Pokémon Sword or Shield? It’s a tough decision. At least, it’s a tough decision if you’ve been thinking about jumping into the eighth generation of the Pokémon games.
Offering a choice between two versions of the same game is a long-standing franchise tradition, starting with the original Gameboy games in 1996 when Pokémon Red and Blue (or Green if you were in Japan) divided opinion. As it was then, both games are pretty much the same in terms of their overall arch. However, since Pokémon Sword and Shield actually feature more contrasts between them than previous generations, it’s definitely not a bad idea to know what those are before you commit.
Past generations have featured version-exclusive Pokémon and some version-exclusive locations, but Pokémon Sword and Shield take that even further with version-exclusive Gyms, characters, and curry ingredients.
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 or Shield?
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 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 (opens in new tab) 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
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 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 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.
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: