How to Play Pokemon Games on a PC
Mainline Pokemon games have historically only seen releases on Nintendo’s consoles and handheld devices, with Pokemon GO breaking that tradition. However, there has never been an official release of Pokemon games on PC. Due to Nintendo’s tradition, gamers have to look for other ways to play their favorite titles on computers.
Enter the world of emulation, which Nintendo itself heavily dislikes. With emulators, you can play almost every Pokemon title released on a PC. Read on to find out all about the details.
How to Play Pokemon Games on a PC
Currently, there are mainline and spinoff Pokemon games released on a variety of consoles. With the game’s long history, it’s natural to see a console support history list like this:
- Game Boy
- Game Boy Color
- Game Boy Advance
- Nintendo DS
- Nintendo 3DS
- Nintendo 64
- Nintendo GameCube
- Nintendo Wii
- Nintendo Wii U
- WiiWare for the Wii
- Nintendo Switch
The only Pokemon game meant to be played on a PC natively is the Pokemon Trading Card Game. With this PC game, players can connect with others and battle for victory. As it’s often called, Pokemon TCG even has official tournaments sponsored by The Pokemon Company and Nintendo.
However, classic titles like Pokemon Red and Pokemon Emerald were only intended to be Game Boy titles. Thus, the only way to play these console or handheld games is to emulate them.
Below, we’ll discuss emulating the various platforms and which emulators are the best choices.
Emulating Nintendo Game Boy Pokemon Titles
While the Pokemon series spans several Game Boy handheld consoles, you only need one emulator to play all of them. It includes the oldest internationally released titles, Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue. Subsequent titles like Pokemon Emerald are also easy to play with Game Boy emulators.
Game Boy titles include:
- Pokemon Red Version and Pokemon Blue Version
- Pokemon Gold Version and Pokemon Silver Version
- Pokemon Ruby Version and Pokemon Sapphire Version
- Pokemon Pinball: Ruby and Sapphire
- Pokemon FireRed Version and Pokemon LeafGreen Version
- Pokemon Pinball
- Pokemon Yellow
- The Original Pokemon TCG for Game Boy Color
- Pokemon Puzzle Challenge
- Pokemon Crystal Version
- Pokemon Emerald Version
All of these can be emulated with the same Game Boy emulator. Here are some of the most popular choices:
The best choice is Visual Boy Advance or VBA. It’s a lightweight program and performs well on various PCs. It also doesn’t have many problems emulating titles.
Most emulators are free to download, and some are even open-source. If you get your hands on a ROM for your favorite game, you only have to load the file with your emulator. After some loading, you can start playing immediately.
Emulating Nintendo DS Pokemon Titles
DS Pokemon titles take advantage of the dual-screen layout, bringing new depth to Pokemon, which previous titles didn’t have. One neat thing is that you can play Game Boy titles on DS emulators like the actual Nintendo DS itself. These emulators will likely run the above Game Boy Pokemon games without a hitch as well.
Here are all DS Pokemon titles:
- Pokemon Dash
- Pokemon Trozei
- Pokemon Ranger
- Pokemon Diamond Version and Pearl Version
- Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time and Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Darkness
- Pokemon Ranger: Shadows of Almia
- Pokemon Platinum Version
- Pokemon HeartGold Version and Pokemon SoulSilver Version
- Pokemon Black Version and Pokemon White Version
- Pokemon Conquest
- Pokemon Black Version 2 and Pokemon White Version 2
As for Nintendo DS emulators, there are several excellent picks:
- NO$GBA (which also supports DS emulation)
- RetroArch (it emulates many popular consoles)
MelonDS is the best choice here, and while DeSmuMe is superior in many ways, the latter doesn’t always work well with Pokemon games. MelonDS is pretty stable and still has some decent graphical enhancements you can take advantage of, too.
An excellent second pick is NO$GBA due to how easy it is to run. Even older PCs with this emulator can run Pokemon games fine. If you’re worried about computer resources, go with this one instead.
Emulating Nintendo 3DS Pokemon Titles
The 3DS Pokemon titles vary from mainline games to interesting spinoffs, but there’s something for every type of gamer. 3DS emulation used to be sub-par, but the emulation community has worked hard to improve their products. As such, emulating Pokemon X and Y is a walk in the park today.
Before picking out an emulator, keep in mind that you might have to invest in a powerful computer, as 3DS emulation requires more computer resources.
