Temtem is the grown-up version of Pokémon we always wanted

Temtem (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / Windows Central)

If you're a Pokémon fan, you've likely seen the news about Temtem, a creature collection MMO that was heavily inspired by Game Freak's popular franchise. Temtem is currently available on PC in early access and, at the time of writing this, has been Steam's top-selling game since its release.

I've put over 20 hours into the game and have been able to see just how similar it is to the core Pokémon RPGs. However, what's most striking is how different it actually is. The biggest difference is that while Pokémon takes place in an idealized kiddie world, Temtem gives us a world that has grown and evolved along with long-time Pokémon fans, and it does this without losing that Pokémon charm. Here are all the things that make Temtem a more mature, more challenging, and more realistic creature collection game than Pokémon.

You're a big kid now

Adult Temtem

Source: Rebecca Spear / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Rebecca Spear / Windows Central)

Instead of playing as a naive 10-year-old kid who's gone galavanting around the region, Temtem has you play as a young adult probably in their 20s. This in and of itself allows for more mature topics of conversation within the game. It also reflects on many of us who are no longer children but still love the Pokémon franchise. This does something Game Freak hasn't done; it allows adult gamers to feel more included, like this creature collection game was meant for them and not just for kids.

Options for personal expression, including gender expression

Temtem pronouns

Source: Rebecca Spear / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Rebecca Spear / Windows Central)

One thing I've disliked about Pokémon games is that they limit the character customization options based on whether you choose to play as a male or female character. I've always been a tomboy and hate it when games pidgeon-hole me into a super girly character. However, I didn't feel limited in Temtem.

You can choose from a wide variety hair styles, face shapes, body type, or clothing options, even if some people might assume some of them are more masculine or feminine. When creating my character, I opted for an athletic run, chose outdoorsy clothes, selected non-feminine eyes, put my hair up in a ponytail, and selected a heavy duty camping backpack, which feels like what I'd be like in this world.

What's more, Temtem allows you to choose the pronoun you want applied to you whether that be she/her, he/him, or they/them. All these options make the game more inclusive and allow players to create a character that really expresses who they are.

This freedom of gender identity is also seen with the NPCs. You'll encounter a lot of characters with a range of clothing and hair styles that aren't always limited to "traditional" genders. Heck, one of the female NPCs even came on to my female character before we battled.

References to nerd culture

LOTR reference Temtem

Source: Rebecca Spear / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Rebecca Spear / Windows Central)

It's obvious that Temtem was created by Pokémon fans who love nerd culture and don't take themselves too seriously. I found myself chuckling several times while interacting with Temtem's NPCs. There are several references to pop culture, nerdy franchises, and classic video games.

Something to note is that many of these references only appear once and only become available if you answer the NPCs a certain way. So far, the references I've seen have alluded to things like Portal with "the cake is a lie," The Lord of the Rings with "you shall not pass," Frozen with "let it go," Marie Kondo with "does this Temcard spark joy?," and many others.

These easter eggs further solidify that Temtem was created by gaming nerds who love their nerdy culture. If nothing else, it makes me more interested to talk to every NPC in case I discover a new allusion.

Temtem aren't idealized


Source: Rebecca Spear / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Rebecca Spear / Windows Central)

Aside from the Detective Pikachu movie, the official world of Pokémon takes place in an idealized, black and white setting. The people have pretty monochromatic emotions, the Pokémon are happy to be there, and all trainers — except for obvious villains — are good people. Temtem adds more realism to the creature collection genre by giving NPCs more character depth and making owning Temtem more akin to having an actual pet.

For instance, in the image above, this NPC is complaining about the fact that his bird Temtem went to the bathroom in his bed. I love my cat and my dog, but occaisionally, they do things I don't like: scratch my couches, throw up on the carpet, eat my remote control, or a whole bunch of other things. It's nice to see that Temtem addresses this reality and makes Temtem ownership more relatable.

