Digimon is a franchise that holds a special place in the hearts of many fans. Anyone who remembers the digital pet origins of Digimon undoubtedly looks upon their brick companion fondly. While these pets were little more than more rugged versions of Tamagotchis, they felt different enough for a culture to develop around them and a fandom to arise.
In the decades since, Digimon has spawned several games in various genres. Few are true to the original idea that an individual has only one Digimon, and most play like more cyber-based Pokémon spinoffs. Nevertheless, the franchise has seen some amazing storytelling moments and has been able to hold fans in unique ways. Here are five titles that captivated, and five that completely missed the mark.
10 Best: Digimon World: Next Order
Next Order is a different type of game from the rest of the series in that it is an open-world title that doesn’t aim to restrict players as much as a typical RPG. Combat isn’t as cut and dry in Next Order, as it is in other titles, tasking the player with issuing strategic commands rather than assuming the identity of their Digimon as is often the case.
The story of Next Order is unique as well in that it allows the player a choice of characters, then pulls the player, a Digimon Fan, into the digital world, requiring the capture of Digimon in order for them to find an escape.
9 Worst: Digimon Masters
First off, we really want to like this game. Digimon Masters does so many things right. The gameplay is typical of an MMORPG, combat is real-time, the pacing is slow enough that it requires players to invest in certain Digimon, and the game respects a character level separate from their digital companions, meaning you don’t have to start over completely if you choose to focus on a newer acquisition. Unfortunately, Digimon Masters also follows another pattern typical of MMORPGs: Micro-transactions.
Micro-transactions take this enjoyable title and turn it into a nightmare. With the ability to pay to win fully in force, players who want to simply enjoy the Digimon universe with other players around the world are often left high and dry.
8 Best: Digimon World DS
The original Digimon title to hit the Nintendo DS would feature 300 Digimon and make use of the DS’s WiFi capabilities to allow trading. The game makes use of the Digi-Farm to allow players to build and expand their collection of Digimon inside the game, focusing on collecting Digimon rather than hammering a story narrative.
While many games in this series have been compared to Pokémon titles, none may come as close as Digimon World DS. Not only is the game featured on a handheld system, but it also directs the player specifically toward collecting Digimon just as they would in the Pokémon franchise. Nevertheless, the game is enjoyable and set a tone for future installments.
7 Worst: Digimon World
Nostalgia aside, the first Digimon World title for the PS1 does little to captivate. It has aged more poorly than the original Digi-Pets and almost plays like a console version of them. Gameplay revolves around raising your Digimon and battling with them, just as it does in the original pets, with the constriction of having to play the title on your console.
Honestly, there is little reason to play this title today. Consistency with the parameters set forth initially by the series redeems Digimon World to a certain extent, emboldened in the eyes of fans who enjoy simulation type games; however, this is easily one of the worst titles to try and pick up today.
6 Best: Digimon Rumble Arena 2
Rumble Arena 2 is the first non-RPG to be featured as a success. The game plays similar to the Smash Brothers series, incorporating an in-depth fighting system that isn’t as limiting as titles like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter.
What sets Rumble Arena 2 apart is that it incorporates digivolutions into the game in an exciting and captivating manner. When first entering battle, the player’s Digimon will remain in its base form until the player fills their meter enough to evolve. This is very reminiscent of the process used in the anime and feels more legitimate to purists than any other entry in this list will.
5 Worst: Digimon World Championship
Calling back to games that are reminiscent of the original Digi-Pets, Digimon World Championship could be subject to the same criticisms as Digimon World. The most redeeming quality of this game is that it is on a handheld system, meaning that it doesn’t require the player to raise their Digimon on their television.
Besides the choice of platform, there is no redeeming quality to be found in Digimon World Championship. The graphics are nice, but the gameplay is utterly boring. Finding the title cheap might make way for some temporary nostalgia-driven entertainment, but it won’t last for even the most diehard fans.
4 Best: Digimon World 3
Digimon World 3 is a beloved title to fans of the series. It took everything which the first two installments did and improved them with better graphics, smoother gameplay, and a large variety of Digimon available.
In terms of combat, Digimon World 3 plays more like a Pokémon title than its predecessors. While Digimon World 2 saw three-on-three combat, World 3 limits combat to one-on-one, with the player having to swap out their active Digimon with others in their party. In addition, its digivolution system is a bit convoluted and barely familiar. Nevertheless, this is the best of the World titles and combines nostalgia with progress for the series in order to create a true classic.
3 Worst: Digimon Racing
Spinoffs are rarely wonderful, and Digimon Racing is no exception to that rule. Playable exclusively on the Game Boy Advance, Digimon Racing feels like a gimmicky rebranded port of Mario Kart. While the game doesn’t feel especially bad, there’s just no point in playing it.
Racing spinoffs can be fun and interesting. 1999’s Star Wars: Episode I Racer is a perfect example of a fun game that incorporated elements of its franchise’s story into a unique and interesting experience. But the premise is lacking for Digimon. Racing isn’t a part of the narrative, and the story does little to convince the player that this setting makes any sense.
2 Best: Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth Complete Edition
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth is largely considered to be a masterpiece. The sheer number of Digimon featured in the game is a wonder. Add to that an extremely compelling storyline and wonderful graphics, and you have a package that is hard to turn down. The game brought interest back to the Digimon franchise after years of waning interest.
While Cyber Sleuth is lauded as an amazing game, it’s sequel, Cyber Sleuth: Hacker’s Memory, leaves much to be desired. The largest complaint about Hacker’s Memory is that it did nothing new. Even the setting was the same. Enter the Complete Edition.
For the price of a new game, you get both titles bundled into one. Fans of the series will be able to enjoy the masterful storytelling without having to pay separately for a game that wasn’t viewed as fully stellar. That’s a win for sure.
1 Worst: Digimon Digital Card Battle
Much like Digimon Racing, Digital Card Battle just doesn’t offer anything which was needed for the series. As the Pokémon series had previously done with their Pokémon Trading Card Game video game, Digital Card Battle attempted to convert a card game system into a video game and build a story around it.
Leaning on the popularity of Yu-Gi-Oh, the game developed a card battle system that didn’t quite feel as polished as it should have. Complimented by a lackluster storyline, this game really marks the lowest point the Digimon franchise has seen in its entirety. It simply should not exist.