Survey Results – Nuzlocke University Community Survey June 2022

Back in June, we put out a Nuzlocke community survey, with questions about everything from your favorite Pokémon games to Nuzlocke to your thoughts on randomization, the community, favorite rulesets, and much more. We went to reddit, the Nuzlocke Forums, Twitter, and of course, Nuzlocke University looking for players to fill out the survey, and the response was great. We were thrilled to see lots of players take the survey and provide their input, and with over 500 responses, we think we’ve come up with a something beginning to resemble a representative sample of the community, and a starting point to answer some of our burning questions.

Let’s look at each question we asked players to answer, and talk about some of the results! There are twenty-five in total, so you might want to grab a snack – this is a long one.

Starting with question one…

1. How many Nuzlocke runs have you STARTED?

Unsurprisingly no one answered “zero” to this question, meaning everyone who filled out the survey has started at least a single Nuzlocke run. The most common answer was “10-24” with 32.2% of the vote. 6.3% of respondents have started at least a hundred Nuzlocke runs, so there are some really dedicated players answering the survey which is great to see!

2. How many Nuzlocke runs have you COMPLETED?

When we ask about completed Nuzlockes, the numbers look quite different – 15% of respondents have never completed a Nuzlocke run. The most common answer was “2-4” with 25.9% of the vote, followed closely by “5-9” with about 22.7%. The hardcore group who have completed 100 or more Nuzlockes now shrinks to 2.2%.

Unfortunately, it isn’t immediately clear whether players are counting failed runs or wipes as “completed” Nuzlockes or not – the question was ambiguous about whether “complete” runs referred to successful runs or simply runs that had been carried out to a close (win or lose). This causes some ambiguity in this question as well as the next few which ask about “completed” runs, and is the biggest flaw I’ve identified with this iteration of the survey. This will be clarified in future editions. Nevertheless, we can clearly see that most players are finishing less runs than they start, leading to our next question:

3. True or False – you finish most of the Nuzlocke runs that you start.

Here, 62.1% of players say that they do NOT finish most of the runs they start. This aligns with the drop in numbers between started and completed attempts that we saw in the last two questions.

4. Select all the regions/generations of Pokémon games in which you have STARTED a Nuzlocke (whether or not you completed it).

The top 5 answers for this question are as follows:

  1. Diamond/Pearl/Platinum (75.3%)
  2. Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald (69.6%)
  3. FireRed/LeafGreen (69%)
  4. HeartGold/SoulSilver (68.2%)
  5. Black/White (62.3%)

Here’s all the data:

Interesting results here. Each of our top five has been played by more than half of respondents, as have sixth and seventh place (B2W2 and X/Y respectively) meaning two things – first, there’s a huge centralization of the community around this core group of games in the GBA/DS era, and second – many Nuzlockers have tried many different games for so many to score so highly. In fact, once you reach the GBA games, you see a fairly steady decrease in scores as the games get newer, with notable spikes at Sword/Shield and, of course, Diamond/Pearl/Platinum.

The least popular answer was Pokémon Legends: Arceus, with 4.2% of the vote. This is both unsurprising and perhaps a little unfair, given its recent release and how much it differs from earlier games for which the Nuzlocke challenge was developed. In fact, PLA is going to be a consistent last-place finisher in questions like this. The second lowest score belonged to the Let’s Go games with 7.5%, and then a big jump to the next lowest – BDSP at 21.3%.

There’s a clear tendency here for newer games to perform worse, which makes sense, as newer games will have had less time to be played and are more difficult to emulate without official hardware.

5. Select all the regions/generations of Pokémon games in which you have FINISHED a Nuzlocke.

The top 5 answers for this question are as follows:

  1. FireRed/LeafGreen (57.8%)
  2. Diamond/Pearl/Platinum (51.8%)
  3. Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald (51.8%)
  4. HeartGold/SoulSilver (45.9%)
  5. Black/White (40%)

Again, all the data in graph form:

Unsurprisingly, our graphs for this and the previous question look pretty similar – the games most people have started are also most likely to be the ones they’ve finished, with lower scores but similar rankings across the board. FR/LG overtook DPPt for first-place here, possibly due to Kanto’s lower difficulty.

