On this Day in Japan: Nintendo Released the First Pokemon Games | Tokyo Weekender (2023)

On this day 25 years ago, Nintendo released two versions of a role-playing game that would go on to take Japan and the rest of the world by storm. Developed by Game Freak for the Gameboy, Pocket Monsters: Red and Pocket Monsters: Green proved hugely popular with both critics and consumers, many of whom bought both titles.

More than one million units of the red and green editions plus the blue version (which came out eight months later) were sold in 1996, followed by 3.65 million units the year after as the cute-looking pocket monsters overtook Final Fantasy VII as the best-selling game in the country.

Despite the success in Japan, there were reservations as to whether these charming little characters would appeal to children overseas. It was felt that American kids would prefer more powerful-looking monsters, yet Hiroshi Yamauchi was having none of it. The then-president of Nintendo demanded that the game be released internationally with the original creature designs.

It proved a wise decision. Pokémon Red and Blue, as it was called internationally, debuted in North America in September 1998 and by the end of the year had sales in excess of four million. A huge global hit, it is currently the best-selling role-playing game of all time with well over 30 million units sold worldwide. Moreover, these hugely lucrative games helped to pave the way for what is now the highest-grossing media franchise on the planet.

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On this Day in Japan: Nintendo Released the First Pokemon Games | Tokyo Weekender (1)

The Origins

The man who originally came up with the idea for these pocket-sized monsters was one of Game Freak’s founders, Satoshi Tajiri. Known as “Dr. Bug”, he was always outside trying to catch insects as a kid and dreamed of one day becoming an entomologist. It was this childhood infatuation with little creatures followed by his love of arcade games that led to the creation of Pokémon.

“Places to catch insects are rare because of urbanization,” Tajiri told Time in 1999. “Kids played inside their homes and a lot had forgotten about catching insects. So had I. When I was making games, something clicked, and I decided to make a game with that concept. Everything I did as a kid rolled into one – that is what Pokémon is. Playing video games, watching TV, Ultraman with his capsule monsters – they all became ingredients for Pokémon.”

A writer and publisher for a fanzine called Game Freak, Tajiri evolved the magazine into a game development company with designer and illustrator Ken Sugimori in 1989. A year later the pair pitched the idea of Pokémon to Nintendo. It centered around bug-like creatures who could be traded by using the Gameboy link cable – Tajiri imagined the insects moving back and forth along the cord.

The pitch was initially met with skepticism. Tajiri was told that people at the company could not understand the concept of the game, however, they decided to explore the idea anyway. In the six years it took to complete it, several Game Freak staff members quit as the company came close to bankruptcy. They persevered, though, with Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of Super Mario, acting as an advisor and Sugimori heading what was a small design team that came up with 151 characters, including a secret one.

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On this Day in Japan: Nintendo Released the First Pokemon Games | Tokyo Weekender (2)

The Monsters

Players started out with a single Pokémon and their objective was to then get hold of as many of the little monsters as possible while training their existing characters. The majority of Pokémon were obtained “in the wild” with a Pokéball after they had been weakened. As some were exclusive to either red or green, to get them all you had to swap with other players. The link cable could also be used to engage in battles.

Since Pocket Monsters debuted on February 27, 1996, one character has stood out above all others. Pikachu is the undoubted star of the franchise, known by pretty much everyone even those with no interest in gaming. The name is derived from the Japanese onomatopoeic phrases pikapika, meaning glittering and chuchu, the sound a mouse makes, however, designer Atsuko Nishida told the Yomiuri that she created the puffy cheeks to look like a squirrel as that was the rodent she was into at the time.

While Pikachu may be the face of Pokémon, it is not necessarily the most popular amongst fans. A Reddit survey in 2019 asked 52,000 people to vote for their favorite creature with the game’s mascot only finishing down in 44th. Charizard, a fire-breathing dragon-like flying lizard created by Nishida, topped the list, just 51 votes ahead of the sinister, yet cute-looking Gengar. Both featured in the original games.

For many fans it will always be those creatures from those first games including the aforementioned monsters and the likes of Bulbasaur, Eevee, Snorlax and Mewtwo that stand out. There is also Mew, the 151st Pokémon, known as the “invisible character,” who was secretly added by programmer Shigeki Morimoto as a prank two weeks prior to the game’s release. Though it could not be legitimately obtained outside of events, Tajiri told Time that the extra creature “created a lot of rumors and myths about the game,” and that “kept interest alive.”

