A monster-taming game (also known as monster-catching, creature-collecting, or simply Pokémon clone) is a subgenre of role-playing video game that most notably includes the Pokémon franchise. While Pokémon is the most recognizable example of such a game to Western audiences, the origins of the genre were in the Megami Tensei series, which involved fighting, negotiating with, and recruiting demons and other mythological beings.

Monster-taming games share core mechanics such as being able to capture creatures, train them, and use them in battle against similar creatures.[1] In many such games, these creatures are the only means of combat, although the darker-themed Megami Tensei series also allows the player to participate in combat, using weapons such as guns.


The origins of the genre lay in the Megami Tensei or MegaTen games, debuting in 1987, which let players capture and summon demons. Due to the Satanic panic of the 1980s, the occult-themed series remained exclusive to Japan for many years and it was slow to enter Western markets.[2][3] Dragon Quest V (1992), another title exclusive to Japan at the time, featured monster recruiting and training mechanics that inspired monster-collecting RPGs such as Pokémon, Digimon, and Dokapon.[4][5] It spawned the Dragon Quest Monsters spin-off series in 1998.

Robotrek (1994) was another early title similar to Pokémon. It was a predecessor to the core gameplay of Pokémon in that the protagonist does not himself fight, but instead sends out robots, which are kept in capsules outside of battle.[6] There was a resemblance in functionality between these capsules and the Poké Balls used in Pokémon.[7][8] Robotrek may have been the partial inspiration for Robopon, a 1998 RPG featuring customizable robots.[9][10]

The Pokémon series, which debuted with Pokémon Red and Green in 1996, was largely responsible for popularizing the genre. Pokémon was many players' first experience with monster-taming games, and it remains the most successful franchise in the genre.[2][3]

The contemporaneous Digimon series, which debuted in 1997, also featured similar monster-taming mechanics.[11] Another early entry in the monster-taming genre was the fantasy-themed Jade Cocoon (1998) by Genki, which saw a cult classic 2001 follow-up, Jade Cocoon 2.[12][13]

While Pokémon and Digimon continued to release new games throughout the ensuing years, in 2011, Level-5 developed the monster-taming game Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, which was heavily inspired by the works of Studio Ghibli.[14] They subsequently developed Yo-Kai Watch as a competitor to Pokémon, with its popularity exploding in 2014, and the franchise becoming a cultural phenomenon. However, its popularity declined significantly by 2018, attributed to a variety of factors.[15] In the United States, Studio Wildcard developed and released Ark: Survival Evolved (2015), an open-world monster-taming game themed around prehistoric life.

Many spin-offs from major series revolve around taming monsters, including World of Final Fantasy (2016) and Chocobo's Mystery Dungeon Every Buddy! (2019), based on the long-running Final Fantasy series of Japanese role-playing games, and Monster Hunter Stories (2016) and its sequel, based on Monster Hunter, a best-selling series of action role-playing games.[14]

Nostalgia for the Pokémon series resulted in a wave of indie monster-taming games. Siralim Ultimate (2021) built on its longtime community for success, while Monster Crown (2021), despite Game Boy Color-inspired graphics, had an intentionally dark narrative.[14][16] One of the more popular examples, Temtem (2022), sold more than 500,000 copies in a single month on Steam. Coromon (2022) passed 100,000 sales on Windows and Mac, with more on other platforms. However, there has not been a mega-hit comparable to the influence of Stardew Valley (2016) in the farming sim genre, which developers blame on Pokémon's huge cultural impact. The developers see terms such as "Pokémon-like" or "Pokémon clone" as derogatory, implying they are attempts to cash in on the popularity of Pokémon rather than unique games of their own.[16]

Palworld, a game centered around monster-catching, skyrocketed to the second most-played game on Steam after it was released for early access in January 2024.[17]


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  2. ^ a b Parish, Jeremy (2018-08-01). "The Shin Megami Tensei games beginner's guide". Polygon. Retrieved 2023-04-07.
  3. ^ a b Wallace, Kimberley (2012-10-21). "Games That Influenced Modern Genres". Game Informer. Retrieved 2023-04-07.
  4. ^ Kalata, Kurt. "The History of Dragon Quest". Gamasutra. Archived from the original on October 26, 2019. Retrieved 2009-09-29.
  5. ^ "Monster Collecting". Gaming's most important evolutions. Gamesradar. 2010-10-08. Archived from the original on 2013-11-07. Retrieved 2011-03-01.
  6. ^ Keiser, Joe (July 8, 2005). "Unsung Innovators". Next Generation. Imagine Media. Archived from the original on October 28, 2005. Retrieved April 2, 2010.
  7. ^ admin (July 12, 2017). "Robotrek". Hardcore Gaming 101. Archived from the original on August 6, 2019. Retrieved February 22, 2020.
  8. ^ Scribner, Matthew. "Robotrek - Review". RPGamer. Archived from the original on February 22, 2020. Retrieved February 22, 2020.
  9. ^ Statt, Nick (April 18, 2019). "One of the Game Boy's weirdest games was a Pokémon clone with built-in infrared". The Verge. Vox Media. Archived from the original on April 18, 2019. Retrieved February 17, 2020.
  10. ^ Jankiewicz, Joshua (June 2, 2018). "Robopon". Hardcore Gaming 101. Archived from the original on November 9, 2019. Retrieved February 22, 2020.
  11. ^ Wald, Heather (2022-11-11). "10 games like Pokemon for the discerning trainer". GamesRadar+. Retrieved 2023-04-07.
  12. ^ IGN Staff (1999-07-31). "Jade Cocoon: Story of the Tamamayu". IGN. Retrieved 2023-04-07.
  13. ^ Satterfield, Shane (2001-05-19). "E3 2001 Hands-on Jade Cocoon 2". GameSpot. Retrieved 2023-04-07.
  14. ^ a b c Maher, Cian (2022-09-11). "The 7 best Pokémon-likes to play while you wait for Scarlet and Violet". Polygon. Retrieved 2023-04-07.
  15. ^ Ashcraft, Brian (2019-02-13). "Pokémon's Former Rival Yokai Watch Is Having A Terrible Time In Japan". Kotaku. Retrieved 2023-04-07.
  16. ^ a b Reyes, Jessica (2022-09-07). "Why has no Pokémon clone taken off like Stardew Valley?". PC Gamer. Retrieved 2023-04-07.
  17. ^ Yin-Poole, Wesley (2024-01-23). "Palworld Overtakes Counter-Strike to Become the Second Most-Played Game Ever on Steam". IGN. Retrieved 2024-02-08.