What's A Nuzlocke? A Different Way To Play Pokémon

Pokémon has played a major role in millions of lives. A fresh kick of nostalgia came in the form of Pokémon Gold and Silver’s re-release on the Virtual Console in September. It was the second lot of games to be re-launched after Red/Blue/Yellow in February 2016. Newbies will want to learn the ropes but seasoned veterans might want a challenge. The games are limited compared to the newer versions, so what more can you get out of them? Enter The Nuzlocke Challenge.

What is a Nuzlocke?

The Nuzlocke Challenge is a set of self-imposed rules intended to make a Pokémon game more difficult. The name “Nuzlocke” comes from a comic series of the same name and is a portmanteau of the Pokémon Nuzleaf and the Lost character John Locke.

The rules

The basic rules of a Nuzlocke are as follows:

  • The player can only catch the first Pokémon encountered in each area. If the first Pokémon encountered faints or flees, there are no second chances.
  • You must nickname every Pokémon you catch to create a bond
  • Fainted Pokémon are considered “dead” and must be released or put in storage.

There are also some optional rules you can follow, to increase the difficulty of your Nuzlocke, including:

  • The player’s Starter Pokémon must be randomly chosen. This can be done using a die, for example, where rolling a 1 or 2 gets you the Grass-type starter, a 3 or 4 gets you the Fire-type starter, and 5 or 6 gets you the Water-type starter.
  • Blacking/white is considered “game over,” even if you have Pokémon left in the PC. This is more commonly used as a “basic rule”.
  • The player must use the same number of Pokémon as the Gym leader.
  • The battle style must be changed to “set” so you can’t switch after a Pokémon faints.
  • No healing/status-changing items must be used in battle.
  • Legendary Pokémon may not be caught or otherwise used (excluding randomised Nuzlockes where Legendary Pokémon are often encountered in the wild).
  • The Nuzlocker must adhere to a level cap based on the level of the next Gym Leader/Elite Four/Champion’s highest leveled Pokémon.
  • The Day Care must not be used.
  • The Exp. Share must not be used (excluding Sword and Shield, where you can’t disable it).
  • Walkthroughs and cheating devices are forbidden.
  • Rare Candy or Exp. Candy are also forbidden.


There are two main clauses that allow you to bypass the basic rules around catching the first Pokémon in an area:

  • Species/Dupes Clause: If you encounter a Pokémon from the same evolution line or species you already have, you can choose to catch it or faint it/run away. For example, if your first encounter is a Rattata and you already have a Raticate (Kantonian or Alolan), it wouldn’t count as their first encounter in that area.
  • Shiny Clause: Shiny Pokémon can be made exempt from the above basic rule of only catching the first Pokémon encountered in an area due to their inherent rarity.

Tips I’ve learnt along the way

I’ve done my fair share of Nuzlockes now so here are some quick tips to keep yours going:

  1. Train up. Don’t rely solely on type advantages.
  2. Don’t rush (unless you’re doing a Rival Locke)
  3. Buy battle items because you’re gonna need them: potions, status healing items, X items (X Attack, X Defend, X Speed etc.)
  4. Enjoy it. Nuzlockes take you out of your comfort zone. Would you have ever used a Butterfree or a Fearow in your team otherwise?
  5. Prepare for rival battles because they’ll be harder than gym battles

Different types of Nuzlockes

As challenges go, Nuzlockes are some of the most fun. There are variations on the theme:

  • Egglocke – every caught Pokemon needs to be swapped out for an egg
  • Wonderlocke – a Nuzlocke that uses the Wonder Trade function
  • Rival Locke – it’s a versus and the rules seem to change all the time
  • Wedlocke – involving male and female Pokémon in pairs (always felt weird about this one as it literally excludes genderless Pokémon)
  • Restartlocke – a very restrictive Nuzlocke involving only keeping 1-3 Pokémon in your team after each gym battle
  • Apocalocke – this uses dice and lots of rules
  • Chesslocke – another rule-heavy variant emulating the game of chess
  • Biolocke – this is something I made up based on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species where each Pokémon has 6 lives rather than 1 and once they faint 6 times, they “die”

Further info on Nuzlockes

An extensive FAQ can be found on this Nuzlocke Reddit page (where you can also see the John Locke-looking Nuzleaf). There’s also a dedicated subreddit for Nuzlocke stories to whet your appetites.

Are you Nuzlockeing at the moment? Let us know in the comments! And follow @nuzlocke on Twitter.