With the 25th anniversary of Pokémon this week, I wanted to take a little dive into the history of Pokémon spin-offs across the last two-and-half decades. Looking at the past can help us understand what we might be able to expect from the inevitable Pokémon Direct on Pokémon Day this year.
Before I go any further, I want to catch the newcomers up. Pokémon released in Japan on February 27, 1996. Since then, the date has been marked each year as Pokémon Day. Pokémon Day, modernly, is utilized as a way for The Pokémon Company (TPCi) to announce big projects and celebrate the fandom itself. If you look at the calendar, you’ll realize this is very, very soon.
If you haven’t read them already, don’t miss the other 25th anniversary predictions we’ve gone over:
What we know for a fact about Pokémon Spin-offs
So, let’s talk about what we already know first. Pokémon Unite is an upcoming MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena), akin to games like League of Legends and Dota 2. Pokémon Sleep was announced a couple years ago that involves a peripheral that tracks sleep and sleep patterns and may tie into Pokémon Home and other apps as well. We know about Detective Pikachu 2, the sequel to the 2016 Detective Pikachu Nintendo 3DS game (the one that was turned into the Ryan Reynolds movie). Aside from that, we don’t have a lot more to go on.
So now, let’s look at recent games that have come out to help us form some possible clues to the future later. On mobile, two games stand out: Pokémon GO and Pokémon Masters. Pokémon GO is made by Niantic and focuses on catching Pokémon out in the real world, using technology pulled straight out of Google Maps. Pokémon Masters, on the other hand, brings in the history of Pokémon and lore together, battling across time and space. If you know Marvel Comics, it’s not unlike the classic storyline, Secret Wars.
On the Switch alone, we have several games to look at. The mainline games have included the Pokémon Yellow remakes, Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee. These games utilized the quick-catch logic from Pokémon GO, but set in Kanto during the original games. At this point, I won’t go into a ton of detail on Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield. But, the important key takeaways here are that they were a mainline, core game that started Generation 8, bringing back the standard battling mechanics that Let’s Go streamlined. It also was the first Pokémon mainline generation game to have full-fledged DLC, in lieu of the usual enhanced port.
Additionally, we got a port of Pokken Tournament (dubbed Pokken Tournament DX), a fighting game in the style of classic Tekken games. Pokémon Quest used voxel characters in a mobile-style game, which also got a mobile port. We also got a remake of the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Rescue Team games. And finally, Pokémon Home became a hub to hold Pokémon, similar to Pokémon Bank. This can be opened in both Switch and mobile versions for easy access.
What can we predict about Pokémon spin-offs in 2021
TPCi always loves experimenting with oddball games, just to see what might stick. That’s how we got the much-beloved Pokémon GO. That one has deep roots to an April Fool’s Joke on Google (yea, really). So, now that I’ve laid out evidence for the spin-offs that actually exist, we have to put on some speculative glasses. I’m just going to say that remakes of Pokémon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum have definitely been hinted at in recent games and media. If we were to get remakes of those, that actually affects the spin-off train of thought.
Considering the first sequels to the first Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series came out early during Generation 4 and have a heavy lean on Sinnoh Pokémon, if TPCi announces a sequel to the remake, it would fall in line easily. The original sequels were named Explorers of Time and Explorers of Darkness. A third enhanced version that came out a couple years later was named Explorers of Sky. So, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Explorers DX would be an excellent name for a remake that encompasses all three, likely being a remake of Sky directly.
The fourth generation also saw the adventure game, Pokémon Ranger, which could see a possible remake and/or port to the Switch. This would be prime for a remake, now that the Mystery Dungeon games were remade.
The battle-focused Pokémon Battle Revolution would be a fantastic addition to the game on Switch, coming during the fourth generation as well. However, these kinds of games were designed to allow trainers to battle on a home console, similarly to the Pokémon Stadium series. That’s kind of exactly what we have in the mainline games now that the Switch is both a home and portable console. Instead, I propose that we see the predecessors, Pokémon Colosseum and Pokémon XD Gale of Darkness. These games follow a separate story in a stand-alone region with entirely different characters than the usual games. Seeing Orre and the story told there on the Nintendo Switch would be a fantastic side quest game for both casual and hardcore fans alike, while celebrating the history of Pokémon.
But, what else can we consider? It’d be easy to say Pokken Tournament 2 or Let’s Go 2 on this list. Pokémon Quest stopped short of having anything beyond the 151 Kanto Pokémon. A Pokémon Quest 2 could bring in Johto Pokémon.
During the tail-end of Generation 4, the currently PC- and Tablet-based Pokémon Trading Card Game Online was originally released on browser. It eventually got the downloadable versions, but the game has remained mostly untouched since. With the world the way it is, Pokémon Leagues in actual physical locations have been at a halt. PTGCO has been the main focus for nearly a year now. Seeing a complete overhaul of the system and porting it to the Switch would allow anyone to join in. Since the game doesn’t have a phone port and mainly runs on tablets and PCs, the tablet-like Switch is a natural fit. This one is completely speculation, but it’s a definite hope. TPCi is leaning into its competitive nature with the upcoming Pokémon Battle Styles set. But, with no physical locales to play, this would be a fantastic first set to be released on PTCGO. Since physical booster packs, premium boxes, and Elite Trainer Boxes all include the code card to get a booster pack or the relevant add-ons within the digital game, it allows a cohesion between the physical and digital fans going forward.
Whatever we get during the 25th anniversary celebration, based on what we have seen in the past 25 years, it’s bound to be some awesome things. Honestly, as much as history dictates, I hope we get some great surprises that come out of left field this year. Here’s to 25 years of spin-offs, and here’s to 25 more!