Pokémon Sword or Shield: version differences and exclusives

Pokémon Sword or Shield: version differences and exclusives explained
(Image credit: The Pokemon Company)

Pokémon Sword or Shield is a question bothering many Trainers-to-be, since choosing between two versions of the same Pokémon game can be confusing.

You're certainly not alone if you feel similarly stuck. Since the very beginning, Pokémon games have had two versions, with different names and box art. These are just the surface-level differences, however, as there are many more once you begin. Certain Pokémon are exclusive to particular versions, for example, and the list of gyms you can encounter while playing will be different depending on which you pick up.

For some players, this admittedly won’t make an iota of difference. However, since Pokémon Sword and Shield actually feature more contrasts between them than previous generations did, it’s definitely not a bad idea to know what those are before you commit. It's always possible to find someone to trade with if you have missed out – and you can always buy both versions if you want to – but that's a bit of a hassle and can be avoided if you want an easier life. 

Here's what the differences between Pokémon Sword and Shield are, from exclusive Pokémon to gyms you can take on.

Pokémon Sword or Shield: version differences

Pokémon Sword and Shield: version-exclusive Pokémon

Pokémon Sword and Shield: Galarian Ponyta

Galarian Ponyta can be caught in Pokémon Shield (Image credit: The Pokemon Company/Game Freak)

To help you decide whether Pokémon Sword or Shield is the one for you, we’ve compared both versions - as well as their DLC releases - so that you can feel confident in your decision either way.

Pokémon Sword exclusives

  • Deino (Dark/Dragon)
  • Hydreigon (Dark/Dragon)
  • Jangmo-o (Dragon)
  • Kommo-o (Dragon/Fighting)
  • Hakamo-o (Dragon/Fighting)
  • Farfetch'd (Normal/Flying)
  • Sirfetch'd (Fighting)
  • Zweilous (Dark/Dragon)
  • Gothita (Psychic)
  • Gothorita (Psychic)
  • Gothitelle (Psychic)
  • Turtonator (Fire/Dragon)
  • Seedot (Grass)
  • Nuzleaf (Grass/Dark)
  • Shiftry (Grass/Dark)
  • Mawile (Steel/Fairy)
  • Solrock (Rock/Psychic)
  • Basculin (Water)
  • Darumaka (Ice)
  • Darmanitan (Ice)
  • Scraggy (Dark/Fighting)
  • Scrafty (Dark/Fighting)
  • Rufflet (Normal/Flying)
  • Braviary (Normal/Flying)
  • Swirlix (Fairy)
  • Slurpuff (Fairy)
  • Passimian (Fighting)
  • Coalossal, Gigantamax Raid native to Sword but can be shared (Rock/Fire) 
  • Flapple, Gigantamax Raid native to Sword but can be shared (Grass/Dragon)
  • Stonjourner (Rock)
  • Indeedee, Male (Psychic/Normal)

Pokémon Shield exclusives

  • Goomy (Dragon)
  • Sliggo (Dragon)
  • Goodra (Dragon)
  • Larvitar (Rock/Ground)
  • Pupitar (Rock/Ground)
  • Tyranitar (Rock/Ground)
  • Galarian Ponyta (Psychic)
  • Solosis (Psychic)
  • Duosion (Psychic)
  • Reuniclus (Psychic)
  • Drampa (Normal/Dragon)
  • Vullaby (Dark/Flying)
  • Mandibuzz (Dark/Flying)
  • Gengar, Gigantamax Raid native to Shield but can be shared (Ghost/Poison)
  • Lapras, Gigantamax Raid native to Shield but can be shared (Water/Ice)
  • Cursola (Ghost)
  • Lotad (Water/Grass)
  • Lombre (Water/Grass)
  • Ludicolo (Water/Grass)
  • Sableye (Dark/Ghost)
  • Lunatone (Rock/Psychic)
  • Croagunk (Poison/Fight)
  • Toxicroak (Poisin/Fight)
  • Basculin, Blue-stripe form (Water)
  • Spritzee (Fairy)
  • Aromatisse (Fairy)
  • Oranguru (Normal/Psychic)
  • Appletun Gigantamax Raid native to Shield but can be shared (Grass/Dragon)
  • Eiscue (Ice)
  • Indeedee, Female (Psychic/Normal)

Pokémon Sword and Shield: version-exclusive Gyms

Pokémon Sword or Shield: Gym Leaders Bea and Allister

Different versions have different Gym Leaders (Image credit: The Pokémon Company)

Sword and Shield also have version-exclusive gyms so, depending on which version you pick, you will find yourself facing an exclusive Gym Leader with their own type-focus.

Pokémon Black and White had a similar scenario where, depending on which version you picked, you found yourself battling either Drayden or Iris. That said, both Drayden and Iris used Dragon-types, so you likely weren't having a hugely different experience. 

This time, though, the version-exclusive Gym Leaders are different people who also use different types.

