There's a pretty good chance that if you're reading this, you've probably have played a Pokemon game in your life at some point. I know that I did. In the years of success that Pokemon has seen, it's built some incredible communities around it and one of the ones that I want to highlight today is the Pokemon ROM Hack community, and some of the games that I've been enjoying that have come from these passionate players.
What is a Pokemon ROM Hack?
A Pokemon ROM hack is as simple as it sounds. Players re-engineer a ROM of a Pokemon game for various reasons. The most common reasons are to add new or more challenging story elements, quality of life features, and even randomizers. There are many flavors of Pokemon ROM hacks, with the most common ones being Pokemon Red, Blue, Crystal, Emerald and Fire Red.
Now all of these games have incredibly dedicated and passionate communities around them that are honestly some of the most welcoming communities that you can find. So let's talk about three of my favorite Pokemon ROM Hack communities.
The first community and game we're going to talk about is the IronMON community. IronMON is a challenge category of Pokemon with some strict rules. There's multiple categories (Standard, Ultimate, Kaizo and Survival) and each one has rules that build upon the last. For example, the game has to be randomized, it's a nuzlocke (meaning permadeath for Pokemon), you can only catch or kill 1 Pokemon per route, and you can only use items that you find in the world. This is only a small subset of the rules for the standard IronMON challenge.
IronMON can be ran on any game, but the the most popular version is FireRed, and the most fun ruleset to play on is Kaizo IronMON. This rule set is insanely difficult, and very few runs even make it out of the Lab. It has the Standard and Ultimate rules, and more rules to limit your Pokemon choices, as well as limiting you to only 1 Pokemon for the whole run. It really tests your prowess and luck as a trainer. If you want to see all the rules, be sure to check out ironmon.gg.
Now you may be thinking, that's a LOT of rules, and you're right. Thankfully, if you join the IronMON discord, you can create a modified version of the Fire Red ROM to accommodate all these rules. Everything is kept track of and you can focus on the massive task at hand. Be sure to check out the Discord for how to set up yoru own IronMON challenge, and some very cool trackers and tools to help you on your journey. Be prepared because generally speaking, IronMON is a reset heavy category, especially Kaizo, but hitting that perfect seed is what makes this challenge a blast.
The community in IronMON is super dedicated and welcoming, as everyone is in this fight together. They celebrate the victories of their members, however rare they may be, and mourn the countless lost runs.
Pokemon Radical Red
The next rom hack that we're looking at is one called Radical Red. This one is a modified version of Fire Red, but what's cool is that this version has all Pokemon and mechanics all the way through generation 8. You can play the game normal or randomized, and this rom hack is hard. The fights are grueling and at the end of the day, this is a really great ROM to push your knowledge and team building skills to is max. If you're interested in giving this a try, check out the Radical Red Discord and the PokeCommunity page for more information.
Pokemon Emerald Rogue
The last rom hack we're going to talk about is my personal favorite, and that's Pokemon Emerald Rogue. It's a heavy modification of Pokemon Emerald where instead of the overworld exploration that typical Pokemon gives you, the game is now a rogue-lite, very similar to Slay the Spire, or Cult of the Lamb. There's a hub world that holds various shops and the safari zone. After each of your runs, if you made progress, you'll unlock more things in the hub world.
The runs that I referred to start you out on a few sets of paths to choose from. Each path has a difficulty and a common type of Pokemon that can be found on that route. Once you pick a route, the gameplay feels a bit more like traditional Pokemon, except the map area is smaller and has an exit.
You'll also find along the way shops and rare encounters on the path map. At the end of each floor is a gym leader. After the gym leader is beaten, you can head on to the next floor or retire your run.
What's cool about this ROM is that you can build it with "vanilla" Emerald settings, or you can make it with the "Emerald EX" settings, which like Radial Red, adds all the Pokemon, mechanics and items up through generation 8. On top of that, there are tons of settings that you can change in the hub world that will affect your runs, such as bag wipe, no legendaries, what generation of Pokemon you'll see and more.
If you're a fan of rogue-lites, then I'd highly recommend giving this a try. You can find everything that you need to get started over at the Emerald Rogue Discord, where the community is incredibly welcoming and helpful.
And that's all for now folks! If you end up giving one of these rom hacks a try, be sure to show the developers of them some love, join their communities, and let us know in the BHOP Discord about your experiences!