The mainline Pokemon games that started with Pokemon Red and Green 25 years ago today are undoubtedly the backbone of the franchise – the games the community waits to hear more about each generation – but there’s an entire ecosystem of spin-off games propping them up. While the longevity and availability of these spin-off titles don’t always match that of the core Pokemon games, they’re often associated with many fans’ best memories of the Pokemon franchise.
It’s also hard not to have a favorite spin-off game considering how many of them there are. Some of them are more ambitious than others while some of the games like Pokemon Go have become popular enough to essentially be considered part of the core Pokemon experience anyway. These sorts of branching Pokemon games started picking up steam on the Nintendo 64 and the Game Boy family of devices first and have continued strong throughout the years in the form of virtual console games, apps, and proper spin-offs.
With so many to pick from, we took at look at The Pokemon Company’s collection of spin-off games on its 25th anniversary to highlight ones which stood out the most. You can check out our picks from different Pokemon-minded members of the ComicBook.com team below, and be sure to share your favorites in the replies if you’ve got a spin-off Pokemon game that’s stuck with you over the years.
Detective Pikachu – Christian Hoffer
The only Pokemon game to ever receive a live-action adaptation, Detective Pikachu features the deepest plot of any Pokemon game. The spin-off was an inventive take on the wider Pokemon world, showing what the “average people” who weren’t traveling across the region battling in gyms did with their partner Pokemon. While other Pokemon games do show some levels of Pokemon/human integration, Detective Pikachu is really the game that brought the Pokemon world to life, which is likely why movie producers opted to turn it into a movie.
Although the gameplay wasn’t too deep, I do think Detective Pikachu was one of the first games to really try to examine the Pokemon world and the humans who live it in a different way. This was the first game that tried to explain what the use of psychic powers would look like to the unfamiliar eye, or just how dangerous (and wonderful) Pokemon are. This thoughtful look at Pokemon is getting a sequel, and I personally can’t wait to see Detective Pikachu’s story continue.prevnext
Pokemon Duel – Jim Viscardi
I'm not going to lie, I'm still shocked Pokemon Duel was shut down in 2019. It felt like the perfect mobile game that had the collectability of Pokemon cards but played a bit more like chess. Admittedly, I came to the game later in its lifespan where it seemed like there were a ton of playability issues as far as collecting the figures was concerned, and I understand it basically got abandoned with story updates at some point. All that said though, I felt the final days of the game and what they were doing for players were the best days that game had. The matches were short and sweet, and the matchmaking seemed to work perfectly.
Honestly, the biggest draw for me was those figures. They looked phenomenal in a way that you could only experience with the Pokemon Gallery Direct statues they make available for sale on their website. Trying to collect my favorite Pokemon and hunting for the special event ones was truly a thrill and one I miss now with the game gone. That's probably what hurts the most is the collection I've amassed sitting in digital app purgatory. But that's the price you pay getting involved in a mobile app like this. Somewhere, someday, someone will realize the game they had on their hands and find a way to bring it back.prevnext
Pokemon Snap – Marc Deschamps
When talking about the best Pokemon spin-offs, it's impossible for me to not mention Pokemon Snap. Snap was one of the first spin-offs of the series, and it's an important one, as it marked the first time Pokemon could be seen in a three-dimensional world. While Red and Blue's world was captivating, it left a lot to our imaginations. Pokemon Snap gave us a chance to see the creatures living in their natural habitats, and that made it feel all the more realistic.
While Red and Blue tasked players with catching all 150 creatures, Snap offered a simpler challenge: take pictures of the 63 Pokemon types living on Pokemon Island. The game's rail-shooter inspired gameplay sometimes forced you to snap photos quickly, but the game's pace was mostly mellow. You basically rode along, taking pictures and interacting with the creatures in simple ways. It's a charming premise, and I couldn't help but fall in love with the game's style.
Of course, Pokemon Snap's promotion with Blockbuster added so much to its appeal! Being able to bring your cartridge to the video store to print out stickers was undeniably cool. One of the biggest disappointments about New Pokemon Snap is the fact that there won't be a way to revisit this concept. Sure, we can share photos on social media, but unless Twitter finds a way to let us print them as stickers, it definitely won't be the same!prevnext
Hey You, Pikachu! – Logan Moore
Hey You, Pikachu! was one of the first Pokemon spin-offs that I remember wanting badly as a kid. As someone who grew up playing the Pokemon video games, trading the cards, and watching the TV show, the thought of interacting with Pikachu myself was incredibly exciting.
The downside is that, well, Hey You, Pikachu! wasn’t very good. By the time I finally got my hands on the game years after it released, I was baffled by how little Pikachu understood what I was trying to say. Every word I would scream into the Nintendo 64 microphone was responded to with confusion by my little yellow friend. And the tasks that the game had me doing were even more mundane than I could have expected. No battling other Pokemon? No thanks.
And despite all of this, I have a lot of fondness for Hey You, Pikachu! for reasons I’m not really sure of. In a lot of ways, it just released at the perfect time when I was looking to consume as much Pokemon content as possible. I also just loved the attempt to try to do something new with the format of a Pokemon game. Although the speaking mechanic didn’t work out perfectly, that sure didn’t prevent me from trying to have dozens of conversations with Pikachu as a child.
Hey You, Pikachu! wasn’t a great game by any means, but it’s something I look back on with fondness. Even though I wouldn’t call it my favorite Pokemon spin-off ever made, it’s one that I have a bizarre soft spot for and continue to think of warmly.prevnext
Pokemon Stadium – Megan Peters
Pokemon has welcomed a number of excellent spin-off titles in its time, but none of them top Pokemon Stadium in my eyes. The Nintendo 64 titled launched in April 2000 here in the United States, and it became an obsession of mine. The 3D turn-based game gave me the chance as a budding Pokemon fan to battle like never before, and its charm still works today.
