Pokémon is the largest and most successful video game IP in the world. But that wasn’t always the case. There was a time when Bandai’s series, Digimon, was competing neck and neck with the likes of Ash and Pikachu.
Even though Pokémon played and ultimately won the long game, Bandai put a lot of time and effort into creating innovative Digimon titles across different consoles. One of the most important platforms for the series as a whole? The original PlayStation and its array of best Digimon PS1 games.
Far from shovelware, these games explored several different genres. Not only that, but the developers always seemed to learn from past missteps, improving on previous errors and making overall quality of life changes.
Today we’re going to run our list to a more chronological standard and take a look through the best Digimon games created for the PlayStation One by order of release.
DIGIMON ARE THE CHAMP-IONS! (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself…)
The Best Digimon PS1 Games
Starting with the first PS1 Digimon release back in 1999, let’s work our way down to the most recent title.
11. Digimon World
Genre: RPG // Digital Pet
Region: Japan // NA // PAL
Release Date: January 28th, 1999
Published by (former) video game company Bandai, Digimon World is an RPG adventure that adopts an isometric camera angle and follows a young boy pulled into the Digimon World (specifically to File Island).
Assume control of the unnamed protagonist and embark on an adventure like no other. Your task? To save Digimon that’ve become feral after mysteriously losing their memories. Battle these wild Digimon to return them to their usual selves, then escort them to the safety of File City.
The central and most endearing aspect of Digimon World is the companion Digimon that you raise all the way from egg to full maturity, and the relationship that you build and sustain with that creature. You must care for your Digimon by training it, feeding it, even tending to its bathroom trips!
Riding on the coattails of virtual pet toys like the Tamagotchi, Digimon World lets you go one step further, breeding an emotional bond between you and your adventuring buddy.
It’s an excellent way to kick of this list of Digimon games on PS1, and one of the best Digimon games from that era.
10. Digimon World: Digital Card Battle
Genre: Digital Card Game
Release Date: December 22nd, 1999
Digimon World: Digital Card Battle is a prequel to a game that sits a bit further down on this list (and often confused with it since they have such similar titles). Truth be told, it was challenging to find any information on this Japan-exclusive game, mainly because everyone assumes you’re only interested in the more prominent sequel.
Digimon World: Digital Card Battle sees the player on File Island searching for the Bug Card, recently unearthed in the Ancient Dino Region. Its discovery is causing massive problems for the virtual world that the monsters inhabit, and it’s up to you to save the day. The player must find and defeat the seven Card Leaders, take each one’s “7” Card, and journey to Infinity Mountain to restore the Bug Card. Think Lord of the Rings, just with more Babamon.
The core gameplay follows that of the Digimon Collectible Card Game, with the main difference being that Digimon have individual hit points owing to the more physical battle phase.
A more primitive form of the gameplay found in its successor, DW: DCB set the stage and laid the foundation for the more polished gameplay (even if it was a bit more complex to get your head around).
Fans of Magic: The Gathering and the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG may want to seek out an English translation and check this game out.
9. Pocket Digimon World
Release Date: June 29th, 2000
Both developed and published by Bandai, Pocket Digimon World is a game that only saw release in Japan. It was also one of the few games compatible with the PocketStation, a strange memory-card-based companion device used in conjunction with the PlayStation (akin to something like a PDA).
In this RPG, evil Digimon have stolen the art, data, and music exhibits of the Digimon Museum opened by Jijimon in the Digital World. It’s your job as a Digimon Tamer to get these back by battling rival Digimon in gameplay similar to that of Pokémon Stadium.
A move usually taken by Nintendo with their cross-device functionality and bonuses, Digimon raised in PDW can be transferred to the other PlayStation title, Digimon World 2, and used to acquire the exclusive creature, Kimeramon. The game also has a good chunk of unlockable content for use alongside the Bandai handheld console, the WonderSwan.
From what I’ve been able to find, no fan translations exist for PDW, so unless you’re fluent in Japanese for reading and/or speaking, this title is a bit inaccessible. Of course, you could always just brute force your way through it and hope for the best.
8. Digimon World 2
Genre: Dungeon Crawler
Region: Japan // NA
Release Date: July 27th, 2000
A dungeon crawler similar to the famous Diablo series in its gameplay style, Digimon World 2 received many plaudits. Fans and critics laud DW2 for its simplicity, controls, and vast scope, as well as the many digital monsters to both battle against and befriend.
