Pokémon Sword or Shield? If you’re thinking about diving into the latest generation of Pokémon on Nintendo Switch that’s probably the question you’re asking yourself. Fortunately, we’re here to help you make a decision with this guide.
Offering two versions of the one game has been a feature of the Pokémon series since its launch back in 1996 and it divides players just as much now as it did then. As the the core experience for players tends to be the same regardless of which version they pick, it’s completely fine to choose on instinct or just pick your favorite color, but there are actually differences between the versions and to some players these differences will be the deciding factor.
When it comes to Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield, there are, in fact, more differences between the versions than there have been in previous generations. If things like version-exclusive Pokémon, Gym Leaders and Legendaries matter to you then keep reading so that you can find out what you’ll be getting (or missing out on) with the version you pick.
We’ve detailed the differences between both version of the latest Pokémon games and both of the DLC releases so that you can make an informed decision about whether you want Pokémon Sword or Shield.
- Here's our official list of the best Pokémon games
- Looking for more? These are the best Nintendo Switch games around
- Don't miss our Pokémon Sword and Shield review in full
Pokémon Sword or Shield: version-exclusive Pokémon
From the early days, the main difference between the Pokémon releases has been that one version will have Pokémon the other doesn’t and vice versa. The same is still true for Sword and Shield.
For some players this won’t make an iota of difference, but if you have a favorite creature that the game just isn't worth playing without, it’s worth making sure they won't be exclusive to a particular version before you make that Pokémon Sword or Shield decision. 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 rigmarole and can be avoided if you want an easier life.
Below are the version exclusive Pokémon for Sword and Shield, with their respective types.
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 or Shield: version-exclusive Gyms
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
Another classic version difference is in the Legendary Pokémon that 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 defence-based Pokémon whose shield-like body can reflect attacks back on opponents.
Pokémon Sword or Shield: version-exclusive curry ingredients
These exclusives are more minor than the others but there are version-exclusive curry ingredients in Pokémon Sword and Shield. Fortunately, there's 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 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, dogo 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 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 for Pokémon Sword and Shield. In terms of version exclusive Pokémon, Sword players will be able to catch Omanyte, Omastar, Bagon, Shelgon, Salamence. Shield players on the other hand will be able to watch Kabuto, Kabutops, Gible, Gabite, Garchomp.
A more notable difference 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.
Best Pokémon Sword and Shield deals
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: