Pikmin never grabbed me as a child quite as much as Nintendo’s other franchises, and returning to the series as an adult I know why: Pikmin 1 is brutal. How children are meant to make it through a survival RTS game that has actual permadeath and requires you to burn through hundreds of soldiers to make a dent in the enemies, I will never know. But one thing that you may not know if you’re not a fan of the franchise is that every Pikmin game is wildly different, not just in the maps and mechanics, but in the core conceit of the game design. After the brutal survival challenge of Pikmin 1, the dungeon-crawling treasure hunt of Pikmin 2, and the mind-bending open zone puzzle tests of Pikmin 3, literally no one knew what to expect from Pikmin 4.
While not reaching the heights of Pikmin 3, one of my favorite video games of all time, Pikmin 4 delighted and surprised me by providing several campaigns and modes, each built in a different style, each one testing another part of my brain to its limit. After finishing the relatively easy 25 hour main campaign of Pikmin 4, you may be tempted to put down your controller and touch grass – not so fast! The postgame of Pikmin 4 offers some of the best content in the entire series, including a 4 hour Olimar campaign featuring the return of the permadeath clock and only the original 3 Pikmin types in a genuinely heart-pounding survival challenge. Add on the amazing treasure hunts, the dandori challenges, and the horde mode challenges and you’ve got another 30 hours of incredible real-time strategy fun that never takes its foot off the gas. Pikmin 4 features over a hundred enemy types, 10 Pikmin types, and some of the most creative and lovely level design I’ve seen in years.
Pikmin 4 is, without question, the most accessible game in the franchise. I don’t say that because the challenge of the previous games is gone, per se, but because Pikmin 4 aims to test every part of your resourcefulness in bite-sized chunks, rather than focusing the game’s design around one grueling type of challenge. In many ways, it’s a beautiful culmination of what Pikmin started as and what it is now. Pikmin 1 tests your survival skills on a permadeath ticking clock, Pikmin 2 tests your dungeon-crawling prowess against labyrinths of enemies and traps, Pikmin 3 breaks your mind by making you control three different characters at the same time across the map and constantly weighing opportunity cost of time to solve puzzles – Pikmin 4 does every one of these things over the course of the adventure, and it does them all really damn well. After 100%ing this game, all I can do now is sit here and ponder what wonderful new challenges Pikmin 5 will bring us one day.
Pikmin 4 is just one of the seven games we have nominated for our 2023 Game of the Year! See the rest of the nominees across our 24 categories right here!