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The Franchise

Not long after the game debuted, the Japanese comic CoroCoro announced an exclusive offer, promising that it would distribute Mew to 20 entrants. 78,000 people applied. With interest growing, a blue version of Pocket Monsters with improved graphics and sounds was released as a mail-order special edition via CoroCoro in October 1996. That same month, Pokémon Trading Cards came out with their own set of rules which was soon followed by Kosaku Anakubo’s manga series Pokémon Pocket Monsters.

Six months later the Pocket Monster animated series aired for the first time on TV Tokyo. The story centered around a Pokémon trainer called Satoshi (named Ash Ketchum in the English version), who is said to represent Tajiri as a child. 23 seasons later and the program is still going strong with the next set of episodes due to air on Netflix on March 5. Down the years there have also been various spin-offs as well as Pokémon-related news shows.

By the turn of the 21st-century Pokémania had reached all corners of the globe. Many felt then that the fad would soon fade. It didn’t. Sales numbers continued to rise as new generations of the game were released around the world. Then came the launch of Pokémon Go in 2016 which took the franchise to yet another level. The augmented reality mobile game hit 500 million downloads in two months and reached the one billion mark in 2019. That same year also saw the release of the live-action mystery film, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu and the first installments of the eighth generation of Pokémon games, Pokémon Sword and Shield which have now sold more than 20 million units.

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A quarter of a century on from its debut and the popularity of the Pokémon brand shows no sign of diminishing. Over the coming months there will be special promotions and a series of events, including music from global superstars such as Katy Perry, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of what is now the highest-grossing media franchise of all time.

“The biggest reason it has become that popular is that Mr. Tajiri, the main developer and creator of Pokémon, didn’t start this project with a business sense,” Miyamoto told Game Spot. “In other words, he was not intending to make something that would become very popular. He just wanted to make something he wanted to play. There was no business sense included, only his love involved in the creation ….. It’s the very core feeling we should have making games.”

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(Video) Japan's Unique Pokemon Experience


What were the names of the first Pokémon games released in Japan in 1996? ›

Pokémon. Pokémon, electronic game series from Nintendo that debuted in Japan in February 1996 as Pokémon Green and Pokémon Red. The franchise later became wildly popular in the United States and around the world.

What Pokémon game was only released in Japan? ›

The first games in the Pokémon series. Introduced the first generation of Pokémon. Pocket Monsters Red and Green were only released in Japan.

Did Pokémon come out in Japan first? ›

The first generation began in Japan with Pokémon Red and Green on the Game Boy. As of 2022, there are nine generations of main series video games.

What was the first Pokémon thing released? ›

On 27 February 1996, Pocket Monsters was released in a Red and Green version for the Gameboy, in Japan. The games were on a cartridge, and players could trade Pokémon using a cable to connect to each other's Gameboy.

What is Pokémon in Japan called? ›

Pokémon is short for “Pocket Monsters", the original Japanese name. The franchise has its roots in a gaming magazine in the early 1980s in Japan—Game Freak, started by Satoshi Tajiri and Ken Sugimori. Tajiri was the writer, while Sugimori was the illustrator.

What was the first Pokemon game in Japan? ›

The first Pokémon games, Pokémon Red and Green Versions, came to the Nintendo Game Boy system in Japan on February 27, 1996, which was the fulfillment of Satoshi Tajiri's dream and allowed people of all ages to catch, train and trade 151 creatures and become a Pokémon Master.

Why is Pokemon green only in Japan? ›

According to a FAQ page that was available in February 1999 on Pokémon.com, there were no plans to release an American version of Pokémon Green, as well as any other Pokémon games that had been only released in Japanese at the time, which included Pokémon Yellow, Gold, Silver, and Stadium.

How old is Pokémon in Japan? ›

Released in its home country in 1996, Pokémon debuted in the US in August 1998. Although it was made in Japan, for a moment at the turn of the 21st Century, no corner of the world was immune from what came to be called “

Is Pokémon popular in Japan? ›

Since the release of the first Pokémon game in the early 1990s, Pokémon has proved unfathomably successful in Japan. In particular, Pokémon is popular amongst all age groups within Japan (in comparison to the west where it's generally more popular amongst children and teenagers).

