Over the last quarter of a century, the Pokemon series has grown exponentially from a breakout 90’s fad to a globally recognized property, and at the center of that have been Game Freak and Nintendo.
Pokemon wouldn’t be anything without the games that then led to accompanying anime, the TCG, and the mountains of merch, and Game Freak has continuously managed to produce mainstream and spin-off games that have kept fans enamored with the Pokemon series.
However, there have been fans down the years that have seen their suggestions fall on deaf ears, and wished that the Pokemon games out there would move in a different direction. Common issues amongst select members of the Pokemon Community have been that the games pander to younger audiences, don’t offer enough narrative focus, and don’t expand on the gameplay that has been the standard for decades now.
Well, eventually, this meant that fans would take matters into their own hands, and thus, Pokemon ROM hacks were born.
Pokemon ROM hacks are fanmade adaptions of Pokemon games of old, usually from the GBC, GBA, or Nintendo DS era, and use existing assets, some unique assets, and the existing game code to create a brand new Pokemon experience.
These can be as simple as a refined or more difficult version of an existing game, or these can be games that alter the world and storyline beyond recognition to provide a stellar experience that, in some cases, puts Game Freak’s efforts to shame.
ROMs are made for Pokemon fans that want something that moves away from the typical Pokemon format, and in my personal experience, these have always offered richer experiences than mainline titles, especially in the modern Pokemon era.
So with this in mind, I thought it made a lot of sense to take a look at the Pokemon ROM landscape in 2022, and make a list of the best and brightest in the fanmade Pokemon game genre.
These developers have spent countless hours on these projects, and they deserve their moment in the spotlight, and more importantly, you deserve to play a Pokemon game that answers all those wishes you’ve been pushing out into the ether for the last decade. So without further ado, here are the Best Pokemon ROMs In 2022. Enjoy!
Okay, so before we get into the action, a little bit of admin is needed, because I want to assure you that we are only selecting the best of the best here. So I have put together some criteria that should guarantee that all of these games are complete, of the highest quality, unique, and maintain their link to the Pokemon series. Check them out below:
- All ROMS must be complete projects. We will not be listing abandoned ROMs or games still in production.
- All ROMS must be related to the Pokemon series, so games that use Pokemon base ROMS but don’t offer Pokemon-esque gameplay won’t be considered.
- All ROMS must provide a unique selling point that draws the player in, whether that be a narrative approach, new Pokemon, etc.
- All ROMS must be appropriate and professionally put together, so ROMS like Pokemon Clover, for example, won’t feature here.
Okay, grab that potion from the PC, get a stack of Pokeballs and get ready, because a whole new world of adventures awaits!
#1 – Pokemon Emperyan
Want a Pokemon adventure that has espionage, mutant Pokemon called Beserks, and a runaway father that you will have to hunt down Fallout 3 style? Well, then Pokemon Emperyan might just be the game for you.
This game wrapped up production in 2018, and the final product is a game that is rich in narrative and full of exciting gameplay features like Mega Evolutions, all the starter Pokemon to choose from up to Gen-7, and new Pokemon types like Gold, Electrolight and Data Pokemon, and item crafting, to name but a few.
The game also has a unique visual overhaul to offer a more refined, cel-shaded look, and all these assets come together to provide a stellar Pokemon experience that is challenging, gripping, and full of unique charm, which makes it an absolute must-play for Pokemon fans that need a fresh new perspective on the series.
#2 – Pokemon Unbound
This is a Pokemon ROM that I personally covered for POKUniverse, and even years after release remains easily the most comprehensive and ambitious fanmade Pokemon adventure ever. Pokemon Unbound is a title that has all the bells and whistles that a Pokemon game should have, and then some.
It has gameplay features like Max Raids and Mega Evolutions; it has a dedicated difficulty setting, it has complex puzzles and side quests within the game, and improved functionality compared to the GBA titles this game is built from.
Then to top it off, it has a gritty and compelling story, complete with full cut scenes depicting the war between the Kalos region and the Borrius Region. It’s about as all-encompassing as a Pokemon ROM hack could ever hope to be, and if you are a Pokemon fan, this is an experience you can’t afford to pass on!
#3 – Pokemon Rejuvenation
Next, we have Pokemon Rejuvenation, a Pokemon ROM that really focuses on making adjustments to the overall gameplay, and really leans into the competitive tactics and strategy of Pokemon that casual players seldom have to utilize in mainline titles.
