Pokémon Ruby Vs. Sapphire: Which is the better version?

When Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire were released, to cheer me up after I lost my first pet dog, Ruff (RIP buddy), my parents got me copies of both. I was obsessed with Pokémon at the time (I still am honestly) so playing both versions did more than cheer me up, I was elated. But unlike most of the later generations I played after, I noticed that Ruby and Sapphire had some interesting differences that dual versions didn’t normally have.

Recently I came across various forums debating on which version was better than the other. This prompted me to replay both games to relive the experience. So, to contribute to the debate, I decided to write an article comparing both versions based on my recent first-hand experience. Keep reading to find out my verdict of which one is better and why, after we’ve gone through a detailed comparison of how they differ.

Pokémon Ruby vs. Sapphire – How They Compare.

But first, below is a quick summary of the distinctions between the games that we will be discussing in detail in this article:


Pokémon Ruby

Pokémon Sapphire


  • Team Magma is the antagonist
  • Team Aqua is the antagonist

Version Exclusive Pokémon

  • Seedot/Nuzleaf/Shiftry
  • Mawile
  • Zangoose
  • Solrock
  • Lotad/Lombre/Ludicolo
  • Sableye
  • Seviper
  • Lunatone

Legendary Pokémon

  • Groudon (main legendary)
  • Latios (Exclusive)
  • Kyogre (main legendary)
  • Latias (Exclusive)

What are the differences between Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire?

Pokémon Ruby Vs. Sapphire
Pokémon Ruby Version and Pokémon Sapphire Version. Image source: Pinterest

As you may be aware, the 3rd generation was the first to be released for Game Boy Advanced. Even though, generally, the game series has come a long way since then, certain significant features were introduced with this generation that set the tone for later Gens to come.

While the two versions share the same core mechanics and story plot, therefore have many similarities, there are still some significant differences worth noting:


As with most versions of any generation in the Pokémon game series, the main plot is always the same. There are, however, little variations in how the story is told. In some, it’s which Legendary Pokémon you get, or which one you get to catch first, in others it’s different locations that are exclusive to one version and not to mention the classic version exclusive Pokémon you’ll find in one version not the other.

Ruby and Sapphire, are similar in this sense. Their stories match in terms of how it starts and the region the story is set in. As the protagonist, your main goal is still to be the Champion and for that, you must fill the Pokedex, and also capture the main legendary, not to mention defeat gym leaders and the Elit 4. Also, like many other generations, Ruby and Sapphire differ in which legendary or exclusive Pokémon you get (we’ll get into more of that later).

But where their plots got interesting for me was the point, I encountered the main legendary in each version. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is the first generation to have different villains you have to beat. Usually, dual versions have the same villain team like Team Rocket and so on. But in Gen 3 the three the duo had different teams with different motives.

In Ruby, I was up against Team Magma, whose evil motive was to expand the land mass by awakening the Legendary Groudon and using its power to achieve its goal. In Sapphire, I faced Team Aqua as the villains whose motive was to expand the sea by awaking Kyogre and using its power instead.

Based on what I’ve just described, while the teams differ, their motives are almost the same. So, I know some people will say this isn’t much of a difference because it doesn’t really change the gameplay experience. I agree. But I also think that introducing different villains increased the distinction between the two versions, and in my humble opinion, gave each version a more unique feel to playing it.

Still, overall, I would say in terms of the storyline, both versions tie. It was interesting going against both teams, and the challenge of beating them wasn’t any different.

Version Exclusive Pokémon

Pokémon Ruby 
Pokémon Ruby version. Image source: Nintendo

As I mentioned earlier, this is a classic difference you’ll find in most if not all Pokémon generations. As such in Ruby you will encounter certain Pokémon that won’t be available in Sapphire and vice versa. The reason why picking the best version is crucial is that it would make trading later much easier if you already have most of the Pokémon you want. So, if you are a collector or depending on the team you want to build, this is a difference worth considering.

But which version offers the best Pokémon? You’d be the best person to answer that since the answer is mostly based on preference. What’s your playstyle? What typing do you prefer? Who is your favorite Pokémon? Which sprites look cooler to you? Both versions offer an equal number of exclusives, so, if you can answer these questions then you can choose the version that closely meets your needs based on these Parameters.

