Pokémon Yellow Vs. Crystal: Which one should you get?

As has become the norm, Game Freak is known to release third versions of various generations, or at times remakes. Pokémon Yellow and Crystal were among the very first of their kind. I still remember how excited I was to play them as a kid😄.

But back then I never really paid attention to things like game features or mechanics. I simply got the games, because they were new and I liked them🤷. Recently, however, I got into a debate with a friend over which game was better. We were trying to advise our mutual friend on which game of the two they should get since they were planning on going back to the classics in the series.

The debate prompted me to come up with this article. So, for those of you torn between getting either Pokémon Yellow or Crystal, this article has the answers you need. Based on my first-hand experience playing both, I will share my detailed insights on how they compare. Keep reading to know my final verdict☺️.

Pokémon Yellow vs. Crystal – How They Compare.

But before we go into the details, take a look at the table below/ It summarizes how the two games compare:


Pokémon Yellow

Pokémon Crystal


  • Set in Kanto Region
  • The storyline matches the anime series
  • Has Jessie, James, and Meowth as part of Team Rocket
  • Set in Johto Region
  • The storyline is similar to the plot in most Pokémon mainline games
  • Some Kanto Gym leaders and Champions are different

Pokémon Starters

  • Pikachu
  • Chikorita/Cyndaquil/Totodile

Available Pokémon

  • Limited to Kanto Pokémon
  • Has Charmander, Squirtle, Bulbasaur, and the three legendary birds.
  • Access to both Kanto and Johto Pokémon
  • Has the Ho-oh, Lugia, and the legendary dogs.

Game Features

  • Pikachu can travel outside of the Pokeball
  • New minigames like Pikachu’s Beach
  • Charizard can learn Fly
  • Better graphics and more vibrant colors
  • Introduced female player option.
  • Animated sprites

What are the differences between Pokémon Yellow and Crystal?

Pokémon Crystal
Pokémon Crystal Version. Image source: Pokemon

Pokémon Yellow was the first third version to be released. It was an enhanced version of Pokémon Red and Blue. Pokémon Crystal came later as an enhanced version of Pokémon Gold and Silver. Being that the two games are enhanced versions of different generations in the game series, you’d obviously expect several differences.

The following are the main differences I thought were worth considering when deciding between the two games:


While I know some people may not care for the storyline as much as the gameplay, the story in each version is one of the biggest differences between the two. Pokémon Yellow was cleverly designed to mimic the Pokémon series, so a lot of the story elements match what is in the show.

Crystal’s storyline, on the other hand, is the typical plot you get in most mainline games🥱. A protagonist who journeys capturing Pokémon, defeating Gym leaders and the Elite 4 to become Champion. The only difference with most games is the number of gym badges you need and the number of Champions you have to defeat in Crystal is basically double.

That’s because, although Yellow is set in the Kanto region and Crystal is set in the Johto region I was able to access the Kanto region in Crystal after completing the game as part of the post-game. Although it did add an extra layer of challenge to the game, there’s nothing new there. You simply have to defeat the Kanto gym leaders (hence the 16 badges) and the Kanto Champion as well.

It is, however, worth noting that while in Yellow the gym leaders and their teams are similar to the anime, in Crystal the gym leaders in the Kanto region differ slightly. For example, instead of facing Koga in the fifth Gym, I faced Janine, since Koga went on to be part of the Elite 4 in Pokémon Crystal. And while Blue was the Champion in Yellow, he went back to being a Gym leader in Crystal. So instead of facing Giovanni in the eighth gym, you’ll face him. The new Kanto Champion in Crystal will be Red.

Additionally, in Yellow, like in the anime, Jessie, James, and Meowth play significant roles in the game as members of Team Rocket. I encountered them several times throughout the game. In Crystal, I noticed their characters were missing and were replaced by the scientists, Mitch and Ross, along with other random Team Rocket grunts. Let’s hope Meowth at least went back to being the boss’ “top dog” 😂.

Aside from the difference in characters, there were also other notable differences, such as the type of Pokémon you could catch and where you could catch them, but we will get into that later in the article.

Overall, in terms of a good storyline, I believe Yellow takes the win. It offers a fresh change from the usual plot we get in most of the mainline games. If you were a fan of anime growing up, like me, then this will be a huge plus for you. But if you weren’t then either storyline works.

Pokémon Starters

Another major difference is in the starters you’ll get in either game. Staying true to the show, in Yellow, you only get one choice for a starter, the lovable Pikachu🤩! In Crystal, however, you get three options, and no it’s not Charmander, Squirtle, and Bulbasaur. The choices are, drum rolls please🥁…Chikorita, Cyndaquil, Totodile!

Like in other games, you only get to pick one starter in Crystal per playthrough. Personally, while I thought all three starters were absolutely adorable, I picked Totodile because it had the least weaknesses. I would have preferred a Pikachu 😢, but at least I was able to capture it later in the game when I went to the Kanto region. It would have been nice though to have all three starters plus Pikachu like Ash did in the anime.

Via Animesher

Although, in some forums, some players mentioned that it is possible to get all three starters if you opt for the virtual console (VC). Either way, there are numerous YouTube videos on how to get the three starters if you really want to, with or without the VC.

Overall, however, I would say, Yellow had the best Pokémon starter. Although you don’t get options like in Crystal, Pikachu has fewer weaknesses and has a better advantage against most types in my opinion. Otherwise, Totodile isn’t a bad choice either.

