Top 12 Worst Gym Leaders From All Pokémon GamesThis post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
Game Freak came up with a pretty impressive formula for their games.
Especially considering they’ve only grown in popularity over the last 20+ years, while following that same basic formula for each generation.
A key component includes battling against eight Gym Leaders on your way to Victory Road, where you’ll be faced with besting the Elite Four before being named the Champion.
For the most part, these opponents are just another step along your journey to becoming a Pokémon Master.
In some cases, though, a Gym Leader can be frustrating, difficult, or just plain annoying enough to make us second-guess replaying the game and facing them again. These are our picks for those truly grating Gym Leaders.
“The Mystic Seer of the Future”
Location: Ecruteak City
Gym Type: Ghost
Imagine slipping a paper bag over your head and walking along a balance beam.
Then, every few steps, someone jumps out and demands you face them in battle.
That’s basically what it’s like navigating through Morty’s gym in Ecruteak City.
Compared to folks like Lt. Surge and Fantina, obtaining the Fog Badge is a cakewalk once you’ve memorized the path.
But the couple of times you inevitably get body-slammed back to the start in a hail of ectoplasm earned Morty his place on the list.
“One with a Fiery Passion that Burns!”
Generation: III, VI
Location: Lavaridge Town
Gym Type: Fire
While it’s pretty easy to best Flannery’s team with a spread of Ground, Rock, and Water-types, it’s her puzzle that earned Lavaridge Town’s gym a spot on this list.
This gym has been getting players all fired up since the OG Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald, thanks to its confusing bathhouse maze that could frustrate even the most patient of Trainers.
In most cases, surprises are exciting and fun.
That’s not the case when you’re working your way towards earning your Heat Badge.
Underneath a series of wooden doors, you might encounter geysers that help your progress or terrifying pitfalls that send you plummeting away from your goal.
Even worse, Flannery stacks the deck against you with precarious ledges that could undo all your hard work with any slight misstep.
“The Incredibly Pretty Girl”
Location: Goldenrod City
Gym Type: Normal
Pokémon Gold and Silver introduced Whitney, a Normal-type Gym Leader who looks innocent enough with her duo of Clefairy and Miltank.
Unfortunately, that’s not quite the case.
Miltank completely devastates most trainers, who at this point in the game are often lacking in both level and Fighting-type companions.
Stomp and Rollout do enough damage on their own.
But Milk Drink is the real culprit behind Whitney’s frustrating gym battle.
Its power to heal half of Miltank’s HP means that you have to move quickly, or risk whiting out before you can get your hands on the Plain Badge.
“The Underground Boss”
Location: Driftveil City
Gym Type: Ground
Taphephobia is the fear of being enclosed underground. And Clay’s Ground-type gym in Driftveil City makes that terror all too real.
Clay’s occupation also inspired his gym’s confusing puzzle.
Trainers have to travel down a series of mine shaft elevators in the dark before they even get a chance to stomp the Driftveil leader into the dirt.
Pokemon Black 2 & White 2 changes things up a little, swapping out the elevators for conveyor belts that let you hitch rides to platforms… but this small change in mechanics does little to make this gym any less infuriating.
“Tough as an iceberg, hot as a furnace.”
Location: Snowbelle City
Gym Type: Ice
While most gyms are frustrating because of the puzzle, or because of the battle, it’s rarely both.
But the Kalos region decided to pull no punches when it comes to the Iceberg Badge.
Wulfric serves as the Gym Leader in Snowbelle City, forcing players to face off against a puzzle that requires memorization, counting, and a strong stomach to avoid getting tripped up by a series of rotating platforms.
Then once you’ve suffered through his puzzle, you’ll be greeted by the smug smile of someone who’s about to unleash his Abomasnow, Cryogonal, and Avalugg on your poor unsuspecting team – without so much as a cup of hot cocoa as a consolation prize.
7. Tate & Liza
“The mystic combination!”
Location: Mossdeep City
Gym Type: Psychic
The twins get a lot of screentime between the Gen III’s RSE and the Gen VI ORAS remakes.
Still, it’s the Emerald version of the Mossdeep Gym that proves the most sinister.
When Hoenn introduced two v. two battles, most players were eager for the new challenge.
That is, until they faced Tate & Liza.
It wasn’t so bad in Ruby and Sapphire when each twin only brought one Pokémon to the fight, both of which had a dual Rock/Psychic-typing.
But Emerald changed things up, forcing players to beat back Claydol, Xatu, Lunatone, and Solrock, which means coverage for four different types: Psychic, Ground, Rock, and Flying.
