Pokémon ROM Hacks & Fan Games With Regional Variants

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I still remember when Alolan variants were revealed for Pokémon Sun & Moon. It was wild!

But at the same time, it felt like it should’ve happened a long time ago.

We were all ecstatic to learn it wasn’t just a one-off thing with the reveal of Galarian forms in Sword & Shield – and we hope to get more as time goes on.

That said, some of us don’t have the patience to wait for the next main Pokémon game.

An excellent alternative comes in various ROM hacks featuring regional variants, and we’ll be taking a look at some of the best right here.

Bear in mind that for the purpose of this ranking, I consider any new form that’s exclusive to one of these games a regional variant – even if they’re not explicitly called that.


8. Pokémon WaterRed

Pokémon WaterRed ROM Hack Screenshot

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So far, both Alola and Galar house a couple regional variants of fan-favorite Pokémon like Ninetales and Meowth.

But what if every Pokémon was a regional variant?

It’s a much more common concept in Pokémon ROM hacks than you think, and Pokémon WaterRed is one of the best examples.

This game replaces every Pokémon in FireRed with a new alternate form.

For example, Pidgey is now the Ice/Flying-type Fridgey.

Charmander is the Fighting-type Chopmander.

Aand Bulbasaur is Rockasaur, which is… well, you get it.

This comes with some nice new moves like Freeze Ray and Magmarock, along with hilarious PokéDex descriptions.


7. Pokémon Phoenix Rising

Pokémon Phoenix Rising ROM Hack Screenshot

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Pokémon Phoenix Rising isn’t just about its regional variants.

This fan-made game takes place in the war-torn Hawthorne region, and places more emphasis on RPG elements like skill-building and a branching storyline where your choices can make a difference over time.

Still, it would be a grave oversight not to include it here, in light of its Relic Pokémon.

These mysterious new forms seem to be somehow linked to Ho-Oh, and they include variants for Ledyba, Tentacool, Koffing, Roserade, and a few more.

In addition, the game features new Mega Evolutions never before seen in an official Pokémon game – making them regional Mega Evolutions, so to speak.

These include Mega Lilligant and Mega Flygon.

Did I mention Ho-Oh gets a new “Arisen” form? This game is an absolute gold mine.


6. Pokémon Fool’s Gold

Pokémon Fool’s Gold ROM Hack Screenshot

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Speaking of gold mines…

Pokémon Fool’s Gold is a unique Pokémon Crystal hack that revolves around its 251 reworked Pokémon.

While never described as “regional variants,” Fool’s Gold fundamentally changes every Pokémon in Gens 1 and 2.

Pidgey is now a Fighting-type, Hoothoot is Steel/Flying-type and carries a shield, and Houndoom is now a creepy Grass/Dark-type with no eyes.

Other highlights include changes to the Abra line, which became some sort of Egyptian gods, and Delibird, who’s literally Krampus now.

As expected, you’ll meet these Pokémon in different areas than you did initially in the vanilla games. That way it makes sense with their new typing and lore.

There are also funny PokéDex descriptions if you’re in the mood for some light reading.


5. Pokémon Another Emerald

Pokémon Another Emerald / Pokemon ROM Hack Screenshot

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The appeal of Pokémon Another Emerald hinges on its regional variants – and there are a ton of them.

Exploud, Sceptile, Crobat, and Mightyena are only some of the Pokémon that got bad-ass Hoennian variants in Another Emerald (among many others).

The game also includes regional variants from official games, such as Galarian Zigzagoon – complete with its entire regional evolution line.

Besides that, the game follows the same story as vanilla Emerald, with some much-needed improvements such as reusable TMs and forgettable HMs.


4. Pokémon AlteRed

Pokémon AlteRed / Pokémon ROM Hack Screenshot

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Having a wide variety of regional variants is fantastic.

But I like hacks that go all in.

Pokémon AlteRed is a FireRed ROM hack featuring a whopping 411 all-original Alter Form Pokémon, which are basically regional variants for all I care.

The changes are often pretty drastic.

Bulbasaur becomes Burnasaur, for example, going from the Grass-type starter to the Fire-type starter.

And in the same way, Charizard is now a Water-type Sealizard with a completely new design.

Plus it’s worth mentioning that this hack’s creator is already working on a sequel called Pokémon VariaBlue. I’m excited, to say the least.


3. Pokémon Blazing Emerald

Pokémon Blazing Emerald / Pokémon ROM Hack Screenshot

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Pokémon Blazing Emerald is similar to Another Emerald in that they’re both Emerald-based hacks whose main draws are the new regional variants.

Blazing Emerald just does it a bit better.

Rather than simply introducing many regional variants, the game is rebalanced around them.

There are also plenty of events to earn Legendaries and other rewards, full of complex puzzles and tough battles to overcome.

Hoenn has always been my favorite region. So seeing Hoennian variants is like a dream.

And in this hack the variants include Hoennian Emolga, which seems to think it’s a vampire, and Hoennian Chinchou, which is now a see-through deep-sea creature, among quite a few others.


2. Pokémon Saffron

Pokémon Saffron / Pokémon ROM Hack Screenshot

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Pokémon Saffron takes place in the remarkably bio-diverse region of Azira.

And as you’ve probably guessed, that means Aziran variants.

Along with these Aziran variants, you’ll bump into Galarian and Alolan variants as well. In-game this is explained by the Great Migration, where hundreds of migration routes intercept over Azira, boosting its bio-diversity.

In fact, you’ll meet almost every Pokémon released to date – even including some from the Pokémon Sword & Shield DLC Isle of Armor.

There’s also Mega Evolution, Z-Moves, and Dynamax/Gigantamax support.

This hack is on another level. Definitely a must-try.


1. Pokémon Insurgence

Pokémon Insurgence / Pokémon ROM Hack Screenshot

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If you’re looking for an exceptional game with all-new versions of your favorite critters, Pokémon Insurgence is the way to go.

This fan-made title takes place in the regions of Torren and Holon.

While Torren is the main one, where the fight against crazy cults vying for control takes place, it’s Holon that interests us today.

Holon is the birthplace of Delta Pokémon, a new breed of darker versions of the classic ‘mons with new types and new looks.

Some examples are the Dark/Fighting-type Delta Squirtle, the Ghost/Dragon-type Delta Charmander, and the Fairy/Psychic-type Delta Bulbasaur.

In addition, this hack features new Mega Evolutions – even some exclusive to Delta Pokémon – and many new features like secret bases, character customization, and Challenge Modes like Nuzlocke, Iron Man, and Randomized.

There’s enough features here to keep you busy for a long time.

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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.