Pokémon is one of the best game franchises in the world, but the developers didn’t think of everything: that’s what fan modifications are for. ROM hacks are made for game alterations, which can be additions to Pokémon – but can also be used to expand the entire world, storyline, and more.
ROM hacks add what fans want to see, but what developers didn’t include. ROM hacks can make small changes, but there are a small few ROM hacks that have become part of underground Pokémon master legends.
Here are the 25 best Pokémon ROM hacks, for the Pokémon fan who wants to make sure they can really collect them all.
1. Pokémon Kaizo Emerald
- 1 1. Pokémon Kaizo Emerald
- 2 2. Pokémon Omega Red
- 3 3. Pokémon Light Platinum
- 4 4. Pokémon Phoenix Rising
- 5 5. Pokémon Ash Gray
- 6 6. Pokémon Godra
- 7 7. Pokémon Planet
- 8 8. Pokémon Clover
- 9 9. Pokémon Clockwork
- 10 10. Pokémon Insurgence
- 11 11. Pokémon Reborn
- 12 12. Pokémon Black
- 13 13. Pokémon Team Rocket Edition
- 14 14. Pokémon Mega Adventure
- 15 15. Pokémon MMO 3D
- 16 16. Pokémon Gaia
- 17 17. Pokémon Unbound
- 18 18. Pokémon Revolution Online
- 19 19. Pokémon Adventures Red Chapter
- 20 20. Pokémon Orange Islands
- 21 21. Pokémon Brown
- 22 22. Pokémon Prism Version
- 23 23. Pokémon Showdown
- 24 24. Pokémon Saffron
Pokémon Kaizo Emerald makes almost no changes to the characters, or to the storyline of the original game – but the one thing it does bring to the table is that it was created to make the original game much more difficult.
Like playing the original Pokémon game on a superior difficulty level, expect tougher trainers and harder challenges.
Remember Max Payne on New York Minute?
There were many fans who felt that the original Emerald was just too easy, and if you could have played your way through this in an afternoon like most other players, it was disappointing – and the ROM clone is done well enough so that it isn’t.
This is difficult enough to be a challenge even if you’ve finished the original, but not so difficult that it becomes impossible to finish.
2. Pokémon Omega Red
Pokémon Omega Red is a ROM hack that was based off Pokémon Fire Red, but made to increase the game’s overall difficulty level. This is hailed as one of the hardest Pokémon ROM hacks out there – and only the best can get through the whole thing.
Omega Red was first created in 2018 by fan Jolt Steven, and it really expands the game a lot beyond what you would have expected. The graphics have been improved far beyond the simple stock version, and more than 800 different Pokémon have been added.
According to its website, this ROM clone adds more than 40 different features to the game – including vast improvements to the basic gameplay mechanics.
While it was first made to just improve the difficulty, the updates to the ROM quickly changed it into something of Pokémon legend for fans.
Play this if you’ve found standard releases too easy.
3. Pokémon Light Platinum
Pokémon Light Platinum is a ROM hack designed from Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire that was first released around 2002. The game’s expansion introduces some new Pokémon, though it’s real focus is on what it adds to where you can play – more locations are included here than the developers could get away with in the original.
There are more challenges too, and special events like the Pokémon World Championship.
Pokémon Eclipse is one of the few ROM hacks that have been made available to play in-browser, so there’s no need to dig out a console or install an emulator to have fun with it. As a ROM hack, it’s one of the few games that takes the fun of the game and then includes a multiplayer option.
Eclipse has the benefit of a very active community that loves the game just as much as you do, and you get to build your own team – and then interact (read: battle) with the rest of the community with your own elaborate team on your side.
That’s what most people really want out of the game, but somehow never get, isn’t it?
For fans who want an active community based around the game where real players still go, there’s nothing better than Eclipse. There’s a strong RPG focus, while the versus-mode is left for the other ROMs featured in this post.
As an expansion, Pokémon Eclipse redesigns the story into an RPG – where there’s a focus on exploration that players might have wanted to see in the original game, but missed.
The game has the feel of a more modern role-playing game in this ROM update, and any fan will be proud of the results.
4. Pokémon Phoenix Rising
Pokémon Phoenix Rising is one of the best ROM hacks that have ever been made, and it’s almost fair to say that it’s become legendary for Pokémon fans. The Hawthorne region is opened up for players, and the feel of the game becomes more RPG and less versus-battle than the original aspired to be.
Phoenix Rising is one of the games that you’re going to have to play on PC, or you might have to use an emulator. Since it was created with the RPG Maker in Windows XP, it tends to be compatible only with Windows systems (or systems that think they’re Windows instead).
There’s a very classic Nintendo feel for Phoenix Rising, but imagine that the original version was better instead. See? That’s why ROM versions are made.
