Pokémon Shield vs Sword: Which Version should you get?

Since the release of the very first game in the Pokémon game series, there have always been 2 or more competing versions to choose from. While the versions are largely similar, certain key differences make it harder to decide between them. Pokémon Sword and Shield are no different. Nearing its release date, I was faced with the classic dilemma of “Which version should I get first?”

When it came to Sword and Shield, I found myself giving each version a lot more consideration. This is because they each presented interesting differences that I felt could affect my experience playing the game. Although I eventually got both, I’m aware that not everyone is willing or able to invest in both versions.

So, given my experience with both Sword and Shield, I decided to come up with this article to provide a detailed comparison, that will help you figure out the key differences to consider. Whether you’re a seasoned trainer or a newbie to the game of Pokémon, hopefully, this post will make it easier to make a choice.

Pokémon Shield vs Sword – How They Compare

Let’s start with a quick summary of the key factor that vary between Pokémon Sword and Shield:




Exclusive Pokémon

  • Mawile
  • Basculin
  • Turtonator
  • Deino/Zweilous/Hydreigon
  • Jangmo-o/Kommo-o/Hakamo-o
  • Seedot/Nuzleaf/Shiftry
  • Darumaka /Darmanitan
  • Farfetch’d/Sirfetch’d
  • Rufflet/Braviary
  • Gothita /Gothorita/Gothitelle
  • Swirlix/Slurpuff
  • Scraggy/Scrafty
  • Coalossal
  • Passimian
  • Flapple
  • Solrock
  • Stonjourner
  • Indeedee, Male
  • Drampa
  • Lapras
  • Cursola
  • Gengar
  • Galar Ponyta/Galar Rapidish
  • Goomy/Sliggo/Goodra
  • Larvitar/Pupitar/Tyranitar
  • Spritzee/Aromatisse
  • Solosis/Duosion/Reuniclus
  • Lotad/Lombre/Ludicolo
  • Vullaby/Mandibuzz
  • Croagunk/Toxicroak
  • Sableye
  • Basculin
  • Eiscue
  • Lunatone
  • Oranguru
  • Appletun
  • Indeedee, Female

Exclusive Gym leaders

  • Gordie (Rock type)
  • Bea (Fighting type)
  • Melody (Ice type)
  • Allister (Ghost-type)

Legendary Pokémon



Isle of Armor Rival



What are the differences between Pokémon Shield and Sword?

Pokémon Shield vs Sword
Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield. Image source: Nintendo

Now the following is a detailed look into the key differences between the two versions:

Version Exclusive Pokémon

As with different generations of Pokémon that came before, the classic difference between Sword and Shield is the different Pokémon you can catch and train that are exclusive to either version. Usually, when considering the exclusives, it’s more a matter of preference. Which Pokémon are you more interested in catching? The version with the most Pokémon exclusives you want is usually the best option to go for, that way you won’t have to do a lot of trading to get them.

But, if this is your first Pokémon game, then understandably, you won’t have any idea what these exclusives are and what they can do. In such a case, look at the stats of each exclusive and think of the type of player you are. Following the names, I felt that the shield version took a more defensive approach in battle, while the sword took a more offensive approach.

A lot of the Shield exclusives had better defense and HP stats, for example, the Female Indeedee that was only available in that version. On the other hand, the Sword exclusives seemed to have better stats when it came to attacks and speed, for example, the male Indeedee that’s exclusive to that version.

However, a trick I used for past games in the series, is to pick the version that is least popular amongst fans and players. The advantage of this is when it comes to trading, the least popular version exclusives will be in higher demand making them more valuable. This usually gives me the upper hand in trading.

To sum up, I would say, both Shield and Sword have a great selection of exclusives. What matters is whether you like to be on the offense in battle or if you prefer to be on the defensive. Alternatively, you could just go with the version that has the most number of exclusive Pokémon you like.

Gym Leaders

Pokémon Shield vs Sword
Pokémon Shield. Image source: Nintendo

Pokémon Sword and Shield are the first to offer different gym leaders in each version. Out of the 8 you are meant to face, two of them differ depending on the version you picked. I had to give this careful thought based on the gym leader I was more willing to battle.

In the Sword version, you will find the Fighting type gym leader, Bea in Stow-on-side as well as the Rock type gym leader, Gordie in Circhester. As for the Shield version, in Stow-on-side, you’ll face Ghost-type gym leader, Allister, and in Circhester, you’ll face ice type gym leader, Melony.

