The line between rom hack and fan game can be blurry, but there is one distinct difference. Pokémon rom hacks are based on the original Pokémon engine.
It’s a modification that uses the original assets of a generation, thereby guaranteeing you a more authentic experience.
There are a lot of duds out there, though, so I’ve ranked my top 10 Pokémon rom hacks to help you avoid them.
Best Pokemon Rom Hacks
10. Theta Emerald Ex
Theta Emerald EX is an upgraded version of the much-beloved Theta Emerald base rom hack.
As you might be able to gather from the name, it’s a rom hack of Emerald. It only ranks at number 10 because of its simplicity, though.
It has a basic story that is standard for a lot of rom hacks out there, which always feels like wasted potential.
That being said, it does feature a cast of over 700 Pokémon, the inclusion of fairy types, and primal forms.
If you’re looking for an expansive but ultimately simple rom hack to sink your teeth into, this is your best option.
9. Light Platinum
Despite what the name might imply, Light Platinum is actually a Ruby rom hack. You’re also going to notice a trend of Gen III hacks from here on out.
Whereas Theta Emerald EX was a safe and expansive option, Light Platinum is expansive and takes a lot more creative liberty. Don’t get me wrong, though, that’s an incredibly good thing.
Light Platinum is a 20-hour funfest that sees you explore a new region with an entirely original story as well as a bunch of phenomenal post-game content.
It’s not the cleanest or most polished rom hack on the list, but the quality of the content is still more than good enough to warrant a playthrough.
Yet another rom hack of Gen III, this time making use of Emerald instead of its predecessor.
Glazed is one of the OG rom hacks that most players have, at some point, had a look at in some capacity.
In part, that’s thanks to the fact that you get five starters to choose from and three different regions to play through, two of which are completely original.
It’s the classic coming of age Pokémon story with a “the world is ending” spin put on it, but rom hacks don’t need to be literary masterpieces to be worth playing.
That being said, there’s a better version of Glazed out there that I feel like warrants its own entry on this list.
7. Blazed Glazed
Blazed Glaze is that update.
While it has happened a few times, it’s rare for a rom hack to get a full-fledged overhaul that comes with its own release.
The quality of the improvements that have been made here are why I feel like Blazed Glaze and the base Glazed hack both deserve individual spots.
The story and region structure is the same for both versions, but there are Pokémon from the later generations added into Blazed, as well as some additional moves and different regional Pokémon.
I’m not suggesting that you go out and play both versions, but the level of commitment shown to this rom hack earns the developer two spots, in my opinion.
6. Liquid Crystal
A lot of rom hacks tend to contain incredibly dark original stories to make up for the lack of maturity that a lot of us feel the official games have. This is a great thing, don’t get me wrong, but it can be draining.
Liquid Crystal is not that. It’s colorful, cheery, and bright. Oh, and incase you couldn’t tell, it’s a Crystal hack.
It’s very much an ode to the Pokémon games of old, and an ode which is performed masterfully.
If you’re looking to revisit the glory days without running an emulator, Liquid Crystal is what you need.
5. Ultra Shiny Gold Sigma
Ludicrous name aside, Ultra Shiny Gold Sigma is an old rom hack of Fire Red that has been around for a while, but it holds up remarkably well against some of the newer stuff that’s out there.
It actually follows the story structure of Gold and Silver despite being a Fire Red hack, with a few additional plot points thrown in to spice things up a bit.
It has a massive roster of over 800 mons’, so if you’re looking for a casual catching experience, then this is your game.
4. Ash Gray
This is a unique Fire Red hack that actually follows the first season of the anime, and fairly well, I might add.
That’s about as far as Ash Gray, but that’s all it needs to be. It’s another Pokémon game, but that’s a lot better than some of the rom hacks out there.
3. Adventures Red Chapter
Adventures Red Chapter is another Fire Red hack that has had the privilege of being recognized as one of the best rom hacks ever made way back in the day.
It’s similar to Ash Gray in that it follows an external piece of media, but this one gets extra points because it follows the manga, not the anime.
There is a whole host of other features present here, but you should play this one for yourself to find out about those.
I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for original Pokémon stories. I’ve written a few in my day, so I tend to get biased when I see one implemented well into a rom hack.
You’ve got a ludicrous number of features from throughout the generations in Gaia, all packaged with an incredible story that is far better than a lot of the official stuff out there.
Finally, my number one Pokémon rom hack of all time is Flora. It’s an emerald rom hack that essentially upgrades Gen III to have everything you wanted in it the first time around, and it comes with a well written, brand-new story.
More importantly, though, there are aspects of Pokémon Flora that have actually gone on to influence the main series of official Pokémon games.
Gamefreak has taken a number of different things from this game, most notably the idea of an EXP Share that splits experience across your party.
If a rom hack is so well put together that it’s influenced the actually officially licensed series, then there’s no way it isn’t being put at the number one spot.