Nuzlocke and Loaded

By firecape. Art by Fatecrashers.
« Previous Article Home Next Article »

What is Nuzlocke?

If you have this question you are in the right place. If you already kinda-sorta maybe heard of it once in passing you probably want to read this too, and if you already know what it is you are going to read this anyways because you have nothing better to do. Its origin dates back to a man creating the first two rules you see below for a play-through on Ruby. He made comics of his "journey" and posted them on the internet. They were met with approval, and so was born. If you seek more information about the origins of Nuzlocke or the aforementioned comics, you can find both in that website. Nuzlocke (n) - a style of playing Pokemon cartridge games with the intent of making the games more challenging. Basically, Nuzlocke is a way to make a boring Pokemon cartridge game that you beat 3 times and quit your fourth play-through out of boredom a bit more interesting. How so, you ask? It's simple: you as the player impose restrictions on yourself and how you are allowed to play the game; a self-imposed ruleset if you will. There are many different styles and variations on rule sets (more info on the variations later), but the base rules that most people use are as follows:

  1. Pokemon that faint must be released (they "die")
  2. You may only catch the first Pokemon you see in an area*
  3. You must nickname and bond with every Pokemon, they are your friends!
  4. You may not use WiFi at all (In some cases you may trade only to evolve)
  5. You must set your battle style to "set" (This means the game doesn't tell you the Pokemon and doesn't allow you to switch before the opposing trainer sends it in)

* This rule has variations detailed later

Of course, the final rule set is up to you; the intent of Nuzlocke is to create a fun, challenging experience for you after all. However, if you don't adhere to these base rules, especially rules 1 and 2, you won't really receive the true Nuzlocke experience. Note there is also a general understanding that you will not grind your Pokemon to ridiculous levels or use Action Replay to obtain some Rare Candies. Some people do choose to use Action Replay to receive a starter different than the three offered, but that's really the extent to which you can use it without ruining the experience.

Why would I play Nuzlocke?

"Why would I impose a ruleset on myself for a stupid Pokemon game, that's SO mainstream," you may say. Actually, it is quite underground, and if you act now, you may even be able to claim you did it before it was cool! On a more serious note, if this does not sound like fun to you, then by all means close this article and grumble to yourself about how stupid the idea is. However, I and many others find enjoyment in Nuzlocke as it makes a stale game that a 7-year-old could beat blindfolded into an interesting challenge. Nuzlocke by nature forces variety in your teams, as you can't try 7 times to obtain a Scyther in your HGSS bug catching contest and proceed to breeze through the entire game. You may even be forced to use Pokemon such as Bidoof, become great friends with the little critter, and find out it is uber strongth (it's not, and its face alone is enough to discourage this, but you can try to convince yourself when you're stuck with it...). I digress, the point is that variety often can inspire new interest in a stale over-played game. Nuzlocke can also be made into a competition among friends (although I doubt you have many if you're spending this time to read a competitive Pokemon magazine). It's pretty simple: a race to the finish with an agreed-upon ruleset. Competition is usually a great motivator, and it makes for a better experience to be able to talk about your progress with somebody on a similar journey. It also gives you something to name your in-game rival other than "Douche" or various parts of the human anatomy. The winner receives the reward of finally being able to get a good night's rest.

Ok, I'll do it, how should I start?

So you decided to try it, great. First, cut a hole in the bo— I mean, first, you must decide on what game you are playing. Different generations obviously offer different experiences and levels of difficulty, so below is a brief pros-and-cons section on the various games. The games are organized in order of descending difficulty. Please note that this is of course subjective, and I really don't care about whiny PMs you send me! First and second generation games are not included due to accessibility issues for many people, and the fact that both have remakes. Given the remakes have the special / physical split, the Pokemon available are basically the same.

