Pokémon Gyms. They’re the lifeblood of any Pokémon game. For years they’ve served as the fires that forged your team, gradually preparing you for the fight against the Elite Four. With Sun & Moon Game Freak showed us that we could still have a great Pokémon game while straying from the traditional 8 gym system we were accustomed to. But in its 20 plus years the Pokémon games have spat out numerous gyms, some better than others. Everyone has their favorite gym leader or gym in general while some vehemently remember one or two that just did not rub them the right way. This list is going to focus on those.
So what makes a bad gym? Or a better question, what makes a gym so frustrating to players? Well, it could be many things. It could be design, difficulty, balance or even the kind of puzzles or lack thereof. In this list, you’ll see a good range of gyms from different games. Some are just poorly designed and seem like lazy toss-ups while others were genuinely hard to beat, be it due to the gym leader or the tedious puzzles they forced players to complete. These are 15 awful Pokémon Gyms that made you want to tear your hair out.
15 Nacrene Gym – Black And White
When playing through any given Pokémon game, you usually don’t get the same challenge as you would from playing against another player. That is to say, most of the NPC’s you fight against are pretty straightforward and usually not much of a challenge to beat. Some gym leaders use raw strength to put you down, and some like Nacrene’s Lenora use tactics and skill. Lenora has two Pokémon, both know Retaliate which doubles a Pokémon’s base attack should it be used immediately after a Pokémon in the same party faints. It’s definitely something you have to brace yourself for and can catch you off guard the first time around. Since this is one of the early gym battles, you might be short on Pokémon for this fight, and that can really hurt you.
14 Vermilion Gym – FireRed And LeafGreen
This one’s frustrating for a couple of reasons, but mostly due to the gym’s layout. As we progress further down the list, we’ll see some pretty annoying and frustrating gym layouts that most series fans might recall having some problems with. But Lt. Surge’s gym is a different kind of frustrating. It’s just kind of boring when you get down to it. Boring and tedious actually. It gets to a point where you question why you’re even bothering with it. Going from bin to bin while battling some trainers on the side gets old quick. As a gym leader, Surge isn’t all that tough if you have a ground or Rock-type with you. It’s really just the layout that’s bothersome here.
13 Lavaridge Gym – Ruby And Sapphire
So here’s one of the gym’s that’s kind of annoying due to the puzzle trainers have to navigate their way through. Pokémon gyms sometimes present the player with a small puzzle to navigate through in order to face the gym leader while also steering them into the sights of opposing trainers. Well, unless you got really lucky or unless you’d memorized the exact path to the gym leader, this could get pretty annoying – especially since you had to go through those little animations every time you walked over a geyser. Flannery isn’t too hard of a gym leader, so there’s that. If you have a decent Water-type on you, then you can pretty much take care of her in a few minutes.
12 Cerulean Gym – FireRed And LeafGreen
This next one’s pretty frustrating just based on which Pokémon you chose as a starter and who you caught afterward. If you chose a Charmander or a Squirtle you might struggle for different reasons, while having a Bulbasaur would be great in this situation. Seeing as Misty uses water-type Pokémon, a grass or electric-type would do wonders. Which is why having the aforementioned fire and water-type starters would make this battle a lot more tedious than it should be. You could always pick-up a Pikachu in Viridian Forrest, but if you didn’t, then you’d be in for one annoying battle. The only saving grace of this gym is that it’s pretty straightforward and doesn’t require you to fight too many trainers on the way to the leader.
11 Virbank Gym – Black 2 And White 2
This has to be the laziest design for a gym in a Pokémon game we’ve ever seen. While most of the gym’s on this list frustrate you due to their difficulty, layout or puzzles, the Virbank gym is just kind of bland. It’s bafflingly small and compact, which kind of works out in a way because you only have to fight two trainers before you fight the gym leader. But the sheer lack of effort that was put into this gym is kind of frustrating, seeing as you expect gym’s to be these big challenges of skill. Roxie is a poison-type user and so that too can kind of rub you the wrong way if you’re low on antidotes. The fact that she can cause a status ailment to your Pokémon after the battle only adds salt to the wound.
10 Mossdeep Gym – Ruby And Sapphire
This is actually known as one of the harder gym battles you will face while playing through the Pokémon games. Adding insult to injury is the fact that the Mossdeep gym has a pretty annoying little puzzle you have to navigate through as well. The puzzle utilizes floor tiles that send the player in a certain direction, with trainers propped at certain points in the path and various switches scattered around which can change the direction of certain tiles. Once that’s through, you partake in a double battle. This is where it gets hard, Tate & Liza’s Lunatone and Solerock are pretty strong at that point in the game, so you’ll need two equally powerful Pokémon to match them. It can get pretty infuriating but both have a multitude of weaknesses, so it should be fine.
9 Petalburg Gym – Ruby And Sapphire
This is probably one of the most challenging gyms in the entire series, and while it starts off ok, it gets pretty annoying as you go on. Norman is the only actual father figure we see in the Pokémon games. But that doesn’t mean he’s easy on his kid. As the protagonist's father, Norman puts his son through the ringer. His gym is split up into seven rooms not counting his own. The player must progress through three of a possible seven rooms and then fight the leader. Each room has a specialty so choosing wisely is key. But once you get to Norman you’re faced with your biggest challenge yet: two Slaking’s and a vicious Vigoroth. Vigoroth is easy enough if you’re leveled high enough, but those Slaking’s are tanks. They’re tough to take down and having two of them makes it all the more frustrating.
