The Best Pokémon ROM Hacks With Alternative Starters

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Since the series’ humble beginnings, starter Pokémon have been the backbone of trainer’s team.

These color-coded champions give beginners a chance to survive the tall grass, prove themselves against the novice trainers that patrol early routes – and eventually, become one of the strongest assets against the Elite IV.

The starter you choose will define your adventure.

And they’re part of your personality as a trainer.

It stands to reason that changing up the starters via game hacks would have a massive impact on how your Pokémon adventure plays out – and that’s precisely what these ROM hacks are all about.

If you’re hungry for a new Pokémon experience (across all gens) then these ROM hacks with unique starters are worth looking into.


10. Pokémon Snakewood

Pokémon Snakewood hack screenshot

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Despite many criticisms directed at its less-than-perfect writing and many bugs, Pokémon Snakewood holds a special place in my heart as a quirky and often hilarious horror take on the Pokémon formula.

The world has been taken over by zombie Pokémon – along with other ghoulish types like witches, demons, and so on.

After waking up in Littleroot Town, you’re given an unusual choice of three starter Pokémon to help you survive in post-apocalyptic Hoenn:

Baltoy, Paras, and Koffing.

I’d recommend going for Koffing if you want an easier start. It can really take a beating, and eventually learn Self-Destruct.

If Resident Evil has taught me something, it’s that zombies don’t like explosions.

If gruesomely deformed Pokémon, an absurd storyline, and zany humor all sounds like your jam, you should definitely check Snakewood out.


9. Pokémon Pink

Pokémon Pink ROM Hack Jigglypuff Screenshot

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Pokémon Pink is an upgraded ROM hack of the original Pokémon Blue, offering a different take on the classic Kanto adventure.

For your starters, it replaces the classic Bulbasaur/Squirtle/Charmander options for three interesting new choices:

Jigglypuff, Pikachu, and Vulpix.

This gives you a unique roster of Fairy-type, Electric-type, and Fire-type to choose from that deeply alters how the first part of the game plays out.

And in case I didn’t mention this yet, there are Fairy-types in Pokémon Pink.

In fact, the whole typing system is replaced by what we got on sixth-gen games like Pokémon X/Y, so you’ll see Dark and Steel types too.

Another significant improvement here is the graphics, which are now in full color!


8. Pokémon Discovery

Pokémon Discovery Hack Screenshot

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For something a bit more experimental, consider Pokémon Discovery – a narrative-driven hack of Pokémon Emerald with an intriguing new storyline, a mysterious region to explore, and one of the Eeveelutions as your starter Pokémon.

On your maiden voyage as part of the SS Eclipse’s crew, a mysterious creature sinks your ship near an unexplored landmass.

You’re left to figure out what happened, where you are, and whether there are any other survivors.

Don’t expect this to just look like Hoenn, either.

The creator went all out in the visuals department.

There’s new vegetation, run-down buildings, and many new Pokémon trainers to battle – all with their own unique sprites.


7. Pokémon FireRed Omega

Pokémon FireRed Omega Screenshot

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Pokémon FireRed Omega centers around two things:

Letting the player catch ’em all (up to Gen III) and providing an all-new experience for FireRed veterans.

One of the main changes replaces the original starters with something a bit more creative. Specifically, Prof. Oak gives you a choice between these three:

Elekid, Smoochum, and Magby.

Yep, all baby Pokémon!

There’s also some balance changes made to wild Pokémon and trainer battles, to promote the use of unusual Pokémon that didn’t have much use in the original FRLG.

To accommodate all 386 Pokémon from the first three generations, the creator added more grass patches here and there, and increased the variety of Water-types you can find while surfing or fishing.

They also added several all-new areas, including Chronum Tower, Navel Rock, Birth Island, and the Ancient Labyrinth – complete with new events and secrets to uncover.

You could keep yourself busy for weeks with this hack.


6. Pokémon Blazing Emerald

Pokémon Blazing Emerald Dewshine Beach Screenshot

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This hack of Pokémon Emerald’s choice of starters is a blast from the past.

Rather than third-gen Pokémon, we’re treated to a unique combo from the original 151:

Clefairy, Pikachu, and Eevee.

Pokémon Blazing Emerald strives to provide an enhanced and unique experience built based on the original – while adding a little bit of extra spice to the mix.

