Pokémon has over thirty mainline games, but which title is the most difficult? Over the years, a community of passionate fans has agreed that the core series has gotten progressively easier. Despite Pokémon’s primary audience being children, players who’ve grown up with the franchise are becoming frustrated with the lack of difficulty options. Thankfully, there are more than a few Pokémon games whose difficulty far surpasses other titles in the series, providing players with a well-rounded challenge of combat and exploration.

There are currently eight Pokémon generations, with Nintendo expected to announce a ninth sometime this year, however many generations have received remakes, remasters, and sequels. Each game traditionally features a form of Gym Leader, Elite Four, and evil organization under a ‘Team’ name (i.e. Rocket, Galactic, Aqua, Magma, etc.). As players progress through the established Pokémon League, they face increasingly powerful Trainers, monsters, and criminals. Additionally, players also receive the opportunity to capture legendary creatures that provide a significant power boost to parties. Each essential factor of the Pokémon formula contributes to the game’s difficulty, determining its place in the list.


Related: The Most Iconic Pokémon Of Each Generation

Pokémon games aren’t known for hard modes, but many factors influence a generation’s overall difficulty level. Team compositions of essential Trainer battles are a massive factor in barring players from progressing forward, as are the monsters available in each region. Completing the Pokédex and postgame activities also play a significant role in determining a game’s difficulty. Experienced players more familiar with catching techniques, competitive builds, abilities, IVs, EVs, and other mechanics may find the following titles easier than most, but casual and new players will undoubtedly struggle.

Pokémon Black & White 2 Is The Third Hardest Pokémon Game

How Pokémon Black 2 & White 2 Challenge Mode Increases Difficulty

Pokémon Black and White 2 is the first official sequel that takes place in the same region as their predecessors. The games take place two years after Pokémon Black and White, with new locations accessible in several areas of the map and new Champions, Elite Four members, and Gym Leaders to battle. Pokémon Black and White 2 as a sequel also removed several standard features in traditional games, presenting players with a rival on a rescue mission rather than a fellow competitor for the Champion title. While the standard version of Pokémon Black and White 2 doesn’t present a significant challenge, players can change settings to create a more challenging experience.

Though the fifth generation’s reputation is hotly debated amongst the Pokémon community, its mechanics make for some particularly difficult gameplay. Pokémon Black and White 2 hold a unique position in the franchise as the only games with difficulty settings. Players can choose between Easy Mode and Challenge Mode, which raises the Pokémon level of all encountered Trainers. As a result, players need to train Pokémon much more and anticipate greater difficulties every step of the way. The unfortunately underpowered collection of monsters in the Unova region also presented some issues for team composition. Despite the existence of a Challenge Mode, Pokémon Black and White 2 is only the third most challenging Pokémon game and is rivaled by earlier generations.

Pokémon Emerald Is The Second Hardest Game Of The Series

The green Legendary dragon Pokémon Rayquaza floating in promo art for Emerald

Pokémon Emerald is the solitary version companion to Pokémon Sapphire and Ruby, adding many new features to Pokémon’s third generation with its release. The plot is relatively simple and follows the traditional formula of existing Pokémon games: players must find and defeat all eight Gym Leaders and reach the Elite Four. Along the way, players must also defeat Team Aqua and Team Magma, preventing them from destroying the world with the legendary Pokémon, Kyogre and Groudon. However, Emerald also introduced Pokémon Contests and the Battle Frontier. These features contribute to the game’s difficulty, as becoming the greatest Trainer (and Contestant) in the region includes more than just powerful monsters.

Related: Pokémon: Why You Don’t Want Multiple Pikachu On Your Team

Though Pokémon Emerald version of the game is from an earlier point in the franchise’s lifetime, its postgame feature makes it a daunting task to conquer. Completing the Pokédex and defeating the Elite Four is a (mostly) straightforward task for players who understand how to build balanced parties and locate elusive monsters. Still, the Battle Frontier creates a new challenge. Players cannot earn experience, use items (except in the Battle Pyramid), or use legendaries in combat at the Battle Frontier. Additionally, players can only use rental Pokémon and choose three monsters to battle with. The Battle Frontier’s randomization and equal leveling create one of the most challenging activities in Pokémon history. Furthermore, players who conquer the Battle Frontier must also use different strategies to win various Pokémon Contests at every rank. This activity focuses on a separate stat tree from power, forcing players to hunt for monsters with other criteria from the rest of the game.

Pokémon (Brilliant) Diamond, (Shining) Pearl, & Platinum Are The Hardest

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl 10 Questions & Concerns That Fans Already Have

Pokémon’s fourth generation introduced Sinnoh, a beloved region with plenty of challenges to overcome. The most recent Pokémon games released, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, present excellent examples of how Game Freak and Nintendo can create enjoyable experiences with enhanced graphics, challenges, and monsters. Sinnoh introduced 107 new Pokémon (not including future event releases), with nearly every time being represented (except the neglected Fire-types). Nintendo had already challenged players before reaching the Elite Four and the Champion with dynamic, dual-typed Pokémon and powerful boss fights against criminals and Gym Leaders. To this day, Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum’s Champion remains a terrifying memory for those who faced her unprepared.

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl made battles against essential Trainers more complex than usual, utilizing well-known competitive builds and increasing type coverage across their parties. The first three Gym Leaders presented players with significant challenges and required knowledge beyond type-matchups and over-leveling parties. After defeating the Elite Four and Champion the first time, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl amp up the difficulty, increasing type coverage for Gym Leader, Elite Four, and Champion rematches. This mirrored the features present in Pokémon Platinum before the Sinnoh remakes were released, making Pokémon’s fourth generation the most difficult games in the series.

While some games may provide fans with more challenges than others, it doesn’t necessarily make the above options the greatest of the series. Pokémon games usually offer players a simple way to progress through the game, but these three bar the way forward with intense battles and hurdles. Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are released now on Nintendo Switch for players seeking a challenge in the beloved franchise.

Next: Pokémon BDSP’s Most Difficult Evolutions To Complete The Pokedex


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