Best Pokémon Game to Nuzlocke – Rankings

This article was written by Reddit user u/thisismydecoyaccount.

What’s the best game to Nuzlocke?

The only real consensus out there on the best Pokémon game is that there is no best Pokémon game. There are too many differing opinions on Pokémon design, region, gameplay mechanics and visuals, and with nostalgia playing a major role, there’s no one right answer.

On the other hand, the process of figuring out which game in the series is best to Nuzlocke is more specific and less reliant on subjective assessments. That means we should be able to arrive at a good answer to that question at least.

So let’s go through the aspects that make a game a good Nuzlocking experience. We’re not going to get into things like the region, the design of the Pokémon, or the stories (besides, does anyone play Pokémon for the story?).

Instead, for this exercise I’ve narrowed it down to four major components of a good Nuzlocke:

–       Opportunities for training/rematches – The Nuzlocke is supposed to be a challenge, not a chore. It’s a way to have more fun with the game, and tedious grinding for experience is, um, less than fun. A bit of grinding is fine, but too much, or making it too difficult to actually do, hurts the game’s viability as a fun Nuzlocke experience.

–       Level curve – This kind of goes hand in hand with the first category. The best games have a good, balanced feel to them, where you’re adequately prepared for the next boss just by playing through the game normally. Since the level curve and training are sort of two halves of the same concept, they combine to be worth as many points as the other two categories.

–       Pokedex – Is there a plethora of options available for your team, or will you be running through the game with pretty similar teams each time?

–       Challenge – We are in this for the challenge, after all. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the hardest games get the most points, but more points should be given to the games that make you think and strategize, and put tough obstacles in your path that require more thinking than simply “click super effective attack, win.”

In addition, a small amount of bonus points will be awarded for anything that doesn’t fit into these categories but should be noted–mostly quality of life features that improve the playability of the game.

I did the math on all five of these categories, and have determined the rankings from said math. It’s still not an exact science, but hopefully readers will agree with my conclusions on which games perform well or poorly in these categories.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

17) Red/Blue

–      Training (0/15 points): Hope you like fighting wild pokemon! Because after you’ve beaten all the trainers that’s literally your only option. And there’s nothing to help the process along either—there’s no lucky egg and the Exp. All is essentially unusable.

–       Level curve (8/15 points): There’s a big jump between gyms 4 and 5, but you can still end up prepared by going through both routes to Fuchsia and going through Silph Co. before you take on Koga or Sabrina. The jump between the 8th gym and the Elite Four is a bigger deal, though—there’s a good chance you go in underleveled.

–       Pokédex (10/30 points): It’s the original 151! Unfortunately, their distribution is somewhat less than optimal—if you’re playing with dupes clause, you’re going to end up skipping quite a few routes once you have Pidgey/Rattata/Bellsprout or Oddish already caught. A few types are outright useless (Uh, guys, you seem to have forgotten to make any useful Bug moves). And the endgame is heavy on water types, most of which are Tentacool. There’s a fairly limited pool of truly viable options here, so you’ll end up using similar teams each time through.

–       Challenge (4/30 points): Not much to speak of here. The opposing trainers’ movesets are absolutely laughable, and the AI is, um, less than amazing (For one example, Blaine has a 25% chance of using a Super Potion even when his pokémon is at full health). Pretty much no opponents will have any coverage moves to speak of, making surprise deaths at the hands of an opponent’s super-effective move much less common. In addition to this there are some very abusable glitches that can make the experience much easier than it would be. On the other hand, the lack of challenge does mitigate some of the struggles in training, as getting to the same level as your opponents in the Elite Four isn’t as necessary as it will be in later games. 

–       Bonus points (-9): The 20-item limit in the bag and the clunky PC will have you yearning for the newer games.

Score: 11 points

FInal thoughts: Look, I love these games. But unless you’re feeling nostalgic, look elsewhere for an enjoyable Nuzlocke experience.

16) Yellow

Note: For third versions, I won’t be going into nearly as much detail, just noting differences that led to their different final scores. Basically each time, the third version ends up with a few more points than its original pair and one spot ahead on the rankings.