It’s still very loyal to the storyline, but gives the player so much more than the original did. Relic Pokémon is the best possible feature in Phoenix Rising, not found in the original game (and thankfully included by the fans).
5. Pokémon Ash Gray
Pokémon Ash Gray is one of the best Fire Red ROM hacks, and it’s been around for a very long time – this might have even been one of the first ones to make it big. If you haven’t played it yet, stop what you’re doing right now: it’s one of the greatest.
The storyline expansion is what makes Ash Gray stand out above everything else, and it takes it further than what the official developers clearly had time for.
More inspiration is taken from the original manga, and appreciated by any true trainer!
Not only are the environments expanded from what the original had to give, players are taken through the Indigo League storyline playing as Ash.
6. Pokémon Godra
Pokémon Godra is great for the role-playing fans, while still keeping the classic feel that early adventure game fans are really after when they play it. This feels like classic Pokémon, but if the developers had more time to round off the storyline and gameplay mechanics in their own time!
A fun introduction, this ROM hack of Pokémon expands most on the career roster and available Pokémon to battle with. Options like Warden are available in this fan-made change, and totally worth every second you’ll spend on it.
7. Pokémon Planet
Pokémon Planet is a game that’s been altered to focus more on region growth, which is what every fan of sandbox games really wanted to see from what the game originally offered. There’s more exploration opportunity here, featuring some of the most classic locations out of the original story
Pokémon Planet also expands the amount of available Pokémon in the game to more than 170+ from the original.
8. Pokémon Clover
Pokémon Clover is one of the few options that are marked as adults only, and could be one of the greatest changes to the original engine. Most of the game has been filled with references (and memes) from the 4chan board, and that’s why it’s called Clover.
Expect a lot of jokes from 4chan, which will be just as wrong as you might remember.
Again, if you don’t know what 4chan is yet, then you might want to stay away from this ROM hack – and certainly, it’s worth saying again that it’s not made for kids with the kind of humor it’s made out of.
Sometimes, that’s the point!
9. Pokémon Clockwork
Pokémon Clockwork has absolutely nothing to do with Kubrick, but instead expands the player area to the Rosari area – where the ROM hack features some of the most well-known, often understated early Pokémon in the whole series.
A classic RPG feel is kept throughout, and the whole storyline is changed from the original. If you’ve ever played the game and felt like there were gaps in what they could have done with it, play this and feel better about it.
Clockwork was made with Essentials, and must have put a lot of thought into the little touches – and that’s what makes it stand out as great.
More quests are included, and players can explore more of the environment than the original game – players also experience a change between the day/night cycle, skipped in the original.
10. Pokémon Insurgence
When most Pokémon ROM hacks focused on changing little parts of storyline and adding more Pokémon to the game, Insurgence can be considered an almost complete reboot. Advanced ROM editing gives us a whole new game, which is made for adults with a much darker storyline – almost horrorlike, and for adults rather than a younger group of gamers.
Battle mechanics are kept, but also much better than the developers made the first one. The game lets you explore the yet-unseen region of Toren, familiar for fans of the anime but maybe less known to newer players.
Insurgence has been updated several times, and just keeps getting better with every update.
11. Pokémon Reborn
Pokémon Reborn is another almost complete reboot of the original game, where the amount of available Pokémon have been expanded and the storyline has been changed to have a much more darker and adult tone.
Mainstream releases are deliberately lighter in substance, but there are always some grown-up fans who wish that they could see the darker parts of the story unfold.
Reborn might be darker than the usual Pokémon plot, but you’ll be in heaven if that’s exactly what you were after.
12. Pokémon Black
There’s an original Pokémon game called this, but the ROM hack doesn’t refer to this – but instead goes a little further back into the history of the internet, when things first started to get creepy.
Remember the story of a lost cartridge some guy found at a garage sale, the one that might never had existed?
It’s a classic creepypasta ghost story, and someone had to go create a real version of it.
Not for kids, unless you really hate kids.
13. Pokémon Team Rocket Edition
Pokémon Team Rocket Edition takes the average ROM hack to a whole other level, and this clone puts you in the shoes of the villains for a while. Whlie it took the Harry Potter series until 2022 to include the option to play villains in anything, Pokémon Team Rocket has been around for a while now.
Switch sides and find out what it’s like to play on the other side.
It’s always fun, and you know you want to.
14. Pokémon Mega Adventure
Pokémon Mega Adventure is an expansion that takes the classic graphics and improves what you had originally, while making the game appear more of a versus battle-style – instead of the usual exploration-style ROM hacks in the beginning of the post.
Mega Adventure really shines with the amount of Pokémon added in this hack, with more than 700 new playable characters. If you really want to collect ’em all, this one might be a great start.
15. Pokémon MMO 3D
Pokémon MMO 3D is still a ROM hack, but one of the few that have become so elaborate it might feel like an entire different game. Franchises have got nothing on this, with the 3D battle glory that fans have always wanted from the game.
