The Pokémon franchise has touched the lives of millions of gamers. The original games were unlike anything else on the market, creating a whole new genre of games focused on collecting and battling a swath of unique and interesting creatures. The main series games have undergone numerous graphical updates, introduced and removed new gameplay mechanics, and introduced hundreds of brand new Pokémon to the different regions. They’ve been inspirational to dozens of other developers to create games similar, but even fans have tried their hand at creating their own fan games.
Pokémon fans all love the series for different reasons and have expressed that passion by creating fan games that pay tribute to the series. They can also be an attempt to create new experiences using brand new features and mechanics, or simply shaking up the core formula. They can do this by either modifying existing Pokémon titles or creating brand new ones from the ground up.
Some of these games are considered just as good, or possibly better than even the official games. Here are the best Pokémon fan games for anyone looking for a fresh spin on this classic series.
Note: Pokémon fan games are not officially approved by Nintendo and therefore within their legal rights to take down. Fan games that use copyrighted material, such as Pokémon, cannot be sold or used to make any profit. If you are looking for more information on how to find, download, or even make your own ROM hacks, check out the resources found in PokeCommunity. PokemonRomHacks also has plenty of guides and tutorials to help you get started downloading and running emulators. A great resource for finding and downloading other Pokémon ROMS is PokémonLog.
Pokémon Uranium is probably the most well-known ROM hack. This game places players in the brand new Tandor region. The story is as true to Pokémon as you can get, placing you in the shoes of a brand new trainer who is given a starting Pokémon from Professor Bamb’o and sent off on a quest to collect 8 gym badges by defeating their respective gym leaders. However, things get much darker very quickly. Your protagonist’s mother was killed in an explosion at a nuclear power plant and barely knows their absent father. Included in the 200 Pokémon are 160 fan-created ones. Aside from a full story mode, the game also features a system for online trading and battles to pit these new creatures against others.
Support and updates for this title have ceased due to official DMCA takedown notices issued by Nintendo, but you can still find and play the last update of the game.
In terms of ROM hacks, Pokémon Insurgence is one of the most ambitious for just how much it changes and adds to the games it was built off of. It is already out as a full release to download and play, but the team is committed to giving more updates to fix any bugs and add more content. At present, it is already at, or above, the level of any traditional Pokémon game. There are brand new characters and music, and it even brings the concept of Mega Evolutions back to the 2D style games. What’s most impressive is the new Delta Species of Pokémon. These are brand new takes on familiar Pokémon that completely shake up the way you utilize and play with your team.
Right off the bat, you will notice that Pokémon Insurgence is going for a far darker, more adult, story than the main series. Without getting too deep into the plot, this new Torren region you play in is in danger from mysterious cults. Rather than attempting to collect badges and become the regional champion like a typical Pokémon game, you need to overcome the heroes of each region to become the new defender against the sinister cults. These cults, of which there are five to topple, worship Legendary Pokémon and perform human sacrifices, among other atrocities, to appease them. Saying much more would give away fun discoveries, which isn’t something you could say about most Pokémon games, but turns out to be a welcome addition in this well-crafted and written fan game.
Pokémon Phoenix Rising also puts a stronger emphasis on the story, but this time leans more into the RPG side of things by including player choices that can influence the progression. The game has a stunning pixel art style, fully customizable character, and a roster of brand new Mega Evolutions and Relic Forms. These are very rare alternate forms of existing Pokémon that alter their type and moves. Pokémon Phoenix Rising, more than anything, is an expansion on the main series’ RPG elements, though. Aside from the usual leveling up of you Pokémon, you will also have main and side quests, skill trees, and the aforementioned choices.
Being more heavily RPG-focused, the story of Pokémon Phoenix Rising is very detailed and engrossing. The lore of the new Hawthorne region is that a group of oracles had maintained peace in the region for hundreds of years until a self-proclaimed royal family appears to try and take control and turn Hawthorne into a militaristic nation. The journey is much more like a traditional JRPG than anything Pokémon has ever attempted, and features much more interesting and robust side characters. This game is episodic, with episode 1 being a good 8 or so hour experience, but because it is a fan project done in people’s free time, it’s unclear when future episodes will release.
Pokémon Reborn started out as just an RPG Maker game that was purely an online league game but has since been fully fleshed out into a full game. There are 21 starter Pokémon, 807 Pokémon in total between generations 1 and 7 to be captured and battled, 18 gyms, reworked shiny Pokémon, online functionality, a 50 hour or more story mode, and more. That big campaign, again as a trend we see with fan-created stories, looks to explore the more mature and serious implications of a world with Pokémon.
Pokémon Reborn begins in Reborn City. This industrial zone is full of pollution, and crime, and is on the verge of collapse. Changes to combat and how encounters work in general are really exciting, too. The game has special Field Effects that you need to learn and adapt to. There are 37 that can change up your playstyle, such as Misty Terrain which makes all Pokémon immune to status conditions, or Water Surface where Ground-type moves don’t work at all, among plenty more changes.
If you were around since the beginning of the Pokémon craze, then Pokémon Red or Blue probably holds a very special place in your heart. Whether you’re a gen 1 die-hard or not, there is something special about the first Pokémon adventure. Pokémon Fire Red was a great way to revisit those memories, but all these years later, it’s clear that they’re rather simple and easy experiences.
Pokémon Radical Red is a welcome mod for anyone who wants the game to bite back a little harder. Radical Red is structurally identical to Fire Red but it’s a bit more difficult. Game changes include new abilities and re-balanced stats, the option to trade abilities between Pokémon, no more HMs, visible and color-coded IVs, special EV training zones, more Legendary Pokémon, and the option to challenge defeated gym leaders again. the game also comes with a built-in randomizer mode you can activate right from the start.