This game also has a built-in difficulty setting, offering ultra challenging gameplay on Intense mode; it features a Field Effect mechanic, which was borrowed from Pokemon Reborn and enhanced. It also has all the starters up to Gen VIII, ups the shiny encounter rate to one in one hundred, and uses crest items to make typically useless Pokemon viable party options.
All of this, plus the game has an enthralling narrative with branching paths based on player decisions, boss battles, side quests galore, RPG-style progression in the form of AP points, and what I personally love most, a unique soundtrack full of chiptune bangers. The Aevium region has a lot to offer, so do yourself a favor and check it out!
With the abundance of Pokemon Fire Red inspired Pokemon ROMs court there, it can be a rarity to see a game take another generation of Pokemon titles as its source material. However, it’s even rarer to see the fourth generation serve as the foundation for a Pokemon ROM, perhaps because of the switch to the Nintendo DS.
However, Pokemon Renegade Platinum is a shining example of why the fourth generation deserves some love, and what you can do with the source material to spice things up.
Up until recently, with the release of Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl, Pokemon Renegade Platinum served as the most comprehensive fourth gen experience out there, with Pokemon up to Gen VI and a much harder difficulty curve, while leaving the story as it was to give fans a refined Pokemon Platinum experience.
This is quite similar to the Pokemon Kaizo series in approach, and while Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl may have leapfrogged this game as the ideal fourth gen experience, it’s still worth a mention nonetheless.
#5 – Pokemon Ultra Violet
Then Speaking of games that take the Pokemon Kaizo approach, what if a game did the exact opposite? Well, we have Pokemon Ultra Violet, which is a refined and more accessible version of Pokemon Fire Red, with a focus on letting players build a balanced team fast, see all the game has to offer without steep hurdles, and allows players to attain all Pokemon needed to complete their Pokedex.
This, as long-time players will know, is a rarity in mainline Pokemon games, and why I appreciated Pokemon ORAS so much.
The End game content that allows players to capture legendaries previously locked to special events and other Pokemon titles is much appreciated, and if you are looking to do a beginner nuzlocke, this game is a prime candidate for such a thing. Overall, Ultra Violet is Fire Red on super easy mode, with some added bells and whistles. It won’t be for everyone, but for those that find the Pokemon series a tough nut to crack, this is a great jumping-in point.
#6 – Pokemon Rocket Edition
When you were burning your way through the Kanto region in the mainline games and foiling Team Rocket’s schemes, did you ever stop to think about how the grunts you beat to a pulp must have felt having this mute ten-year-old cut them down mercilessly?
No, why would you, but Pokemon Rocket Edition leans on this idea and has you play as a Team Rocket Grunt and offers a different perspective on the original Pokemon adventure. As far as Pokemon ROM hack gimmicks go, this one is probably my personal favorite.
In this game, you get to peak behind the curtain, and this reveals the seedy underbelly of the Kanto region, and in this criminal underworld, it’s those you came to trust the most in the original game that are up to no good.
So inexplicably, you, a low-level grunt, will have to lie, cheat and steal your way through this adventure and uncover the true nature of the Kanto region. If you want a Pokemon game that marries humor, challenging gameplay, and a killer narrative, then this is a frontrunner for sure!
#7 – Pokemon Dark Rising
By Pokemon ROM standards in 2022, Dark Rising could arguably be omitted from this list as it feels a little dated due to only having Pokemon up to Gen V, and having fewer unique features by comparison. However, due to the incredible story, the challenging gameplay, the devastating difficulty spikes, and the abundance of sequels that await you when you complete this ROM, Dark Rising is still, in my eyes, a seminal Pokemon ROM experience.
In this title, you will encounter a dark and gritty world where extreme climate change is wreaking havoc on the land, and not so coincidentally, you will be chosen by Arceus themselves to restore balance to the world, alongside your friend/rival Pete.
Honestly, the gameplay might not grab you, but the story certainly will, so give this one a go and catch up on proceedings before the full release of Dark Rising III.
#8 – The Pokemon Kaizo Series
I’ve mentioned it enough, so it’s about time I included Pokemon Kaizo on this list. So to clarify, the Pokemon Kaizo series doesn’t relate to one single game, but instead a collection of ROM hacks that take the original source material and make tweaks to the game to offer harder gameplay, quality of life fixes, and minor tweaks to items, stats and other aspects of the core game.
So if you see a Pokemon game labeled ‘Kaizo,’ expect the same experience as the original, but more of a director’s cut.
