Pokémon is a phenomenon, one that’s lasted a constant 25 years developed on a structure of friendly roleplaying games. On the DS, Nintendo’s bestselling piece of hardware, 3 of the top 10 bestselling titles are mainline Pokémon games. It’s a franchise that constantly serves as a system seller despite (or perhaps since of) the reality that it develops at a glacial pace. But that’s only real of the core Pokémon experience. While those RPGs have been infamously resistant to change, the lots of, lots of Pokémon spinoffs are a different story. In fact, numerous of Pokémon’s greatest success stories, from the smash hit movie Investigator Pikachu to the incredible success of Pokémon Go, were a result of this experimental attitude.

Without these spin-offs, Pokémon would not be what it is today– and they’re still helping press the series into the future.

It didn’t take long for Nintendo to start testing the waters. Simply a couple of years after the breakout success of Red and Blue on the Video Game Boy in 1996, the business released Pokémon Stadium on the Nintendo 64. It kept the same core idea of charming beasts battling versus each other, but streamlined the action while adding 3D graphics, a big step up from the monochrome 8-bit visuals of the originals. It was a modification however still pretty familiar area for fans, whether they originated from the Video game Kid games or the animated series.

Quickly, however, the spinoffs would check out brand-new area. One of the most beloved Pokémon video games is Snap, essentially a wildlife photography simulator, where gamers go on a safari to record pictures of their favorite monsters. It tapped into something the main games didn’t, with a less competitive kind of experience that was inviting to new gamers. Subsequent spinoffs went in a similar instructions.

Games like Pokémon Pinball, Puzzle Difficulty, and Hey You, Pikachu! all took the familiar world and characters however transferred them into entirely brand-new categories (and in the case of the latter, adding then-rare voice controls). Much like the still-running Pokémon animated series, these video games produced brand-new entry points for possible fans, easing them into the fictional universe. It’s a method that’s now commonplace, utilized by everyone from Disney to Riot Games. But in the late ’90s, it was a novel approach.

This strategy continued over the ensuing years. There were battling video games (Pokkén Tournament), narrative experience video games (Investigator Pikachu), strategy games (Pokémon Conquest), and puzzle crossovers (Pokémon Picross), among others. Sometimes, these games might seem nearly bizarre– attempt playing a Tekken-style fighter with Pikachu dressed up in a fumbling outfit, or one where the electrical rat can’t stop drinking coffee– but they pushed the limits of what a Pokémon video game might be. (Detective Pikachu would go on to spawn the top-grossing computer game film of all time.) They also permitted the series to hit lots of different platforms. Initially, that was limited to Nintendo consoles and handhelds, but as soon as the franchise debuted on mobile, it altered significantly.

Things started out rather inauspiciously, with the launching of Pokémon Shuffle in 2015, essentially a Pikachu-themed Candy Crush clone. However it helped lay the foundation for the franchise on mobile phones. And just one year later on, things would blow up. Niantic Labs, then a relatively little studio known for a sci-fi location-based game called Ingress, launched a take on Pokémon that was maybe the most effective marriage of video game type and imaginary universe. It allowed players to head out in the real life to find and catch pocket monsters on their phone.

We all understand what occurred next: Pokémon Go became a global phenomenon, setting app store records and becoming the rare game that could make countless gamers leave the home and exercise, all for the opportunity of capturing virtual animals. It would be years before any real competitors released, and none have actually been anywhere near as effective. Today, Pokémon Go is still among the biggest mobile video games on the planet. In many methods it reinvigorated the franchise, boosting the sales of older titles and influencing the style of subsequent ones.

Since then, releases have ended up being arguably a lot more unexpected, with whatever from a café management video game to a mobile app to assist gamers brush their teeth. And soon the franchise will go for brand-new territory yet once again with Pokémon Unite, a competitive multiplayer video game that appears like League of Legends, other than with Charmander and Squirtle. It offers Pokémon an opportunity to use the burgeoning world of competitive video gaming and, once again, potentially reach an entire new audience that has never touched a mainline Pokémon RPG before.