Nidoran KO, Nuzlocke, Pokemon

Make Your Next Run More Challenging with These
25 Innovative Pokémon Nuzlocke Ideas

Pokémon Nuzlockes are perfect for adding self-imposed challenge to arguably the most oversimplified RPG series of all time. Pokémon is a phenomenal franchise with a [surprising level of depth.] It also falls short in terms of difficulty. Many of you may feel like you’ve outgrown the series, but you’ve likely outgrown its pacing.

Finding an innovative Nuzlocke is the perfect cure for your ailment. Nuzlockes are also a great way to transition into the robust world of competitive Pokémon. So, if you want to be the very best, you’re in for a treat!

Please note: I’ve pulled popular ideas from across the internet. I’ll list sources at the bottom of this article for anyone curious about their origins.

Basic Nuzlocke Rules:

John Locke Nuzleaf seems surprised.

Before you can run, you might need to learn to crawl. Let’s talk about what a standard Nuzlocke entails.

The term Nuzlocke became synonymous with Pokémon challenge runs due to a popular webcomic. A Nuzleaf bearing a resemblance to John Locke made multiple appearances, and things began to spiral in a way that’s unsurprising to anyone remotely familiar with the internet.

Heightened challenge isn’t the only goal of a Nuzlocke. Players also push themselves to use Pokémon they would typically ignore and forge deeper bonds with their Pokémon. It’s like being the equivalent of Youngster Joey and his faithful Ratatta.

As a rule of thumb, these are the generally accepted requirements of a Nuzlocke run:

  • All Pokémon require nicknames.
  • Any Pokémon that faints is labeled ‘dead’ and must be released or permanently boxed.
  • The player must catch the first Pokémon they see in each area and no others.
  • If a Pokémon flees or faints before you capture it, there are no second chances.
  • Trading is not permitted.
  • The player should create an overly-elaborate backstory for their head cannon.

Advanced Nuzlocke Rules:

Ash Ketchum meme: Welp, I guess I have to catch a Ratatta now.

Most Nuzlockes include a few of these extra rules, but none are a requirement to the challenge run:

  • Players must choose starter Pokémon with some form of randomizer.
  • Players may only catch a new Pokémon after each gym.
  • If all Pokémon in your party faint, it’s game over.
  • Master balls are not allowed.
  • Pokémon can’t use held Items.
  • The daycare is not allowed.
  • Trainers must release starter Pokémon after catching their first wild Pokémon.
  • Players have purchase limits or can only visit stores once per town.
  • Players must limit the number of Pokémon center visits in each town.
  • Players must use the same number of Pokémon as their opponents for significant battles.
  • Players must use the “Set” battle structure instead of having free switch-outs.
  • Bans on particular items such as healing items, candies, or TMs.
  • Players can’t flee.
  • Players can’t evolve Pokémon.
  • The player must not use experience share unless the game requires it.
  • Guides are not allowed.
  • Cheats are not allowed.
  • Pokémon aren’t permitted to use attacks that grant STAB (Same-type attack bonus.)

 

That covers everything that appears in vanilla Nuzlockes, but you’re probably here to read about unique ideas to fiddle with for added flair.

Special Nuzlocke Ruleset Ideas:

Alright, now we get to the exciting stuff!

custom Nuzlockes fall in line with standard rules unless a direct conflict arises. Custom Nuzlockes are more challenging, engaging, and fun. Here are 25 popular custom challenges destined to please Nuzlocke enthusiasts and newbies alike!

From Pokémon X and Y onward, added communication features allowed for a refreshing new Nuzlocke variant: The Wonderlocke. As the name implies, new Pokémon are obtained exclusively from wonder trades. Wonder trades add an extra element of randomization without being overly complicated.

Here are the standard limitations:

  • The trainer is only permitted to use Pokémon received in wonder trades.
  • Only Pokémon caught by the original trainer can be used in wonder trades.
  • The trainer can only make one catch attempt per area.
  • Trainers may wonder trade duplicate Pokémon as an exception to any other rule.
  • If the trainer receives an overleveled Pokémon that refuses to listen, they can swap them in another wonder trade.
  • Experience share is not allowed unless the game forces its inclusion.

Thanks to dedicated Pokémon trading forums and communities, it’s now possible to run entire Nuzlockes with unhatched eggs that clutter the boxes of avid Pokémon breeders. Breeders are more than happy to get rid of eggs from old projects since they can’t be released or given away in-game.

  • The trainer must exclusively use eggs they hatched in battles.
  • The trainer is limited to one catch attempt per area.
  • Each Pokémon caught needs to be swapped for an egg.
  • Duplicates received may be traded away for new eggs.
  • Hatched Pokémon are permitted to keep their egg moves.

