While most gamers are attracted to the Pokemon franchise’s main series of games, the Pokemon Company has produced a myriad of side games to keep the money coming and provide a different experience for avid fans of the franchise.
Granted, some are much, much better than others. Critics certainly think so, as seen by the huge difference in Metascores on Metacritic, compared to the main series of games that all fall under around 80 or above. This list will be showcasing the best side games according to Metacritic’s aggregate scoring system. This includes games compatible with the main series, like Stadium, and spin-offs and crossovers with other franchises.
20 Pokemon Ranger: Shadows of Almia – Metascore 68
The second entry in the Pokemon Ranger series has a Metascore of 68. The mixed reviews were garnered mainly for the monotonous gameplay style of drawing circles on the DS screen that has caused every other entry in the series to end up with mixed reviews.
Still, it’s one of the franchise’s biggest cult classics thanks to its amusing story and banter-heavy dialogue that are a nice change of pace from the usually dull stories of the main series. Most critics call it an enjoyable product if you’re willing to look past the repetitive nature of the game.
19 Pokemon Ranger: Guardian Signs – Metascore 68
Ending the trilogy of Ranger games on the DS is Guardian Signs, tying with Shadows of Almia with a Metascore of 68. It more or less continued what the franchise had going for it, which was great for fans of the series.
Unfortunately, that means it still has the same number of detractors, especially with critics. It’s hard to get love from all the critics with its gameplay; while there’s a noticeable skill gap, it can get tiring quickly for a lot of players.
18 Pokemon Ranger – Metascore 69
The original just squeaks by at 69 to be the best in the Pokemon Ranger series. The slight nod in Metascore might have been due to the now-divisive gameplay style still being relatively fresh.
Still, with its lighthearted story and avenues for exploration, it’s a solid way to experience the Pokemon franchise in a different light. Being the franchise’s first release on the DS, it was a nice appetizer, meant to prime fans’ stomachs for the release of Diamond and Pearl.
17 Pokemon GO – Metascore 69
Niantic’s mobile game that once took the world by storm has now settled down with a niche fanbase, still updating and adding new Pokemon and features even after the initial, explosive hype has died.
That said, it’s probably the myriad of problems it had as an actual game that caused the hype to die, as shown by its Metascore of 69. While it’s a nice excuse to go outside and a suitable time-killer for collectors, it’s not much gameplay-wise, and server issues certainly don’t help.
16 Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon – Metascore 69
While it’s an unsung hero among Pokemon fans, the fantastical Mystery Dungeon series isn’t as widely celebrated by critics. The most well-received iterations of the series on Metacritic is Super Mystery Dungeon for the 3DS, at a merely ok Metascore of 69.
A lot of positive attention went to the game’s heart and story that attracted most of the fans, while a lot of negative attention went to the repetitive gameplay that has plagued the series with every release.
15 Pokemon Battle Trozei – Metascore 70
One of the very many attempts at puzzle games from the Pokemon franchise, Battle Trozei for the 3DS is one of that mold that has garnered quite a few mixed reviews, 16 in total. Said reviews aggregate out to a Metascore of 70.
Aside from its association with the Pokemon franchise, critics didn’t see much to differentiate it from other puzzle games. The gameplay is repetitive, there’s not much difficulty to speak of, and the lack of an online mode is alarming.
14 Detective Pikachu – Metascore 71
The 3DS game adaptation of the franchise’s first live-action movie isn’t as terrible as most movie-to-game adaptations are, but it still leaves a lot to be desired, as shown by its mediocre Metascore of 71.
While it’s a solid point-and-click adventure with surprisingly well-animated and voice-acted cutscenes, the story is awkwardly paced at times, and there’s not much replayability to speak of.
13 Pokemon Colosseum – Metascore 73
Colosseum is the only battling-centric side game on the GameCube to get a remotely decent Metascore of 73. Aside from the Shadow Pokemon, an interesting story mode, and increased difficulty, it’s literally just the regular turn-based battle format on a 3D platform.
A hardcore Pokemon battler back in the day could’ve had a use for it, but if you’re looking for a different experience from the franchise, Colosseum is not for you. If nothing else, it at least has one of the most widely celebrated soundtracks in the entire franchise; that Mirror B. track will have you dancing for days.
12 Pokemon Trozei! – Metascore 74
Battle Trozei’s predecessor on the DS performed slightly better with a Metascore of 74, though that’s still considered to be mixed. In fact, its user score is remarkably close at a 7.3, so fans have similarly mixed feelings about Pokemon Trozei!
While its gameplay as a puzzle game and use of the touchscreen was praised, for the most part, it wasn’t enough to hide the game’s shortcomings, most notably its lack of variety in game modes.
11 Pokemon Picross – Metascore 75
The premise of this 3DS title is simple: Picross with Pokemon blended into it. That in itself is enough for a 75 Metascore, with most critics considering it both a nice gateway into nonogram puzzles and a nice twist for those who already enjoy the genre.
