As we prepare to embark on a new Pokémon adventure, we’re taking a look back on the franchise’s spin-off titles and which ones should return!
We’re staring down the launch of an all new Pokémon generation with Scarlet and Violet, and as we look ahead to what’s coming next, I’ve been getting a bit nostalgic about the series’ long history in gaming. I’ve always loved the Pokémon games, but over the decades there have been a BUNCH of spin-off games that sit apart from the mainline RPGs.
Not all of them were great (quite a few weren’t), but some were impressive gaming endeavors that haven’t been touched in several years. Today, I thought I’d take a look back at some of those spin-offs that haven’t been revisited, but absolutely deserve another chance with gamers.
This list isn’t in any particular order, but I will say Pokémon Conquest served as the impetus for this article overall. I LOVED this game when it launched for the DS back in 2012 and have lamented the fact, year-after-year, that it never got a follow-up. The game took on the turn-based strategy mechanics (e.g. Fire Emblem, Final Fantasy Tactics, etc) but immersed players into the lore of Pokémon to go with it.
It managed to deftly blend the two genres together in some fun ways. Seriously, it worked far better than it should have and incorporated a pretty engaging storyline (set far in the past and utilizing Japanese history) to go with it. With slick mechanics that were easy for younger audiences to get into, while offering a challenge for older players, Conquest hit all the right notes. Considering the success of Legends Arceus and taking gamers deep into the past, it seems like the perfect time to give Conquest a sequel of some sort.
The Ranger games consist of three titles, all of which launched on the Nintendo DS, and were VERY MUCH rooted into the bones of that handheld console. These games took the franchise to the action-RPG genre, with the core gameplay being focused on using the stylus to “loop” and capture various critters.
To be honest, I can’t say I was every all that big into the Ranger games, with a big part of that having to do with the gameplay. That said I think the games had a lot of potential with how they used the lore and story.
You see, Rangers aren’t trainers. In fact, the games take place in a region where trainers simply aren’t around and Pokemon/humans live in harmony with one another. Rangers go out and about to try and maintain this relationship and ensure the monsters aren’t being misused. It’s a solid idea, and with a change in gameplay mechanics for the Switch, could let modern players explore an all new side of the world.
Pokémon Pinball is an excellent example of a cool idea, perhaps not executed the best way, deserving another chance. The original game launched back in 1999 (with a sequel in 2003) and, as the name implies, plays out as a typical virutal pinball experience…just themed to Pokémon.
It was okay! The pinball controls themselves were a little wonky as the physics weren’t the best. Coupled with scrolling screen (the tiny GameBoy aspect ratio wasn’t exactly made for longer pinball tables) and it was a tougher sell for some players. Even so, its blend of pinball action with an interesting twist on catching Pokémon and filling out your PokéDex had plenty of potential.
These days, we have some pretty amazing virtual pinball games (mostly thanks to Zen Studios/PinballFX) and we’ve seen what can be done in that genre now. As such, it’s an excellent time to give this unique spin-off another shot.
Pokémon Trading Card Game
To be entirely honest, the fact that there is no modern version of the Pokémon TCG on the Nintendo Switch. Yeah, I get there’s a mobile/desktop version that allows people to play the game online with friends, but frankly, it’s not the same. For one, it’s not exactly intuitive and the app has its share of glitchiness. Secondly, it’s not designed to be a standalone thing.
The original TCG on the GameBoy Color was, by and large, its own thing. Not only did it serve as a virtual way to play the iconic card game that was taking the world by storm, but it brought its own unique story to players. So you got to experience the card game itself, while enjoying a new Pokémon adventure all while you were learning how to play the game in general.
The game got a sequel (also on GameBoy Color), but it only ever saw a release in Japan. As such, it’s way past time for a new TCG video game. The card game itself has evolved/changed over the years, so a new video game would be an excellent way to introduce it to new—or even older, returning—players.
Released back in 2015, with a Switch port following later on, it seems like Pokkén Tournament might be too recent to “bring back,” but that’s not stopping me from including it on this list. While I’ve never been great at fighting games, I fell in love with Pokkén from the minute I laid hands on it.
The controls are easy to pick up, making it ideal for younger gamers, while featuring a surprising amount of depth for more experienced gamers to try and master. Couple that with Synergy Meters for special attacks, Mega Evolutions, and a variety of Support Pokemon you could swap and upgrade as you went…there was a lot of depth/strategy to be found as you battled your way through the story.
Despite having a fairly successful launch, and continued online tournaments (though the online component is shutting down this year), there’s been no inkling of a sequel being developed. It’s a shame, as it seems like the most logical spin-off to a series all about battling tiny monsters against one another, but hopefully we’ll see a follow-up at some point.
It’s insane how many Pokémon spin-off games have launched over the last couple decades, but it’s a testament to how the franchise continues to appeal to people. These are just some of my favorites and ones I think deserve another shot in the spotlight. Which Pokémon games would you like to see more of?