Game Recs

Pokémon Stadium Was a Brilliant Leap Forward for the Franchise

A stripped-down version on Nintendo Switch Online delivers a total nostalgia bomb.

Written by David Grossman
Originally Published: 

First, Nintendo dominated the console market through its unstoppable Super Nintendo system. Then, triumphing over competition and skeptics, it came to dominate the handheld market with the Game Boy. It had developed hit after hit that came not just to define the gaming industry, but generations. In the later ‘90s, the company began looking for ways to merge these two now-distinct modes of gaming.

In the year 2000, the answer came to American shores. The Transfer Pak was one of many Paks offered with the Nintendo 64, the most popular being the Rumble Pak which would vibrate during crucial gameplay moments to enhance the drama. But the Pak system allowed an N64 to be modded, to a degree. One Japanese game came with its own modem, just to name one example that never made it Stateside.

The Transfer Pak, which did make the journey, allowed players to move data from their Game Boys to their consoles, creating a Nintendo ecosystem. They had the perfect showcase in Pokémon Stadium, which just arrived as part of the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack on April 11, 2023.

Back in 2000, data collected via a Game Boy was suddenly worth more than ever before. Players finally got a chance to see what Pokémon could do beyond vibrating back and forth on a screen. The dramatic attacks, with titles that suggest balls of fire, tidal waves, and energy blasts, could now be seen in their full glory.

The big appeal of Pokémon Stadium at the time of its release, that the game’s included Transfer Pak would allow Pokémon trainers to upload their collected beasts onto the big screen, is no longer viable. The game available on Switch Online does not use the Transfer Pak or any modern equivalent, instead giving players a pre-set collection of Pokémon to choose from. Similarly, another big draw of the original was being able to play your Game Boy Pokémon via an emulator within Pokémon Stadium.

As such, this version of the game lacks a huge part of the original’s organic joy. How could it not? But the game as presented should still serve as strong nostalgia for anyone who remembers the original. It’s a delightful highlight of the N64 era, where blocky polygons resulted in occasionally unpleasant visuals. Stadium plays to the era’s graphical strengths and makes for a simple yet compelling fighting game. And, at least, this version has preserved the silly but fun mini-games.

Pokémon Stadium also offers a number of silly mini-games that feel almost like Mario Party.


You get six slots for Pokémon to follow you along your journey to be the very best or to fight your friend. From this roster of six, a player chooses three Pokémon for each battle. Selecting Pokémon for a fight recalls play selection in games like Madden, where a player has a rough idea of what their opponent wants and can strategize over countering possible outcomes.

In one match-up, I sent Fighting- and Normal-type Pokémon out against Drowzee, a Psychic-type who was easily able to put them to sleep with Hypnosis and then munch up their health bars with Dream Eater. Even my Gengar was having a tough go.

The next go around, I left my Machamp at home and sent out Ditto, who copied the Drowzee. Equally matched with the computer’s Drowzee, my Ditto fell asleep but the damage was minimal. Getting the Drowzee asleep, and then sending in Gengar to finish the job against him and the two Water-types that came next, was incredibly satisfying.

Blastoise is ready to brawl.


Getting to see Pokémon battle in this manner is no longer a novelty. It’s the status quo in modern games. But there's joy in Stadium, especially in its announcer.

Seen as an annoyance by many reviewers at the time, a modern player might find them charming in their perpetual excitement. Every Pokémon’s entrance is greeted with an exuberant “Oh!” When an opponent is down to their last Poké Ball, the announcer will make sure everyone knows the match is lopsided. It’s a little corny, sure, but for a certain age group, the announcer brings back the thrill of being 13 years old and finally seeing a Charizard fly into the air. It’s a feeling of joy, which is transferable even without a Pak.

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