Pokémon ROM Hacks
Image: Damien McFerran / Time Extension

Given that the Pokémon series is one of the most successful multimedia properties in entertainment history, it's understandable that fans of the franchise have been working hard to bring their unique vision to the world of Pocket Monster video games for quite some time now.

We've seen multiple Pokémon ROM hacks appear over the years, most of which are based on existing Pokémon titles with added features, content and – of course – monsters to catch and train.

Nintendo is famously protective of its intellectual property, so more than a few Pokémon ROM hacks have been targeted by the company – but that hasn't stopped legions of fans from continuing to unofficially expand and enrich the Pokémon universe with a wide array of 'new' games.

Below you'll find ten Pokémon ROM hacks and fan-made projects we feel are worthy of your attention, but this is by no means a complete snapshot of the whole world of Pokémon fan-made games – and we stress that this list isn't presented in any kind of ranking or order.

Pokémon Prism

Taking place in the region of Naljo, Pokémon Prism is the sequel to one of the oldest and most beloved Pokémon ROM hacks, Pokémon Brown. Showcasing 225 Pokémon to battle and collect, there are 28 brand-new monsters to find in Pokémon Prism.

Based on the Game Boy Color outing Pokémon Crystal, Pokémon Prism even allows you to return to the region of Rijon, which was the setting for its forerunner, Pokémon Brown – making it a more 'complete' experience, even though the two titles are connected in terms of story. We'd still recommend playing Pokémon Brown too, if you have the time.

One of the more unusual features of the game – and the reason we've included it here, over Pokémon Brown – is the fact that there are certain areas which can only be explored by your Pokémon, giving this a unique feel.

Pokémon Uranium

One of the most infamous Pokémon ROM hacks, thanks to the fact that it was taken offline following pressure from Nintendo back in 2016, Pokémon Uranium is set in the region of Tandor, which is populated by eight new Gym Leaders and 190 Pokémon – many of which are totally new to this fan-made offering.

The game also includes custom modes, such as Randomizer and Nuzlocke, a Poké Radar tool which allows you to search for special and shiny Pokémon, Pokémon trading and Mega Evolutions, as well as many other features.

Despite Nintendo's efforts to remove Pokémon Uranium from the internet, it's still possible to find and download it; in fact, millions of players have done so since, making it one of the most popular Pokémon ROM hacks around.

Pokémon Unbound

Based on Pokémon FireRed on the Game Boy Advance, Pokémon Unbound offers new areas, side quests, Mega Evolutions, Max Raids and Z Moves, and has been updated more than once since its release with new content.

It also has a New Game+ mode which allows you to carry over your progress to a new game once you've finished it – which will take some time, given that it offers 75 missions and a surprisingly deep and well-written storyline.

Set in the Borrius Region, Pokémon Unbound's antagonists include The Shadows, an even more sinister criminal organisation than Team Rocket.

Pokémon Dark Rising

Another Pokémon FireRed ROM hack, Pokémon Dark Rising is utterly packed with content – so much so that it has spawned an entire series, including Pokémon Dark Rising 2, Pokémon Dark Rising: Order Destroyed, Pokémon Dark Rising Origins: Worlds Collide and Pokémon Dark Rising: Kaizo.

386 Pokémon are available in this all-new original story, which is populated by new characters (such as Doctor Roy) and old favourites, including famous faces from the original Pokémon anime series, such as Ash and Brock.

Heck, Dark Rising even offers crossover potential, with Pharaoh from Konami's Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise making an appearance. This might be off-putting for purists, but we think it's pretty cool.

Pokémon Phoenix Rising

Pokémon Phoenix Rising is a rather ambitious project, created using RPG Maker XP and Pokémon Essentials. It takes place in the Hawthorne Region and boasts a branching storyline filled with morally-challenging decisions.

Mega Evolutions and 'Relic Pokémon' also make the cut, and, when combined with the deeper-than-expected RPG mechanics, result in a pretty interesting fan-made adventure.

While the presentation and depth really appeal, it's worth keeping in mind that Pokémon Phoenix Rising still feels like a work in progress, thanks to the fact that it's one of the more recent titles included in this list.

Keep that in mind when you play it, and you'll have a great time.

Pokémon Gaia

Yet another Pokémon FireRed ROM hack, Pokémon Gaia sets itself apart from the competition by introducing new monsters from a wide range of regions, including Sinnoh, Unova and Kalos.

It's also blessed with some of the best custom visuals of any ROM hack we've encountered so far, making it feel more like a stand-alone outing than some other examples in this list; for example, moves from Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire have been factored in here, complete with working effects and animations.

You've also got elements like Mega Evolutions, original music and the ability to climb walls – all of which makes for a brilliantly inventive and deep Pokémon experience.

Pokémon FireRed: Rocket Edition

As the title suggests, this is a ROM hack of Pokémon FireRed, with one vital difference: you play as Team Rocket!

"Rocket Edition will play with your expectations and allow you to experience the classic story from a whole new perspective," reads the game's official site. "Along your journey, you will unravel secret conspiracies, explore a side of Kanto you’ve never seen before, engage with familiar characters in unfamiliar situations – and, most importantly: steal their Pokémon!"

There's a host of cool stuff included here, such as the chance to steal monsters from every single trainer in the game, a morality system, branching storylines and a much-improved user interface.

This is the kind of game you'd think Game Freak would have released itself by now, as it offers the chance to revisit a classic entry in the series from a fresh perspective.

Pokémon Sword And Shield GBA

As you can see from the images below, this ROM hack takes Pokémon Sword and Shield – a very recent entry in the series on Nintendo Switch – and crams it into a Game Boy Advance. It's based on Pokémon FireRed (again), but Pokémon Sword And Shield GBA massively updates everything to bring it up to speed with the latest Pokémon adventures.

Around 100 new Pokémon have been turned into 2D sprites for this adventure, and the whole thing looks very professional indeed. Also included are elements such as Dynamax Pokémon and the ability to explore both at night and during the daytime.

This is a great example of how older Pokémon outings can be augmented with features from newer mainline instalments and is well worth a look.

Pokémon Omega Red

Yet another ROM hack of Pokémon FireRed, Pokémon Omega Red boasts 807 Pokémon (with Alola forms and Mega Evolutions), a day and night system, Nintendo DS-style sprites and much more besides.

You also get a host of moves from Gen 4 and Gen 5, which also helps make Pokémon Omega Red feels more up-to-date and fresh. Fairy-type Pokémon are also included.

While there are a few rough edges, this is still a staggeringly polished project, given its fan-made origins.

Pokémon Insurgence

Pokémon Insurgence is another quite recent unofficial Pokémon title which shows just how advanced the community has become when it comes to fashioning new experiences for fans.

Available for Windows and Mac, it boasts a wide selection of 'challenge' modes – including Solo, Nuzlocke, Iron Man and Randomizer – and allows you to fully customise your character in-game, right down to their hairstyle and clothing.

All Pokémon up to and including Gen 6 are featured, and some have never-before-seen Mega Evolutions.

There's online trading, secret bases, 'Armored Pokémon' and much more besides – including a huge amount of end-game content to work through once you've completed the main quest, including new locations.

Given the sheer volume of Pokémon ROM hacks and fan games out there, creating a list of ten must-play examples is tricky – so, if you feel we're left out a game that deserves attention, let us know by posting a comment below.