Pokemon is a goliath among video game franchises. Beside Mario, Pikachu and the rest of the Pokedex are some of the most recognizable video game characters on the planet — and you’ll only ever find them on Nintendo consoles. Pokemon ain’t ever coming to PC in any official capacity. If you want to catch all the creatures in a game, you’re going to have to get creative. And that’s why we’ve put together a list of 10 high-quality Pokemon-likes that you can play on PC easily. No emulation required.
So, what makes a game Pokemon-like? You’ve got to have a large collection of monsters that you can tame and battle across an RPG world. That’s basically it. Not all of the games on our list fit that description perfectly, but that’s the wonders of monster taming games. Some of these are indie wonders with incredibly creative twists on the usual formula. Others are retro throwbacks designed to hue as close to the premise as possible. And these aren’t all indie games either — there are some true console classics you can grab on PC nowadays, and if you’re in the market for capturing strange creatures and evolving, we’ve got 10 pretty great games you might want to try out.
The mother of all Pokemon-likes on PC, Temtem is the real deal. Originally revealed via Kickstarter may in 2018, Temtem has gone through plenty of waves of Early-Access polish and becomes a true contender for the Pokemon crown thanks to what makes this game different from its inspiration.
Temtem might be Pokemon with the numbers filed off, but it’s also an MMORPG — as you explore the world, you’ll also be able to play alongside friends or enemies as you go capturing Tems. Battles are very different too, with 2v2 being the standard setup; you’ll be able to control a party of two Tems, giving you way more tactical options. Finally, support monsters can be more useful! And certain pairs of Tems synergize, giving you additional bonuses in combat. You’ll have to use all these advantages, because most normal Pokemon players will be shocked by how difficult Temtem is.
If you’re looking for a game to grind away 50~ hour that works almost fundamentally exactly like Pokemon, Temtem is your best bet. Check out all the Tems in the Tempedia here for a preview of the creature designs.
#9. Monster Sanctuary
The rest of the games on our list don’t hew so closely to the exact Pokemon formula as Temtem, and Monster Sanctuary is a huge departure — instead of playing like a monster-catching JRPG, you play as a side-scrolling wizard in a 2D Metroidvania world.
You’ll need to catch and collect different monsters to unlock new traversal options, and you’ll use your gathered gang of monsters to fight in JRPG-inspired turn-based battles — except your monsters are your party, so everyone works together all the time. This really is a wildly creative little indie platformer that goes above and beyond in the content category. There are rare monsters you can hunt down to improve your powersets, a huge island to explore… and yes, you can even level up and evolve your monsters.
There’s a great deal of variety and a shocking amount of depth — monsters even have skill trees! You’ll start out catching little critters like wolves, move up to blobs and goblins, then there’s robots and beings that defy all explanation. Check out the full index of monsters right here.
#8. Nexomon Extinction
Nexomon Extinction does something that most Pokemon games don’t really do — gives us a story worth caring about. We’re back to the games that really follow the Pokemon formula with Nexomon, a top-down JRPG with turn-based battles with the goal of catching ’em all. There are 381 Nexomon in this 32-bit world, but the real draw is the playful story that’s packed with funny encounters and surprising twists.
Really, Nexomon looks and feels just like a Pokemon game, but its got an anime-inspired flair that makes it feel less generic than other Pokemon clones like Temtem. It isn’t as lavishly produced and doesn’t have 3D graphics, but Nexomon does have some pretty cool designs and even a few gameplay innovations — random battles are easy to avoid (or find) for example.
You can even re-battle trainers in the wild! Why is that still not a feature in new Pokemon games? Nexomon Extinction is a great RPG creature capturing game with polish that’s perfect for Pokemon players looking for a more in-depth story. Hey, and take a look at all 381 Nexomon right here.
#7. Monster Crown
I’m putting Monster Crown on this list for one feature and one feature only — monster breeding. Not that there isn’t a whole lot else to like about Monster Crown! The monster taming game is on Steam Early-Access, so it isn’t completely polished to perfect at the time of this writing. But, what it does have is a feature every Pokemon trainer always imagined. When you breed two monsters together, they become an entirely new crossbreed. There are over 200~ monsters in the game, and combining any of those will create an entirely new critter.
Monster Crown looks more akin to Undertale — fitting, because it’s a strangely dark take on the creature capturing genre. Instead of capturing, you make pacts with the monsters of the island. You can then combine those monsters into new, more powerful monsters. That’s a monster tamer’s dream, and a feature that reminds me of the weird franken-Pokemon you can cook up by combining fossils in Pokemon Sword & Shield. Gotta commend Monster Crown for going that extra monster-mile.
PC isn’t the traditional realm for JRPGs. No, CRPGs are way more common on PC — and the Geneforge Saga just might be the indie CRPG answer to Pokemon. CRPGs are “Computer RPGs”, which really isn’t a very helpful acronym, but generally CRPGs are tactical turn-based isometric RPGs like Baldur’s Gate, Planescape: Torment, Arcanum, Icewind Dale, and many others. The Geneforge Saga is kind of like those games, except you’re a weird wizard that creates monsters for your party. There are five games total in this retro-inspiried indie CRPG series, with lots of monsters to cook up, and a very different style of gameplay to master.
If you read that previous paragraph and had no idea what I was talking about, it’s better to just move on to the next entry. The Geneforge Saga isn’t going to appeal to everyone, but I really like the basic concept here, with your maniacal wizard geneforging up bizarre creations and using them to complete quests in a vast open-world. You’re like a mad scientist for good.
