The best Pokémon spin-off games that shake up the formula.
Pokémon is the highest grossing franchise in history. I know that, you know that, and we’ve written plenty about it. So naturally, there have been a ton of Pokémon spin-off games since 1996.
With over two decades of Pokémon games under our belts, it can be hard to sift through all the spin-offs and find the ones worth playing. While there are a lot of great titles to choose from, here are five titles that are still plenty of fun today.
5: Pokémon Puzzle League
Disclaimer: Pokémon Puzzle League is less a Pokémon game and more a pumped-up version of the SNES action-puzzle game gem Tetris Attack. However, that doesn’t change the fact that Pokémon Puzzle League is arguably the best version of one of the best puzzle games ever made.
That said, there’s a ton of fan service here for anyone who grew up with the first season of the Pokémon anime. There’s even totally original animation here, complete with returning voice actors from the show and the iconic voice-over narrator.
4: Pokémon Pinball
Pinball is synonymous with arcades of the 80s, which means it might be a tough sell for kids of the late 90s. Fortunately, Pokémon Pinball is a great spin on an old classic, and the two concepts go together like bread and butter.
As Pinball nuts know, the fun of any table is to play it again and again to try and beat your high score. Pokémon Pinball encourages this mentality with a full roster of catchable Pokémon that will take several play sessions to chase down. Whether you’re playing the original Pokémon Pinball on the Gameboy Color or the Gameboy Advance Pokémon Pinball Ruby and Sapphire, these Pokémon spin-offs are great gateways into the world of Pinball.
3: Pokémon Conquest
Speaking of great crossovers, fans had long wished for a Pokémon spin-off that put the franchise into a strategy RPG setting. Though it was assumed we’d get a Pokémon crossover with Fire Emblem, fans were taken aback when they learned that Pokémon would get the strategy-RPG treatment by crossing over with the Nobunaga’s Ambition franchise.
Fortunately, Pokémon Conquest delivers a polished experience that’s even fun for total newbies to the genre. As one of the last major Pokémon spin-off games to appear on a Nintendo console, you’ll see why fans hoped this one would become a franchise all of its own.
2: Pokémon Mystery Dungeon
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon is the most robust Pokémon spin-off franchise, and for good reason. The popular rogue-like “mystery dungeon” genre is a great fit on Pokémon, and the original games in particular are oozing with love and polish that is rarely seen in spin-offs.
Not only is the gameplay rock solid, these games contain surprisingly great writing that lend to some genuinely tear-jerking endings. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky is widely considered the best entry in the franchise, though Red Rescue Team / Blue Rescue Team are close contenders for the top.
1: Pokémon Trading Card Game
I won’t argue that the gameboy Pokémon Trading Card Game adaptation is as fine tuned and polished as other games on this list. However, this Pokémon spin-off is not only a ton of fun to play, but it was the gold standard of video trading card games until Hearthstone turned the entire industry on its head.
See, the Pokémon Trading Card Game was a massive hit at the height of 90s Pokémania, but it was hard for many kids to actually play it. Not only was it expensive to collect all the cards, but finding another kid on the playground who knew the rules and had a deck ready was basically impossible in many small towns. We all collected the cards, but rarely did we play the actual game.
Pokémon Trading Card Game on the Gameboy could have just been a bare-bones adaptation and been fine, but this game went above and beyond with great tutorials, a story resembling the core Pokémon games, and great pixel recreations of the card’s artwork. For both beginner and veteran fans of the card game, the Pokémon Trading Card Game was an excellent way to enjoy the game’s strategic gameplay without breaking the bank buying cards.
The only shame is that we never got the sequel to this game, which remained a Japan-only exclusive. But for what its worth, Pokémon Trading Card Game remains a great blast to the past and a premiere Pokémon spin-off .