Of all the Pokemon Kaizo games, I believe that Pokemon Blue Kaizo and Pokemon Emerald Kaizo are the finest examples of what these types of ROMS have to offer, with Gym leaders with full parties and healing capabilities, trainers with team comps that make sense, and the ability to catch a wide variety of Pokemon from Route One and beyond, and that really only scratches the surface.
However, you do find the occasional ROM that has had the Kaizo treatment. In fact, the entry above, Dark Rising, also has a Kaizo version, so you might want to check that out!
#9 – Pokemon Orange
I have a lot of time for the second generation of Pokemon, but that wasn’t always the case. In fact, as a kid, the second-gen of Pokemon passed me by completely. I guess I was a Playstation fanboy even then. However, my obsession with Pokemon ROMS opened up my eyes to the wonders of Johto and all it had to offer, and Pokemon Orange is one such game that does that expertly.
This game devised from the Pokemon Gold/Silver base game is one of the more traditional ROMs out there, staying true to the Game Freak formula. Here you will travel to the Orange Islands and Sevii Islands, fill your Pokedex with a mix of majority Gen I and II Pokemon but also some outliers, including Alolan forms.
You’ll also battle Gym leaders along the way. Oh, and of course, Team Rocket has managed to find their way over to these remote islands, too; go figure. In short, if you really have no issue with the regurgitated format Game Freak pushes out every year and just want another typical Pokemon adventure, Pokemon Orange is a great shout!
#10 – Pokemon Reborn
So if you liked Pokemon Rejuvenation, you would probably love Pokemon Reborn too. Up until recently, there were always questions surrounding whether Reborn and Rejuvenation were linked; however, in the final episode (nineteen), we found out that Reborn is a prequel to Rejuvenation, happening five years before the events of Rejuvenation. However, the two stories are diverse enough that you can play them in either order and still enjoy the standalone adventures.
Reborn is considered one of the hardest Pokemon ROMS ever created, with tonnes of cool features like Wonder Trading, eighteen Gym leaders to beat, a huge catalog of Pokemon, over 100+ hours of gameplay (honestly closer to 150 hours), and a familiar field effect system found in Rejuvenation.
The story is sublime, the gameplay is brutally hard, and best of all, it will keep you entertained at least five times as long as a mainline Pokemon game. Honestly, what’s not to love?
#11 – Pokemon Snakewood
You’ve seen the Marvel: What If? Episode where all your favorite Avengers were zombified, right? Well, what if the Pokemon series had the same treatment?
It would probably be a lot like Pokemon Snakewood; a Pokemon Ruby based ROM that offers a very gory, and zany take on the Pokemon universe with zombies. However, the story soon turns from a zombie apocalypse epic to one that becomes more about the supernatural beings that have risen to power in this new, dark and twisted world.
To be frank, this game borders on being a little too peculiar at times. The story can be hard to follow, the progression and puzzles can be a little obtuse, and the self-titled god of this world, the Cutlerine, who also developed this game, really does have his head firmly shoved up his own rear-end, which leads to lots of obnoxious 4th wall breaking and regular breaks from the action so he can pat himself on the back.
However, the concept, the very challenging gameplay, and the abundance of unsettling zombie Fakemon are enough reasons to give this one a blast. Just be warned; your mileage may vary.
#12 – Pokemon Sienna
Another Pokemon Fire Red inspired Pokemon ROM? If that’s what the public demands, then I concede, but for a good reason, as Pokemon Sienna is a great twist on the originally established storyline.
The main plot point here is that instead of being given your trainer license at the age of ten, The Indigo Plateau rejects your application, and thus you aim to forge your way forward in the new Voultan Region, uncovering new and exciting Pokemon, building a team, and then eventually coming for the title of Pokemon Master, fuelled purely with spite. I’ve always said spite is one hell of a motivator.
This game is chocked full of cool Fakemon, one of the most beautifully mapped new regions ever to grace a ROM hack, and there is also a unique soundtrack which is always a plus. Much like Pokemon Orange, this is a game for fans that don’t want a lot of change or excessive difficulty, just access to new and exciting Pokemon content. So if that’s your bag, then Pokemon Sienna is a great ROM for you!
#13 – Pokemon Dreams
Speaking of games that keep things traditional, Pokemon Dreams is a game that does just that, but moves with the times, adding gameplay features from later generations. Pokemon Dreams sees you play as a young boy with aspirations to be just like his big brother and become a Pokemon trainer, and when you come of age, you set off into the Solda Region to do just that. From there, it’s your typical Pokemon adventure.
