As I’ve stated in the past, I have a mixed relationship with the Pikmin franchise. Time limits turned me off from the original game, even though its premise, which revolves around collecting pieces of a wrecked ship, had lots of promise. Pikmin 2, on the other hand, is one of my favorite GameCube games because it ditches the time gimmick, even if its conceit of collecting treasure is a lot more routine. Pikmin 3, then, which released in 2013, stands out as one of Nintendo’s great unique developments of the 2010s.
Here we go again!
The premise of the game is pretty straightforward: You take the role of three explorers who crash-land on a mysterious planet during their search for materials that’ll save their home world from extinction. While on this planet, you’re reintroduced to the familiar species known as Pikmin, who’ve changed to adapt to their ever-evolving planet. You also discover that Olimar and Louie, the heroes of the previous game, have been taken prisoner by this planet’s hostile enemies. Through tenacity and the sheer will to survive, you’re forced to collect various fruits, bond with the local Pikmin, and discover why this weird planet keeps attracting visitors.
The objective of Pikmin 3 isn’t much different from that of previous games: land in a nearby region, wake up your Pikmin, scavenge the harsh terrain, and acquire your objectives. And all of this before sundown. What makes this game unique, however, is how it blends the mechanics of the previous entries. It seems as though fans were unhappy with Pikmin 2 ditching the day limit yet didn’t want the extreme anxiety of Pikmin‘s 30-day cycle. So Nintendo came to a compromise here: The time gimmick still exists, but it can be artificially extended by collecting fruit and pulverizing it into daily rations. The day limit does have a point of no return, as you can’t go beyond 100 days. But even then, you can also repeat a day if you’re unhappy with your outcome.
The Pikmin at the end of the rainbow
Another aspect that makes Pikmin 3 unique is, as always, its ever-changing roster of Pikmin. The original game had three colors to choose from: red, which is fire-resistant; yellow, which is electricity-resistant; and blue, which is water-resistant. Pikmin 2 added purple and white Pikmin to the mix, which had the features of super strength and the ability to find buried treasure respectively. Pikmin 3 ditches these additions in favor of two new types of its own. You still have the original three, but you also have Rock Pikmin and Winged Pikmin.
While it’s disappointing not to be able to keep the Pikmin introduced in the previous game, I definitely think these are suitable replacements. Many of the objectives in Pikmin 3 require breaking walls and/or reaching high places, so having Pikmin that can be tossed like boulders or can fly makes sense. Rock Pikmin especially have the tactical advantage of being able to be used like catapults when matched with a pro, while Winged Pikmin do exactly what they say. They’re also pretty cute.
Putting the “strategy” in “real-time strategy”
But arguably the biggest improvement in Pikmin 3 is the ability to split your focus on your three team captains. Even outside of two-player options, which also exist in this game, having three team leaders makes for some interesting strategizing and prioritizing not present in previous games. It allows for the level map to open a lot more, which is helpful when facing bosses and wanting to explore at the same time. It’s something that takes a little getting used to at first, but after a while it becomes second nature. Also, the final boss is a real challenge, which might actually work in its favor considering how standard the final bosses were in the previous two games.
Pikmin 3 is definitely a fun and worthwhile addition to the Pikmin franchise. It has some issues — I often find myself struggling to remember where everything is on my Wii U game tablet — but it’s still worthy of being a Nintendo game of the decade.
See our other selections for game of the decade: Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Fire Emblem Awakening, Donkey Kong Country Returns & Tropical Freeze, Xenoblade Chronicles, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.