I can clearly remember playing this game with my friends not long after it came out. The novelty of transferring my preferred partners from Pokemon Blue made Pokemon Stadium all the most exciting. As an elementary student, I was certain no pocket monster could take down my Vaporeon, and I was mostly right. I did just fine in the Gym Leader Castle until an Electric-type got in my way, and I learned the hard way that strategy is important.
Aside from the battle and multiplayer modes, Pokemon Stadium remains a go-to for me because of its minigames. Even after 20+ years, I still find myself challenging my score on Sushi Go-Round, a mini game where you play as a hungry Lickitung looking for lunch. Over the years, it seems the fandom has embraced Pokemon Stadium once again all thanks to its addictive mini games, and I can't blame it. I still play these games on occasion with my fiance, and the game's start-up screen never fails to remind me of the joys Pokemon Stadium gave me as a kid.prevnext
Pokemon Go – Jenna Anderson
Sure, there are hordes of people who probably haven’t given Pokemon Go much thought since the summer of 2016, when it exploded into a pop culture icon that found a home on many people’s phones. But in the years that have followed, Pokemon Go has largely continued to live up to its initial hype, condensing the world of Pokemon into an accessible but oddly meaningful mobile experience. The character renderings and attention to detail are delightful, the combat is the right mix of rewarding and challenging, and there’s something about opening up the app and discovering which Pokemon are nearby that doesn’t really get old.
I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that the game has taken on a whole new meaning during the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic, adding a structure and sense of companionship to a lot of mundane days, whether through sending gifts or collecting enough Pokemon to unlock a long-awaited evolution. The game still has the ability to turn every walk to the park or to the grocery store into a much more whimsical event, one that briefly immerses players in a world that isn’t afraid to be adorable and weird.
For a lot of fans, Pokemon Go might not be seen as the franchise’s best spinoff, but it’s undeniably one of the most significant ones. It has recaptured the sense of accomplishment, joy, and community that comes with an average Pokemon installment, all while subtly revolutionizing the world of mobile gaming along the way.prevnext
Pokemon Pinball – Aaron Perine
Pokemon Pinball is one of those first moments that people realized Nintendo could use this license for anything and it would do some numbers. I remember getting the Game Boy Color title in 1999 as Pokemania was still firmly sweeping across North America. I played things like Sonic Spinball on the Genesis and loved Nintendo’s series, so why not try it? I’m pretty sure this was the first game I had with Rumble support as well!
This title is what has me still kind of trying pinball machines when I see them today. It’s not the greatest version of the game physics-wise, but it does allow you to kind of let go and just play for long stretches of time (Plus you don’t have to keep feeding quarters!). So, yes, Pokemon Pinball might not be perfect, but it is a fun introduction to the genre and an absolutely inspired reworking of the classic Gotta Catch ‘Em All formula. Now, if only I could get to Mewtwo faster somehow.prevnext
Pokken Tournament DX – Nick Valdez
Ever since Pikachu was first introduced to Super Smash Bros., the idea of a full fighting game featuring Pokemon seemed to make much more sense with each new entry. It wasn't until much later that we got our first official fighting game featuring the franchise, and the wait was worth it. Infused with the spirit of Bandai Namco's Tekken series, this was one spin-off that really should have popped off more. Maybe it was because the fighting game community didn't exactly embrace it or just a victim of being released on the Wii U first, but this deserved better.
It's not the tightest roster in fighting games, but it's one of the more unique. Not only were traditional fighters like Machamp and Blaziken translated well into this new kind of gameplay, but oddballs like Gengar, Suicune, and Chandelure were as well. The fights are short, but the perfect length for a franchise like this and everything is just high energy. Taking physical action in Pokemon battles injects the anime-like energy the battles have in other media. It's a feeling the turn based battles won't be able to replicate, and it's high time that another in this franchise releases.
Pokken Tournament just hits the right spot every time you play it, too. A proper follow up beyond the recent DX expansion for Nintendo Switch, with a solid enough online structure, would be absolutely perfect. Until then, it's always great for when you only have brief pockets of play time.prevnext
Pokemon Puzzle League – Tanner Dedmon
There’s been no shortage of puzzle games based around popular franchises, and the Pokemon series has several of its own as far as the spin-off games go, but Pokemon Puzzle League was something special. While most of these sorts of puzzle games are races against the clock and your own personal scores, Pokemon Puzzle League was able to implement the Pokemon formula in a way that made every match feel frantic and rewarding even if you were just playing against the AI.1comments
One of the best aspects of Pokemon Puzzle League was its replayablity. Being a puzzle game at heart with a Pokemon reskin on top of that, the random nature of the falling Type-themed blocks made every challenge feel different from the one before it.
If you had someone to share your Nintendo 64 with and play via local multiplayer, you were able to unlock an entirely different sort of experience. Because there was no previous knowledge of the Pokemon games needed to get started, the game was able to transcend generations so long as people could grasp its core block-matching concepts. Hearing your chosen Pokemon and your opponents’ picks letting out their battle cries as massive blocks dropped on-screen made things even more tense, and by the time the match had ended, you’d realize you hadn’t blinked throughout the whole thing. Considering how popular Pokemon apps are in addition to the console spin-offs, there are plenty of ways we can (and should) see Pokemon Puzzle League revived somehow.prev