Nuzlockes have been a popular pastime of Pokemon fans for years, but a recent spike in interest from the general population has us all excited about playing our favorite games in a new way. The original Pokemon games were created with children in mind, but now that generation has evolved and the replay value has to change with us. That’s why Nuzlockes are a great way to play. They have permadeath, if a critter faints, it’s gone, and only allow you to catch the first ‘mon you encounter on each route.
But it’s not just the original games that work with the challenging new rules, as many fan-made spin-offs offer their own twist on the beloved franchise, while some simply turn the pain dial up to max.
9 Pokemon Wilds
What’s better than one childhood gaming memory brought back to life? Two, of course. Pokemon Wilds turns the straightforward aspect of catching and battling into something much more survival-based, with crafting, player stats, open world exploration as well as procedurally generated worlds, just like Minecraft. Pokemon from different biomes can produce different materials for building, so having one faint, especially one from a rare biome, can really ruin a whole run.
Rather than a champion there is a dungeon with a legendary battle awaiting you and your party. The Nuzlocke rules will have to be adapted a little as there is no set route to follow, instead Pokemon and trainers increase in level the further from home you wander. If this challenge wasn’t difficult enough, now you have to build yourself a house too.
8th Pokemon reborn
When completing a Nuzlocke the player has to consider how their misfit party is going to defeat each of the eight gym leaders, along with the Elite Four and Champion. But what if it wasn’t eight gyms, but eighteen, one for each Pokémon type that your party needs to prepare for?
There’s also no way to guess which Pokémon you’ll bump into along the routes, which is a method many pros rely on to ensure a decent team, because there are over 800 different Pokemon from every generation in the game. You’ll need to learn a whole new strategy involving field effects (like the original Hail and Sandstorms) and manipulating them to your advantage in fights, lest your enemies gain the upper hand.
7 Pokémon Snakewood
Set a few years after Ruby, the player follows in their older sibling’s footsteps, catching Pokemon and battling mysterious gangs. The major difference is that Hoenn now exists during a zombie apocalypse, and it’s up to you to save the entire world from the all-consuming virus. Demons and possessed corpses lurk in the tall grass, and the cuddly critters we know and love have been replaced by their rotting variants.
Don’t expect any friendly faces to help you along the journey, as most NPCs exist only to deceive the player, and the legendaries are evil gods, hell-bent on ending the human race. Most Pokemon types have been mixed around, and new creatures known as Djenn can also be encountered. Try playing this with Nuzlocke rules and watch the world burn.
6 Pokemon Blaze Black / Volt White 1 & 2
This is the sequel to a ROM hack of Black and White, which basically overhauled the original game, tweaking some Pokemon to be better picks and adding to the original storyline. What makes Drayano’s sequel to arguably one of the best hacks in the community so hard for Nuzlockers is Challenge Mode. It’s already bragging to say you completed this game, as well as the post-story content, but by turning on Challenge Mode you’re setting yourself up for a world of pain.
Most trainers will now sport the full six Pokemon in their teams, and each roster is totally different too. Almost a full Pokedex of 649 is available somewhere in the game before the seventh gym, so the player won’t be able to anticipate which Pokemon they’ll encounter and be forced to capture. The level curve is significantly steeper too, making each ribbon even harder to earn.
5 Poke MMO
What if your favorite Pokemon game was multiplayer, and you could invite your friends along on the adventure with you? Now, what if it wasn’t just your friends, but thousands of strangers butting in and challenging you to battles, or forming endless queues at the Poke Center.
Pokemon MMO opens the beloved game up to hundreds of other players, all vying to become the Champion and wipe out any competition. Other games and their ROM hacks might give the AI a more realistic approach to fighting, but nothing beats a group of real-life desperate humans who will stop at nothing to be the very best.
4 Pokemon rejuvenation
If you tried Pokemon Reborn and somehow breezed through it, then try its sequel; rejuvenation. With brand-new field effects to throw you for a loop, as well as every Pokemon up to generation eight, you’ll be hard-pressed to successfully plan a route through this world without your team fainting numerous times along the way. New Crest items boost any of the underwhelming entries, making trainers that might have seemed a stomp before much trickier combatants.
And if you get through the eight gyms and think you’re on your way to the Elite Four, think again! There’s now a gym for every single Pokemon type in all eight of the generations, so you’re going to have to really strategize for the types that might wipe your team. So, the Elite Four are the Elite Eight, so there’s that too.
3 Pokemon Radical Red
Put together by SouperCell, a long time player who became obsessed with ROM hacks at an early age, Radical Red is a very well-thought-out remix of the first Pokemon game. Rather than simply increasing the number of enemies and their levels, the hardcore mode of this passion project directly prevents cheesing and even stops players from accessing their bag during battles. Gym Leaders have optimized move sets, as well as properly balanced and maxed out EVs on their whole party.
Even memorizing the Pokemon you’ll come up against isn’t enough, as each necessary battle has three teams the game will randomly choose from, so there’s no real way to prepare. And then there are the Elite Four, who each have their own legendary Pokemon. This isn’t a Nuzlocke for the faint-hearted.
1 Pokemon Emerald Kaizo
The Kaizo ROM hacks of Pokemon Blue and Crystal have been out for a while now. They’re notoriously difficult, with incredible AI and punishing encounters that have you scurrying back to the Poke Center in shame. Now there’s Emerald Kaizo, which has been labeled as entirely unfair. There are just under 400 Pokemon available in this fan-made version, but without incredible luck, it’s almost impossible to beat the Elite Four while Nuzlocking due to the first encounter rule.
Every misstep or misplay is punished. This game is not for casual players, and detailed knowledge of the original game is necessary in order to have a chance at getting anywhere near the champion. There are even rare Legendary Events just to keep your party on their toes, because who doesn’t want to randomly battle a god while grinding for the second gym?
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