7 Augmented Reality Games That Paved the Way for 'Pokémon Go'

A true story: This past weekend, during an abysmal heat wave in Los Angeles, a friend and I decided to spend some time at an outdoor mall, thinking everyone would be at their air-conditioned homes, and we could have a relatively, uh, “chill” evening. Yet the place was so packed, our claustrophobic tendencies kicked into high gear. What brought people out in droves despite the inclement weather? All it took was a look at people swiping up on their phones: Pokémon Go. It’s the augmented-reality game that’s sweeping the nation, but it didn’t come out of nowhere. Check out these other AR games that act as predecessors to this popular pastime.


ar games pokemon go ingress

Arguably the most popular AR game besides Pokémon Go, Ingress places several portals in various public places, seen on your phone’s virtual map called the Scanner, that you capture and link to create control fields, which capture mind units. Rather than one-on-one competition, players work as members of factions which attract disparate folks at an international level. Many special instances of cooperation have resulted from this game, including a ceasefire and tribute paid to a shot MIT police officer.


ar games pokemon go mogi

A case could be made for this 2003 game being the first popularized AR offering. Mogi offered a collection of treasures, ranging from seashells to animals, that were hidden in real-world locations. To find these treasures, you must use your (at that point, not smart) phone’s GPS capabilities. Working either by yourself or in teams, you could trade any treasures you found with other players. The game was a huge success in Japan, nabbing a wide variety of players from every experience level and walk of life.


ar games pokemon go geocaching

While many AR games have you find completely digital treasures, the activity of Geocaching brings it into the real world. Players hide actual containers filled with actual goodies, uploading the coordinates for other players to locate via GPS. In one instance, Geocaching was actually a lifesaver, as two lost hikers found an object intended to be Geocached with detailed coordinates, and were able to send that out to the authorities.

Clandestine Anomaly

ar games pokemon go clandestine anomaly

By using your smartphone’s camera and GPS, Clandestine Anomaly makes it look like your real life is under attack by vicious aliens. To defeat these baddies, you undertake standard tower defense game mechanics (placing bases and projectile weapons in strategic locates to kill! Those! Aliens!) with the added visual twist of using your own backyard as the backdrop.

Life Is Crime

ar games pokemon go life is crime

Do you enjoy these AR games but wish they were a little more salty? Try Life Is Crime, the game that answers the question, “What if Pokémon Go had a torrid affair with Grand Theft Auto?” In this game, you play a gang leader hell bent on creating a crime empire to take over your city. To do this, you engage in the real world, traveling to various locations (thanks to your phone’s GPS) and fighting rival criminals. The fights are wholly virtual (thank goodness), structured by your character’s weapons, stats, and even reputation levels.

Parallel Kingdom

ar games pokemon go parallel kingdom

Touted as the first AR RPG, Parallel Kingdom places a virtual world over the real world (the titular parallel kingdom) and asks its player to use their GPS to take over territories, fight NPC enemies, and explore dungeons. Human players can also choose to duel over limited resources or work together to split these limited resources.

AR Invaders

ar games pokemon go ar invaders

What if Space Invaders actually happened? That’s the irresistible hook behind this simple AR game, which gives you virtual weapons to fight an incoming force of volatile alien invaders. By using your phone’s camera and GPS, the aliens impressively look like they’re actually ready for real-life destruction, giving your gameplay a sense of stakes. Sadly, there are no bonus points for reciting Bill Pullman’s Independence Day speech.

Which game do you feel like augmenting your reality with? Which ones feel like duds? What did we miss? Check me out on Twitter, but for the last time, you don’t need to throw a Pokéball at your device to do it. Just press “follow”.

Greg Smith
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