Pokémon Sword and Shield differences: Which version should you buy?

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Pokémon Sword and Shield are finally here, which begs the eternal question that comes with every Pokémon release: which version should you buy?

As with most mainline Pokémon games, Sword and Shield have the same game world, story and mechanics, but differ slightly in which Pokémon you can catch and which gym leaders you'll battle.

Here's a quick breakdown of the key Pokémon Sword and Shield differences.

Pokémon Sword exclusive Pokémon, Legendaries and Galarian forms

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Here's a list of Pokémon exclusive to Pokémon Sword, including returning Pokémon, new Pokémon and special Galarian forms that put unique twists on classic characters. Pokémon Sword's Legendary Pokémon is Zacian, a large wolf-like monster that holds a sword in its mouth.

(Image credit: Nintendo)
  • Zacian (Legendary)
  • Flapple
  • Indeedee (Male)
  • Stonejourner
  • Deino
  • Zweilous
  • Hydreigon
  • Jangmo-o
  • Hakamo-o
  • Kommo-o
  • Gothita
  • Gothitelle
  • Seedot
  • Nuzzleaf
  • Shiftry
  • Rufflet
  • Braviary
  • Swirlix
  • Slurpuff
  • Scraggy
  • Scrafty
  • Sawk
  • Basculin (Blue Stripe)
  • Mawile
  • Solrock
  • Passimian
  • Turtonator
  • Galarian Farfetch'd
  • Sirfetch'd
  • Galarian Darumaka
  • Galarian Darmanitan

Pokémon Shield exclusive Pokémon, Legendaries and Galarian forms

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Pokémon Shield's Legendary Pokémon is Zamamenta, a similarly large wolf-like creature whose armor looks like one big shield. Other notable Shield exclusives include new Pokémon Appleton, Indeedee (Female) and Eiscue, as well as the Galarian versions of Ponyta and Cursola.

(Image credit: Nintendo)
  • Zamamenta
  • Appleton
  • Indeedee (Female)
  • Eiscue
  • Larvitar
  • Pupitar
  • Tyranitar
  • Goomy
  • Sliggoo
  • Goodra
  • Solosis
  • Duosion
  • Reuniclus
  • Lotad
  • Lombre
  • Ludicolo
  • Vullaby
  • Mandibuzz
  • Spritzee
  • Aromatisse
  • Croagunk
  • Toxicroak
  • Throh
  • Basculin (Red Stripe)
  • Sableye
  • Lundatone
  • Oranguru
  • Drampa
  • Galarian Ponyta
  • Galarian Rapidash
  • Galarian Corsola
  • Cursola

Pokémon Sword and Shield gym leader differences

(Image credit: Nintendo)

In addition to offering different Pokémon to catch, Sword and Shield also feature their own distinct gym leaders.

Pokémon Sword players will battle Fighting-type gym leader Bea and Rock-type gym leader Gordie, while Shield owners will fight Ghost-type gym leader Allister and Ice-type Gym leader Melony.

The rest of the game's gym leaders, including Milo and Nessa, can be encountered in both versions.

Michael Andronico

Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.