The plot of DW2 unfolds with the player (a Digimon Tamer named Akira) joining either the Blue Falcon, Black Sword, or Gold Hawk Guard Team to protect Digital City from the increasing Digimon attacks. The game progresses as you complete missions given by the team leader and various people in the city. But it’s not all smooth sailing. You’ll also need to thwart the plans of the Blood Knights — a group mirroring that of Team Rocket in Pokémon — who use Digimon for their own nefarious gains.
With over 100 Digimon in the game, DW2 has many options for you to build a diverse team of fighting companions. A feature that made the game such a hit was the evolution and breeding systems used; Digimon level up and progress through the ranks of Rookie – Champion – Ultimate – Mega, using Digivolving points until you reach a stat cap.
But it doesn’t stop there. Using the game’s “DNA-Digivolution,” the player can essentially merge two Digimon to get unique creatures who sacrifice a rank but have their stat caps raised. Splicing Digimon can also lead to unique variants through further Digivolutions.
If you’re a fan of Digimon and Final Fantasy, Digimon World 2 is one of the best Digimon PSX games for you.
7. Pocket Digimon World: Wind Disc Battle
Release Date: October 26th, 2000
Pocket Digimon World: Wind Battle Disc is more of an expansion to the original PDW, in the vein of what games like Blue Shift and Opposing Force were to the original Half-Life. It also mimics the characteristics of the different colored Pokémon titles like Red/Blue/Yellow. If you think about it, this isn’t exactly surprising considering the proximity of the franchises’ core ideas and concepts.
Wind Battle Disc comes with 25 all-new obtainable Digimon previously unseen in the base game. It also contains even more enemy Digimon, all of which are at various stages ranging from Fresh to Mega. In terms of new playable areas, the game features a unique location on File Island called Gecko Swamp, yours to explore to your heart’s content.
Largely the same as the first PDW, this version has a few other minor additions, such as the P-Terminal, a device used to show a Digimon’s evolution path and current condition. Again, this is very similar in concept to the Pokémon Storage System, but the intersecting ideas for these two series were inevitable.
6. Digimon Digital Card Battle
Region: Japan, NA, PAL
Release Date: December 22nd, 2000
Digimon Digital Card Battle is a video game version of the Digimon Collectible Card Game, almost identical in function to the Pokémon Trading Card Game released on the Game Boy Color. This tile serves as a spinoff of the show and elaborates on the mechanics set up in Digimon World: Digital Card Battle.
Players have a deck of 30 cards and can choose their starter partner as either Veemon, Hawkmon, or Armadillomon. Tamers can upgrade any of these creatures using Digi-Eggs earned from defeating other Tamers, and Digi-Parts that boost stats.
Decks are made up of Digimon, Support, and Special Evolution cards. The strategy revolves around discarding cards to gain Digivolve Points (DP), as well as understanding which Digimon to advance and which to hold onto. Once you’ve built up your chosen Digimon’s power, you must pit it against your opponent to see who comes out on top.
The game has a large amount of post-game content, with new arenas appearing once the player completes the main story. There’s also a powerful post-game boss.
While DDCB was an excellent alternative to other PlayStation Digimon games, fans often remark about the low difficulty threshold. Moreover, many of the game rules were a tad convoluted, with some mechanics competing against one another. Still, if a Digimon tabletop video game adaptation is what you’re after, look no further than DDCB, the best Digimon PS1 card game.
5. Pocket Digimon World: Cool & Nature Battle Disc
Release Date: February 22nd, 2001
The next game on our list of best Digimon PS1 games is another Pocket Digimon World expansion called Cool & Nature. This expansion featured even more content than the Wind Battle Disc version of the game, with two new types of Digimon.
The new Cool type introduced ice and aquatic Digimon like MarineDevimon, MetalSeadramon, and Zudomon. By contrast, the new Nature variant offered a selection of plant and insect-themed monsters like Cyclonemon and Rosemon.
Playing Pocket Digimon World: Cool & Nature was also the only way to visit Freezeland, another new area of File Island.
There’s not too much to say about these that I haven’t covered in the previous entries. The semi-sequel has more or less the same slight improvements and additional content (obviously not the same content) as WBD does. As such, this expansion is more for diehard fans who can’t get enough out of Pocket Digimon World.
