Digimon is one of those anime that I remember watching as a kid, alongside other classics such as Transformers and Pokémon. Digimon started out in the late 90s as a series of virtual pets. Basically, little handheld electronic consoles with a “pet” loaded. You could check up on your pet, feed it to make it grow, train it to make it stronger, and do pet battles. In battles, you could link your console to another physical console (that of your rival) and both of your pets will duke it out in the virtual world.
Eventually, Digimon virtual pets gained massive popularity across Japan. It even sold a million units overseas by March of 2004. Toei Animation even produced an anime called “Digimon Adventure” in 1999, following it up with a sequel in 2000. There are Digimon anime to this day, the last one being Digimon Adventure which first aired in April of 2020 and is still in progress as I write this article.
Since it has movies, TV shows, manga, etc. you can reasonably assume that eventually, some guy had a bright idea to make a Digimon game. And you’re right, there have been Digimon games for a while now. Dozens of them in fact, with the first being released for PS1 all the way back in 1999. These games vary in genre, from racing and simulation to open-world and strategy. Sometimes, they are a mix of multiple genres. But all of them involve some degree of roleplaying, i.e. you level up your Digimon through training and engage in battles with other Digimon. These games span multiple platforms and console generations, with some even being released for mobile.
There are far too many of these games for me to cram them all into one article for ranking, so I’ll simply focus on the most relevant ones. Seriously, there are like 60 Digimon games. There is the Digimon World series of games, Digimon Story series of games, Digimon fighting games, Digimon RPG games, and spin-offs. I have selected a total of 8 Digimon games that I’ll rank from worst to best, so let’s get started.
Ranking Digimon Games From Worst To Best
Starting things off, we’ll go with the sequel to the first Digimon video game.
8. Digimon World 2
|Developer||BEC, under Bandai|
|Release Date||July 27, 2000, in Japan and May 19, 2001, in North America|
This is one of the earliest Digimon games to post good sales figures both in Japan and overseas. While the first Digimon World was an RPG based on Bandai’s Tamagotchi devices this was more of a dungeon crawler. Not a fun dungeon crawler either, which makes the good sales figures all the more surprising. What’s wrong with Digimon World 2? Quite a few things.
For starters, the combat system is pretty unintuitive. And that’s putting it mildly. The visuals don’t see a significant upgrade over the first game, and as a result, the world feels dull. Most of your activity within the game feels like a boring grind fest, although some boss battles are pretty neat. You also get some Digimon that were not included in the first game, these were introduced in the later seasons of the TV show.
7. Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth- Hacker’s Memory
|Release Date||December 14, 2017, in Japan and January 19, 2018, Worldwide|
|Platforms||PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo Switch, Windows|
The original Cyber Sleuth was inspired heavily by Digimon World 2, and Hacker’s Memory is a sequel that improves upon a lot of things from the first game. It tells the story from a different character’s perspective. The developers reused a lot of assets from the first game which cut down significantly on development time and costs, plus it provided a sense of familiarity to returning players. Think of this as a DLC expansion to the original Cyber Sleuth game rather than a brand new game.
Game mechanics are the same, you act as a detective to solve a mystery both online and offline by using your Digimon. Animation and art style are solid, thanks to this game being released on more powerful consoles such as the PS4 and Switch. Dialogue is fun, characters are interesting, and you get about 100 new Digimon compared to the original Cyber Sleuth game.
6. Digimon World DS
|Developer||Namco Bandai Games|
|Release Date||June 15, 2006, in Japan and November 7, 2006, in North America|
In this game, the world gets advanced enough to the point where Digimon can exist. Your character gets sucked into the digital world while doing some research on a computer and is now locked into an adventure with their Digimon companion. There is a bad guy to beat and lots of Digimon to find. Digimon World DS was created for the Nintendo DS system and while its graphics aren’t exactly top-shelf, the combat and RPG elements are fun to play with.
Digimon World DS introduced some pretty novel ways to train your Digimon and some radical evolution paths. Battle feels more tactical thanks to the isometric camera view. You also get access to Digi-Farms, which are spots where you can leave your creatures to relieve stress and gain XP. One interesting fact about this game is that even though it’s titled “Digimon World” it’s actually part of the Digimon Story series. In Japan, it is even called “Digimon Story”.
5. Digimon Story: Super Xros Wars Blue & Red
|Developer||Namco Bandai Games|
|Release Date||March 3, 2011 (Only released in Japan)|
This is a Japan-exclusive title, based on the Xros Wars anime. The game itself follows the protagonist from Digimon Fusion (called Xros Wars in Japan) and has 400 original monsters to collect and train. One of the things it borrows from Xros Wars is the mechanics of fusing 2 different Digimon to create your own customized monster with unique powers.
