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Published: May 28, 2024

Written by: Barney


The Pokémon franchise is one of the most popular and profitable ones in existence. For decades, it has captured the hearts and minds of millions of players around the globe. Since the beginning, the games have been released for numerous platforms, both handheld and stationary. All of Nintendo’s consoles, such as the Switch, the DS, the Game Boy, and others, have had various games made for them. The franchise has even extended to mobile devices with the likes of Pokémon GO, although mainline releases have not been made for Android and iOS.

All of this begs the question what are the best Pokémon PC games. The answer is simple, and also rather disappointing – there are no Pokémon games for PC.

Nintendo is rather infamous for its strict product distribution. It often makes games exclusively for its various lines of consoles, and that is not limited only to Pokémon games. No Mario, Zelda, Animal Crossing game or other can be released on another console, let alone for PC.

However, there is still a solution if you want to play Pokémon games on PC and that is called emulators. In this article, we will have a brief overview of what the best emulators are to play Pokémon games on PC and we will also look at some of the titles themselves. Although this is not meant as a detailed tutorial on how to work with emulators, the article will give you a starting point to pick out whichever one you prefer the most.

What Is an Emulator?

If you haven’t heard what an emulator is – this is essentially a program that lets you run a “virtual machine” on your computer and emulate some other device, for example, a console. This will allow you to run games made for said console as if it were the real thing. It would even work to run other software from the specific platform. For example, you can run an Android emulator on your PC and play Pokémon GO that way. So, when you use an emulator and a Pokémon game “ROM” (specifically for older games), you’re effectively turning your device into some other platform.

What Is a Pokémon ROM?

Abbreviated from “read only memory”, a ROM is essentially a file that is a copy of the data from a read-only memory chip, most often from a video game cartridge. This means that a Pokémon Game ROM is a file that contains all the data of the original cartridge-based version of the Pokémon game. Once you load this with an emulator, you will be able to play Pokémon games on PC.

However, before you go further you should know that distributing copyrighted ROMs is not permitted unless expressly permitted by the copyright holder. While using an emulator for various applications is completely legal, pirating ROMs is not and you run some risks, depending on the region of the world you live in. 

Since it is currently impossible to go to Steam or another games library and purchase and download Pokémon games for PC, some emulators have them built-in. However, legalities around those are also a bit murky and Nintendo is very strict in terms of protecting its intellectual property. So make sure you do more detailed research if you intend to use any of the emulators we will talk about here.

What Are the Best Emulators for Playing Pokémon Games on PC?

There are dozens of emulators out there that you can try, each one featuring its own pros and cons. However, we have tried to compile a few of the best ones arranged in no particular order.

Project 64

The Nintendo 64 (or just N64) was a console that defined that defined an entire era. Released in 1996, this was the last major home console to use cartridges as its primary storage format until the Nintendo Switch in 2017. Numerous titles have been developed and released for the platform and the aptly named Project 64 is an emulator that focuses a lot on them. For this reason, this software is great to use for games that came out in that era, such as Pokémon Snap, Pokémon Stadium, and others.

RetroArch

The Pokémon franchise has spanned more than a few of Nintendo’s consoles, so if you want to play Pokémon Games on PC from different eras, then this is the emulator for you. This is because RetroArch features a lot of different consoles and is also rather straightforward to use, which is always a bonus.

VisualBoyAdvance (VBA-M)

The Game Boy and its successors, the Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance, made a revolution in portable consoles when they were released in 1989, 1998, and 2001, respectively. Naturally, they came with a ton of Pokémon games which made a huge impact on millions of 80s and 90s kids. So if you want to see what that was like or feel nostalgia for your old console, then VisualBoyAdvance is for you. This emulator is regarded as highly accurate and is praised for its performance. It also supports a wide range of features, including cheats, save states, and speedup, making it a great tool to play Pokémon games on PC.

DsraStic

Even to this day, many consider the Nintendo DS era of Pokémon gaming to be the best. The mid-2000s saw titles like Pokémon: Diamond and Pearl, Pokémon Platinum, Pokémon: HeartGold and SoulSilver, and Pokémon: Black and White (as well as their sequels) released for the console.

So if you want to have a taste of that era, then we recommend DsraStic. It is a high-quality emulator that has excellent resolution and nice mechanics. Additionally, it allows for add-on controllers for even more customization for Pokémon games on PC.

DeSmuME

Yet another popular choice for playing Nintendo DS games. It is known for its smooth performance and compatibility with a wide range of titles. The emulator also supports features such as cheat codes, save states, and network play.

Dolphin

This is perhaps one of the most popular emulators on our list. It allows players to easily play Pokémon games on PC, as well as other Nintendo titles from the GameCube and Nintendo Wii U eras because it is very easy to use. It is somewhat simplistic and has a limited library of built-in titles, but there’s still a good selection of them. Additionally, Dolphin comes with numerous other Nintendo games.

No$GBA

Despite playing older games, emulators themselves can be quite taxing on weaker PCs. However, No$GBA is relatively lightweight and is suited for older machines. It started as a Gameboy Advance debugger but was later released as a normal emulator. It is the first Gameboy Advance emulator to support multiplayer games on the same PC. Later versions added support for the Nintendo DS portable console.

Citra

One of the newer emulators on our list, Citra has quickly become quite popular with people who want to play Pokémon games on PC. This is because the emulator has very high compatibility and performance, and it supports features like cheats, save states, and rewinding. Citra is particularly well-suited for emulating Nintendo 3DS games.

What Are the Best Pokémon Games for PC?

Now that you know what emulators to look for, you may want to check out what ate the most popular games that fans play on PC. This list is not arranged in any particular way and is simply a guide for what you may want to check out.

  • Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen Versions: These are remade versions of the original Red and Green games, featuring enhanced graphics and a more detailed storyline.
  • Pokémon Emerald Version: An enhanced version of Ruby and Sapphire, which has a more complex storyline and additional gameplay elements.
  • Pokémon Platinum Version: An expanded and more polished version of Diamond and Pearl. Platinum brings many gameplay and plot revisions, making it one of the most popular Pokémon games of all time.
  • Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver Versions: These are remakes of the original Gold and Silver games and feature refined graphics and more content.
  • Pokémon Black and White Versions (plus Black 2 and White 2): These games bring a fresh storyline and new Pokémon to capture.
  • Pokémon X and Y Versions: Fans were introduced to the Kalos region with spectacular 3D graphics as X and Y marked a big step forward for the franchise.
  • Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire Versions: These are modern remakes of the third generation’s Ruby and Sapphire games. They have new high-definition graphics and a reimagined storyline.
  • Pokémon Sun and Moon Versions (plus Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon): Set in the tropical Alola region, these games offer radical changes to the traditional Pokémon formula.

What Are Some Off-Brand Pokémon Games for PC?

While using emulators is the best way to have a Pokémon experience on your PC, there are also some other options to have something similar. There are many off-brand versions of popular mainline games, ranging from heavily inspired ones to blatant rip-offs. They are usually quite easy to download and often offer a twist on some classic game, so it’s unique in that sense. Here are some of the more popular off-brand Pokémon Games you can play on PC:

  • Pokémon Team Rocket
  • Pokémon Gaia
  • Omega Paradox
  • Pokémon Dark Rising
  • Pokémon Crystal Clear
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