Pokemon Challenge Runs

The main attraction to the Pokemon series has always been how customizable your team has been. From the first game alone, you had 151 possible species to add to your party, and each member of the species had different stats and possibly even a different ability, and every generation has introduced more and more pokemon. Even using normal rules, this gives every main series game insane replay value, letting you play through the same game with a completely different team several times over. However, that alone doesn’t seem to be enough, because players have created challenges to get even more value out of the games. Here are a few of my personal favorites.

Honorable Mention: Nuzlocke

Nuzlockes are a standard challenge, used to both increase the difficulty of the game and force you to use pokemon you wouldn’t otherwise consider. The rules are as follows: Catch the first pokemon you encounter on each route. If you fail, you don’t get a second chance, and you cannot attempt to catch another Pokemon on that route, unless a) the first encounter was a pokemon you already caught (dupes clause), or b) you encounter a shiny pokemon (shiny clause). Nickname every pokemon you catch. If a pokemon faints, it’s considered dead, and must either be deposited in the PC forever or be released. If all your pokemon are dead, it’s game over.

This ranks as an honorable mention because, while it’s so prevalent (and for good reason), there are dozens of variations of the challenge that the original likely won’t be anyone’s favorite version. It’s fun, it’s influential, but it’s become plain.

Honorable Mention: Randomizer

Only able to be played on an emulator, a randomized run of a pokemon game involves altering the data for Pokemon spawns so each route has different encounters. Some randomizers will randomize levels, movesets, abilities, items, and trainers; so the sky’s the limit here. Every route feels new and exciting, how awesome would it be to run into a Dratini on route 2 or be handed Jirachi by Professor Elm? How hilarious is it to fight a preschooler wielding a Regigigas? This type of play also exposes you to new pokemon, as some that only show up late in the game after you have a full party end up appearing earlier on.

This pairs wonderfully with a nuzlocke… as well as most other types of challenge runs. Randomized runs earn a spot as an honorable mention because, while fun, they serve better as a modifier to other challenges and styles.

Dishonorable Mention: not sure if there’s an official name, so I’ve dubbed this the Dance Club Challenge

An absolutely miserable idea by all accounts, the dance club challenge involves catching dozens of pokemon and keeping them all within two or three levels of each other. There’s no ruleset for how many pokemon you should have by each part of the game, but as a general rule, if you’re not miserably bored with the hours upon hours of grinding you have to do to keep your endlessly growing legion of pokemon caught up, you don’t have enough. Personally, I’d say you should catch every unique pokemon available in a new area, and have a team consisting of a member of every family available in your version.

There are some benefits to this; if a battle doesn’t go your way you can try again with an already-prepared team to take them out, and you’ll definitely be using new pokemon you didn’t get a chance to in the past. However, it’s tedious as hell, so I’d recommend either using an emulator with a speed-up feature, a gen 5 game where lower-leveled pokemon gain more exp, or a gen 6 or 7 game because of the changes to the exp share. Alternatively, just try a challenge that doesn’t make you hate your life.


The much more popular antithesis to the last challenge, the rules to a solo run are simple: you get one, and only one Pokemon to use in battle. Usually this is your starter, but you can hack in another one if you so desire. Outside of gen 7, HM slaves will be necessary, but they must never show their faces in battle or  gain a lick of experience. Your goal is to get your one and only pokemon to the highest level possible to compensate for the lack of a team to back them up. The champion will tremble at the power of the strongest bibarel known to mankind!

This is one of the more relaxing challenges, as you don’t have a team to catch and strategize with. You have one pokemon to focus on, and that one pokemon will carry you through the entire game. Bonus points for doing a solo beautifly run, or something equally stupid.

Monotype/Gym Leader Run

Picture from Bulbapedia

A personal favorite of mine, a monotype challenge sees you using a team built around a single type, much like a gym leader. This requires a decent amount of planning, I spent a solid hour on bulbapedia planning out which type to run on each game, which pokemon to catch and when, what movesets I’d need to compensate for lack of type coverage, etc. It was surprisingly fun, once again proving that a single wiki can keep nerds like me occupied for hours on end.

There are a few issues, for example the 21 starters don’t cover all 18 types, so if you wanted to do a bug or electric type run you’d have to either hack one in or wait to catch one, but for the most part you can find a region housing plenty of each type to build a team around. Sadly, Kanto isn’t that ripe with possibilities, as just about every region has more diverse pokemon to choose from, but if it’s your favorite you can surely whip something up. I’d recommend a poison-only team and a couple hours of prayer when you get to Sabrina.

Family Challenge

Not my thing, but it has its charms. This challenge only lets you use pokemon from the same evolutionary family on your team. While using a team of standard pokemon would get a bit boring, as cool as Luxray is there’s not much to be gained from using six of them, you can do some pretty stupid interesting stuff. This dumbass played through Pokemon Crystal using a team of six smeargles in an entertaining LP, and six dittos could give similarly interesting challenge.

A more common version of this challenge is the eeveelution run. Eevee works well for this challenge, as its numerous evolutions give it solid type coverage and stop the game from getting stale. Oricorio’s another solid choice, it only has 4 forms but you can switch them around at will. Hacking in Rotoms is another possibility if you don’t mind cheating. If aesthetic differences are all you crave, then flabebe and vivillon might be the way to go, although they’re fairly weak and could make the game incredibly challenging.

Personally, I just want to make a pretty rainbow out of Miniors in Sun and Moon.


This is my favorite Nuzlocke variant. Standard rules apply, catch only the first pokemon on each route, nickname them, release them if they die, but with an added twist. Each of your pokemon has to be paired with another pokemon of the same egg group at the earliest possible opportunity. Typically it has to be a male/female pairing, but it’s 2018, pair whichever pokemon you’d like.

Pairs cannot be separated, if one goes in the PC, the other must follow. Pairs can only switch in and out with each other during battle, so choose wisely who you want at the front. If one pokemon falls, its partner must avenge them or die trying. Only if they both die can another pair pick up where they left off. Randomize it for added fun and an even greater reliance on luck.

Team Rocket Challenge

Picture from Bulbapedia

Welcome, recruit, to the greatest (and only) criminal syndicate east of Mt. Silver! West of Mt. Silver, too! Forget about all those fun and interesting pokemon out there, we’re evil so we only use normal, poison, dark, and some ghost types. Not any especially interesting ghost types, like duskull or spiritomb, mind you, just the standard ghastly. Don’t you evolve it past haunter, though, we have regulations around here!

Don’t mind cheating? You’re in good company. If you’ve got a cheating device, feel free to steal pokemon from other trainers! Don’t waste your time with the wimps, though, just take the strongest pokemon from gym leaders or particularly important trainers. We’ll distribute the rest to newer recruits. Be careful, if you lose with a stolen pokemon on your team, you have to give it back.

Playing through Kanto or Johto? Good man, but avoid fights with your fellow rockets whenever possible. If you’re in another region, however, pound their criminal gang into the ground. Show them what happens when you rip off the rockets. Your challenge ends when you catch every legendary pokemon in the region to help realize Giovanni’s vision. Good luck, recruit.


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