What is Pokémon Showdown? How to play the free browser-based Pokémon game

Get straight to the fisticuffs.

The fan-made battle simulator, Pokémon Showdown, isn’t a new site despite some recent popularity. According to the creator’s resume, the project got its start in 2011. Created by Guangcong Luo and sponsored by Smogon University, the site allows around 10,000 concurrent users to create a team and battle strangers for free. With over a million visitors per month, Pokémon Showdown seems to be doing well. If you’re jonesing for anything Pokémon, then here’s how you can get started with the unofficial, browser-based game.

When you head over to pokemonshowdown.com, there is an embedded YouTube video that sells you the founding premise of the site. Instead of following all of the steps to get to a battle while playing the official Pokémon games, you can skip straight to the fighting in your browser. Considering Pokémon Showdown doesn’t appear to be officially licensed, the site team may have found a niche for themselves. Skip the catching and training and jump straight into the team building and fighting.

If you don’t want to download anything, click the big green button that says, “Play online.” The advertising of “get straight to the point” is kind of amazingly spot on. If you just want to get in and go, you can click the button that says, “Battle! Find a random opponent.” You hop into battle as soon as you enter a username! Of course, that may not go well since your team will be randomly generated.

If you’re not in a rush,  in the top right-hand corner, click “Choose a name.” You can also click the avatar to choose one of 293 different avatars too. Then the “Teambuilder” button lets you start picking your Pokémon! You can choose up to six. It’s amazing how much detail has gone into this aspect of the site. The selection is enormous, and you can modify them too. Pick four moves for each member of your team and then customize their stats.

Screenshot by Destructoid

You can create multiple teams, giving them names and selecting what format folder they fall under. The format menu may be the least user-friendly aspect of the site in my opinion. There isn’t any explanation as to what each room means. A little trial and error may be necessary to find the room that works best for you.

There are tournaments to participate in and a ladder to climb, and chat rooms to meet new friends and even talk to your opponent during the battle. If you want to ensure keeping your progress, you will need to register. By clicking on the settings symbol beside your username and then clicking “Register,” you will get a prompt for a password. Create a password and answer an easy question to join. You will see a picture of Pikachu and the question “what is this pokémon?” to finish registration.

The browser-based battle simulator feels like a school project that has done very well for itself. With how it’s set up, you can dip your toe in for a one-off or get fully invested in joining a community of fans. It’s unclear if Nintendo is okay with its existence or is involved in some way. Hopefully, the company recognizes the fandom’s passion and enjoys the free marketing. Maybe after playing a few rounds you’ll be itching to get back to Pokémon Scarlet and Violet. Have you read where to find a Mimikyu yet?

Sam Arthurs
Sam joined Destructoid as a Freelance Writer in December 2022. She is a fan of narrative games, like The Wolf Among US, and creepy Metroidvanias. When she isn't playing or writing about video games, she reads and writes horror stories.