How To Succeed in a Pokémon Nuzlocke

The Nuzlocke Challenge has been growing in popularity amongst the Pokémon community. This set of self-imposed rules, first established by this webcomic by Nick Franco, offers three restraints on a player’s Pokémon journey.

  1. You may only catch the first Pokémon encountered in each route or area.
  2. If a Pokemon faints, it is considered “dead” and must be released (or permanently left in the PC).
  3. Each Pokémon must be given a nickname.

While the third rule is simply there to help establish an emotional bond, these rules make the game immediately harder. You can’t pre-plan your Pokémon team because you won’t know what you’ll get before you encounter it. The is one here though is if a Pokémon faints, that’s it. You no longer can use that Pokémon for the rest of the game. My first Nuzlocke death was Flaps the Pidgeotto who died from an unexpected critical hit, of Icicle Spear on the S.S. Anne. Yes, I still remember it. Yes, it was traumatic. No, I’m not over it.

Players have added additional rules over the years. Popular rules include playing the game on Set Mode instead of Shift (meaning the game won’t ask if you want to switch out Pokémon before your opponent sends out their next one), while other rules restrict items in battle or leveling up your Pokémon too high. Whatever your rules, let’s go over some tips and strategies to help you through your journey.

Do Your Homework, Use a Walkthrough

There’s no shame in using a walkthrough in a Nuzlocke. Odds are, you’re playing a game that you’ve already played before, so a walkthrough will help you get a better look at upcoming battles, where to find certain items, and where to find certain Pokémon you may be searching for. It’s hard to be unprepared when you use a walkthrough.

Play Around the Critical Hit

Critical hits have a small chance of occurring, but I would estimate nearly 50% of Nuzlocke deaths are due to an untimely critical hit. Critical hits do double damage (1.5x from Generation VI onward), so a move that only did 20 could, at any time, deal 40 instead. It may seem silly, but assuming every hit will be a critical hit will keep you and your Pokémon safe in the long run. You’ll still need to take risks, but if you have certain teammates you’d like to keep alive, do our best to avoid critical hits.

It’s Okay To Make Sacrifices

While at first it may seem like you don’t have many Pokémon, you’ll quickly acquire a moderately sized army of potential cannon fodder. You’ll soon have a good idea of which ones have potential to make it to the Elite Four, and which ones you’ll hardly ever use. Sometimes, a Pokémon has just outlived it’s usefulness. For example, the early game bug types like Butterfree or Beedrill can be really good at the beginning, but by the 4th or 5th gym in the game, they simply won’t be holding up with the rest of your team. If you know the enemy’s Weezing is heading for a Self-Destruct, a quick switch into your Butterfree might just save your Charizard.

Cover Your Weaknesses

As tempting as it might be to use a bunch of cool Dragon types, you’ll end up having a really hard time when you meet an Ice type. When deciding which of your soldiers to accompany you into battle, keep in mind what types could give you trouble and plan accordingly. For example, if you have Charmander, Butterfree, and a Pidgeotto, a Rock type attack would be super effective against each of them. Make sure to keep both Pokémon who resist those types or who can hit that type for super effective damage of it’s own. For the above team, a Fighting type like Machop both resists Rock type attacks and hits with Rock type Pokémon for super effective damage! Now you just need to find a way to deal with Flying type attacks.

Use Your Items!

We often forget about the items we get along our journey. Sure, we’ll use plenty of healing items and Pokéballs, but we get plenty of items that boost stats like Protein, Iron, and Calcium, or TMs (Technical Machines) that can teach your Pokémon awesome moves they won’t learn otherwise. It can be easy to want to “wait until the end” to use these consumable items, but by the time you realize you needed to use it, it may be too late.

Give Yourself a Break

Lastly, remember that Pokémon is supposed to be fun. While a Nuzlocke is meant to be a challenging breath of fresh air, losing a favorite teammate can sting even harder. If you accidentally click the wrong button, and it costs you your starter, just reset to the last save. If you find you’re not having fun anymore, don’t feel bad about abandoning the rules and moving forward with the team you’ve got. It’s your journey, don’t let any silly rules stop you from having a good time.

Nuzlockes can be a blast, and can completely recontextualize the way you play a Pokémon game. I’ve had Pokémon I’ve never cared about before become the MVP, and battles that became engraved in my mind, even if they didn’t end the way I wanted. So give it a shot. Fire up your favorite game, choose your starter, and go make your own story. In my opinion, either Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen or Pokémon X and Y are the best games to introduce you to a Nuzlocke, but I also recommend playing your favorite or the game that you’re the most familiar with.

Remember to come back each week for more helpful advice from Boss Rush. And hop on over to the Boss Rush Discord and let us know if these tips were helpful. Good luck!


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