For every international sensation on the level of Pokemon, there’s a wave of poorly produced bootleg knockoffs from people looking to make a quick buck.
We’re not talking about companies who have produced franchises inspired by Pokemon, such as Puzzles and Dragons and Digimon. No, we’re talking about bootlegs; unauthorized video games that illegally use the Pokemon characters and brand. Though the majority of Pokemon bootlegs are indescribably bad, some are just so ridiculous, so shameless, and so outrageous that we couldn’t help but highlight a few of them here.
Below are 8 bootleg Pokemon games that are good for a hearty laugh, but not much else.
8: Pokemon Vietnamese Crystal
Perhaps the most infamous of Pokemon bootlegs, Pokemon Vietnamese Crystal is how fans refer to this illegally produced version of Pokemon Crystal. It features an English translation that… well, to say it’s inaccurate would be an understatement.
Highlights include Pokemon being commonly called “Elfs,” Team Rocket grunts who threaten to “be rude” to the player for meddling in their affairs, and the sprinkling of explicit language in places that make no contextual sense at all. This is all, of course, on top of a script that is almost impossible to read, let alone comprehend. Actual line of dialogue: “HELLO, CHALLENGER. THOUGH ZHAOZHI IS YOUNG, ITS KNOWLEDGE ABOUT WORM ELF COULDN’T BE FEWER THAN THE YOUTH, NO DIRECTION IS SAD?”
7: Pokemon Adventure
Pokemon Adventure is a side-scrolling action game starring a Pikachu who acts a little too much like Sonic the Hedgehog. Take a guess why this is.
Yes, Pokemon Adventure is simply a hacked version of a Sonic the Hedgehog bootleg game called Sonic Adventure 7. The creators of Pokemon Adventure didn’t even try to hide it!
6: Pocket Monster “Saphire”
Yes, it’s “Sapphire,” but Pocket Monster Saphire isn’t concerned with the likes of correct spelling or proper English grammar. Also, if you were led to believe that one-P Pocket Monster Saphire had anything to do with the official Pokemon Sapphire, you’d be gravely mistaken.
Pocket Monster Saphire is actually a strategy game akin to Fire Emblem, and by bootleg standards, you can tell there was some real work put into it. However, like Pokemon Vetnamese Crystal, you should expect a poorly translated, nonsensical English script. The most notable line in the game has the narrator asking if the hero Pokemon can “really get out of all these problem in a whole skin?” Why yes, we do indeed hope they can get out of these problem in a whole skin.
5: Pokemon Green NES
Pokemon aficionados may recall Pokemon Green as one of the original 1996 Pokemon titles in Japan. This bootleg for the original Nintendo Entertainment System titled Pokemon Green has nothing to do with the classic gameboy RPG of the same name.
Like many bootlegs, this Pokemon Green is actually a hack of an officially released game, which in this case is… *breathes in* Kero Kero Keroppi no Daibouken 2: Donuts Ike ha Oosawagi. More importantly, that Clefairy on the title screen desperately needs help.
4: Pokemon Naranja Version
As it turns out, many bootleg Pokemon games are actually redistributions of freely produced fan-made hacks of the mainline Pokemon titles. Some of these hacks are borderline professional in quality, with notable examples including complete remakes of Pokemon Gold and Silver based on Pokemon FireRed. However, these physical releases of fan-made hacks are often made without the consent of the original creator, and Pokemon Naranja Version appears to be one such example.
The box for Pokemon Naranja is primarily hilarious for two reasons. First of all, despite Naranja being Spanish for “Orange,” the package is plastered with a dominant green motif and displays the grass type legendary Pokemon Celebi on the cover. Second, the entire description of the game on the back of the box just prattles on about how you can level up Pokemon in the “time-honored tradition of role-playing games.” You’d think the writer could come up with more interesting things to say about Pokemon than describing this single game mechanic!
3: Pokemon Yellow NES
If you squint your eyes, you might believe this Chinese “remake” of Pokemon Yellow could be an actual Nintendo product. That is, until you actually play it.
To be fair to this bootleg Pokemon Yellow, it’s surprisingly faithful to the original series despite being an entirely unlicensed product. However, aside from generally feeling very clunky to play, the NES Pokemon Yellow suffers from hardly being like Pokemon Yellow at all! Sure, the game is generally the same, but locations are mapped completely differently and the music is primarily ripped from Pokemon Gold and Silver for some reason. Seriously, you’d think if they were going to copy music from a game, they’d at least pick the right one!
2: Pokemon Gold NES
Yup, this is from the same team behind the NES Pokemon Yellow. NES Pokemon Gold is, how do we say, one step forward and two steps back.
While the graphics and locations more closely match the source material (though many sprites are taken from Pokemon Red and Blue instead of Gold), the NES Pokemon Gold is somehow even clunkier to play than its Yellow counterpart. Also, the music is best described as a repetitive cacophony of harsh beeps and blips. So yes, the game called Pokemon Yellow featured music from Pokemon Gold, and the game called Pokemon Gold opted for an original soundtrack that is utterly painful to listen to. Wrap your head around that one.
1: Pocket Monster (Super Nintendo / Sega Genesis)
Pocket Monster may lack a zany title to distinguish itself from the other entries on the list, but don’t worry, this one captures everything hilariously wrong with bootleg video games.
As to be expected, Pocket Monster is a side-scrolling game that has precious little to do with Pokemon outside of starring Pikachu and a few other popular Pokemon. In fact, the most impressive part of Pocket Monster is just how much is stolen from games that aren’t Pokemon. We’re serious, there are so many songs and characters from other obscure video games of the 16 bit era that we’d be here all day trying to list them. Combine this with gameplay that’s only just functional enough to reasonably control, and you have yourself a game that’s so perfectly bad, yet so perfectly good.
But wait, the Pocket Monster rabbit hole goes even deeper. As stated in the title, Pocket Monster appeared on both the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, but would you believe the game wasn’t simply ported from one system to another? That’s right, each version contains some “unique” graphics and music, by which we mean they ripped off even more sources to cobble the game together. What’s more, bootleg Pocket Monster was successful enough to receive a sequel for the Genesis titled, you guessed it, Pocket Monster II. It doesn’t even end there! Yet another distributor of bootleg games used Pocket Monster as the basis for their Game Boy Color game titled Pokemon: Mewtwo Strikes Back, which, of course, has almost nothing in common with the official Pokemon movie of the same name. So yes, Pocket Monster somehow managed to have more games and ports than many officially released video games.
The fact that an unlicensed, unprofessional game like Pocket Monster would practically spawn its own series is straight up mind boggling, and we can only feel bad for the kids who went into any of these games thinking they were getting a world of dreams and adventures with Pokemon. For anyone who has never as much as laid eyes on any of these bootleg games, don’t worry, you weren’t missing out. To quote Pokemon Vietnamese Crystal, “THERE ARE TWO KINDS OF MEN IN THIS WORLD, SAVVY AND NOSAVVY WHAT KIND ARE YOU?”