10 Best Must-Play Pokemon GBA Rom Hacks

pokemon gba rom hacks, header

 

This post was last updated on January 1, 2023

Are you ready to jump into a whole new world of Pokemon games? Then get ready for the top 10 best Pokemon GBA rom hacks. Whether you’re into exploring new regions, catching as many pokemon as possible, or a real challenge, there’s something in this list for you.

The gen 3 games Pokemon Emerald and Pokemon Fire Red hold all the ingredients for incredible fan made games to prosper. So, it’s no surprise that the community has made plenty of exciting and unique original games for us to enjoy.

Here are our absolute favorite free rom hacks for you to start playing today!

Best Pokemon GBA Rom Hacks

10. Pokémon Light Platinum

Pros

  • Multiple Regions to Explore
  • Plenty of Pokemon Available
  • Improved AI

Cons

  • Poor Item Management
  • Lacking Dialogue (But Impressive Story)
  • No Rebattle System

Who is this game for

Players who have already gone through several other roms and are still looking for more Pokemon games to fill their time.

Summary

Light platinum is a community classic. At one point, it could’ve made it to the top of this list. Now, it still deserves to be brought up, but it’s mostly here on legacy factor. 

This is one of the GBA rom hacks that paved the way for what was to come. It showed us that AI could truly be improved, that entirely new stories could be created and completed, and that you could fit a lot of pokemon into a game without it feeling crowded.

Don’t get us wrong, this is an incredible Pokémon game. However, players may be annoyed by wrinkles that weren’t quite ironed out before this game reached completion. It’s still leagues better than recent official titles, in case that gives you any perspective.

9. Pokémon Kaizo Emerald

Pros

  • Improved Trainer AI
  • Rebalanced Pokemon
  • High Challenge Rating

Cons

  • Near Impossible Without Expert Knowledge
  • Unreasonable Puzzles
  • Poor RNG for Players / Unreasonably Good RNG for Other Trainers

Who is this game for

Pokémon Kaizo Emerald is a game for trainers looking to be vigorously challenged at every turn in the road.

Summary

Kaizo Emerald is a difficult game that has dominated the Pokemon community in recent years. While the story is the same as the base game Emerald, set in the Hoenn region, it features a complete overhaul of the balancing you’ll experience in battle.

In Pokemon Kaizo Emerald, gym leaders, elite four members, and villain leaders finally give you the challenge they’re supposed to give you according to the lore . Even the normal trainers and wild pokemon are incredibly difficult to take down.

We would only suggest playing this if you’re the kind of gamer willing to run into a wall time and time again until you can finally find the strategy to jump over it. Basically, this is the Dark Souls of Pokémon games.

8. Pokémon Orange Islands

Pros

  • Story Driven Pokémon Game
  • Play as Ash Ketchum

Cons

  • Shorter Rom Hack than Usual
  • Very Linear Path

Who is this game for

Pokemon fans who grew up enjoying the Orange Islands arc of the early Pokemon series.

Summary

Pokémon Orange Islands is an innovative version of Fire Red. Rather than focus on insane battle mechanics, or fitting every pokemon into a small amount of memory, the team behind this game simply wanted players to be able to visit the Orange Islands.

Much like Pokemon Yellow, this is a game where you take on the mantle of Ash Ketchum, with Pikachu as your starter. Reference to every episode of the arc can be found here, so you will genuinely feel like you’re watching the season all over again.

7. Pokémon Glazed

Pros

  • Travel Across Three Regions
  • User Interface and Quality of Life Improvements
  • Continued Support for Over Ten Years

Cons

  • May Feel Slightly Outdated
  • Late Game Content is a Bit Lacking

Who is this game for

Fans who are looking for a longer, more enveloping experience in a Pokemon rom hack.

Summary

Pokémon Glazed has been around for years, so while it’s lower on the list then it used to be, it’s still a top competitor in the community. This GBA rom hack takes us through not one, but two new regions, as well as Johto.

This game might not offer any new pokémon , but it certainly gives the player an entirely new experience. With plenty of pokemon to catch, plenty of secrets to discover, and a long game ahead of you, you might as well download the latest version and start playing today.

6. Pokémon GS Chronicles

Pros

  • Improved Johto Storyline
  • Updated User Interface and Additional Features
  • All Pokemon from Generation 1-8

Cons

  • Little Innovation

Who is this game for

Fans of the original gen 2 games who are looking to get a deeper experience out of the combined Johto and Kanto regions.

Summary

The ability to travel two regions in a single game is still one of the most innovative things Gamefreak has ever done with their IP, and we can’t wait to see what happens when we come back to these games in years to come. 

For now, GS Chronicles takes the throne as the definitive way to play gen 2.

Much like many other games on this list, GS Chronicles doesn’t just focus on one area of gameplay to improve. The story, the pokemon, the battle AI, the music, and so much more is all revitalized in a way that we’ve never really seen Nintendo attempt.

So, if you’re looking for the best rom hack to grab 16 badges in, this is the rom hack for you.

