10 Years Ago, Nintendo’s Most Underrated Series Released Its Best Game Yet — But No One Noticed
Fruit Simulator 2023.
Nintendo is known for its massive franchises like The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario, and Animal Crossing, to name a few. But while these series have more than earned the praise they’ve received, some of Nintendo’s lesser-appreciated franchises deserve more love than they typically get. Thankfully, for at least one overlooked Nintendo franchise, it looks like that’s about to change.
Pikmin 3 launched on July 13, 2013 for the Wii U and celebrates its 10th anniversary this week. Even a decade later, it remains one of Nintendo’s most inventive games ever. While it never got the attention it deserves (partially due to poor Wii U sales in general), Pikmin is about to make a comeback with a new game for the Switch. So there’s never been a better time to revisit this unsung classic.
There really isn’t anything like Pikmin. The series mixes real-time strategy and time management sim elements that somehow mesh well with its Metroidvania systems — culminating in something wholly unique and special. You play as brave explorers who encounter weird creatures known as Pikmin across remote planets. Each Pikmin has its own specialty, with some focusing on water, fire, electricity, and other elements. It’s your job to command them to gather supplies and complete missions.
Pikmin 3 specifically sends players to other worlds to gather food for the planet Koppai, which is suffering from famine. Once on the distant planet, players must explore large stages that contain various fruit. Your mission is to maximize efficiency and gather as much fruit as possible in each session, which is challenging due to the day/night cycle. You’re restricted to only exploring during the day, so you've got a limited amount of time to quickly gather resources.
The gameplay loop makes Pikmin 3 hard to put down, as Nintendo constantly introduces new elements each time you play. At the start of exploring a new area, much of the stage is closed off and you’ll need to use Pikmin to open things up. Sand wall blocking your path? Send your Pikmin to tear it down. You can even command your Pikmin to construct a bridge, giving you access to new areas.
The thrill of uncovering a new section of the map never gets old and it’s one of the driving forces behind Pikmin 3’s enticing gameplay. But remember, you’re battling against the clock. You’ll want to be efficient by commanding two (or more) groups of Pikmin to work simultaneously. Eventually, you’ll need to revisit older locales with newly discovered Pikmin to uncover previously inaccessible sections of the map, much like you would in a Metroidvania.
(Side note: at the end of each day, the fruit you’ve collected is converted into juice and the animation of the ingredients mixing together is one of the most enthralling parts of the game. Who wouldn’t want to go drink a fruit smoothie after seeing this?!)
Pikmin 3 isn’t just about discovering new locales and collecting food. Each area is packed with deadly creatures — some of which can swallow you and your Pikmin whole. Certain Pikmin work better against specific enemies, adding a layer of strategy to each encounter. For instance, you might come across flying enemies that swoop down from above, so you’ll want to toss the Yellow Pikmin at them since they can be thrown farther. Then, use your Pikmin to carry back the corpse to your ship to harvest it for resources (which is a lot less morbid than it sounds thanks to the game’s approachable art style).
While all the games in the series are gorgeous, Pikmin 3 is easily the best-looking, with a bright, vibrant art style that holds up to this day. Even on Wii U, the grass, water, trees, and pretty much anything around you is stunning, making it easy on the eyes. The creature designs are also impressive. Most of them appear formidable, yet approachable — an interesting combination that Pikmin is known for.
Take the deadly Vehemoth Phosbat boss, which flies around in the dark and smashes down to eliminate your adorable Pikmin. It’s still a terrifying boss that gives me the creeps, and yet, I can’t help but smirk when looking at it.
The entirety of Pikmin 3 is brimming with personality, thanks to its writing and presentation. The characters all speak in a made-up language similar to Simlish (the language spoken by the Sims) that sounds so outlandish, it’ll likely make you smile from ear to ear. The sound effects are also captivating, ranging from the delightful squeaks of Pikmin being thrown around to their more terrifying screams as they try to navigate water. Without question, this is easily Nintendo’s most charming game.
Pikmin 3 first launched for the Wii U, but it’s also available on Nintendo Switch in the form of Pikmin 3 Deluxe. The Switch version comes with additional features such as a fully cooperative campaign. And for those looking for more Pikmin, you can enjoy the first two entries on Switch as well, ahead of the release of Pikmin 4, which launches on July 21, 2023.