The eighth generation of Pokemon games kicks off this November with the release of Pokemon Sword and Shield for Nintendo Switch. Regardless of which version you decide to pick up, the core adventure will be the same across both titles, so you can generally expect to encounter the same characters, Gen 8 Pokemon, and story beats whether you’re playing Sword or Shield. However, as has been the case since the series’ inception, each version will also boast some distinct elements, so the experience will differ somewhat depending upon which version you play.
Traditionally, the biggest difference between Pokemon games is which monsters you can capture in the wild, but some installments have shaken things up in more dramatic ways with version-exclusive locations and characters. There is still much we don’t know about Pokemon Sword and Shield, but we’ve already gotten a look at some of the ways in which the two games will differ, and we’ve broken them down below. Be sure to check back as Nintendo and The Pokemon Company reveal more details about the titles and we continue to update this list as we learn more. Be sure to also check out our Pokemon Sword and Shield release date and pre-order guide.
In a first for the series, Pokemon Sword and Shield will feature some version-exclusive Gym Leaders. As we learned from the games’ latest trailer, some cities in the Galar region will be home to different Gyms depending on which version you’re playing. It’s unclear at present just how many Gyms will differ between the two games, but we know of at least one. In Pokemon Sword, players will challenge Bea, a Fighting-type expert. However, the same Gym in Shield will be led by Allister, a Ghost-type trainer.
Just as in the past, Sword and Shield will each be home to a handful of Pokemon that can’t be captured in the other version. We don’t yet know the full list of version-exclusive Pokemon in each game, but The Pokemon Company has confirmed a handful of older monsters that can only be found in Sword or Shield.
Like previous Pokemon games, Sword and Shield are each represented by a different Legendary Pokemon. The cover of Sword is adorned by Zacian, which wields a sword in its maw and moves about gracefully, while Shield’s cover is graced by Zamazenta, which boasts an armor-like mane. Not many details about the two Legendaries have been revealed as of yet, and they may not necessarily be exclusive to their own versions. However, it’s safe to assume each Legendary will at least play a bigger story role in the game it represents.