How are Pokémon named? ›

The names with which these little creatures are known in different markets, far from being arbitrary, are the result of careful linguistic research. Skilled translators localised their names with the aim of conveying some of the characteristics of the Pokémon themselves – such as their appearance, or special power.

Did Japan ever get Pokemon Blue? ›

They were first released in Japan in 1996 as Pocket Monsters: Red and Pocket Monsters: Green, with the special edition Pocket Monsters: Blue being released in Japan later that same year. The games were later released as Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue in North America and Australia in 1998 and Europe in 1999.

How old is Ash from Pokémon? ›

He is a 10-year-old Pokémon Trainer from Pallet Town in the Kanto region who has always dreamed of becoming the world's greatest Pokémon Master.

What is the first original Pokémon card? ›

The 1998 Pokémon Demo Game Pack was the earliest Pokémon card pack to be produced and released in the English Pokémon TCG and served as the first introduction to Pokémon cards in the United States. This Pokémon pack consists of 24 Base Set shadowless cards and an instruction manual.

What is the rarest Pokémon card? ›

1999 Super Secret Battle No. 1 Trainer

The answer to "What's the rarest Pokémon card of all time?" With only seven copies believed to be in existence, the Super Secret Battle No. 1 Trainer is easily one of the rarest Pokémon cards ever made.

What is Charizard called in Japan? ›

Charizard (/ˈtʃɑːrɪzɑːrd/), known in Japan as Lizardon (リザードン, Rizādon), is a Pokémon in Nintendo and Game Freak's Pokémon franchise.

What is Mewtwo called in Japan? ›

Mewtwo (Japanese: ミュウツー Mewtwo) is a Psychic-type Legendary Pokémon introduced in Generation I.

What is Pikachu's name in Japanese ?:? ›

Pikachu (Japanese: ピカチュウ Pikachu) is an Electric-type Pokémon introduced in Generation I.

How can you tell a first edition Japanese Pokémon? ›

The first edition symbol used on Japanese cards is different from the English-language version. It is composed of a large number “1” sitting on top of the word “EDITION,” which is printed in all capital letters between two horizontal lines. The symbol appears in the lower-right corner of Pokémon and Trainer cards.

How can I play old Pokémon games on my iPhone? ›

The best way to play classic Pokémon games on your iPhone is to download and install an emulator. This is a type of app that mimics a computer system, like an old video game console. With the best emulators for iPhone, you can play Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, and Nintendo DS games on your iPhone.

How can I play Pokémon on my computer? ›

Dolphin Emulator is another best Pokémon emulator for PC. It supports Wii and GameCube consoles, so you can play any game.

Did Japan get Pokémon Yellow? ›

It was released in Japan on September 12, 1998, in Australia on September 3, 1999, in North America on October 19, 1999, and in Europe on June 16, 2000.

Why Japan blue is green? ›

Before 1930 the word for green was Midori. However, it was 1930 in March when the first traffic light was placed in Hibiya and it was then where the press (newspaper at the time) used ao to describe the color. The reason for this was because they felt that people would prefer it to be described as blue.

Is Pokémon cheaper in Japan? ›

Japanese Pokemon prices are better than English

Usually, Japanese product is cheaper. It isn't out of the ordinary to see Japanese booster boxes at around $50 for newer sets. For individual cards, you will almost always be better off buying the Japanese versions.

How old is Pikachu now? ›

Pikachu's age

Ash was given Pikachu in the first episode of the show and the two have been joined at the hip ever since that moment. Pikachu's exact age has never been revealed in the show, but if one were to base the character's age off of their first appearance, then Pikachu would be 26 years old as of now.

Is Pokémon 25 years old? ›

The first generation began in Japan with the release of Pocket Monsters Red and Green on February 27, 1996. As of 2022, there are currently nine generations of main series video games. Pokémon has since become the highest-grossing media franchise of all time, with $90 billion in total franchise revenue.

Is Ash in Pokémon Japanese? ›

The young boy's name is Ash Ketchum. Or, at least, it is in English-language versions. In the original Japanese, his name was Satoshi, after the creator of Pokémon, Satoshi Tajiri. He based Ash/Satoshi on his childhood self; his early fascination with catching bugs inspired the premise of Pokémon.