You’ll find wild critters and trainer teams have new (and tougher) movesets. This will force you to develop new strategies as you go, rather than just pummeling them with your strongest Pokémon.

There are also Pokéballs from newer generations added into this hack, plus graphical improvements, and a new soundtrack with some sweet tunes from other games in the franchise.

By far, my favorite improvement is the addition of Silviper and Zangaro – evolutions for Seviper and Zangoose, something I always thought was lacking in the original.


5. Pokémon Emerald Enhanced

Pokémon Emerald Enhanced Hack Screenshot

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Having different starters is fine.

But how about getting more than three options?

Pokémon Emerald Enhanced offers you seven different starters from generations III through V:

Litwick, Beldum, Shinx, Venipede, Timburr, and Spheal.

They’ve all received some adjustments to work like “real” starters, such as changing the level they evolve at, and the moves they learn level-to-level.

Other than that, the game brings a ton of new features to Pokémon Emerald.

These include a total of 684 Pokémon from the first seven generations, the DexNav from Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire, and a new follower system that gives you an NPC companion to aid you in your quest.

I can only scratch the surface in this brief entry, so make sure you check it out for yourself.


4. Pokémon Blazed Glazed

Pokémon Blazed Glazed Oceanview City Screenshot

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Our final Pokémon Emerald hack for this list is Pokémon Blazed Glazed, which replaces the Hoenn region for Johto, and gives us two entirely new areas: Tunod and Rankor.

To explore these mysterious lands, you’ll have to start with your pick out of five starters.

These include the three starters from Gen 4 (Turtwig, Piplup, and Chimchar) along with Shinx and Riolu.

This hack includes Pokémon from Sinnoh, Unova, and Kalos – including every single Legendary.

And one of the best parts about this ROM hack is the smooth difficulty curve, which most fan-made adventures fail to achieve.


3. Pokémon Ultra Violet

Pokémon Ultra Violet Hack Screenshot

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In terms of creative alternatives to the starter system, nothing beats Pokémon Ultra Violet.

This hack of FireRed lets you refuse Prof. Oak’s generous offer of color-coded Pokémon.

Just talk to him again after he tells you to choose, and he’ll give you the option to visit a special Safari Zone where you’ll be able to catch your own starter.

The options include Ralts, Trapinch, Houndour, Larvitar, Dratini – and several more.

Other than that, the game strives to be a perfected & more complete version of Pokémon FireRed where you can actually catch ’em all in a single run.

As such, you’ll be able to pick both Kabuto and Omanyte at Mt. Moon, and you can get both Hitmonlee and Hitmonchan from the Karate Master.

There’s also the all-new 4-Points Island, populated by all third-gen Pokémon.


2. Universal Pokémon Randomizer

Universal Pokémon Randomizer Hack

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Before we move on to our #1 hack, I want to give you a nice alternative that’ll give your favorite Pokémon games infinite replayability.

The Universal Pokémon Randomizer does exactly what you think:

It lets you randomize many variables such as enemy trainer teams, which wild Pokémon you can find in every route, and the movesets each Pokémon can learn.

Of course, it also randomizes your three starter picks.

These features are accompanied by some helpful Quality of Live improvements.

You’re given the National Dex at the beginning of the game, and evolutions requiring trading are replaced by the normal level-up process.

With this tool, you can play any of the games from gens 1-5 with almost any starter you want.


1. Pokémon Crystal Clear

Pokémon Crystal Clear Starter Select Screenshot

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Pokémon Crystal Clear is one of the most ambitious ROM hacks ever made.

It turns the classic Pokémon Crystal into an open-world adventure that gives the player complete freedom.

There’s deep character customization, a choice to start in Johto or Kanto, and a massive roster of 30 starters.

These include all six starters from Kanto and Johto, along with Pikachu, Eevee, Smeargle, Shuckle, Ponyta – and even an Unown.

The sky is the limit!

There are no forced story elements or barriers, either.

You’re free to travel the world of Pokémon however you see fit, challenging gyms in any order and eventually making it to the Elite 4.

This and much more awaits in Pokémon Crystal Clear.

And if you’re interested in keeping up with the latest news and updates on this hack, make sure to visit the author’s discord server which you can find on this site.

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Nelson Chitty

Nelson Chitty is a Venezuelan expat living in Argentina. He’s a writer and translator passionate about history and foreign cultures. His ideal weekend is spent between leisurely playing games of Civilization VI and looking for the next seinen anime to marathon.