It’s one of the first questions you’ll face as you set out on your Nuzlocke journey: “which starter should I pick for this game?”. We’ve put together guides ranking the starters in each generation, but there are a few simple tips you can remember to help you make this decision for yourself. Next time you’re beginning a new Nuzlocke journey, ask yourself the following four questions:
1. What types of Pokémon do the early Gym Leaders use?
The early stages of a Nuzlocke challenge can be difficult, as your selection of Pokémon at the beginning of the game will be very limited. Because you won’t have a lot of coverage options early on, it’s extremely helpful if your starter Pokémon has a type advantage against the first couple of Gyms you’ll be facing. While good matchups against later Gym Leaders are nice, you’ll generally have a greater variety of Pokémon by that point in the game to help you deal with them, so you should weight the early Gym Leaders more heavily when making your decision.
2. What types of Pokémon are easy or hard to find in this generation?
Different generations have different Pokémon wandering around (obviously), and in some generations, certain types are much more common than others. For example, the Sinnoh region has virtually no high-quality Fire-type Pokémon available to catch in the wild, making Chimchar a strong starter choice in this generation. If your region is severely lacking in one type of Pokémon, consider choosing that type as your starter. On the other hand, if your region has a ton of Pokémon of a particular type, consider choosing a starter that does well against that type of Pokémon.
3. What are the most threatening Trainers and Pokémon in this generation?
Each Pokemon game has certain Trainers and Pokémon that are especially scary to go up against. These can be rival battles, the Elite Four and Champion, Gym Leaders, or evil team admins and bosses. Picking a starter that can handle these dangerous encounters can be the difference between success and a wipe-out, especially in the Nuzlocke challenge where you don’t have much control over which other Pokémon end up on your team.
For example, in Emerald, the Champion, Wallace, uses lots of powerful Water-type Pokémon. In a normal playthrough, you could simply pick up a Manectric and beat Wallace easily; in a Nuzlocke however, there’s no guarantee that you’ll encounter one, or that it will survive to the Champion even if you do. Because of this, some players may choose Treecko as their starter, even though the other two options, Mudkip and Torchic, are probably stronger overall. While this shouldn’t be the only factor you consider, you can save yourself a lot of trouble later on if you pick a starter that can hold its own against the most powerful foes in the generation you’re playing.
4. Does this Starter learn the right moves for its stats and typing?
This question is more important in earlier Pokémon games before the physical/special move split, but is worth considering in every generation nonetheless. A starter Pokémon may have good typing and a good stat distribution, but if it doesn’t learn the right moves to take advantage of those stats it’s going to be outclassed later on. For example, in Gold and Silver, the Water-type starter Feraligatr has a great physical Attack stat; however, every Water-type move in Generation 2 is Special! Feraligatr may have good stats (and is a great Pokémon in the remakes, HeartGold and SoulSilver) but in the early games he’s simply not a very effective Water-type attacker, because there are no Physical Water-type moves to utilize his great Attack stat.
And there you have it. Next time you sit down to start a new Nuzlocke challenge and have to make the difficult choice of which starter to bring along, keep these four helpful tips in mind, and you’ll find you have an easier time dealing with the challenges your generation throws at you.
Still not sure which starter to choose? Check out our guides for picking a starter Pokémon in each generation.