I spent hundreds of hours collecting and trading Pokémon on several of the portable games that came out throughout the years. Although I believe that the Pokémon video games are in need of some serious gameplay updates, the series has managed to keep fans entertained for decades. But regardless of how you feel about the main series, Pokémon has had some fantastic spin-off games over the years, so many in fact, that you wouldn’t know where to start playing. Here’s a list with some of the best ones.
Bonus Entry: Pokémon GO
Although Pokémon Go is barely a video game, it became such a cultural sensation that the game deserves a mention here. To those who never played an augmented reality game (Niantic, Pokémon Go developer, also created Ingress,) this might seem like a novel and fresh idea, but these type of games have been around for a while now. Pokémon Go might be a little on the simplistic side, but brought the franchise to the masses in a way that other games couldn’t.
10. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team and Red Rescue Team
In the Mystery Dungeon series you explore randomly generated labyrinths using turn-based moves as Pokémon. Exploring The dungeons can be repetitive from time to time, but the nature of the game is compelling that there’s always a reason to keep pushing forward. It may not be the best dungeon crawler you can play, but it’ll convince some newcomers of the appeal of the genre.
9. Pokémon Colosseum
This GameCube three-dimensional role-playing game might lack random encounters, but you can still get pocket monsters from other trainers and use them in battle. Apart from battling trainers and completing quests, you can purchase items, trade with friends who have Game Boy Advance Pokémon games. The experience might be different, but if you’ve always wanted to know what a 3D Pokémon game would look and play like, you owe it to yourself to check this out.
8. Pokémon Stadium
This strategy game for the Nintendo 64 is all about turn-based battling using the original 151 creatures you might know and love from the television series, card game or portable games. At the time of its release, the main draw of the game was using the Transfer Pak to view, organize, store and trade the Pokémon you uploaded from your Game Boy, but the main focus is also to clear the different stadiums after defeating a series of opponents. Apart from battle mode, you can also play mini-games, versus battles and check out the hall of fame. It might be a simplified version of the role-playing games, but the battle system is compelling enough to keep you entertained for a while.
7. Pokémon Ranger
In Pokémon Ranger you momentarily capture monsters using a device known as the capture styler which is controlled with the Stylus. If you’ve been capturing Pokémon for decades, this new system will feel remarkably fresh and entertaining. Other than that there’s a lot of exploration and quests to complete, though there’s not a multiplayer option.
6. Pokémon Conquest
Developed by Tecmo Koei, this role-playing strategy game is a crossover between Pokémon and Nobunaga’s Ambition. Unlike most Pokémon games, the action is more tactical RPG-oriented and each creature is only able to use one attack and this move is determined by the creature’s species. Also, to capture Pokémon, you need to push a series of buttons that resemble Dance Dance Revolution, since the trainer has a certain affinity with the monster. I could go on and on about the specifics and how different this game is to the main series, but you should know that this is an accessible game with high replay value and nothing like the traditional Pokémon RPGs.
5. Pokémon Puzzle League
The objective in this entertaining puzzle game involves clearing blocks by arranging them in lines or blocks and you must keep up because the playfield keeps rising constantly. Of course, once the playfield reaches the top, you lose, but you can prevent this from happening by scoring combos and chains. There are fourteen Pokémon trainers to choose from and there’s also a 3D mode that changes the playfield as well as the number of blocks.
4. Pokémon Trozei
This Pokémon-themed puzzle game for the Nintendo DS takes some of the concepts from Tetris and Yoshie’s Cookie and makes an experience that feels both familiar and fresh. Blocks with symbols shaped like Pokémon fall on both sides of the screen, but only the ones from the bottom can be moved and matched. The objective involves matching four blocks which lets you match three Pokémon for a limited time. This is such a challenging and entertaining puzzle game that even if you’re tired of Pokemon, you’ll be able to enjoy it.
3. Pokémon Pinball
As the name suggests, this Game Boy Color title is a pinball-based game. As in any Pinball game, the main objective is to accrue points, but the novelty comes from catching the 151 creatures you can find in the two tables that represent Pokémon Red and Blue. It sounds simple enough and that’s because it is, but the action is so entertaining and the presentation so colorful that once you start playing, you won’t be able to stop. A sequel called Pokémon Pinball Ruby and Sapphire came out for the Game Boy Advance in 2003 and is also worth checking out.
2. Pokémon Trading Card Game
Originally released for the Game Boy Color in 2000, Pokémon TCG is an adaptation of the tabletop game of the same name. In the game, you control a boy who interacts with a series of NPCs who challenge him to a series of battles involving 60-card decks. The game features a total of 226 cards (four of those are legendary cards) which includes the first three sets of the real trading card game. The graphics are nothing to write home about, especially by today’s standards, but if you want to play a faithful adaptation of the TCG in video game form, this portable entry will not disappoint.
1. Pokémon Snap
In this first-person game, you play as Todd Snap as he visits a series of environments on a rail. Each of these settings is filled with Pokémon that you need to take pictures from to help professor Oak with his research. Additionally, you can items to take better pictures or attract Pokémon you wouldn’t see otherwise. This must be one of the most fresh spinoffs ever made and set a standard for other photography-based games such as Afrika, Beyond Good and Evil and Dead Rising, among others.