This Nuzlocke incorporates luck into your playthrough. You’ll need a deck of cards. You’ll also probably want to adjust each Pokémon’s moveset to spammable attacks. Let’s check out the established rules:

  • A trainer must go to the Pokémon center to add cards back to their deck and shuffle.
  • Drawing a club forces the trainer to use the Pokémon’s 1st move.
  • Drawing a diamond forces the trainer to use the Pokémon’s 2nd move.
  • Drawing a heart forces the trainer to use the Pokémon’s 3rd move.
  • Drawing a spade forces the trainer to use the Pokémon’s 4th move.
  • The trainer must switch out Pokémon with less than four moves if they draw a suit that isn’t compatible.
  • Drawing a Jack allows the trainer to use a healing item in battle.
  • Drawing a Queen forces the trainer to switch Pokémon.
  • Drawing a King permits the trainer to use any healing item or revive in battle.
  • Drawing an Ace enables the trainer to draw three additional cards and select the one they prefer.
  • Drawing a Joker forces the trainer to throw a Pokéball at the enemy and waste a turn.
  • The player can catch two Pokémon per area to help balance luck mechanics.
  • If the trainer draws a suit that results in using a move with 0 PP, the draw becomes a free turn to use an item.

This Nuzlocke replaces the catch clause with a set of predetermined Pokémon at the start of each playthrough. The player can’t catch additional Pokémon under any circumstance.

Here’s how to select a team:

  • The trainer selects one Pokémon of each type before starting the game.
  • Overlap clause: The player may choose dual types without using two type slots.
  • Pokémon can’t be removed from boxes until a member of the party faints and is released.

The masterlocke was born on the forums of Smogon. Many players revere the masterlocke as the highest difficulty Nuzlocke on the web. 

Here’s the full breakdown:

  • Players must switch the battle system to “set” in the options menu.
  • Players can only use each Pokémon center once.
  • Trainers can only buy one Pokéball per Poké Mart. Scavenged balls are fair game.
  • Pokémon who are overleveled can’t battle. If your Pokémon is a higher level than the opponent, you must switch it out immediately.
  • Players can only use healing items outside of battle.
  • Trading is banned.
  • Breeding is banned.
  • OHKO moves are banned.
  • The moody ability is banned.
  • Held items take a ban-hammer.
  • The Smogon sleep clause is active: only one Pokémon may be put to sleep per battle.
  • The Smogon accuracy/evasion ban is in effect.
  • Smogon tier lists are optional.

 I’d argue this Nuzlocke is more complicated than the Smogon Masterlocke – mainly because the trainer can’t have any typing overlap between caught ‘Mons whether they are knocked out or not:

  • Your starter should be randomized. Use a die roll or an online tool.
  • Only one Pokémon can have a particular type in each playthrough. Dual typing accounts for two type slots.
  • You can only capture the first valid Pokémon in each area. Backtracking is not permitted when no eligible candidates are available.
  • Each Pokémon must have one non-attacking move in its pool from the moment it can have one (and onwards.)
  • No master balls allowed.
  • When the starter faints, the trainer loses the playthrough.
  • The trainer needs to use the “Set” battle style active from the options menu.
  • The trainer can only enter each Pokémon center once.
  • Trainers can’t use healing points unless they must access them to advance the story. (Beds, etc.)
  • Trainers can only purchase 7 items from each Poké Mart.
  • Trainers can’t buy full restores, hyper potions, awakenings, and ultra balls.
  • The trainer must use the same amount of Pokémon as gym leaders during battles.
  • The trainer forfeits the game by fleeing from wild encounters.
  • The daycare is banned.
  • Legendaries are banned.
  • Pokémon only have access to healing items outside of battle.

This Nuzlocke further limits the number of Pokémon you can catch – by only permitting one Pokémon per ball type. This Nuzlocke fits best in the Johto and Galar regions, but any region can pull it off.

  • The trainer forfeits upon fleeing from wild encounters.
  • Pokémon nicknames need to be puns involving the ball you caught in them.
  • The trainer must use the “Set” battle style found in the options menu.
  • If three Pokémon faint, the trainer loses the game.
  • Held items are banned.

Now is an excellent time to introduce a softer Nuzlocke. In this version, each Pokémon is granted 3 lives instead of 1:

  • The trainer can only have three Pokémon in their party at a time.
  • The trainer must leave their starter in their party at all times.
  • The starter Pokémon must make an appearance in every major battle.
  • When the starter faints, the trainer loses the game.
  • The trainer is only permitted 6 Pokémon in their boxes.
  • Trainers can only use a Pokémon center 3 times unless they have a gym badge from the corresponding town.

