The 7 best games to play if you like Pokémon

Since its inception in Japan 26 years ago, Pokémon has been one of the most ubiquitous forces not only in video games, but in pop culture in general. It’s the highest-grossing entertainment franchise in history, and has naturally attracted many imitators as a result. Unfortunately, most of them are not very good.

That said, there are a few video games that manage to capture a similar magic to Nintendo’s iconic catch-’em-up, while also experimenting with its formula in interesting ways. The degree of credence they owe to said formula varies, but they all belong to Pokémon one way or another.

With Pokémon Scarlet and Violet just around the corner, it’s only natural that people’s appetites have been whetted for a new monster taming experience. So to ease the wait until you catch them all and become the best (like no one ever was), here are seven of the best Pokémon-likes you can play right now.

Monster sanctuary

The protagonist of Monster Sanctuary with several creatures surrounding them

Image: moi rai games/Team17

Okay, so this is nothing like Pokémon. It’s a side-scrolling Metroidvania that takes far more visual cues from its genre namesake than anything Game Freak has ever released.

Still, its basic premise Monster sanctuary involves capturing and taming dozens of different creatures to achieve the rank of “Master” in the Monster Keeper order. In doing so, you can finally face the dastardly Alchemists, a guild of evil wizards who want to conquer the eponymous Monster Sanctuary and use it to fight in the Old World.

It’s kind of like Team Rocket, but with an actual story that isn’t “We want world domination, but we’re only willing to get it if we can do it using objectively terrible Pokémon.” In other words, these opponents are a legitimate threat — especially when compared to the Johto-era Rockets. Even at 5, I was ashamed of them.

Monster sanctuary is available on Windows PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

Monster Crown

A city in Monster Crown

Image: Studio Aurum/Soedesco

While Monster Crown‘small The overworld definitely looks like the Game Boy Color-era Pokémon ones games, anyone looking for cutesy nostalgia will be out of luck once they set foot on Crown Island.

Sure, Monster Crown it may talk like a Pokémon, but it sure doesn’t walk like one. It’s heavily inspired by Game Freak’s RPGs in many ways, as it incorporates 200 original monsters to catch, train, and battle together. While that number is impressive, it expands to 1,200 when you consider the game’s spawning system, which allows you to combine specific monsters to gain access to new creatures that you can’t normally encounter in the wild.

The area in which Monster Crown differs from Pokémon in its narrative and world design. Unlike the warm, mostly innocuous stories you’d expect to find in major Nintendo-published games, Monster Crown it’s intentionally dark, targeting a specific demographic of players who grew up with early Pokémon but are now looking for something a little bigger. Opinions on whether the developers succeeded in realizing this vision vary, but if you’re the kind of person who constantly talks about wanting “a Pokémon game for adults,” this is the Pokémon for you.

Monster Crown is available on Windows PC, Mac, Linux, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Persona 5 Royal

Persona 5 - struggles with a troubled housewife

Image: Atlus/Sega

The Persona The series has been around as long as Pokémon, so to say that the former owes its existence to the latter is… well, just wrong. Rather than being inspired by Nintendo, Persona is a spinoff of Sega’s own Shin Megami Tensei, a series in which you collect demons inspired by various mythologies from around the world. The demons in question are associated with specific elemental types, which interact with each other to create a similar type effectiveness structure to Pokémon. It might seem a little complicated at first, but luckily in 2017 Persona 5 is a very good starting point.

The Persona games are more conventional JRPGs than any Pokémon title, since they’re less about collecting neat tokens to challenge a very friendly and supportive champion and more about attacking and dethroning God. However, the combat is turn-based and relies on a variety of characters that can stun some enemies. Combine that with an impressive roster of 192 individual Personas, each of which can be acquired through persuasion, seduction, bribery, or a ritual mechanic called fusion, and you’ve got yourself a great type-oriented, creature-collecting RPG.

It’s a little weirder than Pokémon — there are cats that are also trucks (and sometimes helicopters), as well as some very dark topics that could probably get a Game Freak executive fired for gross negligence if brought up during a board meeting. However, if you’re willing to enjoy this weirdness, there are precious few games out there as captivating and rewarding as Persona 5.

Persona 5 Royal is available on PlayStation 4. It will also be released on Windows PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X on October 21.

Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin

The Kinship Gauge in Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin

Image: Capcom via Polygon

It might seem odd to compare Pokémon to the Monster Hunter series – one is about collecting cartoonish creatures, the other is about brutally hunting strange monsters – but the Monster Hunter spinoffs based on the series have a lot in common with the flagship Pikachu.

The Monster Hunter Stories The games eschew the meticulous preparation, stalking, and actual hunting of fearsome giants for a much gentler approach to these creatures (they’ve even been renamed from “Monsters” to “Monsties”). In Monster Hunter Stories 2you can even gather a group of these Monsties to join you on your adventure to Hakolo Island.

That warmth extends to the game’s story, in which you become a rider rather than a hunter. Together with your company of trusty Monsties, you — a literal child — are tasked with saving the world from impending doom. If that doesn’t qualify a game as “Pokémon-like”, I’m not sure what does.

Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is available on Windows PC and Nintendo Switch.

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

The protagonists look over a castle in Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Image: Level-5/Namco Bandai Games

The only things that Pokémon and Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch The common feature is that both prominently feature the process of capturing and befriending magical creatures (known as “Families” in the latter). Even the combat is noticeably different, as far as it goes Ni no Kuni on this list may seem a bit controversial to some.

On the contrary, this is precisely the reason Wrath of the White Witch belongs here. Its focus on Familiars gives it enough overlap with Pokémon to feel…familiar, while foregrounding a deep and emotionally resonant story gives longtime Pokémon fans something entirely new. Oliver’s journey is much more impressive and moving than most of the relatively simplistic story beats in Kanto, Johto and beyond, and it certainly helps that all the animation sequences were designed by none other than Studio Ghibli.

Hell, even the score was composed by frequent Studio Ghibli collaborator Joe Hisaishi, who provided the score for all but one of Hayao Miyazaki’s films (Lupine III: The Castle of Cagliostrowhich predates Miyazaki’s tenure at Ghibli).

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is available on Windows PC, Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4.

Coromon

A Coromon faces enemies in a mine

Image: TRAGsoft/Freedom Games

Coromon is the perfect game for people specifically after a Pokémon-like experience third and fourth generation — occupies a strange kind of aesthetic space between those of the Hoenn and Sinnoh regions.

Unlike some of the other games on this list, Coromon — as you might guess from its name — is a very deliberate love letter to a certain era in Pokémon history. From ice puzzles to static encounters with legendary monsters to proprietary piles of sentient slime, it’s the kind of game that someone who grew up with Diamond and Pearl you will thoroughly enjoy.

It’s also especially worth it for anyone familiar with modern Pokémon challenge runs. In addition to a world inspired by Pokémon, Coromon comes with built-in difficulty settings and a randomizer, adding a level of complexity to the game that encourages experimentation and replayability — which is what Pokémon is could be put to good use in the future.

Coromon is available on Windows PC and Android.

Temtem

A character in Temtem runs with his monster.

Image: Crema/Humble Bundle

While there are a lot of solid Pokémon-likes on this list, none of them compete Temtemthe best new monster-taming RPG since Game Freak hit the scene in 1996.

Temtem, in many ways, is a carbon copy of Pokémon. His map consists of tracks and rivers, cities and caves, mountains and marshes. Outside of the cities, the areas are populated with wild species that you can catch, train and use to fight other tamers. Dojo Masters are essentially Gym Leaders and defeating them allows you to progress through the story. On paper, it’s basically just Pokémon under another name.

But Temtem she is also interesting in how she breathes new life into outdated concepts. For example, all the battles inside Temtem they are double fights, which makes most encounters much more strategic. There’s also a range of specialized disposables that boost your Temtems’ competitive viability, and the overall narrative feels like it’s aimed at a demographic that isn’t just “10-year-olds and people who were 10-year-olds since 1996 or since.” . There are even bars!

If you are a POKEMON fan looking for something similar to lead (or descend from) Red and Violet, you should obviously follow whichever entry on this list resonates most with you. But if we had to recommend a game for Pokémaniacs? It certainly is Temtem.

THE Persona 5 Royal, if you want to take down the Prime Minister of Japan before you punch the God of the Old Testament in a physical manifestation of the collective subconscious that you and your friends can access via a smartphone app. It’s really up to you.

Temtem is available on Windows PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

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