8 Monster Collecting Games You Can Play Instead of Pokémon Ultra Sun & Moon

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Many were disappointed by the announcement of the new Nintendo 3DS exclusive sequels to Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon -- called Pokémon Ultra Sun and Pokémon Ultra Moon respectively -- despite not being given much information.

After changing up the long standing tradition of an updated third version with the the release of Pokémon Black 2 and Pokémon White 2 in the fifth generation, and entirely skipping an updated version of of the sixth generation games, Pokémon X and Pokémon Y, players weren't sure what to expect for the future of the seventh generation.  Many were expecting either the long rumored Pokémon Stars for the Nintendo Switch, or at least some kind of Switch port of Sun and Moon with cross play compatibility, similar to the recently announced Monster Hunter XX (double cross).

Many players, however, forget that there are plenty of other great monster collecting games out there. They might not be as popular as Pokémon, but they are still great games which can stand out on their own. Here are 8 monster collecting games to try if the announcement of these new Pokémon games made you bitter like the taste of a Switch cartridge.

Ni No Kuni

PS3 & PS4 (via PS Now)

Created by Level-5 and Bandai Namco, with art and animated cutscenes by Studio Ghibli (Spirited Away, Grave of the Fireflies etc.), Ni No Kuni is a great game to help satisfy your monster collecting RPG itch.  

In Ni No Kuni, you play as a boy named Oliver, who has just lost his mother and only parent, and is racked with guilt. His tears bring the fairy plush toy, Mr. Drippy, back to life and they venture into the world of Ni No Kuni to find Oliver's mother and defeat the Dark Djinn, Shadar, and the titular villain of the game, the White Witch.

In addition to having different spells and abilities themselves, each of the three rotating members of your party is allowed to use one monster -- called familiars -- at a time, in which the human and their respective monster share a health bar. Similar to other games, you can capture more monsters to expand your collection. These monsters all have evolution trees as well, although sometimes changes are more subtle, such as adding accessories or just palette swapping.

The sequel, Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom, will be coming soon -- and although the gameplay will be a bit different, playing or replaying the first game would be a good refresher before the sequel's release.

Yo-Kai Watch

Nintendo 3DS

The first game in this series, plus its corresponding anime series and movie, finally came to the U.S. in 2015 after originally being released in Japan 4 years prior. The second game(s) released in the U.S. in September 2016 -- taking a hint from Pokémon with two versions, Bony Spirits & Fleshy Souls. The third, updated version, Psychic Specters, is coming this fall. 

In the first game, the main character is given the titular Yo-Kai Watch, which causes them to be able to see Yo-Kai -- spirits that cause all kinds of odd everyday occurrences good, bad, or just plain weird. A significant difference between this game and other monster collectors is that the player does not technically capture Yo-Kai, but instead befriends them by feeding them their favorite foods -- and is given their medal so that they can be summoned from the Yo-Kai Watch at any time.

Yo-Kai Watch has been losing steam recently after the third iteration didn't sell as well as the previous ones -- possibly due to Pokémon's comeback, the lack of creativity with some of the newer creatures, and the absence of true backwards compatibility between the games and the toys. The series also isn't nearly as popular in the West as it was in Japan, but it has found a pretty decent fan following in Europe -- with plenty of kids (and some adults) all over the world still enjoying it.

Although the gameplay is a little outdated being mostly touchscreen-based, the Yo-Kai Watch series is still a fun, and more inherently Japanese,  alternative to Pocket Monsters.


Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth

PS4 & PS Vita

 After a drought of localized Digimon games, Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth was finally released in the West in February 2016. Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth had almost everything an avid Digimon fan wanted in a new Digimon game -- similar battling to the beloved Nintendo DS titles, a decent amount of Digimon, and a world which felt like the near-perfect combination of the popular anime films Summer Wars and Digimon: The Movie

There are a few glaring flaws, but how much they're noticed depends on the player's prior knowledge of the franchise.  Some digivolution lines are intact, while others are all over the place and connect Digimon species who would otherwise be unrelated to each other. In addition to this, Digimon you haven’t seen or obtained will show up as "who’s that Pokémon" style silhouettes, so you'll have to find out what they are yourself or look up a guide.

It's not the worst since you can just dedigivolve them and level them up again if you you're unsatisfied -- an easy task when having experience boosting Digimon and items later on in the game, but a tedious activity in the earlier parts. The most irritating part of the messed up digivolution lines is that some Digimon which are not obtainable in the game (despite the rest of their line being obtainable) will still be seen on collectible medals. So it's a bit odd these missing Digimon were still put in the game that way. 

Hopefully, the upcoming sequel, Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth: Hacker's Memory, adds plenty more digital monsters, and fixes these and other minor flaws from the original. But otherwise, Cyber Sleuth is another great alternative to Pokémon.

World of Final Fantasy

PS4 & PS Vita

This is Final Fantasy returning to it’s classic turn-based formula, while at the same time also trying to take a stab at the monster collecting genre. To prevent clutter during battle, a new mechanic called stacking was created for the player characters to fight alongside their monsters (known as mirages). There are also summons called Champions -- chibi forms of famous Final Fantasy characters which are summoned temporarily, including Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII and even Sora from Kingdom Hearts.