This Nuzlocke bends the rules to simulate unlockables for each gym badge acquired in-game. It’s unique and not overly challenging:

  • Pokémon can’t evolve until the trainer has received 1 gym badge.
  • A TM can’t be used on any Pokémon until the trainer has 2 gym badges.
  • Healing items are not permitted until the trainer earns 3 badges.
  • Pokémon can’t use held items until the trainer earns 4 badges.
  • The daycare is banned until 5 badges are unlocked.
  • The trainer can’t fish until they have reached 6 badges.
  • Pokémon can have vitamins and other EV modifiers after 7 badges.
  • 8 badges permit the trainer to revive a single lost Pokémon OR an additional catch.

Okay. So, this Nuzlocke doesn’t win any awards for its name. It’s still a great extra layer of difficulty for your playthrough:

  • When a Pokémon defeats a target in one hit, it must be released. No exceptions.
  • In double battles, attacks that target multiple Pokémon are illegal.
  • All standard Nuzlocke rules apply.

A wedlocke is a unique nuzlocke that focuses on pairing Pokémon to partners. Unpaired Pokémon aren’t ready to be used. Once one partner faints, both become unusable. Some players opt to allow un-fainted Pokémon to marry new partners. These are the typical rules:

  • Pokémon with neutral natures are considered “gay.”
  • Pokémon can only be paired with opposite gendered Pokémon unless two matching same-sex relationship Pokémon can pair.
  • When entering an area, declare a gender. This first Pokémon encountered with that gender is the only Pokémon the trainer is permitted to catch.
  • Trainers can swap duplicate Pokémon.
  • In battle, Pokémon can only be switched out for their partners.
  • Trainers cannot deposit fainted Pokémon into the PC. They must be released instead.

A chesslocke intends to heighten the strategy element of a Nuzlocke, and it succeeds. The trainer grants each Pokémon the role of a chess piece. Each position has unique limitations. Here are the typical rules to a chesslocke:

  • The trainer may only catch 15 Pokémon throughout the entire playthrough. The starter is declared King.
  • The trainer can only elect one queen, two bishops, two knights, and two rooks. All other Pokémon carry out the role of pawns.
  • The trainer can only carry one of each chess piece on their team at a time.
  • A Pokémon needs a role assigned before they can battle.

 

Piece roles:

  • King: This is your starter. The King must be present in your party at all times. If the King dies, you lose.
  • Queen: Only female Pokémon can be declared queen. Many players opt to restrict the role to a Pokémon in the same egg group as the King.
  • Bishop: A bishop can’t have more than two damaging moves at any time.
  • Knight: A knight isn’t allowed to have any STAB moves with a base power above 60.
  • Rook: A rook can’t have damaging moves with secondary effects that penalize the opponent. Rooks can use status moves as long as they don’t deal damage or priority attacks since the additional effect doesn’t directly impact the enemy.
  • Pawn: A pawn must not evolve throughout the game. The trainer can promote a pawn to another role if they win a gym battle, rival battle, or elite four battle entirely by themselves without using items.

In a zombielocke, the trainer can revive dead Pokémon with items by sacrificing one of their other Pokémon. This Nuzlocke doesn’t affect other traditional rules. 

Typically, Nuzlocke fanatics treat zombie Pokémon and sacrifices like this:

  • You can only revive a Pokémon once.
  • Once you revive a Pokémon, you can’t heal it unless you sacrifice another Pokémon.
  • Zombiemons can’t have healing moves. If a Pokémon has a healing move when fainting, converting it to zombie status is illegal.
  • Ghost types are not permitted to become zombies at any point in time.
  • Sacrificed Pokémon must be permanently boxed or released.
  • Zombiemons aren’t allowed to leave your party until they’re fully deceased.

Here’s a gimmick we’ve all contemplated at one point or another. What if we ran through a Pokémon game as a Team Rocket grunt? The rocketlocke is the only Nuzlocke that comes to mind where you would be permitted to use cheats. After all, what kind of Team Rocket Grunt would you be if you didn’t steal other people’s Pokémon?

  • The scheming mastermind can catch only these Pokémon types: Poison, Dark, Psychic, Ground, Bug, and FIghting.
  • Nicknames are forbidden. You’re evil this time around.
  • Cute Pokémon are banned!
  • Avoid as many Team Rocket battles as possible!
  • As a grunt, you beat the game by capturing all Legendary Pokémon available.
  • Catch rules do not apply.
  • If using cheats, randomize TM moves and items to balance difficulty.

