Pokémon is one of the longest franchises in video game history, spawning over six generations and over 700 Pokémon creatures in the core franchise. That's not including the Mystery Dungeon series or the Pokémon Colosseum series.
While the official games' graphics improved over time, the core objectives remain unchanged: fight gym leaders, travel to a new region, fight new gym leaders, and capture all of that region's Pokémon. Each core game follows the same beat that die-hard fans never get tired of, so much that some fans have even tried to create a fan-based game. Most Pokémon dupes are hilariously awful, but a few shine out the batch.
Pokémon fans create engaging new worlds and new Pokémon (Fakémon) based on the skeletons of the former games. The Ash Gray series, for example, adapts the Pokémon anime into a video game. Some fan developers created their games with Fakémon, whereas other creators wanted to step away from the main objective and developed original stories.
Nintendo has announced a Pokémon Sun and Moon sequel, which is set to release in November. For Pokémon fans that need a quick fix, here are the 15 Pokémon Game Hacks And Additions You Didn't Know.
One of the most bizarre fan-made games out there is Moemon, a Fire Red-based game that borrows moe designs and creates cute girls cosplaying in Pokémon outfits.
While the version appeals to the moe genre, girlish character-design anime shows, the game qualifies as "gijinka," a Japanese term that means humanization. Giginka artists portray their favorite creatures as anthropomorphic characters.
Moetai released the hack version, which rewrote the code pertaining the design, in 2009. The game was popular enough that it was featured on Kotaku, and prompted the developers to create an Emerald Moemon version. Moetai distributed updated patches for Fire Red, but not for Emerald.
Aside from sprite changes, the game’s storyline remains the same, and observant players may realize that the developers only provided one gender of Moemon, which makes breeding somewhat questionable.
14 Pokémon Naranja
Naranja was one of the first few games that was based on the anime series. Like Ash Gray, Naranja takes the plot of the Ash's journey to Orange Islands. Players can choose either Ash Ketchum or Misty as their default character.
Compared to mute main characters from the official games, Naranja’s player can actually talk back to the NPCs. Key points like the GS ball, Tracy, and Professor Ivy are featured in the game. The Isle of Pink is also included, where players can catch pink Pokémon. There's also a Crystal Onix.
Naranja’s framework is from Pokémon Ruby, and players who used the "walk through walls" cheat code can find a special passageway that leads to a cave. The player can then talk to an invisible Steven who provides the TM 47 (Steel Wing).
Naranja means “orange” in Spanish. It’s likely that the name is a reference to the GS Ball. The developer, Sergio, posted Beta 2, and the full version is in Spanish, though fans have since translated the game. Naranja was popular enough that a few pirates created physical copies of the game.
13 Pokémon Ruby Destiny
Ruby Destiny is a well-known hack series. YouTuber Destinedjagold (DJG), the developer, used Pokémon Ruby as the framework for the trilogy.
Reign of Legends was the first game in the franchise, and features legendary Pokémon up to the Generation IV. It also has a rich story involving time traveling-- the player must battle opposing forces that threaten the world's balance.
The second game, Rescue Rangers, has a plot similar to the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Red and Blue series. The third and final game, Life of Guardians, follows a young guardian trainer in an altered timeline. The games incorporated fairy types, Fakémon, and chaos types in the story.
The Ruby Destiny series connects each game, focusing on new regions and protagonists. A fourth game was originally in development, but DJG shelved the project and retired from the Poké-Hack community. The Ruby Destiny trilogy left a great impression that inspired another generation of fan-made games.
12 Pokémon NES
Pokémon Yellow is one of the few Pokémon games that is functional on the NES. The NES game is actually Pokémon Yellow translated to Chinese.
There are no major changes to the storyline, but the developers did add in a decorated Pikachu menu and eight other legendaries outside of Generation I. It gained a cult status in the Lets Play! community as one of the rarest Pokémon bootleg games.
Compared to the other NES hacks, Pokémon Yellow's gameplay isn't very glitchy. The only negative thing about it is that its words are not on a straight line and the NPC texts are in Chinese. While the original cartridges are in Chinese, fellow fan translators rewrote the script in English so players could find bootleg versions of the hack.
11 Pokémon Shiny Gold
Not to be confused with Heart Gold, Shiny Gold was made before the official Heart Gold remake on the Nintendo DS was released. The game follows the same plot points and design as the Gold and Silver series, but also adds new things, such as Generation III and higher difficulty levels. It also includs the Trick House as a mini game.
