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Lechonk, a small pig Pokémon in Scarlet and Violet, raises its ears in surprise and/or aggression. Image: Game Freak/The Pokémon Company, Nintendo via Polygon

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Can you Nuzlocke Pokémon Scarlet and Violet?

The short answer is: sort of

Kallie Plagge is Polygon’s senior copy editor. She began writing about games in 2014, and has covered beats from Pokémon and RPGs to first-person shooters.

The Nuzlocke challenge is a fan-favorite way to play through Pokémon games. The premise is simple: You can only catch the first Pokémon you encounter in each area, and if a Pokémon faints in battle, you can’t use it again for the rest of the run. The Nuzlocke requires a combination of luck and skill — and it relies very heavily upon random number generation.

This all works well in Pokémon games with linear, disparate routes to journey through, ones with tall grass hiding wild Pokémon that are just waiting to jump out and attack you. But with Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, the main series now has an open world with Pokémon roaming about freely, and there are no random encounters at all. How do you do a true Nuzlocke in a game where you can scan an area and pick out the Pokémon you need, rather than getting stuck with whatever jumped out of the grass?

A traditional Nuzlocke may not be fully possible in Scarlet and Violet, but with a little creativity — and maybe a virtual dice roller — you can keep the spirit of the challenge intact. Let’s go (ha) step by step through the pillars of the Nuzlocke challenge to see what still works and what needs to be adjusted for the times.

Step 1: Limiting your Pokémon

Although Scarlet and Violet’s world is large and open, you can still absolutely limit yourself to catching one Pokémon per named area in Paldea. The map is divided into north, south, east, and west sections, with each of those further broken up into numbered areas, and the game tells you when you’re leaving one and entering another. (Unlike in the mostly open-world spinoff Pokémon Legends: Arceus, filling out your Pokédex isn’t required to progress in Scarlet and Violet.)

The map in Pokémon Scarlet shows the southern area of the Paldea region, which includes named areas like “South Province (Area Two)” and “South Province (Area Five).” There are no borders around these areas, so it’s not completely clear where each one ends and the next begins.
While the map in Scarlet and Violet doesn’t show borders for each numbered area, the games will tell you when you’re leaving one and entering another.
Image: Game Freak/The Pokémon Company, Nintendo via Polygon

You’ll probably want to write down where you’re catching Pokémon, though. It’s a little harder to track nebulous provinces and areas than linear routes that connect the dots of cities on a map.

Step 2: RNG

This is where it gets trickier. Scarlet and Violet do have an element of randomness to them in that different Pokémon may spawn in the same location each time you visit it, but to keep the Pokémon you catch random, you’ll have to do some RNG yourself. The easy way: When you first enter a new area, close your eyes and wander around until you run into a Pokémon, and congrats! That’s the Pokémon you get.

If you do that, however, you might inadvertently wander into a new area, which complicates the whole thing. So if you’re dedicated to randomness but want to explore a bit more carefully, you can try a method proposed by one player on Reddit: Catch six Pokémon, then roll a six-sided die to determine which one is eligible for your party. (You could also do this with higher numbers and dice with more sides, if you want.) Maybe this is a little easier than a traditional Nuzlocke in that you have a chance to get something other than Lechonk, but hey, it’s still sort of random!

Now, if you’re truly dedicated to randomness, you can check the full list of Pokémon spawns in any given area on a site like Serebii, assign each of those Pokémon a number from one to the total number of possible species in that area, and open up a random number generator; the number you get is the Pokémon you have to catch. If it’s a rare spawn, good luck to you.

The player in Pokémon Scarlet stands between a sparkling yellow crystal, which marks a Tera Raid, and the pink plantlike Pokémon Hoppip.
I swear I saw the Tera Raid crystal first.
Image: Game Freak/The Pokémon Company, Nintendo via Polygon

If you want more randomness with less work — but potentially stronger Pokémon that make the Nuzlocke run easier — you can also just head straight to the first Tera Raid crystal you see and catch that Pokémon. Since there’s more than one crystal per area, you could use that dice-roll method to determine which one to approach.

Step 3: When Pokémon faint

Depending on where you go and when you go there, Scarlet and Violet can be a lot harder than previous Pokémon games. It’s all too easy to wander from a breezy meadow full of low-level Hoppips to a meadow that looks very similar but is home to much higher-level Pokémon. If you’re not careful, your Pokémon will faint. And as the Nuzlocke rules dictate, a fainted Pokémon is dead to you for the rest of the run.

Luckily, grinding is a lot easier (and safer) thanks to auto battles, which allow you to send your lead Pokémon out to fight a wild one without your input. Pokémon won’t faint if they get hurt in these battles; they’ll just simply stop battling if their HP gets too low. Level up so you can face stronger Pokémon, but with none of the stress of a regular battle! (However, this doesn’t apply to the auto battles you have to do in Team Star bases. Your Pokémon can absolutely faint during those missions, so be careful.)

If you want to make the Nuzlocke more challenging, you could ban yourself from auto battling and grind the old-fashioned way: through regular battles in which your Pokémon do have a chance of fainting.

Step 4: Improvising your own rules

Of course, the great thing about the Nuzlocke challenge is that anyone can introduce their own house rules — maybe you aren’t allowed to catch more than one of the same Pokémon, or maybe you can’t use healing items in battle. There are tons of variations on the basic Nuzlocke idea, and that applies to Scarlet and Violet, too.

In the end, these are just ideas. As more people play the games, the community is sure to develop even more ways to keep the spirit of the Nuzlocke alive in Paldea.

[Disclosure: Kallie Plagge worked for Nintendo as a localization writer and editor from April 2021 to March 2022 for the games Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, Dragalia Lost, Fire Emblem Heroes, and Mario Kart Tour. This affiliation will be disclosed in any content that relates to Nintendo-published games, and she will not cover any games she directly worked on.]