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10 Toughest Gym Leaders In The Pokémon Games

Most great videogames have memorable boss fights, and the Pokémon games have that in spades! Gym leaders are a Pokémon staple that goes back to the original games, Red and Blue/Green. They are designed to be checkpoints for prospective trainers on their way to the Elite Four (the strongest trainers at the end of each game) and serve as a skill check for overcoming various elemental types and battle mechanics.

In just about every game there are eight gym leaders the player must overcome before facing the Elite Four. For the most part the heads of the gyms become pushovers in later games as the games focused away from challenging trainer battles and focused more on catching Pokémon. However, there are a handful of leaders from the first four or five generations of games that are memorable for their difficulty. Here are our top ten (contextual) toughest gym leaders!

10. Morty (Versions: Gold/Silver/Crystal)


Morty is the leader of the Ecruteak City Gym in the Johto region and uses the Ghost-type in battle. The player confronts him as the 4th gym leader and he proves to be a bit annoying. What makes Morty’s team annoying is that he can completely shutdown your team by using “mean look” which makes it so you can’t swap Pokémon. Not only that but his ghosts are immune to fighting and normal types, some of the most common mons in the game.

Lastly his tough Gengar can heal itself with dream eater and dish out damage with a heavy-hitting shadow ball. At the point in the game when you face Morty you’re not likely to have access to many mons that have an advantage against Morty. The only way to make this fight “easy” is to bring along a Geodude/Graveler with magnitude and hope luck is on your side and try to tank the hits.

9. Lenora(Versions: Black/White)

Lenora is probably the last (generation wise) gym leader that actually felt difficult. After Pokémon Black and White the gym leaders go from being skillchecks to speedbumps. Lenora, on paper, shouldn’t be difficult at all. In practice she can be a serious obstacle if you don’t have a full team when you face her. She serves as the 2nd gym leader of the Unova region the player faces and has a Lv 18 Herdier and Lv 20 Watchog.  Her Herdier has the ability “Intimidate” which immediately lowers your attack stat right off the bat.

What’s more is that it hits hard with Take Down which is pretty strong in the early-game. If you manage to take down Herdier you will be met by her Watchog which can instantly K.O. your mon with Retaliate (does double damage if the user just lost a Pokémon the previous turn). Watchog can also put your team to sleep, which is annoying. Lenora’s team is weak to the “fighting-type”, but that requires extra work to go out of your way to catch one, past Nacrene city. You’re going to have to do your best to tank her hits and slug it out.

8. Flannery(Versions: Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald)

Flannery definitely packs the heat in Generation three. She serves as the 4th gym leader of Hoenn and uses a Fire-type only team. The Hoenn region is full of water and ground types, so the player does not lack options for facing her. But even having a type advantage against her is no guarantee of a victory. The worst part of her team is her mean and girthy Torkoal which has a devastating move, Overheat.

Overheat gets weaker each time it is used but it starts off extremely strong. Torkoal is also very beefy, it has high defense stats and quite a large amount of HP. In Emerald version she also has a Camerupt on her squad packing overheat, so she is even tougher in that version of the game. It also doesn’t help that around this time the difficulty curve kicks in and the amount of experience gained from wild mons drops off steeply.

7. Jasmine(Versions: Gold/Silver/Crystal)

Jasmine is the master of the steel type, and serves as the 6th gym leader of the Johto region. The steel type was new in the 2nd generation of Pokémon and so Jasmine serves as a hard hitting introduction to Steel Pokémon to players. Jasmine opens the battle with two Magnemites that are of little consequence. However her Steelix is packing tremendous power and is one tough dude.

Steelix has high defenses, packs a wallop with it’s Iron Tail attack, and has high HP. Even if you have a water type to target it’s weakness, it can use Sunny Day which dramatically weakens water attacks. Steelix’s sandstorm attack also steadily whittles away at the player. Funny enough, Jasmine is actually tougher than the next gym leader after her (Pryce). Her Steelix is just a beast!

6. Koga(Versions: Red/Blue/Yellow)

Koga is known as the “Poisonous Ninja Master” in the first generation of Pokémon games (Red, Blue, and Yellow) and for good reason! In Red and Blue he has annoyingly tough team. He has two Grimers, a Muk, and a Weezing. The Koffings and Muk both have moves that reduce accuracy and are tanky. All of Koga’s team can poison you, and Muk has Toxic which is a particularly nasty poison move. Muk and Weezing are going to give you the most trouble.

Muk uses minimize which makes it harder to hit it, coupled with poison-causing attacks you will find yourself waging a war of attrition. Weezing has Toxic which poisons your Pokémon and does gradually more and more damage every turn. Lastly Weezing has a nasty move, Self-Destruct. Self-Destruct does tremendous damage but will known the user out, consider it a last-ditch effort move. Best way to deal with Koga is to bring a Kadabra or similar Psychic type that has enough speed to set the tone of the battle.

