Pokémon Brilliant Diamond or Shining Pearl: version differences explained

A trainer throws a pokéball in Pokemon Brilliant Diamond or Shining Pearl
(Image credit: The Pokemon Company)

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond or Shining Pearl? If you’re coveting ILCA's recent Gen 4 remakes for Nintendo Switch, then that’s probably the tough question you’re asking yourself. 

Offering two versions of the same game is a tradition for the Pokémon series. Overall, you'll find both versions provide a largely identical experience with regards to things like story, map, characters, and price, with the differences between the versions tending to be small. But it’s these minor differences that end up mattering most when you’re struggling to make a decision. 

The recent Gen 8 releases, Pokémon Sword and Shield, had some pretty significant differences between versions – including version-exclusive gym leaders and characters – but, fortunately, things are a little more straightforward with Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. Like the original Diamond and Pearl, the differences largely revolve around version-exclusive pokémon. It might not seem like much but if you have a favorite pokémon, it’s always worth checking if they fall under the version-exclusive banner before you commit. 

There isn’t really a wrong choice when it comes to these games but to help you decide if Pokémon Brilliant Diamond or Shining Pearl is more for you, we’ve detailed the version differences below, including version-exclusive pokémon and legendaries. 

Hopefully, this Nintendo Switch remaster will tide you over until the release of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, which could be one of the best Nintendo Switch games.

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond or Shining Pearl: version-exclusive pokémon

Glameow in Pokémon Shining Pearl

Glameow is a Pokémon exclusive to Pokémon Shining Pearl (Image credit: Nintendo/The Pokémon Company)

As in the original Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, in Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl you’ll find that the main point of difference between the versions is their version-exclusive pokémon, with one version having wild pokémon the other doesn’t and vice versa. These version-exclusive pokémon span multiple generations and types.

It’s possible this really isn’t a big deal for you but many pokémon fans have favorites. If you’re a player who has a favorite, it’s always worth making sure it isn’t excluded from a particular version before you pick it up. 

Knowing these version-exclusives could really help you finalize your decision, or, like us, it could see you spiral into a crisis when you realize you’re going to have to choose between Vulpix (Shining Pearl) and Growlithe (Brilliant Diamond). 

It is, of course, possible to trade with friends – or even buy both versions – but the easiest path by far is to make sure you pick up the right version for you from the off. 

Below, we’ve listed a comprehensive list of the version-exclusive pokémon for Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, with further breakdowns following that.

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond version-exclusives:

  • Caterpie
  • Metapod
  • Butterfree
  • Ekans
  • Arbok
  • Growlithe
  • Arcanine
  • Seel
  • Dewgong
  • Scyther
  • Scizor
  • Elekid
  • Electabuzz
  • Electivire
  • Murkrow
  • Honchkrow
  • Gligar
  • Gliscor
  • Larvitar
  • Pupitar
  • Tyranitar
  • Seedot
  • Nuzleaf
  • Shiftry
  • Mawile
  • Zangoose
  • Solrock
  • Kecleon
  • Stunky
  • Skuntank
  • Cranidos (Fossil)
  • Rampardos (Fossil evolution)
  • Entei (Ramanas Park Legendary)
  • Raikou (Ramanas Park Legendary)
  • Suicune (Ramanas Park Legendary)
  • Ho-oh (Ramanas Park Legendary)
  • Dialga (Main story Legendary)

Pokémon Shining Pearl version-exclusives:

  • Weedle
  • Kakuna
  • Beedrill
  • Sandshrew
  • Sandslash
  • Vulpix
  • Ninetales
  • Slowpoke
  • Slowbro
  • Slowking
  • Magby
  • Magmar
  • Magmortar
  • Pinsir
  • Misdreavus
  • Mismagius
  • Teddiursa
  • Ursaring
  • Stantler
  • Lotad
  • Lombre
  • Ludicolo
  • Sableye
  • Seviper
  • Lunatone
  • Bagon
  • Shelgon
  • Salamence
  • Glameow
  • Purugly
  • Shieldon (Fossil)
  • Bastiodon (Fossil evolution)
  • Lugia (Ramanas Park Legendary)
  • Articuno (Ramanas Park Legendary)
  • Zapdos (Ramanas Park Legendary)
  • Moltres (Ramanas Park Legendary)
  • Palkia (Main story Legendary)

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl: fossil exclusives

Cranidos from Pokémon Brilliant Diamond

Brilliant Diamond fossil exclusive Pokémon: Cranidos (Image credit: Nintendo/The Pokémon Company)

There are some pokémon in Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl that you’ll be able to add to your team by reviving them from Fossils found in the games' Grand Underground area. While previous Pokémon games have let the player choose between fossil pokémon, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl do things a little differently and there are two which are version-exclusive.

Those playing Brilliant Diamond will be able to revive the Rock-type Cranidos from the Skull Fossil. They can then evolve Cranidos into Rampardos. 

Players of Shining Pearl, meanwhile, will have exclusive access to the Armor Fossil which revives the Rock/Steel-type Shieldon. They can then evolve Shieldon into Bastiodon. 

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl: legendary exclusives

Dialga and Palkia from Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl

Dialga (left) is the Legendary Pokémon exclusive to Brilliant Diamond, while Palkia (right) is exclusive to Shining Pearl (Image credit: Nintendo/The Pokémon Company)

The most in-your-face difference between Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl is in the legendary pokémon that underpins the story. These pokémon star on the cover of their respective versions and are eventually catchable. 

For Pokémon Brilliant Diamond, the cover-starring legendary is Dialga, a Steel/Dragon-type with the power to control time. For Pokémon Shining Pearl it’s Palkia, a Water/Dragon-type with the ability to distort space. 

If, down the line, you want to get Palkia into your Brilliant Diamond team or Dialga into your Shining Pearl team, you’ll have to trade them.

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl: Ramanas Park exclusives

Ramanas Park in Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl

(Image credit: Nintendo/The Pokémon Company)

Ramanas Park is an interesting addition to Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl that replaces Pal Park in the original releases. You’ll only be able to get to Ramanas Park after you’ve completed your respective version’s main story, defeated the Elite Four and completed the Sinnoh Pokedex. 

In Ramanas Park, you’ll have an opportunity to catch additional legendary pokémon that weren’t available in the original Diamond and Pearl but did feature in older Pokémon generations/regions. 

Some of the legendary pokémon you’ll be able to catch, however, are dependent on which version you buy, with each version getting four exclusives apiece. 

Those who pick up Brilliant Diamond will have the opportunity to catch:

  • Entei 
  • Raikou 
  • Suicune 
  • Ho-oh

Those who pick up Shining Pearl, on the other hand, can get:

  • Articuno 
  • Zapdos 
  • Moltres 
  • Lugia
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.