To say Pokémon is a huge franchise is an understatement. Since Pokémon was introduced in 1996 to adoring fans all over the world, there have been countless video games, animated series, feature films, musicals, manga, and even a theme park. Very few franchises can match Pokémon’s level of success over the last two decades. Seriously, just when you thought Pokémon might have run its course, Pokémon Go is released, and suddenly, Poké-mania is running wild yet again. Now, we all know what happens when franchises become this successful – copycats emerge.
There have been knock-off Pokémon video games, manga, and animated series. Like all rip-offs, the level of plagiarism ranges from the obscene to the subtle. No matter what, they all follow the same basic premise – kids battle each other to be the best using monsters, animals, robots, dinosaurs, and even food. There comes a point when you read about all these franchises that involve kids fighting each other when you realize that kids are just violent. They should probably be stopped. How about a series where monsters go around collecting little kids and have them fight to the death? No? Okay, fine. Let’s just take a look at 15 of the worst Pokémon rip-offs that would even make Pikachu cry.
You know what’s just as exciting as kids battling each other using colorful, interesting-looking little monsters? Kids battling each other with colorful, less interesting-looking tops. Yep, that’s the basic premise of Beyblade, a shameless Pokémon rip-off from 1999. The story of Beyblade is simple, as it should be considering the whole manga and animated series was used to sell toys. A young boy named Tyson brings together a team of good guy battling tops players to take on bad guy battling tops players.
Did we mention the battling tops? They’re the whole point. It’s as if the creators of Beyblade watched Pokémon and decided that Pokémon would be way cooler if the characters just threw Poké balls at each other and no monsters came out. While the rip-off stink is strong on Beyblade, that didn’t stop it from becoming a pretty big success, spawning multiple toy lines, animated series, and even feature films.
14 BAKUGAN BATTLE BRAWLERS
Bakugan Battle Brawlers is such an obvious Pokémon rip-off that even Japan hated it. Bakugan Battle Brawlers is the story of Dan, who is definitely NOT an Ash rip-off (wink, wink), a young boy who comes into possession of some cards that randomly fall from the sky. He and his friends make a card game out of them, and unlock the true power within them. Basically, kids fight each other with cards that have monsters inside.
When initially released in Japan, the series flopped, as the Japanese were probably savvy to the ridiculous cash grab of a series Bakugan is. However, in North America, the series was a bit of a hit, spawning multiple seasons and a collectible card game. Everything about the series especially reeks of Pokémon, down to the incredibly sub-par opening theme song. It’s embarrassing.
Sure, hardcore Cardcaptors, aka Cardcaptor Sakura, fans can defend the show from being a Pokémon rip-off. If you read the original manga, and watch the Japanese version of the animated series, then you see that the show is a pretty mature take on the card collecting genre. The focus is less on the card collecting and more on the relationships and drama around the lives of the main characters. Unfortunately, that didn’t translate very well when the animated series was brought over to the United States.
Hoping to capitalize on the Pokémon craze that was sweeping the US, Kids’ WB took the 70 Cardcaptor Sakura animated episodes and edited them down to 39. Removing most of the drama and non-card collecting scenes, the series was turned into a lame Pokémon rip-off.
Starting as a way to capitalize on the other massive trend of virtual pets, Digimon didn’t take long before it became what is probably one of the biggest Pokémon rip-offs in existence. Digimon is about digital monsters (get it?) that come in contact with kids who then help them defend their world from evil forces. These Digimon have the ability to evolve into bigger, badder creatures to help them fight. Sound familiar?
It’s almost as if Digimon wears its Pokémon plagiarism on its sleeve. Look at the name! They’re pretty much saying if you like Pokémon, come check us out! Then throw in a ton of adorable monsters that evolve into other forms and are cared for by a group of kids, and you get a recipe for a cash cow built on a pile of unoriginal ideas.
11 DINOSAUR KING
Sega has a long history of trying to play catch-up with Nintendo. Over the decades, they have tried (and mostly failed) to reach the same heights as their biggest competition. So, when Nintendo found incredible success with Pokémon, Sega had to do something. Enter Dinosaur King.
What if you replaced pocket monsters with dinosaurs and changed the name of the kids? Ta-da! You get Dinosaur King. Developed as an arcade game that used collectible cards, Dinosaur King quickly devolved into a Pokémon rip-off. The card game, animated series, and video games all follow Max and his friends as they try to defeat the evil Alpha Gang from using the dinosaurs to take over the world. Seriously, these series must be close to running out of three-letter names for male protagonists, right?
10 YO-KAI WATCH
Yo-kai Watch is one of the newest franchises on this list, debuting in video games and manga in 2013, but that doesn’t excuse it from the shame associated with clearly ripping off Pokémon. Being released almost 20 years after Pokémon, and more than 10 years after most of the entries on this list, it’s almost as if Yo-kai Watch just doesn’t even care that it’s a clear knock-off.
The story is again about a young boy, this time his name is Nate, who teams with friends and gathers small monsters that help him battle other small monsters. Instead of catching monsters in balls or cards, he uses a watch. Like Pokémon, which has the adorable Pikachu, Yo-kai Watch tried their hand at also having a loveable sidekick monster, with their Jibanyan. However, that weird cat can’t hold a candle to Pikachu.
9 CARDFIGHT!! VANGUARD
Cardfight!! Vanguard has a bit of Pokémon rip-off pedigree behind it. The card game and series is created by people responsible for Yu-Gi-Oh! and Duel Masters (stick around for more about both of those series). While the actual card game is interesting, and way more complex than most of the games on this list, there’s a reason why Cardfight finds itself among the rest of these knock-offs.