Is Charizard popular in Japan? ›

18: Charizard – 16,243 votes.

Is Pokémon more popular than Disney? ›

Pokémon became the highest-grossing media franchise of all time with $95 billion, beating out other franchises such as Star Wars, Marvel and Mickey Mouse.

Is Pokémon in Japanese better? ›

Shows in their native language are more often better, as more emotion is portrayed in how the anime was originally written. The Japanese anime is darker and more serious, whereas the English dub is very laid back and lighter in tone.

Does Eevee say its name? ›

There's a discrepancy in how Eevee pronounces its own name. In the first video, you can hear it sort of approaching the “eh-vie” version, while in the latter video, it sort of just squeaks. Let's Go doesn't allow every pokémon to happily say its own name.

Are Pokémon real? ›

Pokémon are fictional, mostly-adorable creatures that people collect, train, and battle. The four arguably most-loved Pokémon–known as “starters” in the Pokémon world–are each based on a real-world animal, but also have not-so-real-world abilities.

Does Ash nickname his Pokémon? ›

One of those constants is the fact that Ash has always simply called Pikachu, well, Pikachu, opting not to give him any kind of nickname.

Is there a Blue Pikachu? ›

The stats are the same, but Yellow Pikachu is able to learn Tail Whip, Double Team, Slam, Thunderbolt and Lightscreen on its own. Blue/Red Pikachu lacks those techniques but can learn Swift at level 26 (Yellow Pikachu has to learn it from a TM).

Why was there no Pokemon Green? ›

Pokemon Green version was only released in Japan, as Red and Blue became available worldwide. This is because Red and Blue had updated graphics, and they found that releasing Green alongside Red/Blue would be redundant (they are all basically the same game).

Why is leaf green instead of Blue? ›

So, plants and their leaves look green because the “special pair” of chlorophyll molecules uses the red end of the visible light spectrum to power reactions inside each cell. The unused green light is reflected from the leaf and we see that light.

Who is Ash father? ›

From what has been said about the character, fans know that Ash's dad is himself a Pokemon Trainer, presumably from Pallet Town, who is on his own Pokemon journey. This seems to be a common calling for the Ketchum family, as Ash's grandfather was mentioned to have also followed the same path.

What is Ash's real name? ›

Ash Ketchum, known as Satoshi (サトシ) in Japan, is a fictional character in the Pokémon franchise owned by Nintendo. He is the protagonist of the Pokémon anime and certain manga series as well as on various merchandise related to the franchise.

Do you get fake Pokémon cards? ›

Since they can't be sold or played in official events, counterfeit Pokémon cards are basically worthless. Their only purpose is to help scammers trick fans out of their money. Thankfully, the vast majority of these fake Pokémon cards are easy to spot.

How many Charizards are there? ›

Charizard has been featured on 46 different cards since it debuted in the Base Set of the Pokémon Trading Card Game. Charizard cards are normally Fire-type Stage 2 Pokémon.

Is my Charizard worth money? ›

The standard Legendary Collection Charizard is worth around $450 retail for a Near Mint copy, while the reverse holo version can fetch upwards of $1000.

How much is a Charizard worth? ›

The majority of cards from Base Set 4 have a value of around $355 while those from the original set tend to go for around $223.

How much is a Charizard worth 2022? ›

The highest price we're tracking for Radiant Charizard's 2022 Pokemon GO Holo is $2,500.00 and the lowest price is $24.95.

What is an unlimited Pokemon card? ›

The Unlimited format of the Pokémon Trading Card Game allows any card that was once playable in Play! Pokémon tournaments (that is, all cards except Worlds edition decks, jumbo cards, Ancient Mew, Birthday Pikachu, and otherwise unplayable cards) can be used.

