Pikmin 3 Deluxe Review: "Pik" This One Up

Pikmin 3 was one of the games to own a Wii U for. It pushed Nintendo’s unsung console to its very limits, with astonishing visuals and a unique control scheme that made the most of its platform. It’s funny, then, to see the game arrive on a system that’s far more successful than its predecessor. Does the plant-slinging adventure hold up on a console that houses classics like Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey?

I’d argue yes. In fact, I’d argue that Pikmin 3 Deluxe is an experience on par with those – if not superior, in certain respects. The 2013 title, now smoother and more visually astonishing than ever, remains a lesson in great game design – a sterling example of how to pace a game, how to reward a player, and how to slowly grow a world through organic progression.

Deluxe, too, somehow manages to improve upon what I already believed was a pretty perfect game. While the core narrative experience is the same (three explorers crash on a ruined Earth, gather fruit to survive, and train Pikmin to fight for them,) progressing through it is aided by three massive changes that serve to make this the definitive version of the game.

The biggest of these is, undoubtedly, the local co-op. A second player can jump into the game at any point and progress side-by-side with you, which makes for a more enjoyable experience. The co-op integration is pretty seamless, and the game is structured in such a way that it doesn’t feel broken to have a second player helping you out. If anything, playing through this with my girlfriend made me enjoy the game even more than I did the first time, and helped the experience feel like a more nuanced, interesting one. It changes the way you solve puzzles, organize Pikmin, and fight bosses in ways I never imagined were possible when I played the original. That said? Don’t do that whole “one Joy-Con per person” option, as it really hampers the experience.

Other additions round out the package, making Deluxe feel more like an enhancement than a quick-and-dirty port with co-op. New character-focused side stories give franchise stars Olimar and Louie ample room to shine, and additional difficulty levels give veterans a chance to really test their mettle. Meanwhile, a charming index called the Piklopedia has been added, which tracks every creature you encounter and the number of them that you’ve defeated. There are also new collectibles in the form of Badges, giving completionists a run for their money if they want to see everything.

Beyond the new content, however, the Switch also makes this game’s fantastic art direction sing in ways it didn’t before. Pikmin 3 Deluxe looks and runs better than its predecessor, which was already an astonishing visual package. The game’s aesthetic – a deft blend of cartoon fantasy and photorealism – looks more crisp and vibrant than before, coming from somebody who’s spent a lot of time with the Wii U version. While the Switch can’t do the horsepower of a PS5 or Series X, it somehow delivers a visual experience that’s superior to most I’ve played on those platforms so far. Nintendo knows how to work their own hardware arguably better than both Sony and Microsoft, which results in a game that makes the most of the Switch’s strengths and limitations. On a 60-70-something inch TV (what, you think I know how to count?) this game’s colorful and joyous world sing like never before.

Which brings us to the crux of my review. You see, I wasn’t quite sure how to approach this one. In my opinion, Pikmin 3 is one of the best games ever made. It’s an accessible and joyful ode to naturalism – a charming way to get kids invested in the world they live in. The narrative has subtle commentary on mankind’s penchant for excess and offers a friendly reminder that, hey, maybe we should try to treat the planet we live on better. This is accomplished through loving renders of flora, fauna, and even the dirt it springs out of. In Pikmin 3, the world isn’t a place to be conquered – it’s a place to cherish, value, and protect… even if you have to upset the natural ecosystem along the way. For all of gaming’s weak tea attempts at broaching environmental message, Nintendo’s is perhaps the only one that feels genuine.

That said, should a port of a seven-year-old game be lavished with the same praise it would at launch? I would say yes – asterisk. If that game has substantial enough changes made to it, is a marked enough improvement from its original, and has content viable enough to compete with other titles released this year, then… absolutely.

Pikmin 3 Deluxe is a better version of one of the best games ever made – one of Nintendo’s crowning achievements, even. Whether you’ve played it before, or are lucky enough to experience it for the first time, you owe it to yourself to play this irrevocable environmentalist masterpiece.

A Switch copy of Pikmin 3 Deluxe was purchased by TheGamer for this review. Pikmin 3 Deluxe is available now for Nintendo Switch.

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Bella Blondeau is a lovable miscreant with a heart of gold… or so she says.

She likes long walks in dingy arcades, loves horror good and bad, and has a passion for anime girls of any and all varieties. Her favorite game is Nier: Automata, because she loves both robots and being sad.

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