After the deceptive simplicity of the first two Generation III games, it was a shocking enough change to leave us wondering if we’d accidentally stumbled into an Electric-type gym.
“A Master of Psychic Pokemon!”
Location: Saffron City
Gym Type: Psychic
Sabrina’s gym puzzle makes Flannery’s a walk in the park.
I hate portals and teleporters in games.
To this day, I still haven’t played Portal because the thought of facing all that warping gives me the shivers.
If I had to pinpoint the exact reason, that blame would land squarely on Sabrina, the Psychic-type gym leader of the Kanto region.
Her Pokémon team, specifically Kadabra and Alakazam, only exists to punish an already exhausted Trainer until they go back home to Pallet Town.
As a kid, it was beyond annoying and nearly impossible to figure out the correct route to the final room without ending up right back where you started.
Facing the dread of getting my Marsh Badge didn’t get any easier in the Let’s Go! Version, despite having a couple of decades worth of experience under my belt.
5. Lt. Surge
Location: Vermillion City
Gym Type: Electric
Lt. Surge’s gym is trash, both literally and figuratively.
First, don’t even think about stepping foot on his turf in Fire Red & Leaf Green if you haven’t spent some time training up a solid Ground-type option.
His killer combo of Pikachu and Raichu takes advantage of knowing Double Team, becoming more evasive as the battle wears on.
But don’t think that having a Sandslash or Marowak is going to save you either.
The true battle lies in the Vermillion City Gym’s puzzle, featuring an array of garbage cans concealing switches that have to be activated in the proper order.
Neglecting to follow the rules of order will reset your progress. Over and over again.
Basically, if you’ve ever wanted to get swindled by a street magician playing the Shell Game without leaving the comfort of your couch, Lt. Surge’s Thunder Badge is an excellent place to start.
“A maiden from a land with history.”
Gym Type: Fairy
Valeria might be the most fashionable Gym Leader in the entire Pokémon franchise, making her the perfect introduction to the undeniably adorable Fairy-type revealed in Generation VI.
At least, that’s what I would say if Valerie weren’t a ruthless master of her powerful Mawile, Mr. Mime, and Sylveon.
Nowadays it’s fair to argue that Valerie maybe wouldn’t put up much of a challenge – because we’re far more familiar with Fairy-type weaknesses now.
But back when Gen VI was new, it would be too easy to march in with your inconquerable Tyrantrum or indomitable Goodra, only to have the floor wiped with your pride.
I still distinctly remember shaking my fist at the sky and yelling, “If only I’d brought my Aegislash!” after watching the Fairy Badge slip from my grasp.
“A big wave in fighting.”
Location: Dewford Town
Gym Type: Fighting
I’m the kind of player who avoids stat moves.
I prefer to stay on the offensive, trying to weasel in enough damage before my opponent gets far enough to put up a real fight.
Brawly, on the other hand, is the perfect example of the value of biding your time before throwing a punch.
His Machop and Makuhita use Bulk Up over and over and over (and over), raising their Attack and Defense each time, until they’re impenetrable fortresses of muscle.
The Knuckle Badge is aptly named for a Gym Leader who’s more than capable of punching your lights out.
If you dare to enter his dojo with a Normal, Steel, Ice, or Dark-type, Brawly will score a TKO before you knew what hit you.
“A man in pursuit of power!”
Generation: III, VI
Location: Petalburg City
Gym Type: Normal
If you’re thinking you’d have an easy time in Petalburg City just because the Gym Leader is your dad, well, you’ve got another thing coming.
And that thing is two Slakings with the base stats of a Legendary Pokémon, and no concerns about your feelings.
Despite being named after a word that literally means “relaxing”, this ape is wicked fast and scary strong.
You’d think the fact it can only move every other turn would make the Balance Badge a no-brainer. But trainers are sadly mistaken if they think they can make a monkey out of Norman.
I’d imagine Norman’s the kind of parent who lives by the motto “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and leaves you crying for your Mom.
“The Alluring, Soulful Dancer!”
Location: Hearthome City
Gym Type: Ghost
What do toothpaste & orange juice, pickles & peanut butter, and Fantina & Mismagius all have in common?
They’re cool by themselves.
But when you put them together, they’re bound to ruin your day.
Widely considered the most brutal Gym Leader in Generation III, Fantina brings her A-game with a spooky lineup of Drifblim, Gengar, and the dreaded Mismagius.
Each comes with a fully-loaded moveset that can sweep teams led by careless trainers.
Even if you survive the first two specters, Mismagius hides in the shadows, preparing to give you nightmares with Psybeam, Shadowball, Confuse Ray, and Magical Leaf.