–      Training (0/15 points): Same.

–      Level curve (8/15 points): Same.

–       Pokédex (11/30 points): You’re still working with a limited set of viable options, but with a few more appealing options thanks to the Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle you get as gifts early on. A couple of pokémon get updated movesets too (Charizard finally gets Fly, for instance), making them a bit more viable.

–       Challenge (5/30 points): A liiiittle better here, thanks to upgraded movesets on opposing trainers. But not much.

–       Bonus points (-9): As with RB, the clunky nature of these early games hurts them here.

Score: 13 points

Final thoughts: Not much more to say here—if you’re not in it for the nostalgia (which, don’t get me wrong, can be highly enjoyable), look elsewhere for a good Nuzlocke.

15) Gold/Silver

–      Training (1/15 points): Slightly better than Red/Blue/Yellow, thanks to the ability to rematch through the Pokégear. It’s not great (it’s no Vs. Seeker), but it’s something. 

–       Level curve (0/15 points): However, the level curve is absolutely atrocious. Once you get past the fourth gym you’ll be hard-pressed to find any wild pokémon that are anywhere close to a good level to immediately join your team without some training, and even your core team will struggle to keep up without grinding, and there’s simply no way to catch up with Clair and Lance level-wise without doing a ton of grinding.

–       Pokédex (16/30 points): You’ve got significantly more options here than you do in RBY. Sure, you’ll end up with Pidgey and Rattata and Hoothoot and Zubat pretty much guaranteed, but there’s not as much repetition between the routes as in RBY. On the other hand, the Water, Fire, Thunder and Leaf Stones don’t show up until Kanto, so if you’ve caught a pokémon that evolves with one of those, forget it.

–       Challenge (6/30 points): The AI is smarter than it is in RBY, but still not great, and rare is the opposing trainer with any sort of coverage moves. There are some early gym leaders, like Whitney, that can be a pain if you don’t have the right counter to them (that counter’s name is Geodude), but for the most part you won’t be bothered very much until you get to Clair and Lance—who provide much more of a challenge than anything Red & Blue had to offer.

–       Bonus points (-6): Quality of life is slightly better than RBY, but you’ll still find yourself running out of room in the bag and hating trying to navigate the PC.

Score: 17 points

Final thoughts: No surprise that these games slot in slightly higher than their monochromatic predecessors. Quite a few improvements were made, but if you’re used to a more modern quality of life, AI, and training options, it will feel like a real step back to the Game Boy era.

14) Crystal

–      Training (1/15 points): Same.

–       Level curve (0/15 points): Same. Horrendous.

–       Pokédex (18/30 points): This becomes a little better—you have a few more options on the early routes (Growlithe, Teddiursa and Phanpy most notably) and, most importantly, you actually get access to the evolutionary stones in Johto! This gives viability to several pokémon that would have been destined for the PC in GS.

–       Challenge (6/30 points): Same.

–       Bonus points (-6): Same.

Score: 19 points

Final thoughts: Of all the third versions in the series, Crystal is the one that changes the least about its predecessors. It still upgrades over GS in enough ways that it’s the Gen 2 game to play, but not enough to really affect its score in this list.

13) Ruby/Sapphire

–      Training (2/15 points): While improved over its Game Boy predecessors, there still aren’t a lot of good training options here. Yes, you can use Trainers’ Eyes, but their teams don’t improve in levels throughout the game, so grinding for experience towards the end of the game can be a slog—not to mention the fact that the game just plain doesn’t have that many trainers in it.

–       Level curve (9/15 points): There’s a lower level curve than the Kanto games, but higher than in Johto and more balanced. It works well for the region. There are no big level jumps (other than before the Elite Four), and everything flows reasonably well.

–       Pokédex (10/30 points): My opinion may be skewed a bit by the fact that I’ve played this generation so many times, but this is one of the weaknesses of RSE. The early pokémon are typical boring early-game fare and the late-game is basically wall-to-wall water types, leaving you to depend on a few areas with good encounters and even more reliant on your starter than usual. And if you’re not using Dupes Clause, enjoy your PC box full of Tentacool.