5. Pokémon Gaia

pokemon gba rom hacks, gaia

Pros

  • Entirely New Region
  • Faithful to the Original Formula
  • Incredibly Well Made

Cons

  • Not Much Innovation

Who is this game for

Pokémon fans interested in experiencing a new story in a new region full of rich lore.

Summary

Pokémon Gaia takes us to the Orbtus region, an area that was long ago ravished by horrible tremors in the earth. The plot is centered around a villainous group called the new elders who seek to reawaken the box-art legendary of this title, Regigigas.

It’s awesome to see some underutilized legendaries get some love, and the regis are definitely at the top of that list for many fans. Their puzzles in the original Pokemon Emerald were so intriguing, so getting an entire region’s storyline devoted to them is just such a blast.

This version might not be the most innovative GBA rom hack, but it certainly goes above and beyond to create something that feels both completely new and entirely part of the Pokemon universe all at the same time.

Truly, this Pokémon GBA rom feels like it could have easily been the best Gen 3 entry in an alternate timeline.

4. Pokémon Rocket Edition

pokemon rocket edition

Pros

  • Play as a Member of Team Rocket
  • Parallel Story to Fire Red
  • Exciting Gameplay Mechanics

Cons

  • More Mature Content

Who is this game for

If you like seeing stories play out from new angles and have always wanted to explore different paths in the Pokemon world.

Summary

In Pokémon Rocket Edition, you play as a fresh recruit to Team Rocket. Your journey will take you across Kanto, engaging in a life full of stealing, delinquency, and all sorts of criminal enterprises.

This is an excellent rom hack that takes a well known story and puts a completely new twist on it. As a grunt, you’ll find yourself along the same path as Red and Blue, except now, you’re the one standing in the way of their rise to success. Oh, and you catch pokémon by stealing them.

We will warn you that the content of Rocket Edition is more mature than that of a standard Pokemon GBA rom, so this is an option that should be entertained by more… experienced members of the community.

3. Pokémon Radical Red

Pros

  • Vastly Improvements on Fire Red Version
  • All Pokemon from Generation 1-8
  • Mega Evolution

Cons

  • Incredibly High Challenge
  • Few Story Improvements

Who is this game for

Pokemon Radical Red is for players who absolutely love putting as much effort as possible into building the most optimized pokemon team. 

Summary

Pokémon Radical Red is one of the best rom hacks around, and it could easily be higher on the list. As it stands, this is an incredible GBA rom hack that turns Fire Red into a competitive game. 

This Pokémon game introduces a litany of quality of life improvements, so many we can’t come close to listing them all here. Our favorite is definitely the Poke Nav, an unbelievably helpful resource for hunting down a pokemon with the perfect IVs and ability to add to your team.

You’re going to need these competitive tier pokemon, because this game offers up a brutal challenge, one that is only slightly mitigated if you play on easy mode. The features in this rom hack genuinely make grinding fun though, so even double battles will still be okay.

The best precis we can give for Radical Red is this: Radical Red does to Fire Red what Fire Red did to Red. The improvements are out of this world. It’s no wonder this game has numerous spinoffs from the same creative team.

2. Pokemon Emerald Rogue

pokemon emerald rogue

Pros

  • Turns Pokemon Into a Roguelike
  • Extensive Quests
  • Virtually Unlimited Replayability
  • Mega Evolutions

Cons

  • Not Standard Pokemon Formula
  • Still in Development

Who is this game for

Fans of Pokemon games and Roguelikes will love this rom hack that could easily be an extremely successful official spinoff game.

Summary

Pokemon Emerald Rogue is an incredible fan made spinoff game that turns Pokemon into a procedurally generated roguelike. Instead of a linear progression, players will take on a quick pokemon adventure time and time again.

This game manages to take routes, gym leaders, and other events, and use them all as small ‘dungeons’ along a very repeatable adventure that takes a couple hours to get through. Grabbing a good team is the whole challenge, and with a procedurally generated map, the randomness is kicked up to 11. 

The creator of this GBA rom hack is continuously working to improve the game with new features, bug fixes, and more. Already, so much has been added, like pokemon from all generations, new items, quests, and more. 

1. Pokémon Unbound

Pros

  • Level Scaling
  • Difficulty Settings
  • Side Missions

Cons

  • Few Balance Changes
  • High Emphasis on Plot (a pro for some and a con for others)

Who is this game for

Unbound is built for new players looking to play a Pokemon game that feels like a real, dynamic RPG.

Summary

Pokémon Unbound is a fantastic game that goes so far above and beyond what we’ve come to expect from actual Nintendo releases. This rom hack offers four difficulty modes, letting you play this anywhere from a casual difficulty to an insane difficulty.

It’s hard to pack in everything this rom hack does in a few paragraphs. From a new region with lore connected to the Kalos region, to exciting new gym challenges, there is so much to offer. 

One of our favorite new features in this game is a quest log with excellent UI. Engaging in side quests makes this feel like an open world RPG, even though it still follows the relatively linear structure of a typical pokemon game.

Pokemon GBA Rom Hacks, In Closing

There are plenty of GBA rom hacks out there, and plenty rom hacks made with other emulators in mind, but this is where we find some of the most creative, innovative, and exciting games out there. And, it’s all thanks to members of the community, just like you.