Again, Pokémon Legends: Arceus is our last-place finisher (1.9%) with Let’s Go coming second-last (3.3%). We see the same general trend as in the previous question, with newer games tending to score lower after the GBA era.

6. Rank your TOP 5 FAVORITE regions/generations of Pokémon games to Nuzlocke.

In order to crown the community’s favorite games to Nuzlocke, I added up all the votes each generation/region received, and assigned them points based on those votes, awarding five points for a first-place vote, four for a second-place vote, and so on, awarding a single point for fifth-place votes. Here are the results:

  1. 1077 points – Diamond/Pearl/Platinum
  2. 918 points – Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald
  3. 901 points – Black 2/White 2
  4. 773 points – FireRed/LeafGreen
  5. 695 points – Black/White
  6. 605 points – HeartGold/SoulSilver
  7. 500 points – X/Y
  8. 336 points – Sword/Shield
  9. 317 points – Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire
  10. 288 points – Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon
  11. 159 points – Sun/Moon
  12. 146 points – Gold/Silver/Crystal
  13. 123 points – Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl
  14. 121 points – Red/Blue/Yellow
  15. 17 points – Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  16. 11 points – Let’s Go Eevee/Pikachu

While Black 2/White 2 actually garnered the most first-place votes, the remainder of the rankings all went in favor of the original Sinnoh games and they take the top spot as the community’s favorite games to Nuzlocke. In terms of first-place votes, the top three ran away from the rest of the pack, with the third-place finisher Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald nearly doubling the fourth-place FireRed/LeafGreen in that category. So while in aggregate the community has varied preferences across all the generations, it’s clear that when it comes to people’s very favorite games, the community opinion is a lot more centralized and consistent. To show this even more clearly, let’s look at a chart showing the distribution of first-place votes:

Note: For clarity, only the top three responses are labelled, but for your information and interpretation, the generations are arranged in release order from left to right.

Here’s a twist: Pokémon Legends: Arceus stays out of the bottom spot on this question as, alas, the community holds little love for the Let’s Go games. Not only did Let’s Go Eevee/Pikachu finish with only 11 points total, they did not receive a single first, second, or third place vote.

7. Not including unofficial games such as ROM hacks, which generation/region of Pokémon games did you FIRST Nuzlocke?

FireRed and LeafGreen just barely edge out Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald for the most common first Nuzlocke by a single percentage point (21.1% to 20.1%). Third place is Diamond/Pearl/Platinum with 13.5%, then a bunch of games around the 6-7% percent mark. Last place is – you guessed it – Pokémon Legends: Arceus, with zero votes (the Let’s Go games avoided the tie with one vote).

No big surprises, these results correlate pretty closely with the community’s most-played and most-loved games, and lots of young-adult players who grew up with the GBA games will be familiar with them and therefore more likely to Nuzlocke them. They’re also easily accessible on a variety of platforms and aren’t too challenging relative to other generations.

8. Not including unofficial games such as ROM hacks, which generation/region of Pokémon games did you MOST RECENTLY Nuzlocke?

No runaway winners here – the top three most recently Nuzlocked games are Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald (12.7%) FireRed/LeafGreen (11.8%) and Diamond/Pearl/Platinum (11.8%) then Black 2/White 2 in fourth (11.4%) (you might be starting to see a trend here). The lowest scores: Let’s Go and Legends: Arceus, with one vote each. To whoever is out there right now Nuzlocking these games, I salute you!

9. Which generation/region of Pokémon games would you most recommend for a first-time Nuzlocker?

Note: There isn’t room to display every option here, but I still wanted to include this to visually emphasize the dominance of FireRed/LeafGreen in these responses.

