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Pikmin 4 review: pik of the bunch

This long overdue sequel is bigger and more approachable than ever

Pikmin 4 review throw

Believe it or not, 2023’s most long-awaited Nintendo sequel isn’t Tears of the Kingdom; it’s Pikmin 4. First confirmed in a 2015 interview with series creator Shigeru Miyamoto, the latest entry in this strange but charming twist on real time strategy series has been a long time coming.

If you’re wondering why a franchise from the father of Mario and Zelda has been on the back burner so long, it’s because underneath the cute exterior, the blend of RTS and survival genres makes them pretty challenging. Seeing the miniscule, plant-like Pikmin meet a grim fate is arguably more upsetting than infantry deaths in Command & Conquer, too.

Pikmin 4 has taken this on board. As the first new entry to launch on a Nintendo console that isn’t struggling to find fans, it was bound to draw in plenty of newcomers, and these are the players it best caters to.

Looking unreal

Similar to past games, Pikmin 4 follows the adventure of diminutive space explorers who crash land on a planet not unlike Earth. This time you get to create your own rookie character, who has to find and rescue series protagonist Captain Olimar as well as your own crew. That you really are exploring Earth in a Honey, I Shrunk the Kids scenario is actually made more explicit in this game as one location actually take place inside a house, as you traverse a giant kitchen sink and scale a couch, while the different treasures you’re mining for a resource called Sparklium include a few nostalgic Nintendo easter eggs.

To better capture that sense of realism, this is also the first game developed internally by Nintendo using Unreal Engine 4. While there’s been plenty of Switch ports using this engine that’s often been heavily compromised with blurrier resolution and less detail, the results are gorgeous in Pikmin 4, balancing its larger-than-life environments while retaining the cartoonish charm of the space explorers as well as the Pikmin who help you.

This is arguably the largest game in the series, which also extends to more than just one core objective, as you find yourself rescuing a large number of other stranded survivors in often bizarre circumstances. The Pikmin you gradually discover and marshal together to help you with your tasks, from carrying things to fighting other hostile creatures, have even greater varieties than ever before. So as well as the original primary-coloured line-up, you’ve got returning variants like rock Pikmin great at breaking objects, flying Pikmin, as well as the new ice Pikmin and glowing Pikmin, the latter used in a brand new mode set at nighttime.

To manage all that content, the structure has also changed somewhat. There’s still a day cycle where you need to make sure your tasks are done and you can race your Pikmin back to their onion pod by sundown, lest they’re left to fend for themselves against the unforgiving wildlife. However, there’s no pressure of a hard deadline like in the first game or needing enough food to survive like in the third game, easing off the survival aspect. There’s plenty of people to rescue, so you can take as many in-game days as you want to accomplish this.

Helping hands

A running theme through Pikmin 4 is achieving ‘dandori’, which while a Japanese term, is explained in-game as the art of strategic planning combined with maximum efficiency. While players less versed in real-time strategy may still find multitasking different groups of Pikmin stressful, this sequel adds a lot of quality-of-life additions that does make everything smoother.

One very important addition is a companion in the form of an adorable space pup called Oatchi. We can’t quite get over why he’s been designed without a proper nose but if you can overlook that, he’s incredibly helpful, as over the course of the campaign, he can help you fight, carry objects that would usually require the strength of a whole lot more Pikmin, and you can even ride him while your army of Pikmin also cling to his fur. He really is the best boy, though purists might find he can make some tasks a little too easy.

Taken from Pikmin 3, you’re also able to command a set group of Pikmin to just charge at an obstacle or enemy, which feels more efficient than having to spam the same button to throw them at a problem. As you rescue more crew members who gather back at a hub you return to each day, there’s also the opportunity to acquire upgrades for yourself and Oatchi, while you can even use materials gathered to craft items that can make life easier, such as bombs. We actually didn’t feel the need to make use of items, but we appreciate this can also help newcomers, and when you always get a new item as a ‘free prototype’, it doesn’t hurt to try.

The most generous addition is the ability to rewind time, essentially providing checkpoints throughout a day cycle. So if you made a stupid mistake that got half of your precious Pikmin squashed by a predator, or you’re just adamant about preventing even a single Pikmin from perishing, then rest assured you can redo it.

Funky dandori

While all of these quality-of-life decisions do make for a more approachable game for newcomers, series veterans may find Pikmin 4 lacking in challenge, although they, and anyone else who can’t get enough, are actually well catered for because once you’ve rolled credits, there’s a very substantial post-game that does ramp things up with additional locations and new gameplay mechanics. This even includes the option to play as original protagonist Olimar, which adheres to the first game’s premise of recovering your ship parts within a strict number of days.

But even when the game feels easy, it’s balanced by the breadth and charm of things to do. There’s just as much, if not more, time spent underground in dungeon-type sub-levels, complete with their own puzzles and not-so-mini mini-bosses. These also don’t take into account the day cycle clock on the surface, so you can drop into a sublevel towards the end of the day and explore it in its entirety while still making it back onboard your ship before sunset.

For the first time, there’s also the ability to play missions set at night, though this is in a more limited horde-style mode as you exclusively use the new glowing Pikmin to beat back hostile creepy crawlies until dawn in order to mine a precious resource required for curing some rescued castaways from a bizarre condition.

Then there’s the Dandori battles, as your dandori skills are put to the test as you compete to either gather a set number of treasure within a time limit or gather more than a rival. The splitscreen format also naturally makes this mode perfect for multiplayer mayhem, although co-op options are still available in the core game.

Pikmin 4 verdict

If the first three instalments were well-received but never quite got the attention deserved, then Pikmin 4 doubles down to make sure a swarm of newcomers ready to see what the fuss is about are eased in. With a plethora of generous quality-of-life features, and another contender for best boy in a video game, this is a more chill and approachable game than previously, though that does mean it will take time for veterans to really get into the meat of what it has to offer.

But even before you take into account the lengthy and challenging post-game, there’s no shortage of things to do, whether through the different modes you encounter or for players aiming to 100% each of the game’s locations. But without the urgency of a survival sim and the forgivable structure, it’s finally less a harsh nature documentary and closer to the chill farming sims you can take your time with, with that Nintendo charm intact.

Stuff Says…

Score: 4/5

The most approachable instalment yet, though perhaps too much so for series veterans, Pikmin 4 is nonetheless packed with tons of charm and content.


More approachable than ever

A deep, challenging post-game

Oatchi is the best boy


A tad too easy in the base game

Where’s that dog’s nose gone?

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