A Newcomer’s Guide to Pikmin

So far on this blog I have been an ambassador for the Metroid series, the Xenoblade series, and the Fire Emblem series. It’s time to champion a new underdog from Nintendo’s franchises: Pikmin!

From an outsider’s perspective, Pikmin looks… odd. You control a squad of tiny plant people that you pluck from the ground by hand. You divide up your forces, carry out tasks, and fight enemies five times your size. You bring back treasures and enemy carcasses, where the Pikmin convert it into more Pikmin. How do they do this? Why do they follow your orders? Why do they all have this cute blank stare? Nobody knows.

Despite all of that weirdness, you might be feeling curious about the series thanks to the announcement of Pikmin 4. Maybe a friend or YouTuber you like is making a big deal about it. Why the hype? Why does this niche series create such passionate fans, and might you become one of them?

Allow me to be your guide through the world of Pikmin!

Would I Like Pikmin?

Pikmin has a distinct blend of gameplay flavors, like tiramisu cake, or Hawaiian pizza. The combination of these flavors becomes more than the sum of its parts.

Pikmin has three main ingredients: 1) the army commands of a Real-Time Strategy game, 2) the exploration of a traditional Zelda game, and 3) the time management of a Farming Sim game. If you like any of those games, you might like Pikmin. However, even if you didn’t like those genres, you may like how Pikmin combines them together and balances them out.

You start every day by landing in an area and exploring it. You’ll use your Pikmin to attack enemies, create new paths, and bring back the spoils of your efforts. You’ll be multitasking which Pikmin will be on what tasks, and each type has their own specialty — Blue Pikmin can breathe underwater, while Red Pikmin are immune to fire. The better you plan, the more efficient you’ll be. However, once the sun sets, you’ll have to pack up and leave, as the planet becomes too dangerous to explore at night. Then the next day you land in another area and the cycle starts over again. As the days progress, you create more streamlined paths, you grow your Pikmin army, and you become the master of these unfamiliar lands.

If this sounds appealing to you, you should give Pikmin a shot!

I am so ready for this game to come out.

Can I Start with Pikmin 4?

Pikmin games follow a loose story thread from game to game, but each one tells its own self-contained plot. Furthermore, the stories aren’t very complex, and serve more as thematic backdrop to the gameplay. Pikmin 4 in particular is starring an entirely new cast of characters. In short, yes, you can start with Pikmin 4 and you’ll understand what’s going on. You’ll probably see references to past games that you might not understand, but they likely won’t hinder your experience.

Is There an Optimal Way to Play Through the Series?

There are only four mainline games and one spinoff. If you like Pikmin 4, you could easily go back and play Pikmin 3 Deluxe, as it’s also available on the Switch. Similarly, you might find Pikmin 3 Deluxe on sale and give that one a shot before playing Pikmin 4. However, if you’d like to experience the whole series and see the entire story thread, then this is the ideal sequence:

  1. Start with the original Pikmin. It was originally released on the GameCube, but there’s a Wii version with much better pointer controls. The GameCube version is still playable, but the Wii version allows you to be more precise. Like most GameCube games, it’s expensive to buy now. The Dolphin emulator might be a good option.
  2. Play Pikmin 2. Like the first game, it was originally released on the GameCube, only to be updated for the Wii. It’s even more expensive than the first game. The Dolphin emulator, once again, is your friend.
  3. Pikmin 3 was originally released on the Wii U, then later re-released on the Switch with all of the DLC included. If you’re in love with the Wii pointer controls from playing the first two games, then Pikmin 3 on the Wii U is ideal. However, the Switch’s controls for Pikmin 3 Deluxe are also excellent, despite not having a reliable pointer.
  4. If you’ve fallen in love with the series, you might want to try Hey! Pikmin, a spinoff released on the 3DS. It’s a 2D puzzle-platformer and it has very little in common with the mainline games. It’s a perfectly fine game, but it’s also not amazing, either. I’d only recommend this to people who can’t get enough Pikmin.
  5. Pikmin 4.

In Conclusion

I sincerely believe more people would like Pikmin if they gave it a shot. The series is unlike anything else in the video game industry. It’s cute, it’s creepy, it’s odd, and it’s comforting. It’s the type of game that I could lose hours to, saying to myself, “Just one more day.” It’s the type of game that gets me thinking about it even after I turn off the TV, planning out different paths or more efficient strategies. It relaxes me with its beautiful tiny environments yet challenges me with all of the enemies in my path and tasks that I need to do.

The Pikmin games are some of the best-designed games Nintendo has ever published. With every entry, the series consistently keeps a high level of quality, and yet they have always remained a wallflower while other series get more attention. Even other less prominent series like Metroid seem to garner more conversation. Hopefully Pikmin 4 will be the series’ big chance to prove itself beyond its limited fanbase. If anything, you can download the demo of Pikmin 3 Deluxe and see if the series is right for you!

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