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Why Haven't Indie Mongames Caught On?

Musings on Mongames

By YawPublished 4 months ago 2 min read

Indie games have often been an outlet for retro video game genres. Of course, what is considered nostalgic for the developer depends on the games they grew up playing. In the past, side-scrolling platformers were the genre of choice, but now it's mongames. A mongame is a game that revolves around collecting and raising creatures, the progenitor of the genre being Pokémon. Recent years have seen a resurgence of mongames, with games like Temtem, Monster Crown, and Nexomon: Extinction releasing last year. However, most of these indie mongames have failed to resonate with many Pokémon fans. While there is demand for mongames, the indie games that belong to this genre have missed the mark in three significant ways.

Too Derivative

Taking inspiration from Pokémon isn't an issue, but taking too much influence from one source can lead to a derivative game. After all, Pokémon is also an amalgamation of influences ranging from games like Dragon Quest to television shows like Ultraman. Unoriginality isn't always a bad thing, with spiritual successors to beloved franchises like Bloodstained and Bug Fables having achieved success. The difference is that a game derivative of Pokémon is not a spiritual successor to a defunct series. For example, the inspiration Coromon and Nexomon take from Pokémon permeate every aspect of both games, from the art style to the setting to the game mechanics. So many indie mongames replace the names of Pokémon specific concepts like Pokéballs instead of creating their own. Mongames like Robopon, which attempted to capitalize on Pokémania, were labeled rip-offs because of these similarities. For a mongame to gain acceptance as its own thing, it needs features that distinguish it from its contemporaries.

Standing Out

Medarot 2

A unique selling point is crucial for any video game but even more so for a saturated genre like mongames. The mongames created in the late 90s and early aughts that people remember usually had a unique game mechanic or gimmick at their core. For example, Monster Rancher has a CD-reading system that generates a monster based on the CD inserted into the PlayStation. Another way mongames stood out is by replacing the monsters you collect with something else entirely. Mongames like Medabots and Metal Walker opted for robots while, in Command Master and Zok Zok Heroes, you collect heroes instead. Complementing these collectibles with matching game mechanics and world-building also helps to distinguish a mongame from its contemporaries. That doesn't necessarily mean a mongame needs to replace monsters to stand out. Digimon separates itself from other mongames not with a lack of monsters but with its virtual pet game mechanics and monster designs.

Monster Designs

Digital Monster

Monsters are the main selling point of any mongame, so the creature designs are pivotal to their success. One goal for monster designs should be to become immediately recognizable. An iconic roster of monsters usually has shared characteristics that give all the monsters a distinct aesthetic. Digimon's monsters having defined musculature, sharp teeth, and ferocious claws make it difficult to mistake them for creatures from any other mongame franchise. Digimon lead designer Kenji Watanabe influenced by the harder edge of 90s American comics, created monsters with a more imposing look, in contrast to Pokémon. Having a distinct aesthetic doesn't only apply to the monster designs but also to the illustration style of the artist that brings them to life. Pokémon art director Ken Sugimori's original watercolor illustrations were a pivotal part of what made the series iconic. Another example is Dragon Quest Monsters which benefitted greatly from famed manga author Akira Toriyama designing the characters and monsters.


About the Creator


imposter syndrome

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