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What’s the difference between Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield?

Need to know which of the new Pokémon games to buy? Here are the differences between Pokémon Sword and Shield.

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Game Freak / Thumbsticks

Need to know which of the new Pokémon games to buy? Here are the differences between Pokémon Sword and Shield.

Nintendo and Game Freak’s dual-pronged approach has always felt a little peculiar. Yes, the official party line is that it’s to encourage friends to trade Pokémon with one another, but we have a suspicion that it’s a tactic to prise twice the cash out of the most ardent collectors.

Gotta catch ’em all, remember?

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It can make the mental gymnastics to calculate how well a new Pokémon game has performed in the charts a little tricky. That becomes more tricky when you’re also able to buy a double-pack of Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield. (For reference, Pokémon Sword debuted in first, Pokémon Shield in third, and the double pack in seventh place.)

For those of you who have decided to jump in, but aren’t planning to buy the dual pack, or both, or you don’t have any buddies you can easily trade with? You’re going to want to know which version to pick. Here are the key differences between Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield.

The box art

Pokémon Sword has a dog with a big sword. Pokémon Shield has a dog with a shield for a face. (He attacc, he protecc.)

Pokemon Sword and Shield cover art comparison

That’s it. That’s the difference. Oh, and the words, obviously.

The Pokémon

Obviously the key difference between Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield is the Pokémon. In addition to those two good boys on the cover, who are the legendaries in each version, there are different regular Pokémon in each version.

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Exclusive Pokémon in Pokémon Sword

  • Deino
  • Zweilous
  • Hydreigon
  • Jangmo-o
  • Hakamo-o
  • Kommo-o
  • Gothita
  • Gothorita
  • Gothitelle
  • Seedot
  • Nuzleaf
  • Shiftry
  • Rufflet
  • Braviary
  • Swirlix
  • Slurpuff
  • Scraggy
  • Scrafty
  • Sawk
  • Basculin (blue stripe)
  • Mawile
  • Solrock
  • Passimian
  • Turtonator
  • Galarian Farfetch’d
  • Galarian Sirfetch’d
  • Galarian Darumaka
  • Galarian Darmanitan
  • Gen 8 – Flapple
  • Gen 8 – Indeedee (male)
  • Gen 8 – Stonejourner
  • Legendary – Zacian

Exclusive Pokémon in Pokémon Shield

  • Larvitar
  • Pupitar
  • Tyranitar
  • Goomy
  • Sliggoo
  • Goodra
  • Solosis
  • Duosion
  • Reuniclus
  • Lotad
  • Lombre
  • Ludicolo
  • Vullaby
  • Mandibuzz
  • Spritzee
  • Aromatisse
  • Croagunk
  • Toxicroak
  • Throh
  • Basculin (red stripe)
  • Sableye
  • Lunatone
  • Oranguru
  • Drampa
  • Galarian Ponyta
  • Galarian Rapidash
  • Galarian Corsola
  • Galarian Cursola
  • Gen 8 – Appleton
  • Gen 8 – Indeedee
  • Gen 8 – Eiscue
  • Legendary – Zamamenta

That obviously isn’t the full list of every Pokémon in Sword and Shield’s “controversial” Pokédex. There are many more than the list above, and all of the other Pokémon – plus the starters, Grookey, Scorbunny, and Sobble – are available in both versions.

The gym leaders

In addition to the exclusive Pokémon in Sword and Shield, there are some exclusive gym leaders. These are the fourth and sixth gyms in either game, and in each version, these gyms will feature a different gym leader. They will also be based on different Pokémon types. This means you won’t get to fight Allister the sad goth Pokémon trainer in Pokémon Sword, for example, which is probably a deal-breaker for some of you.

Here’s the full lowdown.

Pokémon Sword exclusive gym leaders

  • Fourth gym – Bea (fighting type, located in Stow-on-Side)
  • Sixth gym – Gordie (rock type, located in Circhester)

Pokémon Shield exclusive gym leaders

  • Fourth gym – Allister (ghost type, located in Stow-on-Side)
  • Sixth gym – Melony (ice type, located in Circhester)

And we think that’s it. That’s certainly all of the differences between Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield that we know about to date.

If we’ve missed anything, or you discover anything new, be sure to let us know on Twitter. (Like we have to tell Pokémon fans twice to yell at someone on social media.)

We hate to ask, but...

Thumbsticks has a couple of goals. We want to write interesting articles and cover games that most outlets won't, and we want to give opportunities to new writers and new voices. And right now, with the current state of online publishing? It's tough to meet those goals! We hate to ask, but if you want us to continue writing what others won't, or to keep covering weird indie games, or to be able to give opportunities to new writers – and only if you can afford it – then please consider supporting us on Patreon.

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Tom is an itinerant freelance technology writer who found a home as an Editor with Thumbsticks. Powered by coffee, RPGs, and local co-op.

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