Pokémon are only permitted to use moves that deal residual damage or cause status conditions in this game mode.

  • Trainers must avoid as many battles as possible!
  • Pokémon can deal direct damage but must be released immediately after the battle ends.

Speaking of gimmicky Nuzlockes, have you considered making alphabetical limitations? In this Nuzlocke, the only eligible Pokémon are either: 

  1. a) Selected from letters of your name or, 
  2. b) Limited to letters of the alphabet not yet represented. 

 

The choice is yours. These are your recommended rules:

  • The trainer can’t use uncommon balls to catch Pokémon.
  • No healing for the entire run.
  • The trainer lifts the catch limit in each area and sets a static catch number for the whole run.
  • If an evolution causes an overlap in letters, one Pokémon must be immediately released.

In this Nuzlocke, you pick a type and stick to it. Imagine yourself training hard to become a gym leader. Some types are more attainable than others. 

Aside from your standard Nuzlocke rules, here are some things to consider:

  • Dual typing is permitted.
  • Primary and secondary types are irrelevant.
  • Duplicate Pokémon are not allowed.
  • You’ll need to modify the catch clause to match your chosen type. You may also need to release your starter.

The Chainlocke forces the trainer to catch Pokémon who share a type with the previously caught Pokémon. 

As a result, we’ll modify some of the classic Nuzlocke rules:

  • The trainer can select whichever starter they want.
  • Players collect “route tokens” for each new area they unlock. Route tokens are valid for any encounter where the Pokémon has an eligible type overlap.
  • When the most recently caught Pokémon faints and gets discarded, the Pokémon before it chains its type to new encounters instead.
  • The trainer can’t flee from battles.
  • The trainer can only purchase one ball at each Pokémart.
  • The trainer can only enter the Pokémon center once in each town. You can sacrifice a Pokémon to allow an additional party heal.
  • Trades are forbidden.
  • The daycare is forbidden.
  • Optional: Players can only catch Pokémon from the Smogon UU tier or below.

 This is a pretty standard Nuzlocke that forbids any Pokémon with two evolutions. 

There are a few additional rules:

  • Pokémon with 3 stages are banned.
  • Pokémon with trade evolutions are forbidden.
  • Pokémon with baby forms are prohibited.
  • Legendaries are banned.

The Leglocke is a meme format that arose when a Youtuber mispronounced egglocke. It turned out to be pretty enjoyable:

  • Players can only capture Pokémon with a different amount of legs than their last caught Pokémon.
  • Many players limit themselves to Pokémon within a 2 leg difference or less.
  • If an area has no eligible Pokémon, players are permitted to backtrack for the new Pokémon.
  • Pokémon with no visible footprint are considered 0 leg candidates.
  • Pokémon stance does not transform legs into arms.
  • Evolutions don’t affect the leg count algorithm.

The idea behind this Nuzlocke is to force the player to soft reset after defeating each gym leader. Once a gym leader is defeated, the trainer can only keep up to 3 Pokémon moving forward. Let’s dive a little further:

  • If a trainer opts to keep 3 Pokémon, they must release one of the three before challenging the next gym leader.
  • If a trainer opts to keep 2 Pokémon, they’ll need to release one of them after defeating the next gym leader.
  • If a trainer opts to keep 1 Pokémon, they are granted an additional catch in the following area.
  • If the trainer fails to catch the first Pokémon they encounter in a route, they can’t catch another unless they opted to hold 1 Pokémon at the previous gym.

The tradelocke requires a friend who is willing to do a Nuzlocke with you. The general idea is to battle one another 3v3 between obtaining badges. The winner gets to select an opponent’s Pokémon and steal it.

  • Both players must establish the rules for a tradelocke before beginning the challenge.
  • After each battle, both players can discuss rule changes as long as they both agree.

This Nuzlocke forces the trainer to catch Pokémon with the DexNav sneak function on each route.

  • The trainer can catch only one Pokémon per route. 
  • Routes without DexNav spawns mean the trainer doesn’t get a new Pokémon on the route or elsewhere.
  • You must release the starter Pokémon after obtaining a complete party.

The trainer starts on generation 1 and carries surviving Pokémon through each generation once declared champion. Optional: the trainer can only catch Pokémon introduced in the era of each game.

  • Before moving to the next game, the player must freshly hatch new babies of surviving Pokémon to transfer over.
  • The trainer can hold no more than 15 Pokémon at any given time.
  • Pokémon are permitted one egg move for each game they’ve cleared.
  • When a Pokémon clears more than 4 games, you can feed vitamins to the next incarnation before transfer.

