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How To: Play Pokémon on Hard Mode (Self-imposed Challenges)

Updated on September 26, 2016
I intend to play Pokémon Black and White this way, the goal is doing everything with 1 all-powerful starter!
I intend to play Pokémon Black and White this way, the goal is doing everything with 1 all-powerful starter!

Many fans of the pokémon video games have tried to self-impose challenges because, although the games are fun, if you've played 1 pokémon game you've played them all, and because they're made for children to play they aren't challenging enough for adults. I designed this list mostly for myself because I want to try this newest (Black and White) generation of Pokémon games in a different way than I've approached the others. In the other games, my strategy was the obvious one for most people; build up 6 pokémon that are all different types and raise them to be strong but no one can be stronger than any other (I would switch my first pokémon every time it gained a level so all of my pokémon would level up evenly). I think it would be more challenging, however, if I simply tried to have 1 all-powerful starter and no other strong ones. Although I'm doing this for Black and White versions, it will work on any of the main Pokémon games. So here's my challenge rules I made:

1. You must only keep on your team your starting pokémon plus however many pokémon you need to use for HMs. In battle, your starter is always first.

2. The pokémon you choose to use for HMs must be the lowest level pokémon you could find that can still use the particular moves you need it to. You never try to level up any of these.

3. You aren't allowed to trade pokémon; either with npc's or with other people or with yourself, unless the plot of the game requires it. If you are required to trade for a pokémon in the game, or receive a pokémon as a gift, the received pokémon should go immediately into storage.

4. You fight and knock out the legendary pokémon. You do not save your game before encountering them.

5. When you go to a town with a gym leader you need to fight, after you've done everything you need to do to get to the gym leader, you may not fight the gym leader or anyone in that gym until your starter's level is 5 levels higher than the highest level gym leader's pokémon. (I believe you can find this out in strategy guides or on Bulbapedia)

6. If your starter is weak against the type the Gym Leader uses, your pokémon must be 10 levels higher than their highest pokémon.

7. You cannot use any healing items during battle. You cannot use Antidote or any item to heal a Poisoned or Burned pokémon; it either makes it to the pokémon center or doesn't. You cannot heal status during battle.

8. When you come to a new Route, you have to first catch all pokémon species that are common there, and they are put into storage if they're not needed for HMs. This includes any you might get by surfing, diving, or fishing (Again, check guides and/or Bulbapedia)

9. If you encounter a double battle, you choose your starter and the weakest of your HM pokémon. (The goal is that the other pokémon will faint and not steal half of your starter's hard-earned XP.)

10. If you lose a trainer battle (which will happen more frequently due to these rules), you must fight wild pokémon until your starter pokémon gains 3 more levels, before challenging the trainer you lost to again.

11. You cannot use Rare Candy.

12. No cheats (I personally don't use any of them, but don't!). No breeding. When you get the egg, hatch the egg but put the pokémon you get into storage. Do not allow the Day Care people to raise any of your pokémon.

13. You can't use Fly. If required to make a long trek back to a town you've been to, you must do it on foot/bike. Also, when returning to a town, you have to walk through tall grass instead of jumping over ramps to avoid it.

14. You can't avoid any Trainers on a route and must be sure to confront every single one of them. Same goes for any place with Trainers, such as caves or buildings you enter.

I think that's good enough for me and I'll try my best to play it this way.

Nuzlocke Rules:

There are many versions of these rules floating around, some for specific games.
There are many versions of these rules floating around, some for specific games.


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    • RachaelLefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachael Lefler 

      5 years ago from Illinois

      Lately, I've discovered the variation of this called a Nuzlocke challenge. The rules in that one are simpler:

      1. If a Pokémon faints, they are released and considered dead.

      2. You can only catch the first Pokémon you encounter in a given Route or wilderness area. If you fail to catch that one, you don't get any Pokémon in that area at all.

      Furthermore, if you white/black out, it's considered a "game over", and typically the trainers name their Pokémon.

      I've been trying this and I've whited out once and had to start over, it's not easy but there's something cool about it.

    • RachaelLefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachael Lefler 

      5 years ago from Illinois

      Another option would be to beat the Elite Four with a good team and then try to raise a team of 6 wild Pokémon caught in the first routes, levels 3-5, and raise them until they can beat the Elite Four.

    • Hazzabanana8 profile image


      6 years ago from Southern Realms of England

      Tough rules but none the less interesting...I may consider on my next play through

    • RachaelLefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachael Lefler 

      6 years ago from Illinois

      I've already broke the rules because in Striation Gym I beat him even though I was only 4 levels higher than his strongest Pokémon.

    • RachaelLefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachael Lefler 

      6 years ago from Illinois

      Haha, well my usual way was to train the first 6 pokémon I caught and keep them with me the whole way, occasionally substituting them. I guess I thought that if you have the ability to carry six pokémon, you should use that ability to it's fullest potential.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Is it bad if I've always played this way since Gen 1? I always go through the whole game with just my starter, only having other pokémon for HM's. I always caught Pokémon common to new area's I visited to complete the pokedex and I always kill legendary's because by the time I get to them my starter is so overpowered that it kills them in one hit. I also never use potions or other items because I never needed them. If your opponent isn't down in one hit then you are not strong enough... I just thought that that was the normal way to play pokémon...

    • RachaelLefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachael Lefler 

      6 years ago from Illinois

      I found it very hard to comply with rules 5 and 6, because the first gym leader guarantees it that you'll be fighting an opposite type as your starter. But since I didn't comply with the rule and fought Striation's gym leader at level 17 when I should have at 24 (his highest level pokémon was 14), I learned the hard way that you need to follow the rule probably to have a decent shot at winning.


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