Unlike many mobile video games, the goal of Pokémon Go is pure and simple: to catch 'em all — with "all" being all the Pokémon. How you go about doing that is up to you, and once Nintendo launches an upcoming feature that will allow Pokémon trades between players, the process might become slightly easier. But until then, there are several basic steps that you need to implement in order to catch Pokémon:
- Locate the Pokémon.
- Shoot Poké Balls at the Pokémon.
- Repeat with more balls and more 'mon at new locations.
- Something something gyms and fighting.
Tips for locating Pokémon
The most basic way to find Pokémon near you is to wander the vicinity and use the locator map. The "nearby" function often works well to alert you when Pokémon are within catching distance. If there aren’t any Pokémon nearby, you have three obvious and easy options:
- Visit a nearby PokéStop. PokéStops are the blue markers that show you where to go in the real world to get to your next Pokémon sighting. They also are kind of like supply depots for the game, where you can pick up more Poké Balls and eggs for hatching.
- Use an incense item in your location. This will draw out nearby Pokémon like a moth to a flame.
- Visit a nearby PokéStop and either piggyback off someone else’s lure or attach your own lure to the PokéStop. The lure is designed to, er, lure nearby Pokémon to the stop for the following 15 minutes — though it might also lure nearby Pokémon Go players looking to take advantage of your lure.
If you really want to find rare Pokémon, however, you’re going to have to travel. Luckily, there are ways to expedite your road trips to make your Pokémon hunt count.
Tip: Get more Poké Balls and find more Pokémon at gas stations.
If you’re stuck and need more Poké Balls, one easy answer is to buy them. But if you can’t afford to buy more Poké Balls, you can also get more by going to a PokéStop.
However, rural areas often don’t have a lot of PokéStops. This can obviously be a problem not only because of the lack of Pokémon but because of the lack of Pokémon resources that PokéStops bring.
One easy solution? Gas stations. When you stop by to refill your tank, fire up the Pokémon Go app. You’ll likely find a number of Pokémon and people setting lures there. Gas stations are particularly good places for rural players because they tend to draw a steady stream of people to one small location, meaning you’re likely to encounter multiple people on cellphones who are playing while they fill 'er up.
Tip: Use the Ingress map.
You can find Pokémon anywhere in the wild, but they’re most likely going to be near PokéStops. So your real goal as a Pokémon Go trainer is to find all the PokéStops. Here, Pokémon fans are in luck because the PokéStops aren’t just PokéStops; they’re the leftover remnants of "portals" in an entirely different game called Ingress.
Ingress is the game developer Niantic built as a precursor to Pokémon Go. The functionality is similar, and the real-world maps of the two games are identical. Ingress players have already scouted out and tagged all the "portal" locations for Ingress. And when developer Niantic converted the Ingress "Intel" map into the new Pokémon Go map, it converted all of Ingress’s existing portals into brand new PokéStops.
That means all you have to do to find portals — I mean PokéStops — is sign up to play Ingress. Do this by downloading and installing the Ingress app on your phone and signing up for an Ingress account. Then log in and use the still-live Ingress Intel map that already helpfully has all the stops mapped. If you want to see the map from your desktop, you can also download a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox that modifies the Ingress map with more Pokémon-specific details.
Tip: Check to see if your local team is mapping your area.
Local Pokémon trainers around the world have been marking PokéStops and gyms in their area using Google Maps. At times this has turned into something of an intense social project, but the result is that players wanting to hunt for rare Pokémon in their areas don’t have to hunt blindly in the urban wilderness.
While some websites like Pokecrew have been springing up to offer more detailed local map searching, the info on them is still spotty; your best bet is probably just to find a map in your area. Some known maps:
- This team-sourced map of more than 4,000 Pokémon gyms and locations lets you search by location and type of Pokémon to find what’s near you. View the Reddit thread the players made for more info.
