So now that we’ve all had a chance to play Pokemon Sword and Shield and are now patiently waiting for the Gen 4/Sinnoh Remasters, (Don’t let me down Nintendo and hurry up!) we have a little time on our hands. So why don’t we play/rank some of the Top 10 Pokémon Spin-Off Games!
(Please keep in mind that this list is my personal opinion and that I haven’t played every Pokemon spin-off game.)
10. Pokémon Go
Release Date: July 6, 2016
Okay, so I have a confession to make… I never played Pokémon Go. Yes, I know it was a worldwide phenomenon that made Nintendo $3 billion in revenue, but I never saw the appeal. To me, it just looked really stupid. However, the game clearly did something right, and I’m thankful for the game revitalising people’s interest in Pokémon. So that’s why it makes Number 10 on this list. Please don’t hate me!
9. Pokémon Snap
Release Date: September 15, 2000
Okay, confession time again. I never played Pokémon Snap as a child, therefore I do not have the nostalgic feeling that people do when thinking about this game. However, I did play it a few years ago, and I enjoyed it, so put your pitchforks away! If you have never played Pokémon Snap before, it’s very simple. Professor Oak is studying Pokémon on Pokémon Island, (Fantastic name!) and you play as Todd Snap, a photographer who is tasked with capturing as many Pokémon as he can. Your not capturing them in Pokéballs, though but rather in photographs!
There are seven courses throughout the game, and after completing a course, you select the best photos you took which are then judged by Professor Oak. Essentially, it’s an on-rail shooter, except you shoot photographs instead of bullets. This a very simple but engaging concept that only lasts around 4 to 5 hours, but I can totally see why so many people look back on this game fondly. Given the die-hard fanbase for this game, plus the fact it was re-released on the Wii/Wii U virtual console, I expect the game to make its way to the Nintendo Switch eventually, like the rest of the N64 library. Right, Nintendo?
8. Pokémon Rumble
Release Date: November 20, 2009
This hidden gem was released on the WiiWare back in 2009. It’s a beat ’em up style game where you play as wind-up toy versions of various Pokémon. You start off the game as a low-level Rattata, although you will quickly find more powerful Pokémon to join you by battling throughout the various levels. Each level is a series of linear dungeons and enclosed battle arenas. Since you only have two moves available per Pokémon, the game is a basic button masher, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
It’s a very mindless but highly addicting experience, trying to find stronger and stronger Pokémon, and seeking out more powerful moves and combinations makes you never want to put the controller down! The game is at its best when playing with your friends in four-player co-op. That’s when the true chaotic nature is unleashed! For such a basic game, Pokémon Rumble was successful enough to garner a sequel on the 3Ds, Wii U and most recently a Mobile game released in 2019. So blow the dust off your Nintendo Wii, find three friends, and enjoy the button-mashing greatness! Oh, wait, the WiiWare was discontinued… Pokémon Rumble Switch, anyone?
7. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team
Release Date: November 10, 2006
Out of all of the Pokémon spinoff games, the Mystery Dungeon series has had the most entries, and for good reason! First appearing in 2005 on the Game Boy Advance and then on the Nintendo DS, challenging gameplay and a captivating story make Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team a unique experience for Pokémon players! I’ve decided to go with Blue Rescue Team over Red, as Blue is the version most people played. The story focuses on the player, who has been turned into a Pokémon and has developed amnesia, who then needs to discover who they truly are. This creates a very interesting dynamic where you enter the Pokémon world as an outsider and need to learn about the Pokémon way of doing things!
The gameplay of Mystery Dungeon Blue consists of roguelike turn-based battles, with the Pokémon fighting using the four moves that they know. Every mission that you take is done in procedurally-generated dungeons, which need to be explored by the player and their partner Pokémon. This makes every level and playthrough individual and unique! With the recent announcement that Pokémon Mystery Dungeon is making its way to Switch, you will soon be able to play this game on a modern console and with upgraded graphics!
