Key Differences Between Pokémon Sword and Shield Explained

Pokémon Sword and Shield, released in November 2019 for the Nintendo Switch, are the first entries in the Pokémon main series to make their debut on a home console rather than a handheld system. Set …

Pokémon Sword and Shield, released in November 2019 for the Nintendo Switch, are the first entries in the Pokémon main series to make their debut on a home console rather than a handheld system. Set in the new Galar region, which is inspired by the United Kingdom, these games offer an exciting adventure with new gameplay mechanics, characters, and, of course, hundreds of Pokémon to catch and train. But, like many paired Pokémon games before them, Pokémon Sword and Shield have distinct differences that might influence one’s choice of which version to play. Understanding these differences can help players decide which game better suits their preferences. This article delves into the key differences between Pokémon Sword and Shield, including version-exclusive Pokémon, Gym Leaders, expansion content, and more. Read on to discover which version aligns with your gaming style.

Difference between Pokémon Sword and Shield


One of the most prominent differences between Pokémon Sword and Shield is the version-exclusive legendary Pokémon. In Pokémon Sword, players will encounter and have the opportunity to capture **Zacian**. Zacian is a majestic, sword-wielding Pokémon known for its high attack stats and Steel/Fairy typing. On the other hand, Pokémon Shield features **Zamazenta**, a shield-bearing counterpart with heightened defense capabilities and a Fighting/Steel typing. Both legendary Pokémon have unique abilities and move sets that can greatly influence battle strategies, making the choice of version significant for competitive play.

Gym Leader Exclusives

In addition to legendary Pokémon, each game features exclusive Gym Leaders, adding another layer of uniqueness to each version’s storyline. Players of Pokémon Sword will face off against **Bea**, a Fighting-type specialist, and **Gordie**, who specializes in Rock-type Pokémon. Conversely, Pokémon Shield players will instead battle **Allister**, a master of Ghost-type Pokémon, and **Melony**, an Ice-type expert. These Gym Leader exclusives not only provide different challenges but also offer varied strategic experiences throughout the game. The type advantages and disadvantages brought on by these exclusive leaders can dictate how players build and train their teams as they progress.

Expansion Exclusives

With the introduction of the Expansion Pass, Pokémon Sword and Shield received additional content through the Isle of Armor and the Crown Tundra expansions. Each expansion contains exclusive elements depending on the game version. For instance, some Pokémon and encounters are unique to either Sword or Shield. In the Isle of Armor, Pokémon Sword players can capture the beetle-like Pokémon **Pinsir**, whereas fans of Pokémon Shield will find **Heracross**, the brawny Bug/Fighting-type. As for the Crown Tundra, Pokémon Sword offers exclusive encounters with the **Tyrunt** evolutionary line, while Pokémon Shield provides the opportunity to catch **Amaura** and its evolutionary line. These expansion exclusives add further depth to the game, making the decision between versions more nuanced than ever before.

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Pokémon Sword vs. Shield: Comparison Chart

For a clear and concise comparison of the differences between Pokémon Sword and Shield, a chart can be a useful tool:

Feature Pokémon Sword Pokémon Shield
Legendary Pokémon Zacian Zamazenta
Exclusive Gym Leaders Bea (Fighting), Gordie (Rock) Allister (Ghost), Melony (Ice)
Expansion Exclusives Pinsir, Tyrunt line Heracross, Amaura line
Certain Wild Pokémon Darumaka, Sirfetch’d Corsola, Galarian Ponyta

This chart provides a snapshot of the key differences, aiding players in making informed decisions based on their preferences for Pokémon types, legendary creature abilities, and Gym Leader battles.

Dynamaxing and Gigantamaxing

Another significant gameplay mechanic that varies slightly between Pokémon Sword and Shield is the Dynamaxing and Gigantamaxing feature. **Dynamaxing** allows Pokémon to grow to massive sizes temporarily during battles, enhancing their stats and moves. **Gigantamaxing** is a special form of Dynamaxing that not only increases a Pokémon’s size but also changes its appearance and grants it unique moves. Certain Pokémon have exclusive Gigantamax forms in each version. For example, Pokémon Sword players can Gigantamax their **Flapple**, a Dragon/Grass-type Pokémon, while Pokémon Shield players can Gigantamax **Appletun**, from the same evolutionary line but with different appearance and stats. These exclusive forms add strategic layers to gameplay, as players must consider which version offers the Gigantamax forms that best suit their preferred battle tactics.