Shiny Gold is built from Fire-Red game engine with Gen II and Gen III sprites. Zel developed the game, which is currently in Beta 5 and is 99% complete. Zel wasn’t the first who created Generation II remakes-- Pokémon Liquid Crystal and Crystal Dust were made out of the GBA ROMs.
Given that the date of the hack's release was close to the official Shiny Silver and Heart Gold’s release date, the hack gained immense popularity among Pokémon fans for its quality scripting. Bootleggers monetized the game and sold illegal cartridges against the developer’s interests, which prompted Zel to add a disclaimer on the later versions, informing buyers about the piracy issue.
10 Pokémon Fusion Generation
Fusion Generation incorporates the Pokémon Fusion app into a legitimate game. Fusion Generation combines two known species of Pokémon into hybrids. What sets this game apart from the app and other Pokémon hacks is the game’s dark plot.
It takes a page from a mad scientist story in which Bill, the Poké storage maker, has successfully created a machine that combines two Pokémon into one.
The concept sounds awesome at first; after all, fused species provides an extra challenged for characters to choose their moves wisely. However, it brings up ethical questions: if the two species are fused, does that create a new individual entity? Or, do the two species retain their identities? If not, does one of them die in the process?
Players can access a special room where failed hybrids are kept in cages. Bill asks the player to never speak about the failed experiments. The most traumatizing part of the game, however, is that the chimera-like creatures will then beg the player to kill them.
9 Pokémon Adventure
As one of the rarer and older versions, Pokémon Adventure is one of the worst hacks. It is a hilarious ripoff of Sonic the Hedgehog 7, but has a few questionable designs.
The mechanics of the game are taken directly from Sonic. Pikachu rolls in midair to avoid robots, the coins are replaced with Pokéballs, and the layouts are taken from Super Mario-- level 5, particularly, involves a Browser-like castle. It’s a terrible hack-- so bad, in fact, that it’s hilariously awful– something to share with friends on a cheesy game night.
Pokémon Adventure is an early game hack for the Game Boy Color developed by a Chinese hacker, who received a lot of attention for it during the Pokémon craze. Physical copies of the game are available online, which drew curious YouTubers to test out the game-- including JonTron, who featured it on a special segment of Pokémon Bootlegs.
8 Pokémon Crystal (Vietnamese Version)
Back when Pokémon games on the Game Boy Color were limited to Japanese or English, a few developers translated the popular games into their native language. Pokémon Vietnamese Crystal, however, was a different story.
Instead of translating the Japanese text into Vietnamese, the Chinese developers rewrote the script in English, which, as suspected, had broken English words– enough to create a lifetime’s worth of Internet memes.
The game's intro presents Professor Oak explaining the world of
Pokémon Elf: "Go to the Elf’s World. Welcome! Everyone call me Elf Monster. Elfs, here are called monster.” The creators likely translated the Japanese into Chinese before the characters were romanized. Another team likely then translated the romanized Chinese text into English.
Aside from hilarious lines, the bootleg had a number of glitches and crashes when the player tries to enter in the bug-catching contest. Publishers circulated the bootlegs in Vietnam, likely as a cheaper version of the original Crystal, which is where the game got its nickname.
7 Pokébots: Rescue Team
Ever wonder what it's like to have giant robots in your Pokémon team? Or at the very least, some iteration of famous Gundam figures in a game? Pokébots: Rescue Team is one of the newer, yet stranger hack ROMs developed by Mr. Luxray and Acquiles Arcia.
The current version is still in beta testing. Similar to fusion monsters, this version swaps regular Pokémon with iconic mecha from anime series like Gundam and Mazinger. The only things missing are the Transformers, and Michael Bay holding the flip switch for a ten-foot explosion.
The game is about Pokémon that are slowly turning into robots. Dr. Rocky suspects that this is the work of a dark opposing force. The professor also knows of a legend: if one can reunite the Robot Gem with the Robot God, they would become the Lord of the universe.
Pokébots: Rescue Team is in Spanish, so an English release won’t be coming out anytime soon, but it definitely gets bonus points for creativity.
6 Pokémon Quartz
Pokémon Quartz is a another hack game that went wrong due to a terrible translation. Despite the terrible English, the game is a functional Pokémon game– only on the GBA Emulator– with original Fakémon.
Not a single official Pokémon appears in the series; all of the species are made from the developer's own personal designs. The game is built on Pokémon Ruby's engine. Although it's far from perfect compared to the official games, Quartz demonstrates a fan's creative spark– if players can get past the poorly translated English script of the Spanish game.
