One Year On, Pokémon Scarlet & Violet Are Still The Worst Best Pokémon Games Ever

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet starters

Yesterday, Pokémon Scarlet & Violet celebrated their first birthday. The latest main series games launched on November 18, 2022, and were immediately met with mixed reactions. It was a bold, new direction for the series, filled with fresh ideas and unparalleled freedom — but it came at a heavy cost. In our ranking of every Pokémon generation from worst to best, Scarlet and Violet’s generation was in the bottom half, not because they were bad, but because they should have been better.

Scarlet and Violet are, ostensibly, the first open-world Pokémon games. You could make the argument that games like Gold and Silver had some degree of open-world game design, but not like this. You’re free to go to any part of Scarlet and Violet’s map whenever you want, completing activities in whatever order you like.

Related: Pokémon Concierge Release Date Announced Alongside Adorable Trailer

It’s a decision that was almost 30 years in the making, the type of game that fans have been clamoring for since the series started in 1996. The freedom to do anything, go anywhere, catch anything — it’s everything we could have asked for, and more.

It’s also a course-correction after a few years of story-heavy games that didn’t quite stick the landing. Sun and Moon are famous for their long, unskippable, often boring cutscenes, and Sword and Shield did the same while letting too much happen behind the scenes. Legends: Arceus, also on the Nintendo Switch, found a similarly compelling middle ground, but Scarlet and Violet really nailed it down.

Character writing in Scarlet and Violet is better than it’s ever been before. The comedy of Director Clavell dressing up as a fellow kids-style “trainer,” the gut-punch of Arven’s journey to nurse his treasured partner Pokémon back to health, the electric energy of your rivalry with Nemona, ending in one of the most hyped final battles in the series’ history. It’s all just incredible from start to finish.

Or it would be, if not for… everything else.

To say Scarlet and Violet launched in a rough state would be a bit of an understatement. Ever since the jump to 3D with Pokémon X and Y, the series has struggled a little bit with performance. Some games fared better than others, but none fared worse than Scarlet and Violet.

The games were packed with bugs and glitches, some large and some small, and performance was rocky at best. They nominally target 30fps, but only reach that under very specific, very controlled circumstances. In most scenarios, it’s a very unstable sub-30, and even to the most performance-blind person on the planet, it’s obvious that these games aren’t running as well as they should.

Non-character textures tend to be fairly low quality, too, but that’s far more forgivable than the performance issues. A game looking a bit rough is a lot more palatable than a game running rough, and even with low quality textures, there is a certain charm to the chosen art style.

There have been a number of patches to address these issues in the last year, and it has improved somewhat in some areas. Most of the major bugs and glitches have been patched out, and what few remain tend to be very specific and not easily triggered. But the performance issues remain, and in the first wave of the DLC actually get worse in some aspects, with weird hitches that can freeze action for up to a second at a time.

Tera Raids are a nice idea, but they're too compromised to really be fun.<p>The Pokémon Company</p>
Tera Raids are a nice idea, but they're too compromised to really be fun.

The Pokémon Company

And that’s to say nothing of Tera Raids, which are still kind of messy. Sword and Shield’s raids were slow and frustrating, and Scarlet and Violet tried to fix this by making them run in realtime — everybody is essentially fighting their own battle against their own boss, but the boss’s health bar is shared. But it doesn’t work as smoothly as it should, with moves not triggering, bosses inexplicably taking multiple turns in a row without you getting a turn in, and various bugs still present to this day. Raids, like the rest of the game, have been patched up a bit since launch, but they’re still not exactly fun because of these issues.

Despite all this, I love these silly little games. Pokémon Scarlet and Violet remind me of all the things in this series that I hold dear. It’s not just the creatures, or the characters, or the worlds that Game Freak pulls together. It’s everything, all of it, all together and working in harmony. The performance issues suck, but they don’t stop me from adoring and appreciating everything there is to love about Pokémon.

I have hope that, someday, Game Freak will iron out these problems. Who knows how long that will take, and maybe my hope is misplaced, that I’m wishing on a star that will never fall. But even if the next ten games are like this, I’ll still play them. I’ll still love these charming, silly, terrible, beautiful games.

Related: Review: Pokémon Horizons’ First Story Arc Starts Strong But Loses Its Way