Pokemon has taken the world by storm once again, in large part due to the hit mobile game Pokemon GO. One series that many haven’t been exposed to is a similar series, Shin Megami Tensei, developed by Atlus. The Persona spinoff series is more widely known, although it still doesn’t reach the heights and popularity of Pokemon. One thing people don’t realize though is that Shin Megami Tensei is Pokemon for adults. In Shin Megami Tensei, you take control of Demons and use them to battle, as opposed to cute and lovable “pocket monsters.” While Pokemon’s story stresses the morals of friendship and battling side-by-side, Shin Megami Tensei instead focuses on the very nature of morality, giving a very different kind of narrative more appropriate for the fully developed mind.

Shin Megami Tensei is Pokemon for Adults — Story

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Each installment in the franchise has you fight what people consider to be “God” or “Lucifer”; the choice is yours and based on the decisions you make in the game. There is also a more difficult, but ultimately more rewarding third choice where you can fight both of them and reject the preconceived notions of morality, which is a really interesting philosophical quandary to place the player in. By nature though, these ideas are very complex. Pokemon is “black and white” (quite literally!), as opposed to Shin Megami Tensei, which is incredibly layered and filled with gray. The latter also gives you choice and ownership over the story. This is the opposite of Pokemon, where the narrative is straightforward as can be. It lacks the immersion that oozes out of the Shin Megami Tensei franchise, which is why Shin Megami Tensei is a great series to move on to once you’ve grown up from Pokemon.

Shin Megami Tensei is Pokemon for Adults — Gameplay

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The turn-based combat and “evolution” system in Shin Megami Tensei puts Pokemon to shame. Pokemon’s battle system is very simple. The moves are straightforward, and while there’s some strategy in EV training, it’s all based on type advantage. Shin Megami Tensei is very different. Yes, there are some moves that take advantage of a boss’/demon’s weaknesses, but there is a lot more strategy in the combat. It becomes much more difficult as the game progresses and the moves are also much more diverse. Shin Megami Tensei IV has some of the best turn-based combat of any Japanese RPG, and this is only continued in Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, which we are currently playing. This is no small feat.

There are so many demons that you can combine and merge, all with their own set of strengths and weaknesses. Demon progression is also more customizable in Shin Megami Tensei than the evolutionary path of Pokemon, giving you a fuller experience.

Shin Megami Tensei is Pokemon for Adults — Why it Matters

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There is nothing negative about saying that Shin Megami Tensei is Pokemon for adults. Both franchises are incredibly fulfilling despite the fact that they target very different demographics. In fact, the target audience is the reason for the difference in the depth of the gameplay, but that’s only natural. Pokemon can be a deep experience if you choose to make it one (EV training is ridiculous), while Shin Megami Tensei is deep from beginning to end. It is a much more hardcore experience and accompanies the lighter Pokemon. There is a place for both though, even among adult gamers.

Pokemon appeals to everyone, and that’s a part of its charm. I’ve been playing Pokemon since I was  in the sixth grade and I’m not stopping anytime soon, but Shin Megami Tensei simply satisfied my hunger for something a little deeper. Pokemon’s popularity is larger than ever now with Pokemon GO and Pokemon Sun and Moon on the way, but this could actually help Shin Megami Tensei as more adults get back into Pokemon and want a more mature experience to go along with the fun-filled adventure they’ve known and loved for 20 years.

About The Author

Founder/Editor-in-Chief

Morgan Lewis is a Video Game Journalist and Founder and Editor-in-Chief of VG Culture HQ. He has been writing about games for over four years and has written over 900 articles during that timespan. He first fell in love with gaming when he received A Link to the Past for Christmas when he was six. He also loves anime and anything that has to do with gaming culture.

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  • Ckarasu

    You mean Pokemon is SMT for kids, because SMT came first. Well before pokemon. I mean, I get what you’re saying, but the one to come first gets all the glory as it were.

  • You say that the gameplay in SMT has more strategy and the moves are more diverse, but you don’t really go into any detail. Nothing in this article really shows how deep the combat system is.