Monster taming RPGs have been a favorite among young and older audiences for the past 20 years, and few are as well-known as the Digimon franchise.
Digimon Masters follows the story of the digital world created through a network of computers tied to the master computer known as Yggdrasil. You play as a human who has entered this world in order to capture and train Digimon to unleash the full potential of their power.
Despite most main games focusing on catching and raising Digimon, which makes sense considering the series began as Tamagotchi-like digital pets, it also delved into fighting, card-battling, and even racing.
All to find the ideal formula… and sell kids merchandise in the process.
And that’s the thing about Digimon.
Whereas series like Pokémon have remained true to their original concept and gameplay, Digimon has had to experiment game after game, righting the wrongs of its past and sometimes just trying something entirely new.
This dynamic process coupled with narrative and style of some adult themes has earned it a modest but staunch fanbase that is always willing to try the next big thing.
To Tamers out there looking for their next adventure, or considering the best game to delve into the franchise’s history, we’ve come up with a ranking of the best games in the Digimon series – which is essentially all of them, not counting those unavailable outside of Japan.
Most people think about Digimon World for the original PlayStation as the first game in the franchise.
But the series had a small Japan-only trajectory before the PS1 classic introduced Western audiences to Digital Monsters.
Released for the Sega Saturn in 1998, Digital Monster Ver. S: Digimon Tamers was Bandai’s first foray into making Digimon a video game.
It was a very basic experience, where player interaction was limited to feeding, cleaning and putting their Digimon to sleep, much like the digital pet toy that inspired it.
Despite the great quality and success of Digimon World: Dawn & Dusk for the NDS the previous year, Bandai decided to change the formula for their next project.
Digimon World Championship puts the player in the shoes of a Digimon “manager” rather than a Tamer, focusing on raising them while battles were entirely automatic.
Unsurprisingly, the game is quite boring, especially when compared to its predecessor.
Of course, that wasn’t the first time the franchise tried to innovate with questionable results.
While infinitely more fun than Digimon World Championship, Battle Spirit on the GBA is an unusual kind of fighting game.
Instead of HP bars or elimination, developer Dimps created a fighting game entirely based on collecting as many points as possible by beating enemies up.
It didn’t work out so well.
But they kept trying out different genres, and so they released Digimon Racing for the GBA by the hand of developer Griptonite Games.
In spite of being another Mario Kart clone, the many recognizable characters, nice BGM and beautiful racing tracks made for an enjoyable experience, especially for younger audiences who were quite content at having their favorite Digimon to race with.
There’s a divide between critics and users on whether Digimon World Data Squad for the Playstation 2 was any good, but I’m going to have to side with the critics on this one.
Despite having some of the prettiest visuals the series has seen to date, DWDS suffers from a stupidly oversimplified yet frustrating battle system and overall boring gameplay.
Granted, it tried to innovate by subordinating your Digimon’s digivolution to your treatment of the critter and how you chose to care for it. But it wasn’t enough to make up for combat that even a 12-year-old would find barebones.
Digimon Masters by Movegames is your run-of-the-mill MMO with raids, dungeons, and leveling – except you do it by catching and training monsters rather than developing your own character.
Despite being loosely based on the successful anime series Digimon Data Squad and having better graphics than its predecessor, Digimon Battle Online, the lack of PVP and the increased importance of micro-transactions severely dampen any enjoyment you could get out of this game.
Despite having a run of only three years before it was shut down in the West, Digimon Battle Online was the better version of the Digimon MMORPG formula, which is probably why it’s still running in South Korea, where it was released in 2002, a whopping 8 years earlier.
It’s based on the Digimon Tamers anime and, much like Digimon Masters, it offered turn-based combat and level progression.
What makes it the superior version is mainly the possibility of duking it out against other players and their Digimon companions, a feature sorely missed in Digimon Masters.
As the spiritual successor to the beloved Digimon Rumble Arena series, fans expected a lot from All-Star Rumble on the PS3 and Xbox360.
Considering nobody ever mentions this game nowadays, you can guess how that played out.
Seemingly trying to go the Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm way, the game includes a great variety of characters from the series and their digivolutions.