–       Challenge (8/30 points): Though it has its fair share of difficult opponents (Wattson, Norman and Winona most notably), this is not among the more difficult games in the series. Good to start out with if you are new to Nuzlockes.

–       Bonus points (-3): The Hoenn games require a lot of HMs (Rock Smash at Victory Road? Really?) and lose points for that.

Score: 26 points

Final thoughts: I promise we’ll stop going in order of release at some point, but we haven’t reached that point yet. As much of an upgrade as the Game Boy Advance era was, adding vital aspects of the series such as Abilities and Natures, advancements made later in the series make nuzlocking much less of a chore, making it difficult for older games to really make a dent in these standings.

12) FireRed/LeafGreen

–      Training (15/15 points): Hurray for the Vs. Seeker! This thing is a HUGE help and makes preparing for the Elite Four much less tedious than in the original games. No longer do you have to wait for opponents to be ready to rematch you—you can challenge them as often as you want.

–       Level curve (8/15 points): Same as the originals—a few big jumps in levels, most notably between gyms 4 and 5 and before the Elite Four. Good thing you’ll have that Vs. Seeker this time.

–       Pokédex (10/30 points): As with the originals, you’ll see the same Pokémon pop up over and over again, and with a limited number of viable options, you’re going to end up running relatively similar teams with each playthrough unless you go out of your way to use less-than-optimal team members.

–       Challenge (8/30 points): Like Ruby & Sapphire, this is a good game to start out your nuzlocking career. Compared to the originals, the AI has improved significantly, but it doesn’t quite have the same feel as the Johto games, where every boss seems to have an ace mon who can really mess up your team. For the most part you’ll be OK simply bringing a super-effective option or two to each gym battle, and while Gary’s team is strong, you’ll have spent the whole game preparing for it through repeated battles with him, so you’ll likely be ready.

–       Bonus points (-1): FRLG only lose one point, due to the item limit in the bag.

Score: 40 points

Final thoughts: FireRed & LeafGreen made some major strides in making the Nuzlocke more viable, most notably with the addition of the Vs. Seeker and the various quality of life enhancements brought on by Gen 3. But it’s held back by the return of some of Gen 1’s flaws and its insistence on being a straightforward remake rather than providing some easy upgrades such as allowing Gen 2-era evolutions in the main story.

11) Diamond/Pearl

–      Training (15/15 points): The Vs. Seeker returns from FRLG and the game is all the better for it.

–      Level curve (9/15 points): Similar to the Kanto games, it mostly flows well aside from a huge jump before the Elite 4, and, in this case, an oddly long journey between badges 2 and 3.

–       Pokédex (10/30 points): Diamond and Pearl’s Pokédex is a bit odd, with certain types (like fire) getting short shrift. Inexplicably, many of the new evolutions introduced specifically for this game are not included in the main story itself, raising the question of, um, why? The end result is a lot like the original Kanto games, with a lot of repetition throughout the routes. But on the good side of things: the introduction of the physical/special split brought long-awaited viability to a whole new crop of pokémon—finally, Sneasel is a viable answer to dragon-type opponents. 

–       Challenge (23/30 points): This is one of the more difficult pairs in the series, with most gym leaders possessing a powerful ace and Cynthia, a devastatingly strong champion, looming at the end. Be ready.

–       Bonus points (-10): You’re going to haaate surfing. And walking. And waiting for battle animations to kick in. And pretty much the speed at which everything happens in this game. This alone almost singlehandedly tanks the experience of playing DP. Additionally, like Hoenn, Sinnoh requires an inordinate number of HMs and loses points for this.

Score: 44 points

Final thoughts: It’s worth noting that, despite DP’s relatively high placement on this list, no other game in the series had a bigger gap between it and its upgraded third version. For that reason, if you’re able, I would highly recommend ignoring these games with their slow mechanics and weird Pokémon distribution, and opting for Platinum instead, which you’ll find much, much higher on this list.

