Want to be the ultimate Pokémon master? Here are some of the top mobile games for every Pokémon champion.
Over the last several years, Nintendo has been expanding its reach on mobile devices. Most of them, like Mario Run, an endless runner, and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, a pared-down version of the series of the same name, have been minor to moderate successes. If you think about Nintendo on mobile, though, your first thought is probably of Pokémon Go.
The game made a huge splash when it launched on mobile devices back in 2016. The idea of catching Pokémon in real-world locations using your phone’s camera was mind-bending at the time. Finally, we could all be the Pokémon Trainers we’ve always wanted to be! The game was so popular that the servers were routinely unstable for the first few months of the game’s existence, and the popular Community Day events were packed with enterprising Trainers looking for rare Pokémon. Since then, Nintendo has ridden the wave of success and released several other Pokémon experiences for mobile devices that encompass just about everything you’d want to do as a Trainer–except play main-series games, and we all know how Nintendo feels about ROMs and emulators. Read on to learn a little about the biggest ones and what roles they play in the wider Pokémon universe.
Nintendo’s most recently-released Pokémon mobile game is probably its biggest–next to Pokémon Go, of course. Pokémon Unite is technically also available on Nintendo Switch, but it just got a mobile release, and 5 million people worldwide were so interested that they pre-registered for the game prior to its launch. The game is also built like a mobile title: it has login bonuses, free-to-start mechanics, and premium currencies that players can use to buy customization items. Mechanically, the game is a MOBA, like League of Legends or Dota 2: two teams of five Pokémon battle over control of a large, multi-lane map. Players can score points by defeating both wild and Trainer-controller Pokémon and recruit legendaries like Zapdos for temporary assistance. The game plays like a simplified version of League, but it’s still a good bit of fun. If you can live with some of the more annoying mobile trappings, like the skimpy battle pass rewards, it’s one of the deeper and more engaging Pokémon mobile titles.
Pokémon Masters EX
If you love the characters and worlds of Pokémon, Pokémon Masters EX is the game for you. The game lets players engage in 3v3 battles using some of the most popular Pokémon from series history and meet up with a variety of characters. The battles are a little deeper than Pokémon Go’s, making it feel more like a fleshed-out Pokémon title. While it’s fun to see everyone in 3D and revisit the worlds of your childhood, the game also engages in the not-so-fun mobile mechanics that players have become used to: gacha pulls for a chance at new Pokémon, confusing premium currencies, and a lot of grinding. Still, it’s a way to carry some classic ‘mons around with you in your pocket, if that’s your thing.
Pokémon Trading Card Game Live
This one was only just announced, surprising fans across the world. When you think about it, though, mobile is the perfect way to play the Pokémon TCG: you don’t have to worry about carrying around binders full of cards or separating your collections into certain decks for regular and tournament play. One of the best things about smartphones is that they hold a lot of information in a relatively small form factor, and that convenience extends to Pokémon, too. Even so, as my friend and coworker De’Angelo Epps points out in his article about the announcement, the game comes with a confusing transition. There’s already an existing PC-only game called Pokémon Trading Card Online; players will be able to carry over their collection to mobile devices, but they won’t be able to carry over currency, friend lists, saved decks, or other account items. Players also won’t be able to trade cards with others in the new game, which seems like a big oversight for something named Trading Card Game.
Okay, this one’s cheating a little bit. Pokémon Home isn’t really a game; instead, it’s a collection service for Pokémon that you’ve captured in main-series games. Players of titles like Pokémon Sword and Shield can store Pokémon in Home and see them on mobile via the companion app. The service recently received a spate of server maintenance, which many hope means the app will be compatible with the upcoming Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, the much-requested Generation IV remakes. It’s admittedly kind of cool to pull up your collection of Pokémon and see them while you’re out and about–it makes me feel more like a real Trainer, at least.
There are even more Pokémon mobile games that I haven’t mentioned here, like Pokémon Quest, Pokémon Café Mix, and Pokémon Magikarp Jump. These games haven’t been quite as popular as the ones above, mostly because their gameplay is more one-off rather than designed for longevity. Pokémon is by far the most prolific franchise to appear in Nintendo’s mobile library, and there are no signs of that changing. Maybe it’s because the series monetizes easily and fits well with free-to-play mechanics, or maybe it’s because somewhere deep down, we all just want to take our little pocket monster friends wherever we go.