We all know Pokemon games are easy. They're designed for casual audiences, and we've all been able to beat the games even when we were little kids – that's part of the appeal of Pokemon! You don't have to be hardcore to become the champion. But, every once in a while, there's something really difficult about a Pokemon game. Something that stops us in our tracks.
Today we are talking about the top 10 hardest Pokemon games ever made. What we're really talking about are the hardest times – the unique features, the adjustments, and the gym trainers that gave us the most kicks. None of the games are particularly difficult most of the time, until we reach the parts where a standard Pokemon team just won't save us.
Everyone has a different answer when it comes to the hardest Pokemon games, but for my money, these are the hardest I've played - from the main series and beyond.
Stuck at home? Revisit some listings on Gameranx:
#dix. Pokemon HeartGold & SoulSilver
HeartGold & SoulSilver is a Generation 4 remake of a Generation 2 Pokemon game - so everything is just a bit trickier. Trainer AI has been vastly improved over the early games, and you can see it in motion with HeartGold & SoulSilver. Trainers in general have good moves and know how to use their energy reserves to defeat you. In older games, the coach AI was pretty bold. This was our first glimpse of the real difficult behavior of coaches.
And on top of that, there's a ridiculously difficult level curve. You would quickly become out of level just by playing normally, and each Gym Leader is higher than the last, forcing you to work to keep up. Hit the Elite 4 and the Champion, and suddenly you're down between 10 and 20 levels. Worse still, most of the really good Pokemon are only available in the Kanto region, which you won't really explore until the post-game.
Most of the game isn't that bad. Unless you're trying to fight Red. Prepare to have your team stomped if you dare to fight Red in this game.
# 9. Pokemon GO
Is Pokemon GO really that difficult? For some of us, it can be a trying experience – at least, before Covid. Originally, players had to go visit PokeStops and Gyms by physically going to areas. Pokémon would only appear if you passed through certain locations. Some Pokémon would simply not appear at all. It's still a persistent problem in some regions, where Pokemon don't appear anywhere!
And all by design. Pokemon GO is a "catch 'em all" phone game based entirely on location, luck, and endless tries. You're meant to play every day, and even if you do, there's no guarantee you'll ever find the rare Pokemon you want. This problem has been alleviated over the years through special missions and other unique activities, but some Pokémon will simply be harder for some players to catch. It's unavoidable, boring, and ingrained in a part of the experience that makes Pokemon GO both special and incredibly boring at times.
#8. Pokemon Ultra Moon and Ultra Sun
One of the latest Pokemon games is also one of the toughest - all thanks to a few tough final battles. The original Pokemon Sun & Moon isn't incredibly difficult thanks to handy features like sharing EXP so all your Pokemon on a team are of equal level - but Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon rises to the challenge by throwing incredibly difficult Totem Pokémon on your way.
Pokemon Totem is one-of-a-kind giant Pokemon encounters only found in the Gen 7 mainline games, and it's not even the toughest challenge. USUM's Legendary Ultra Necrozma is an ultra-powerful team wiper with insane offensive power. And that's nothing compared to the Rainbow Rocket Leaders challenges you'll face in the post-game bonus content. These guys have Perfect IV and EV Legendary Pokemon, making them one of the toughest AI opponents you'll encounter in any Pokemon game.
#7. Pokemon Sword and Shield
Don't mock this entry yet. Pokemon Sword and Shield isn't hard normally - the game is full of easy ways to outwit your enemies and earn powerful Pokemon. If you have the DLC, you can pick up level 65 legendaries before the first Gym Leader battle! It's truly revolutionary. But there's one aspect of Pokemon Sword and Shield that's terribly difficult.
And that's the boring Max Raid Dens. These randomly regenerated battles of massive Pokemon can be ridiculously easy or an exercise in never-ending frustration. Whether you play online with a team of allies or use the AI, these battles, the battle will always end after 10 rounds or after four Pokemon have collapsed. You might be one shot away from defeating those Gigantamax Pokémon with super high HP/defense, and the battle will be over because you've just reached your time limit. Trying to complete 5-Star Max Raid Dens may not be necessary, but they're so enticing...it always ends in heartache.
#6. Pokemon Yellow
Gen 1 wasn't kidding, and Yellow is the culmination of everything in those old games. We didn't know anything about Pokemon on the Gameboy, and the strategies weren't widely available on the internet. Even discounting all of that, the long dungeons and lack of EXP sharing meant you could exhaust your meager resources and lose everything. Worse, late game gym leaders could wipe out your party if you don't have the right matches.
