Digimon Survive is fast approaching. The new approach to the Digimon franchise looks to come at storytelling in a new in-depth direction. The visual novel and anime-esque scenes mixed with classic tactical RPG battle gameplay are creating quite the anticipation and buzz. In case you cant hold over until the game releases on July 29th, let’s stroll down memory lane at some of the best, or maybe even worst gameplay the franchise has had to offer in the last 20-plus years. Let’s look at the top 15 Digimon games for you to go back and play in preparation for Digimon Survive.
15. Digimon World 4 (2005)
Over the last few years, the consensus of Digimon World 4 seems to be a game that is ‘so bad it’s good’. The morbid curiosity of yesteryear has taken over as a Digimon game that ditches most of its traditional RPG mechanics for a fresher idea of hack and slash, seems like too much of a silly idea to pass out. Whether the gameplay “doesn’t fit” or not, may people rediscovering Digimon World 4 do so for the novelty of the experience, even creating the meme of calling it “Digimon Dark Souls”.
14. Digimon All-Star Rumble (2014)
Speaking of ‘so bad it’s good’, Digimon All-Star Rumble was a decent game that had a lot of legacy to build up to and just couldn’t quite do it. Upon retrospect, the real problem was it was just an average fighting game similar to Smash Bros but with Digimon, with nothing special to offer compared to the thrilling aspect of the previous two Rumble games. The gameplay still holds up and the colors and graphics do too. Without the history of expectations for this game, it’s actually probably a very welcomed and enjoyable revisit now compared to when it first came out.
13. Digimon World Data Squad (2006)
Trying to redefine their gameplay to be more broad and appealing, the team behind Digimon World Data Squad went with a very Pokemon-esque approach. They hoped the more simplistic gameplay and battle system would bring the dying franchise back to its former glory a few years before. Sadly that didn’t take and a lot of players felt the experience was just too simple and boring despite being well made.
12. Digimon World (1999)
The one that started them all, Digimon World has managed to remain an adored first outing for fans. While the overall gameplay and story is simple and easy, especially by today’s standards if not then as well in the PS1 era, the approach was both safe and reliable. This meant there was a trustworthy base that could build on later, creating a hopeful “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” attitude for the franchise at the start, which was promising.
11. Digimon World 2 (2001)
As said, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, and Digimon World 2, while not fixing, did add to improve. Refining some of the clunky and glitchy mechanics of the first game, Digimon World 2 created a more dungeon crawler-style gameplay. This along with a huge library of 200+ Digimon did a lot to appeal and reinforce that the franchise was only getting started and gave a lot of hope for further development of future games.
10. Digimon Rumble Arena (2002)
For its time, Digimon Rumble Arena gets away with its barebone charm of being exactly what fans wanted. All your favorites were available to play in a typical fighting game setting and that was all most fans and players needed. No storyline required, you picked your favorite Mons and they battled it out and at the height of the franchise, it was something that appealed to those playing for hours on end.
9. Digimon Adventure (2013)
Despite how successful and popular the first season of the Digimon anime was in both Japan and America, a game version of the story starring all those iconic characters and Digimon didn’t come out till nearly 12 years later. That’s right, Digimon games have a long sad history of not capitalizing on themselves throughout their 25-year history. Despite the nostalgia hit of the game and the very well-made graphics, some of the rather flat gameplay and storytelling can lead you to wish you were just watching the show again instead. The real sad twist is that it never got released outside of Japan.
8. Digimon World DS (2006)
While combining the best parts of the main-line World games (mostly 1-3) and fixing the problems that Data Squad had, Digimon World DS really hits it out of the park, at least in what is the most appealing part of a Digimon game. There are over 300 Digimon to battle and see, and the Digi-Farm aspect where you can evolve and train your Digimon, the mechanics were all there for good time-consuming fun. However, they still couldn’t get a compelling story or lasting impression beyond the wonder of seeing and fighting all the Digimon one could.