By contrast, this question DID have a runaway winner – FireRed/LeafGreen, with 48% of the vote (second place was X/Y with 17%). It isn’t hard to see why these games are recommended – simple mechanics, easy to access as GBA games, and subject of many guides and Let’s Plays, they’re great choices for beginners. While Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald tick these boxes too, FR/LG likely get the nod as a result of their lower difficulty, not to mention a dash of Kanto nostalgia.

Any guesses as to the least-recommended starter game? That’s right – Legends: Arceus shows up again, as the only game with zero votes. It’s not hard to see why: PLA is a huge departure from the traditional Pokémon format, making it a poor introduction to Nuzlocking.

10. When Nuzlocking, how often do you play ROM hacks or fan games, as opposed to official Pokémon games?

It seems like, for most of our respondents, the officially published games are king. 39% of respondents said they never or almost never play ROM hacks or fan games, with another 30.2% playing them occasionally but less often than official games. 10.7% play ROM hacks and official games about equally, and the remainder is split between those who play ROM hacks somewhat more often (13.3%) and those who always or almost always play ROM hacks (6.8%). So while the official games are the go-to for the majority of players, there’s still a strong group of respondents who really enjoy the different experiences fan games and ROM hacks provide.

11. If you play ROM hacks or fan games, please list UP TO FIVE of your favorites.

For obvious reasons we can’t list every response here, but we can list some of the most frequently mentioned. This section is less about trying to rank the most popular games, and more about giving you ideas about what people are playing and what to try next. Some of the most common responses include, in no particular order:

  • Renegade Platinum
  • Radical Red
  • Storm Silver
  • Sacred Gold
  • Gaia
  • Emerald Kaizo
  • Volt White/Volt White 2
  • Blaze Black/Blaze Black 2
  • Unbound
  • Clover
  • Glazed/Blazed Glazed
  • Insurgence
  • Inclement Emerald
  • Vintage White

12. Which starter type do you most frequently choose (assuming you are playing a game with standard starters and not a randomizer)?

According to our survey, most players don’t have a favorite starter type, with 48.3% saying their choice depends on which game they’re playing and 21% saying they randomize their choice. The remainder is split between Fire (16.2%), Water (8.5%), and Grass (5.9%). This makes sense – different generations have different encounter tables and Gym Leader lineups, making the optimal choice dependent on the generation being played. Fire-type Pokémon tend to be rare, especially in early generations, making Fire starters valuable.

If you’re interested in general tips to picking a starter for your Nuzlocke in any generation, check out this article I wrote covering exactly that.

13. How do you feel about randomizing certain elements of a game for a Nuzlocke run?

Respondents were pretty split on this one. Collectively, 49.2% of players said they never/almost never randomize (41.9%) or don’t know what randomizing is or how to do it (7.3%). Another 36.3% said they randomize sometimes but not usually, and only 14.5% randomize often (11.1%) or almost always (3.4%) These results seem to show that a sizeable portion of the community enjoys randomizing as an occasional way to add variety, but the majority of players don’t use randomization as their primary method of play.

14. On a scale of 1-5, how important are the following elements of a Nuzlocke to you (1 being not important, 5 being very important)? This question can also be thought of as “why do you play Nuzlockes?”.

As someone who creates guides and content for the Nuzlocke community, this was a question I was really interested in, and the responses were very interesting! Tallying up all responses and assigning points based on the scores players assigned each item, here’s what the “why do you Nuzlocke?” breakdown looks like:

  1. 2209 points – Being forced to use different Pokémon
  2. 2149 points – Challenge
  3. 1726 points – Unpredictability
  4. 1567 points – Forming emotional attachments with my Pokémon
  5. 1180 points – Sharing my progress with others
  6. 888 points – Playing along with friends
  7. 856 points – Creating art, comics, or stories
  8. 707 points – Content creation (for YouTube, Twitch, etc.)

