in the series, but it way too easy compared to the rest, and being a fan of all generations, the best way to play them is the remakes, just for the increased variety of pokemon!

  12. You make an interesting point about how Gold and Silver decided to deliberately continue building off of the earlier generation games, and how that probably contributed to their popularity by providing players with fanservice. I’m not sure I think that’s an unadulterated “good” from an objective standpoint, but I can see how it might have fed interest in the games and franchise (which in turn would have made it more economically feasible to expand the universe with more games involving all-new regions and pokemon). I’m not sure I think the franchise could or should have stopped at Gold and Silver, but you’re probably right that it was Gold and Silver that provided the impetus for making Pokemon a truly long-running franchise.

  13. Stanford

    I love pokemon but i cant play pokemon gold silver or crystal for long periods of time and I dont enjoy them as much. I dont know why but second gen. pokemon games just aren’t my thing.

  14. Gold and silver aren’t that good, and neither are HeartGold or SoulSilver. I’m resting with FireRed and Platinum.

  15. joeinette

    Oh how I remember when my brother let me play his copy of Pokemon Gold when I was a little girl, only about 10 years old 🙂 Gen 2 got the great remake it deserved in HG/SS which had every awesome bits the originals had but also a lot more stuff!

  16. i’d say pokemon heart gold and soul silver are my favorite games of all time, followed by minecraft at #2 and ocarina of time at #3

  17. I remember falling in love with these games when they first came out.

  18. Mr.Bond

    I’ve always preferred silver over gold because lugia is my favourite pokemon.

  19. I didn’t join the Poke fandom ’til gen 4 so when I played HeartGold I though it was one of the best games ever.

  20. The interesting thing is that 10% of the available cartridge space in Gold and Silver is absolutely unused.

  21. My favorite game out of the series is Crystal. Played the crap out of it growing up.

  22. the anime is relly good honestly bu the games help alot with understanding the pokemon

  23. I love all from every Gen. Except Mr.Mime and Garbodor.

  24. I loved how the second gen games felt like an actual sequel to the originals – being connected to the actual region, especially. By contrast, a game like Black 2 as opposed to Black, or Ultra Sun compared to Sun just feels like a lazy remake more than an actual sequel. Nonetheless, great article!

  25. I played glazed, emerald, ruby etc. Been searching this for my emulator. Can anyone give me a direct link please?

  26. To me, the games felt like continued sequels up to the Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald versions. I felt like each generation was built up with new Pokemon, Legendaries, and types to a complete culmination in Emerald that I invested many hours of my childhood into.

  27. Nice read about my favorite gen of Pokémon games! I’d like to comment on a couple aspects of your piece. I would disagree with the assessment that Gamefreak unapologetically connected Johto to Kanto. I’d moreso say Kanto is a well-received addition to the Johto region that let its counterpart shine. I think that keeping some of the aspects from the first game like Professor Oak is a great way to accommodate fans of Red/Blue/Yellow. But there’s so much new content (which is the main focus) that Kanto takes a backseat to Johto. Things like sharing the same Pokémon League and recurring characters are bits of fanservice for those who played the first game not unlike being able to challenge Red at the end (which is a very well done way to present the final obstacle, conquering basically yourself from gen1). The second thing I’d like to mention is Gold/Silver/Crystal’s addition of time-based events, like berries, the day-named siblings, phone calls, etc. These events really added to the feeling of going on an adventure and started a precedent for the series.

  28. Pokemon has always been one of my favourite series, from when I was just a kid to today! Thank you for your article!

  29. These games hold a special place in my heart. So much nostalgia! I’m still a fan of the series and buy every main series game but agree that these were special because of the unique context surrounding their release and development.

  30. I love Pokemon. It’s what got me into videogames.

  31. Pokemon is what’s keeping me sane during lockdown

  32. I will never gain happiness if I don’t use Gameshark. It is an enjoyableness that uses my pokemon to crash NPCs after changing parameters. It feels like a ‘chunibyou-infected’ refreshment when you can stand on the top of the
    power chain of a visual world, although it is a console game.

  33. Tried playing Pokeman but never could get into it with all the other gaming options out there.

  34. Gold and Silver had so much content for it’s time.

  35. Looking back at this article after the announcement of Pokemon Legends: Arceus which lets you play in a Pokemon region (Sinnoh) outside the timeline of the original game series, I’m thinking the Pokemon company is starting to recognize just how meaningful it was to re-explore a region.

  36. Gold and Silver holds a nostalgic resonance for me on par with Red/Blue/Yellow. However, the gleam has slightly dimmed in recent years as I start to see their flaws; no Johto Pkmn for half of the gym leaders? Very few wild Johto encounters? An almost empty Kanto?

    They’re not perfect, but no Pokemon game is. HG/SS fixed many of the issues, though.

    Still, I doubt the franchise will ever be as hyped as it was in 1999.

  37. Sunni Rashad

    GSC will always be a nostalgia trap for me, my childhood was really shaped by Pokemon and that generation was the first I beat by myself.

  38. Sunni Rashad

    There was push to try to say Gen 2 was the worst gen. Glad some people see the beauty.

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