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Pikmin 4 is the best Switch game everyone forgot about in 2023

Be honest, Pikmin 4 is the best Switch game you didn't even play in 2023
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The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is a true masterpiece, and Super Mario Bros. Wonder is the first reinvention of 2D Mario in well over a decade. Both of these games deserve to be recognized as two of the very best of 2023, if not the generation. They’re so good, in fact, that everyone seems to have forgotten about Pikmin 4.

In fairness, Pikmin 4 actually won Best Sim/Strategy game at The Game Awards, much to the chagrin of GLHF’s resident strategy expert Marco Wutz. It’s not his fault, he just doesn’t think any game published by Nintendo (and therefore not on PC) can qualify as a strategy game. Funnily enough, Pikmin 4 won this award for the opposite reason: mainstream gamers aren’t strategy nuts like Marco, so Pikmin 4, being far more approachable, was the natural choice for most voters and journalists alike. I know some of the journalists that were on The Game Awards jury, and I assure you, they’re basic.

Pikmin 4 isn’t a traditional strategy game, and I’d actually argue that this entry strays further from the base concept of micromanaging 100 little guys than ever before. The games have always been about amassing a gang of plant-ant hybrids to fight and forage for you in an alien world, and each game in the series upped the ante linearly. Pikmin 2 introduced a second captain, allowing you to split the squad to multitask, and then Pikmin 3 gave players a third captain, along with the ability to assign tasks on the Wii U GamePad.

Four small humans in blue spacesuits are standing around a yellow dog, who has three red radishes on his head

Yes, I do love Oatchi.

So Pikmin 4 just adds a fourth captain, right? No. Instead, your primary captain gets a new partner, Oatchi, the Rescue Pup. Oatchi can be trained to become even more capable and efficient than your Pikmin comrades, in addition to being usable as a second captain for some basic multitasking. Once trained Oatchi can be commanded to automatically round up stray Pikmin and even carry incredibly heavy and large objects.

For advanced players, Oatchi opens up a few new ways to engage with the tasks in Pikmin 4. For less advanced players, Oatchi makes the game a relative cakewalk. Forget the days of having your entire Pikmin squad obliterated in a Pikmin 2 cave, Oatchi makes keeping track of your units easy, and can even rush enemies to toss the entire gang at them, eliminating most foes in seconds.

A small human is sitting on a large yellow dog with 30 multicolored plant-like creatures clinging alongside

Oatchi makes traveling with Pikmin easy. A little too easy...

They’re fun additions, but they take away from the strategy aspect. Most players won’t be challenged to use Oatchi and the new mechanics here unless they attempt to earn Platinum medal rankings on the variety of timed Dandori Challenges. That would be a pretty great end-game challenge if only there were more of them.

Pikmin 4 is The Game Awards’ strategy game of 2023, and I put that mostly down to how very approachable it is, despite how far away it has moved from being an actual strategy game. It’s not GLHF’s best strategy game of 2023 – Marco would never allow it, and I’d vote for Fire Emblem anyway – but make sure you don’t ignore it after Zelda and Mario stole the show. It’s not even the best Switch game of the year, but it’s still absolutely brilliant, and I deserve Pikmin 5. Yes, me specifically.