Best Pokémon Spinoff Games to Play

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As it turns out, 2021 is a pretty great year to be a Pokémon fan. In celebration of the highest-grossing media franchise of all-time turning 25, both Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Pearl are getting remakes coming later this year. In addition, Nintendo announced a brand new title, Pokémon Legends: Arceus, earlier this year, which is set to hit shelves next spring. However, if all this news has you wondering what you should be looking forward to right now, the answer is quite simple: New Pokémon Snap.

A follow-up to 1999’s Pokémon Snap, New Pokémon Snap lets players take on the role of nature photographer as they journey through various Pokémons’ natural habitats and attempt to take captivating photos of the lil’ (and sometimes massive) critters. Widely regarded as one of the most delightful Pokémon games around, the new game is a perfect opportunity for new fans to experience the joy of Pokémon Snap, and for veterans who wish to reminisce back on the Nintendo 64 days.

RELATED: ‘Pokémon’ Celebrates 25 Years by Announcing ‘Diamond’ & ‘Pearl’ Remasters and a New Open-World RPG

However, Pokémon Snap isn’t the only fantastic Pokémon experience that takes place far away from Victory Road. Many of the series’ best games, from Detective Pikachu to Pokémon Conquest, are spinoffs that turn the Pokémon formula we know and love on its head, creating completely new experiences for players.

As part of our own celebration of 25 years of Pokémon and New Pokémon Snap’s release, here’s our list of some of the very best Pokémon spinoff games throughout the years.

Pokkén Tournament DX (2017)

Image via Nintendo

When you consider that Pokémon’s whole thing is battling and how well Pikachu and co. fit alongside the rest of the fighters in Super Smash Bros., it seems wild it took as long as it did for there to be a proper Pokémon arcade-fighting game. In 2016, this glaring oversight was remedied by Pokken Tournament, a fighting game developed by Bandai Namco Entertainment of Tekken fame. The following year an enhanced version of the game was ported over to Nintendo Switch and thus we have Pokken Tournament DX. With 23 Pokémon to choose from and gameplay that is simultaneously compelling to professionals and beginner-friendly, Pokken truly is a fighting game for all fans of the series.

Detective Pikachu (2018)

Image via Nintendo

Spinoff games are at their best when they examine the parts of the world mainline games have yet to explore. In the case of the Pokémon series, one of the greatest unknowns is simply just what life is like for those who choose not to become a Pokémon master. Detective Pikachu offers a deep dive into the subject, and shows fans a glimpse of what civilian life looks like in the world of Pokémon –which is still assuredly unusual. Furthermore, it examines the relationship between humans and Pokémon in a way that differs greatly from any game before it, making it no surprise it’s the Pokémon title that got its very own live-action film.

Hey You, Pikachu! (2000)

Image via Nintendo

Okay, fine: Hey You, Pikachu! is not the greatest of games. Released back in 2000 with the ambitious goal of allowing players to use a microphone to talk to and command their pet Pikachu, the game was bogged down by technological limitations that led to very frustrated children. However, what Hey You, Pikachu! lacks in achievement, it makes up for in innovation and heart, both of which it has in spades.

Hey You, Pikachu! set out to make players feel a connection to their very own Pokémon, allowing them to take an adorable animated Pikachu out on various playdates through meadows and forests. The game ends when the player is forced to release their Pikachu back into the wild–a truly heartbreaking moment for children playing. However, he soon comes bounding back and the game starts all over again.

Pokémon Stadium (2000)

Image via Nintendo

It can easily be argued that the Nintendo 64 set the gold standard for couch co-op games. With titles such as 007: Goldeneye, Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart 64, Diddy Kong Racing, and Mario Party 3, hell, it’d be much harder to argue any other console has even come close. In addition to that incredible line-up is Pokémon Stadium, which offered a fantastic single-player campaign and various game modes that let you challenge both bots and your friends in battle and ridiculously fun mini-games.

Also exciting was the game’s compatibility with Pokémon Red, Pokémon Blue, and Pokémon Yellow using the Nintendo 64 transfer pack. Not only could players input their main series roster to fight, the prize Pokémon gained through besting Stadium’s “Elite Four’ could be transferred into the mainline games, making each win all the more satisfying.

RELATED: ‘New Pokémon Snap’ Reviews Tease a Must-Play for Fans of the ’90s Spinoff

Pokémon Conquest (2012)

Image via Nintendo, The Pokemon Company

Compared to the other games on this list, Pokémon Conquest is not nearly as recognized or discussed, which is such a shame considering its nearly universal acclaim from game critics. A crossover with the Nobunaga’s Ambition video game series, Pokémon Conquest incorporates grid-based tactical strategy elements into the Pokémon series, creating an experience that feels a bit like playing Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics. It also is the first Pokémon title to lean heavily into history and politics, as the entire game revolves around warlords, unifying kingdoms, and conquering territories.

While the Pokémon series has always offered players memorable turn-based RPG experiences, Pokémon Conquest does so in an entirely new way, and here’s hoping the upcoming Snap title’s success might lead to it doing so once again.

Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX (2020)

Image via Nintendo, The Pokemon Company

Have you ever wanted to know what type of Pokémon you’d be? Of course you have. Well, just one of the great things about Pokémon Mystery Dungeon is the personality test you take at the beginning of the game that tells you. After that you begin your journey as a human-turned-Pokémon , traversing through dark and treacherous dungeons doing good deeds.

With plenty of adorable qualities and a lovely painterly-style to the game, Mystery Dungeon is a new and very worthy entry on this list.

Pokémon Snap (1999)

Image via Nintendo, The Pokemon Company

If Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue were the games that first introduced players to the wonderful world of Pokémon, Pokémon Snap was the first to let them experience it. In Snap, Pokémon trainers were given a chance to set down the pokeballs and pick up a camera as they set off on an immersive, 3D journey through the cute critters natural habitats, leaving nothing but memories and taking nothing other than photos… or however that saying goes.

While the main series is certainly both endearing and entertaining, Snap offered a charming take on the Pokémon journey that made the world feel a bit more real and gentle. And, as if the concept of the game wasn’t unique enough in itself, Nintendo truly took Snap to the next level through a partnership with Blockbuster and Lawson that allowed players to bring in their game cartridges to their stores and print stickers of their favorite images. While we might not be getting the whole Blockbuster package this time around, we’re happy simply revisiting the world of Pokémon photography.

Pokémon GO (2016)

pokemon-go-2020-anniversary

Image via Game Freak, Niantic, The Pokemon Company

As undeniably as Pokémon as a whole is a phenomenon, so is the franchise’s mobile game Pokémon GO. The game became a collective cultural moment when it hit app stores back in 2016, dominating the charts and the evening news with countless stories about the game’s popularity. While the amount of folks playing has decreased, even now, they’re still at the augmented-reality game en masse, resulting in the title making it into the top five highest-grossing apps of 2020 list and earning nearly $6.5 billion in the less than five years since its release.

With plenty of incentives to get players moving and connecting to one another, Pokémon GO offers an experience never before seen in the Pokémon series, making it such an appealing and necessary final choice for this list.

KEEP READING: Everything We Know About ‘New Pokémon Snap’

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About The Author

Jessica Howard
(6 Articles Published)

Jessica Howard is the managing editor at Uppercut and a freelance games journalist, with work published over at Paste, UPROXX, and Gayming Magazine. Her work focuses on relationships, mental health, sexuality, and ethics within the games industry, and–when not navigating through all that–she enjoys loud music, hot coffee, and games with romanceable NPCs.

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