10) Emerald

–      Training (9/15 points): Training is improved over RS, as the rematchable trainers now increase in levels as the game goes on. But it’s still inferior to the Vs. Seeker in FRLG, which can be used much more often.

–       Level curve (9/15 points): Same as RS.

–       Pokédex (10/30 points): Same as RS.

–       Challenge (23/30 points): Emerald really ramps up the challenge compared to its predecessors, giving most bosses in the game bigger and tougher teams. Every boss has one extra Pokémon, many of which are formidable opponents such at Wattson’s Manectric. Most notable of all are Tate and Liza, who go from being pushovers who can be taken out with a single Surf to absolute Nuzlocke ruiners. In addition, random trainers are a much bigger deal than they have been in the past, as the game doubled up on double battles, which can make even the shortest route a potential gauntlet. The one downgrade is swapping Steven for Wallace, who only adds to the Hoenn games’ heavy emphasis on water types, making having electric and grass types on your team something of a Hoenn cheat code.

–       Bonus points (-3): For the same reasons as RS.

Score: 48 points

Final thoughts: Of all the pre-DS era games, Emerald fares the best, with just enough quality of life features to hold its own with modern games; however, it is still held back by Hoenn’s lacking variety in Pokémon.

As an aside, I would say it’s worth noting that, in my opinion, this is the only game in the series that has a real argument to be chosen over its remakes, as it offers things that Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire don’t, and those reasons are not limited to nostalgia. Players looking for an added challenge may prefer Emerald over ORAS, one of the easiest pairs of games in the series, even if it means leaving newer features behind. And speaking of which…

9) Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire

–      Training (15/15 points): Trainers’ Eyes makes a return, and this time, your opponents can be battled more frequently and actually increase in levels as you progress. This is the closest thing we’ve had to the Vs. Seeker since Platinum; hallelujah. Plus, with the buffed Exp. Share, levelling won’t be as much of an issue as in the older games.

–       Level curve (11/15 points): The level curve here is very nicely balanced, even more so when you take the Gen 6 Exp. Share into account.

–       Pokédex (19/30 points): Like RSE: boring at the beginning, water-logged at the end, but fairly diverse in the middle. Thanks to the physical/special split and upgraded movepools there are more viable options among the Hoenn bunch than in the originals, and the remakes do provide some post-Gen 3 pokémon in the mirage areas and some newer evolutions after Kyogre/Groudon is defeated, like Magnezone, which is nice but happens a bit late to be all that helpful unless you need someone new at that specific moment. 

–       Challenge (10/30 points): In a regular playthrough these might be the easiest games in the entire series, between the Exp. Share and the fact that the game straight up hands you a legendary after the fifth gym. If you use a level limit and eschew legendaries, it’s more difficult, but still one of the easier entries in the series. Two exceptions: the Primal Legendaries, especially Groudon, who require a careful strategy to bring down; and Steven’s Mega Metagross, which can cause devastation no matter how prepared you might be.

–       Bonus points (-1): Like the original RSE, these games lose a few points for the sheer number of HMs required to progress. 

Score: 54 points

Final thoughts: While ORAS shine in many areas, the repetitive Hoenn Pokédex and lack of challenge keep these games from earning a higher spot on this particular list. Whether you go for these games or Emerald for your Hoenn nuzlocking experience really depends on whether you value Emerald’s added difficulty over ORAS’s modern quality of life features.

8) HeartGold/SoulSilver

–      Training (6/15 points): Unfortunately the extremely useful Vs. Seeker from HGSS’s Gen 4 counterparts has been downgraded back to the Pokégear, which is tedious and clunky and requires a lot of resetting of your (3)DS clock to be able to rematch the right people. It’s also locked until after the radio tower quest. It’s not bad, and certainly not as bad as the Game Boy games, but it’s a lot clunkier and more tedious than other games in the series, which is exacerbated by the…

–       Level curve (1/15 points): Which is still terrible. You’re going to have to put in a lot of work to have a prayer of matching up with Clair and Lance level-wise.

