The Digimon TV series are hits or misses with fans. A lot of them are universally beloved, like the original Adventures and Tamers. Then there are seasons that are a little bit more divisive, like Frontier. Despite the unevenness of the Digimon TV show, at least the show has a better track record than the Digimon video games. For a franchise that spun-off of virtual-pets, Digimon has surprisingly suffered from many strange video games.
A lot of the games in the franchise center on the idea of collecting and digi-evolving your Digimon. If that sounds too much like Pokémon, don’t worry, most of those games are a lot worse than any Pokémon game. Some of the Digimon games have their own spin-off titles that focus on different gameplay mechanics. There was a racing Digimon game that was released on the Game Boy Advance.
Of course, there are some gems. Recently, the Digimon games have followed more traditional role-playing mechanics. The relatively recent release of Cyber Sleuth proved to be a hit among fans of the franchise and reinvigorated interest in the series. Digimon Survive has been announced for modern consoles, and it is revealed to be releasing in the West as well. Digimon Survive looks like an interesting blend of classical RPG gameplay and Japanese visual novels. To celebrate Survive’s announcement, I want to celebrate by listing out the ten best Digimon games. Unfortunately, since there are so many bad games in the series, I also feel I should mention the ten worst games in the franchise.
20 Best: Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth
The 2015-2016 time periods for Digimon were pretty good. The Digimon tri. films were being released and doing well in Japan. Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth was released on the Vita in 2015 in Japan, and performed better than expected. Cyber Sleuth was praised by fans for the number of Digimon in the game, the engaging story, and the graphics. Criticism for game centers mostly on its long length, and the fact that it forces gamers to grind for a long time. Cyber Sleuth was later ported to the PS4 and was eventually released in the west in 2016. Cyber Sleuth and tri. have reinvigorated interest in the franchise in the west, which has led to more products being released in the United States.
19 Worst: Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth: Hacker's Memory
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth: Hacker’s Memory isn’t necessarily a bad a Digimon game; nonetheless, it is still a fairly disappointing one. It is a sequel to Cyber Sleuth, and it is more or less the same as its predecessor. A lot of Hacker’s Memory takes place in the same setting as Cyber Sleuth. Hacker’s Memory does polish the gameplay a bit, yet it is still repetitive and long. Fans were clamoring for something a bit different for the sequel. Hacker’s Memory still has an anime-like story, and the gameplay is still fine for what it is. It's just that Hacker’s Memory does very little to progress the series into new territory.
18 Best: Digimon Adventures (PSP)
Despite how immensely popular the early seasons of Digimon were in the US, interest in the series greatly waned around the fourth season of the anime. With a lack of interest in the west to see more Digimon products, Japanese developers will occasionally not release Digimon games in the US, as they assume there will be no market for them. The Digimon Adventures game on the PSP, which is based on the first season of the show, was one of those games that was never released in the west. That’s unfortunate, considering the game is really good. The graphics are impressive for the handheld, the gameplay is solid, and the game’s story closely matches with the story on the show.
17 Worst: Digimon Racing
I really didn’t want to add Digimon Racing in this list, especially as one of the games that should never have been made, but the game hasn’t really aged well. It wasn’t particularly good in the first place, but now it’s worse. Digimon Racing is essentially a Mario Kart clone with Digimon characters on the Game Boy Advance. Graphically it looks pretty nice on the GBA, and I am actually pretty impressed they had the English actors voice the characters in the game. With that said, the game doesn’t really control well and has a pretty bland presentation. Why would I want to play a Mario Kart clone when I can just play normal Mario Kart?
16 Best: Digimon World DS
Digimon has often been critiqued for being a rip-off of Pokémon. While the critique is not completely unjustified, personally I always felt that Digimon had a darker edge compared to Pokémon. This didn’t stop game developers from making Digimon games that were eerily similar to the Pokémon games. These include Digimon World DS, a game that revolves around you collecting and evolving Digimon, and fighting in a turn-based RPG gameplay. With that said, Digimon World DS actually adds a lot more nuance to the typical monster-catching RPG genre. A whole a team of Digimon can face off against another team. The placement of your Digimon matters, and the game has pretty good graphics.