5. Norman(Versions: Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald)

One of the unique things about Norman is that he is the only “father figure” present for the player in all of the Pokémon games. Norman is the 5th gym leader the player faces in the Hoenn region, immediately after Flannery. Norman is another Normal-type user like Lenora but he is packing some very OP mons. In Ruby and Sapphire he has two Slakings and a Vigoroth on his team which hit like freight trains!

Slaking has incredibly high-stats and the second Slaking has focus punch, a two-turn attack. Two make the fight fair the developers gave Slaking a debilitating ability that only allows Slaking to attack every other turn. Even with that handicap in play, it is a grueling and difficult battle. Again, like the Flannery gym battle, this battle is mostly difficult due to the sudden difficulty curve for the second-half of the game.

4. Brock(Versions: Red/ Blue/ Yellow)

No gym leader (with the exception of Misty) is as iconic as Brock. Brock is huge in the Pokémon anime and is present in several of the games in one form or another. He is the 1st Kanto-region gym leader the player faces in generation one and he uses rock-type mons. Brock is the “Rock-Solid” leader of Pewter City and uses a Geodude and Onix.

Brock is pretty much a cakewalk in Red and Blue where you can use your starter to make quick work of him (yes, even Charmander is viable due to Brock’s low special stats). It’s his appearance in Yellow Version that earned him a spot on this list however. Because you start off with Pikachu instead of the traditional starters you are at a type disadvantage (a fact that is also acknowledged in the anime).

In fact, Pikachu’s best attacks have no effect on Brock’s Rock/Ground types. There is virtually no Pokémon early on that have an advantage against Brock’s team until well after you beat him. If you can snag a Mankey west of Viridian city and raise it until it learns karate chop that will help tremendously!

3. Whitney(Versions: Gold/Silver/Crystal)

Oh yeah, the queen of rage-inducing gym battles is here. Whitney has been angering gamers since 2000 with her infamous Miltank. There are reasons for why she is iconic and practically a meme. Whitney is the gym leader of Goldenrod city and the 3rd gym leader the player encounters in the Johto region. She uses Normal-type mons and that consists of just a Clefairy and Miltank. Clefairy is fairly easy to dispatch, the only danger comes from it’s random attack, metronome.

Whitney puts the “tank” in “Miltank”, it has great defense and HP. The source of everyone’s woes is Miltank’s dangerous Rollout attack. Rollout is a move the doubles in power if it hits consecutively. Meaning if you don’t take it out quickly it will One-Hit-K.O. pretty much your entire team. It is the bane of many players for that reason. Miltank is by no means invincible, in fact if you can lower it’s accuracy or any status effect you can stop it in it’s tracks but it requires quite a bit of luck.

You can trade for a Machop from one of the NPCs at the Goldenrod department store and that would give you at least an early type-advantage against Whitney. Other than that you’ll have to brute force your way through her.

2. Blue(Versions: Gold/Silver/Crystal)

Blue is your rival and (temporary) champion of the Pokémon League in Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow. He has the most appearances of any rival throughout the series and is tied with your protagonist, Red, for overall appearances. In the second generation of Pokémon games, Blue is the gym leader of Viridian city after Giovanni abdicated from the position. Blue has the notable distinction of being the only gym leader to not have a specific type, rather his team uses a wide variety of mons with different types.

As a former league champion Blue’s team is the strongest in the game for a gym leader, not to mention he is technically the 16th and final gym leader players face in Gold/Silver/Crystal. His team is all in the high fifties in terms of levels and are pretty fast stat wise. There is no general strategy for defeating Blue other than making sure you have counter for each of his mons and their typing. The main thing that makes him difficult is the high levels of his team and the fact that he is the only gym leader to use a full team of six.

1.Clair(Versions: Gold/Silver/Crystal)

And the toughest gym leader (in context to game progression) is the dragon user of Blackthorn city herself, Clair. Clair is the 8th and final gym leader of the Johto region and packs a wallop. She uses three Dragonairs and one Kingdra. The thing about dragon-Pokémon is that they resist several common types (water, fire, electric, grass) and have the highest stats on average across all types. In fact dragons are only weak to ice and themselves.

In the 2nd generation of games, there are very few ways to get an advantage against Clair. You can get Ice-type mons from the ice cave to the north of Blackthorn city but you’ll be spending a long time to get them to a high enough level. Should you find yourself clearing her Dragonairs out of the way you still have to deal with Kingdra which has no ice weakness due to also being a water type.

Thankfully Kingdra’s dual typing also means it can’t resist electric and grass, so you do lose a disadvantage at the cost of losing another advantage. Kingdra’s smokescreen is annoying and it’s hyper beam hits very hard. Best advice is to go with status ailments and setup your team while it recharges. Clair is a tough obstacle and one that I struggled with a lot as a kid and even on repeat playthroughs today.

Every gym leader from the first 4 generations of Pokémon.

Closing Thoughts

Think these are the toughest gym leaders in all of Pokémon? Perhaps you disagree? Either way be sure to fire off in the comment section your take on the list. If you somehow managed to get through this list then allow me to extend my congratulations! Your reward is to subscribe to GeekNewsNow! Also be sure to check out some of our other Pokémon articles such as this one about how they are dominating toy sales around the world. As always, stay geeky!


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