What are the 15 rarest Pokémon cards? ›

Top 15 Rarest and Most Expensive Pokemon Cards Of All Time
  • #14 Pokemon Full Art EX Cards. ...
  • #13 Pokemon Gold Star Cards. ...
  • #12 Pokémon Shining Cards. ...
  • #11 Southern Islands Card Set. ...
  • #10 Shining Charizard. ...
  • #9 Tropical Mega Battle Cards. ...
  • #8 Charizard First Edition. ...
  • #7 Master's Key.
4 Oct 2019

What's the rarest Charizard? ›

A PSA 10-mint condition version of the 1999 holographic First Edition Base Set Charizard is the actual Holy Grail of Charizard cards and Pokemon cards in general. There is no rarity symbol for "extremely rare," but in terms of tangible cards, this takes the cake.

What is the first version of Pokémon video games released in 1996? ›

Pocket Monsters Red and Green

What games were out in 1996? ›

1996 saw many sequels and prequels in video games, such as Super Mario 64, Duke Nukem 3D, Street Fighter Alpha 2, Super Mario RPG, Virtua Fighter 3, and Tekken 3, along with new titles such as Blazing Heroes, NiGHTS into Dreams..., Crash Bandicoot, Pokémon Red/Green/Blue, Resident Evil, Dead or Alive, Quake and Tomb ...

How many Pokémon were there in 1996? ›

Generation I

The first generation of Pokémon began in 1996, introducing the first 151 Pokémon of the series. “Pokémon Red,” “Pokémon Green," “Pokémon Blue” and “Pokémon Yellow” are the core franchise games of the first generation.

What game system was out in 1996? ›

1996 – Nintendo 64

The Nintendo 64 was one of the first game consoles to use a 64-bit processor, which gave gamers better graphics than ever before from a Nintendo system. Some hit games on the N64 included Goldeneye 007, Donkey Kong 64, Star Fox 64, and Super Mario 64.

Is there a Pokemon green version? ›

Pokemon Green version was only released in Japan, as Red and Blue became available worldwide. This is because Red and Blue had updated graphics, and they found that releasing Green alongside Red/Blue would be redundant (they are all basically the same game).

What is the rarest Pokemon card? ›

1999 Super Secret Battle No. 1 Trainer

The answer to "What's the rarest Pokémon card of all time?" With only seven copies believed to be in existence, the Super Secret Battle No. 1 Trainer is easily one of the rarest Pokémon cards ever made.

What game was popular in 1997? ›

1997 saw many sequels and prequels in video games, such as Final Fantasy VII, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, GoldenEye 007, Star Fox 64, Tomb Raider II, Ultima Online, and Virtua Striker 2, along with new titles such as Everybody's Golf, I.Q.: Intelligent Qube, PaRappa the Rapper, Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee, Gran ...

What was the biggest game in 1999? ›

The year's top five best-selling video game titles were Pokemon Yellow, Pokemon Blue, Pokemon Red, Pokemon Pinball and Donkey Kong 64. Sony Computer Entertainment, Foster City, Calif., was the video game industry's second leading publisher in 1999 with 13.9% of unit sales and 17.3% of revenue.

What was the biggest selling game in 1995? ›

The home video game with the highest known sales in 1995 was Dragon Quest VI, despite only releasing in Japan. The Super Famicom was the best-selling game console in Japan, while the Sega Genesis was the best-selling console in North America.

How many Pokemons are there in total as of 2022? ›

There are currently 905 Pokemon officially registered on the National Pokedex. This number will increase with the new Pokemon introduced in Scarlet & Violet including Fuecoco, Quaxly, and Sprigatito, but they won't officially be counted until the Gen 9 games are released in November.

What are 1999 Pokémon cards called? ›

Fossil, released on October 8, 1999, is the third expansion set of cards in the Pokémon Trading Card Game. Fossil contains the fewest cards of any standard set in the card game (62). Future sets would often use a gimmick to differentiate their cards from other sets.

What's Pokémon #277? ›

Swellow - #277 - Serebii.net Pokédex.

What was the first 64 game? ›

The Nintendo 64 was first launched in Japan on June 23, 1996 with Super Mario 64, Pilotwings 64, and Saikyō Habu Shōgi; in North America with Super Mario 64 and Pilotwings 64; and in Europe with Super Mario 64, Pilotwings 64, Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, and Turok: Dinosaur Hunter.

How much did a Nintendo 64 cost in 1996? ›

The Nintendo 64, released in the United States in September at a $199.99 retail price, was offered for as much as $600 by Dec. 23.

What was the first 64 bit game? ›

The Jaguar


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