You might think of Pokémon games as mainly for kids, which makes sense given their relatively low difficulty. But if you love the series, you can enjoy the odd Pokémon challenge to get more out of your favorite games.
Let’s look at some self-imposed Pokémon challenges, including challenging runs, tests of strategy, completionist goals, and other challenges for those who fancy themselves as Pokémon masters.
1. The Nuzlocke Pokémon Challenge
Perhaps the most-well known type of run on this list, the Pokémon Nuzlocke challenge places a number of restrictions on your playthrough. It works in pretty much any Pokémon game, and allows for additional restrictions to make it as hard as you’d like.
The two primary Pokémon Nuzlocke rules are:
- Any Pokémon that faints in battle is considered dead, and you must release them.
- You can only catch the first Pokémon you encounter in each area.
These rules introduce a lot of extra strategy to the game. A Pokémon fainting goes from being a minor inconvenience to a costly permadeath. Restricting yourself to only catching one Pokémon per area also prompts you to use creatures you might normally ignore.
If you want a deeper challenge, you can add many extra rules onto your Nuzlocke run. For example, you can change the Battle Style in Options to Set, which prevents you from switching Pokémon when an opponent’s Pokémon faints. You can base your choice of starter Pokémon on your Trainer ID number, or even release your starter Pokémon and only work with wild Pokémon.
See the Nuzlocke Challenge entry on Bulbapedia for the additional rules you can try.
Note that because most Pokémon games only have one save file, you’ll need to delete your current save to start the game over and try one of these challenges. You might want to look at some of the completionist challenges below and try those first before erasing all your hard work.
2. The Monotype Run Pokémon Challenge
For something a bit less complicated than Nuzlocke, yet still more challenging than a normal playthrough, consider a monotype challenge run.
This is just what it sounds like: you complete a Pokémon game using creatures of only one type. Doing this mimics the series’ gym leaders, who each dedicate their training to a certain type of Pokémon.
The rules for this run aren’t as well-defined as Nuzlocke. All you need to do is pick a Pokémon type (like Water, Ground, Fighting, etc.) before you start your game. Then, as soon as possible, assemble a team with only Pokémon of that type.
Building a team around one type means you’ll have some major weaknesses—for instance, Water is weak to Electric-type moves. To offset this, you can take advantage of Pokémon that have two types. Swampert is a Water-Ground type, so it provides critical electricity immunity to a vulnerable Water-type team.
If you’re interested in this, check out the Unapologetic Nerd breakdown of the monotype run. It includes a handy chart showing how difficult each game is based on the type you pick.
3. The Speedrunning Pokémon Challenge
Speedrunning is a hobby that involves completing a game as quickly as possible. If you think you know Pokémon inside and out, you can put it to the test with a speedrun.
You’ll have to learn how to optimize a run to complete battles quickly and minimize unnecessary time sinks. Like a lot of video game speedruns, you’ll find both runs that rely on glitches for faster progression, as well as categories that do not allow glitches.
If you’d like to get started speedrunning your favorite Pokémon game, we recommend watching a speedrun or two to see how the pros do it. From there, you’ll likely find a community dedicated to your particular game, where you can ask questions and improve your skills. You don’t have to go for the world record to have fun—figuring out new ways to shave a few minutes off your personal best is extremely rewarding in its own right.
Have a look at our favorite video game speedruns to familiarize yourself with the concept of speedrunning.
4. The Conquer Endgame Pokémon Challenges
Don’t want to reset your save file? Pokémon games still have challenging endgame content to enjoy after you’ve completed the main story.
Every main Pokémon game has an arena with additional battle scenarios to take on. In older games, this was called the Battle Tower, but it’s also been known as the Battle Subway and Battle Tree, among other names. When taking these on, you’ll need to defeat as many trainers in a row as you can.
These arenas are more challenging because they scale all Pokémon down to the same level. This means you have to rely more on skill and team composition instead of brute force.
If you’re looking to play a Pokémon game specifically for these arenas, we recommend either Pokémon Emerald or Platinum. Instead of a single Battle Tower, they contain a Battle Frontier with several facilities that each offer a unique challenge.
Beyond the battle arenas, most Pokémon games let you access new areas after you become the champion. Keep an eye out for any areas you couldn’t reach during the main game. You might also find that the gym leaders (or even the Elite Four) will rematch you.
5. The Gotta Catch ‘Em All Pokémon Challenge
The first generation of Pokémon games contained 151 monsters. Even then, catching them all was quite an accomplishment. Over two decades later, the Pokédex now contains more than 800 creatures, meaning that catching everything is a task only for the hardcore.
If you want to be the ultimate Pokémon trainer, challenge yourself to catch them all. This isn’t always an attainable goal, however. Not all Pokémon are obtainable in each title, so you’ll have to resort to trading and even promotional events to find some of them.
Earnest collectors should look into the Pokémon Bank service. This is a $5/year utility that allows you to store Pokémon you’ve caught in the various games available on the 3DS. Its companion service, the Poké Transporter, even lets you transfer Pokémon across games.
If collecting every single Pokémon sounds overwhelming to you, try collecting only the Pokémon from a specific game’s region. This won’t require as much trading or connecting to older titles.
For a different type of challenge, which is great if you love rare Pokémon, try your hand at collecting shiny Pokémon. These are color-varied versions of almost every monster that have an extremely low appearance rate. Each game has special methods you can use to increase the likelihood of finding or breeding a shiny, but it still takes a lot of time.
Having just one or two shinies is still quite a feat, and the thrill of catching your first is super exciting. See Bulbapedia’s entry on shiny Pokémon for more info.
6. The Ribbon Collecting Pokémon Challenge
If you find that the above trials aren’t enough for you, and want a challenge that spans multiple games and consoles, try collecting ribbons.
Ribbons have been in the Pokémon games since Ruby and Sapphire released on the Game Boy Advance. Set a goal to load up a single Pokémon with as many of these ribbons as possible.
You’ll want to start with an earlier game and trade forward to a newer generation once you’ve obtained as many ribbons as possible. In some cases, trading forward can lock out the ability to trade back to previous games again, so make sure you have all the possible ribbons before you move on.
This task will have you becoming the champion in multiple regions, winning contests of beauty and intelligence, and even shelling out a ridiculous amount of in-game money to buy expensive ribbons.
Some ribbons are commemorative rewards from real-world Pokémon tournaments that have long since passed, so you won’t be able to get every single one short of hacking. Still, a Pokémon decorated with ribbons can serve as a great achievement full of fond memories.
The Serebii.net ribbon page can help you plan your strategy for collecting these.
Pokémon Challenges Provide Endless Fun
With these Pokémon challenges, you should never again get bored with a Pokémon game. Whether you want to replay the journey with self-imposed restrictions, complete all of the endgame content a game has to offer, or fill up your Pokédex, you have something to work towards.
If you’re not sure what to play next, have a look at our mega-list of all official Pokémon games you can play today.