In my humble opinion however, even though the opposing Pokémon on either version had equal overall base stats when compared, I thought the Sapphire exclusives had more even stat distribution (between Attack, Special Attack, Defense, and Special Defense) compared to those in Ruby. Additionally, I felt the designs of the Pokémon in Sapphire were also much cooler in my opinion.

Ideally, both versions tie in terms of the version exclusive Pokémon, but if I had to choose, I would say Sapphire’s was slightly better. But that’s only based on my preference, so it’s up to you to decide which version offers better exclusives.

Legendary Pokémon

Pokémon Ruby Vs. Sapphire
Legendary Pokémon. Image source: Pinterest

Another significant difference worth noting is the legendary you get in each version. Like other generations, each version’s main legendary is exclusive to that version. That means you can only catch them in their respective versions, not to mention they also slightly affect the storyline, since they have a key role to play in the game.

In Ruby, you’ll have the choice of capturing Groudon, a ground-type legendary who has good Attack and defense stats. This works well for its type since Ground types are generally known to be better at physical attack. Kyogre on the other hand is the main legendary you get in Sapphire. It’s a Water-type with great Special Attack and Special defense stats which works well for it given its special moves like Blizzard.

Given that they have the same base total stat of 670, each legendary is equally strong. I also thought they were both effective at defending against attacks from types they are most vulnerable or weak to, despite Kyogre having slightly lower defense stats. But I preferred Groudon’s move pool composed of a combination of Ground and Fire-type moves, as opposed to Kyogre whose move pool mainly consisted of water-type moves.

It was the same thing with the other exclusive Legendaries, Latios (Ruby) and Latias (Sapphire). They shared the same typing and overall base stats. The only difference was that Latios was better for attack and Latias was better for defense. But typically, Dragon/Psychic types have better offensive capabilities than defensive ones. So, based on that I thought Latios was the better choice.

Therefore, only by a slight difference, I feel Ruby offers better legendary options. Although, I preferred the designs on the Sapphire legendary, as opposed to Ruby’s. But objectively speaking the choice will lie on your preference and playstyle.

Final Verdict: So, Which is better? – Pokémon Ruby or Sapphire

All things considered, while the two versions have clear differences, the overall experience of playing either is the same. So, if that is your main concern then both games are great. But like I’ve said several times now, deciding between which of the two versions is better, will depend on your preference of which team to battle, which legendary Pokémon you want in your story, and which exclusive Pokémon you are interested in capturing.

If you were to ask my opinion, based on my discussion, it’s clear I’m more inclined towards Sapphire, but that’s my biased preference. In retrospect, I enjoyed playing both games. However, if you can only get one but really can’t decide, then you can always get Pokémon Emerald. It combines both versions with improvements like extended post-game content and other minor updates to the mechanics and story, that could significantly influence your overall experience.

FAQ Section

Which is more popular Pokémon Sapphire or Ruby?

Based on the opinions provided by players on several forums, it would appear that each version had its own share of fans. While neither was as popular as their counterpart Pokémon Emerald, which came later, the two seemed to have equal praise from players.

Is Pokémon Ruby different from Sapphire Pokémon?

Not entirely. While there are certain variations in the storyline, exclusive Pokémon and main legendaries, both game uses the same main plot, which follows a protagonist on a journey to becoming Pokémon Champion through defeating a villainous group, Gym Leaders, the Elit 4, and capturing various Pokémon.

Which game is harder to play between Pokémon Sapphire and Pokémon Ruby?

Although there are certain variations, seeing as both games share the same core mechanics, the gameplay experience won’t differ so much. Additionally, as I have noticed, with later generations as well, Pokémon games keep getting easier with every release, so how difficult you find either game will depend on how skilled you are as a trainer.

Who came first between Ruby and Sapphire Pokémon?

Both games were released at the same time. In Japan, the games came out in November 2002. In North America, they were released in March 2003. In Australia, their release date was in April 2003 while in Europe the games were released in July that same year.

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