Available Pokémon

Speaking of Pokémon, as I mentioned before, there are major differences when it comes to the type of Pokémon you can capture in either Pokémon Yellow or Crystal. In the main game, the Pokémon are limited to the respective regions. That means you can only catch Johto Pokémon in Crystal and in Yellow, you can only catch Kanto Pokémon.

But the post-game is where Crystal takes the lead 😃. Since you’ll get access to the Kanto region in Crystal, you can also capture the Pokémon in Kanto. Of course, there are some slight changes regarding where you can capture certain Pokémon. For example, while in the original Kanto, Pikachu could be captured in Veridian city, that area has been replaced with Route 2.

I was, however, disappointed that the starters in Red and Blue, Charmander, Squirtle, and Bulbasaur, were missing in Crytal. The legendary birds Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres were also not available in Crystal. That gives Yellow two points in that regard.

But Crystal still wins this category 🥇, since it has a bigger Pokedex with more variety. It isn’t limited to just Johto Pokémon. Plus, you can always trade or cheat to get the missing Pokémon and legendary birds.

Game Features

Pokémon Yellow 
Pokémon Yellow version. Image source: Pokemon

Last but not least, the most important difference of all, the game features. Being enhanced third versions, I expected that they would be an improvement from their predecessors. I have to say, both games did not disappoint in that regard 😌. They each introduced new fun features and improvements that set them apart from their predecessors.

Starting with Yellow, aside from the change in story elements and introducing new characters, the game also added some cool mini-games, like Pikachu’s Beach. There, my Pikachu learned Surf. Also, speaking of moves, some of the Pokémon learned new moves that they couldn’t in Red and Blue. For example, Charizard was able to learn Fly 😃.

But the coolest features in Yellow for me were the fact that Pikachu could travel with me outside its Pokeball, and it could express anger and happiness, thanks to the Friendship feature added to the game. These are features that would only be later seen in the fourth generation. Additionally, even though Pikachu crying “Pika” throughout the game was annoying at some point, as a child, the fact that my Pikachu spoke in the game simply blew my mind 🤯! For a Gen 1 game that was pretty impressive.

Speaking of Gen 1 games, Yellow, although originally designed for the original Game Boy, was the first Gen 1 game to be compatible with Game Boy Color. Not only were the graphics better than in Red and Blue, but the color also added a bit of vibrance to the otherwise monochromatic game.

Still, compared to Crystal, Yellow wasn’t as vibrant 😒. I love that Pokémon Crystal took full advantage of the Game Boy Color’s palette. Adding to the fact that Crystal had much better graphics than Yellow (basically Gen 1 and 2 in general), the game was much more visually appealing.

Aside from improved graphics, Crystal also added some new features that would later be adopted by the next generations. Among them was gender differentiation, which allows you to pick between a male or female player. I believe it was also the first game to introduce short animations for the sprites, which was pretty cool.

So, overall, if we were to compare the enhancements and features each game brought to the table, Crystal is the clear winner. While Yellow’s enhancements gave the game a different look and a slightly different experience, Crystal’s enhancements improved the overall gameplay experience and visual appeal.

Final Verdict: So, Which is better? – Pokémon Yellow or Crystal

Pokémon Yellow 
Pokémon Crystal Version. Image source: Pokemon

Now that you’ve seen the differences between the two games and compared them, it boils down to the most important question, which third version was better? I’m a little biased towards Yellow because I loved watching the anime growing up and Pokémon Yellow allowed me to have that experience playing the game.

Still objectively speaking, I believe Crystal did a better job as a third version. Although the content wasn’t so different from Gold and Silver, the game improved greatly on the mechanics, graphics, and overall visuals. It also introduced features that would be implemented in later generations. Not to mention, it had a wider variety of available Pokémon to capture compared to Yellow.

Even so, while Yellow’s biggest selling point is simply that it resembles the anime series, it is a significant factor for someone who is or was a fan of the show. But, if you didn’t or don’t care much for the anime, then you should go with Crystal.

FAQ Section

Which is more popular Pokémon Crystal or Yellow?

The answer may vary depending on who you ask. On some forums like Reddit, players favor Crystal while on others like GameFAQs they favor Yellow. But according to Bulbapedia, Pokémon Yellow had a better reception by the media compared to Pokémon Crystal. GameRankings gave Pokémon Yellow a score of 85% while Crystal received a score of 79.86%.

Is Pokémon Crystal more successful than Pokémon Yellow?

No, based on sales, Crystal does not appear to have been as successful as Pokémon Yellow. According to VGChartz, as of May 2023, Pokémon Yellow has 14.64 million sold copies, whereas Pokémon Crystal has only 6.39 million sold copies.

Which one came first Pokémon Yellow or Pokémon Crystal?

Pokémon Yellow came first, being one of the GEN I games. It was first released in Japan in 1998. It was later released in North America and Europe in 1999 and 2000 respectively. Pokémon Crystal came later as part of the GEN II games. It was first released in Japan in 2000 and later in North America and Europe in 2001.

Which one is easier to play Pokémon Crystal or Yellow?

The level of difficulty in each game will depend on your level of skill as a player, although many people believe the older games were more challenging than the more recent games. However, Yellow is the easiest to play. Objectively speaking Crystal will take longer to complete and will be more challenging seeing as you’ll face 16 gym leaders and 8 Elites (if you choose to play through the post-game).

Which one should you play first between Pokémon Crystal and Yellow?

If you have to follow an order, it’s preferable to play the two games in the order they were released. Playing Pokémon Yellow first will help you appreciate the improvements in Pokémon Crystal better. Otherwise, you can play the games in any order since they are set in different regions anyway.

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