25 Years Ago, One Pokémon Spinoff Redefined the Franchise

Point and shoot.

Pokémon Snap

Over the decades Pokémon has grown in leaps and bounds, exploring new angles of the beloved creatures from a stop-motion series about a Pokémon resort to the full-blown feature film with Detective Pikachu. The little creatures have wormed their way into the hearts of generations to the point where Pokémon is about much more than battling. That wasn’t the case 25 years ago, however, when a key spinoff helped push Pokémon in a new direction, giving life to the series like never before.

Released on Nintendo 64 on March 21, 1999, Pokémon Snap was one of the first spinoffs the series had seen, following in the footsteps of Pokémon Stadium and Hey You, Pikachu. Like the latter, Snap was integral to showing how Pokémon interact with the world around them, making them feel like living, breathing creatures rather than just tokens for battling.

Pokémon Snap doesn’t just show Pokémon in their natural habitat, but crucially shows how they interact and live alongside each other.


The setup of the game has you playing as Todd, who’s signed on to help Professor Oak with his research projects. While there is a light story, this is an experience built entirely on its gameplay systems — and the adorable creatures, of course.

Pokémon Snap is a deceptively simple game, you’re entire goal is to take perfect pictures of Pokémon as you move along a pre-determined track in a cart. As you progress through the game, though, you unlock a variety of accessories that can be used to interact with Pokémon, like apples to attract them to specific spots or a Poke-Flute that can affect their demeanor.

An apt description is to call Snap the National Geographic of Pokémon games. It’s all about studying behavior and trying to influence the creatures just enough to get the perfect shot. The real joy of the game lies in the emergent little moments that pop up — like a group of Charmanders losing their minds over an apple or Jigglypuff getting furious when you interrupt her cave concert.

Even though you can complete the entire game in roughly ten hours, there’s an intensely compelling gameplay loop at its core. Going back through levels to find every little secret and perfect your photos is immensely satisfying. It helps keep the experience fresh, even though you’ll need to replay the same level multiple times.

Discovering a new little interaction in Pokémon Snap is a joy, like getting Pikachu to hop on a surfboard.


As robust as Pokémon Snap feels, it surprisingly only featured 63 of the original 151 creatures. It’s a real testament to how strong the core idea and execution are that the game still feels so vibrant despite not even featuring half of the original designs.

More than anything, Snap worked in tandem with the mega-hit anime series to bring the world of Pokémon to life. It made Pokémon feel alive in a way that no other game had. It helped set the stage for countless other games, TV shows, and movies that dig into what a world filled with Pokémon would actually look and feel like. In that regard, Pokémon Snap is one of the most important games the franchise has ever seen.

Pokémon Snap is available on Nintendo Switch with a Nintendo Switch Online membership.

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