For the last Nuzlocke, you’ll want to keep a pen and some paper handy. This Nuzlocke revolves around rolling a D20 die on each caught Pokémon to inhibit them with common psychological flaws. Each Pokémon gets two rolls. I’ll be avoiding using “official” names because I want Google to recognize this site as a hobby blog. Please understand, I learned this the hard way.

 

  • Roll 1: The Pokémon has a fear of technology. They fear exposure to any TM, HM, or manufactured held items.
  • Roll 2: The Pokémon is paranoid. It is required to switch out after landing a super-effective hit or critical hit, no exceptions.
  • Roll 3: The Pokémon is easily panicked! Any time its HP drops to yellow, you can’t use it for the remainder of the battle.
  • Roll 4: The Pokémon is obsessive. Once switched in, the Pokémon can’t exit the battle until it has at least 1 KO.
  • Roll 5: The Pokémon is immature. This Pokémon is never allowed to evolve.
  • Roll 6: The Pokémon has a short attention span. If the opponent misses or uses a non-damaging move, the Pokémon must switch out.
  • Roll 7: The Pokémon is depressed. If this Pokémon is in the party when a teammate faints, you’ll need to bench it for at least 2 gyms.
  • Roll 8: The Pokémon is afraid of duplicates. This Pokémon can’t use the same move twice in a row under any circumstance.
  • Roll 9: The Pokémon is dissociative. This Pokémon can’t use any moves that share its types, whether they damage or not.
  • Roll 10: The Pokémon thinks it’s Rambo. If this Pokémon gets hit with a super-effective attack, it can’t switch out until defeating the opponent.
  • Roll 11: This Pokémon is lazy. It won’t battle twice in a row under any circumstance.
  • Roll 12: This Pokémon has a big ego. It must enter at the start of every battle. Only one Pokémon with this roll can be in your party at a time.
  • Roll 13: This Pokémon doesn’t like to eat. You can’t use items on it.
  • Roll 14: This Pokémon is like Brock. It can only enter battles on Pokémon with the opposite gender. Genderless Pokémon are okay to switch into.
  • Roll 15: This Pokémon thinks it’s young. It can only battle Pokémon that are a lower level than it.
  • Roll 16: This Pokémon has a big conscience! The Pokémon can’t battle any longer after making a KO.
  • Roll 17: This Pokémon has a drinking problem. Every second turn the Pokémon is in battle, it must drink a potion.
  • Roll 18: This Pokémon is forgetful. You can select only one move in succession each time you send it out.
  • Roll 19: This Pokémon struggles to make friends. This Pokémon can’t be in a party with any Pokémon that shares a type with it.
  • Roll 20: This Pokémon is lucky. Remove all flaws from this Pokémon.

If we’re adding dice and notepads into the equation, we also get an opportunity to randomize Pokémon usage in a Nuzlocke.

Simply roll a die and multiply your result by 5. That is the total number of opposing Pokémon your new party member can faint before you’re forced to release it. We’ll call these “longevity points.”

In order to make the Terminalocke work, you’ll need to adjust standard catch conditions. After all, you’ll be burning through a TON of party members. I think a one-catch-per-species clause works best.

  • If your Pokémon faints, it’s still lost forever.
  • Once a Pokémon reaches it’s maximum number of defeated opponents, it can only be used to catch a replacement.
  • Once a replacement is caught, the retired Pokémon used to capture it must be released.
  • After a party first reaches 6 members, only “retired” Pokémon may be used to catch new party Pokémon.
  • Trainers may only catch one Pokémon of each species. (Note that evolutions are fair game!)
  • Optional: Pokémon centers can only be used once per town. Using one resets your team’s longevity points.
  • Optional: Wild Pokémon encounters don’t deplete a Pokémon’s longevity if they are the wild encounter is a higher level than your Pokémon.
  • Optional: Ultra balls can’t be used. Instead, ultra balls act as placeholders for “regaining” an additional longevity point for a party member. They can be purchased from a Poké Mart between battles.
  • If using two or more allowances from the “optional” rules, consider dropping your longevity points to 3x the outcome of the fated die roll.

Get Creative! The Options Are Nearly Limitless:

This list is just enough to scratch the surface of Nuzlockes opportunities. Don’t be afraid to mix and match rulesets or explore more options entirely. You’ll find the level of difficulty to match your taste faster than you think! As always, thank you for reading. Feel free to drop a follow on social or click around for more content!

Sources: DeviantArt, NuzlockeUniversity, Reddit.