Hardcore Nuzlocke Variant

The Hardcore Nuzlocke is a variant of the regular Nuzlocke challenge that is designed to be more difficult and encourage strategic play by preventing players from using common tactics such as over-levelling team members or relying on healing items during battle. The normal Nuzlocke rules apply, with two primary additions:

  • The player may not use items in battle. Pokémon may hold items, but no items from the bag (except for Balls) may be used.
  • The player may not level any of their Pokémon past the level of the next “boss trainer’s” highest leveled Pokémon. “Boss trainers” can include Gym Leaders, Kahunas, team admins/leaders, and, when entering the Pokémon League, the final Elite Four member. Any Pokémon who exceed the level cap must be boxed, and cannot be used until they are under the level cap. Exceeding the level cap during the battle is allowed, you must simply enter the battle with no Pokémon over the level cap. (Note: when entering the Pokémon League, the player may not have any Pokémon higher in level than the final Elite Four member’s highest level Pokémon. Once the player enters the Pokémon league and begins the final stretch of battles, this level cap may be surpassed.)
  • Additionally, while not one of the two main rules, it is generally accepted that Set mode should be used for the Hardcore Nuzlocke.

What’s the point? – By restricting item usage and over-levelling, this variant forces the player to make strategic decisions and occasionally take risks, making the run both more challenging and more exciting. The removal of healing items increases the viability and importance of Cleric Pokémon and recovery moves, normally rendered useless by the existence of Potions and Status Healing items. The removal of X-Items also increases the importance of stat-boosting moves and the Pokémon that can learn them.

Origin – While this variant has become quite popular, and versions of this ruleset have likely been in use for nearly as long as the basic Nuzlocke challenge itself, it was formalized by Pokémon Challenges in this video:


For a more comprehensive list of additional rules you can use to customize any Nuzlocke run, see our Optional Rules section. For even more unique ways to enjoy the Nuzlocke challenge, check out our Nuzlocke Variants page!