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Pikmin 4 Gives the Switch Another Must-Have Game

What's a pikmin again? And why do you want this one? Let us explain.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR | Gaming | Metaverse technologies | Wearable tech | Tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
3 min read
Screenshot of Pikmin 4 video game, showing flower-headed red pikmin, a space dog, and a helmeted space explorer.

Pikmin 4 gets a new dog: its name is Oatchi.


There may be a new Nintendo Switch arriving sometime in the next year, but in the meantime the existing Switch platform is pumping out some great games for 2023, even if the hardware is feeling a little old. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is a magnificent sequel/extension to one of the best games of all time, and a new 2D Mario game is coming this fall. Nestled in between is Pikmin 4, a game that I've come to love a lot more than even I expected to.

Pikmin is one of Nintendo's lesser-known main game series, judging by responses I got from asking friends if they knew what Pikmin was. The games have been around since the days of the Nintendo GameCube, but Nintendo has made the previous three games available on Switch along with the newest version, which debuts this week. Developed by Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto and inspired by his own garden, it's a game series that involves little flower-headed creatures (pikmin) that multiply, solve puzzles, and battle other life forms. By controlling them and guiding them, you become a commander of real-time strategy missions that span days on a strangely familiar planet.

That planet… is Earth. Nintendo always kept the identity of this plant-filled planet a mystery, but artifacts that get uncovered and collected are clearly like giant versions of everyday Earth items. The relationship is clearer this time: a Game Boy Advance gets discovered early on. Pikmin 4 reveals more human-made environments than other Pikmin games I've played, and it still looks like the world has been abandoned, left to strange creatures in an unspecified future time.

Pikmin carrying a Game Boy Advance in the video game Pikmin 4

Hey, wait: That's a GBA.


Pikmin has always involved you controlling the game via a space-suited explorer; in previous games, Captain Olimar (also in Super Smash Bros). In this game, you make your own character, and look for other crash-landed denizens of your home world. There's a new companion dog, too, called Oatchi. The alien puppy can follow clues and help discover where to go, carry objects, and you can ride it. I can't imagine playing Pikmin without a puppy friend now. 

Pikmin is complex, to a degree. The game uses most of the Switch controls to navigate and consult maps, although much like Zelda, you'll adjust over time so it's intuitive (Nintendo offers some great on-screen tutorials and guides, too). Younger kids might find it a bit much, although there's a co-op mode that allows someone else to fire pebbles using a Joy-Con like a pointer. However, Pikmin 3 allowed for true split-screen co-op, something that doesn't seem to be available here. There is a side game with two-player battles, called Dandori Battles, where each player will compete to collect the most treasure in a given time limit. My 10-year-old son and I played; he smiled, and then he said, "Let's play something else." In that sense, Pikmin 4 isn't necessarily the best multiplayer family game.

A split-screen battle in the video game Pikmin 4, with a pink and blue side to the playing field

Split-screen co-op gaming is possible in a separate Dandori Battle mode, but not in the main game (although you can assist with a Joy-Con controller).


As a single-player adventure, I adore Pikmin 4. I like its extra emphasis on story and discoveries, reminding me a bit of how Splatoon 3 gradually unearthed details about the world it's set in. It turns out, Nintendo now has quite a few games about weird evolved creatures in a post-human Earth. 

There are also caves this time. Much like Tears of the Kingdom, Pikmin 4 goes underground through little manhole portals to multilevel caves, adding extra dungeon missions that feel a little more ominous. Time slows down in the caves, meaning the day-based time limits of Pikmin feel more relaxed this time around. Level progress can also resume on a new day, instead of feeling a need to rush and finish things before the sun goes down and deadly creatures arrive to kill your pikmin off. I prefer this more stress-free approach -- I have enough deadlines.

Pikmin exploring a dimly-lit cave in Pikmin 4, on a metal platform full of giant bolts.

The caves in Pikmin 4 have lots of industrial features and mysterious surprises. Also reminds me of Tears of the Kingdom, sort of.


It'll take me the rest of this year to finish Tears of the Kingdom, but Pikmin 4 feels like a more chill, exploratory, surreal type of Nintendo adventure experience. You can get one of the previous and less-expensive Pikmin games to dip in and see how you like things, or download the Pikmin 4 demo. I'd say start with 4 if you're looking for a single-player game, and consider 3 if you want split-screen co-op. The whole thing ran really smoothly on a Switch OLED, and once again proves that Nintendo can work graphics magic out of its aging Switch hardware. But that doesn't mean I don't want a Switch 2.