Pokemon Sword and Shield’s Catch Rates Are Too Damn Low

I’ve been playing Pokemon Sword and Shield for a couple of days now, and it’s been an enjoyable experience thus far. But one thing in particular is marring my Galarian adventure. It’s not that the game is missing some of my favorite Pokemon, or that there are weird limits on which Pokemon you can get when. No, it’s that seemingly every single Pokemon is way too hard to catch.

Different Pokemon have always had different catch rates across the series. That kind of makes sense — it adds a tenseness to battles with rarer wild Pokemon you’re trying to capture. But in Sword and Shield, the rates seem totally out of control. I had hardly any issues catching Pokemon until I ran into a Galarian Stunfisk in the mines, which seemed to have the lowest catch rate of any Pokemon I’d ever encountered. It took two trips back to the Pokemon Center and over 20 Great Balls before I was able to catch it. I didn’t even really want it at that point — it’s kind of ugly-looking — but it had become personal.

Out in the Wild Area, things aren’t much better. I threw ball after ball at a wild Pumpkaboo, only to have it Curse itself to death. I ran out of balls on my first encounter with a Sneasel, and only caught my second by whittling it down to a sliver of health, putting it to sleep, and throwing a half-dozen Great Balls at it.

More Pokemon:

I don’t know if I’m imagining things or if the catch rates really are lower in Pokemon Sword and Shield than they were in past games. But I don’t recall ever having to spend a dozen or more Pokeballs to add a single new monster to my party, with the exception of Legendaries. It’s to the point that I don’t even really want to spend the time it would take to catch Pokemon when I could just play through the game with the ones I already have.

An across-the-board increase in catch rates could help here, but I also think it would make sense to drop the concept of variable catch rates entirely. Maybe a few exceptionally rare Legendary Pokemon should be tougher to catch, but otherwise I don’t see why there should be a difference in how hard it is to get an Onix versus a Roggenrola. As it is, low catch rates just seem like an artificial way to extend the time it takes to get a rare Pokemon. Some already have low spawn rates, so why tack a low catch rate onto that?

Pokemon Sword and Shield is a solid Pokemon game, but there are a number of perplexing design choices amongst the quality-of-life improvements. Why lock sound options behind an item you have to find in-game? Why heal my team in every occasion except before a tough battle? And why make it so hard to catch an incredibly ugly-looking Pokemon? I don’t know, but it’s a bummer — and I’d love for catch rates, at least, to be patched sometime soon.


merritt k

Managing Editor, Podcasts

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  1. I would have to disagree. Why? Cause everything I caught on the first few balls thrown. Their rates did not change. You’ve been just unlucky. The only place catch rates are different are in Max Raids. Otherwise, Stunfisk’s catch rate, which is 75 btw, is the same as it has always been in past games, which is 75. And the formula has also not changed. You just got unlucky on those catches, same with everyone really, we all get unlucky at times. For example, I caught a drakloak on my first thrown ball (a premier ball), this pokemon’s catch rate is 45 (which is low for none legendary pokemon, which are typically 3, there are exceptions though), and yes, there are standard pokemon with even lower catch rates, but, back to the example, I once wasted 20 ultra balls on a freaking Gloom once, which have a catch rate of 120. The higher a pokemon’s catch rate, the higher the chance to catch them, as I am sure you know.

    Hence why in Omega Ruby, if the player has a few heavy balls, false swiping and putting Primal Groudon to sleep is hilarious as it makes it easy to catch with a heavy ball.

    In short, use the right balls. Repeat balls and Dusk Balls (at night obviously) are the best balls you can use for Max Raids and most pokemon you already have caught.

  2. I can’t agree more. Paralysis AND Confusion on a 1 hp Solrock and I threw 6 Ultra balls before catching it. 6! I can’t remember a game where I ever even thought about needing to Paralyze any pokemon to catch it let alone wasting that many balls on one creature. Also fuck that Stunfisk. After wasting 20 greatballs on one I just asked a friend to trade me theirs. What a waste of time for a useless catch.

