What Is the Pokemon Nuzlocke Challenge?

Bored of playing Pokemon with same old rules? Up your game’s difficulty with the Nuzlocke Challenge!
Image Credit: Vincent M.A./Pexels

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You’re on your fifth playthrough of Pokemon Sun, and the gameplay is finally starting to get stale. You gather dozens of Pokemon, train them, and effortlessly defeat your competitors. Before you know it, you’ve reached the end of the game again.

For your next playthrough, you should try the Pokemon Nuzlocke Challenge. Applying these rules to your game can instantly bring the spice and variety back—learn the rules and get started!

Origin of the Pokemon Nuzlocke Challenge

The Pokemon Nuzlocke Challenge started in a 4chan forum in 2010. One user named “Nuzlocke” posted a comic that proposed new rules for playing Pokemon games.

The main rule is to pretend that every Pokemon who faints has died. You then have to release the “dead” Pokemon and catch the next one that you come across. Nuzlocke himself (a.k.a. Nick Franco) has cited that playing Pokemon with these conditions has allowed him to develop an actual bond with his Pokemon. The challenge makes the game a lot harder, forcing you to use Pokemon that you would never throw into battle (like Kakuna).

After the rules caught on, other artists joined on the fun by creating their own Nuzlocke comics. Pokemon enthusiasts began streaming and recording videos of Nuzlocke Challenge playthroughs, spreading the trend even further. Reddit even has its very on r/nuzlocke community, where people share and discuss their Nuzlocke experience with other players.

The Nuzlocke Challenge Rules

The Nuzlocke Challenge has only two rules:

  1. Release or retire a Pokemon who has fainted.
  2. Catch only the first Pokemon that you encounter in a new area. If a Pokemon flees when you’re trying to catch it, you can’t try to catch another until you reach the next area.

Depending on how good your Pokemon catching and battling skills are, you might end up with a shortage of Pokemon at some point, or a whole Pokedex full of Pokemon that you loathe—and that’s part of the challenge.

Since the introduction of the original rules, players have taken it upon themselves to add new ones. For example, most players choose to name their Pokemon, instead of sticking with the generic ones given by default. This allows players to feel even more connected to their Pokemon.

When your character blacks out after all your Pokemon have fainted, you usually just heal your Pokemon and start again, right? Hardcore Nuzlocke fans treat blackouts as gameovers, regardless of whether they still have Pokemon left in the PC. It’s also frowned upon to receive Pokemon from trades or as mystery gifts.

If you want to make your game even harder, you can add some optional Nuzlocke rules. Some of these include:

  • Base your starter Pokemon off of your Trainer ID number. Choose the Grass type Pokemon if the last digit of your ID is 1-3, a Fire type Pokemon for numbers 4-6, and a Water type Pokemon for numbers 7-9. If the last digit is a zero, you’re in luck—you get to choose your Pokemon.
  • To prevent catching the same types of Pokemon, you can modify the “first catch” rule. If you encounter a Pokemon that you already have, keep searching until you find one that you haven’t caught.
  • Use only Pokemon Centers for health, and avoid using any potions or healing items.
  • Put a cap on the number of times you visit the Pokemon Center in each town and limit the amount of Pokeballs you purchase.

You don’t have to include the above rules in order to play, but they exist in case you think the original rules are too easy. This isn’t the full list of optional rules either—you’ll find more if you search the web.

Evolution of the Nuzlocke Challenge

Around the time of the Nuzlocke Challenge’s release, Nintendo released the fifth generation of Pokemon in Pokemon Black and White. It’s easy to apply the Nuzlocke Challenge to games like Pokemon Black and White, as well as some of the more recent titles like Pokemon Sun and Moon. However, games like Pokemon Let’s Go and Pokemon Go, just don’t conform well to the Nuzlocke Challenge.

In general, Pokemon Let’s Go requires a lot less effort than the older Pokemon games. Since catching Pokemon matters so much, you can’t really honor the “first catch” rule. The Pokemon Refresh feature that lets you pet your Pokemon makes the game even easier—your Pokemon can gain certain skills after a simple grooming session.

The fun of the Nuzlocke Challenge comes from grinding and slowly working your way to the top. Newer Pokemon games, unfortunately, don’t encourage that.

Put Your Pokemon Skills to the Test

Think you’re awesome at Pokemon battles? Now it’s time to test your skills. Pick up your favorite Pokemon game, and try out the Nuzlocke Challenge. Don’t get too frustrated when your best Pokemon faints during battle!

Despite the fact that Pokemon Go differs so much from all the other Pokemon games, you can still experiment with Nuzlocke Challenge using some modified rules. Before you get started, make sure to try out these Pokemon Go secrets.

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