8 Olivine Gym – HeartGold And SoulSilver
One thing that’s pretty annoying is when a Pokémon gym has absolutely no challenge to it whatsoever. In the original Gold & Silver, Olivine gym was kind of a joke, as it had no one in there but gym leader Jasmine and with a relatively strong fire-type, could be cleared in a few minutes. Well in HG & SS the gym was more or less the same, save for a couple of trainers put in between you and Jasmine. But these were trainers you’d already defeated. So it was essentially the exact same thing. You just had to walk past them and boom. What’s the point in that? Why not just put in some actual trainers.
7 Sootopolis Gym – Omega Ruby And Alpha Sapphire
This one really sucked for you if you just aren’t all that great at puzzles. Let’s leave Wallace aside for a second and get back to him later. Really, it was a toss-up between the original Sootopolis gym and the one you see in ORAS, they’re basically the exact same thing – but this one’s just fresher in everyone’s mind. The puzzle here can be pretty unforgiving. You step on ice tiles as they break and have to touch each one for the stairs to open up. But step on one twice, and you’re thrown down into a basement level filled with trainers. Once you finally manage to get through these platforms, you have to deal with Wallace, a terrifyingly strong gym leader who’s a challenge no matter which Pokémon you have.
6 Viridian Gym – HeartGold And SoulSilver
Speaking of tough gym leaders, this one’s a doozie. Viridian’s leader in Gen I was, of course, Giovanni – the evil mastermind in charge of the criminal group Team Rocket. While that never proved to be too much of a problem, his successor was much more adept and still stands as one of the toughest trainers you’ll ever face. Your Gen I rival, Blue was always a tough cookie. But he’s even worse as a gym leader. His gym in HG & SS has some pretty annoying transportation tiles that are a pain to navigate. The battle with him is even worse though as he has no type preference and you essentially have to match him one Pokémon at a time.
5 Fortree Gym – Ruby, Sapphire, And Emerald
This one just starts off on a bad note. Your path to the gym is initially blocked off by an invisible Kecleon that you can only fight with the use of the Devon Scope. Once that tedious mess is done with, you make your way to the real challenge. Winona is kind of a special case, so it should be expected that her gym is a little weird. The entire layout of the gym is like some maze blocked off periodically by various rotating doors. What this does is cause a lot of backtracking and some annoying trial and error. The fight itself isn’t that bad, though it is a decent challenge that can really frustrate you if you’re not prepared.
4 Saffron Gym – Red And Blue
If you’re in the mood for frustrating gym’s then just look to Saffron’s gym and feel that sweet twinge of irritation. Though the gym’s been done over a few times since it made its first appearance, it’s Gen I’s version that really gets into your head. The crunchy 8-bit soundtrack and effects coupled with the annoyance of navigating through nine floors and nearly as many enemies makes this one of the rare bad memories Pokémon gave you as a kid. All the twirling and trial and error involved in getting to Sabrina is enough to make you sick after a while. What’s worse is that Sabrina’s a pretty tough gym leader, so she won’t go down without a fight.
3 Cinnabar Gym – Gold And Silver
Of all the gyms on this list, this one has to be the biggest slap in the face. In fact, even going so far as to call it a Pokémon gym is a little bit of a stretch. While they did explain it in the story, what happened to the Cinnabar gym was truly a waste. While it was a pretty standard structure in the original game, the one you see in Gen II is – simply put – pathetic. You get so hyped up to visit the Kanto region and then you eventually find yourself in this small, cramped cave. To say it’s a letdown is an understatement, but at least the battle itself if is pretty entertaining. So long as you don’t just tank it with a water or ground-type.
2 Blackthorn Gym – HeartGold And SoulSilver
There are really two things that make you want to just yank your hair out with Blackthorn gym. First is the fact that you have to fend off several dragon-type Pokémon, which once upon a time was pretty challenging. The other is the tedious and annoying puzzle you have to navigate through. While it was tolerable in Gold & Silver, the HG & SS remakes made it into a huge spectacle that was kind of a chore. The puzzle here basically consists of moving and rotating flights of stairs in order to avoid lava. It’s slow, it’s tedious, and it isn’t all that fun. Throw in the potentially annoying battle waiting for you and you have a recipe for a bad time.
1 Snowbelle Gym – X and Y
So this is one of the more recent entries on our list, and it also just so happens to be one of the toughest gyms in X & Y, if not the toughest. Like many on this list, the puzzle found in the Snowbelle gym is an absolutely atrocious mess of mediocre repetitiveness. The main idea here is to move four different platforms, each a certain number of times in order to progress to the next one. It isn’t much of a challenge but involves way too much trial and error. Then there’s the battle against Wulfric. While he only has three Pokémon, they’re no joke. Though he can be handled pretty easily with a fire-type his team is strong – so don’t expect to one-shot him unless you’re really over-leveled.