#5. Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth
Digimon and Pokemon have always seemed to run side-by-side, with Pokemon always in the lead as the dominating franchise. While Digimon has a pretty dang memorable cast of creatures — probably from that Saturday morning anime we all watched — it wasn’t until recently that Digimon video games really got on our radar. The latest set of Cyber Sleuth games embraced an aesthetic for slightly older kids, with bigger and badder monsters to tame and battle with compared to the (mostly) cute and harmless Pokemon.
Digimon are just more dangerous — like, literally, they have more spikes, more swords, more human-shaped monsters that look like half-dressed angels. One of the first Digimon critters has an entire alternate evolutionary line that’s all about adding gatling guns onto a dinosaur! And Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth finally delivers a game that’s worth catchin’ ’em all. These games are split between adventures in the cyberworld where you fight Digimon-equipped tamers, and semi-simulation visits to the real world as stories play out on both sides. If you’re a fan of Persona 4 or Persona 5, Cyber Sleuth is specifically designed to scratch that itch — just for a pre-teen audience.
#4. Pixelmon Reforged
Pokemon isn’t officially available anywhere on PC. So PC players brought Pokemon to the PC themselves — and they did it through the endlessly moddable Minecraft building-survival game. The Pixelmon Reforged Mod can be downloaded here free, and adds almost 900~ Pokemon to your average Minecraft Survival Server. The mod is both huge and extensively detailed, with Pokemon from every single generation — yes, even Sword & Shield Gen 8 is accounted for here. All the Pokemon can appear (and be captured with Pokeballs, duh) in their appropriate biomes, and only at their appropriate spawn rate. It’s a lucky day if a Legendary appears outside your farmstead.
This is one of the wildest Pokemon mods available on PC right now. There are other new features like quests, and a huge list of unique item to craft specifically for Pokemon trainers. Heck, there are sidemods just to give players access to WonderTrade-like features found in the mainline Pokemon games! Now that’s what I call dedication. If you’re looking for a way to play Pokemon on PC, Pixelmon won’t do that, but it will give you a whole new obsession to share with your friends.
#3. World of Final Fantasy
What if Pokemon, but iconic Final Fantasy monsters instead? Kid me is already salivating at the thought. As a child, I was obsessed with the Final Fantasy series of games, and that love hasn’t really diminished in 2020. There’s a certain thrill to seeing creatures like Cactuar, Chocobo, Moogle, and Tonberry as creatures to capture and tame to use for battles, and World of Final Fantasy does all that with Square Enix polish. Its a cute game designed to appeal to Final Fantasy lovers with as many references as possible — so I’m an easy, easy mark. But there’s a lot to love here.
First of all, this is a pretty lavish production, with great music and some incredible detail to the environments. It’s also just the right amount of complexity that kids of all ages can enjoy. You won’t find a lot of depth here for future playthroughs or collect-a-thons like the mainline Pokemon games, but World of Final Fantasy is designed to be enjoyed for the moment-to-moment gameplay. You’ll not just fight with your monsters, but stack them to solve puzzles in dungeons or even merge them to create powerful new forms. Yes, there are evolutions.
Check out all the monsters and characters you can collect from throughout the series.
#2. Shin Megami Tensei 3 Nocturne
An underappreciated gem in the JRPG canon, Nocturne only just recently dropped on Steam — and if you’re looking for a real challenge, then baby you’ve found it. Nocturne is the elder statesman of ball-busting difficulty, a legend among fans, and all for very good reason. This game doesn’t just throw reams of unintelligible jargon at the player in the first hours, it also plays by its own set of rules — and players are left to overcome its bleak world with very little hand-holding. It’s the original Dark Souls in RPG form. And it’s also really incredibly good.
Nocturne is a post-apocalyptic RPG set in an empty world haunted by demons. You’ll have to make pacts with these demons to become stronger — and the demons are what make Nocturne so Pokemon-like. As a sole hero, you’ll fill out the rest of your 4-person team with demonic spirits. By creating a perfect party of demons with a wide variety of abilities (and forging them to make new powerful demons) you just might overcome the absurd challenges facing you in Nocturne.
There’s a spooky lineage of demons passed down from Nocturne — many of these designs are still around and you can ‘capture’ them in other semi-related JRPGs like Persona 5 Royale. Here’s a look at all the bizarre creatures you can recruit in Nocturne.
#1. Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
Developer LEVEL-5 teamed up with Studio Ghibli to produce the maximum whimsy engine that is Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. It might look like your standard JRPG, just with a Ghibli-infused art style, but this is totally a Pokemon-like. This fantasy world is packed with little creatures called Familiars, which you’ll tame, then use it battle — and like all true Pokemon, they’ll evolve into more powerful forms as they level up. That’s the true test of a Pokemon-like in my book.
Ni No Kuni really is the biggest budget game on our list and it shows. It’s a smooth, constantly charming, and totally polished gameplay experience from masters of the genre working with a high-tier animation studio to throw even more class onto the proceedings. The characters designs are cute without being too cloying, and the story is both adventurous and a little melancholy — that’s the Ghibli one-two punch special. If you’re okay with a few moments of low energy JRPG grinding, Ni No Kuni is a must-play for players looking to expand their creature catching horizons.
And let’s not forget — here’s a list of all the familiar you can catch in Ni No Kuni.
And that’s our top 10 favorite Pokemon-likes on PC. This is just a fraction of all the monster taming games out there, and there are even more available on consoles like Dragon Quest Monsters, Yokai Watch and Monster Hunter Stories. Let us know your favorite Pokemon-likes, and what makes them better (or worse) than the originator!