- Melbourne, Australia (the detail here is jaw-dropping)
- Arizona (mainly Phoenix and Scottsdale)
- Brussels, Belgium
- Toronto, Canada
- Boston, Massachusetts
- Butte, Montana
- Charlotte, North Carolina
- San Antonio, Texas (and a few other Texas hot spots)
Tip: Use the bus.
Many have tried to catch Pokémon while driving or biking, which is not actually safe. And since the game doesn’t reward you for traveling faster than 20 miles per hour or so, paying someone else to drive you around isn’t really practical.
The bus, however, is useful for a few Pokémon-related functions: locating new Pokémon and hatching eggs. Keep the Pokémon Go app running during your normal bus route and accomplish the dual job of finding new Pokémon at a slow, steady pace and keeping your eggs incubated.
If you must have someone drive you around, try to keep your car speed between 10 and 15 mph. This is to prevent the game from continually refreshing every 100 feet or so, which makes it kind of a pointless exercise otherwise.
Tip: Submit new PokéStops to Niantic.
You can also now submit new PokéStops and gym locations to Niantic, which should help out those players who aren’t in cities. To do it, fill out the form here with the address, latitude, and longitude of the location you want.
Tips for capturing Pokémon
Tip: Use the Lucky Egg to evolve and conquer.
Lucky Eggs are awesome bonus eggs the game gives you. They increase your experience points — and your ability to catch Pokémon — for 30 continuous minutes. They also help you evolve Pokémon, which is crucial if you want to level up. When you’re ready to really catch all the Pokémon and you have a half-hour to spare, try this:
- Collect all the Pokémon you’ve found that have the ability to help you evolve. Weedles and Pidgies are the easiest kind of Pokémon to evolve, so make sure to catch a bunch of them for this purpose.
- Go to a PokéStop where people have set out a bunch of Lures.
- Use an incense item to attract new Pokémon.
- Crack open a Lucky Egg, evolve your existing Pokémon, and spend the next 30 minutes catching them all!
When you use your lucky egg, you gain 200 experience points (XP) every time you capture a new Pokémon. And when you evolve a Pokémon, you get even more points — 500 for every evolution, even if you’ve already evolved that particular species. So get out there and start cracking!
Tip: Use the curve.
There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence floating around the internet to suggest that Pokémon Go has a built-in difficulty enhancement setting. As you level up — catch more Pokémon and gain more experience beating the game — you have more opportunity to catch higher level Pokémon. But there’s a catch: As you level up, it gets harder to actually capture Pokémon of any variety. By the time you’re above level 15 or so, it gets more difficult even to catch regular, common breeds of Pokémon.
The basic way the difficulty level increases as you advance is that it gets harder to aim and control the ball. If you’re the kind of player who aims, points, and flicks with your thumb, you’re going to find yourself out of luck on some of the higher levels.
Luckily, there’s one surefire way to increase your capture ability at that level, if you master it: the curveball. This is a shot that angles either to the left or the right of your phone screen and curves back to hit the target.
To use the curveball, you need to master the angle of the spin on the ball and the speed of the throw. If you twirl the ball with your finger a few times, it should start to sparkle — you’ve then activated the curve motion.
You want to shoot the ball in the opposite direction of your spin, so if you spin the ball to the left, shoot it to the right, and vice versa. Once you get the hang of it, you should have no trouble hitting the target. And if you shoot the curveball at just the right speed, you’ll also get bonus curveball experience points.
Tip: Turn off the Augmented Reality setting.
The Augmented Reality (AR) setting might be the coolest part of the game, since it allows you to see Pokémon "interacting" with the real world; but it’s a drain on your battery, and it can wreak havoc with your ability to aim in the game. Turn it off. Your aim will improve, and you’ll get better mileage out of those precious Poké Balls.
Tip: Use your middle finger.
If you really just want to keep throwing straight, you can do this, too: Just try aiming and shooting with your middle or index finger instead of your thumb. Placing your middle finger in the middle of the screen should work best at those upper levels.
Tips for leveling up
Leveling up is a combination of skill, luck, and being in the right place at the right time. But there are common leveling methods that every basic Pokémon Go player should know.