The numbers alone disguise the true difference between some of these responses – let’s take a look at the graphs. Our top four answers, in the order they appeared on the survey:

And our bottom four answers, also in the order they appeared on the survey:

First and second place were very close – team variety just barely edged out challenge as the community’s number one reason to Nuzlocke. Unpredictability and bonding with Pokémon are fairly close as well, with a drop-off to the more social and community-oriented options, such as sharing progress and creating content. It’s not surprising to see content creation and art at the bottom of the list – not many Nuzlockers are content creators, but those that are care about it a lot and are very invested, and tend to have an outsized influence on the community, despite their smaller numbers.

15. Do you prefer to play with vanilla Nuzlocke rules only, or with added rules/restrictions?

I’ll admit to being a little bit surprised by these results – 64.6% of respondents said they prefer playing with added rules and restrictions, with only 13.5% preferring the vanilla Nuzlocke, and 21.9% playing both about equally. I expected to see good results for the extra rules playstyle, but a majority of that size, and such a small score for vanilla Nuzlockes, were both a little bit shocking. This could be partly due to sampling bias – players filling out a Nuzlocke survey probably represent a more hardcore segment of the community – but it’s very interesting nonetheless!

16. Do you usually play with species clause/dupes clause?

Dupes clause reigns supreme, with 94.8% of respondents saying they always or almost always use it in their Nuzlocke runs. With numbers like that, you could almost consider it an official Nuzlocke rule. Better team variety, especially in the early-game, and the extra strategic layer of encounter manipulation have made this technically optional rule a staple in the Nuzlocke community, and strategies for beating Hardcore Nuzlockes, especially of harder ROM hacks and fan games, often rely on dupes clause to reliably assemble a team capable of completing the run.

If you need a quick refresher on what dupes/duplicates clause is or how it works, click here.

17. Which of the following Nuzlocke variants have you tried? Check all that apply. (Note: I am aware that this list is far from exhaustive.)

With 82.6% of respondents having tried the Hardcore Nuzlocke at least once, it’s the most commonly-played Nuzlocke variant, more than doubling its nearest competition the Wonderlocke. This may be due to its straightforward and simple approach to difficulty, without lots of gimmicky or complex changes that can sometimes be found in other variants, as well as due to its popularity on YouTube and Twitch – especially with Pokémon Challenges who formalized and popularized the ruleset.

If you’re curious about any of these rulesets and want to give one of them a try, check out our Nuzlocke variants page, where we have rules and more information for all of them.

18. How do you feel about using guides/references from outside the game (Serebii, Bulbapedia, etc.)?

A strong majority of respondents (68.8%) said they use out-of-game resources such as Bulbapedia and Serebii frequently, which is unsurprising given the importance of game-knowledge and planning in Nuzlocke success – do your research was the second point in our general tips for Nuzlocking. A small group of respondents (10.7%) use these references infrequently, with a larger minority (18.1%) using them only to ensure they follow self-imposed rules and level caps and not to help with planning or strategy. The final 2.4% play completely blind and never access out-of-game references, either because of a desire for greater challenge or because they know the games so well that references are unnecessary – it might be interesting to differentiate between these two groups in a future survey.

19. Why do you subscribe to r/nuzlocke, visit the Nuzlocke forums, or visit Nuzlocke-related websites? Rank the following items’ importance from 1-5 (1 being not important, 5 being very important).