The story of the game isn’t quite as interesting as other Final Fantasy games, but a revelation near the end of the game about the main characters might surprise you. At times, the game can be pretty boring, and as much as using the fast forward function helps in battles, sometimes it doesn't feel quite fast enough. Part of the last dungeon can be pretty frustrating too, due to lack of a proper map.

Despite its few pitfalls, World of Final Fantasy is not only a great alternative to Pokémon, but a great start for anyone looking to play a modern Final Fantasy game with more traditional gameplay.


Dragon Quest Monsters Joker 2

Nintendo DS

Perhaps the most challenging game on this list, the sequel to Dragon Quest Monsters Joker, and the fifth game in the Dragon Quest Monsters spin-off series, Dragon Quest Monsters Joker 2 vastly improves the gameplay of its predecessor.

The Dragon Quest Monsters series has always had a strong focus on breeding, even before Pokémon had the option. Breeding powerful monsters takes a lot of trial and error to get what you want, due to having very few rules. Because of the detailed breeding system, catching every new monster you encounter is obligatory if you want to create a monster with the best stats and skills. Monsters may also have hidden bonuses that won't be obvious to new players at first.

Another factor that motivates catching many monsters is the difficulty of the game. Sometimes you won't be able to progress to the next part of the game until you have a monster strong enough or have reached a high enough rank. The game expects you to stay on top of everything, so if you aren't properly prepared for an especially challenging battle, you may have a difficult time getting past it.

Featuring a more challenging difficulty than most other monster collecting RPGs and an extensive post-game, Dragon Quest Monsters Joker 2 is great for any monster collecting RPG or Dragon Quest fan looking for a new challenge.

Hopefully the Nintendo 3DS sequel, Dragon Quest Monsters Joker 3, will be announced for Western release soon. 

Fossil Fighters: Champions 

Nintendo DS

Fossil Fighters: Champions is a sequel to the original Fossil Fighters -- also for Nintendo DS -- and greatly improves upon the gameplay introduced by its predecessor. i

To obtain monsters in this game -- called Vivosaurs --  you have to dig up their fossils and clean them off using the touch screen. This system of obtaining monsters is quite unique and can be rather exciting for awhile. Having to clean every single new fossil you find can become tedious and frustrating early on, but certain items obtained later can help speed up the process.

The combat system isn't too deep, and each vivosaur has a predetermined moveset of only 4 or 5 attacks they learn from leveling up. But if you don't mind that, then Fossil Fighters: Champions can still be a fun experience.

With strong charm and atmosphere, great and memorable characters, and awesome looking creatures, Fossil Fighters: Champions is a nice way for you to get your monster collecting fix -- especially if you happen to be a fan of Fossil Pokémon and wish there were more.


Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance

Nintendo 3DS/ PS4

While this game doesn't focus solely on monster collecting, it's still an important aspect of the game.

In Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance, instead of running around various Disney worlds with characters Donald and Goofy, you explore select worlds with new creatures called Dream Eaters. Friendly dream eaters are called spirits, while the enemy dream eaters you fight are called nightmares.

Spirits are created by combining Dream Fragments together with an item or spell, either by trial and error or using recipes found throughout the game. The player characters can also link with Spirits to perform unique attacks.  You can even pet and play with your Dream Eaters which will help them gain new abilities, similar to Pokémon-Amie, although surprisingly this game did it first.

Although not a monster collecting RPG at its heart, Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance can still be played as an alternative to Pokémon if you focus more on the spirit creating aspect, and you get the additional benefit of getting to visit several amusing Disney-based worlds on the way.

Monster Hunter Stories

Nintendo 3DS

The most recent game on this list to be released in Western territories, Monster Hunter Stories is a turned based RPG spin-off of Capcom's popular hunting action series.

In Monster Hunter Stories, you take on the role of a Rider from a hidden village. Instead of hunting monsters, the riders of this particular village befriend monsters by stealing eggs from nests then hatching and taming them. 

In battle, both the rider and your companion monster are able to attack the enemy -- and the rider character has access to different skills depending on the weapon and equipment used. Additionally, companion monsters can be ridden in the overworld.

Companion monsters can also be customized by using a feature called the Gene Bond  -- a system somewhat similar to breeding in other monster collecting games -- in which you transfer Bond Genes from one monster into another monster’s slots in order to obtain different stats and abilities.

Monster Hunter Stories  should be able to provide plenty of enjoyment for those not interested in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, and additionally, in true Monster Hunter fashion, has plenty of post game content. 


Stars Not Yet Aligned

While these games may not have the popularity or staying power of a franchise like Pokémon, they are still decent alternate options for players looking to play other monster collecting games. There are plenty of other monster collecting RPGs you can play as well -- such as Dinosaur King, Monster Rancher, Moco Moco Friends, and Spectrobes, just to name a few. Those featured on this list are just some of the more recent and notable ones.

Although a mainline Pokémon game for the Nintendo Switch may still be a few years away, hopefully we'll have these games, their upcoming sequels, and maybe even others yet to be released to help satisfy our need for capturing hundreds of monsters until then.

Published Jun. 8th 2017


Writer pursuing a career in Games & Entertainment media. Specialties include coverage of non-Pokémon monster taming RPGs, event coverage, indie game coverage, and coverage of various Japanese games.


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