Beat the Gyms, fight the regional baddies, get to the league, fight the elite four, and oh my goodness, is that my brother, the Pokemon league Champion. You get the picture, predictable, cozy Pokemon gameplay.
However, the selling point of this game is the modern gameplay features. The game features Pokemon up to Gen VII, including a small cluster of regional Fakemon; the game includes the beloved Dexnav, Mega Evolutions, and, much to my delight, has an original soundtrack. All in all, it doesn’t set the world alight narratively, but for fans of traditional Pokemon adventures, they don’t come much more polished than this!
#14 – Pokemon Blazed Glazed
I considered giving Glazed the spot seeing as it was the certified original, but Blazed Glazed is a much more refined and polished version of the same game, so that’s what we are rolling with here. Blazed Glazed sees the player travel through the Turnod region, where things aren’t quite as they should be.
There are familiar Johto residents floating around predicting an impending disaster, there are mysterious forces lurking in Turnod’s ancient ruins, and there is a vengeful Pikachu that pops up now and again. A lot going on, and that’s before you even factor in the swapping between Pokemon world’s and our reality.
The story is solid, if a little disjointed, and the end-game content is superb too. Then to put the cherry on the cake, the gameplay comes through with new Dream World Pokemon, a difficulty curve that is challenging but fair, and the game includes a Battle Tower, which is something that Pokemon ORAS couldn’t even boast. In short, Blazed Glazed is a super Pokemon adventure you should check out!
#15 – Pokemon Darkfire
Want something that’s hot off the presses? Well, Pokemon Darkfire just wrapped up production last year, and let me tell you, it was worth the wait. Pokemon Darkfire is a game centered around Pokemon that are no longer obeying their masters, or simply going missing altogether.
The party line is that an epidemic is causing this behavioral shift, but after digging around in the stunning Tenjo region, you discover that there is a bigger story here. I’m getting essences of Covid nay-sayers here, just me? Well, the story escalates, and you find that there is a widespread underground battling ring, and to put a stop to it, you’ll have to master the dark and sinister, no-holds-barred battle techniques.
This game’s story is captivatingly dark, the graphics are incredibly vibrant and picturesque, the game’s original soundtrack is a bop, and the new region is a joy to explore.
However, the star of the show here is the revised battle engine that will test your skills as a trainer and open your eyes to a new, brutal way of battling. Overall, a great new addition to the laundry list of Pokemon ROMs out there.
#16 – Pokemon Ash Grey
In the 1990’s Pokemon was simply unmissable. It was plastered over billboards, featured in every Mcdonald’s franchise across the country, and it was the game on everyone’s lips. However, Pokemon was smart and opened up multiple avenues to engage fans.
So if the games didn’t reach you, the TCG, the merchandise, or the anime almost certainly did. The anime was a lot of people’s gateway into the world of Pokemon, and Ash’s Indigo adventures are as vivid in my mind as they were decades ago. Yet, I always wished that I could have played a game that was more in line with the anime. Well, Ash Grey is a ROM that does just that.
This ROM takes the events of the Pokemon Indigo series and plays them out in chronological order, allowing you to be an active part in the key events of the anime. You’ll get to take on the Squirtle Squad, wish Butterfree a heartfelt goodbye, and you’ll even get to enjoy the events of the first Pokemon Movie.
The game is far from the most cohesive Pokemon game out there, and it can be a little obtuse in terms of how to progress at times. However, for the novelty alone, you have to try this ROM!
#17 – Pokemon Gaia
Next, we move on to a very popular Pokemon ROM hack, Pokemon Gaia. In this fanmade adventure, you set off to explore the Orbtus Region. A land that was formerly an incredibly popular destination, which due to a series of disastrous and devastating earthquakes, lies in ruins, a shadow of its former self.
You play as a surviving resident of Orbtus with a knack for Pokemon training, and after being scouted by local Archaeologist Professor Redwood, head out into the world to stop another round of tectonic shifts from leveling the region once and for all.
Alongside this killer story, Gaia also has a modern battle system with lots of competitive support, stat changes, new moves, modern typings, mega evolutions, and HM support, allowing players to climb walls and dive underwater. Not to mention a Battle Maison for some end-game challenges. Overall, another unmissable fanmade Pokemon romp that you should try for yourself.
#18 – Pokemon Insurgence
Next, we have Pokemon Insurgence, a game that is hand-made for the Pokemon player that loves to create hoops for themselves to jump through. One of the key selling points of this expansive ROM is the challenge modes built into the ROM.