It also features appealing and colorful graphics.
Regrettably, they forgot to include content that would make you want to play the game.
Add a complete lack of online multiplayer in the world of 2014 and you’ve got a recipe for wasted potential in your hands.
The thing about most TCG’s marketed at children is that, well, they’re generally not playable by them.
The rules are complicated, conflict-solving is impossible, and overall they’re generally intellectual affairs.
Digimon Digital Card Battle, like some YuGi-Oh! games, solves that issue by automating the process.
It also makes it much more entertaining thanks to the 3D-rendered battles that breathe life into the game.
Add a solid story mode and you’ve got a great game for children to learn the ropes of the TCG, as well as a fun experience in and of itself.
Regrettably older audiences may find it a bit slow and even boring, so it doesn’t get such a high spot on our ranking.
One of the most unique entries into the Digimon World series is the fourth installment, meant to shake things up by replacing the different variations of turn-based RPG with a hack and slash experience.
Developed by BEC for the PS2, GC, and the original XBOX, Digimon World 4 offers players the opportunity to team up with up to three friends controlling different Digimon.
And in a weird design decision you can swing swords, axes, and other such weapons at enemies rather than using any special abilities.
Perhaps it was a good concept on paper, but the gameplay ends up being too simple to be satisfying.
And the game is clearly made to be played in a group, feeling very unbalanced and even unfair in single-player.
After the questionable product that was the original Digimon Battle Spirit, developer Dimps took a look at small ways to improve the experience and, surprisingly, they managed to make the sequel a genuinely fun game.
Despite keeping the weird point-based system, the game felt much smoother and battles were nice and fluid.
The sprites looked even better than in the first installment, the character roster was expanded, and the fights were generally more interesting.
Regrettably, the music was still pretty mediocre.
You may find it weird to include a newer game so low in a ranking, but Digimon Survive is just too exciting a concept not to talk about.
It’s developed by Witchcraft as a Survival Tactical RPG, complete with different endings and digivolutions for your companion Digimon depending on the choices you make during the game.
It also features multi-player, but unclear in what way since I have not tried.
Witchcraft isn’t the most well-known studio, and the game remains largely unknown by fans other than the concept and some minor plot points.
But given the incredible quality of the most recent Digimon releases, I can’t help but feel this is a great one to test out if you’re willing to make the time.
Released on the PS2 as a sequel to the original Digimon Rumble Arena, this second installment had a lot of expectations surrounding it.
Among its best features were the expansive roster of 16 Digimon, which could all digivolve in the middle of the fight, expanding the roster to around 50 characters.
Graphics were also improved to better take advantage of the new hardware’s processing power.
Like its acclaimed predecessor, it was a bit unbalanced and not viable in a serious competitive sense, but it remains a fun party game with satisfying gameplay and nice visuals.
Instead of maintaining the formula from the first game and expanding upon it, developer BEC decided to make Digimon World 2 for the PS1 a dungeon crawler with turn-based RPG gameplay.
The game wasn’t well-received by critics, who considered the dungeons generic and repetitive, the digivolution system overly-convoluted and combat cripplingly simplified.
That said, the simple gameplay, coupled with beautiful graphics and over 200 available Digimon was a hit among the younger audiences it was marketed towards, and many still cite the game as their favorite.
Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.
Something we can all agree on is that the original Digimon Rumble Arena for the PS1 was a blast to play with friends and one of the most memorable fighting games from that era.
The combat may be somewhat basic and unbalanced, but it was one of the first “crossover” fighting games to make it to Western audiences before stuff like Jump Force or Naruto Ninja Storm was even a thing.
Seeing your favorite Digimon from the franchise’s games and anime duking it out in ever-changing battlefields full of hazards and power-ups was amazing, and there was nobody I knew back then who would ever say no to a couple of matches.
Despite being full of technical issues and confusing mechanics back when guides and FAQs weren’t readily available, the original Digimon World for the PS1 had a lot of soul, and it was where the journey really began for the franchise.
The charming 3D models on beautifully-crafted 2D backgrounds were amazing back then, and its turn-based gameplay was simple enough for anyone to pick it up – some would even argue that it was too simple, considering combat was almost automatic.