I used the same scoring system here as in question six, but in reverse – five points for each five, four for each four, and so on, totaling the points for each answer to produce final scores. Here’s what the results look like:

  1. 1939 points – Getting ideas for new kinds of challenges and rulesets
  2. 1881 points – Reading about strategies, teambuilding, tier lists, tips, etc. in general
  3. 1743 points – Seeing run updates from other players
  4. 1489 points – Interacting with the community generally
  5. 1123 points – Asking for specific advice/help from other players
  6. 1057 points – Sharing my own run updates with other players

Getting ideas for new rulesets is the winner, with both the most “five” votes and the most points in total. General strategy, tips, and tier list discussion are a close second, with seeing run updates from other players – the first primarily social factor – following at third. After that we see a pretty significant drop-off to fourth place and beyond, with many fewer players asking for specific advice or sharing their own run updates. It’s interesting to see that the average respondent cares much more about seeing others’ run updates than sharing their own, though it does align with the popularity of let’s plays and Nuzlocking videos and Twitch streams – many players seem to enjoy watching or following runs as much as they enjoy actually playing.

20. If you visit r/nuzlocke, the Nuzlocke Forums, or Nuzlocke-related websites for a reason that wasn’t listed, please feel free to explain here.

The two most common answers were, first, memes, and second, to give advice to other, less experienced players. A fair number of respondents also mentioned that seeing other players complete Nuzlockes gives them inspiration that they can do the same.

21. How did you find out about Nuzlocking in the first place?

The largest percentage of respondents (43.8%) were exposed to Nuzlockes by a Twitch streamer or YouTuber they already watched, with a further 17.9% percent coming from recommendations on those sites. This reinforces the importance of YouTube and Twitch as a hub for people to discover Nuzlocking and consume Nuzlocke content. Another 22.1% of players found out about Nuzlockes elsewhere on the internet, such as comment threads or forums, and 8% through real-life word of mouth from friends. The remaining percentage of “other” responses are overwhelmingly from people who read the original Nuzlocke comic, plus a few others who shouted out Jaiden Animations specifically as their Nuzlocke point-of-entry.

22. Have you ever Nuzlocked a game on your first time playing it?

Almost half of respondents answered yes to having Nuzlocked a game on their first playthrough of it, and to be honest, I was completely surprised here, for a couple of reasons. First, game knowledge and familiarity are some of the most important tools for Nuzlocke success, and second, players often decide to Nuzlocke a game specifically because they’re familiar with it and are looking for a new way to play. This might indicate a relatively high number of players who Nuzlocke primarily or almost exclusively, rather than using it as a fallback for when they’re bored of “regular” Pokémon playthroughs.

23. True or False – you spend more time watching other people’s Nuzlockes than playing your own.

It’s pretty close, but “true” actually squeaks out the win here with 52.8% of the vote, meaning that the majority of respondents do, in fact, spend more time watching other people’s Nuzlockes than playing their own. While perhaps unexpected, it’s understandable – Nuzlockes can be challenging and time-consuming, and watching an expert work through an especially challenging run can be a lot of fun – plus it’s a great way to get ideas for your own playthroughs. The biggest content creators do a really good job making the games engaging and creating a fun experience for viewers, and evidently, that effort pays off.

24. How does your time spent Nuzlocking or doing other “challenge runs” compare to your time spent playing Pokémon games “regularly”?

The results here are pretty conclusive, but there are still a couple of interesting surprises here, so let’s take a look. For starters, it’s clear that the majority of respondents spend most of their Pokémon play-time Nuzlocking – 30.3% are always or almost always Nuzlocking if they’re playing Pokémon, and a further 30.9% Nuzlocke more often than they play regularly. 19.4% spend about equal time on Nuzlockes and regular playthroughs, leaving just 16.6% who Nuzlocke occasionally but less than they play regularly and 2.8% who almost never Nuzlocke.

To be honest, I’m a bit surprised by that 2.8%, given that in the first survey question zero people said they’d never tried a Nuzlocke before – it’s possible that these respondents spend most or all of their time engaging with Nuzlockes by watching them on YouTube or Twitch rather than playing them, or perhaps some respondents had tried a Nuzlocke or two, never gone much further, but still decided to fill out the survey (which is perfectly fine).

And finally, question twenty-five…

25. On a scale of 1-5 (1 being disagree, 5 being agree) how much do you agree with the following statement – after Nuzlocking, you find “regular” playthroughs of Pokémon games boring.

