Monster capture games have certainly captured the attention of players for generations, with Pokemon being the most prominent and beloved series within the genre. Due to its popularity, it isn’t any surprise that games of a similar vein have popped up to occupy the same space. But that doesn’t mean all of these games are the same, despite sharing a similar foundation, or even considering several games that predate this wildly popular series. Either way, there’s a wide world of monster capture games for all you Pokemon fans out there.
Below are a list of games that reside within the vast monster capture genre, or dabble in the mechanic in some meaningful way.
While it was a very busy year for major game releases, under-the-radar Cassette Beasts was one of the best games to release in 2023. A stylish blend of 2D and 3D art, Cassette Beasts is visually similar to some of the best Pokemon games in the series, but with some light traversal elements and large focus on the monster capture and fusion mechanics of the game.
Like most games that take heavy inspiration from Pokemon, Cassette Beasts stars a self-insert player character as they make their way through the island of New Wirral while they look for a way to return home. However, the game is a little more complex in the way that you interact with various major characters, as you can increase your affinity with them and even undertake their quests. What Cassette Beasts offers is a blend of Pokemon-esque monster capture mechanics, a character driven story, and a unique fusion mechanic that keeps them on their toes. Overall, it’s an inspired and fresh take on the genre, and one you should check out.
Monster Sanctuary is a mix of the monster capture genre and your par for the course Metroidvania. Players catch monsters to engage in 3-vs-3 battles as well as to open up exploration in gorgeous 2D pixel environments.
The game extends beyond the use of monster types as just a means to get an advantage on opponents, as attack types are just as important. But what really kept me glued to Monster Sanctuary was its traversal mechanics and really nailing those 2D platforming elements. Going back and uncovering new shortcuts and secrets made the game utterly addicting to me in addition to how battles were structured. This is a game I highly recommend for those who like monster capture games, 2D platformers, or both.
Digimon World: Next Order
The Digimon series is effectively the progenitor of the monster capture genre, even predating Pokemon — it just never rose to the same kind of success internationally. Digimon World: Next Order takes all of the fun from the first Digimon World game on the PlayStation (bar the scuffed localization) and makes it more approachable. The Digimon World series have functioned as more or less “open world” exploration games where players can raise a Digimon from birth to its eventual death, with how they’ve treated them playing into their evolutions, as they experience unique stories set within the Digimon universe.
These games have generally always been more story focused than Pokemon games as players befriend Digimon to fill out their cities and discover what plagues the digital world. Players can still train their Digimon and unlock unique Digivolutions but in a more story-focused experience. That said, you can still grind out and train your Digimon to your heart’s content, but Digimon World: Next Order definitely has one of the meatier stories of the games on this list thanks to its focus on its narrative and the wealth of various Digivolutions players can discover.
An oldie but a goodie, Monster Rancher is one of several monster capture games that was released in the 1990’s alongside the Pokemon series. Like other monster capture games, players will raise monsters and train them through a series of mini-games to compete in tournaments that will allow them to raise their ranks.
However, you aren’t really capturing monsters in Monster Rancher, as you more or less generate them through various methods depending on which versions of the game you were playing. Koei Tecmo re-released Monster Rancher 1 & 2 for the Nintendo Switch, making these games available to an entirely new audience. Unfortunately, these versions have done away with what made the monster capture mechanic so unique, and that was swapping out CDs on your Sony PlayStation to generate a random monster. What makes Monster Rancher so fun though is that there’s a big emphasis on bonding and training your monster outside of battling them in the arena. Monster Rancher is a great game for those looking to build up their monsters and really test their mettle in 1-vs-1 combat.
Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince
You may be wondering why a Dragon Quest game has any business being on this list. Well, the Dragon Quest Monsters sub-series, first introduced in 1998 to capitalize on the Pokemania, are all about capturing monsters to use in turn-based combat against your foes. Sound familiar? The Dark Prince is the latest entry in the series, and despite launching with some major technical issues that have since been patched on certain platforms, it carries this tradition onwards. However, capturing monsters is a little more intensive than in Pokemon and success rates are decided by some variables that players can turn in their favor, which makes it a little more in-depth than Pokemon games. Nevertheless this game will definitely satiate any cravings you may have for capturing some monsters. Fans of Dragon Quest and monster capture games, or even fans of both, will enjoy this entry in the series.
Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin
Ever wanted to raise monsters instead of hunting them in Monster Hunter? Monster Hunter Stories provides that exact experience. Instead of slaying monsters for valuable parts, players instead collect monsters by obtaining their eggs — which sounds bad in practice. But the narrative always makes it clear that these games are more or less about the conservation of monsters and cultural practices, so it sort of rubs off whatever reservations players might have.
You assume the role of a budding monster trainer who has been paired with one of the series most iconic monsters, a Rathalos. Things begin to go awry as monsters begin to rampage through areas surrounding your village. Combat is relegated to strategic turn-based battles that take into account the types of monsters you decide to make part of your team. You can also use your monsters as means to traverse various landscapes, similar to what modern Pokemon games have implemented. Monster Hunters Stories 2: Wings of Ruin provides a decently balanced experience in terms of narrative and gameplay, and will occupy a decent amount of time if you decide to collect all of the monsters in the game.
While Palworld’s similarities to Pokemon begin and end with its colorful monster design, a monster capturing mechanic does exist within the game that more or less mirrors what you get in Pokemon Legends: Arceus. In Palworld you can capture and use Pals in interesting ways, either to help them automize construction, provide resources for your base, and even for traversal. You can do that in most Pokemon games, with it far more tangible in Scarlet and Violet as you use Koraidon or Miraidon to scale mountains, glide, and more. That is effectively where the similarities end, since Palworld is more or less about obtaining resources to build up your base like most survival games are.
While there are still a plethora of other monster capture games that exist, as the genre has expanded greatly since the release and subsequent popularity of Pokemon in the 1990’s, the ones included in this list build upon those foundations in some truly unique ways. Whether it be an engrossing story, a more fleshed out battle system, or even how you obtain monsters, these games are more than worth checking out.
Kazuma Hashimoto is a freelance writer for IGN.