In the wake of yesterday’s trailers for both Pokémon Scarlet & Pokémon Violet, I couldn’t help but fall down the same rabbit hole I revisit anytime a new Pokémon game starts gaining traction: what are the best alternatives available? We’re currently in between new Pokémon games at the moment and for any die-hard finds out there who have either played their way through the most recent release: Pokémon Legends: Arceus, have burned through the replayability of New Pokémon Snap, or (alike myself) are growing a bit frustrated of repetitively failing ‘Nuzlocke‘ attempts – boy do I have a treat for you!
Starting with arguably one of the strongest and most popular titles on the list, the Pokémon influences that Temtem showcase are hard to miss, but Temtem stands on its own when it comes to quality monster-battling games. Like Pokémon the game revolves around capturing, training, and competing with your team of incredibly cute creatures across a vast and beautiful world, all in an MMO setting. For a game that originally started from a kick-starter project, the amount of quality-of-life improvements and additional content that keep getting added to the game truly showcase how much the development team at Crema actually cares, and as a result they’ve created one of the best Pokémon competitors available to date.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth
Now when it comes to Pokémon alternatives, you won’t wind a longer-term franchise and rival on this list than Digimon, who have been battling in this same space for decades now. Today we’ll specifically talk Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth (arguably the most similar to Pokémon out of any of the games they’ve produced), but you really can’t go too wrong with any of the countless titles the Digimon franchise has to offer. Cyber Sleuth takes place in a fictitious digital cyberspace called EDEN You play as an amateur hacker who joins the digital community and gets granted the ability to tame Digimon and battle with them. To completely do it a disservice, Digimon can be described as futuristic cyber-Pokémon and if that sounds intriguing to you, look no further!
Nexomon: Extinction is arguably the closest version of a ‘Pokémon clone’ you’ll find on this list, drawing near-identical similarities to the fabled franchise across the board (it almost wears this persona as a badge of honor). It features pretty much every element found in Pokémon, from it’s battle mechanics and gyms to catching and evolving your team of Nexomon. Nexomon does offer a unique element to battles in the form of exhaustion, which will have you constantly switching out your team members when they get too tired, which is a nice way of keeping you on your toes in more challenging fights. You won’t find too many more surprises from Nexomon, so if you’re more-so wanting more of the same, you can pickup Nexomon: Extinction exclusively on PC.
Yo-Kai Watch 4
It’s with slight frustration that I talk about the next game franchise on this list Yo-kai Watch, as Western markets are still waiting for an official release on the 4th installment of the game (still waiting from 2019) from one of the best Pokémon alternatives available. Within Yo-kai Watch, the game-world revolves around spirits who come in all kinds of forms, from adorable bunny-like creatures to (highly Americanized) cheeseburgers in the later games. Just like Pokémon, you battle, train and evolve your Yo-Kai, but with an incredibly unique grid-based battle system. If you’re just interested in ‘catching them all’ instead, you’ll be pleased to know that each installment of the game adds hundreds of unique spirits to discover and befriend.
Monster Sanctuary is a beautiful, side-scrolling 2D pixel art adventure, which offer something quite different for those seeking a unique Pokémon alternative (think of Terraria visuals merged with a Pokémon RPG). In Monster Sanctuary you form a team of monsters to take on wild monsters or other monster keeps you find throughout the game-world. It draws influences from Pokémon Yellow in the sense that you can choose one monster from your team to follow you around the world, with each possessing a unique ability that can help you traverse the game world (adding a new layer of depth to the follower mechanic).
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is an incredibly beautiful JRPG where players take the role of a young boy setting out on a quest across a vast magical kingdom. Throughout the gripping narrative you’ll encounter hundreds of creatures referred to as ‘Familiars’ (up to 300 total), which you can recruit, train, evolve and have battle alongside you on your adventures. Similarly to Pokémon, all of these ‘Familiars’ have varying move-sets and ‘types’ which work more effectively against different enemy types, so you have an abundance of choice and customization when it comes to choosing who will fight alongside you. There’s a sequel available in Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, but this unfortunately deterred away from including familiars, and much more-so focused on the JRPG side of things (which is still 100% worth playing).
If you’re looking for a much more adorable creature collection game, look no further than Ooblets. Unfortunately for some, Ooblets is a windows-exclusive that takes farming elements from titles like My Time at Portia and merges them the house designing aspects of Animal Crossing and then sprinkles in the creature collection aspect of Pokémon in an incredibly cute and satisfying package. There’s no physical combat exchanged between the cute cast of characters, as you instead challenge other collectors to dance battles (yes it may sound corny, but it’s remarkably fun). The only real downside in Ooblets, is there isn’t anywhere close to the amount of Ooblets to collect when compared to Pokémon, but those that are available are incredibly well designed.
World of Final Fantasy
World of Final Fantasy is a chibi-like amalgamation of Final Fantasy and aspects of Pokémon. The game-world you play in has the ‘cutesy’ meter dialed all the way up, which is absolutely jam-packed with an array of Lilikins (NPCs) and monsters referred to as ‘Mirages’ which you can capture, train and battle against other Lilikins. Although initially releasing in 2016, World of Final Fantasy just got a big update last year, which introduced various new Mirages to capture, alongside implementing some beloved Final Fantasy characters to meet, in Yuna, Noctic and Lightening. If you’re a fan of either (or both) franchises, this is one you won’t want to miss!
Cassette Beasts (future release)
Now yes, I’ve broken the rules and this game isn’t currently available (still awaiting a release date), but Cassette Beasts has me WAY TOO excited with its art style, theme and combat system, so I couldn’t not include it! The open world of Cassette Beasts revolves around the similar notion of getting into battles against a vast array of monsters, but with the unique twist as you use retro cassette tapes to transform your player into various recorded monster-types (you can even merge two recorded monster-types together into your own Frankenstein creation, which just founds fantastic). It won’t be out for some time still, but I sincerely have my hopes set high for Cassette Beasts, and think it will be one of the best Pokémon alternatives out there once it releases. If you’re interested in any of the updates or a full breakdown, you can visit the official website.