These are the 3DS Pokemon games available:
- Pokedex 3D
- Pokemon Rumble Blast
- Pokemon Dream Radar
- Pokedex 3D Pro
- Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity
- Pokemon X and Pokemon Y
- Pokemon Bank
- Pokemon Battle Trozei
- Pokemon Art Academy
- Pokemon Omega Ruby and Pokemon Alpha Sapphire
- Pokemon Shuffle
- Pokemon Rumble World
- Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon
- Pokemon Picross
- Pokemon Sun and Pokemon Moon
- Pokemon Ultra Sun and Pokemon Ultra Moon
- Detective Pikachu
- Super Smash Bros. for 3DS
With hardworking developers, these emulators were born:
3DS emulation has seen lots of improvement, but it remains a problematic platform for developers to crack. Citra is the best option, with R4 3DS Emulator coming in second. Even though it’s free, Citra’s best-selling point is how you can use it on all three popular computer operating systems.
Citra also supports 3D graphics if you wish to turn them on. However, many players don’t enjoy the 3DS enhancements.
Emulating Nintendo 64 Pokemon Titles
Compared to the handheld consoles, the N64 doesn’t have many Pokemon games released for it. The reason is that Pokemon was conceived as a game you could play on the go. Nevertheless, there are still five or six titles you can emulate.
- Super Smash Bros. (hey, it does count, somewhat)
- Pokemon Snap
- Pokemon Stadium
- Pokemon Puzzle League
- Hey You, Pikachu!
- Pokemon Stadium 2
All of these titles aren’t mainline games but spinoffs. In the case of Super Smash Bros., it’s another genre of video game entirely. Regardless, you can play as Pikachu in Smash.
You can use these programs to emulate N64 games:
Project64 is a textbook example of N64 emulation, and it remains the best in its class. However, 1964 is a solid choice if you don’t want to use Project64.
Emulating Nintendo GameCube Pokemon Titles
The Nintendo GameCube is a legendary console, even though it doesn’t have many Pokemon games compared to other consoles. It only has four actual Pokemon games released on it. You’ll need a stronger PC for emulating these games too.
- Super Smash Bros. Melee (Mewtwo joined the battle)
- Pokemon Channel
- Pokemon Colosseum
- Pokemon Box
- Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness
The king of GameCube emulation is Dolphin, but here are some alternatives:
Dolphin sees updates even today, and with tinkering, you can even play games in 4K 60FPS. No other emulator for GameCube can do this. Of course, be prepared to invest in a gaming PC for gaming at these resolutions.
Emulating Nintendo Wii Pokemon Titles
The Wii is practically an upgraded GameCube, and it even has the same amount of Pokemon games.
- Pokemon Battle Revolution
- Super Smash Bros. Brawl
- Pokemon Rumble
- PokePark Wii: Pikachu’s Adventure
- PokePark 2: Wonders Beyond
The most viable choice is also Dolphin, and you can perhaps use RetroArch if you like.
Emulating Nintendo Wii U Pokemon Titles
The Wii U isn’t the best console to grace the world, and it only has two or three titles you can play. They are:
- Pokemon Rumble U
- Pokken Tournament
- Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
Playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in 4K on Cemu sounds fantastic, and that’s what Cemu can handle. If you want to, you can even play Mario Kart 8 at 8K HD. That sounds overkill, but it only shows what this emulator is capable of.
Emulating Nintendo Switch Pokemon Titles
The Nintendo Switch is a successful console, combining the handheld and home console experience. It also boasts a good selection of Pokemon titles:
- Pokken Tournament DX
- Pokemon Quest
- Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee!
- Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
- Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield
- Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX
- New Pokemon Snap
- Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Pokemon Shining Pearl
- Pokemon Legends: Arceus
You can’t go wrong emulating Switch games with Yuzu, and its developers are the ones behind Citra too. It’s not easy to set up or low-spec PC friendly, but nothing else comes close. An alternative is Ryujinx, which tends to be simpler to use.
How to Play Pokemon Games on PC Without Emulator?
If you wish to emulate some Pokemon titles without downloading an emulator, use an online emulator instead. A popular site is EmulatorGames.net. However, it doesn’t have many newer consoles.
In all, it’s better to stick to downloading the software if you want the whole game experience without the console.
Can You Play Pokemon Without Emulator?
Yes, you can do it online, but the titles you can play are mostly older ones.
Are There Any Pokemon Games for PC?
The only official one is the Pokemon TCG; otherwise, you’ll have to use an emulator to play games meant for consoles.
Reliving Old Times
Not everyone has access to old consoles or devices, making emulation the only choice for playing older Pokemon games. Emulation also offers advantages such as graphical enhancements and cheat usage. It all depends on the emulator.
Which is your favorite Pokemon game? Do you emulate these games often? Let us know in the comments section below.