Most of the negatives pointed to its freemium nature and the prevalence of microtransactions, which is weird to have for a 3DS title. Not being able to complete the game in full without paying could definitely turn some off.
10 Pokemon Art Academy – Metascore 76
Similar in concept to Pokemon Picross, Art Academy is an interesting 3DS title. Its purpose is to teach players how to draw Pokemon. For such a simple concept, it gained a pretty good Metascore of 76.
While it’s a fun time-killer for Pokemon fans that enjoy drawing as a hobby, it’s not necessarily a gateway into drawing at large. Still, for what easily could’ve been a bland product, it’s quite enjoyable, at least according to most critics.
9 Pokken Tournament – Metascore 76
Pokken Tournament, as the title might suggest, is Pokemon’s crossover with the Tekken franchise, hailing the intuitive control scheme that differentiates Tekken from other fighting game series. It was well-received for the most part, getting a Metascore of 76.
While it doesn’t really have the chops to compete with other triple-A fighting games, it’s certainly enjoyable for Pokemon fans that want a different experience from the turn-based strategy of the core series. Not to mention, it and its sequel are the closest things to the real-time battling game certain fans wanted to see.
8 Pokemon Snap – Metascore 77
Snap has a reputation as one of the most underrated N64 titles at large, and the mostly positive reviews prove this sentiment, with Metacritic aggregating all reviews to a Metascore of 77.
While it’s far from the battling-centric main series, it’s a refreshing look into the Pokemon universe, where you, Todd Snap, get to take photos of Pokemon in their natural habitats. The graphics are pretty solid, which is important for a game like this, though the game itself is pretty short.
7 Pokemon TCG Online – Metascore 78
Like Pokemon Showdown with battling, Pokemon TCG Online has become a standard online medium for playing the Trading Card game, and it’s great when you’re getting started in the format or don’t have any physical cards on hand.
There aren’t a lot of critic reviews for TCG Online’s iOS port on Metacritic, but the seven reviews listed average out to a Metascore of 78. Most consider it a fine alternative to the real thing, though a few technical problems hold it back from reaching its full potential.
6 Pokemon Stadium 2 – Metascore 78
The sequel of the first series of home console battling simulators got a score of 78, beating out all its successors, namely Colosseum at 73, XD: Gale of Darkness at 64, and Battle Revolution at 53. Still, most agreed that it would only be enjoyable for true battling enthusiasts.
Granted, that particular aspect of it was executed nicely, providing the battling format of the Gold and Silver games through some nice 3D graphics for its console. Still, other than that and a few minigames, Pokemon Stadium 2 lacked anything for casual fans to enjoy.
5 New Pokemon Snap – Metascore 79
The sequel to Pokemon Snap got a lot of buzz from the Pokemon community, and rightfully so. It finds itself in the top five best side games with a Metascore of 79.
While it doesn’t add much to the original in terms of new features, New Pokemon Snap gets a lot of praise for seamlessly bringing over what made the original great in the first place to a newer console. The joy of seeing newer Pokemon that weren’t in the original get their shine is pretty hard to beat.
4 Pokken Tournament DX – Metascore 79
With the Switch generally being a better overall console than the Wii U, it’s no surprise that Pokken Tournament’s port on the Switch proved to be slightly better than its original on many fronts. Whereas the original got a Metascore of 76, DX one-ups it with a 79.
DX provided most of what made the original Pokken Tournament enjoyable, with a few added features, such as new fighters – namely Aegislash, Blastoise, and Decidueye – and a few new game modes.
3 Pokemon Conquest – Metascore 80
The franchise’s foray into the tactical RPG market is considered by most Pokemon heads as one of the more underrated Pokemon side games, and the critics share that sentiment. Metacritic has the DS’s Pokemon Conquest as one of only three games above an 80 score, hitting that mark on the dot.
The game is a crossover between Pokemon and Nobunaga’s Ambition franchise, and it was praised for putting both franchises together seamlessly, as well as its solid plot and emphasis on strategy.
2 Pokemon Pinball: Ruby & Sapphire – Metascore 81
While the original Pokemon Pinball for the Game Boy Color doesn’t have a page on Metacritic, its sequel on the Game Boy Advance was favorably reviewed, with a Metascore of 81. Generally, most critics praised it for seamlessly fitting bits and pieces of the Pokemon franchise into a pinball game.
In fact, among pinball games, it’s probably one of the best of its kind. More critics gave it praise for the pinball designs and physics, and it’s considered by many to be an excellent handheld title and side game from the Pokemon franchise.
1 Pokemon Puzzle League – Metascore 81
The Nintendo 64’s Pokemon Puzzle League is the franchise’s rendition of Nintendo’s Puzzle League series. For a clone of such a saturated game style, it has a very good Metascore of 81, tying with Pinball: Ruby & Sapphire.
Being an adaptation of the Pokemon anime rather than being set in its own unique universe, it very easily could’ve been a mediocre cash-grab of a game. Fortunately, critics sang their praises for its simple but addictive gameplay, wide character roster, and multiple game modes, all fitting in a charming little package.
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