ByAlex Ziebart, writer at Creators.co
Alex Ziebart

In between major releases in the main Pokémon franchise, sometimes you just want your fix—and don't want to pay a lot to get it. In those cases, there are a number of free (or "free") Pokémon titles you can get your hands on, primarily via your smartphone. Though they tend to fall into different genres than the central franchise, they all deliver a distinct Pokémon spin with their gameplay.

Pokémon Duel

  • Platforms: iTunes, Android
  • Microtransactions: Yes
  • Ads: No

Pokémon Duel is a Free-to-Play mobile game which borrows gameplay elements from tabletop games. It's one part board game, one part miniature war game. You collect figures, move them around a gameboard to capture your opponent's home base, and when figures collide with each other, you play out a simplified battle based on your figures' stats and the spin of a wheel.

Pitting your figures against other players seems to be core to the Pokémon Duel experience. If player-versus-player combat is what you're looking for in a Pokémon title, Duel is your game.

While everything in the game can be achieved for free, the game includes microtransactions to speed up progress. A Booster includes one figure and costs 50 gems. Gems aren't sold in lots of 50, however—the closest purchase is 57 gems for $3.99. If you're willing to deal with that, it's not a bad little game.

Camp Pokémon

  • Platforms: iTunes, Android
  • Microtransactions: No
  • Ads: No

If you're looking for a game for a young child to play, Camp Pokémon is a good choice. Camp Pokémon begins as a hide-and-seek game while you scan the gameworld for hidden Pokémon stickers. Once you've collected enough stickers, you unlock additional minigames such as a PokéBall Toss or a card matching game featuring Pokémon TCG cards. Beyond that, there isn't much depth to this game.

Camp Pokémon isn't going to provide much satisfaction for older players, but it's simple, wholesome entertainment for children in the kindergarten range.

Pokémon Shuffle

  • Platforms: iTunes, Android, 3DS
  • Microtransactions: Yes
  • Ads: No

Pokémon Shuffle is a match-3 (or 4 or 5) game in the vein of genre behemoth Candy Crush. Shuffle, of course, puts a Pokémon spin on things. You match the adorable faces of Pokémon to remove them from the playing field and deal damage to an opposing Pokémon. Once you've done enough damage, you get the opportunity to catch the 'mon. You can assign up to 4 "support" Pokémon who augment gameplay, causing specific moves to deal more damage or other effects.

Pokémon Shuffle seems to receive the most support of Free-to-Play Pokemon games with regular special events and daily goals.

While, on the mobile platform, you can play the entire game without spending a dime—something the game tells you the very first time you load it up—Pokémon Shuffle includes the same microtransactions you'd expect from any mobile Free-to-Play title. That is, while you can play it for free, they put hurdles in your way to slow down your progress unless you spend money. Pokémon Shuffle throttles how often you can play with a Heart system that regenerates over time. You can spend money to get more Hearts, or spend money to get coins which you can spend on powerups and upgrades. The game also rewards you for spending money by increasing your in-game rewards based on how much you've spent on a monthly basis.

In terms of pricing, one Jewel gives you 6 Hearts, or 6 rounds of gameplay. One Jewel costs $0.99. You're not going to be binging on Pokémon Shuffle without spending a lot of money. The game simply won't let you play that way.

Pokémon Shuffle is also available on the 3DS and the same microtransactions rules don't necessarily apply.

Pokémon GO

  • Platforms: iTunes, Android
  • Microtransactions: Yes
  • Ads: No

Pokémon GO is, of course, the big dog in terms of the free Pokémon experience. The augmented reality game has its players exploring the real world to find and catch Pokémon. A Pikachu in your local park? It's possible!

Due to Pokémon GO using real world locations and landmarks, the burden of Pokémon GO's microtransacations depends entirely on where you live. Visiting a Pokéstop yields items such as Pokéballs, needed to catch Pokémon. If you live in an area dense with Pokéstops, they'll shower you with items and you may never need to buy anything. However, if you live in rural areas (or even an area slightly outside the city), Pokéstops might be few and far between, necessitating you spend money to continue playing the game.

In Pokémon GO, 100 coins will get you 20 Pokéballs, which is a truly trivial number if you're trying to catch everything in sight. That 100 coins will cost $0.99. If you're starving for Pokéstops and still want to spend a Saturday hunting down your local Pokémon, that expedition might cost you $10 or more.

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