Pokemon Challenge Run header

Test your mastery with a Pokémon Challenge Run.

I don’t need to tell you that Pokémon games are fun to play over and over again. But for a lot of us, Pokémon games eventually get too easy.

Sure, Pokémon Trainer Red and Ultra Necrozma have some bite, but it’s only so much fun to stomp Brock over and over without breaking a sweat. Fortunately, the Pokémon community has spent decades inventing difficult new ways to play these games. Here are some Pokémon Challenge Run ideas that are sure to spice up your next playthrough.


Set Mode


Pokemon Set Mode

I recommended this back when I reviewed Pokémon Let’s Go, and I stand by this suggestion for anyone familiar with the basics of how Pokémon works.

By default, trainer battles in Pokémon games let you freely switch your active Pokémon for every monster you knock out. This encourages glass-cannon teams that can quickly one-shot, which makes battles really dull. Set disables this option, which evens the playing field and let’s tanky Pokémon shine. A good party for a Set playthrough will be much better competitively, so consider this training if you want to challenge your friends.


Mono-Type Teams


Pokemon Mono Type

Most Pokémon players like to diversify their teams for any situation, but what if every Pokémon had to be a specific type? That’s exactly you’re signing up for with this Pokémon challenge run.

While types like Fire or Water will have their natural ups and downs throughout the games, you can really mix up your playthrough by using niche types like Normal or Bug. Can you beat the Elite Four using Beedrill and Butterfree?


No Pokémon Centers


No Pokemon Center Pokemon Challenge Run

Of all the Pokémon Challenge Run ideas, none change the nature of the game more than No Pokémon Center runs. Without free full heals to rely on, the game becomes an exercise in resource management. After all, it’s not just your monsters’ health, it’s that pool of PP for their moves that gets really hard to refill as time goes on.

Many players like to do No Pokémon Center runs with extra stipulations that prevent abusing game mechanics. For example, most agree that any NPC that full heals your team can’t be used either, and some prevent the abuse of the Pokémon box or TMs that some sneaky players would use as free refills.


Randomizer Runs


Pokemon Randomizer

This one skirts the line a bit, as it requires the use of an external program to pull off. But it’s just too fun to replay a Pokémon game where you have no idea what to expect.

Yes, Pokémon randomizers are what they sound like. Depending on how you set them, you can randomize where Pokémon appear, what Pokémon each trainer uses, and even each Pokémon’s stats! It’s the perfect way of achieving everyone’s lifelong dream of seeing Rattata with the stats of the legendary Pokémon.


Nuzlocke


Nuzlocke Pokemon Challenge Run
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This is the least surprising pick for the number one slot, but there’s no mistaking it: Nuzlocke runs are popular for a reason. The Nuzlocke ruleset was popularized by a series of comics back in 2010, and have since become a staple Pokémon challenge run in the community.

The two basic rules are simple. First, you’re limited to catching only the first Pokémon you encounter when entering a new area. This alone mixes up the game considerably, but the kicker is the second rule: when your Pokémon gets knocked out, you have to release it. That’s right, it’s permadeath in Pokémon, which makes Nuzlocke runs just as emotionally taxing as they are mechanically. Pokémon you’ve trained and loved can be gone in an instant, especially when a Voltorb just decides to self-destruct without warning.

There are a ton of Nuzlocke variants out there, but there’s no wrong way to play. Pick a challenge run that suits your skill level and lets you see a new side to these games. It’s impossible to recapture the feeling of playing a Pokémon game for the first time, but at least with a Pokémon challenge run, you might come close to rediscovering that magic.

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Written by TimM
Tim is a video game aficionado who is fascinated by pop culture. He built his first collection in 1999 by catching all 151 monsters in Pokemon Red, and he hasn't stopped collecting since. His work has been featured multiple times on Destructoid.com.