I found it was difficult more difficult to defeat the exclusive gym leaders in Sword as opposed to those in Shield. While Allister can be tricky to defeat given that he specializes in Ghost-type, I was able to defeat him easily by maximizing on my dark-type Pokémon. Bea was a bit harder to defeat since going up against fighting types is no joke. But with the right strategy, I was able to succeed. All I can say is don’t make the mistake of underestimating her.

When it came to Melody, she was fairly easy to beat using a strong fire-type Pokémon. But I realized if given the chance she can deal some pretty bad damages, so if you have to face her don’t go easy on her. Gordie on the other hand, was another difficult gym leader to beat. Being a rock-type gym leader, his defense is pretty solid, so it took a while to deal with any real damage. But if you have a water-type Pokémon, facing him shouldn’t be so hard.

Overall, I would say, Shield’s exclusive gym leaders were fairly easier to beat, so unless you are looking for a challenge, steer clear of the Sword version until you’re a seasoned player.

Box Legendries

This is another classic difference in the varying Pokémon versions, and Sword and Shield is no different. With the Sword version, you will get the Fairy/Steel type legendary Pokémon, Zacian. On the other hand, with the Shield version, you’ll be able to catch the Fighting/Steel type legendary Pokémon, Zamazenta.

Again, your choice will largely be based on which legendary you are more interested in adding to your party. I would say, both legendaries are awesome when it comes to their looks. Zacian has graceful movements that can captivate your opponent, plus its cool sword can cut through anything. Zamazenta on the other hand, has a body covered in an awesome shield that can turn back any attack.

From my experience with both legendaries (and I believe most players would agree), Zacian is a much greater force to reckon with in battle. While Zamazenta has unmatched defense ability, it has more weaknesses compared to Zacian. Additionally, Sword’s legendary has much better speed and more powerful attacks.

So, without question, I would have to say, Sword has a better legendary given the stats, as compared to Shield’s legendary.

Isle of Armor Rivals

Pokémon Shield vs Sword
Pokémon™ Sword. Image source: Nintendo

Based on the story of this DLC, you will meet a rival at the station near the Isle of Armor. The rival you’ll have to face will differ based on the version you pick. The choice will largely depend on which rival you are more interested in fighting. In the Sword version, you will battle against Klara whose specialty is Poison-type Pokémon, while in Shield you’ll face Avery who specializes in Psychic-type Pokémon.

Klara, in my opinion, is undoubtedly a better rival to go up against if you are looking for a challenge. She tries her best to win, including poisoning your teammates. Although I love Avery’ cool design, he’s a one-trick pony, and overall, I feel that Klara’s toxic spikes are better than his psychic terrain. Still, it is worth noting that it was easier to beat Avery in the Shield version than it was to beat Klara in the Sword version.

So, all things considered, I would say, Sword had a better rival for the Isle of Armor DLC story, but if you’re looking for an easier battle, I’d suggest going with Shield.

Final Verdict: So, Which version should you get? – Pokémon Shield or Sword

Overall, both versions are great, but when it comes down to it if I had to choose, I would say Shield is the best version to get if you are new to Pokémon and this is your first game. I found it less challenging compared to Sword. On the other hand, if you are looking for something more challenging, then Sword’s version offers plenty of that with the exclusive Gym leaders and Isle of Armor rival. On top of that, Sword Legendary, Zacian would be a powerful addition to your party. In the end, what matters is what you are looking for when playing the Pokémon game series.

FAQ Section

Which is more popular Pokémon shield or sword?

Pokémon Sword is more popular than Pokémon Shield among players and fans. This is mainly because most people are fans of Zacian given its might and ability.

Is Pokémon shield more successful than Pokémon sword?

No, it is not. While Pokémon Sword and Shield are top 3 of the best-selling games in the series, Sword sold more copies compared to Shield.

Which was released first Pokémon Shield or Sword?

Both Pokémon Shield and Pokémon Sword were released on the same date, which was on November 15, 2019.

How many hours does it take to finish the Pokémon shield and sword?

Averagely, it should take you 25 hours to complete the game if you focus on the main objectives. But if you prefer exploring every aspect of the game, then that will take you approximately 102 hours.

Which one has the best starter between Pokémon shield and sword?

While some people may opt for Grookey, Scorbunny is a much better started if you want an easier playthrough from start to finish. Grookey is only a great option if you want a starter that’s less likely to be knocked out by one attack.

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