Though you can get Pokémon-related apps and side-games from the App Store, you can't play mainline Pokémon games on your phone -- and you probably won't be able to for a long time, if ever.
Unsurprisingly, reams of iOS game developers have stepped up to fill the mobile Pokémon void. And while none of these games can really match the depth and level of polish Nintendo applies to its own monster-capturing series, there are still some "Pokémon clones" that are very much worth your time.
To date, Micromon hews closest to Pokémon's formula, both visually and mechanically. You get a top-down, super-deformed view of the action as you travel through your surroundings (which are stuffed full of magical creatures just waiting to be captured, of course). When you're pulled into battle with a wild Micromon or a Micromon trainer, the action shifts to a familiar over-the-shoulder view.
Micromon makes no secret about its origins. Instead, it focuses on trying to deliver an iOS iteration of Pokémon's highly successful formula. For the most part, it succeeds. Its monsters are pretty awesome-looking, its battles are fun, and even the story should keep you engaged. That said, some players may be turned off by the fact you can guarantee rare monster catches by spending hard currency (rare currency purchasable via microtransactions).
This iOS monster collecting / battling game is arguably the best-looking of the Pokémon clones on the App Store. A lot of care was poured into each critter, and they all shine with personality as a result. Also, instead of capturing wild monsters with chips or imprisoning balls, you make friends by lobbing candy at them. Cute!
MinoMonsters is a bit stripped-down compared to other monster-battlers. The story is minimal, and there isn't a lot of world exploration going on. It's more about the fight -- which is why MinoMonsters encourages you to fight your pals online.
Dragon Island Blue ($0.99)
ZigZaGame's Dragon Island Blue is less cutesy-looking than most Pokémon clones. There's also a greater emphasis on exploration. The game really does feel like a traditional RPG, but with monsters in the place of regular swords, shields, and bows.
Dragon Island Blue's depth comes with a visual trade-off. Aside from the complex (but static) monster designs, it's not the prettiest Pokémon clone on the App Store. That said, the amount of content on tap here is unmatched. Definitely a must-play for fans of monster-nabbing.
Hunter Island ($0.99)
The follow-up to Dragon Island Blue offers even more content than its predecessor. ZigZaGame promises up to 60 hours of travelling, capturing, and battling. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but there's no denying Hunter Island feels like a complete RPG -- a rarity, since most iOS Pokémon clones are works-in-progress, and tend to be over pretty quickly.
Though Dragon Island Blue's simplified visuals are present once more, Hunter Island offers a great deal of content for a dollar. More importantly, it's very generous about handing out hard currency, so while you can spend money to guarantee rare monster captures, you probably won't need to.
Haypi Monster (Free)
Haypi Monster is one of the older monster-battling games on iOS, and it's admittedly starting to creak a little around its joints. On the flipside, there's been plenty of time for the game to build up a significant community, and for Haypi Co to add more content over the years.
Haypi Monsters is a bit more on-rails than other games in its genre. Players move around the in-game map by rolling dice and moving the allotted number of spaces. Combat, however, is more involved as there are several monster types to keep track of. Haypi Monsters isn't quite as impressive as other entries on this list, but it still retains a classic feel.
Monster Crafter (Free)
Fed up with Pokémon based around trash bags and ice cream? See if you can do better. Naquatic's Monster Crafter lets you build your own monsters using Minecraft-style blocks. Then you take your darlings through dungeons, where you battle other crafted monster and become more powerful. You can also fight other users' creations (and abominations).
Monster Crafter is a unique title, and it's surprising how creating your own critter makes you feel closer to them -- even if said critter is a jumble of colored blocks.
Much like Micromon, EvoCreo seems like it was forged directly from Pokémon's bosom. Again, there's the earthlike world that's populated by fantastic monsters (which you view from a top-down perspective), and over-the-shoulder battles with other characters who've figured out that snaring these small animals and making them do their bidding is a great way to pass a Sunday afternoon.
That said, there are definitely some noteworthy differences between EvoCreo and Pokémon. Normal-type monsters (Creo) can be molded elementally according to the attacks they use. And there aren't any Power Points (PP) to contend with either. Instead, Creo siphon power from an energy bar that recharges on its own.
EvoCreo's streamlined battle system alone makes it one of the easiest Pokémon clones to recommend.
Monster Galaxy is another old-timer as far as iOS Pokémon clones are concerned. It got its start on Facebook, and it's had time to build up quite a fanbase.
You explore the titular Zodiac Islands, capturing and battling monsters. In fact, the zodiac plays a big part in the game's battle mechanics: Your monsters are all identified by a sign, and their strengths and weaknesses are determined accordingly.
Monster Galaxy: Zodiac Islands isn't nearly as deep or involved as some of the games on this list, but its enduring popularity and cool monster roster makes it worth a glance.