Since the summer of 1998, the Pokémon franchise has been one of the longest-running and most enduring games for fans of all ages, coming in third place as one of the best-selling game franchises of all time. With over 70 unique titles to its name, many of which are free, the creative minds behind Pokémon have adapted gameplay to match the current landscape.
As smartphones have evolved, so too have the Pokémon games. No longer do fans of the franchise have to buy a new Nintendo system to indulge in Pokémon lure. No, today, Pokémon trainers of all ages can just whip out their smartphones and have an adventure with these literal pocket monsters any time they want.
While some Pokémon games leave something to be desired (ahem, Pokémon Sleep), there are just as many others on the opposite end of the spectrum that have received acclaim among fans. Today, we’re taking a look at some of the best free Pokémon games, many of which are mobile games.
5. Pokémon: Magikarp Jump
Platform(s): iOS, Android Release Date: May 17, 2017
For OG Pokémon fans, there was no bigger delight than finally leveling up your wimpy Magikarp to a fierce Gyarados. So when Pokémon: Magikarp Jump was released on the Apple App Store and Google Play Stores, millennials (no pun intended) jumped on it.
The premise of the game is simple: you train and feed your Magikarp until it can jump high, competing with others along the way to see who truly has the best Magikarp in all of Hoppy Town.
Once your Magikarp loses a match, it will be retired. But all hope isn’t lost – when you restart the game, the Magikarp you start with will be stronger than the one before it.
There are some other features to the game, including working with other Pokémon who give you coins to boost your Magikarp’s performance at jumping tournaments and the ability to decorate and customize your pond. Just like in the RPGs, Magikarp can evolve into Gyarados once it hits Level 20. Once it evolves, though, it’ll no longer be able to jump and it’ll be time to restart the game.
Though this game has some limitations that would only prompt you to play it once or twice, it’s so unusual that it’s still worth playing.
4. Pokémon Quest
Platform(s): iOS, Android, Switch Release Date: May 30, 2018
When Pokémon Quest was released, a lot of fans were excited because it was developed by GAME FREAK, which as fans of Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow/Gold/Silver (to name a few) know, tend to know what they’re doing with the IP.
In Pokémon Quest, you travel to Tumblecube Island where the landscape and Pokémon themselves all have a distinct, cube shape to them that’s very similar to the characters in Minecraft.
Like the traditional RPGs, your adventure starts by picking a Pokémon to accompany you on your journey, and you can have a total of three Pokémon on your team. Activities include everything from battling Pokémon, collecting hidden treasures, setting up camp, and training your team.
It’s a fairly hands-off experience as an auto-battler with simple tap inputs, so anyone looking to relax with Pokémon battles could do far worse. However, though the game is free to play, it has in-app purchases that feel more and more mandatory as the grind sets in.
3. Pokémon Masters EX
Platform(s): iOS, Android Release Date: August 28, 2019
Pokémon Masters EX features many exciting mechanics, including the ability to participate in three-on-three Pokémon battles, bringing in familiar faces from previous games, like Blue and Red, and the chance to face off against the Elite Four and reigning champ at the Champion Stadium.
A cool feature that was released in December 2022 was that players could watch replays of how other trainers competed in battle. Players could even copy the teams of other players to try them out for themselves, giving Pokémon Masters EX a lot more replay value than other mobile games in the franchise.
As one of the better looking free Pokémon games out there, and for constantly being updated since its first release in 2019 to bring it into a new generation, Pokémon Masters EX is absolutely worth a download.
Pokémon UNITE has been a big hit with critics and fans alike, having been awarded the title of Best Game of Google Play’s Best of 2021 and earning a Game Awards nomination for Best Mobile Game of 2021.
In Pokémon UNITE, you’ll visit Aeos Island where every Pokémon has a unique energy about them that affects how they look. You can compete in 5-on-5 battles to not only fight against other wild Pokémon but train up your own team, as well.
What makes Pokémon UNITE so unique is that it encourages teamwork with other players, which is a bit different from the traditional handheld games, as the game has more in common with a MOBA. Before each battle, you and the other players on your team choose a Pokémon. Once in battle, your chosen Pokémon will temporarily evolve.
As with a lot of free mobile games, Pokémon UNITE does feature an awful lot of microtransactions and other money-making schemes, so do bear that in mind.
1. Pokémon Go
Platform(s): iOS, Android Release Date: July 6, 2016
It would be impossible to argue that Pokémon Go hasn’t been the most successful free Pokémon game released to date. It could also be argued that it was the release that brought the entire world together, even if for just a summer. Simply put, Pokémon Go was everywhere and even if you wanted to get away from it, you couldn’t.
This mobile game has the best components of traditional RPG adventures and in some ways, Pokemon Snap as you sometimes have to be quick to catch a Pokemon around you. As you walk around your neighborhood, virtual Pokémon appear on your smartphone. You can either keep the virtual map the game came with or switch over to your real-world location, so it looks like Pokémon are really standing in front of you. Many other mobile games have tried to jump on the augmented reality trend that this game started, but few have managed even a fraction of the success.
Like the RPG, you catch and collect Pokémon, buy new items, battle other trainers, exchange gifts, hatch your own Pokémon, and visit PokéStops that are real-world locations. The mobile game regularly holds Raid Battles where you battle and even catch some powerful Pokémon to add to your team.
To date, Pokémon Go is the most popular and successful mobile game to ever be released in the franchise. As of June 2022, Pokémon Go has approximately 80 million monthly players…and that’s still counting!
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