7. Digimon World Dusk and Dawn (2007)
Digimon World DS did so well that Bandai immediately went double or nothing into producing 2 sequel games. I a bit of a reverse pokemon release strategy, the dual games of Dusk and Dawn are technically two different games telling the same story with different night and day themed Digimon. While the Pokemon copy-cat syndrome feels the closes it ever has, Dusk and Dawn feature enough of its own unique RPG mechanics built off the last 8 or so years of the Digimon World franchise. Along with one of the most engaging stories in the series to date, they give you a wholly unique experience you need to try for yourself, even if you feel some similarities.
6. Digimon World: Next Order (2017)
In the last few years of the 2010s, the Digimon games seemed to be improving once again and giving us fresh and competent takes on the franchise and its possibilities never used at full potential. One of the best and well-received “a-ha!” moments came out of Digimon World: Next Order. Fans had waited for a long time for an Open-World Digimon game, and we finally got one. Many fans and critics were so happy with the mechanics, in-depth story, and interactions with Digimon in and outside of combat it was deemed by many favorably as “Digimon’s Persona game“.
5. Digimon Rumble Arena 2 (2004)
Once again the nostalgia and simplicity of a fighting game can just outmatch any intricate gameplay or in-depth storytelling. If we are keeping up with the inevitable that all Digimon Rumble games are going to be compared to Smash Bros, then it would be best to described Rumble Arena 2 as the Melee of its franchise. With one addition outside of Smash Bros that may be more appealing to Digimon fans, characters had health bars, making the battles much easier and more appealing to just right into the mix again and again.
4. Digimon Re:Digitize (2012)
While also only released in Japan, Digimon Re:Digitize started a new wave of potential for Digimon games going forward. Reinvigorating both the franchise and bringing the gameplay of the first few Worlds games into the new era of games, Re:Digitize set the blueprint and the standard of what would be some of the best Digimon games of all time all while boasting new designs of classic characters and Digimon from the artist of the anime Durarara!
3. Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth – Hacker’s Memory (2017)
We’ll get to Cyber Sleuth in a minute, but first, we have to talk about easily the best sequel to any main-line series that didn’t let fans down, Hacker’s Memory. Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth – Hacker’s Memory was an immediate response to how well received the last few Digimon games had become. Popularity within the gaming franchise fanbase seemed to have all its credibility back and Bandai wanted to capitalize on it for once. Hacker’s Memory has a lot of the first Cyber Sleuth’s mechanics and maps, only more. It seems they finally cracked a perfect formula with the first Cyber Sleuth and instead of tweaking gameplay too much, they just did the most logical thing fans wanted, which was to give them more, and much more they received with over 3 free to download DLC packs and almost 100 new Digimon on top of the original’s 350.
2. Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth (2015)
After over 15 years of trials and tribulations, there finally came a Digimon game that did everything right. In time for their 15th anniversary, Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth brought back the RPG gameplay of the original Digimon World games and build masterfully upon what Re:Digitize accomplished a few years prior. With one of the best stories in any Digimon game ever made, over 200 classic Digimon to use, stunning visuals, and near-perfect gameplay, Cyber Sleuth was a perfectly made Digimon game. No glitches or clunkiness to hold it back, Digimon Story made everyone who loves Digimon hopeful for more hits to come.
1. Digimon World 3 (2002)
While Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth created the perfectly mixed Digimon RPG for the new era of 2010s video games, it was Digimon World 3 that hit that perfect spot the first time. Sometimes, you’ve just got to respect the classics. World 3 was everything every fan wanted, it was fun and simple to use but not too bland and has its own unique feel away from the Pokemon comparisons. Coming at the end of the PS1 life cycle, all the trials and errors of World 1 and 2 paid off with the smoothest and best gameplay of any Digimon game for almost 10 years until Re:Digitize. At the height of the show’s popularity as well, Digimon World 3 was the perfect combination of then modern JRPG gameplay and what made fans love Digimon as a whole.
(Related: How Long is Digimon Survive? )