15 Worst: Digimon Masters
Massive multiplayer online role-playing games are some of the most popular types of games in the world. The main point of MMORPGs is that players from across the globe play together to explore a whole world. Many different franchises have created their own MMORPGs, including Digimon. Digimon Masters is an MMORPG that was released globally in 2011. It is essentially a typical MMORPG, except you play as Digimon and you’re in the Digital World. The main issue with Digimon Masters is that it focuses heavily on microtransactions. You can basically make your character overpowered and give yourself an unfair advantage over other players.
14 Best: Digimon World Re:Digitize
Digimon World Re:Digitize serves kind of as a predecessor for future titles in the franchise. Re:Digitize was a PSP game released exclusively in Japan in 2012. The game would later get an enhanced port on the 3DS in the following year called Re:Digitize Decode. Re:Digitize’s gameplay is a return to form for the franchise, following a gameplay similar to that of Digimon World. Cyber Sleuth and Hacker’s Memory would retain the same aesthetics from Re:Digitize; all three games share the same character designer. The gameplay and story of Re: Digitize were proven to be a hit with fans of the series. The game would eventually get a fan translation, allowing fans overseas to enjoy Digimon World Re:Digitize.
13 Worst: Digimon Digital Card Battle
The Digimon TV show was definitely its own entity that was separate from its competitor Pokémon. With that said, the video games definitely took a lot of inspirations from the franchise’s more popular competitor. Digimon Digital Card Battle was not one of those games; instead of borrowing elements from Pokémon, Digital Card Battle decided to copy from Yu-Gi-Oh. Digital Card Battle is based around the Digimon cards that were introduced in Digimon Tamers, the third season of the series. The story of the game is super generic, as it focuses on a kid trying to save the world through a children’s card game. The whole game is actually really boring to play.
12 Best: Digimon World Dawn And Dusk
A sequel to Digimon World DS, Digimon World Dawn and Dusk improves on what was established with its predecessor, and is an overall superior game. Following the Pokémon tradition of releasing two games in each generation, Dawn and Dusk are two separate games that tell the same story. The games are RPGs that center on collecting and Digivolving your own Digimon. Dawn and Dusk offer more variations to Digivolve your Digimon, and the story is more engaging than the first. The presentation and the graphics are pretty great, especially on the DS. The games, unfortunately, are grind heavy; however, RPG fans are used to that kind of grinding.
11 Worst: Digimon World Data Squad
In my perspective of the Digimon fandom, every season post-Digimon Tamers appears to be divisive. There are fans of the seasons that proceeded Tamers, yet there are also a lot of detractors. In my experience within the fandom, Data Squad seems to be the most divisive. Whatever spectrum you fall into with Data Squad, at least most fans can admit that the Digimon World Data Squad game is bad. Boring, bland, and excessively long load times, the Data Squad video game is one the most boring games I have ever come across. I would rather watch grass grow than go through the game’s load times.
10 Best: Digimon Battle Spirit
Digimon Battle Spirit may not hold up as well as some other Digimon games, however, there is still a lot to love with this game. Battle Spirit is a Digimon fighting game that was released on the Game Boy Advance in 2003. The gameplay is similar to Super Smash Bros. Digimon Battle Spirit begins fights in their rookie or champion forms. They can digivolve into their stronger ultimate or mega forms, giving them the edge in battle. Battle Spirit plays well on a handheld, and the graphics are pretty good. Battle Spirit would later have a sequel that focuses more on the Digimon Frontier characters. Frontier is a divisive season of the TV show, so I would recommend playing the original rather than the sequel.
9 Worst: Digimon World
Digimon World was the first really popular Digimon game to be released on consoles. World was released on the original PlayStation in 1999. It proved popular enough that it spawned three direct sequels. This is why games like Digimon World Dusk and Dawn and Digimon World Data Squad have “World” in the title, even though the games have little similarities with the original World games. Despite how popular Digimon World is among fans of the franchise, critics weren't impressed, and neither was I. The original Digimon World is a hard game to play through now. The gameplay and graphics really do not hold up, and it's only really worth playing if you have nostalgia for this game.
8 Best: Digimon World: Next Order
It feels like every major gaming franchise wants to have their own open world game. Open world games have become increasingly popular since gaming consoles have become powerful enough to handle games as huge as open worlds. Even Digimon has their own version of the open world video game called Digimon World: Next Order. In the game, you’re a Digimon fan that gets trapped in the digital world, and you need to collect Digimon and learn a way to leave. The game is a fun take on the open world genre, and the story is pretty entertaining too. The game also comes with an English vocal track, which is a rarity among recent Digimon games.
