The release of Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX is such a nostalgic slice of '90s pop culture it's almost impossible not to love it. It also represents something else that has been gaining popularity as of late: a resurgence in the monster-taming RPG subgenre. There's more games like Pokemon that are worth checking out from talented indie developers!
Yes, Pokemon will always rule that roost despite any form of misgivings in the direction of the franchise, but since the 1990s there have been many attempts to recreate the Pokemon formula, with decisively mixed results. For every Monster Rancher and Dragon Quest Monsters we get, there are a ton of Fossil Fighters and Robopon games to deal with. Still, there are a lot of alternatives, some that are very close to Pokemon's style, that you can find on the market today. A lot of them are pretty obvious, such as the Shin Megami Tensei series, Digimon, and Monster Rancher, but I figure we should go through some of the lesser-known titles worth checking out.
So let's go through some monster-taming RPGs that are worthy of adding to your own collection of games.
I am cheating a bit with Coromon, since it is still a game that is in early access, but the promising demo shows a lot of potential for what the game can be.
Coromon is pretty close to the Pokemon formula in terms of gameplay. You will be able to capture and tame up to 120 monsters on your adventure in a world known as Velula. The big differences come in the use of the narrative; a lot of monster-taming games, especially indie titles like Coromon, tend to push for a more "adult" storyline with larger stakes and epic confrontations. In this case, the goal is to use your Coromon to investigate the six titans of Velula.
The real star is the sprite work by developer TRAGsoft. The Coromon sprites are fully animated, done in gorgeous pixel art, and have a style all to their own. It is a mix of darker design sensibilities that give the Coromon monsters a unique personality in comparison to the more cute and cool designs of Pokemon, without losing that Pokemon spark that makes them feel unique.
Disc Creatures is a loving tribute to the Game Boy Color days created by a single person, the developer named SATTO. It is consciously trying to be a time capsule of a game, something that looks like it came out in the heydays of the Pokemon explosion of the late '90s and fully achieves this on the aesthetic.
Disc Creatures is a unique monster-tamer game because it borrows some elements from a few sources. Pokemon is an inspiration for the type chart, but we also have Dragon Quest Monsters for the three-monster teams fighting at once and the energy mechanic similar to Digimon, along with a slightly more adult storyline to follow. Add to this by having 200 creatures to collect, and you have a rock-solid foundation for a game that will hit all the right nostalgic nerves for you.
Monster Crown is certainly unique when it comes to its aesthetic. Taking cues to the Game Boy era sprite designs, it attempts to mimic the look while at the same time being slightly updated. The result is really solid sprite designs mixed with more modern coloring and backgrounds. It is not a close facsimile like Disc Creatures tries to be, but rather a blend of old and new design techniques.
Gameplay-wise, Monster Crown has you make pacts with your monsters, similar to the Shin Megami Tensei series where you can recruit them instead of capturing them. These pacts will be needed as you fight off against a malevolent force attempting to take over the island you live on. Monster Crown dips heavily into the adult territory, but it doesn't diminish some 200 monsters you can collect, breed, and improve their skills along your journey.
Probably the most unique monster-taming game out there, Monster Sanctuary combines the aforementioned taming into a Metroidvania-styled side-scrolling action adventure. Now there is a genre blend you never thought you'd see, but the system works as it makes the battles more intense and strategic than what you may expect.
The small cast of 101 monsters is robust enough as each has its own skill trees, personalities, and abilities to help you fight against other monsters in strategic battles, or even use its abilities to navigate the world around you. The visual style is gorgeous, with its pixel art and monster designs invoking a more fantasy feel than most monster-taming games. Throw in player-vs-player online, and you got a really cool RPG that many may initially overlook.
If there is any modern game that so closely imitates Pokemon, it is the Nexomon games. Developer VEWO Interactive has basically taken the Pokemon formula and design to heart, crafting two robust games that definitely stand out in terms of their visual quality. The creature designs are specifically made to be Pokemon-like, and in some cases are so damn good you would be forgiven if you thought they came from Creatures Inc. Across two games, there are roughly 500 monsters to see and use, which is impressive in its own right.
Where Nexomon deviates is how it implements new mechanics into the Pokemon mix. Nexomon features side quests, crafting mechanics, unique capture mechanics, and other little changes to help it stand out of the shadow of Pokemon. One area which helps immensely is the narrative, which actually is continuous between the two released games in the series. It also provides a lot of sarcastic humor that gently pokes fun at the tropes of the monster-taming genre, a nice touch that shows how much of a labor of love Nexomon really is to VEWO Interactive.
Thylacine Studios, the developers behind the Siralim series, compare their games as a cross between Pokemon and Diablo. This is a pretty apt description, as the Siralim games are not games with really robust storylines. Instead, the narrative serves as an appetizer to the main course: pure unadulterated monster collecting, breeding, and battling. As of their latest release, Siralim Ultimate, the series features over 1,200 different monsters to collect; that is a lot of creatures to find and battle across your journey.
Each world you visit in the Siralim games is randomized, following a roguelike design to its maps. All 1,000+ monsters can also be bred to formulate new, stronger creatures. Along with breeding mechanics, you have a ton of collectibles to get, each monster can learn abilities from slotting in a number of magic gems for example, or using hundreds of iheld tems that improve their stats. The Siralim games are all about quantity, but this still doesn't diminish the quality of the game being played either. If anything, it shows how dedicated Thylacine Studios is to delivering an experience that is both large and filled with content options.
Have you ever wanted a game like Pokemon that has a shared world with other players? Then Temtem may be what you're looking for! Temtem is an open-world monster tamer game that offers online play, housing, co-op, and competitive play alongside a single player story for you to explore as well.
Temtem boasts 6 unique islands for players to explore and catch over 160 different Temtem species found throughout. Build a team of 5 Temtem and take on the eight Dojo leaders and numerous other NPCs and trainers as you become a Temtem Master. Throughout Early Access, Temtem added regular new content, features, and Temtem for players to catch. So, if you're a fan of Pokemon, but want a unique experience to share with friends - check out Temtem!
And that is our list of monster-taming games like Pokemon. As I said up top, the more obvious choices were left off of the list to focus on some of the lesser-known games out there, but each of these entries is worthy of a look. Each also highlights how diverse the monster-taming genre is, with unique takes in terms of aesthetics, design, narrative, or even mechanics to provide hours of entertainment for you.
So good luck and good hunting out there, fellow tamers, and have fun on a new adventure!