• Pokemon games are becoming easier, leading to players creating self-imposed challenges for a more engaging experience.
  • Unique challenges like “Catch Them All Mode” and “One Team Only” add depth and difficulty to standard gameplay.
  • From “Speedrun” to “Shinylocke,” these challenges require strategic gameplay and creativity to overcome obstacles.

Pokemon isn’t a franchise that’s particularly based on difficulty. Although several critics and long-time fans note a drastic change in difficulty between the release of Pokemon Black & White 2 and Pokemon X & Y, this change hasn’t been acknowledged in the games themselves.


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Partially due to the change in difficulty in the core series games, but even before then, experienced players have been crafting ways to take the formula of any standard Pokemon game and make it exponentially more challenging. This phenomenon has become huge online, with players showcasing new, interesting sets of rules to make the base games harder, as well as creating strategies to overcome these self-imposed challenges. Here are the best challenges to make any Pokemon game a bit harder.

Updated March 15, 2024 by Ben Painter: Pokemon games have been around since the late 90s and older fans of the game will be very accustomed to the mechanics. Combining that with how easy the newer games are, Scarlet & Violet are a walk in the park, for example. Then the combination could result in a flat experience for some fans. There are ways around this.

There is the option to impose rules on oneself to make the games more challenging and inventive. This could be a thing that gamers can employ. This update adds five new challenges that make the Pokemon games more difficult for older or even new fans of the franchise looking for a new way to play the games that so many love.

1 Catch Them All Mode

Catch Every Pokemon Available Before Each Gym Badge

Throwing A PokeBall In Pokemon FireRed

  • Must complete the Pokedex to complete the challenge
  • (Optional) Catch every Pokemon available before each Gym Badge

This challenge is for fans who love to catch Pokemon. This one aims to catch every Pokemon and complete the Pokedex. The Gym Battles and Elite Four are merely obstacles in the way of the true goal to “catch ’em all.”

The original tagline of the series was not implemented after Ash Ketchum failed to “catch ’em all” quite badly. He only actually caught 16 Pokemon out of the 151 in the original series. However, the objective here is to complete the Pokedex. To make this more of a challenge, gamers can catch every available Pokemon before each Gym badge, and evolve them to the stages they need to be. This can cause some problems as leveling up the Pokemon will be tough using just wild Pokemon.

2 One Team Only

Chose One Pokemon Team Of Six And Stick To It

Party Of Six In Pokemon FireRed

  • Must only stick to a party of six Pokemon
  • If a Pokemon faints, it is considered dead and must be boxed or released
  • (Optional) Gamers can only catch the first Pokemon found in a route

Pokemon allows for a party of six Pokemon, but with Pokemon Box storage on the PC, there is no need to only use six Pokemon. However, this challenge does not allow that. Gamers must stick to a party of six and when one faints it is considered dead, but unlike a nuzlocke, it cannot be replaced.


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There are a few ways that this challenge can be set up. Gamers can pre-establish a team of six Pokemon to start with, but that means that no others can be caught. Players can turn this into a nuzlocke and only catch the first Pokemon found on each route or area, but only six areas can be chosen as spots for party members.

3 Weak Pokemon Only

Only Use Very Weak Pokemon

Magikarp In Pokemon Sword & Shield

  • Gamers can only use Pokemon with a base stat total of 200 or below
  • (Optional) Magikarp only run

There are some Pokemon in the franchise that are just very weak, with horrible base stats, terrible move pools, and just no skills in battle whatsoever. Magikarp is the perfect Pokemon for this challenge. It has a base stat total of 200 and only learns to tackle by level up at level 15.

Completing a full run of a Pokemon game with just a Magikarp would be a very hard task and require a lot of luck. Some Pokemon may be added to make this run easier; Caterpie, Azurill, Weedle, and Feebas, or all viable options.

4 Use Only Pokemon Of One Category

Choose A Category Of Pokemon And Only Use That

Fossil's In Pokemon

  • Choose a category and only use Pokemon of that category
  • (Optional) Nuzlocke rules of only one Pokemon in each area and if they faint they cannot be used, may also be applied

Pokemon Categories can mean a lot of things; Fossil Pokemon (Kabuto, Tyrunt, Aerodactyl), Early-Route Birds (Pidgey, Starly, Fletchling) Regional Variants (Alolan Grimer, Paldean Wooper, Galarian Meowth), or even Legendary Pokemon. This does not mean the Pokemon’s type, as this is a separate challenge.


