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A Minecraft mod is the best open-world Pokémon experience out there

I’m late to the party, but Pixelmon is fantastic

The deer Pokémon, Deerling, roams around in a Minecraft forest Pixelmon Mod/Mojang via Polygon
Julia Lee (she/her) is a guides producer, writing guides for games like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and Genshin Impact. She helped launch the Rift Herald in 2016.

Whenever there is a lull in game releases, my friends default to the same game: Minecraft, but with a Pokémon mod.

Pixelmon has been a staple within our friends longer than I’ve been friends with them. I didn’t own Minecraft on my own before this year, so I always skipped out on their two week craze every couple of years. When it was Pixelmon time, it was time for me to play literally anything else. Until this year, when I finally bought my own copy of Minecraft.

Pixelmon isn’t a polished, beautiful game, but it’s probably the closest thing we’re ever going to get to having an open-world Pokémon game. It’s literally just Pokémon, but on a Minecraft-generated world. Clunky, round models of every Pokémon, from Charmander to Melmetal, are roaming about in the world. You just have to find them.

You’ll find bug- and grass-type Pokémon in a forest biome, and water-types around the ocean. For fire-types, you’ll have to check out the desert. The world is randomly generated, with Pokémon centers, shops, and even gyms scattered about the world. However, this means that you can run into a level 40 Graveler with nothing but your fresh, level five starter.

Several Pokémon like Gastly and Pawniard roam around in a Minecraft forest
There are so many Pokémon just chillin’ out there!
Pixelmon Mod/Mojang via Polygon

Fleeing from battles that are too tough and taking the time to knock out a bunch of Weedles and Seedots to level up your precious team isn’t new to any form of Pokémon. However, scavenging for Apricorns, fruit that can be turned into Pokéballs, and struggling to find a town in the vast Minecraft wastelands so you can heal up your Pokémon and rest makes for a unique experience.

Shortly after starting my Pixelmon adventure, my friends told me where to find the town they set up base in. I slept in a bed there, ensuring that if I died, I’d respawn back in the town, and went on my merry way with my new Bulbasaur. After roaming around for several in-game days, I noticed I wasn’t finding any new biomes. I griped to my friends, to which they laughed and said, “Dude, you need a flying-type Pokémon so you can ride it and fly around.”

After getting on a Pidgeot my friend traded me to help me in my adventure, my third eye opened. The world is gigantic. This game is outstanding and there are so many possibilities. I discovered other biomes and towns and there was something strangely beautiful about these out-of-place looking Pokémon models trotting around on top of Minecraft mountains. There’s an incredible satisfaction in roaming around in the wilds and finally spying a Pokémon that I’ve been looking for.

While on the back of a Pidgeot, a Minecraft character surveys the land from above.
That Ursaring is level 60 and it’ll wreck me.
Pixelmon Mod/Mojang via Polygon

Even if I wasn’t actively catching or battling Pokémon, exploring the lands on the back of my Pidgeot and hearing the Wingulls fly around me is soothing.

Pokémon Sword and Shield will have an open-world area, referred to as the Wild Area, but judging from the trailers, it’s not going to measure up to how big of a world Minecraft gives us to explore.

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