The Best Pokémon ROM Hacks To NuzlockeThis post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
The average Pokémon game isn’t hard.
It can be challenging the first time, but after clearing what’s essentially the same game so many times, most of us learn what to expect.
When you get to the point where you know what a “rapid spinner,” a “dual screener,” or a “bulky sweeper” is, you’re already way past Pokémon’s difficulty ceiling.
A great way to make the game just a little more interesting for Pokémon veterans is the Nuzlocke Challenge.
This high-stakes run hinges on two main rules:
You can only catch the first Pokémon you fight on every map, and whenever a Pokémon faints, it’s gone for good.
Of course, you can do Nuzlocke just about any Pokémon game – but for the sake of variety, let’s take a look at some Pokémon ROM hacks that are most suited for a Nuzlocke run.
10. Pokémon Polished Crystal
If you’re looking for an old-school adventure with a ton of new content, Pokémon Polished Crystal won’t let you down.
This enhanced ROM hack of Pokémon Crystal lets you catch all Gen 1 & 2 Pokémon in a single playthrough.
It also adds modern must-haves such as the new Eeveelutions, Togekiss, Magnezone, and Magmortar – and every Pokémon’s typing and movesets have been updated to match Gen 6.
What made me pick Polished Crystal from among the list of so many Gen 2 enhancement hacks is the built-in Nuzlocke mode, which forces all of the standard rules such as perma-faint, only catching the first Pokémon in every area, and the dupes/shiny clause.
It also cures Poison when your Pokémon reaches 1hp, which comes in handy on any Nuzlocke run.
9. Pokémon Radical Red
Next up, we’ve got one for the masochists among you.
Pokémon Radical Red is well known for bringing together a polished experience with an extremely high difficulty.
This FireRed ROM hack ups the ante for Pokémon battles by improving trainer AI, rebalancing your enemies’ teams, and giving each of the Elite IV members their own Legendary.
And that’s only the tip of the iceberg…
At the same time, it also introduces countless updates and QoL improvements so you can focus on crafting the perfect Pokémon team.
8. Pokémon Insurgence
One more fan-made Pokémon adventure that’s famous for its difficulty is Pokémon Insurgence.
This fan game lets you explore the Torren region, home to all Pokémon up to Gen 6 – and home to some of the most brutal routes & trainer gauntlets ever envisioned.
I’m placing Insurgence over Radical Red for two reasons.
First: It’s much harder.
Second: It has a built-in Nuzlocke mode.
You can also do an Iron Man run, a Randomized run, or a Solo run. This game is for the most hardcore Pokémon warriors among you.
7. Pokémon Sacred Gold & Storm Silver
We’ll follow up with some all-around fantastic hacks that make good Nuzlocke options on the grounds of quality alone.
Pokémon Sacred Gold & Storm Silver focuses on rebalancing the games, bringing in some new ‘mons from more recent generations, and adding a bunch of surprises and QoL improvements.
This Pokémon HGSS hack includes all 493 Pokémon up to Gen 4, with almost all of them being available somewhere before you tackle the Elite IV.
It’s also much more linear than other hacks, meaning you’ll be forced to undertake all of the game’s challenges rather than dance around them to protect your precious perma-faint-able Pokémon.
And if the link above doesn’t have working downloads, try this thread instead.
6. Pokémon Blaze Black & Volt White
From the same creator comes Pokémon Blaze Black & Volt White, which do basically the same thing as our previous entry – but for Pokémon B&W.
This game contains 649 Pokémon – all of which can be caught in a single playthrough.
Trainers have better teams and much more aggressive AI, and just about everything has been rebalanced for a steeper but more rewarding difficulty curve.
The added Pokémon variety and tough-as-nails fights make this perfect for a skilled player’s Nuzlocke run.
All download links in the thread above aren’t hosted anymore, but if you go to the thread’s last page you should find this post with a working link.
5. Pokémon Clover
Created by 4chan’s /vp/ board, Pokémon Clover is a comedic FireRed ROM hack that’ll tickle your funny bone with a ridiculous setting, absurd dialogue, and 386 hilarious Fakemon.
All of these things guarantee that every Pokémon you bump into in the wild will be a total surprise – and one that you’ll probably have to stick with if you want to catch any Pokémon during your Nuzlocke run.
You might also be wiped out by a silly character – adding insult to injury – or get so triggered by the occasional offensive joke that you’ll have to quit playing.
If you want something that’ll work your abs (by laughing) and challenge something more than your Pokémon trainer skills, Pokémon Clover is the way to go.
4. Pokémon Crystal Clear
Pokémon Crystal Clear aims to turn the Gen 2 classic into an open-world game.
It lets the player customize their character, pick one of 24 starters, and choose any town or city in Johto or Kanto to begin their adventure.
And to make sure that you can explore the world and tackle its challenges in any order, trainers and gym leaders scale with your Pokémon – and you won’t need any HMs to access any of the 16 gyms.
This non-linear progression will provide a very unique Nuzlocke experience.
3. Pokémon Saffron
Variety is the spice of life.
And when it comes to a Nuzlocke run, more bio-diversity makes the game much more unpredictable.
Pokémon Saffron takes place in Azira – a region based in South America famous for its incredible bio-diversity.
Bolstered by an event known as the “Great Migration”, it includes every single Pokémon from Gen 1 through Gen 8. You’ll also find all-new Aziran regional variants along with the Alolan and Galarian varieties.
As if that wasn’t enough, this FireRed ROM hack also supports Mega Evolutions, Dynamax, and Gigantamax.
2. Pokémon Red: Blood & Tears
The 2nd place in our Nuzlocke ranking goes to a very simple Gen 1 hack.
Pokémon Red: Blood & Tears is strictly a Nuzlocke hack – meaning it enforces the Nuzlocke rules without changing anything else in the game.
It’s OG Pokémon Red, except your Pokémon die when they faint, you have to catch the first Pokémon you meet on every route – and you’re forced to give them all nicknames!
It’s not the most creative or the most complex hack.
But I know it’s what many of you are looking for.
Plus, it’s one of a kind.
1. Pokémon Emerald Trashlocke Edition
Enforcing the rules for a Nuzlocke isn’t really that hard…
So what about a Trashlocke?
For those of you who don’t know, a Trashlocke is a special kind of Nuzlocke where you force yourself to only use sub-par Pokémon.
Pokémon Emerald Trashlocke Edition is a genius ROM hack that tweaks the game so you get nothing but “terrible” Pokémon.
For example, your starters – which can usually carry you through any Pokémon game – are replaced by Goldeen, Slugma, and Sunkern.
Have fun taking on the Elite IV with Sunflora!