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The best offense is a good defense, and when it comes to Pokemon battles, these typings offer the best defense around.

This limits the available Pokemon massively, as fossils, for example, are sometimes only available in certain games. There are many ways this challenge could go, like using Pokemon based on a certain animal (frogs, bears, cats). The possibilities are endless.

5 Speedrun

Try To Complete The Game As Fast As Possible

Pokemon Running

  • Attempt to beat the fastest time possible

The aim of this game is speed. A “speedrun” of a game is done by completing the game in the fastest time possible, and in Pokemon, with all the text, it may cause some problems.

However, it can be done by avoiding any optional trainers or quests, limiting the number of Pokemon required, and ultimately just being quick in every aspect of the game. There are two ways to look at a speedrun: one using glitches and one without. With some of the older entries of the game, there are coding errors that allow aspects of the game to be skipped. For example, using glitches, the fastest time for beating Pokemon Blue is around 11 minutes.

6 Time Limit Challenge

Gamers Only Have A Limited Time To Get Each Gym Badge

Pokemon Time Limit

  • Gamers have a time limit required to collect each gym badge
  • (Optional) Nuzlocke rules of only one Pokemon in each area and if they faint they cannot be used, may also be applied

This challenge is similar to a speed run in that it is time-based, but it is not as intense, as the game is broken up into sectors. Gamers will have a time limit to complete each Gym badge. A reasonable time to allow is 20 minutes. However, this can be adjusted based on skill level.

Gamers will still need to pull out all of the tricks to speed up gameplay, avoid optional trainers, limit the amount of Pokemon required, and avoid using set-up moves in battle.

7 Roleplay

Pick A Character To Play As

Ash, Pikachu, Misty & Brock In The Pokemon Anime

  • Pick a character from the Pokemon franchise and only use the Pokemon they use

If gamers want to not only make the game harder but also have a nostalgic experience, then they could do a roleplay run. Trainers can choose any character from the Pokemon franchise and only use the Pokemon that they use.


8 Legends: Arceus Pokemon You Should Transfer to Scarlet & Violet

With over 200 Pokemon in Legends: Arceus, here are several that trainers should transfer to Pokemon Scarlet/Violet.

An example of this could be Ash Ketchum using Pikachu, Bulbasaur, and Squirtle in the Generation 1 games. But this is not limited to the anime. Gamers could use a Gym Leader, Elite Four member, or even a character from the Pokemon manga. Another variation of this challenge is the Team Rocket Run, using ‘mons that only the evil team uses such as Raticate, Weezing, and Hypno. Limiting the amount of Pokemon, and sometimes what form and evolutions, will make crafting a team to beat the various trainers a hard task indeed.

8 Generation Run

Only Use Pokemon From The Given Generation

Wiglett In Pokemon Scarlet & Violet

  • Players must only catch the Pokemon introduced in the generation they are playing

This type of run isn’t the most difficult, as with every generation, there are hundreds of Pokemon added with a variation of types, so there will be plenty to choose from.

Nonetheless, there is still a limit on what Pokemon can be used in a given run. If players were to do a Generation Run of Pokemon Gold & Silver, for example, then there are only 100 Pokemon out of 251 to use. If players want to be even stricter then this number decreases to 81 when taking into account Pokemon that evolve from or into Pokemon introduced in Generation 1.

9 Gift Pokemon Only

No Catching, Only Use Pokemon Given As Gifts

Eevee Location In Pokemon FireRed & LeafGreen

  • Catching Pokemon is forbidden
  • Players can only use Pokemon given away as in-game gifts
  • (Optional) Nuzlocke rules of only one gift Pokemon in each area and if they faint they cannot be used, may also be applied

Gamers may as well get rid of any Pokeballs given or found in this run as they will not be allowed to use them. To complete a “gift Pokemon only” run, players will only use Pokemon given to the trainer.


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No matter the Pokemon generation, there’s bound to be a Gym Leader who gives players a hard time.

Using Pokemon FireRed & LeafGreen as an example, there are the chosen starter Pokemon, Magikarp, the fossil Pokemon, Hitmonlee or Hitmonchan, Eevee, and Lapras to choose from. This makes the run harder, as there are only a few Pokemon to use, which will make battles in the game hard. The Pokemon Let’s Go games are great for doing a gift Pokemon-only run as they have all of these Pokemon but also all three Kanto starters, a Persian or Arcanine, and a Porygon to use in battle.