–       Pokédex (19/30 points): A definite upgrade over GSC. Evolution items such as the elemental stones and the Metal Coat are now obtainable early on through the Pokéathlon, and a few Gen 4 evolutions have been retconned into the game (though not all of them). Expanded movepools and the existence of the physical/special split also give you far more viable options than the earlier games did.

–       Challenge (23/30 points): These are tough games. Most notably, practically every gym leader has an ace pokémon that’s a deadly weapon and a potential Nuzlocke ruiner. (I see you, Whitney’s Miltank and Clair’s Kingdra). Compared to the originals, the AI is more adept at using them, and more of them have actual coverage moves this time. There are going to be some tough losses, pretty much guaranteed—including against Lance, whose HGSS incarnation rivals Cynthia, Ghetsis and Iris for the title of toughest champion in the entire series. You basically need to build your team throughout the game specifically with the goal of beating Lance in mind.

–       Bonus points (-1): OK so I know I said I wasn’t considering aesthetics, but I did give a bonus point out for the fact that your Pokémon follow you as it helps you bond with your team, which is even more important in a Nuzlocke. On the other hand, I want to take away a couple of points specifically because the game locks some of the most useful TMs (Thunderbolt, Flamethrower and Ice Beam, which is likely the most important TM in the entire game when you consider who the champion is) behind Game Corner prize coins, gives you no way to buy coins, and charges an exorbitant amount for each TM. It’s a huge, unnecessary timesuck when you just want to be training your team, not playing an entirely luck-based card game.

Score: 58 points

Final thoughts: It hurts to place my favorite games in the series this low, but HGSS are much better suited for normal playthroughs than for a Nuzlocke, thanks mostly to the awful level curve and lack of viable methods for catching up in levels. This game badly needs the Vs. Seeker and more appropriate wild Pokémon leveling, and without those things, it just falls short. The math doesn’t lie.

7) Sun/Moon

–      Training (4/15 points): After reverting back to the old experience system in the Gen 6 games, Gen 7 returns to the experience system used in the Black & White games—this makes training up a new team member easier, but can make training towards the end of the game, when you outlevel your opponents, a bit more painful. DexNav and Trainers’ Eyes sadly do not make a return appearance; there are chances for daily rematches at the Battle Buffet, but it’s really just not the same. Even SOS battles are a downgrade over hordes for efficiency of training, since you can’t knock everyone out at once. Altogether this is probably the worst game for grinding since Ruby & Sapphire, which is a real disappointment.

–       Level curve (10/15 points): The level curve here can be slightly jarring—each new island brings with it a sizable level jump. If you’re not using the Exp. Share, you could end up falling behind in a hurry.

–       Pokédex (22/30 points): It’s no XY, but like most latter-day Pokémon games the options available to you here are fairly extensive, though the options will start to get a bit repetitive after a while. The new Gen 7 pokémon are also, in many cases, confusingly rare. Just do yourself a favor and don’t try to use anything early on that evolves via the ice rock or magnetic field. You’re going to end up waiting a long while.

–       Challenge (28/30 points): Love or hate the change from gym leaders, the totem Pokémon are no joke, and can really mess up your team if you’re not careful. 2-on-1 fights really are not suited to keeping all of your team members alive, especially considering the totems’ stat boosts. The human bosses are plenty difficult too. Kukui, meanwhile, may not be Lance or Cynthia, but he’s got a good, balanced team and, unlike some champions, doesn’t specialize in a single type, meaning he can’t be easily beaten just by having the right type on your team. Overall, one of the toughest pairs of the series.

–       Bonus points (-1): The myriad (unskippable) cutscenes can make these games a bit of a chore to replay, especially at the beginning, so they lose points here. On the other hand: HMs have at long last been removed, and that’s a real bonus.

Score: 63 points

Final thoughts: This is one of the odder pairs in the series, mixing things up and providing quite a challenge, but highly lacking in many of the categories essential for a good Nuzlocke experience. Some of these downsides were improved upon in the Ultra games, but as for the original Sun & Moon, they end up just outside the top level of Nuzlocke experiences.