4. Digimon Tamers: Pocket Culumon
Release Date: May 17th, 2001
Information on this title is extremely scarce. Even the dedicated fandom and wiki sites for Digimon hardly acknowledge its existence! Being confined to the shores of Japan explains a great deal of its lack of documented info, so I’ve had to piece this together from various forums and videos. If I misspeak or tell any untruths, please forgive me.
Anyway, Digimon Tamers as a whole is an anime series that takes more of a meta approach where people are in the “real world.” In this scenario, Digimon is a franchise consisting of the things we know it as, those being the various forms of media like TV shows and video games. The twist? In this version of the real world, Digimon suddenly become “real” and are kept as companions by the children in the show.
This game is basically PlayStation’s version of a virtual pet simulator (from what I can tell, anyhow), again working in tandem with the PocketStation for added function and utility. You take care of and interact with the adorable Culumon, a tiny creature that rivals the egg hatchling Togepi in terms of adorableness. You can do the standard virtual pet stuff, plus a few unique mini-games.
This seems like a very esoteric title that probably suited its home country better due to Japan’s more eclectic culture and willingness to experiment with more radical and new ideas, particularly when it comes to video games. Definitely a hidden gem among the best Digimon PS1 games.
3. Digimon Park
Genre: Action // Edutainment
Release Date: July 26th, 2001
Technically classified as an Edutainment title (they always do well, right?), this mini-game-laden affair came with a Kids Station controller (Kids Station is a children’s TV network like Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network). This is essentially just the PS1 controller, except it featured buttons about 20 times larger!
You can play through the game with different characters and monsters from the TV shows’ various incarnations, but the gameplay is the exact same no matter who you choose. Obviously targeted at a much younger age demographic (hence the simplicity of both the game and the peripheral it came with), the mini-games are quite basic and simple. An example? One popular mini-game required you to keep Digimon balanced while performing a handstand or solving introductory math problems.
Digimon Park is inoffensive and well-intentioned, using Digimon’s appeal to attempt to provide some form of education to young children, no matter how slight. Harkening back to the rivalry between Digimon and Pokémon, Nintendo also attempted such moves, with games like Learn with Pokémon: Typing Adventure (another solid title).
Digimon Park is one of the best Digimon PS1 games for kids… but older fans will probably want to steer clear.
2. Digimon Rumble Arena
Region: Japan, NA, PAL
Release Date: December 6th, 2001
Moving into yet another different genre, Digimon Rumble Arena (also known as Digimon Tamers Battle Evolution) was a fighting game that featured digital monsters from various forms of the series, including Digimon Adventures and Digimon Tamers.
Instead of focusing on intense combos or a varied cast of characters, DRA was fairly simplistic in its mechanics. You have a basic attack, a block, a jump, two finisher moves, and a special finisher. The game also retains some of the rock-paper-scissors elements from the main series. For instance, fire-based Digimon inflict more damage against Nature Digimon but take greater damage from Water Digimon. Stages also played a big part in battles and featured a number of creative hazards (again related to the different types).
Digimon Rumble Arena is a solid fighting game that’s fun, easy to pick up, has a fair amount of unlockable material, and sits nicely on the difficulty scale. Without a doubt, the best Digimon PS1 fighting game on this list.
1. Digimon World 3
Region: Japan, NA, Europe
Release Date: June 5th, 2002
Topping off our list of best Digimon PS1 games is the third in the Digimon World trilogy. And as luck would have it, it really is among the very best, with a beautiful art style, solid storyline, and updated mechanics.
Digimon World 3 is another RPG with a few unique twists. This time around, you’ll play as Junior, a boy who becomes trapped with his friends Ivy and Teddy inside a fictional Digimon MMORPG game called “Digimon Online.” The cause of their entrapment? The evil terrorist group known as “Lucky Mouse.”
Assume control of Junior as he and his friends grab their Digimon and set out to free themselves, fighting back against the hackers from inside the game.
Differing slightly from past precedential mechanics, you can now choose which of the three forms you want your Digimon to be between battles (rather than evolutions being permanent states). The battle system also matches that of standard 1v1 Pokémon duels rather than the party system found in other RPGs.
DW3 is an in-depth adventure that will satisfy even the most hardened role-playing-game aficionado, and has all the hallmarks of a great RPG. If you need further convincing that this is one of the best Digimon PS1 games, there’s a boss in this game called Lord Megadeth.
Need I say more?