In conclusion, Pokémon Sword and Shield both offer rich, immersive experiences in the Galar region, but their differences make each version distinct and appealing in its own right. Whether it’s the legendary Pokémon, exclusive Gym Leaders, or unique Gigantamax forms, these variations provide players with choices that can tailor the adventure to their liking. Gamers seeking a specific challenge or who have favorite Pokémon types will find these differences crucial in deciding which version to choose. The inclusion of exclusive Pokémon and content in the expansions further enhances the uniqueness of each game, ensuring that whether you choose Pokémon Sword or Shield, an exciting and diverse journey awaits.

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Exclusive Pokémon in Sword and Shield

One of the most exciting aspects of Pokémon games is the variety of creatures that players can catch, train, and battle. Pokémon Sword and Shield continue this tradition, each offering unique Pokémon that cannot be found in the other version. These exclusives add an additional layer of strategy and decision-making for players trying to choose between the two games.

In Pokémon Sword, players can capture Sirfetch’d, a Galarian evolution of Farfetch’d renowned for its knightly prowess. Additionally, Sword players can find and train the apple-themed Flapple, a Grass/Dragon-type Pokémon. Another significant exclusive is the impressive Stonejourner, a Rock-type Pokémon that draws inspiration from Stonehenge.

Conversely, Pokémon Shield offers unique creatures that diversify the gaming experience. Shield players have exclusive access to the elegant Galarian Ponyta and its evolution, Rapidash, which are Psychic-type instead of the traditional Fire-type. Similarly, Shield players can catch Appletun, a different evolution line from the Applin Pokémon family, known for its Grass/Dragon attributes and distinct sweet pie appearance. Additionally, the mysterious Ice-type Pokémon Eiscue, which has an ability to generate ice cubes on its head, is exclusive to Shield.

These exclusive Pokémon influence team-building and strategies in battles, pushing players to trade with friends or even get both game versions to “catch ’em all.” The choice between Sword and Shield can therefore significantly impact a player’s experience based on the unique Pokémon they want to train and add to their team.

Version-Specific Features and Locations

In addition to exclusive Pokémon, both Pokémon Sword and Shield offer version-specific features and locations that provide distinctive experiences and adventures. These differences are designed to tailor the experience and encourage unique exploration in each game.

Gym Challenges

One of the most striking version-specific features is the difference in Gym Challenges. Pokémon Sword players battle exclusive Gym Leaders like Bea, a Fighting-type specialist, bringing with her a formidable array of martial Pokémon that test a player’s strategic defenses and offensive prowess. On the other hand, Pokémon Shield players face off against Allister, who specializes in Ghost-type Pokémon, making players rethink their combat strategy and team composition to handle spectral adversaries.

Location Differences

Certain locations within the games offer version-specific content that enhances replayability and exploration. For example, Lake of Outrage in Sword and Shield reveals different Pokémon den configurations and raid battles. Some Max Raid Battle encounters vary, leading to different experiences based on the game version.

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Expansion Packs

Another significant version-specific feature is found in the expansion packs, The Isle of Armor and The Crown Tundra. Each expansion includes distinct elements that cater to the main game’s exclusivities. Pokémon Sword’s Isle of Armor might host different wild Pokémon than that of Pokémon Shield’s Isle of Armor. Similarly, Crown Tundra’s Dynamax Adventures could present varying legendary encounters between the versions, providing unique challenges and rewards.

These version-specific features and locations mean players’ adventure paths can vary greatly, even if they follow the same storyline. By offering unique challenges, environments, and strategic battles in each version, Pokémon Sword and Shield maintain a rich and immersive dynamic that encourages players to fully engage with the Pokémon world and explore every nook and cranny, sometimes necessitating cooperation or competition with other players to fully experience all the content these games have to offer.


1. What are the exclusive Pokémon available in Pokémon Sword versus Pokémon Shield?
– Pokémon Sword has exclusive Pokémon such as Sirfetch’d and Zacian, while Pokémon Shield includes exclusives like Galarian Ponyta and Zamazenta.

2. Are there different gym leaders in Pokémon Sword and Shield?
– Yes, Pokémon Sword features Bea, the Fighting-type gym leader, and Gordie, the Rock-type gym leader. Pokémon Shield has Allister, the Ghost-type gym leader, and Melony, the Ice-type gym leader.

3. Do Pokémon Sword and Shield offer unique items or features?
– Yes, each game includes unique items like different types of curry ingredients for your Pokémon camp and certain evolutionary items.

4. Can I trade Pokémon between Pokémon Sword and Shield to get exclusives from the other version?
– Yes, you can trade Pokémon between the two versions using the in-game trading system to obtain exclusives that are not available in your version of the game.

5. Are there differences in the storyline between Pokémon Sword and Shield?
– The main storyline is largely similar in both versions, but there are minor variations, including different characters you will encounter and exclusive post-game content.

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