Welcome! This column is part of a series in which members of the Tom's Guide staff share what they're playing and enjoying right now, with the goal of helping you find great games that you may have missed. Be sure to check out our previous entry, where we talk about Persona 4 Golden on the Nintendo Switch.
I’ll just come right out and say it: I’m really happy there wasn’t much in the way of new games this month. Sure, the Persona re-releases on modern consoles were a nice surprise, but it was honestly refreshing not to have to run out and buy a new game just to stay caught up with what everyone else is talking about on Twitter.
This lull allowed me to do something that I rarely get the chance to do: I could finally dive into my backlog. What I pulled out was Pokémon Omega Ruby on the Nintendo 3DS, and it helped me rediscover how much I enjoyed the Pokémon games beyond Gold and Silver.
I’m not sure if I’ll have time to continue on with my journey to become the very best like no one ever was in Pokémon Brilliant Diamond on Nintendo Switch, but until next month’s new releases like Hogwarts Legacy, Atomic Heart and the PS VR 2 come out – you can catch me revisiting the Hoenn region in what I think is one of the best Nintendo 3DS games.
A schism between the old and the new
I’ve always loved Pokémon, but in my mind there was always a clear cutoff between the “good Pokémon games” like Red, Blue, Yellow, Silver and Gold, and the bad ones – what I considered generations three, four and five.
Part of the reason I didn’t like those generations as much was because they came out in my late high school and college years when I was playing games that were pushing the needle a bit more. I figured, Why learn about 100 new Pokémon when I could be enjoying Skyrim? The result was that I didn’t really learn Pokémon from those generations, which then made following games less enjoyable.
I still played them, of course, and even rekindled my passion briefly with Sun and Moon (also on the Nintendo 3DS), but I always felt the disconnect between the second generation and everything that would come afterwards.
Omega Ruby really nailed the Pokémon formula
One of the reasons it was so easy to latch back onto the franchise with Omega Ruby is because of how functional the games have become. Getting an Exp Share towards the beginning of the adventure means you can level your whole team without necessarily needing to balance their time in battle, which helps them evolve faster.
Speaking of battles, Omega Ruby uses the Mega Evolution system that was introduced in Pokémon X and Y. Being able to change the type of a Pokémon mid-battle – as well as boosting important stats – means that there’s more depth here than there was when the original Ruby and Sapphire came out two decades ago. The transformation animations do become a bit tiring after seeing them for the 20th time that day
On top of that, Omega Ruby isn’t skimpy on legendary Pokémon to catch. Before you take on the Elite Four, there are probably a dozen legendary or semi-legendary Pokémon to encounter and catch, and that number doubles or triples after the first set of credits.
Finally, thanks to Pokémon Box, you can actually take everything you collect forward with you to later entries in the game. I haven’t tried this myself yet (I’m waiting for Pokémon Box to end its paid subscription in March) but the prospect that all this time I’m investing won’t be wasted really helps quiet that “adult” side of my brain that needs every minute of my day to be accounted for.
Find your Pokémon Omega Ruby before the next wave hits
I could gush even more about Pokémon Omega Ruby – but really it’s just a metaphor for finding the time to play something you’ve always wanted to play but didn’t have the time.
You can, of course, make time for these games by skipping out on whatever the month’s hot new release is. But, be warned, the later it gets in the year, the better the games are going to be.
Case in point? In November of last year there were 30+ new games released including God Of War Ragnarök, Pentiment, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, World of Warcraft: Dragonflight and Vampire Survivors on Xbox. Trying to sneak in another game really wasn’t feasible.
Instead of feeling bored because there’s nothing new to play in January due to lackluster releases, see this as a small window of opportunity to go back and play something from your backlog.
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Nick Pino heads up the TV and AV verticals at Tom's Guide and covers everything from OLED TVs to the latest wireless headphones. He was formerly the Senior Editor, TV and AV at TechRadar (Tom's Guide's sister site) and has previously written for GamesRadar, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade. Not sure which TV you should buy? Drop him an email or tweet him on Twitter and he can help you out.