The Nuzlocke Challenge is a set of rules intended to create a higher level of difficulty while playing the Pokémon games. Many challengers feel that the rules also serve the purpose of encouraging the use of Pokémon the player would not normally choose, and promoting closer bonds with the player’s Pokémon. The rules are not an in-game function, but are self-imposed on the part of the player, and thus subject to variation.
The name of the challenge originates from the comic series of the same name, which features a Nuzleaf resembling Lost character John Locke as a recurring gag character.
The Nuzlocke Challenge has only two rules that must be followed:
- Any Pokémon that faints is considered dead, and must be released or put in the Pokémon Storage System permanently (or may be transferred to another game, as long as the Pokémon is never able to be used again during this run).
- The player may only catch the first wild Pokémon encountered in each area, and none else. If the first wild Pokémon encountered faints or flees, there are no second chances. If the first encounter in the area is a double battle, the player is free to choose which of the two wild Pokémon they would like to catch but may only catch one of them. This restriction does not apply to Pokémon able to be captured during static encounters, nor to Shiny Pokémon.
Other near-universally used rules include:
- The player must nickname all of their Pokémon, for the sake of forming stronger emotional bonds.
- The player may only use Pokémon they have captured themselves, meaning Pokémon acquired through trading, Mystery Gifts, etc., are prohibited. As for trading and retrading the same Pokémon (for the purpose of evolving a Graveler, for example), there is no firm consensus. As of White: Hard-Mode Episode 3, it is implied that the player can accept Pokémon that are received freely from NPCs.
- The player may not voluntarily reset and reload the game whenever things go wrong. Being able to do so would render all of the other rules pointless.
Though the above rules tend to stay consistent with all challengers, many optional variations and amendments to the rules have been created by players to further adjust difficulty. Many other rules exist other than those listed here; challengers adjust their personal rules according to their own preferences. Regardless of the optional rules being used, the run is considered a Nuzlocke Challenge as long as the core rules are still in place.
The player’s Starter Pokémon must be randomly chosen.
The player cannot train their Pokemon above the highest level of the next Gym/Elite Four battle.
A black out/white out is considered to be a “game over,” even if there are usable Pokémon left in the PC, and the player must start over.
The player may only catch the first Pokémon after each Gym battle instead of in each area.
The battle style must be changed to “set” in the options menu, meaning the player does not get the opportunity to switch out their Pokémon after an opponent’s Pokémon faints.
Potions and status-healing items may not be used in battle.
Legendary Pokémon may not be used.
The player may not flee from battle.
The Day Care may not be used.