Drugs and alcohol

Smazee Temtem

Source: Rebecca Spear / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Rebecca Spear / Windows Central)

Temtem dives into a place Pokémon dares not go by referencing GASP marijuana-like substances and alcoholic drinks. At one point, I came across an NPC who was angry at his father for naming him after a butterfly Temtem. The NPC even stated that his father was a drug-using hippy and referenced some kind of regional weed.

Additionally, your mentor, Professor Konstatinos, and many of the Dojo leaders talk about going to the pub or grabbing drinks at some point. It helps make the world of Temtem feel a little more mature without taking away from the fun and playful air you find in the Pokémon games.


Swearing Temtem

Source: Rebecca Spear / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Rebecca Spear / Windows Central)

Yes, there is indeed plenty of swearing in Temtem. You won't find the F-bomb or other really "bad words", but your rivals and the villains you defeat will use more colorful language to show their displeasure. This is something you'd never find in a Pokémon game. While I love the child-like innocence the Pokémon games capture, it's also liberating seeing a Pokémon-like game use more adult language. It makes me feel like the game was intended for me and not just for little kids.

A challenging rival

Rival Temtem

Source: Rebecca Spear / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Rebecca Spear / Windows Central)

One of the things I've hated about recent Pokémon games is that your rivals are absolute idiots when it comes to battling. Case in point, Hop from Sword and Shield somehow manages to defeat all gyms and make it all the way to the Championship, but still doesn't understand the type system by the end of the game. His neverending tutorials and mansplaining makes it feel like you're being patronized and treated with kid gloves throughout your journey.

In comparison, Max, your main rival in Temtem, hates your guts and relishes in the fact that he has stronger Temtem than you and knows the battle system better than you do. Fighting him feels a lot like playing Red and Blue where defeating your rival is a challenge throughout the game. You have to work hard to level up your Temtem and figure out which creatures to add to your team if you want to succeed.

Dojo leaders and more complex combat strategies

Temtem battle

Source: Rebecca Spear / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Rebecca Spear / Windows Central)

I breezed past the gyms in Pokémon Sword and Shield and never even got close to losing. That's not too surprising given that I've had years of practice playing Pokémon and know the type system thoroughly enough to battle effectively. However, Temtem made me realize how simple and unchallenging the Pokémon games are. You see, Temtem battles are a lot harder. In fact, I've died several times because I've come at battles thinking they'd be the same as they are in Pokémon.

For one thing, you always fight with two Temtem on your team, which means you need to consider how well they work together. And when you fight against Dojo leaders (the equivalent of Gym leaders) you'll find that not only do they have six Temtem at their disposal, which is much more than most of Pokémon's Gym leaders, but they will have a variety of Temtem types instead of just having one.

So while you could blast through a Water-type gym using only your Pikachu in a Pokémon game, you'll have to be more strategic and have a variety of Temtem types on your team in order to defeat a Dojo leader or any other tamer in Temtem.

Play like an adult

If you're like me — an adult who's been playing Pokémon for years — you'll find the more adult themes within Temtem to be very inviting. The more complex battle mechanics and the hidden nerd references throughout the games make it feel like it was meant for grown ups. Plus the freedom given to customize your character and choose your gender pronouns makes it so everyone can express themselves the way they want. If nothing else, you'll have just as much fun discovering new creatures and figuring out exactly what they can turn into like you do with Pokémon.

Temtem is currently available to purchase on Steam. Don't worry, if you're aren't a PC gamer, Temtem is also scheduled to come to Nintendo Switch later this year.

Rebecca Spear
Editor and Reviewer

Self-professed gaming geek, Rebecca Spear, is one of Windows Central's editors and reviewers with a focus on gaming handhelds, PC gaming, and laptops. When she isn't checking out the latest games on Xbox Game Pass, PC, ROG Ally, or Steam Deck; she can be found digital drawing with a Wacom tablet. She's written thousands of articles with everything from editorials, reviews, previews, features, previews, and hardware reviews over the last few years. If you need information about anything gaming-related, her articles can help you out. She also loves testing game accessories and any new tech on the market. You can follow her @rrspear on X (formerly Twitter).