The Pokemon Nuzlocke Challenge, Explained: What Are the Pokemon Nuzlocke Rules?

Want to add some spice and excitement to your Pokemon replays? Test your Pokemon skills with the Pokemon Nuzlocke Challenge!
The Pokemon Nuzlocke Challenge, Explained: What Are the Pokemon Nuzlocke Rules?

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You're on your fifth playthrough of Pokemon Red, Pokemon Diamond, or even Pokemon Sun, and the gameplay is finally starting to feel stale.

You've been through the loop several times already: gather Pokemon, train them, and effortlessly defeat everything in your path. Before you know it, you've reached the end of the game again. Is it time to shelve your favorite Pokemon game and move on to something else?

Not yet! You still have one option.

On your next playthrough, you should try the Pokemon Nuzlocke Challenge. The Pokemon Nuzlocke Challenge rules can instantly bring new life, new spice, and new variety to any Pokemon game. Here's everything you need to know about the Pokemon Nuzlocke Challenge!

Origin of the Pokemon Nuzlocke Challenge

Image credit: Nick Franco

The Pokemon Nuzlocke Challenge started on 4chan in 2010. One user named "Nuzlocke" posted a comic that proposed a set of self-imposed rules for playing Pokemon games:

Nuzlocke's rules served one purpose: to pretend that every Pokemon that faints has truly died.

It's basically Hardcore Mode for true Pokemon fans, making the game much harder by forcing you to use Pokemon that you would never normally use in battle (like Kakuna). Nuzlocke himself (a.k.a. Nick Franco) shared his experience about how playing Pokemon games under the conditions of the Nuzlocke rules allowed him to develop actual bonds with his Pokemon.

After the Nuzlocke rules caught on, other artists joined in on the fun by creating their own Nuzlocke-inspired comics. Pokemon enthusiasts began streaming and recording videos of Nuzlocke Challenge playthroughs, spreading the trend even further.

Reddit even has its very own r/nuzlocke community, where people share and discuss their Nuzlocke experiences with other players.

The Pokemon Nuzlocke Challenge Rules

The Pokemon Nuzlocke Challenge only has two rules:

  1. 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 attempt another catch until you reach the next area.
  2. Release or retire a Pokemon that has fainted.

If your luck is poor, or if your skills at catching and battling Pokemon are lackluster, you might end up with a shortage of Pokemon at some point—and that's part of the challenge. You may also end up with an entire Pokedex of Pokemon that you loathe, which is also part of the challenge.

The Pokemon Nuzlocke Challenge, Evolved

In the years since the original Pokemon Nuzlocke Challenge caught on, some players have even taken it upon themselves to add new rules and limitations. For example, most Nuzlocke players force themselves to give unique names so they feel even more connected to their Pokemon.

Or how about when your entire team of Pokemon faints and your character blacks out? Normally, you can just heal your Pokemon and resume your journey. But hardcore Nuzlocke fans treat blackouts as gameovers—even if they still have leftover Pokemon that they can grab from their PC.

Nuzlocke purists also frown upon receiving unearned Pokemon from trades or as mystery gifts.

Here are several other optional Nuzlocke rules you can incorporate to make your Pokemon playthroughs even more interesting:

Base your starter Pokemon on your Trainer ID number. If the last digit of your ID is 1-3, choose the Grass-type Pokemon; if the last digit of your ID is 4-6, choose the Fire-type Pokemon; if the last digit of your ID is 7-9, choose the Water-type Pokemon; and if the last digit of your ID is 0, you get to choose which starter Pokemon you want.

Only use Pokemon Centers for health. No potions or other healing items. This adds a lot of tension in dungeons, forcing you to rotate your Pokemon and play more cautiously as risks increase. For even more of a challenge, cap the number of times you visit the Pokemon Center of each town and limit the amount of Pokeballs you purchase.

Modify the "first catch" rule to make things more varied. The original "first catch" rule can lead to an overabundance of certain Pokemon, which you can prevent by allowing yourself to keep searching until you find a Pokemon that you haven't caught before.

Test Your Pokemon Skills!

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, be aware that newer games like Pokemon Let's Go and Pokemon Go just don't conform well to the Nuzlocke Challenge.

For example, you can't really honor the "first catch" rule in Pokemon Let's Go. 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 while managing risk. Newer Pokemon games, unfortunately, don't encourage that.

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!