Growing up Pokémon Gold was the first ever Pokémon game I ever played and never looked back. When I was a little older, I eventually played the complete set of Gen 2 games, but later that year, I remember begging my mom to buy me the Crystal version when it came out. As would later become the norm in the mainline game series, the third version was meant to be an improvement of the first dual versions by combining the best parts of them. I was curious to see whether this was true.
More recently, however, while replaying the two versions, I got into a debate over which was better between Gold and Crystal. Because of that, I thought of coming up with this article to provide my detailed comparison of the two versions based on the experience I have with them. So, in case you’ve been struggling with the choice of which version to get then, this article has the answers you need. Read until the end to see my final verdict.
Pokémon Gold vs. Crystal – How They Compare.
But before we go into the details, below is a quick summary of the comparisons we will be looking at with regard to Gold and Crystal:
Gameplay Mechanics and Graphics
What are the differences between Pokémon Gold and Crystal?
It’s been 2 decades later and the Gen 2 games are still one of the favorites among many players. That is because this generation introduced key features of the game that would later become the longstanding traditions, we are accustomed to in the mainline game series today.
While the three versions of this generation, share the core mechanics and plot, certain differences set them apart especially when you compare the third version, Crystal to Gold and Silver. The following are the differences I noted between Gold and Crystal:
It’s worth noting that since both versions are based on the same region and belong to the same generation, the main plot is largely the same. But while Gold shares an almost identical plot to Silver, there are some slight variations in the story when it comes to Crystal.
One of the major variations I noted was with the main Legendary Pokémon in each version. The main legendary in Gold was Ho-oh while in Crystal it was Suicune. While both were available to capture in each version, in Gold Ho-oh played a more central role in the story while Suicune was on the sidelines. In Crystal, however, the story varies in that Suicune is no longer a side character in the game, but takes center role. It appears several times throughout the plot, unlike in Gold. Plus, there is a new character, Eusine, who appears in Crystal searching for Suicune.
Crystal also adds new subplots to the story. For example, it features a new subplot involving the Ruins of Alph and the ancient and mysterious Pokémon Unown. The subplot introduces more lore concerning Uown’s background as well as more puzzles.
Therefore, I would have to say Crystal had the better storyline because it involved new subplots and had more on Suicune’s background, unlike in Gold.
Game Play Mechanics and Graphics
Another major difference between the two versions is in the gameplay, which is expected seeing as Crystal came after Gold, so it built on it. It is, however, worth noting that the core mechanics are similar, there are just slight variations that I felt significantly improved the gameplay experience.
Let’s start with what most would say was a very minor improvement, which is the introduction of gender differences. Crystal was the first game in the history of the game series, to introduce the choice of a female character. Something that I feel made the game more inclusive. Another small improvement that I highly appreciated was that in Crystal, there were signs that tell you the city you’re in or the route you took. I thought this made it much easier to find my way around.
But some of the significant changes include the fact that in Crystal, the Pokémon sprites have short animations. This is a significant aesthetic improvement from Gold’s static sprites. For the first time in the Pokémon game series, Crystal introduced Battle Tower. I thought it was a great way to test my skills as a trainer by entering seven consecutive battles.
Additionally, I loved that in Crystal, the Poke Ball maker, Kurt could produce several balls at a time. This greatly increased the quality of life in the game, as opposed to how frustrating it was in Gold, where only one ball could be crafted at a time. Other than that, Crystal also improved the color palette and layout of various locations.
On the other hand, if you want to utilize the Glitches then Gold would be the best version to go for. I found it was easier to use the coin case glitch and duplication glitch in the Gold version than in the Crystal version.
So overall, I’d say Crystal had better mechanics and graphics, as it successfully improved some core aspects of the game while adding new features which significantly improved the overall experience of playing the game.
Usually, when Game Freak released a third version in a generation, it is an enhancement that combines the best parts of the previous dual versions. That means you can access Pokémon that were previously exclusive in the dual versions. While this holds true for the 2nd generation as well, there were some differences.
Although most of the Pokémon in Gold and Silver were available in Crystal, I found that some were missing in this third version. Examples include Mareep, Vulpix, and Mankey along with their evolutions. However, you can only get the unique Dratini with the ExtremeSpeed move, in the Crystal version. I also found that Celebi was easier to catch in Crystal.
Therefore, Crystal would be the better choice in terms of Pokémon. It has a wider Pokedex, and the missing Pokémon are more than made up for with the availability of Pokémon like Dratini.
Final Verdict: So, Which is better? – Pokémon Gold or Crystal
After looking at the differences presented in each version of the 2nd generation games, it is safe to say that objectively speaking, Crystal is the better version between Pokémon Gold and Crystal. The reason is, Crystal is an improvement of not just Gold but Silver as well. This version is also the first to introduce certain features that would be adapted in later generations such as battle tower and female players.
Of course, there is the fact that there are some Pokémon in Gold and Silver that are missing in Crystal. But if you consider that the latter includes Pokémon that were initially exclusive to either Gold or Silver, you’ll find that more than makes up for it. Plus, if the missing Pokémon are really important then you can always trade with other players.
That’s however not to say that Pokémon Gold wasn’t a good game. It was amazing in its own way, and its storyline gave the game a slightly different experience. But Pokémon Crystal is just a step up from it in many ways.
Which is more popular Pokémon Gold or Crystal?
Crystal is the preferred choice among most Pokémon players, since it’s the more improved and expanded version of that generation, combining the best parts of Gold and Silver.
Is Pokémon Gold more successful than Pokémon Crystal?
Despite Crystal being more popular, based on sales, Gold was more successful. According to VGChartz’s report as updated on May 2023, Gold and Silver sold a total of 23.1 million copies whereas Crystal sold only 6.39 million copies. It is not clear how many copies of Gold were sold exactly but it still stands to reason that Gold did better than Crystal. A possible reason could be that Crystal was released very late in the Game Boy Color’s life cycle since it was around the same time as Game Boy Advanced was introduced.
How many hours does it take to finish Pokémon Gold and Crystal?
For Gold, you would need approximately 30 hours to beat the main objectives but around 162 hours to achieve 100% completion. As for Crystal, while it would take roughly 29 hours to clear the main objectives, fully exploring the game would need about 147 hours.
Which game is longer between Pokémon Gold and Crystal?
Based on how long it would take you to complete the main objectives, both Gold and Crystal are the same. But to fully explore each game it would take you about 15 more hours to complete Gold, so that makes it the longer game.
Can you replace Pokémon Gold with Crystal?
No, the two games may share some similarities but they aren’t entirely the same game. You can, however, transfer your Pokémon from one version to another or trade with other players.
Is Pokémon Gold and Crystal the same story?
Not entirely. The main plot is the same, but there are various variations in each version. For example, the main legendary at the heart of the story is Ho-oh in Gold and Suicune in Crystal.
Which one has a better game between Pokémon Gold and Crystal?
Given that Crystal is the improved version of both Gold and Silver, it stands to reason that Crystal has the better game, with it being a refinement of the latter.
To say I am a die-hard fan is the least way to describe my love for Pokémon. I have grown up playing and studying everything there is to know about the game and anything related to it, giving me more than 18 years of as a player. I also have more than 10 years of experience in the gaming industry, creating content on different technology and gaming products. Now, with my experience, I want to share my passion and knowledge of Pokémon with all the other enthusiasts out there to help them learn and grow as they continue to explore this world filled with endless adventure and possibilities. You can read more about me on the about us page.