The Pokémon game, anime, and collectible cards all launched within a relatively short time frame. In the early days, in the West at least, this lead to a bit of confusion about what came first and why things were different. The biggest point of confusion for many was why the main character of the anime, Ash, was not the protagonist of the game, simply known as Red. In fact, the stories of Ash and Red were quite different, which is what inspired this fan game to be made. Started in 2015, and still being updated to this day, Pokémon Fire Ash more closely chronicles the adventures Ash goes on in the anime in the form of a game. It is based on the Pokémon Fire Red edition of the game, but with a host of new features to make it feel more like the anime.
Pokémon Fire Ash follows Ash on his adventures from the Kanto region up until Alola at the time of writing. If you haven’t kept up with the anime, that means you can explore Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, Sinnoh, Unova, Kalos, the Orange Islands, and Alola all in this one game. That means there are over 800 Pokémon, 50 gyms, Mega Evolutions, and Alola Forms. Brock and Misty, just like in the show, also accompany you on the quest and can be battled as well.
The Kaizo name is infamous among fan games. It was originally attributed to the modder who created the insanely difficult Kaizo Mario ROM hack that basically kicked off the entire genre of ROM hacks that require near-perfect levels of execution to beat.
While the game doesn’t touch the main plot or structure of the original Pokémon Emerald, this Kaizo edition changes basically everything else. The AI is tuned up to give absolutely no mercy, wild Pokémon you encounter are buffed up to all pose a real threat, gym leaders and trainers all have new teams, and even the layouts of gyms and dungeons are reworked to punish you. Oh, and did we mention that you can’t use any items during battle?
Pokémon Creepy Black might be the only fan game for this series to attempt to steer the game in a horror direction.
If you never read the original story, the creepypasta called Pokémon Black is about a supposedly haunted copy of Pokémon Black (this was well before the official Pokémon Black and White were even announced) for the GameBoy. In it, the player starts in a strange version of Pokémon Red, with a Ghost Pokémon in their party by default. When the player encounters other Pokémon in battle, the opponents can’t attack, and Ghost’s only move is Curse. Once used, the other Pokémon is immediately killed. The story goes on, with more creepy and strange encounters in the game I won’t spoil since the ROM follows all the events and includes everything from that original story. You might not think a little sprite-based game could be scary, but Pokémon Creepy Black is proof of the contrary.
Pokémon Clockwork is set in the new Rosari Region and centers around a mystery regarding the Mythical Celebi Pokémon. The main new mechanic, as the name of the game may have tipped you off to, is a full day and night cycle that can determine what Pokémon you can encounter, but that’s not the end of it. Without giving too much away, time travel is also a key feature of the 40 or more hour story. Other things to look forward to are brand new Pokémon, new moves, a full RPG quest system, new types of Pokéballs, and new battle modes that include pitting one Pokémon against two, or a kind of boss rush where you try and beat six trainers, each with six Pokémon, in a row without getting knocked out. It’s a great, meaty Pokémon game to sink your teeth into.
Pokémon Dark Rising is just the first part of a four-game series, plus a remake of the first one. There’s this game at the start, which came out all the way back in 2012, the sequel Pokémon Dark Rising 2, followed by Pokémon Dark Rising: Order Destroyed, Pokémon Dark Rising Origins: Worlds Collide, and finally Pokémon Dark Rising: Kaizo. That last one is a remake of the first, only much more difficult like you’d expect from a Kaizo game, but also has some significant plot and structural changes that make it worth experiencing again.
In a cool twist, the setup for Pokémon Dark Rising is that your character has a dream about a Pokémon who chooses you to be their partner, rather than the other way around, to go on a quest to save the world. You also learn your friend in the Core Region had a nearly identical dream, leading to a familiar experience of visiting a professor and getting your first Pokémon. The danger in this game is centered around natural disasters occurring due to climate change, and progresses from there, incorporating anime characters like Ash, but also the Pharaoh from Yu-Gi-Oh! There’s a decent roster of 386 Pokémon to catch, plus dozens of gameplay tweaks. If you’re ready for a saga of new Pokémon adventures, this series is very well crafted for a fan effort.
For years one of the most fan-requested games from Pokémon fans has been an MMO. The gameplay and structure of the series just seems like such a perfect fit for the MMORPG genre, and yet GameFreak has shown no interest in taking the series in that direction. While they aren’t official, we do have to give massive credit to the final two entries on this list for attempting to give us all that we wanted so much, but in their own different ways. UnovaRPG Pokémon Online is a free-to-play Pokémon that can be played right in your browser with no downloads required. It has the old 2D sprite art style, but a much more intuitive and usable interface for PC, if not a bit artistically bland.
PokéMMO is also in the 2D style but utilizes far more detailed sprites and some 3D elements that make exploring and cinematics more dynamic. There is a full story mode to go through, making you begin as just another trainer in the Pokémon world, but can choose from several starting regions including Kanto, Hoenn, Sinnoh, and Unova. Regardless of where you start, the plot will remain the same, but each region has its own unique 8 gym leaders and Elite Four to take on. The Pokémon roster is filled with most of the Pokémon spanning between the first and fifth generation, totaling just under 700 so far.
Progression works how you would naturally think it would if Pokémon were to become an MMO. You can gain XP and level up your team by battling, but you have a level cap that can’t be passed until you beat the next gym leader and earn their badge. You can do PvP battles as well, find items, berries, and other items, breed your Pokémon, and partake in brand new Hordes. These are groups of between three and five wild Pokémon you need to fight all at once, which is great for XP farming, as well as speeding up the process of hunting shiny Pokémon. The developers and community are very active for this game, with updates and changelogs posted just about every month. If GameFreak never decides to make an MMO themselves, PokéMMO might be the best alternative we could ask for.