7 Worst: Digimon World 2
What I wrote about Digimon World 1 can almost be applied to Digimon World 2. World 2 was certainly a popular game among fans of the franchise. Nevertheless, World 2 suffered from bad reviews from critics. I also do not think World 2 aged particularly well. The graphics are fine for a PS1 game, nevertheless, the gameplay is really slow and repetitive. If you have nostalgia for this game, then you’ll probably like it fine. For anyone else, this game is pretty hard to play through. With that said, Digimon World 2 is a stepping stone for bigger and better things that will come to the franchise. Future Digimon World games will take what 2 establishes and further polish it.
6 Best: Digimon World 3
The first two Digimon World games have not aged well, however Digimon World 3 is without a doubt the best of the original trilogy. Released at the very end of the PS1 lifespan, World 3 serves as a fitting swan song for Sony’s first console. World 3 takes everything that is established in World 1 and 2 and makes it better. The gameplay is faster and more smooth, and the graphics have improved since 2. World 3 also has a pretty sweet soundtrack, and a large variety of Digimon to play as. Just like the first two Digimon World games, Digimon Word 3 was critically mauled by western critics. Despite that, fans of the series love this game.
5 Worst: Digimon World 4
Time has not been kind to Digimon World 4. World 4 is a hack and slash video game starring everyone’s favorite Digimon. This is a contrast to the first three World games, which were all RPGs. At the time when the game was released, which was 2005, World 4 was an okay game. It was a little bland and the graphics weren’t that good. Nonetheless, it played fine. Since World 4 was released, the Earth was spoiled by better hack and slash games. The Devil May Cry series was already on its third installment when Digimon World 4 came out, and the God of War series was just getting started. Those two other franchises only improved in each proceeding installment, while Digimon World 4 aged like rotten cheese.
4 Best: Digimon Rumble Arena 2
Digimon Rumble Arena 2 may not be the most polish fighting game out there, but it is still a lot of fun. Rumble Arena 2 is a Super Smash Bros. type fighting game starring the iconic characters from Digimon. Each Digimon will start in their weak rookie forms. They can absorb orbs to get more energy and can digivolve into their more powerful champions and mega forms. The controls for the game are actually pretty clunky, and there are a lot of aspects of the game that haven’t held up as well we hoped. It is still a very fun game to play, which is more than I can say for half of the entries on this list.
3 Worst: Digimon World Championship
Digimon World Championship on the Nintendo DS is sort of like an upgraded form of the original Digimon games that were virtual-pets. You feed and take care of your Digimon, and help them digivolve into more powerful forms. Championship is also very, very, VERY dull. There is very little gameplay in this game; your Digimon pals do all your work for you. All you need to do is make sure that they are taken care of, which isn’t exciting in the least. Championship looks nice for a game on the DS, and it does provide nice nostalgia for those who grew up with the original Digimon virtual pet toys. Notwithstanding that, Championship is pretty much Digimon for babies.
2 Best: Digimon (The Virtual Pet Toy)
Digimon has always been called out as a Pokémon rip-off. In actuality, Digimon may actually be more of a Tamagotchi rip-off than a Pokémon rip-off. For those that do not know, Tamagotchi were virtual-pets that you carried around in a tiny handheld device. In each Tamagotchi device, you had a little pet to take care of. You need to pick up after it and make sure it is fed. Digimon started out as a series of virtual-pet toys just like Tamagotchi. Without the original Digimon virtual-pet devices, we wouldn’t have gotten the anime or any other proceeding product that has come out since then.
1 Worst: Digimon All-Star Rumble
Digimon All-Star Rumble is essentially a sequel to Digimon Rumble Arena 2. What makes All-Star Rumble such a frustrating game is the fact that deep down the game can actually be really fun. All-Star Rumble is a fighting game, and a lot of the one-on-one fights in versus mode are enjoyable to play. However, the game is ruined by a boring story mode, which has unnecessary difficulty spikes. The camera in the game is also pretty bad, and the overall visual is kind of bland. There is also no online multiplayer, and the CPUs are pretty easy to beat. There was a lot of potential for All-Star Rumble to be just as fun as Rumble Arena 2, yet it was all squandered by lazy game design and uninspired modes.