Top 6 Pokemon Spinoff Games You Need To Play (2023)

Kick back with some throwbacks in the form of Pokemon spinoff games!

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When it comes to Pokemon spinoffs, nothing shines quite like that era between the Gameboy and the 3DS. During the height of popularity throughout the Nintendo DS’s lifespan, plenty of games were given a chance to shine as spinoffs under the Pokemon name. No other time do we find such a diverse cast of games other than this one. Now, in Pokemon, things are relatively streamlined, with spinoffs rarely making it beyond a singular game or mobile title.

But if you just take a step back and look at the era when portable systems were nothing, you’ll see a difference in how Pokemon games asserted themselves. Spinoff series’ could be many games long, and some of the best ones that the community acknowledges were still going strong then. It’s no wonder that some Pokemon fans consider this exact era of Pokemon to be one of the best, if not the top, in the franchise’s history. If you’re looking for something new and fresh to get yourself back into Pokemon, consider some titles that have a few years under the belt.

Even in 2023, these titles have aged gracefully, still holding up to be both fun and aesthetically pleasing titles for their respective systems. So get that Nintendo DS out of storage, because we have plenty of titles to recommend.

6. Pokemon Ranger

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Pokemon Ranger is the first installment of the spinoff series under the same umbrella term name. This series is especially unique to the Nintendo DS because of its touchscreen reliance. The premise of the game is that you are a Pokemon Ranger, someone who uses a capture styler to befriend Pokemon in the Fiore region instead of capturing them the usual way with PokeBalls.

The stylus on your DS acts as this capture weapon, and the main mechanic of the game is swirling circles around the Pokemon on the bottom screen to capture them. The game was well-received by Pokemon fans. The alternate take to the Pokemon world is refreshing, with great pixel art, a memorable soundtrack, and an engaging story. The player either gets a Minun or Plusle as a partner, depending on which they choose.

Related: Every Pokemon Game On Nintendo Switch Ranked: Scarlet/Violet, Sword/Shield, & More

5. Pokemon Ranger: Shadows of Almia

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Continuing on to the next Pokemon Ranger title, Pokemon Ranger: Shadows of Almia is a major improvement to the Ranger set of spinoff games. To some, this game is regarded as the best Ranger title out of all three. An iconic title, to be sure, Shadows of Almia has a slightly more developed story in comparison to its predecessor. The game introduces a new region, the Almia region. The capture mechanic is also more robust and easy to grasp in this game, filling a friendship meter rather than requiring a certain number of successful consecutive loops.

4. Pokemon Ranger: Guardian Signs

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Pokemon Ranger: Guardian Signs is the final game in the Ranger set that has the most features out of the entire series. Not only can you use your stylus just like in the last games, but you can also use Pokemon to help befriend others. Each Pokemon has a specific way of helping that is unique, depending on which ones you choose to recruit. Instead of a Minun or Plusle this time around, you get a friendly Pichu with a ukelele, who is quite valuable in helping calm down wild Pokemon. The story in Guardian Signs is far more robust than the other two Ranger games, making it one of the most popular in the series.

3. Pokemon Conquest

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Pokemon Conquest is a Fire Emblem-style tactical RPG. Instead of taking turns with Pokemon, you command them on your battlefield, attacking other Pokemon units and using basic tactics to ensure your victory. In addition to having a completely different gameplay experience, Pokemon Conquest also offers an entirely different story, a new cast of characters, and an environment all set back in a different time, one far less modern than what you know in the original Pokemon games.

2. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Red/Blue Rescue Team

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Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team and Blue Rescue Team are two versions of the same game, released for the GameBoy Advance and Nintendo DS systems in the late 2000s. In these games, you are a human turned miraculously into a Pokemon and sent to a world where only Pokemon live. Your mission, one that you don’t know yet when you arrive, is that you are to be the fated Pokemon that saves the entire world from disaster.

Related: Review: Pokemon Mystery Dungeon Rescue Team DX is the definitive Mystery Dungeon experience

This dungeoneering game takes on a roguelike gameplay style, where you and your Partner Pokemon act as a Rescue Team to help other Pokemon who are in danger, lost inside Mystery Dungeons. Use items to restore your health, use moves to attack enemies, and navigate a turn-based grid dungeon through each floor until you reach the end. The game has an incredible story that’s easily understood by all ages, one that touches on what it means to have a good friend and perseverance in the face of difficulty.

1. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky

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Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky is the second game in the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series, created by Chunsoft. This game has almost the exact same mechanics as Red Rescue Team and Blue Rescue Team but with more items, Pokemon, and a massive list of new dungeons to explore. Explorers of Sky features an entirely new cast of characters, as well as a brand new story that is just as emotional and captivating as the first.