6. Pokémon Stadium
Release Date: April 7, 2000
Do you know what every Pokémon fan truly wanted back in the 90’s? Pokémon battles in 3D, and that’s what exactly what Nintendo delivered! Being able to see your favourite Pokémon on the big TV screen was mind-blowing as a kid, and the addition of a commentator during your matches was also a nice touch. (Shame we couldn’t get something similar in Sword and Shield)
But we all the know the true reason people remember Pokémon Stadium: the mini-games! Whether you’re trying to eat sushi as Lickitung, attempting to follow the instructions of Clefairy, racing Rattattas on a treadmill or tossing Ekans onto Digletts, the mini-games could provide hours of fun and challenge! Each mini-game allows up to four players to play. If you don’t have any friends to play with, the AI will take their place. Thankfully, the mini-games can be just as fun by yourself as with three buddies.
5. Pokémon Ranger: Shadows of Almia
Release Date: November 21, 2008
When I hear talk about the Pokémon Ranger series, the first word that comes to mind is underrated. The Pokémon Ranger series is designed to be radically different from the traditional Pokémon RPGs. You control a Pokémon Ranger who catches Pokémon by using a device called a “capture styler”, which is controlled by using the DS stylus. In order to capture a Pokémon, players must loop the Pokémon with the DS stylus a certain number of times to capture them. The first Pokémon Ranger released in 2007, but I’m going to focus on the sequel Shadows of Almia which improved on the original in every way!
Pokémon Rangers help wild Pokémon and defeat criminals, acting as a sort of Pokémon police officer. In Shadows of Almia, you begin as a Pokémon ranger-in-training at the Ranger School and quickly graduate to a rookie Ranger. Once you have learnt to be a Pokémon Ranger, the plot involves you stopping an evil group known as Team Dim Sun who are using machines to control Pokémon for their own use. I loved these games as a kid, although the amount of cracked DS screens and broken styluses I created certainly set me back financially! The Pokémon Ranger series can be a breath of fresh air if you’re looking for something new and different in the Pokémon world. Thankfully, the games were released for the Wii U Virtual Console, so that Switch port should be coming any day now…
4. Pokémon Conquest
Release Date: July 27, 2012
Pokémon Conquest is a tactical RPG. The game is a crossover between Pokémon and the Nobunaga’s Ambition video game series. (this series has been almost entirely released in Japan so that’s why you probably haven’t heard of it) However, you don’t have to have played any of those games to understand Pokémon Conquest. The story revolves around a legend that says that the one who unifies all the 17 kingdoms of the Ransei Region will have a chance to encounter a Legendary Pokémon, so it’s up to you and your army of Warriors/ Pokémon to overthrow all 17 kingdoms.
Pokémon Conquest features a turn-based strategy battle system, similar to the Fire Emblem series. Up to six Pokémon on each side are positioned on the battlefield, and both sides take turns moving and attacking with their Pokémon. The pacing of the combat is very slow, but that leads to long tactical battles that require lots of strategies and planning ahead. You must think carefully about who to take into battle and exactly how to use them. Do you have enough type coverage? Do you have enough range moves? These are just some of the questions and difficulties you will experience throughout the lengthy campaign! To sum up, the game has great graphics, a compelling story and challenging gameplay! So after this fantastic gaming experience, which received near-universal acclaim surely this game has lots and lots of sequels. Right Nintendo?
3. Pokémon Colosseum
Release Date: May 14, 2004
Thought that Sword and Shield was the first 3D Pokémon adventure on a home console? Wrong! Sixteen years before, this often forgotten gem was released on the Nintendo Gamecube. However, unlike the typical Pokémon adventure where you try to collect eight Gym Badges and fight The Elite Four, in Pokémon Colosseum, you play as ”Wes”, battling against the evil Team Snagem who are a criminal organization that uses a “Snag machine” to capture the Pokémon of trainers. The game is set in the desert region of Orre. Throughout the game, you must rescue “Shadow Pokémon” who have had their hearts darkened and turned evil by Team Cipher. This gives the game a more gritty and mature feel compared with most Pokémon experiences.
