The last two Pokemon games I played were in 2022: Pokemon Gaia (which I loved, truly loved, and felt like it delivered exactly on the promise of "the core gameplay loop that you remember and the charming hallmarks of the series that fill you nostalgia, but tuned for someone slightly better at video games than a seven year old") and Pokemon Scarlet (which was fine, but I shelved and never returned to it.)

I described Gaia as:

It felt like exactly what I wanted out of it

Conversely, Pokerogue is a game that broke my expectations wide open. It was not — is not — a dense, glimmering refinement of the original formula, but instead an evolution, sending you screaming into the twenties armed with a couple starters and a complete naivete as to how devastating a single Raticate can truly be.

There's no other way to put it: this is my favorite roguelike since Slay the Spire.

So many of the game's design decisions are not only elegant but cohesive with the series writ large: using egg moves and IVs as a metaprogression system, piggybacking off of the humongous catalog of monsters to provide variation between runs, using the points system (and even freaking Pokerus!) to incentivize players to try out new builds and compositions — and, below all of that, the substrate, a battle engine that feels comfortable and dynamic and hopelessly, hopelessly addictive.

I'm writing this on a Sunday morning, having just beaten the game after probably ~twenty attempts. My winning team of champions:

  1. Kartana
  2. Ting-Lu
  3. Chien-Pao
  4. Primarina
  5. Magnezone
  6. Archaludon

(A lot of Steel types and legendaries, I know. All of them caught on the course of the run!)

The highest praise I can give this game: I watched the final little cinematic and immediately booted up a new run. I had to — have to! — try out this Tepig I just hatched with Volt Tackle.


Lightning bolt
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