Maybe you’ve heard about this franchise before. It’s about a young boy who uses cards to battle others in tournaments. Yeah, yeah, sounds like everything else. Cardfight does have the distinction of being a rip-off of a rip-off, considering the talent behind it. While not as clear of a Pokémon rip-off as others, this series is just as derivative as the rest, just with fewer monsters.
8 ANGELIC LAYER
Angelic Layer might be a bit of an outsider on this list. No, there’s no massive card game associated with it. Nope, no video games either. However, Angelic Layer most definitely deserves to be on this list. Ditching the idea of monsters, dragons, dinosaurs, or any other mystical creatures, Angelic Layer is all about young people fighting each other using little dolls called Angels.
The story follows a young girl named Misaki who moves to a new city and discovers the battling Angels. These battlers, called Deus, build their own custom Angels and fight them on the field called the “layer.” While the manga and anime discuss adult themes like human’s relationship to computers and artificial intelligence, when you boil it down, Angelic Layer is truly just a Pokémon rip-off. It was a valiant effort nonetheless.
7 DUEL MASTERS
Duel Masters is, wait for it, a show based on a card game in which kids battle each other with cards that summon monsters. Pretty original, huh? Somewhere along the line, these copycats decided to not even bother with the idea of balls or watches to catch their monsters, they just think that cards are the way to go. Why? Obviously, if kids see their favorite characters playing the card game on TV, they’ll run out and buy the card game themselves.
There’s not a whole lot to say about the plot of Duel Masters because it’s just so derivative and unoriginal. A boy likes to play a card game where he summons monsters. He wants to be the best at it. Hijinks ensue. Seriously, these creators must think children are idiots that will buy anything. Oh wait… they have a point. Ugh.
Medabots is a whole new take on the Pokémon formula, creating something wholly original! Just kidding, it’s pretty much the most basic rip-off. Ikki is a ten-year-old boy who desperately wants to be the best Medabot fighter around, but he can’t afford one of the robots. He ends up finding a junker named Metabee and a rare medallion which makes Metabee a better fighter. Replace pocket monsters with little robots and you get Medabots.
The creators of Medabots saw the incredible success of Pokémon on the Gameboy, with their multiple versions of the same game, that they decided to take advantage of the same dual-game strategy. Unfortunately, Medabots is not Pokémon, and ultimately it didn’t work out for them. The games and the short-lived animated series only lasted a couple years.
Magi-Nation is a Pokémon rip-off developed by Canadians, but made to look like it came from Japan, thanks to a partnership in South Korea. The series was based on a card game that was a pretty bad rip-off of Magic: The Gathering, called Magi Nation Duel. Magi-Nation has an overly complicated backstory that involves evil Magi, Dreamstones, and Shadow Geysers, but honestly, it’s just about a boy who goes around collecting creatures.
Released in 2007, Magi-Nation came out around the time when Pokémon was still around, but many of the copycats had come and gone. There were the mainstays, but overall, there wasn’t a huge need for yet another Pokémon rip-off that incorporated a card game. The ratings were so low on the series that it was cancelled and the remaining 12 episodes never saw the light of day.
4 FIGHTING FOODONS
Reading the synopsis of Fighting Foodons will make you question the nature of reality. Honestly, how did something so crazy and mind-baffling as Fighting Foodons even come to exist? The only answer must involve lots of drugs and the munchies.
Fighting Foodons is about chefs who create magical recipe cards that turn into fighting food. Yep, that’s actually the premise. Want to know if your burger is better than that chicken dish? Turn them into anthropomorphic food and fight it out! As you might expect, there’s a young boy involved who wants to make the best fighting food ever. There’s tons of food puns, including the name of the villain King Gorgeous Gorge and his Gluttons. Let’s not forget King Gorge’s female cat-like servant, Clawdia. This show is crazy.
At its inception, Neopets had more in common with Beanie Babies and Tamagotchi than it did Pokémon, but that didn’t last long. Neopets is a game that allows users to create and care for virtual pets called Neopets. The game was created to be a pretty relaxing way for kids and people to pass the time. However, then came the inevitable collectible card game.
Once the collectible card game element was introduced, the battling began. Now, people could create and collect Neopets to battle them. Similar to Pokémon, these Battledome matches aren’t battles to the death, since this is a game geared towards children. However, the rise of Pokémon and the card game copycats influenced Neopets and corrupted what was supposed to be just a harmless virtual pet simulator.
2 MONSTER RANCHER
Monster Rancher is one of the few copycats on this list to start as a rip-off and then mold itself into something a little different. Starting with the idea that people would gather monsters and fight them in battles, which is clearly a rip-off of Pokémon, Monster Rancher then added a few other elements to its game. Instead of basic evolving, like in Pokémon, Monster Rancher brought in elements of virtual pet games to make it so players had total control over the outcome of their fighter.
Of course, the success of the video game spawned an animated series that borrowed heavily from Pokémon. A little boy gets trapped inside his Monster Rancher game where he joins forces with allies to help him search for the elusive Phoenix stone disk. This game series has stood the test of time, and is still beloved among fans today.
Yes, we know that Yu-Gi-Oh! was released right around the same time as Pokémon. So, why does it fall on this list? While the early chapters of the manga were original, and don’t resemble Pokémon, after the huge success of that franchise, the creators decided to morph it into one of the first Pokémon rip-offs.
Originally, the story was about a boy, who was possessed by a mysterious gambler, that used various games to defeat his opponents. Then it morphed into the same boy using a collectible card game played by battling monsters against each other, and the other games were forgotten. Pretty coincidental, huh? Obviously, fans ate it up, and Yu-Gi-Oh! became a massive hit, and has become a major franchise on its own. Just remember, it owes a lot to Pokémon!
Do you know any other Pokémon clones? Let us know in the comments!