Diamond / Pearl

The starters of this generation are arguably the best out of any generation, and this is a large contributing factor to Generation 4's ranking as the easiest. You really can't go wrong: Chimchar has a great combination of power and bulk; Turtwig has really good bulk, coverage, and power; and finally, Piplup eventually evolves into a Steel-type. After that, you are almost guaranteed to obtain Starly extremely early. There may be some grinding for the first gym if you chose Chimchar, which can be annoying, but certainly manageable. You can also obtain an in-game trade Abra for Machop in Oreburgh City. It has a fixed Quiet nature as well as average IVs, but in Pearl and Diamond you can obtain the Hidden Power TM from the Jubilee daycare center. This allows Abra to have Hidden Power Ice with a power of 34. This sounds awful, but it still packs a decent punch as Abra has 105 SpA; godly for a NFE Pokemon. It requires a fair amount of grinding as it will come at the level of the Machop you traded (around 9), but Kadabra is extremely powerful. The Water Gym's Gyarados can give a fair bit of trouble, but besides that, most of the gyms are fairly easy if you prepare properly. Please notice that Platinum is NOT in this category, and this is because it is quite a bit harder than Diamond and Pearl.

Black / White

Black and White isn't much harder than DPPt, or in some people's opinion not harder at all. The reason for BW's placement is that it doesn't start with amazing Pokemon right off the bat like DPPt does. Once you get to the desert route it gets a lot easier, but until then your star Pokemon are usually your starter and Lillipup. If you want to minimize grinding time I highly suggest doing a Nuzlocke with this generation due to the advent of Audino, which is a great plus. If you don't know what I mean by this look elsewhere, but I highly suggest looking into it. The Black and White starters are fairly meh: Oshawott is one of the few Water-type Pokemon in the game, while Tepig really helps against the Normal Gym, which is Gym number 2, and is quite bulky to boot. Reusable TMs also make it extremely easy to train boxed Pokemon in BW. If you are playing Pokemon Black, don't forget about the trade Petilil if you can catch a Cotonee for it. Keep in mind this trade will prevent you from obtaining Archen later, which is also extremely powerful and 100% obtainable due to its restoration being in a city. Unfortunately, this city, Nacrene city, is the same place the Petilil trade takes place. This makes you choose between Petilil and Archen; they are both really good, and the decision is thus based on personal preference. The advent of Evoilite also helps quite a bit in the earlier stages of the game. Finally, if you find yourself without many Pokemon when you get to Victory Road, Durant can nearly solo the entirety of the Elite Four.

Ruby / Sapphire / Emerald

Not really much to say about this generation. Fairly average gyms, its just that DPPt has such easy gyms and BW has Audino and other good stuff besides. Brawly is fairly hard if you don't manage to get a Ralts or Flying-type, and even then you're still in for a rough ride. The starters are all pretty decent and fare well against different gyms. Just use common sense on what Pokemon are good and which ones aren't, although you often don't get to choose!


Platinum does not provide the same Nuzlocke experience in comparison to Diamond and Pearl. It is a fair amount harder, as almost everything is scaled up a few levels. Gym Leaders have different attacks in some cases, which adds to the difficulty. Most of the things said in the Diamond and Pearl section still apply here, except for the "easy Gym Leaders" part basically. If you take a look, "small" things are added to each gym: Crasher Wake has Waterfall instead of Brine Gyarados, Cyrus gets more powerful Pokemon, and Candice gets Double Team / Snow Cloak Froslass; changes like that that can ruin your day. Just a note, if you plan to do a Platinum Nuzlocke, you better plan on having something with an Electric-type attack that can take a Waterfall or two from Gyarados or you will lose right there, no questions asked. Heed this advice or you will be very disappointed as your Nuzlocke run comes to a grinding halt a decent way through the game.

FireRed / LeafGreen

FireRed and LeafGreen are often a bit difficult for some people due to the physical / special split not existing. This helps Pidgey though, making Gust physical. There is also a lack of amazing Pokemon; the Pokemon aren't bad, just none that demolish everything like Darmanitan or the like. All of the starters are pretty decent, but taking Bulbasaur will make the first 3 gyms so much easier. Eevee can also patch any holes your team has, just don't choose Flareon. Last but not least, the runt of a rat you can obtain early on, Rattata, is actually fairly good.