Fusion gives this game a lot more depth in terms of customizability and personalization, plus it increases replayability. Graphics aren’t that good; it feels more like a retro title than a modern game. As it should be since this is a 2011 game released only on the Nintendo DS (a console from 2004). There is no real open-world exploration in this game, and you need to know Japanese to properly enjoy it because there is no official English localization. However, there is a patch team out there who made an English patch ROM you can download.
4. Digimon World 4
|Release Date||January 6, 2005, in Japan and June 2, 2005, in North America|
|Platforms||Nintendo GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox|
It was called Digimon World X in Japan and has a plot centered around 16 famous Digimon from the anime series. Digimon World 4 is an action-packed RPG with good multiplayer elements that make for interesting battles between tamers. This game feels less like a JRPG and more like a western action RPG with co-op elements.
The main selling point of Digimon World 4 is its well-crafted story and fun combat system. It also has pretty good graphics for the era, considering this is just a PS2/ Xbox game. I feel the Xbox version of this game is the one that looks the best since the Xbox does have more powerful hardware compared to the PS2 (at least on paper).
3. Digimon World: Next Order
|Release Date||March 17, 2016 (Japan only)|
|Platforms||PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4|
With the advancement in console technology and the ever-increasing capabilities provided by faster processors, newer Digimon games started to experiment with the open-world concept. With larger worlds, more Digimon, improved graphics, and lots of areas to explore, Digimon World: Next Order is certainly one of the best entries in the series.
Gameplay is very different compared to previous games. You get a 3rd person perspective, and your human character can be accompanied by up to 2 partner Digimon at all times. You get to choose from 10 starter Digimon at the beginning of the story, these partners will grow and evolve based on their interactions with the main character. Battles can be initiated by touching an enemy, which places you into a circular arena where free movement is allowed. An AI strategy is assigned to Digimon, but you can halt combat to issue specific combats or use restorative items. Temporary merging is also possible between Digimon.
2. Digimon World Re: Digitize
|Release Date||July 19, 2012 (Japan only)|
This game was initially released on PSP, before a port for the 3DS was made (which was called Re: Digitize Decode). Re: Digitize is a very polished and fun experience that unfortunately remains Japan exclusive. The game goes back to its Tamagotchi roots by focusing primarily on digital pet mechanics. You raise your Digimon through various life stages and have access to around 10,000 accessories for customizing the appearance of your very own digital pet.
Re: Digitize uses character designs that feel more in line with modern anime rather than the cartoonish designs of older Digimon games. This way the game is more approachable for newcomers who want to dip their toes in the Digimon franchise but aren’t interested in the older titles that look like kiddie games. The game is open-world so there’s plenty of exploration to be done. You won’t get an official English release, but thankfully there’s a fan group that created an English translation patch which you can download after spending a few minutes on Google.
1. Digimon World 3
|Release Date||June 5, 2002, in North America and July 4, 2002, in Japan|
Many consider this to be the best Digimon game ever, and I agree with that opinion. Digimon World 3 took all the elements from the original games and refined them to create a polished and fun experience that towers above anything else in the franchise. Not only is this an excellent Digimon game, but also one of the best RPGs for the PlayStation 1.
Digimon World 3 takes a classic RPG approach and borrows a lot from Pokémon titles released before it. Bandai packed the game with content, making the process of leveling up your digital monsters more fun than ever before. Does the game have issues? Yeah, it feels a bit too grindy at times and some players complain about the lack of variety in enemy types. But the large variety of Digimon you can own combined with the fast-paced battle system and excellent soundtrack make up for these weaknesses. The result is a game that truly stands out on its own, not just as a Digimon game but as one of the best RPGs of its era.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: I want to play some of the older Digimon games, but I don’t own a PS1 or Nintendo DS. Is there any way to play them?
A: Yes, you can use an emulator for Nintendo DS or PS1. Support for certain games can be good or bad but for the most part, these emulators will provide a similar experience to the original platform.
Q: Can I still buy a Digimon virtual pet today?
A: You might be able to find a used original device from the 90s on eBay. There are some new 20th anniversary editions on Amazon if you want those, and they are pretty cheap. If you want the experience minus the original hardware, you can always download an emulator for your phone.
Q: I want to get into Digimon anime, where should I start?
A: You can start with the original 1999 Digimon Adventure series, it’s pretty good for anyone who wishes to familiarize themselves with the world of Digimon. Then there’s the sequel, Digimon Adventure 2. Digimon Tamers is also a good show.
Q: Are there Digimon games for mobile?
A: Yes, mobile platforms have always been the original home of the Digimon games since they were intended to be carried around with you. Kind of like Pokémon Go. Try out Digimon Links, it’s available for both Android and iOS.
Q: Is Digimon a copy of Pokémon?
A: Not really, both universes are pretty different although they have some common traits like collecting pets and training them for battles. Digimon did come later than Pokémon so that makes some people think it’s a rip-off.