6) Black/White

–      Training (15/15 points): One of the biggest changes to the mechanics of the games in Gen 5 was a new experience points system, which curves the experience earned based on your level vs. the level of the pokémon you’re facing. This means it’s very easy to have a low-leveled pokémon catch up to the rest of the team, but slow going once they’re appropriately leveled. It’s an annoying system when you’re in the late game, but for Nuzlockes it works a bit better, eliminating a lot of the time spent training up new team members who might be underleveled. Also: Audinos in the wild make for a nice shortcut for training, so Nuzlocke players especially will appreciate it. All of this means Black & White still score well in this department despite the inexplicable removal of the Vs. Seeker, whose absence will be felt more in later games in the series.

–       Level curve (15/15 points): Like Gold & Silver, the game ends in the level 50 range, but this level curve is much, much steadier than that of GSC. For once, there’s not an especially large level jump before the Elite Four, which is really nice.

–       Pokédex (10/30 points): The “reboot” conceit of BW means that we’re back to the Red/Blue problem of having too many repeating pokémon popping up all over the place. The distribution is a little better in Unova than it is in Kanto, but there’s another problem: for some reason in this gen, Game Freak decided to go crazy with the late evolutions. This ends up meaning that there are quite a few Pokémon that evolve too late to ever be viable for your team–which really hurts in a game that has a limited number of Pokémon in it to begin with. (A partial list of pokémon rendered nearly unusable by late evolution: Vullaby, Rufflet, Deino, Pawniard, Mienfoo, and Larvesta. And that’s not even counting those whose late evolution is still a deterrent toward using them, like Litwick, Joltik, Tynamo, Axew, Klink, Vanillish, Scraggy, Dwebble, Archen, Tirtouga, Gothita, Solosis, Ducklett, Frillish, Ferroseed, Elgyem, Cubchoo, and Golett. Yeeeah.)

–       Challenge (29/30 points): While it’s not among the very toughest pairs in the series, Black & White are deceptively difficult, with tough early-game trainers like Lenora, Elesa, Cheren and Clay, tough random trainers scattered throughout, and an absolutely brutal late-game gauntlet.

–       Bonus points (2): TMs are reusable now, which is nice in a regular playthrough but an absolute godsend in a Nuzlocke, as you no longer have to worry about “wasting” your good TMs on a pokémon only to have it die soon after. (All games with reusable TMs receive this bonus point). Another point was awarded because HMs are not required to advance–they are only used for optional areas, so no more loading your team up with unnecessary moves like Rock Smash in Victory Road. 

Score: 71 points

Final thoughts: We’re getting into the upper echelon here—BW may be sixth on tis list but they are only a few points removed from second place. Black & White perform extremely well in almost every category, but are held back by the limited Pokémon options available to you in your adventure. If only there were a very similar game that fixed that problem….

5) Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon

–       Training (5/15 points): Same as SM.

–       Level curve (10/15 points): Same as SM.

–       Pokédex (28/30 points): The Pokédex expands quite a bit in this game thanks to a few new wild pokémon options plus the earlier availability of the ice rock and the magnetic field, becoming one of the better games in the series in this department. The existence of move tutors also brings added viability to many pokémon that needed it.

–       Challenge (30/30 points): Hoooo boy. The already difficult two-on-one Totem battles have been upgraded, with a new, especially difficult one (Ribombee) added at the end. In fact, most bosses’ teams have been upgraded. So have the random trainers, in fact—to the point where many of them have perfect IVs and EV optimization, which is basically unheard of for a regular Pokémon playthrough. And then there’s Ultra Necrozma. Yeah. This is gonna be a real challenge.

–       Bonus points (0): They’re not quite as bad, but USUM still lose points due to the unskippable cutscenes, but gain points thanks to the continued nonexistence of HMs.

Score: 73 points

Final thoughts: If you’re looking for a difficult main series game, this is the one. The improvements make it an undeniable upgrade over SM, but missing features that were present in earlier games, such as the lack of rematch options, ensure that it can’t take the top spot here.