10 No Fainting

If A Pokemon Faints The Game Must Be Reset

Fainted Snivy In The Anime

  • When any Pokemon faints players must restart the game again

A Nuzlocke run still allows players to continue the game if one Pokemon faints but in a “No Fainting” run this is forbidden when a Pokemon runs out of HP. It is game over and players must restart the game from the very beginning.

To make this challenge harder it may be combined with Hardcore Nuzlocke rules of catching the first Pokemon found in each route and only leveling up to the same level as the strongest Pokemon of the next Gym Leader or Elite Four member. This type of run will be very difficult for even experienced players. Keeping Pokemon alive is harder than it may seem. A critical hit from an enemy may take players back to the start without a moment’s notice.

11 No Evolutions

Pokemon Aren’t Allowed To Evolve

Baby Pokemon In The Anime

  • Gamers are not allowed to evolve their Pokemon

Most of the Pokemon in the franchise evolve into stronger forms, but in a “No Evolutions” run, the B button to cancel the evolution will be tapped multiple times. Un-evolved Pokemon are usually weaker and will pose a challenge, especially when facing trainers who have been allowed to evolve their Pokemon.


15 Pokemon Based On Dinosaurs

Over the years, Pokemon have expanded their inspiration from common animals to prehistorical creatures to create these dinosaur-inspired Pokemon.

They are slower, and with lower defenses, expect to be wiped out and forced to come up with unique strategies while using set-up moves instead of going all out with attacks. This run will force players to think outside the box and perhaps hone their Pokemon skills even further.

12 Hardcore Nuzlocke

A Nuzlocke But With Even Stricter Rules

pokemon official nuzlocke difficulty variety

  • If a Pokemon faints, it’s considered “dead” and can no longer be used in battle
  • Players can only catch the first Pokemon they encounter in an area or route. If they fail to catch it, they may not try again
  • All caught Pokemon must be nicknamed
  • Must play with the “set” battle style
  • (Optional): The player’s team must not be higher level than the next gym leader’s ace. (i.e.: Gardenia’s Roselia is level 22 in Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl, the player can’t come into the gym with a level 23 Monferno).
  • (Optional): Healing items, such as potions and full restores, may not be used in battle

Nuzlocke rulesets are often used as the base set of guidelines for any challenge in Pokemon. This includes rules like nicknames, catching the first encounter on every new route or area, set battle style, and dead Pokemon. Over the years, Nuzlocke challenges have evolved to adopt even more rules, such as level caps and item restrictions.

13 Randomizer

Pokemon Are Randomized In The Game

Pokemon Challenges Randomiser

  • All Pokemon are randomized. This includes starters, wild encounters, and trainer battles
  • (Optional): All field items, Pokemon typings, evolutions, and move sets are random

Debatably, one of the most interesting types of challenges to watch is a Pokemon Randomizer. This challenge is often done with a homebrewed console or an emulator, as the base games don’t have this mechanism as a built-in option.


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The Game Boy Advance handheld console had some of the most iconic Pokemon games. While they are all loved, some are better than others.

Randomizers require a bit more effort to be put into setting up the challenge, as opposed to booting up any old copy of the core series games and going through with a self-imposed set of rules. All that said, randomly encountering Lugia on the second route of the game will make players feel like they’re ten again, blindly playing through their first Pokemon game.

14 Wedlocke

Pokemon Are Paired Up As Partners

Pokemon Challenges Wedlocke

  • Players can only catch the first Pokemon they encounter in an area or route. If they fail to catch it, they may not try again
  • All caught Pokemon must be nicknamed
  • All Pokemon must be randomly assigned a sexual orientation once they’re caught and paired with a compatible partner
  • In battle, Pokemon can only be switched out to their partner
  • If a Pokemon faints, it’s considered “dead” and can no longer be used in battle. If one member of a pair faints in battle, the remaining Pokemon can be repaired with another compatible partner

Romance is in the air with this particular challenge. Limiting the amount of Pokemon that can be used in a fight, as well as restricting the way each pair is made by adding sexual orientations to each new catch is a clever, unique way of going about any of the core series Pokemon games. It may make for some tragic love stories, but it will also make for a challenging run.

