After Palworld, a new Pokemon Legends RPG is exactly what Nintendo needed

Pokemon Legends Arceus
(Image credit: The Pokemon Company)

Legal discussions around the relationship between Palworld and Pokemon are pretty played out, especially with The Pokemon Company suggesting it has limited interest in chasing after any kind of copyright lawsuit. What remains far more interesting, however, is the idea that Palworld has taken the Pokemon formula and innovated on it far more successfully than Game Freak has managed for years. Now, albeit probably more by accident than design, Pokemon Legends: Z-A could prove to be the perfect rebuttal to those claims.

There are plenty of readily-apparent comparisons to be drawn between some of Palworld's designs and Pokemon, but that's not really why the link between the two games is interesting. Palworld has succeeded not because it was inspired by Game Freak's designs, but because it's the first game to do something genuinely new with the creature-collecting format that Nintendo helped popularize nearly three decades ago. In 70 hours with Palworld, I'm still yet to touch a gun, but its survival mechanics, genuinely threatening wild creatures, and the ability to rely on the inherent skills of the creatures you catch, all create a world that feels more alive than any Pokemon game has for years.


The only game that's come close is Pokemon Legends: Arceus. Survival and sweatshops aside, the Hisui region offered the first real sense of what it would be like to occupy a world roamed and ruled by wild Pokemon, and considered how people's relationship with these creatures would have shaped the world they lived in. Twists to capturing and battling further considered the reality of Pokemon outside of the turn-based format that's always felt like a clunky realization of the world shaped by the manga and anime. 

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet tried their best to emulate some of those ideas, but Pokemon's first true open world faltered significantly. Gen 9 might have had a strong sales performance, but performance issues, even amid dated visuals, meant that this was far from the (long-delayed) step into the modern era that many Pokemon fans had been hoping for. 

Pokemon Legends

(Image credit: Nintendo)

And it was a world shaped more by Scarlet and Violet than Legends: Arceus that Palworld burst into. Plenty of factors played into Pocketpair's lightning-in-a-bottle moment, but it can't be denied that in fumbling its most recent mainline game, Game Freak handed the survival game devs the key and the kite. If Palworld had launched into Arceus' shadow, it would have found itself competing with a game that adapted the traditional Pokemon formula with far more confidence and competence than Gen 9 would prove to. That might not have had any measurable impact on Palworld's success, but it certainly wouldn't have let the survival game launch into an environment where Pokemon felt at its weakest point in years.

I'm not laboring under the assumption that Nintendo or Game Freak got Pokemon Legends: Z-A ready in direct response to Palworld. It's been a matter of weeks since the survival game topped the Steam charts; with Z-A releasing in 2025, it will have been in the works for multiple years already. Even if Nintendo matches Arceus' release window with an early 2025 release, Palworld will already be more than a year old, and I'd guess it will hold much less cultural sway than it does now. But the accusations remain clear – mainline Pokemon games have become stale, and Game Freak isn't the force of innovation that the creature collecting genre has found itself in need of. 

If there's been an exception to that rule in recent years, it's been Pokemon Legends: Arceus, so if more games like Palworld are going to come knocking in their search for a slice of Nintendo's pie, it's lucky that a new Legends game will be there to answer.

Pokemon Legends Z-A could show us yet another side of the RPG's history, building on what made Arceus so special.

Ali Jones
News Editor

I'm GamesRadar's news editor, working with the team to deliver breaking news from across the industry. I started my journalistic career while getting my degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick, where I also worked as Games Editor on the student newspaper, The Boar. Since then, I've run the news sections at PCGamesN and Kotaku UK, and also regularly contributed to PC Gamer. As you might be able to tell, PC is my platform of choice, so you can regularly find me playing League of Legends or Steam's latest indie hit.