4) Sword/Shield

–      Training (20/15 points): Yes, it’s that good. I had to cheat here because Sword & Shield essentially made grinding disappear. Between the always-on Exp. Share and the new Exp. Candies, training is a breeze. How far we’ve come from Red & Blue. In fact, the hardest part will probably be staying under the level limit if you have one. On the other hand, this does mean that it’s never been easier to train more than six pokémon at a time–in fact, this is probably the preferred way of playing for most of the game.

–       Level curve (12/15 points): Thanks to the aforementioned easy training, there’s really nothing to worry about here. You’ll just have to do some last-minute training if you’re playing with a level limit, as there’s a huge level jump before the champion and not enough fights in the interim to cover it. But if you’re not using the level limit, you’ll most likely already be adequately leveled.

–       Pokédex (27/30 points): Without getting into The Big Debate about this game, I’ll just note that there’s a wide variety of pokémon available, especially early on. You’ll just want to have your rules clear on what to do about overworld Pokémon, as allowing them means you’ll miss out on that element of randomness that’s critical to a Nuzlocke, but banning them means missing out on several interesting options on each route. There are plenty of options for dealing with this new feature—just choose one early and stick to it.

–       Challenge (10/30 points): Coming after the brutal difficulty of the Alola games, Sword & Shield eased up on the gas quite a bit. For the most part, the random trainers are not as difficult as they are in the tougher games in the series, and you face the same bosses repeatedly throughout the game, ensuring that you’ll be up to countering them. That said, there are some tough boss fights—especially Raihan and the end-game legendary. Also, watch out for overleveled Pokémon in the Wild Area, they can mess you up if you’re not careful. It’s never been more important to bring along some Poké Dolls everywhere you go. As for the final boss: Leon’s got a good, diverse team, similar to Blue or Kukui. A tough fight, but not an Iris/Lance/Cynthia level tough fight.

–       Bonus points (5): The Box Link enabling you to switch between team members mid-route is a nice addition, and worth a few bonus points. And HMs, mercifully, did not make a return appearance, so that’s still worth a few points.

Score: 74 points

Final thoughts: The most convenient games to play through, but far from the most challenging—which is what keeps them from placing higher on this list. Above all others, this is likely the pair I’d recommend to a new Nuzlocker. 

3) X/Y

–      Training (9/15 points): With no Vs. Seeker and no rustling grass, you’ll have to rely on the Battle Chateau (or hordes) for training, which is less than ideal. The good news is, if you’re using the new, juiced-up exp. share, this might not be an issue.

–       Level curve (11/15 points): The highest level curve to date, built to match the new and improved exp. share. Even if you don’t use it, or use a level limit, there are no big jumps so you should be well-prepared for whatever’s next. (Though for level limit people, the gaps between gyms 3, 4 and 5 are a bit uncomfortably close together).

–       Pokédex (35/30 points): Yes, I cheated again. But these games are just that much better than their peers in this area. There’s an insane volume of pokémon, and they’re spread out and well balanced throughout the routes, caves and cities. Every playthrough brings with it a wide variety of viable team members no matter how unlucky you get with your encounters, which makes this one of the most replayable games in the series.

–       Challenge (20/30 points): XY have a reputation as the easy games in the series, but in a Nuzlocke they’re tougher than you might think. Like B2W2, a lot of the challenge here comes from regular trainers, who can sneak up on you and devastate your team. Victory Road is actually the gauntlet it’s made out to be, and several areas throughout the game (Reflection Cave, Frost Cavern), can be Nuzlocke ruiners. Lysandre is no joke either. On the flip side, the boss fights are possibly the easiest in the series. No gym leader has more than three Pokémon (many of which don’t even have four moves, for some reason) and limited type coverage, the Elite Four only have four again, the champion is the easiest in the series, and basically no one in the game even uses its most hyped feature (Mega Evolution), so it’s a bit of a mixed bag in terms of the challenge.

