'Pokémon Sword' vs 'Pokémon Shield': Exclusives, differences & which to buy

A potentially game-changing decision.

pokemon sword and shield legendaries

Choosing between Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield is a tough call, like picking a favorite child at Thanksgiving. This is a necessary choice to make, yet also one where the differences can be quite literally “game-changing.” Having full knowledge about what each version has to offer is crucial to picking the one best suited to your preferences and play style. While similar in overall structure, Sword and Shield contain a slew of differences. Each contains different Pokémon, Raids, and Gyms. But what are these differences?

Version-exclusive Pokémon

pokemon sword and shield galarian farfetch'd

Pokémon exclusive to Sword

  • Deino, Zweilous and Hydreigon (Dark / Dragon)
  • Flapple (Grass / Dragon)
  • Galarian Darumaka and Galarian Darmanitan (Ice)
  • Galarian Farfetch’d and Sirfetch’d (Fighting)
  • Gothita, Gothorita and Gothitelle (Psychic)
  • Jangmo-o (Dragon), Hakamo-o and Kommo-o (Dragon / Fighting)
  • Mawile (Steel / Fairy)
  • Passimian (Fighting)
  • Rufflet and Braviary (Normal / Flying)
  • Solrock (Rock / Psychic)Turtonator (Fire / Dragon)
  • Zacian (Fairy or Fairy / Steel)
pokemon sword and shield galarian ponyta

Pokémon exclusive to Shield

  • Appletun (Grass / Dragon)
  • Drampa (Normal / Dragon)
  • Galarian Corsola and Cursola (Ghost)
  • Galarian Ponyta (Psychic) and Galarian Rapidash (Psychic / Fairy)
  • Goomy, Sliggoo and Goodra (Dragon)
  • Larvitar, Pupitar (Rock / Ground) and Tyranitar (Rock / Dark)
  • Lunatone (Rock / Psychic)
  • Oranguru (Normal / Psychic)
  • Sableye (Dark / Ghost)
  • Solosis, Duosion and Reuniclus (Psychic)
  • Vullaby and Mandibuzz (Dark / Flying)
  • Zamazenta (Fighting or Fighting / Steel)

Sword features the Fairy/ Steel-type Legendary, Zacian. Meanwhile, Shield stars the Fighting/Steel-type Legendary Pokémon, Zamazenta.

Version-exclusive gameplay

In addition to the standard Pokémon varieties found in each generation, Pokémon Sword and Shield take things a step further with version-exclusive Gym Battles. Each version of the game contains three exclusive Gyms, which occur successively beginning with the fourth Gym and concluding with the sixth. Other than the exclusive Gyms, the actual order is the same in both games.

pokemon sword and shield fighting gym leader bea

All Pokémon Sword gyms:

  1. Milo - Grass Gym Leader
  2. Nessa - Water Gym Leader
  3. Kabu - Fire Gym Leader
  4. Bea - Fighting Gym Leader (Exclusive)
  5. Opal - Fairy Gym Leader (Exclusive)
  6. Gordie - Rock Gym Leader (Exclusive)
  7. Piers - Dark Gym Leader
  8. Raihan - Dragon Gym Leader
pokemon sword and shield ghost gym leader

All Pokémon Shield gyms:

  1. Milo - Grass Gym Leader
  2. Nessa - Water Gym Leader
  3. Kabu - Fire Gym Leader
  4. Allister - Ghost Gym Leader (Exclusive)
  5. Sopp - Poison Gym Leader (Exclusive)
  6. Melony - Ice Gym Leader (Exclusive)
  7. Piers - Dark Gym Leader
  8. Raihan - Dragon Gym Leader

In addition to the version-exclusive Gyms, the Pokémon available to catch in Max Raid Battles will vary between versions. From launch until January 20, Pokémon Sword trainers will have a greater chance to find Gigantamax Drednaw in Max Raid Battles, while Pokémon Shield players will be more likelto encounter Gigantamax Corviknight.

If you’re still undecided on which to pick up, I’m planning to pick up Pokémon Sword, simply because of Zacian’s brilliant blade.

Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield will launch on November 15.

Media via The Pokémon Company / Nintendo, Nintendo