The popular Pokemon franchise has been around for decades with no signs of slowing down. From humble roots in Pallet Town on the classic Game Boy to Galarian escapades on Nintendo Switch and beyond, few things in our world are more iconic than a certain electric mouse and his ever-expanding entourage.
Every series has its highs and lows, and Pokemon‘s no exception. Anime fans argue over which season ranks supreme; card game collectors duke it out with their favorite decks from across the years. More than anything, it’s the video game diehards whose perennial grudge matches help dictate the generational pecking order.
While there will never be a definitive guide to which game is the very best, there’s surely some consensus that the Nintendo DS Pokemon games are in the upper tier. And among those favorites, it’s Pokemon Platinum and Pokemon HeartGold & SoulSilver that inspire the most ferocious competition.
There’s no reason not to play both rights from your browser now— that is unless your time is limited. Each of these games can last you for hundreds of hours if your goal is to catch ’em all! So let’s get started on our quest to determine the champion.
It’s hard to argue with the fact that there is a lot of game in Pokemon Platinum. It’s the definitive version of Diamond & Pearl‘s first crack at the Sinnoh region, released almost three years afterward. Everything that Diamond & Pearl excelled at, Platinum perfects. Everything they struggled with, Platinum course corrects. From the original versions’ infamously slow battles to their relative dearth of postgame content, the wizards at Game Freak were on the case.
Pokemon Platinum runs at a far better speed. Its endgame inclusion of the Battle Frontier is a blessing that will set veteran trainers back dozens more hours as they compete to defeat the powerful Frontier Brains. Sinnoh’s story is expanded as well, with Team Galactic’s dastardly leader, Cyrus, given greater depth and enough empathetic qualities to round him out as one of the best villains around. Pokemon may not be played first and foremost for its stories, but when those stories are good, it’s a lovely bonus.
The Sinnoh region is a vast and complex plethora of interconnected routes that mostly form a perimeter around the towering Mount Coronet. If you’re looking for a diverse setting with enough size to get you lost once or twice along your way to the Pokemon League, there’s never been a place with more structural depth.
Pokemon Platinum‘s soundtrack, while catchy, seldom reaches the highest levels of composer Go Ichinose’s fabulous works on the franchise. That’s not to say the music is by any means bad, but you might not be as inclined to hum along here.
Graphics are a noticeable improvement over Diamond & Pearl, but they don’t reach the heights found in later DS Pokemon games. You’ll know snow when you see it (and there’s a lot of it to see!), and sparkling lakes and streams are lovely to behold. Still, these luscious looks would only be eclipsed in future chapters.
HeartGold’s Got Soul
If Pokemon Platinum has a ton of content, then Pokemon HeartGold & SoulSilver tip the scale nearer to two tons. Why two? Well, because there are two islands to explore, of course! Indeed, the Johto Game Boy classics Gold and Silver that HeartGold & SoulSilver remade were very special in 1999 for delivering Kanto and Johto. 11 years later, their remakes did the same, and notably enough, such a thing had not been attempted in the interim.
In fact, a decade and counting since HeartGold‘s release, we’re still no closer to seeing Game Freak repeat the trick!
This added value alone makes HeartGold soar, even if Johto’s routes are comparably simpler and more straightforward than Sinnoh’s. Kanto’s routes, being the first ones created for the Pokemon series, are also hardly maze-like — but pound-for-pound, there’s just more here than even the content-rich Platinum.
Johto is also a gorgeous, mystical place. It’s self-evident that the developers found a firmer grasp of the Nintendo DS hardware in 2010, for the autumnal leaves surrounding Bell Tower, the swaying winds of Ecruteak City, and the endearing Japanese influences seen in every house and gym are just the tip of the game’s beautiful artwork. Even the updated Kanto areas get a clear and present facelift, and those seeking further Battle Frontier challenges will find it here almost identical to Platinums.
And the music! Oh, the music is an absolute treasure. Every track from the Game Boy games is meticulously reworked to take full advantage of the DS’ stronger speakers. But even if you’re not a fan of some of these remixes, you can eventually obtain an item that lets you revert to the tinny chiptunes of yore.
Sinnoh? Johto? YOLO!
Perhaps such praise for HeartGold has swayed you in full. But don’t discount Platinum‘s staying power. At the time of its launch, it was often touted as the ultimate expression of every game that came beforehand; its Pokedex is even vaster than HeartGold & SoulSilver‘s, its world arguably remains the largest and widest in the series, and it’s important to note that the Nintendo Switch remakes BrilliantDiamond & ShiningPearl do not contain many of the improvements made with Platinum — a real shame!
Now, I’m sure you were hoping for a “real” answer when you clicked on this article. “Will the author actually tell me which game is better? Or will they cop out at the end and tell me to play both?” Well, yes and no. Again, if your time is limited enough, you’re going to want to choose one over the other. Accordingly, I💜Nintendo is here to tell you which game is best for each of the following categories. Just determine which aspects matter the most to you for Pokemon journeys and start there!
Graphics? This one’s got to be HeartGold. Platinum is pretty, but HeartGold & SoulSilver are purely captivating.
Gameplay? It’s a tie! While Sinnoh is a sprawling and often snowy wonderland that neither Johto nor Kanto on their own can compare with, the combination of the two islands gives HeartGold enough edge to match.
Pokedex diversity? Easily Platinum. It feels like every three steps in Sinnoh, you’ll encounter someone new who might just join your crew.
Music? Just as easily, the answer is HeartGold. Several of these tracks will be earworms for the rest of your life.
Story? Again, Pokemon games hardly have Oscar-worthy plots, but Platinum takes the cake here with its robust villain and twisty, turny climax.
Charm? HeartGold. Every minute you spend with the Johto remakes feels like an adorable, eclectic dream.