  3. I am also a victim of that absurdity, but not with any of the galar pokemon or the Pokemon i have seen all the way to the 6th Gym but with a Ditto which i was 100% sure I’d catch with transforming it into a weak pokemon with the move Rest so it puts itself to sleep… and yet at 1 hp and with Sleep Status it could still break out of an Ultra Ball with nary a shake and i compulsively buy Pokeballs at every convenient moment in that game but my spirit broke twice now seeing this happen back to back!

  4. I realized for this new pokemon sword and shield version, the catch rate is tied to the no of gym badges collected instead of the old way where we lowered their health and their psychological state. The more gym badges you collected, the higher catch rate of the pokemon u will have.

  5. guys. I think it’s the pokemon’s level.
    If you match or exceed the wild mon’s level, catch rates seem good. If the wild mon is even one level higher than you though all bets are off.
    My guess is the catch rate formula changed and now takes level into account somehow.

  6. I had a similar experience with that Stunfisk and a Dreadnaw from then I just threw a ball first then ran to come back later with quick balls. Long story short I started treating this like let’s go and now have 330 pokemon LOL.

  7. Ah! I’m so glad to have found your post. I was getting extremely frustrated and couldn’t find any mention of the issue, so I thought I was just doing it wrong. I bought special Pokéballs (Dusk, Net, Heavy, anything) as well as a bucketload of ultra’s, got Pokémon down to 1hp, paralyzed them, confused them, and they STILL WOULD NOT JUST STAY IN THE BALL. Reading this doesn’t solve the problem, of course, but it at least makes me feel validated and like I’m not alone.

  8. Just used 45 ultra balls to catch 1 perrserker. I have played ever other game and have not had this much trouble catching anything like I have in this game.

  9. Trainer Tip: Quick Balls are op. I caught zamazenta in one quick ball on the first try, and regular Pokémon are no problem either.

  10. I have had less trouble catching pokemon in this than any other game, i even caught the legendary pretty quickly without much effort

  11. I’m so glad I’m not just imagining this… It’s ridiculous. Took getting a pokemon – that was five levels lower than me btw – into the red and paralyzed, plus like ten great balls, to catch it. And I didn’t really even want it.

    1. To be honest, it’s like this in the older games. So if you’ve not played the previous ones.. well, I guess welcome to the series! We used to have a pokemon with false swipe to catch pokemon.. then add one with hypnosis for harder ones to catch.. then spend a lot of pokeballs just to catch it.

      1. Speaking as someone who’s played the games since the original Red Version. Your statement is completely false.

        Catch rates have gotten easier, but this games RNG on ball ticks is through the roof. It needs some balance.

        I think its because they want people to catch more from the dens though. It’s not guaranteed you catch pokemon in Dynamax Dens but it seems a hell of a lot easier than the wild ones.

    2. Paralysis is garbage put it to sleep also use better balls and also what pokemon was it that matters I have had zero problems with catch rates cuz I use the correct ball and put them to sleep not paralysis

  12. Seriously. This is horrible. I blew 15 pokeballs on a wobuffett. Literally every single one was an instant break. No pokeball shake. Just wasted attempts. It was level 20, sliver of health and paralyzed. I gave up because it felt like the odds were against me. Same route and a farfetched cost me 10 balls and 2 fainted pokemon. Its just not fun. Its death by a thousand cuts with this game. By the way, this websites text editor blows on a smartphone. Typing this comment is costing me time and sanity. So much lag for no reason.

    1. I had a Wobbuffet in red health. It’s the middle of the night here. I had 10 Dusk Balls…no catch. 10 Timer Balls…no catch. My quick ball at the beginning of the battle…no catch. A multitude of Poke Balls, Premier Balls, and Great Balls…no catch. Single Ultra Ball…no catch. Ridiculous. There is no excuse. I actually just powered the game off without saving because I didn’t lose THAT much data and I was not about to lose that number of balls.

      I’ve been playing Pokemon for over 20 years and never have I thrown so many balls at a non-legendary pokemon and not gotten a catch.

  13. WOW YOUR SO RIGHT .. happy someone else caught this. This has been driving me crazy. Forget trying to catch 40+ level Pokémon without needing 20+ ultra balls. I almost feel likes there’s a glitch that requires the Pokémon your using to catch to have to be significantly higher level than the target.

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