Tip: Know how much your Pokémon will evolve.
In the Pokémon franchise, you can "power up" Pokémon to increase their CP (combat power). This handy chart shows you how much CP you gain with each power-up. But that’s not always enough: Every Pokémon only has a maximum CP, which is why it’s ultimately important to capture rarer Pokémon with higher-level CP.
Thankfully, smaller Pokémon can also evolve into larger Pokémon. This other handy chart shows you the evolutionary line between Pokémon — that is, which Pokémon evolve and which other Pokémon they evolve into. If you’re planning a fight at a tough neighborhood gym, it helps to know in advance how much CP you get with an evolution.
This is harder to track consistently across different Pokémon and different trainers with different levels of experience — but players are trying anyway.
This live interactive Google Doc was made recently by a savvy redditor. It’s being maintained by players who are tracking the amount of evolutionary charge they get with each Pokémon at each level. Check it out for an idea of how your Pokémon will become the very best, like no one ever was!
Tip: Know your fighting strengths.
Thanks to the wonders of the internet, we have another Pokémon type chart that shows exactly what kinds of Pokémon combinations do well facing off against certain other types of elemental Pokémon combos.
To read this chart, take every row as a grouping of elements and assume the arrows equate to a greater-than sign. So, for example, in the far left column, "water, ground, and rock" are strong against "fire," and pairing "ghost, dark" are strong against a ghost by itself. In the middle column, "bug" is strong against the combo of "grass, psychic, dark" but weak against the combo of "fire, flying, rock."
This chart tells you how to plan for fights. If you know you’re attacking a steel Pokémon, for example, you can plan to combine fire, fight, and ground. You can also use an interactive fight combo calculator like this one.
Or you could try memorizing all of these combinations. Good luck!
Tip: When fighting, dodge to win.
This strategy is controversial, because it requires sustaining a bit of damage in order to win. But when done right, it can be a surefire way to beat a larger Pokémon:
The technique is simple: Anticipate your opponent’s attacks and then dodge. Though you’ll sustain some damage in the attempt, you should be able to lay in some attacks of your own, enough to help you take down the foe.
As soon as you see the streaks of yellow that indicate a forthcoming attack from your opponent, swipe to jump out of the way, then lay in. But careful — you only have about a half-second time frame after the yellow streaks appear for this to be effective.
Tip: Challenge gyms late at night, US time.
Glitching and server lag is a problem for a lot of people, and if you’re trying to fight heavy-duty Pokémon, it can often be a problem for your attempts to level up. But late at night, US time, far fewer people are up and using the servers. This means your chances of successfully challenging and overtaking a gym without incurring any pesky lag time are much better when you’re operating around 2 or 3 am Eastern time.
For Australians, that means your best shot is hitting the virtual gyms around 4 to 5 pm or so. Here’s a handy time zone converter to help figure out the peak gym time in your area.
Tip: Get creative with egg hatching.
There are lots of ways to hatch eggs without actually walking around the city just for the purpose.
Common tips and tricks include the aforementioned bus riding, setting your phone on a turntable or ceiling fan, strapping it to a bike as you ride around, or even letting it ride around on a Roomba or family pet.
The important thing to remember is that your phone can be mobile even when you aren’t. Use that to your advantage.
Bonus tip: Conserve your battery
You probably know by now that battery drain is a concern for hardcore Pokémon Go players. Contrary to widespread belief, downloading an offline copy of your Google Map data doesn’t actually help conserve your battery while you’re playing. This is because the app needs to be running at all times while the game is in effect.
But there are several battery tips that are more effective. One quick and easy fix is found in your game settings. Click your game settings and toggle the "battery saver" to "on." Voila.
Another trick is to dim your phone’s brightness — something you should consider doing in general anyway if you have issues with battery drain. If you’re playing at night, you can also, on Android, download a screen filter app that lets you dim your phone even more than the default factory setting allows.
Or on iPhone, sneakily adjust the settings lower than the default interface allows.