–       Bonus points (1): Just one point here for the reusable TMs.

Score: 77 points

Final thoughts: XY remain by far the best pair in the series if you’re looking for a diverse variety of Pokémon. In other areas, however, they fall short of the very best games in the series. Maybe a hypothetical Z version could have fixed all that; it’s a shame we’ll never get to find out.

2) Platinum

–       Training (15/15 points): Maybe the best game for regular trainer rematches thanks to the Vs. Seeker.

–       Level curve (10/15 points): Other than the requisite jump in levels before the Elite Four, there are no real level curve issues the rest of the game.

–       Pokédex (27/30 points): This is the earliest game in the series that I would consider to have as extensive a set of options as we’re used to in the present; the number of options here can hang with what you get in USUM or BW2 (if not XY, because no game compares to XY in this department). There’s not a ton of repetition, and unlike other games there’s no slow point where encounters dry up (like RSE and its many Tentacool-infested water routes).

–       Challenge (30/30 points): Quite possibly the toughest game in the series in terms of boss fights. Known run-enders start popping up as early as Roark’s Cranidos, with Jupiter’s Skuntank, Fantina’s Mismagius and Maylene’s Lucario not far behind. The game doesn’t let up late either—the clash with Cyrus in the Distortion World is probably the second-toughest fight in the game. The fight against Cynthia is, once again, terrifying. Her team is lower-leveled than in DP but more complete, with better movesets and overall coverage. A strong contender for the toughest final boss in the series.

–       Bonus points (-3): While thankfully nowhere near as slow as DP, Platinum still does run slowly compared to most games in the series. And, like DP, this game loses points for requiring so damn many HMs.

Score: 79 points

Final thoughts: While bogged down by some Gen 4 era problems, this is one of the most complete nuzlocking experiences out there, with a good variety of Pokémon, challenging opponents, and a modern-feeling quality of life.

1) Black 2/White 2

–      Training (14/15 points): Same as BW, plus a few more opportunities for rematches in the form of the Pokémon Breeders, many of whom will challenge you every time they see you.

–       Level curve (15/15 points): The level curve has been increased from BW to where you’ll be finishing the game in the high 50s/low 60s rather than hovering around level 50, but the game adjusts for this well, so there shouldn’t really be an issue. And in fact, this is one of the few games in the series where you don’t really have to grind a ton before facing the Elite Four—in fact, you’ll likely be ready for the League right when you walk out of Victory Road, which is a rarity in this series.

–       Pokédex (28/30 points): Older pokémon are back, and as a result B2W2 have one of the most extensive sets of pokémon offered in any game in the series. Doubly nice is the wide variety of useful pokémon offered to you early on—these games are among the best in the series in that respect. And as a result of the higher level curve, some of those mons with late evolutions are a bit more viable here (though in many cases they will still be difficult to raise).

–       Challenge (30/30 points): A lot of the challenge here comes from regular trainers, who can sneak up on you and devastate your team—especially those who deal in Triple and Rotation battles, which become much more common after the sixth gym. Be on high alert throughout this game. And then there’s the still-very-difficult boss fights, including Ghetsis (who is less difficult than in the original BW but is still Ghetsis), Drayden, Colress and even Cheren’s unusually difficult first gym. And Iris is up there with the toughest champion fights in the series. There’s also the option to play in Challenge Mode, which upgrades the gym leaders’ teams and gives many of them useful held items, though the method of obtaining this is needlessly complicated and likely not feasible for a lot of people.

–       Bonus points (2): “Repel’s effect wore off! Use another?” You truly love to see it.

Score: 89 points

Final thoughts: The clear winner. BW2 really have it all, getting perfect or near-perfect scores in every category. Whether you’re looking for a challenge, a variety of Pokémon to use, or just don’t want to have to grind a ton, these games answer the call.

Which games in the series are your favorite to Nuzlocke? Share your thoughts, and for more Nuzlocke tips, guides, and rankings, check out our Guides and Articles section!


2 thoughts on “Best Pokémon Game to Nuzlocke – Rankings

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