Eventually it became a Greatest Hits title, setting the franchise off to a fantastic start.
Some of the best games in Digimon’s roster have regrettably never made it abroad. One of the best examples is Digimon Adventure for the PSP.
The game is a beautiful, cel-shaded re-telling of the original Digimon Adventure anime series, complete with voice acting from the show’s original Japanese cast.
While you can only control the partner Digimon from the series, the exciting 3v3 battles and little bits of extra story content make this a must-play for any fan.
Thankfully there’s a fanmade English patch available for download since 2018, so there’s no reason to skip this one if you have a PSP (or a great PSP emulator).
After a series of questionable games had brought the series into a period of obscurity, Digimon World DS came out of nowhere and put the franchise back in people’s minds.
The story was little more than an excuse to justify the action on screen.
But with over 300 Digimon, beautiful sprites, a complex battle system and more than 35h of content, Digimon World DS was a very solid RPG, which has come to be very valued among fans.
And for a while, it looked like Digimon had found its way, releasing another wonderful game on the DS only a year after Digimon World DS.
Gameplay remained mostly unchanged. But players were treated to 397 total Digimon, beautifully crafted sprites, and an engaging story that kept you coming back to play.
Instead of being essentially the same game with a different coat of paint, Dawn and Dusk are a duality, with somewhat different storylines and places to visit.
Of the two, I think Dusk is the better option for its exclusive Holy-types and Bug-types. As well as its very strong Dark-types which my angsty teenager heart likes.
Also it technically has one more zone to train in than Dawn.
More or less following the example of 2012’s Japan-only Digimon World Re:Digitize, Next Order offers the player a Persona-like storytelling experience, and gameplay somewhat reminiscent of the original Digimon World… except you’re now followed around by two Digimon instead of one.
This is a game you’ll have to dive deep into to truly appreciate.
But if you put in the effort and let yourself be absorbed, you’ll get to appreciate the attention to detail the developers put into this PS4/PSVita game.
Released with no competition from Pokémon or its other rivals, the third installment of the Digimon World series was able to offer players what for many still is the peak Digimon experience.
DW3 took a more traditional RPG approach to combat and the development of each Digimon, somewhat similar to Pokémon’s formula.
This may have swayed some fans who just needed to get their monster-catching fix.
But the reason it’s still discussed nowadays was mainly the sheer amount of content it featured.
Not only was the story thrilling, but the game lets you catch a myriad Digimon anywhere on a big map including two entirely different regions.
Developed by Tri-Crescendo, of Baten Kaitos fame, this PSP classic featured character designs from Durarara illustrator Suzuhito Yasuda and a story just as complex as much of what he’s been involved in.
Thanks to the game’s beautiful graphics, these designs can truly shine, breathing life into the narrative and getting players invested.
This helps to get them across the initial shock of the weird gameplay, where Tamers only set strategies the Digimon will follow as they duke it out by themselves.
Fortunately this game was also translated by fans for English-speaking audiences so definitely check this out if you don’t mind patching.
After Re:Digitize’s success in Japan, Bandai decided it was time to bring this Persona-influenced version of Digimon to the states in the form of Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth. Some years later, responding to evident and adamant demand for it, its sequel was also released on the PS4 and PSVita.
Hacker’s Memory takes everything that made the original amazing and improves upon it, while also showing a different perspective of lots of the events from the first game.
If the exciting and well-written story isn’t enough for you to try it, then do it for the 340 beautifully-sculpted Digimon.
But the best Digimon game of all time has to be the original Cyber Sleuth, also released on the PSVita and PS4 entertainment systems.
This game revolutionized the way people thought of Digimon in the West, showing the series was capable of offering complete, narrative-driven experiences to rival many other famous JRPGs.
A complex story, endearing characters, and a colorful roster of 240 Digimon is only some of what made the game so well-loved upon release.
It also keeps the continuity of previous installments alive by featuring some cameo characters.
It seems Bandai now recognizes the value of its older audience, who have grown up with the series and crave more complex experiences.
Here’s to many more great years of the Digimon franchise.Browse:DigimonVideo Games