When Nintendo don’t, players decided to take matters into their own hands and make this. Absolutely nobody has been disappointed with its creation.
The added online aspect allows for real players to compete against one another, finally, the way they want to.
16. Pokémon Gaia
Pokémon Gaia is an expansion of Fire Red, one that changes little about the gameplay except the locations and characters that it adds.
Gaia is still considered one of the best ROM hacks of a standard Pokémon game there is, just for the amount of effort that must have gone into making it – and again, little storyline changes that only true fans will spot.
Location changes that the fans have included in this ROM hack includes the addition of Valoon Town, though that’s not all.
While it might not be as huge as some other ROM hacks might have pulled off, fans will still love what has been done with it.
17. Pokémon Unbound
Pokémon Unbound is a great version that feels like a rebuild, though gets away with the definition of ROM. This is a big change from the standard game, and takes the whole thing to a more open world environment – where you are free to pretty much do what you want, rather than just play through.
Collect more Pokémon, but also get to interact with many more characters and environments than the developers could have had the imagination to develop.
Play this at your own speed, because you won’t want to rush through all the subtle great touches in it.
If you want to appreciate game environments more, this is how you do it.
18. Pokémon Revolution Online
Pokémon Revolution Online takes the standard game to the internet, and adds all the MMORGP fun that most of the developer versions missed. If you want competitive play in a huge environment, then this is the one you want.
With an option to join different guilds, explore whole worlds, or battle it out in competitive play as much as you want.
19. Pokémon Adventures Red Chapter
Pokémon Red is appreciated by real fans because it’s a clear expansion on the original anime storyline, that so far haven’t made any appearances in the original game.
These aspects have been unexplored in the original, but this tells you much of the early original story – the way-back, first episode, whole thing that fans really wanted.
A lot of work went into this, from the Pokémon to the environments, and it’s clearly more than your average ROM hack.
20. Pokémon Orange Islands
Pokémon Orange Islands is one of the ROM clones that was based on Fire Red, but with a total redesign on many of the environments available to explore, some of the storyline, and much of the Pokémon in the game you can deal with.
More loyal to the original story, explore the Orange Islands and what happens during a large storyline gap that was unfortunately left in the series – perhaps deliberately in the beginning, but never fixed by the developers.
The game is all about exploring, and expands the regions as well as the Pokémon to just over 150.
21. Pokémon Brown
Pokémon Brown has been around since 2004, and it was first created as a way to expand the game of Pokémon Red with the option of more Pokémon and environments to play the game around.
The game has been updated several times since then, getting a bit more complex and exploratory every time it has been changed. Make sure that you’ve got the latest update if you want the most out of it, because there are more than 200 Pokémon – and it might change again!
Elemental Pokémon are found in this ROM update, and the game now includes types like Gas, Wind and Wood – previous games, including the original, did not!
Of course, that had to be something that fans couldn’t live without.
22. Pokémon Prism Version
Pokémon Prism is one of the most impressive versions of a ROM hack that have ever been made, and it’s still legendary for most coders and fans of the game. It was made to be a heavily adapted change to the original Crystal, but then turned into a complete change.
Designed as a sequel to Brown from the same coder, Pokémon Prism has its own web presence and legendary following – and only because it’s one of the best changes you will ever see.
Explore the Naljo region, with everything improved in the game from Crystal – including changes to the environment, a whole new storyline, and improvements to the gameplay mechanics too.
It was legendary enough to catch Nintendo’s attention, and internet rumors say that it’s the one ROM hack they might even wish they did themselves. The programmer isn’t stingy with his programming logs, and has so far even encouraged other coders to build on the work!
23. Pokémon Showdown
Pokémon Showdown is more than just a simple ROM hack, but it’s turned into an entire standalone universe of a game that has thousands of players who are probably logged in right now and standing ready to battle.
In some ways, Showdown can be compared to MMO 3D in the way they approach the environments (and both the way that the mod has altered the gameplay).
Showdown is all three-dee, and you can experience the game in all its glory right ina battle-style, versus environment. It’s more than beautiful, it’s incredible – and it’s one of the few games that can be played straight on the internet with other players.
Showdown has the luxury of its own servers, which means that there are battles, tournaments, and leaderboards in a way that no other Pokémon game (and certainly not standard ROM hack) has to show.
One of the ultimate features is the replay page, where users can upload their best games or see where other users have done the same.
24. Pokémon Saffron
Pokémon Saffron was only brought into the ROM world from April 2019, but it has become one of the most famous ROM hacks overall for exploring a topic that the standard games almost always seem to miss – and fans just got tired of not finding in the game!
Changes to the storyline, characters, and pretty much everything else has been pulled off for this ROM hack. Saffron takes Emerald and changes it all, including introductions to new gameplay mechanics.
The game isn’t just harder, it’s better and more carefully thought out.