The game was also notoriously bootlegged and circulated in shops that believed the game was an official release due to its shiny cover art of a Gyarados. If played on on a GBA cartridge, the game will likely crash.
5 Pokémon Red 151
While some hacks build new regions and species from the engine, others, like Pokémon Red 151, choose to take the original and add in unbelievably difficult challenges. Red 151 was made by Blue, who intended to create a Red Version that was harder the original.
Thanks to the hack, the official Red Version is a cakewalk compared to the Red 151 game. Due to its popularity, Pokémon Black and White 2 added a Challenge Mode to the games in acknowledgment of the hack.
Compared to Red Version, the Red 151 allows different methods to catch Pokémon. The stats are also rewritten to create a hard-mode. Additionally, the move sets are changed so players are forced to be extra careful in gym battles.
Brock’s Aerodactyl, for example, knows Rock Smash, which is clearly a Gen II move. Lance uses the three legendary birds, which are all at level 90+. Each terrain and gym battle is a new challenge for gamers.
4 Pokémon Diamond and Jade
Pokémon Diamond and Jade are two of the better-known dupes, famous for being packaged with other hacked games that were sold illegally in shops. The Jade mascot resembles the Forest Spirit in Princess Mononoke, but Jade and Diamond are actually hacks of Keitai Denjuu Telefang.
There are several scenes taken from the original game with a strange cellphone feature. The game is a Chinese bootleg version, found in the same cartridge with the Crystal version hack sold online.
Diamond and Jade’s status is equivalent to Vietnamese Crystal and Adventures, where the games have poor English and unintentional comedic wording like: "some points of 36 lost!” and “for the Clever opponent, injure increase!”
If this isn't enough, the developers created a sequel, and a brand-new intro sequence featuring Dragon from Shrek. Diamond and Jade win the crowning achievement for providing players the most laughs.
3 Pokémon Reborn
Dark shanty towns, terrorist attacks, Pokémon disappearing, the world of Reborn is a bleak place, but heroes (like the player) emerge to stop the evils plaguing Reborn City.
The Reborn Team is one active hack group that periodically updates the game to include new Pokémon, mega evolutions, and new episodes. Unlike other hack-based games, Reborn uses a RPG Maker XP program-- a DIY video game maker-- as the foundation for the game's episodic series.
Reborn is recognized for its mature storyline-- the intro includes a terrorist bombing sequence-- and its high difficulty level. Players cannot level grind past the level set by the gym badges, otherwise their Pokémon will begin to disobey.
The story follows a young protagonist who travels to a broken region that has just suffered an environmental disaster. Pokémon in Reborn City are scarce, and it’s up to the player to find them and work with conservationists to repopulate the Pokémon species in the region.
2 Pokémon Blasting Off
The official games follow the same formula: defeat gym leaders, catch every Pokémon, and take down the crime syndicate of that region. While original storylines and Fakémon games use a cookie-cutter protagonist, Pokémon Blasting Off lets players play as a Team Rocket grunt rising through the ranks.
Blasting Off has you steal Pokémon, whilst completing the core objectives, to increase your influence in the region. The story follows an aspiring grunt whose lifelong dream is to join Team Rocket’s ranks. The crime syndicate has re-emerged from the shadows after Aqua and Magma have disbanded.
Giovanni needs fresh recruits in the organization, as the legendary group extends its power beyond the Johto and Kanto regions. The organization's lifeline is in the player's hands and one misstep could topple the house of cards.
1 Pokémon Snakewood
If The Walking Dead and Pokémon ever had a crossover, it would be Pokémon Snakewood. Snakewood is a bizarre horror game created by Cutlerine. It focuses on a zombie apocalypse in the Hoenn region.
The developer worked a solid three years on the game before it was officially released in 2013. You play as an amnesiac protagonist who wakes up after the disaster with no recollection of the pandemic. With the help of Professor Birch, the player uncovers the mysteries behind the infestation, while battling zombie trainers and Pokémon.
Some great additions include disease types, zombie Pokémon, and the use of Pokémon to directly attack trainers. The sprites are graphic, so players who are queasy of 16-bit blood on their favorite Pokémon may want to avoid the game.
Snakewood’s game engine is a Ruby carbon copy, so the sprite placements are the same. The only difference is the storyline and difficulty level.
Do you know of any other, lesser known Pokémon hacks or bootlegs? Let us know in the comments section!