HeartGold / SoulSilver

Last but not least are HeartGold and SoulSilver. This game is ranked last simply because of the sheer length. Most people believe you must beat every Gym as well as the Elite Four to have "completed" a Nuzlocke, and in HGSS there are 16 Gyms. If you wish to consider simply beating 8 and the Elite Four as done, then by all means try this game. Totodile is amazing while Cyndaquil is OK. HGSS has a lot of areas where, if you get lucky, you can cruise through most parts. If you can manage to snag a Scyther via the Bug Contest or a Heracross from a Honey Tree, they power through quite a few opponents. The Gyarados in the lake makes the game fairly easy as well, but you may run into some Magikarp along the way, and Gyarados is available if you're willing to grind in other games mentioned as well. Grinding is also fairly annoying in HGSS.

In the end, the choice of what game you play may seem a daunting one, but it really comes down to personal preference. Don't agonize over something like "Oh SoulSilver is my favorite game to play but this article says its the hardest"; the goal of this is to have fun, so play a game you will enjoy over a difficulty rating that is subjective. I personally enjoy Black and White because it offers minimal grinding thanks to Audino, which allows for more time simply playing. You may have similar reserves, but I don't care, so onto the next section!

So you've chosen your games, but what are the finer details and different rulesets of Nuzlocke? There is a Nuzlocke flowchart to help you choose your ruleset. It is included in text form below for those who can't access the image, along with a thumbnail of the full-size flowchart. For the text version, pick and choose any of the restrictions you want. This is really just a guideline; feel free to make up your own rules. The restrictions make the game harder and harder the further down the list you go (for the most part).

Format courtesy of this image.


Ok, so you have your game and the ruleset picked out, now you're ready to start! To help make your first Nuzlocke a bit easier, this section contain various tips and tricks that are not necessarily specific to one game.

The first, and probably most important "tip", is to not ragequit when you lose a Pokemon. It is extremely frustrating to have the Starly you just grinded die to back-to-back critical hits, but its just part of the game. To avoid this, if you're doing a run where items are allowed, try to use a Potion before you are in KO range of a critical hit. This may be hard to maintain, but you won't be sorry when you see that critical hit happen right on the turn you use that Potion. The bottom line is, critical hits are EXTREMELY common when they hurt the most, and it is most likely statistically impossible to go through an entire playthrough without seeing at least a few. Don't always rely on hanging just above the KO range for non-critical hits. One thing that can facilitate easy healing is death fodder. These Pokemon are your friends and you should bond with them, but useless Bidoof #3 can be used as death fodder to allow you to heal your starter if you desperately need it. For instance, on a given Gym you probably won't need all of your main party. If you have an excess of boxed Pokemon that require a lot of grinding to even think about being useful, you may wish to box a few of your main Pokemon to allow for 1-2 death fodder Pokemon. This may seem against the idea of Nuzlocke, but if something has to take a hit for the team, better off it being a Bidoof than your starter. Speaking of Bidoof, make sure to have a decent HM slave at all times. It would really suck to get to Victory Road, and then not have any Pokemon who can learn Waterfall or the like. You will almost always have a Pokemon that can learn a needed HM, but just something to keep at the back of your mind as you play.

This tip does not apply to BW games, but Gyarados is very powerful. The Old Rod is easily obtained early on, and you can usually find a water body in a town. This means that Magikarp is 100% obtainable (unless you are extremely unlucky). Once Magikarp evolves, Gyarados will help tremendously with its raw power, great bulk, and Intimidate. This, coupled with the fact that Electric-type attacks are not very common in the game, make Gyarados a star player in any Nuzlocke run. Speaking of easily-obtainable powerful Pokemon, be sure to pay attention to in-game trades, as they can provide powerful Pokemon with fixed IVs and nature. There's also the common question "to Game Corner or not to Game Corner?" Honestly, it comes down to personal preference in most cases. Sometimes you may actually need one of those TMs to progress, but I'll leave it up to you to decide; it really depends on your team. Last, but certainly not least, it is important to catch a Pokemon in every route. Even if you are just going to box it, the more Pokemon you can manage to catch the better. You don't want to get far and then find yourself cleaned and unable to replenish your Pokemon.


So there you have it, Nuzlocke. Where many a week was spent in vain. There are friends out there to be made, and mourned if their time should come. Rivals named Douche to be crushed repeatedly. Bidoof to stare at in rage as they KO your Starly with a critical hit. If you wish to see some examples of Nuzlocke runs, you can find comic versions of them here, here, and of course at So now you know you want to try it out, see if you're up to the challenge!

« Previous Article Home Next Article »