There is a Randomizer mode, a Nuzlocke mode, a Solo mode, an ironman mode, and more. However, there are other excellent features, too, such as the built-in difficulty modes, character customization, Online Functionality, and Mega Evolutions, including ones for Pokemon who don’t naturally have a mega evolution. However, this all plays second fiddle to the story.
Insurgence sees you travel across the Torren Region, a land plagued by the stranglehold of cults, including the Cult of Darkrai. At the beginning of the game, you find yourself at their mercy until Mew swoops in to rescue you.
Sadly, due to amnesia, you cannot recall who you are, and thus, the journey begins as you recover your memories, piece together the stories hidden within this new region, and hopefully rid Torren of the cults who call it home. This is another Pokemon ROM with a great story and all the bells and whistles, and if I can give my two cents, this only comes second to Pokemon Unbound in my eyes.
#19 – Pokemon Radical Red
Remember how Gaia was a Pokemon game I sold as a game perfect for Pokemon fans who love to create hoops to jump through? Well, Radical Red is much like that. However, in Radical Red, the hoops aren’t negotiable, and this serves as one of, if not the most notoriously hard Pokemon games out there.
The game has a built-in randomizer, alters the stats of most Pokemon, has insanely sharp difficulty spikes, and gives Gym Leaders stacked teams. However, the game does also give you a lot of tools to succeed, too, such as EV training areas, the ability to rematch with Gym Leaders, and you can catch new Ultra Beasts to help curb the difficulty just a smidge.
This game is basically the antithesis of Ultra Violet. Picture it as a Pokemon Kaizo game, but dialed up to eleven. There are no off ramps on this adventure, no gimmicks, hacks, or exploits. It’s an unforgiving and brutal reimagining of the Kanto adventure.
Hence why this is one of the most popular modern Nuzlocke runs around. So if you feel up for the challenge, Radical Red is waiting for you!
#20 – Pokemon Uranium
Then last up, we have Pokemon Uranium, a game that is perhaps the best marriage between a traditional Pokemon game, and a ROM hack that aims to offer a more adult storyline.
Uranium occurs in the region of Tandor, an area that is powered by Nuclear Plants, and you play the role of a young Pokemon Trainer who has just lost their mother in a nuclear explosion. Pretty bleak opening. However, this sets the precedent that something isn’t quite right at these plants, and Nuclear-type Pokemon, irradiated by nuclear waste, show up around Tandor.
So naturally, you being an inquisitive adolescent, set off to investigate what’s going on, only to discover that these nuclear mishaps have given birth to new a new Pokemon hellbent on causing devastation.
It’s a wonderful premise, the introduction of nuclear Pokemon is done seamlessly, and it also has built-in randomizers and nuzlocke modes for those that are so inclined. I can’t think of a better way to wrap up this list of fanmade Pokemon masterpieces.
Question: Can You Get Mainline Pokemon Game ROMS?
Answer: Yes, you can download most GBC and GBA mainline ROMs, which allow you to play the original titles in all their glory for free through an emulator. In fact, these ROMs serve as the starting point for all of the fanmade projects you see above. Hard to believe in some cases, but it’s true.
Question: Are Pokemon ROMS Legal?
Answer: For the player who wishes to download them, yes, absolutely. However, for developers of these games, this is quite the opposite. Since they are working with a Nintendo-owned property without paying for the privilege, these developers tend to get sent cease and desist letters quite a lot hence why a lot of projects lie dormant or have been passed on to new devs to finish up.
Question: Can I Play Pokemon ROMs On My Phone?
Answer: Yes, you can. There are lots of emulation apps that can be downloaded on your phone. Then all you have to do is manually add the ROM to your phone’s internal storage, allow the app to search and find the ROM, and hey presto, you have a GBA in your pocket, just like old times!
A Cavalcade of new Poke-Adventures!
As you can see from this list above, there are so many fully finished Pokemon Fanmade projects that are of the utmost quality and provide gameplay and storylines that rival Nintendo’s near annual output. So much so that Nintendo has cracked down on a lot of ROMs, sending out cease and desist notifications to these developers.
Why, you ask? Well, usually because they are making better Pokemon games than the creators, and with much fewer resources too. These games are a brilliant way to jump back into the Pokemon series if you have exhausted the mainline options, or if you just want a breath of fresh air with regards to Game Freaks’ usual offerings.
We hope that this guide was everything you ever hoped for and has got you hot-tailing it over to a ROM site to download a fanmade Pokemon game; just don’t tell Nintendo! As always, thanks for reading PokUniverse!
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