15 Wonderlocke

Only Use Pokemon Received In A Wonder Trade

Two players doing a Surprise Trade in Pokemon Scarlet and Volet

  • Players can only catch the first Pokemon they encounter in an area or route. If they fail to catch it, they may not try again
  • After catching a new encounter, players must use the surprise or wonder trade feature to trade off that Pokemon
  • If a Pokemon faints, it’s considered “dead” and can no longer be used in battle
  • (Optional): Players may re-trade the Pokemon they received in their surprise or wonder trade if it’s level 100 or advertising websites to hack in Pokemon

The surprise/wonder trade feature was one of the many now-recurring features added in Generation 6. The surprise/wonder trades brought a whole new way of playing the core series Pokemon games, as it was now possible to essentially swap out the mundane route encounters with a random Pokemon being traded away across the ether.

Doing a Wonderlocke with any of the core series games from Generation 6 onward is the closest to a randomizer that players without access to the materials to emulate a Randomizer.

Pokemon Co-Op Mode

Pokemon Challenges Soul Link

  • Two players each play their own version of the same game (i.e.: one person can be playing Pokemon Sword while the other is playing Pokemon Shield)
  • If one player fails to catch a Pokemon in an area, both players’ encounters are failed
  • All caught Pokemon must be nicknamed
  • Pokemon can only be in the party or active in battle if their partner is too
  • When a Pokemon “dies,” so does their partner


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While a Wedlocke is designed so that a singular player can do the challenge on their own, a Soul Link requires two players to work together to complete a much more challenging and teamwork-based playthrough of Pokemon. There are a handful of other rules that can be added to catching encounters and creating teams among both players of a Soul Link. Some of those include not having duplicate primary types on either member’s team, and “linking” Pokemon of the opposite gender (if applicable).

17 Shinylocke

Only Use Shiny Pokemon


  • All caught Pokemon must be shiny
  • All caught Pokemon must be nicknamed
  • (Optional): If a Pokemon faints, it’s considered “dead” and can no longer be used in battle

With the insane shiny odds in Pokemon Scarlet & Violet, many players have been using the abundance of shiny Pokemon to their advantage and creating a challenge out of it. Shinylockes can be customized per the player doing them, while some choose to catch a shiny on each new route and abide by the “if the Pokemon faints, it’s dead” rules.

Others choose to veto the perma-death rule and catch a single shiny Pokemon before taking on each Gym Leader. Either way, the act of shiny hunting each encounter while also using that limited amount of Pokemon to beat the game is a challenging feat in itself.

18 Monotype

Only Use Pokemon Of A Chosen Type

every gen 9 flying type pokemon ranked (1)

  • Players can only use Pokemon of a single typing. This type can either be predetermined or decided by the player’s first encounter.

Going through the entirety of a single Pokemon game using only one typing doesn’t sound all that difficult until players hit a gym or a particularly challenging trainer with the exact type matchup that sweeps their monotype team.

No matter which type the player chooses, they’re in for a challenge depending on the Pokemon game they’re playing and encounters of that type available in said game.

19 Solo Run

Only Use One Pokemon

Chikorita, Charmander, and Quaxly (Pokemon)

  • Only one Pokemon directly participates in every battle.
  • This Pokemon can be a starter, hacked, traded in, or caught on one of the first routes of the game

No player is a stranger to steamrolling through the entire game with just their starter when they were first playing Pokemon as a kid. But, how hard is going through an entire game using just one Pokemon?

Surprisingly, it’s much more difficult than it was when players were eviscerating Flannery using only a level 88 Swampert. The purpose of a Solo Run is to test how well a player can navigate through the challenges of the base game using one Pokemon, whether that be their un-evolved starter or fully evolved Umbreon.

20 “No Pokemon Center” Run

Pokemon Centers Are Not Allowed To Be Used

Two Sandygast gathered near a beach Pokemon Center

  • If a Pokemon faints, it’s considered “dead” and can no longer be used in battle
  • Players can only catch the first Pokemon they encounter in an area or route. If they fail to catch it, they may not try again
  • All caught Pokemon must be nicknamed
  • The player can only heal their party using status-healing items and potions. Pokemon Centers are forbidden from being used to heal throughout the run, they’re only to be used for the PC
  • (Optional): Players can heal their party in Pokemon Center, but only after defeating the town’s Gym Leader

Pokemon Centers are often the saving grace for players doing challenges such as a Nuzlocke or Solo Run. That said, what challenges does the game pose if all access to healing at the Pokemon Centers is taken away? The answer is a lot of struggle and strategy, as not only will players need to keep their beloved Pokemon alive, but they’ll need to keep their moves from running out of power points (PP).


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