The Pokémon series as a whole is more than just mainline entries such as the upcoming Sword and Shield. This series offers a robust catalog of titles, from dungeon crawlers, to puzzle games, and even an on-rails shooter. If the recent controversy surrounding the Pokédex for Sword and Shield has you down, why not take a look at one of the Pokémon series’ numerous spin-offs? There are dozens to pick from, but also so little time. Don’t worry! Here’s a handy list of the best Pokémon spin-offs you should try or revisit.
This game is likely the closest thing we’ll ever get to a first-person shooter in the longtime series, and it’s just as fun even without the violence. The premise of Pokémon Snap is simple: It’s an on-rails shooter, expect rather than—God forbid—killing Pokémon, you take pictures of them.
Pokémon Snap released on the Nintendo 64 in 1999. You take the role of Todd Snap. Working with Professor Oak, it’s your job to take as many awesome pictures as you can of Pokémon Island’s various inhabitants. At the end of your little adventure through one of seven environments on the island, your pictures are graded for their quality.
What makes this game so special is that it captures the personality and quirks of each Pokémon you encounter. You couldn’t see a Slowpoke in its natural habitat on the Game Boy back in the day, but in Pokémon Snap, you could see just how oblivious and goofy this monster is. It’s also a game that encourages many re-runs through its levels. There are tons of hidden Pokémon ready for the camera, which makes it a pleasure to go back and play even to this day.
Pokémon Stadium Series
Back in the day, Pokémon Stadium was the coolest way to experience the visceral feeling of a Pokémon battle. What’s better, you had about every single Generation 1 Pokémon you could think of. It let you build a dream team, and although things were a little unbalanced at times, it was always fun.
You can also take on various trainers and gym leaders in either the Stadium Mode or Gym Leader Castle. The former is fun, but the latter always felt like a more powerful experience, tackling a bunch of strong trainers and eventually leading up to your fight with even tougher opponents like the Elite 4.
Pokémon Stadium released in 2000 for the Nintendo 64, and following just a year later was its sequel. This featured Pokémon from Generation 2, and it’s just as fun as the original and features even more Pokémon to choose from. What’s not to love?
Pokémon Colosseum offers a richer, more story-driven experience as opposed to its counterpart, Stadium. Battling is very similar for both games, but if you wanted to walk around, explore, and take part in a narrative as a Pokémon trainer, Colosseum might be a better choice over its predecessor.
As the player character Wes, you’ll gradually experience a plot involving nefarious teams and Shadow Pokémon. Shadow Pokémon are able to be purified, and thus allows you to use them in battle. There’s not a great number of these Shadow Pokémon, so the roster isn’t as varied as Stadium. Nevertheless, you’ll compile a pretty good variety of cool Pokémon ranging from the second and third generations of Pokémon. All of them come along with an arsenal of cool abilities.
Unfortunately, you can’t download 2004’s Pokémon Colosseum for the Wii U, so unless you have a GameCube disc of the game, you’re out of luck.
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Series
Combining Pokémon with roguelike and dungeon-crawling elements? Color me intrigued. The Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series delivers several very solid entries in the Pokémon spin-off catalog. You’ll take the role of a Pokémon and lead a party of your peers into dungeon-like areas. You battle other Pokémon in the signature roguelike, turn-based style. You use abilities and level up as you would in a mainline entry, although combat mechanics differ.
There is a town that provides various services as you unravel the mystery of the game’s story. Overall, you’ll meet a lot of fun characters and experience a perspective that only this spin-off series can provide: a Pokémon game without humans. If you’re itching to try a more recent entry in this series, take a look at Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon, which released in 2015 on the Nintendo 3DS.
Pokémon Ranger Series
I could talk about the story the Pokémon Ranger series contains, but it isn’t nearly as interesting as the capture mechanics. Capturing Pokémon is so integral to the franchise, and this game undoubtedly has the most unique and interactive way to do so. The Pokémon Ranger games utilize the DS’ touch screen to the max. Pokémon appear on the bottom screen of the DS, and you must rapidly draw circles around the Pokemon to catch it. They’ll do their best to fight back, using abilities to break your chain. You just have to keep powering through it!
At times, I was worried that I would break my DS screen by drawing so many circles so vigorously. Still, I can’t deny that this method of capture is extremely fun and fulfilling once you snag a really tough Pokémon. Of course, in Pokémon Ranger you aren’t using these monsters in a traditional battle, but rather to help you traverse the environment, such as burning a log. Sometimes, your Pokémon can appear on the bottom screen and unleash an attack, but the rest of the work is up to you.
If you can get your hands on an old DS copy for one of the Pokémon Ranger games, you’re bound to have a good time.
Yes, Pokémon Trozei! might be a matching game above all else, but you can’t find a more satisfying entry in the genre. Pokémon Trozei! is undeniably simple and way less complex than any of the games on this list, but (at least for me) it provided just as much entertainment.
To mix things up a bit, in some of the game’s battles are nefarious members of the Phobos Battalion. They are a group of supervillain-like individuals that act as the main antagonists for the game’s story. They can disrupt your matching with various abilities, but by chaining together a bunch of Pokémon effectively, you can knock them out of the way for a bit.
You might be able to secure a DS copy, but if not, Pokémon Battle Trozei is a downloadable 3DS copy that stays true to the original game’s formula.
What’s your favorite Pokémon spin-off? Do you have any memories from some of the games on this list? Let us know in the comments below!