Over the twenty-plus years of Pokémon there have been countless spin-offs. While the creators thought that generation II would be the end of the line, that obviously didn’t happen. Instead we have dozens of games and even more spin-offs. Some have been wildly successful: Pokémon Mystery Dungeon (the originals, NOT the newest one) is one of those, a breakaway from the traditional Pokémon model that is still fun to play. Plus, it gave us talking Pokémon and let us be Pokémon, which was always my childhood dream.
But not all the games have been as successful or well-loved. Pokémon Snap may be a cult favorite, but it didn’t actually do well monetarily. It’s not listed here because it was still innovative and fun, which were two of my criteria to be included. What I was looking for instead was whether something is new and interesting, or just another quick, uninspired game with a Pokémon skin slapped on it. Those games are designed to be fun, but carry no weight, and they only reason they sell is because they bear the Pokémon logo. I would also say that just because a game is addictive does not mean it’s fun. If a game makes you want to tell all of your friends about it, like Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon for example, because it was enjoyable and you’re sad it’s over... that’s a sign of a good game. If you kind of want to delete a game from your phone because it’s just a waste of time, or want to play a console or handheld game once and never pick it up again? That’s not a good game, and is nothing but a time waster. Nothing against time wasters; I have a quite a few on my phone and my handheld systems. But that still doesn’t make them good.
15 Pokémon Ranger
Welcome to the wonderful world of being a Pokémon ranger, a job that was introduced in the TV series on December 8, 2005 in Japan (it was released in the United States about a year later) and then promptly got its own video game spin-off series in 2006. It’s a clever marketing strategy, introducing a new side of the Pokémon universe via the series and then giving the fans a game. The problem is that they took everything fun about being a Pokémon trainer away and instead made it feel like a chore. Plus, you don’t get to keep your Pokémon! You get a few that are your friends and stay with you, but if you discover a new Pokémon you have to draw circles around it with your magic spinning top that only chains it to your will for a short while. There’s a more cute way of saying that, I'm sure, but that’s the gist. I started playing and got about two hours in before I realized I wasn’t enjoying it... I was just trying to beat it.
14 Pokémon Dash
Mario Kart is one of Nintendo’s greatest accomplishments: it’s fun and has lots of replay value. You can play it at parties and even by yourself so you can get good enough to crush all of your friends. Pokémon Dash is none of those things. It's the first Pokémon racing game and the first Pokémon game for the Nintendo DS, and it's repetitive and boring. In theory, a Pokémon racing game sounds fun, because I would love to ride a Ponyta around or race on a Charizard. But in this game you can only be Pikachu! The graphics, while 3D, are pretty terrible and blocky. Plus, the way you run is by continuously rubbing the touch screen, which is a great way to scratch it or just break it outright. There’s only so much a screen protector can help in this case.
13 PokéPark Wii: Pikachu's Adventure
In this Wii game you also get to run around as a Pikachu, but this time it’s to make friends. If that sounds juvenile and fairly lame, it’s because it is! The game was obviously geared towards younger Pokémon fans, but it just came off as repetitive and like something Dora the Explorer would probably do. If that’s the case then it’s not exactly teaching children a good lesson: that the way to make friends is to beat them up! This is true to the spirit of Pokémon games but it just seems worse when you are the Pokémon. The controls are wonky, making you use the D-pad while pointing the Wiimote at the TV. There are also mini-games that unlock Pokémon friends and parks. So it’s basically a one person mini-game. Not innovative and frankly, not fun either.
12 Pokémon Trozei!
Nintendo has been making cash-grab puzzle games since it’s inception. It’s easy enough to sell a basic game if you slap a Mario or Pokémon skin over it. Pokémon Trozei!, also known as Pokémon Link!, is basically Yoshi’s Cookie but with Pokémon. You have icons and have to try to make four in a row. It’s really inventive, I know! There’s also some storyline about a girl named Lucy, but I don’t think anyone actually reads all the pointless dialogue. Just focus on the gameplay: make four in a row or bigger to get combos. To add to all of this, the characters were awful and looked like they were designed in less than a minute. Lucy in particular looks like some kind of freaky twig drawn by a 13-year-old who just started watching anime. Somehow, it still managed to get a sequel, Pokémon Battle Trozei (Pokémon Link: Battle! in Europe and Australia).
11 Pokémon Conquest
This one was tough to put on the list, since I’ve beaten the game twice, but it really deserves to be here. Pokémon Conquest is very similar to any turn-based tile RPG. It’s basically a much worse version of Fire Emblem but with a Pokémon skin. It’s set in feudal era Japan... but with Pokémon, for some reason. The idea is that you’re a conquering feudal lord trying to take over. The Pokémon on your team stand on tiles, and half the game is navigating the myriad landscapes to attack enemies you have a type advantage over. It’s a good twenty minutes of gameplay and then the rest is repetition. I played it because I was bored, not because it sucks you in with engaging gameplay or a story.
10 Pokémon Puzzle League
After Tetris, this was one of the first puzzle games I owned. I’ve spent countless hours playing it and every few years I’ll go back and play for an hour or so and then put it down for another three years. It’s entertaining, but in the end it’s really just a pretty basic puzzle game. You have a limited time to shuffle around blocks and make matches. It goes through the first generation gym leaders and it has some of their voice actors, but it’s a pretty boring game. Nintendo really didn’t even pretend to give it a plot. It’s just you going after the gym leaders but in puzzle form? It doesn’t really make any sense. It was also very easy, unless you were facing Giovanni on extra hard mode, which was almost impossible.
