By the Numbers – Pokemon Gold VS Silver VS Crystal

close up of pokemon game cartridges

In this Google Trends Deep Dive, we have a three-way race between the Generation 2 Pokemon games: Gold, Silver, and Crystal. Since January 1, 2004, the results are in: Pokemon Silver beats out Pokemon Gold by just a hair, with double the search volume of Pokemon Crystal. Let’s dig in to the Trends data.

The massive traffic spike in March 2010 makes perfect sense, as that was the release of Heart Gold and Soul Silver, the Generation 2 remakes for the Nintendo DS. July 2016 was another major time in Pokemon history, which saw the launch of Pokemon GO, which at the time, didn’t even feature Johto Pokemon. Still, the release of that app reignited a nostalgic love for all Pokemon games at that time.

Notably, Pokemon Silver spiked far above Pokemon Gold in March 2010, but Pokemon Gold beat searches for Pokemon Silver by a substantial margin in July 2016. There could be a number of reasons for this. In fact, over time, Pokemon Gold has slowly began catching up to Pokemon Silver, and ever since that July 2016 search spike, it’s never trended below Pokemon Silver for very long.

So, why is Pokemon Silver typically so much higher in search interest than Pokemon Gold? Part of it may have to do with the boxed legendary Pokemon: Ho-Oh and Lugia. Both are very good Pokemon, but when I was younger I seem to remember that Lugia was the more popular. A quick look at Google Trends shows that my impressions are not only correct, but wildly so.

Now, the fact that Lugia has nearly five times the search volume than Ho-Oh came as a complete shock to me. I expected it to be higher, but dang. Heck, over the same period, Suicune came in the middle, getting twice the search volume of Ho-Oh. So, the Crystal box legendary holds his own!

With Pokemon Red and Blue, Red won mostly thanks to having the more powerful version exclusives. But, is that the case for Gold, Silver, and Crystal? It is true that Crystal lacks some Pokemon from the other two, and some of them are popular, but for this exercise, we’ll focus primarily on the Gold and Silver version exclusives.

Gold: Primeape, Arcanine, Ariados, Gligar, Ursaring, Mantine

Silver: Ninetales, Persian, Ledian, Delibird, Skarmory, Donphan

Well, then, if you’re a hardcore long-time Pokemon fan, you’ll immediately see why Silver has won over the long-term. Skarmory is one of the most popular competitive Pokemon of all-time, and Donphan was pretty darn good for many years. Ninetales got better with abilities over time. Even Ledian was a decent mid-tier Pokemon for his early existence. Persian has its fans, and Delibird, well, I like Delibird.

Now, Gold version did have Arcanine, who at the time was by far the superior Pokemon to Ninetales. Ariados was pretty good, and was mid-tier itself. Gligar wasn’t too exciting, although its later evolution into Gliscor in Diamond and Pearl definitely improved it. Actually, Gligar itself saw play in the mid-to-high tiers recently as Sun and Moon, thanks to being able to use Eviolite! Ursaring was a lower tier mon, although one that got a lot better with the new Ursaluna evolution in Legends Arceus. Mantine, well, does anyone like Mantine? (Actually, yes.)

Overall, over time, these version exclusives definitely evened out. Ariados and Ledian were neck and neck for years in search volume, but Ariados finally pulled ahead and never looked back. Delibird is definitely a fan favorite for its flavor and design, but Mantine has never been a complete dud, either, and in 2022, Mantine has really found itself in search.

Skarmory and Gligar are actually closer in search volume that you may suspect, although Gligar has taken off recently, probably thanks to being a common find in Legends Arceus. Arcanine and Ninetales are also closer than you may expect, though Arcanine clearly is still in the lead. I’m not going to attempt Persian VS Primeape, because Google Trends isn’t going to realize I mean the Pokemon, but even if you specify “Persian Pokemon” VS Primeape, the kitty still comes out far ahead.

The final version exclusive battles here is Donphan VS Ursaring, and believe it or not, it’s extremely close. That is, except for a massive spike in February 2022 because of Legends Arceus giving it an evolution. Is Ursaluna better than Donphan? That remains to be seen.

So, Pokemon Silver is still a winner here, although the version exclusives are fairly close in long-term search volume. If anything, Gold’s bunch have pulled ahead, as these older Pokemon have changed in perception over time. But, Silver still wins the overall war, thanks to Lugia. What’s odd is that both Ho-Oh and Lugia are obtainable in all three games; it’s just that in Silver you get Lugia before Ho-Oh and vice versa. Crystal also delays Ho-Oh’s availability until you catch the three Legendary Beasts: Entei, Raikou, and Suicune.

Personally, Crystal is my favorite of the three games. Yes, playing a female trainer for the first time is huge, but that’s not the only of the Crystal version exclusive features that make me prefer it. The Battle Tower was particularly awesome. Sadly, Ninetales, Primeape, Girafarig, Octillery, and Ampharos are absent without transferring them from another game.

Which of the three original Generation 2 games do you prefer: Gold, Silver, or Crystal?

Writing words, spreading love, Amelia Desertsong primarily writes creative nonfiction articles, as well as dabbling in baseball, Pokemon, Magic the Gathering, and whatever else tickles her fancy.
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