The Most Underrated Pokémon ROM Hacks & Fan Games

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Not all Pokémon games are made the same.

Coming up with new Pokémon, a new region, and an exciting storyline every couple of years can be hard for a franchise as prestigious as Pokémon – and it shows.

You can’t compare the magic that was Pokémon Emerald with how “meh” Pokémon Black & White 2 felt on release.

Of course, the differences in quality rise to the moon when talking about fan-made games and ROM hacks.

This has led to many players sticking with only the most talked-about and recommended titles rather than exploring what’s new and exciting in the community.

I consider myself a defender of the overlooked – a vindicator of the underrated. And today we’re taking a look at the most unfairly ignored Pokémon ROM hacks & fan games that you might want to try out.


10. Pokémon Spectrum

Pokémon Spectrum ROM Hack Screenshot

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A little-known but undeniably high-quality fan game is Pokémon Spectrum, which boasts a unique graphic style and extensive trainer customization.

It’s a whole new region to discover, full of exotic Fakemon you can’t find anywhere else.

These include new evolutions to Game Freak originals like Garbodor, which now evolves into Junkster, and many all-new evolution lines.

Spectrum catches and holds my attention due to its Fakemon/official Pokémon distribution. It keeps just enough classic Pokémon to feel like a Pokémon game rather than something else, as is the case with Pokémon Clover.


9. Pokémon Clover

Pokémon Clover ROM Hack Screenshot

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I grew up in the old internet – a time of forums and proto-social networks where bigoted comments and offensive jokes were a dime a dozen.

Thanks to that, I developed a thick skin.

It takes a lot for me to get offended, which lets me enjoy Pokémon Clover without a care in the world.

This FireRed ROM hack was developed by the Pokémon fans over at the infamous 4chan imageboard.

As such, it’s full of very dark humor.

But if you can get past that – and maybe even enjoy it – you’ll find a fantastic game with a whopping 386 original Fakemon and over 70 hours of exciting content to experience.


8. Pokémon Saffron

Pokémon Saffron ROM Hack / Volkner Electric Gym Screenshot

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Pokémon Saffron offers players an exciting adventure through the colorful and vibrant region of Azira, inspired by the South American continent.

Thanks to an event known as the Great Migration, bio-diversity explodes in the region every 10 years – and, of course, you start your Pokémon journey in the middle of this event.

You’ll find Pokémon from all eight generations, with their Mega Evolution and Gigantamax forms.

It’s not exactly an unknown ROM hack.

But considering the amazing quality and ambitious features, I’d say it deserves a lot more attention from the community at large.


7. Pokémon Korosu

Pokémon Korosu Preview / ROM Hack

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Everyone talks about Pokémon Outlaw – the prequel to Pokémon Korosu – but it’s not always about how funny or creative it is.

Instead, people remember the few jokes that went too far and offended their sensibilities.

This has led many people to skip over the author’s other projects, but that’s a grave mistake.

Pokémon Korosu still features an edgy narrative and dark humor – but it’s nowhere near as gratuitously offensive as its predecessor.

It’s a story about revenge starring a young girl who goes all Kill Bill on the criminals who wronged her – but, since this is Pokémon, you’ll beat them in Pokémon battles before taking their lives.


6. Pokémon: Giratina Strikes Back

Pokémon: Giratina Strikes Back ROM Hack Screenshot

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Giratina is one of the most fearsome Legendary Pokémon the franchise has ever given rise to. Which is why the Pokémon world’s inhabitants have such a vested interest in keeping it locked up.

The thing is – as long as people know it’s there, they’ll keep trying to tap into its power. At least, Team Genesis will.

Pokémon GSB is an amazing Ruby ROM hack where you’ll meet unique characters, overcome tough challenges, and hone your Pokémon trainer skills to stop Team Genesis and make your father proud.

It features surprisingly good writing and 11 gyms to conquer.

You’ll find Pokémon up to gen 4, and even 66 all-new Fakemon of the highest quality.


5. Pokémon Legends of the Arena

Pokémon Legends of the Arena Screenshot

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One of the most unusual and underappreciated fan games in narrative terms is Pokémon Legends of the Arena, which takes players on a different kind of adventure.

The Aria region is best known in the world of Pokémon for their International Pokémon Championship – an event where anyone can achieve fame and fortune, no matter who they were before.

As a competitor you’ll go around collecting badges as you get to know the other trainers.

A lot of care was put into writing their characters, which adds a lot to the experience.

With a vast and diverse region and a rich RPG storyline featuring multiple endings depending on your actions, this is one you can’t miss if you care about storytelling.


4. Pokémon Fuligin

Pokémon Fuligin ROM Hack Screenshot

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I’ve talked about Pokémon Team Rocket Edition and Pokémon FireRed: Rocket Edition in the past.

But there’s one more “villain side” ROM hack everyone should try out.

Pokémon Fuligin plays out much like the original FireRed (or any Pokémon game for that matter) until, a bit after embarking on your Pokémon adventure, you find out your brother is involved with Team Rocket.

Rather than get him out, you get convinced to join them too – and eventually, you’ll come to lead them.

You know what they say:

If you can’t beat them, prepare for trouble, and make it double…


3. Pokémon Dreary

Pokémon Dreary / ROM Hack Screenshot

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Pokémon Dreary mimics the original Red & Blue by focusing on the 151 original Pokémon.

It’s a bold choice for a FireRed ROM hack. But sometimes, you want to focus on storytelling.

Dreary tells a haunting story of a Kanto region falling into disarray, with mysterious and potentially paranormal phenomena popping up all around.

I won’t spoil a thing, but here’s some advice:

You better get to the Indigo Plateau ASAP.

This intriguing game has an irresistible air of mystery and mystique around it, and it’s a shame it’s not recommended as often.


2. Pokémon Bronze 2

Pokémon Bronze 2 GBC ROM Hack Screenshot

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To show some love to the classic GBC era, we have Pokémon Bronze 2 – a Crystal ROM hack with appealing visuals and a great storyline.

This little-known hack will take you on a classic Pokémon journey through the Janto region, full of side-quests and secrets to discover – as long as you manage to slip by the criminals terrorizing the area.

The game is actually a direct sequel to the original Pokémon Bronze (a Gold ROM hack).

You can visit the Kohto region and even battle Bronze’s protagonist near the end of Bronze 2.

It may not be the most unusual hack, but the developer managed to beautifully capture the magic of an official release.


1. Pokémon Sienna

Pokémon Sienna ROM Hack Screenshot

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Pokémon Sienna is a relatively obscure FireRed ROM hack taking place in the rocky region of Voultan.

At first glance, this hack is pretty standard.

It features Pokémon from the first three generations, some high-quality Fakemon, and an exciting storyline following an ambitious youngster on the way to becoming a Pokémon master.

What sets Sienna apart is its decision-based gameplay and storyline.

Depending on what you choose to do in certain parts of the story, you’ll either stop the criminals terrorizing Voultan, or join their ranks.

Despite being a fully-fledged completed ROM hack with amazing features and gorgeous visuals, Pokémon Sienna is rarely discussed – while questionable games like Pokémon Dark Rising dominate the conversation.

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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.