Pokémon Sword's exclusive gyms are:

  • Bea, the Fighting-type leader
  • Gordie, the Rock-type leader

While in Pokémon Shield you'll be battling against:

  • Allister, the Ghost-type leader
  • Melony, the Ice-type leader

If facing off against any of these particular Pokémon types makes you break out in hives, then it could really help you in your decision whether to go for Pokémon Sword or Shield. If you hate them all then we don’t know what to say – go for the lesser of two evils?

Pokémon Sword or Shield: Legendary Pokémon

Pokémon Sword or Shield: trainer throwing PokéBall

(Image credit: The Pokemon Company)

Another classic version difference is in the Legendary Pokémon which plays the biggest part in your Pokémon adventure. Traditionally, the Legendary Pokémon featured on the cover of the game is a Pokémon you’ll be able to catch in your version of the game and this remains true in Pokémon Sword and Shield. 

For Pokémon Sword, this is Zacian, a Pokémon carrying a sword in its mouth that can cut through opponents. For Pokémon Shield, it’s Zamazenta, a defense-based Pokémon whose shield-like body can reflect attacks back on opponents.

The Pokémon Company is providing players an opportunity to get the Shiny version of the legendary they didn’t have access to in their original game as part of a temporary promotion starting October 22 2021 and running through November 2021. Yes, that’s right. If you’ve got Pokémon Sword, you could get your hands on a Shiny Zamazenta while Pokémon Shield players can get Shiny Zacian. The Pokémon will be free and can be added to your game via a code that’s claimed in-game in the Mystery Gift menu. Where and when you can get that code depends on where you’re living. 

In North America, it’s an in-store GameStop offer. In the US, Zacian is available until 11 November while Zamazenta’s code can be obtained between November 12 and 26. In Canada, Zacian is only available until 4 November with Zamazenta available from November 5 to 18. In the UK and Ireland, both Pokémon are available at the same time in GAME and GameStop stores respectively. 

Pokémon Sword or Shield: version-exclusive curry ingredients

cheap Nintendo Switch games deals

(Image credit: Nintendo)

These exclusives are more minor than the others but there are version-exclusive curry ingredients in Pokémon Sword and Shield. Fortunately, there are only two total. 

Those playing with Pokémon Sword get Bob's food tin to cook with, while those playing with Shield get Bach's food tin. Both can be bought from the ingredients sellers in the Rolling Hills and Hammerlocke sections of the Wild Area in your version of the game.

For those who want to experiment with the ingredient that's not in their version in order to expand their CurryDex, you can either trade Pokémon to get one holding that ingredient, or you can cook with a player who has the opposite version of the game as recipes you create while cooking with others will be added to your CurryDex. 

Pokémon Sword or Shield: Isle of Armor DLC differences

Pokémon Sword or Shield: Isle of Armor artwork

Isle of Armor  (Image credit: Nintendo)

Pokémon Sword and Shield's first expansion, Isle of Armor, is out now and is available for both versions of the game. The Pokémon DLC brings with it a new mentor, dojo master Mustard, new Pokémon (including the return of some old favorites), and new rivals. 

But, while the Isle of Armor content for Pokémon Sword and Shield is pretty much the same, which version of the game you have will determine which rival you face off against. 

Owners of Pokémon Sword will get Klara, a poison-type trainer, as their rival; while owners of Pokémon Shield will face off against Avery, a psychic-type trainer.

Pokémon Sword or Shield: Crown Tundra DLC differences

Pokémon Sword or Shield: The Crown Tundra artwork

The Crown Tundra (Image credit: Nintendo)

Pokémon Sword and Shield’s second expansion, The Crown Tundra, is out now and is available for both versions of the game. Larger than Isle of Armor, The Crown Tundra takes players to colder climes where they’ll be appointed as the leader of an exploration team tasked with investigating the far reaches of the land, including its underground Pokémon Dens. 

Like Isle of Armor, the content in The Crown Tundra is quite similar between Pokémon Sword and Shield. In terms of version-exclusive Pokémon, Sword players will be able to catch Omanyte, Omastar, Bagon, Shelgon, and Salamence.  Shield players on the other hand will be able to watch Kabuto, Kabutops, Gible, Gabite, and Garchomp.

More notable differences between the Sword and Shield versions are the Legendary Pokémon you’ll be able to encounter in the game’s new Dynamax Adventures. Sword has the legendaries Ho-Oh, Latios, Groudon, Dialga, Tornadus, Reshiram, Xerneas, and Solgaleo, while Shield has Lugia, Latias, Kyogre, Palkia, Thundurus, Zekrom, Yveltal, and Lunala.

This can be worked around, though, as you can simply join in the Dynamax Adventure of someone with the opposite version to you in order to try and catch that version’s exclusive Legendaries in a team Dynamax Adventure.

Do you now have a better idea of whether Pokémon Sword or Shield is for you? Maybe it's both? Either way, we've included the best prices on both Pokémon Sword and Shield below:

Emma Boyle

Emma Boyle is TechRadar’s ex-Gaming Editor, and is now a content developer and freelance journalist. She has written for magazines and websites including T3, Stuff and The Independent. Emma currently works as a Content Developer in Edinburgh.

With contributions from
  • Associate Editor, TechRadar Gaming