These are the best Pokemon fan games to play right now

pokemon fan games

Pokemon fan games are among the best homemade RPGs out there, even if they don’t have the chance to shine as brightly as some of their peers. Which are actually the best, though?

Pokemon is one of the most lucrative media franchises of all time. By many metrics, it’s definitively the most lucrative. The monster-battler series took the world by storm in the 90s and it hasn’t slowed down since Alongside the ever-popular mainline games is an extremely lucrative licensing operation.

Pokemon’s success has spawned one of the most dedicated and creative fandoms in gaming. Far from satisfied with just fan art, some dedicated Pokemon enthusiasts have created fully-fledged Pokemon fan games that present a different take on the franchise’s lore and mechanics. Unlock Pokemon ROM hacks, these games are run on their own game engines and aren’t played through an emulator. Many of these offer original Pokemon designs, unique stories, or highlight under-explored facets of the games. Here are some of the best.

Pokemon Reborn

Art of Pokemon Reborn

Pokemon Reborn puts the player in the titular region of Reborn, a once-vibrant setting that fell to ruin after the arrival of Team Meteor.

With modified PULSE machines, Team Meteor laid havoc on the region and turned most of the lake into deadly poison. The protagonist seeks to take on the Reborn League and fix the rot infesting the city.

Many of the best Pokemon fan games put a dark spin on the franchise’s mythos and Pokemon Reborn is no exception. Fittingly, the darker story is framed within one of the hardest Pokemon fangames out there, from disobedient Pokemon to Gym Leaders using full six-Pokmeon teams from the get-go. Additionally, the field plays a major role in the game’s combat, further complicating battles. For those looking for a darker Pokemon experience, Reborn is well worth a look. 

Pokemon Rejuvenation

Official art for Pokemon Rejuvenation

Reborn isn’t the only dark take on Pokemon out there, and Rejuvenation approaches that subgenre of Pokemon fan game a bit differently. The protagonist arrives in the Aevium region with their mother on the SS Oceana.

Just as they land, however, the criminal Team Xen hijacks the boat and kidnaps the protagonist’s mother. The player would have met the same fate if not for the timely intervention of Elite 8 member Tesla.

Alone in a new place, the protagonist must battle the Pokemon League and defeat Team Xen to rescue their mom. Although Rejuvenation isn’t as dark as Reborn, it makes up for it by being somehow even harder than its spiritual predecessor. For example, instead of the traditional Elite 4, the player must contend with the Elite 8 on top of the return of Shadow Pokemon. Those who just finished Reborn can fill that void with Rejuvenation. 

Pokemon Showdown

Screenshot of Pokemon Showdown in-game

In contrast to Reborn and Rejuvenation’s focus on a fully-fledged story and gameplay overhaul, Pokemon Showdown takes a very simple approach.

Instead of a “game,” Pokemon Showdown is better described as a “battle simulator.” For players who want to avoid an actual Pokemon game’s tedious grinding or anything outside of battling, Showdown is a great choice. Pokemon Showdown is free, open-source, and available on web browsers. This makes it one of the most accessible Pokemon fan games, and it stands as one of the best ways to get into the competitive scene.

Showdown lets players test out team comps and strategies without booting up an actual game of Pokemon. It also offers some unique ways to play, bringing together different mechanics in unique formats.

Pokemon Xenoverse

pokemon xenoverse

Pokemon Xenoverse proved to be ahead of its time in a few ways.

The game is inspired by Pokemon Black and White and boasts the usual roundup of having an original region and story. It makes itself a bit distinct with strong presentation alongside the introduction of original Pokemon and the new sound typing.

Xenoverse also, more or less, invented the idea of Paradox Pokemon, which were a major part of Pokemon Scarlet and Violet. These Pokemon didn’t travel through time, though. They came from another dimension. Players can catch these “X” Pokemon that resemble familiar species but have different looks and typings.

Pokemon Unbound

Pokemon unbound cover

Pokemon Unbound is a strange fusion of ROM hack and fan game.

Unlike traditional ROM hacks, which typically only change mechanics or pump up the difficulty, Pokemon Unbound features a brand-new region and storyline. Unbound is a fantastic example of how creative ROM hacks can get with the right creative minds.

Purists will likely have an easier time integrating with Pokemon Unbound, as it sticks much closer to the traditional Pokemon gameplay loop. Of course, being a fan game means it’s also harder than the official games. Thankfully, Unbound offers difficulty settings, so players who just want to explore the new region can set things to easy mode and coast through the game.

Pokemon Insurgence

pokemon insurgence

Pokemon Insurgence is another fan game that delves into darker subject matter while still drawing on concepts from a variety of Pokemon media.

The most interesting addition is bringing Delta Species from the Pokemon TCG. In Pokemon Insurgence, Delta Species are more akin to proper regional variants within new typings and movesets for familiar Pokemon. It also long stood as the best Pokemon fan game in terms of delivering a comprehensive experience.

Pokemon Insurgence long offered online battling and trading, just like the official game. Those features were removed over time, but the overall experience remains very good.

Pokemon Phoenix Rising

Pokemon Phoenix Rising shiny pokemon

One of the most ambitious Pokemon fan games to date, Pokemon Phoenix Rising looks to take the classic experience to a whole new level. Pokemon Phoenix Rising offers choice-based storytelling, character customization, skill trees, and organic quest systems that translate to a more traditional RPG experience in Pokemon.

The gameplay remains as “Pokemon” as ever, but the player agency makes it an exciting project to follow. Pokemon Phoenix Rising is still work-in-progress, but it’s a fan game well worth following, even if for a glimpse of what Pokemon fan games can be in the future. 

Pokemon Infinite Fusion

Pokemon Infinite Fusion

Browser-based Pokemon fusion generators that swap the faces and color palettes of Pokemon are a staple of the online fandom. But whoever made the first one of these back in the early 2000s likely never conceived of this becoming a proper game.

Pokemon Infinite Fusion does what it says on the tin. Players can fuse together Pokemon they catch to create new Pokemon with different moves and typings. While not quite “infinite” it allows players to collect tens of thousands of different creatures that range from silly to nightmare fuel.

The area where Pokemon Infinite Fusion really elevates itself into “best Pokemon fan game” territory is its incredible assortment of player-made custom sprites for thousands of different combinations. These are far more creative than the Pokemon fusion generators of old, and makes for a unique experience with each playthrough.

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Written by Gab Hernandez

Gab Hernandez has a particular love for video games that give players control over the narrative direction, such as Divinity: Original Sin 2 and Disco Elysium. Gab spends just as much time playing games as they do gushing about them online to anyone who will listen. Their work has also been seen on TheGamer, Gfinity, and Wargamer, and you can follow them on Twitter / X at @HardlyWorkinGab.

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