Not that Pokemon Yellow is insanely difficult - it just needed some grinding. Pokemon bosses have leveled up quickly from the standard Pokemon Red and Blue, leaving normal players in the dust. You had to grind the right Pokemon when you reached a new Gym, and only the experts could prepare with a few ultra-powerful (and ultra-broken) Pokemon teams. For most of us, without the use of guides, exploits, or all that foreknowledge we now know about Gen 1 games, it was pretty tough compared to the rest of the contemporary series.
#5. Pokemon Colosseum
The Pokemon Colosseum games have a reputation for being difficult - and that's because they aren't your standard Pokemon games at all. They are more like traditional RPGs with a strong emphasis on story and turn-based battles. Every battle in Pokemon Colosseum is a double battle, so you'll always be fighting with two Pokemon against two Pokemon. And you'll be stuck with extremely lame Pokemon - in this game Pokemon are rare and you'll only catch them in a very limited Pokedex pool.
Most of these Pokemon will be Gen 2, which has some of the lowest stats in the game. Combine bad powers mixed in with absurdly long battles with dual trainers, and you're in for a tough time. Pokemon also need to be 'Purified' - starting with Shadow Pokemon, which can go crazy using a special ability called Shadow Rush. When rushing, your Pokemon may completely ignore your commands, use held items, attack teammates, or even attack its trainer! These Pokemon are the definition of wild, and the game itself doesn't make your life any easier.
#4. Pokémon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum
Gen 4 games are all about big battles. The Elite 4 and Champion battles are real butts – easily outscoring you by +17 levels from the previous Gym Leader. His team spans a range of 11 different types, and his killer Garchomp is waiting at the end to land an insta-KO on all but the strongest Pokemon. You don't just have to plan your team for the Elite 4, you have to plan your team specifically (and in order) to handle each of Cynthia's Pokémon.
Another memorably difficult battle for most players is Cyrus, the boss of Team Galactic. The game as a whole offers a hard and constant build-up – especially in Platinum. It's just that final battle against Cynthia that gives us all pause. She might just be the toughest champion in the game, making this a mandatory trainer battle that can't be skipped or ignored. This makes this generation one of the hardest to complete.
#3. Tournoi Smallpox
Not one of the main games, but still one of the hardest to master. It's a fighting game, and fighting your way to the top rank can be a grueling affair - you'll unlock different leagues of opponents, and the challenge increases with every step up.
In the Ferrum League mode, you have to face five trainers in a row – and depending on your skill, you'll move up a rank to unlock the tournament, or you'll miss out and have to try again. This is where the difficulty lies, especially in the late game. You can't just win a battle and try again! You must win several battles in a row. If you fail at any point, you'll have to try again from the beginning, and when you unlock the secret Iron League, you'll beg for a second try. And you will have to win several dozen battles to slowly and agonizingly increase your ranking score. And that's in addition to grinding for levels!
#2. Pokemon Black and White 2
Pokemon Black and White has made life difficult with one simple change - EXP Scaling. Due to EXP scaling, players could not easily outmatch enemies in the Pokemon Black and White games. You'll need to create teams to match your Gym Leader opponents, and without the aid of EXP Sharing like modern games in the series.
- NOTE: There is also a Challenge Mode this makes the game even more difficult. If you're looking for a challenge, you can make this game what some consider the hardest in the series.
To make your life easier, Pokemon Black and White limits Gym Battles to around three Pokemon – so you don't have to take on a full team. It doesn't really matter when facing tough enemies like Ghetsis, the leader of Team Plasma. This guy is one of the toughest challenges in the game thanks to his legendary Kyurem Pokemon. It's a dragon, so you know how annoying those can be for matches. It also has a full party of six Pokemon, and it's one of the biggest stumbling blocks in the two main Gen 5 games.
#1. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon 2: Explorers of Time/Darkness
There was a Pokémon like a rogue, and that's as hard as it sounds. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games are literally inspired by Thug, where you will explore randomly generated dungeons while performing turn-based moves and battling randomly generated enemies. You'll send Pokemon exploration teams into dungeons, and these areas are filled with bosses - and not only that, your attacks are tied to PP. And you can escape in a long dungeon.
There are ways to make your life easier. You can train in a dojo to learn more about your Pokemon (and link your attacks to your partner Pokemon, which can sometimes accidentally attack you) – and you can buy items. But these games are no joke. At the start, there are high level enemies that can kill your team in 2-3 hits. If you start a bad team and have bad luck (you can fuck off at first), you're having a toast. Just start the game over from the beginning.
And that's not even to say how weird and obtuse these games are. You can pick up items that poison you. You may encounter Monster Houses that instantly crush you. There are mechanics that have nothing to do with other Pokemon games. If we're going by sheer difficulty, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon tops everything else.
That wraps up our picks for the 10 hardest Pokemon games - or maybe just the hardest parts of 10 Pokemon games. Tell us which Pokémon games you struggled the most with!