While by no means an overwhelming majority, a lot of players do seem to feel that having played Nuzlockes, their enjoyment of regular Pokémon playthroughs is diminished somewhat. I’d hazard a guess that this is mostly because of the lack of strategy required and the lower difficulty level in main series Pokémon games, although there are lots of other potential factors, such as fondness for the Nuzlocke community, the unpredictability of team composition, and so on.

And that’s it! With all the questions answered, and all the data accounted for and analyzed, what are some of the most interesting takeaways from this survey as a whole? Well…

  • There are a lot of players playing a lot of Nuzlockes. The number who’ve started fifty or a hundred or more Nuzlockes is staggering, and even the more humble average response of ten to twenty-four is impressive. How many games can claim that many playthroughs from such a large proportion of their player base?
  • The community is centralized around the Game Boy Advance/DS generations. The tendency for players to lean towards this era of games when discussing their favorite or most commonly-played Pokémon titles is notable. This could be attributed to the childhood years of the average respondent aligning with the release window for these games, how easy they are to access through emulation, or perhaps players finding the particular combination of more modern quality-of-life features and classic Pokémon design philosophy appealing. Perhaps the RBY and GSC generations are too barebones and/or janky, while the newer games sacrifice too much player freedom and challenge in the name of accessibility? (I’ll refrain from commenting further, as this is supposed to be an impartial reading of survey data, not a soapbox. But I digress.)
  • Dupes clause is standard. There are situations where players prefer to forego dupes clause for their own reasons, but with ninety-five percent of the community using it on all or nearly all of their runs, you’d almost be justified adding it to the basic Nuzlocke rules at this point.
  • According to the survey, FireRed and LeafGreen are the places to start for new Nuzlockers. It’s not a consensus, but a large plurality of respondents say FR/LG are the games they’d most recommend for a first-time Nuzlocke.
  • Most players primarily play Nuzlockes for challenge and forced team variety. There are lots of reasons different players love to Nuzlocke, but when it comes to picking the elements of the challenge they most resonate with, most players pointed to these two as what keeps them playing.
  • Nuzlockers love watching other people’s Nuzlockes. In a result that may or may not be surprising to you, over half of respondents said they spent more time watching other people Nuzlocke than playing themselves, and a reasonable number of players said they consider following other players’ run updates a core reason of why they visit the subreddit or forums.

I could go on forever listing interesting insights and results, but we’ve already done that for every question so we’ll leave it there for a nice, quick, summary. Thanks for taking the time to check out the survey results, and a huge thank-you again to all who filled it out!

If you missed out on participating in this Nuzlocke Community Survey, don’t worry! We’ll be running version 2.0 of this survey sometime in the future, so be sure to sign up for email notifications or follow @NuzlockeU on Twitter to get notified when that opens up, and to read articles, guides, tier lists, and more as they’re released!

Further notes and acknowledgement of limitations:

We should take a minute to address some of the limitations of this survey, and what we can do to improve future versions. The first and most difficult to overcome is sampling bias. Because survey respondents are self-selected, we can’t guarantee a truly random sampling of everyone who plays Nuzlockes – players who spend more time on the subreddit or forums will be more likely to come across and respond to our survey. That’s part of the reason I included the first question asking how many Nuzlocke runs each player has started – not only is the data itself interesting, it also gives us a clue as to who is responding and what their level of experience is. There’s not much we can do to combat this besides distributing the survey as widely as possible, and being aware of it when we analyze responses.

There’s also an error on my end that bears mentioning: FireRed/LeafGreen and Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl were briefly omitted from the list of answers of certain questions when the survey went live. This was fixed quickly, before the vast majority of responses were collected, and the impact on the results should be minimal, however, I apologize for the oversight. This has been fixed for the next iteration of the survey.


2 thoughts on “Survey Results – Nuzlocke University Community Survey June 2022

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s