9 Pokémon Shuffle
Nintendo began to realize, especially with this game, that micro-transactions are the way to go with puzzle games. Pokémon Puzzle League is fun for a few hours, but Pokémon Shuffle makes you pay for those hours as long as you want to keep playing. The first hour of the game is pretty easy, and again, it’s just a puzzle game so there isn’t much to get into gameplay-wise. Then you get to harder and harder Pokémon, and it eventually gets so difficult you either need to spend DAYS farming PokéCoins or you just end up spending real money to get it over with. Then after a few more levels that you can beat no problem comes the the boss. It lulls you into a false sense of security then makes you open your wallet. It’s cute with lots of pastels and cute Pokémon faces but it’s really just a way to make you shell out cash while you’re bored waiting in line.
8 Hey You, Pikachu!
This is a case where there was an idea and some innovation but honestly, the technology wasn’t there yet. Hey You, Pikachu! grants that childhood dream of having your own pet Pikachu, but instead what you get is less the Pikachu we know and love, and more episode one Pikachu. It’s a terrible little monster that doesn’t listen to you, litters, and in general just messes everything up. Nintendo got the idea right later, with Nintendogs and their version of having a virtual pet, but Hey You, Pikachu! was glitchy and just annoying. Also that mic really didn’t work! It was an interesting idea that really failed in execution, partially due to the fact that the technology wasn’t ready yet. But they really could have made Pikachu actually like you, not be irritated with you every time you turned on the game.
7 Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness
This is an instance where Nintendo was creative but it was ineffective. This was a game where you ran around and stole Pokémon. They might be corrupted by darkness and in the clutches of the evil Cipher corporation, but in the end it’s still stealing someone else’s Pokémon. The game is pretty big but it’s very convoluted and annoying. I got pretty far when I was younger but when I picked it back up last year I couldn’t even get to the first Shadow Pokémon battle. It’s a lot of running around talking to people with no action and nothing to do, and it’s a very linear game. You HAVE to go from point A to point B. That doesn’t bother me in the actual Pokémon games but in this one it’s so easy to accidentally overlook talking to someone, and that will stall your entire game. In the end it feels like a chore, not a game.
6 My Pokémon Ranch
Ever wanted to interact with 3D models of your Pokémon? How about strange Mii-like versions of them that are missing limbs and are just strange representations of all the Pokémon from the Diamond and Pearl eras? Sounds a lot less fun. Honestly, you can’t even really call this a game. It’s just a place to throw your Pokémon and maybe do a bit of interacting and watching your Pokémon's antics. You can get offers for trades from Hayley the NPC, with rare egg moves and even eventually a Mew, but it’s really just a storage facility for your Diamond and Pearl games dressed up as it’s own game.
5 Pokémon Stadium
This is a classic, but sadly it didn’t live up to its true potential. The actual main story is just constant battling but in 3D! If you play multiplayer you can pick from every Pokémon in the first generation, except Mew or Mewtwo. That’s right, you can have a team of all the legendary birds and then Dragonite, without the constant grinding. Of course, these Pokémon have no EV training and in general don’t feel like yours. The only good thing about this game was the mini-games. The game would have been great if it was just mini-games, which Pokémon Stadium 2 made up for by having tons more! The battling in this game was static and boring, without the challenge of actual Pokémon games.
4 Pokémon Rumble
In this game you play as a ‘toy’ Pokémon, as if Pokémon aren’t already toys? I think it was in an effort to make them cute and to sell more merchandise. Sure, you have Pikachu, but do you have TOY Pikachu? In the end it’s a very linear game, where you just charge forward gathering other Pokémon to help you continue until you get catapulted into the next level. I played it for a few minutes and then put it down for something actually interesting. The thing with this game is that it really isn’t trying to be anything; at least games like Pokémon Conquest tried to be an original idea. This is just Pokémon Mystery Dungeon without all the things that made it fun. Charge forward and keep button mashing.
3 Pokémon Art Academy
Here's a ‘game’ that probably can’t really be called that. It’s a rudimentary drawing program for kids with a Pokémon theme slapped on. The game teaches you how to draw Pokémon... and that is literally it. I suppose it’s not too bad if you are planning on being a graphic designer by the time you’re eight, but the controls are a bit complicated for a child and too basic for an adult. It doesn’t really teach you anything but how to draw a few specific Pokémon and then a bit about real-life and comic book drawing styles. If you want to see someone really get into this game, watch Ross from Game Grumps, who has a series about it on YouTube. Other than that it’s not much of a game, it’s just a lesson.
2 Learn with Pokémon: Typing Adventure
This is another game that I’m not sure counts as a game. But hey, you can buy it for the DS so I’d say it counts! This is really just another way to teach kids in a sneaky way. Back in my day we just had Type to Learn, and now they have Pokémon teaching us. The BIG problem? It teaches you how to type Pokémon names, which isn’t exactly helpful in real life. It also expects you to know the names of every Pokémon and how to spell them. Sure, that’s easy with Butterfree or Chikorita but when you get into Rayquaza it becomes very frustrating, even for an adult. You also have to buy a DS keyboard which is tiny and doesn’t really prepare a kid for real-world issues with typing, and is generally useless outside of this game.
1 Pokémon Go
It honestly pains me to put this on the list. I loved this game when it first came out, because the idea of Pokémon in real life was so amazing and exciting... until you got into it. The game was not ready when it launched and was definitely not ready for the onslaught of fans. The first week it was up it crashed constantly, and after that it crashed ALMOST constantly. Not to mention gym battles, which are just a screen-mashing effort in futility. The idea of the game was to "catch 'em all" but that was about it. You could take a gym but that lost its appeal pretty quickly, especially when you were about to win and the game crashed. This really could’ve been amazing but they should’ve had better servers and given it a bit more time before release. One year later and I don't know anyone who still plays it.