In addition, unlike most Pokémon games, Colosseum does not feature random encounters. Instead, the player begins the game with an Umbreon and Espeon, both around Level 25. This makes a nice change of pace from the normal Level 5, Grass, Water, Fire-type Pokémon you typically start the game with! More Pokémon can be obtained throughout the game by “Snagging” them from other Trainers. Yes, you read that right, you literally steal other peoples Pokémon! Unfortunately, you can only ”Snag” Shadow Pokémon because you can’t be the bad guy in a Pokémon game. Another change from the norm is that the majority of battles are “double battles” giving fights an extra level of strategy, where some Pokémon games can sometimes feel like all you have to do is ”press A to win,” Colosseum does not suffer from this problem. All of this adds up to a phenomenal Pokémon experience unlike any other, except for…
2. Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness
Release Date: November 18, 2005
All of the positives I have for Pokémon Colosseum are extended onto this game with a few improvements. The story begins five years after the events of Pokémon Colosseum with the introduction of a new Hero called Michael. The criminal enterprise Team Cipher is back and creating more ”Shadow Pokémon”. Michael is fitted with a Snag Machine and is tasked with freeing all of the Shadow Pokémon in the Orre region. In addition, on your adventure, you will have to conquer The Mt. Battle Area. This area is a 100 trainer challenge. 100 battles, with the trainers in each zone being stronger than the ones before.
Michael must defeat Team Cipher and rescue the Shadow Pokémon. The ultimate goal to purify all Shadow Pokémon, including the cover star Shadow Lugia. The player starts with an Eevee. The Eevee that you are given can be evolved, into a Vaporeon, Flareon, Jolteon, Umbreon, or Espeon; the choice is yours. This is an excellent decision from Nintendo, giving the players the freedom to choose what type you want your starter to be, unlike in Pokémon Colosseum.
Pokémon Colosseum & Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness are the perfect games for people who want something fresh and new from the Pokémon series. One can only hope that in the future, Nintendo will return to the Orre region one last time. It’s a shame that these two games are so often overlooked, but I guess that is the legacy of the Nintendo Gamecube. These two games give me so much nostalgia, and even 15 years later, they still hold up, especially because they are so different from your typical Pokémon adventure. And to be honest, this game deserves to be number two on this list just for having that Shadow Lugia! Considering it’s been 15 years since last ”Shadow” game, I doubt we’ll ever get a sequel, but hey, a guy can dream!
1. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky
Release Date: November 20, 2009
Finally, we’ve reached number one, and it’s my second favourite Pokémon game of all time. (the first being Pokémon Platinum if you were wondering) Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky is an enhanced version of Explorers of Time/Darkness for the Nintendo DS. Added to the game are five new Special Episodes which add unique stories, greatly expanding the backstory of certain side characters in the game. These Special Episodes have some of the best-written dialogue ever seen in a Nintendo game. (Although that isn’t really saying much) Seriously, these games can get so emotional I wish Nintendo would write this well in the current Pokémon games.
The gameplay is much of the same from Red/Blue Rescue Team, but that isn’t a problem. However, the story is where major improvements come into play. As per usual, the game follows the story of a human who is mysteriously transformed into a Pokémon. Once establishing You, the world and your partner, you join the Wigglytuff Guild, an organisation that provides training to rookie explorers. The story quickly evolves from there with time travel, plot twists and epic battles with legendary Pokémon. It takes everything great about Red/Blue Rescue Team and increases it tenfold. The game is just as difficult, just as compelling and just as memorable. There is so much content to digest that you’ll probably get 70 hours out of it eventually! All of this makes up the best spin-off game and quite possibly the greatest Pokémon game of all time! Hopefully, if Pokémon Mystery Dungeon DX sells well enough this game can also get a remaster for the Nintendo Switch!
Did you agree with my Top 10 Pokémon Spin-Off Games? Leave a comment below and tell me what game I missed out on.
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