Pikmin 4 is the latest in Nintendo's famous Pikmin series that started back on the GameCube. Recently 1-3 were all remastered for the Switch as well.
In the series, you play as a member of a small alien race that comes to visit a planet that, potentially, might be Earth but thanks to the massive size difference between planets, they find a place where strawberries are as big as them and strange bugs and birds hinder their exploration. To make matters more difficult, your ship has crashed (the fact that someone can't travel near this planet without crashing becomes a running joke in the series). With the help of the mysterious Pikmin you discover, you must overcome obstacles and accomplish your goals.
If Pikmin 4 is your first entry into the series, worry not. A fun story at the beginning of the game lets you know all the previous events you need to know to appreciate the game while also putting you at the helm of a brand-new character. As many of the characters here are new, you'll find characters reacting to famous Pikmin sights with fresh eyes that won't make a newcomer feel like they've missed out by not playing the previous titles.
Pikmin 4 parent guide: Is the game appropriate for kids?
Below we break down the major features of the game and explain whether or not it's appropriate for children to play.
Pikmin 4 violence
Whilst Pikmin 4 is a very cute game with a lot of focus on things like nature, it also represents nature in the sense that there is a pretty strong food chain in play and you are nowhere near the top.
Your Pikmin companions are plentiful, and it is easy to suddenly end up with a small army of 40 or so, walking alongside you. But there will be moments where a botched attack on a creature will equal it killing a group of them. Often eating them. You won't see any violent death animations as, many of the times, your Pikmin will have just disappeared inside the creatures' mouths, but you'll know because you'll briefly see a little Pikmin ghost rising from where it once stood. This can be stressful for younger kids. While there isn't really a lot of personality to the Pikmin, it's still something that could potentially be troubling.
Likewise, enemies need to be disposed of. When you defeat an enemy by dispatching your Pikmin hordes against it, in defeat, a spirit will rise out of its fallen form to let you know you won. After that, some of your Pikmin will drag the body back to base where it'll put the creature into their ship and use it to create more Pikmin. Nothing gory happens here. There's just a cute tractor-beam effect into a ship and then little Pikmin seeds float down but, there is something about watching your cute Pikmin carrying around an enemy carcass that might rub someone the wrong way.
Pikmin 4 creepiness
As I mentioned earlier, there is something about Pikmin carrying off the defeated body of an enemy that will either hit your kid as hilarious or terrifying. But there are other things involved that may creep out kids.
While one of the main goals in the game is to find the massive amount of your species that crash-landed all over the planet, there's also something of an antagonist. A creature that looks like a member of your race but with no space helmet and is covered in leaves. Its primary goal is to find the unconscious crash survivors and drag them back to their ship where they're turned into Pikmin hybrids that are obsessed with dandori (a Japanese strategy for time management. My 7-year-old, who is horrified of things like mind control, was NOT happy with this.
Some of the creature designs can also be a little unsettling. There are a lot of creatures with eye stalks, and large mouths. All that seems dead set on turning your Pikmin army into a trip to the buffet. There are also missions later when you must explore at night. During this time the enemies have glowing red eyes and are a lot more aggressive.
Pikmin 4 diversity
While Pikmin 4 takes place on a planet that is almost 100% Earth, you won't run into any humans at any point so most of your interactions take place with your alien kin. Despite that, however, the game does have a good level of diversity.
For the first time in the series, you actually get to create your own character using a wide array of body types, faces, and skin tones, allowing your kid to create a character that they feel either represents themselves or just looks cool. I had a pretty cool character going until my kids insisted I make a character that looks more like myself so I became a chubby character with sleepy eyes and facial hair.
Other characters in the game also have a wide array of skin colors and body types in play as opposed to the first three where all the characters were the same shade of Caucasian.
Pikmin 4 romance
There is just the lightest sprinkling of romance in Pikmin but it's never really seen first hand. A character might talk about a wife back home or get excited when the captain appreciates what they did in a "she noticed me" type of way. But beyond that, romance is the last thing on anyone's mind as they focus on their survival.
Pikmin 4 substance usage
While the planet that Pikmin 4 takes place on is clearly supposed to be Earth, it is clear that it's not my home state of Ohio because there are no beer cans and/or cigarette butts laying all over the place.
Nothing about smoking, drugs, or alcohol is mentioned here.
Pikmin 4 swearing
Nope. This is one of Nintendo's main franchises. No swearing is to be found here. Though, I was at the point where I had read the word Dandori so many times it started to feel like a cuss.
Pikmin 4 microtransactions
There are no microtransactions in Pikmin 4. That's not to say that down the road they won't add DLC to add a new story to the game. But as far as microtransactions for things like cosmetics and items, there's nothing of the sort here.
Pikmin 4 positive messages
As mentioned previously, there's a big push in the game to understand Dandori, a Japanese method of time management, in order to get things done more efficiently during the day. There's also a lot of focus from certain characters about stopping to appreciate how beautiful things are, which pairs nicely with the fact that the game takes place below the grass, allowing you to see your world from a different perspective.
Pikmin 4 negative messages
While the game encourages you to learn time management, this is often done at the expense of your Pikmin. Something about throwing nameless workers at a problem, eliminating competition, and converting them into more work feels very capitalistic.
Beyond my own personal takeaway, however, there really isn't a lot of negativity here, and features a lot of characters actively communicating and trying to work together.
Pikmin 4 age barrier
Pikmin 4 is not a voiced game so reading is absolutely a requirement. From constant journal entries to looking over to a lot of dialogue betwixt characters, there is a LOT of reading here, especially during the lengthy tutorial. A child that can't read might need a parent to sit with them at all times during this game.
Also, the act of trying to get as much done as possible during the time constraints as well as having to make it back to the ship before nightfall (or risk your Pikmin getting eaten by creatures of the night) can be a bit stressful for some kids. My 9-year-old loves the game, but my 7-year-old looks like me when I'm buried in deadlines.
There's also a helpful feature where a second player can turn on a Joy-Con and use it to fling pebbles and other items at the screen which can help break down walls and stun enemies. This can give you a bit of encouraging assistance with your potentially frustrated kiddo.
If you're uncertain how your child might take to the game, there is a free demo available on the Nintendo Eshop and I'd recommend getting that first before purchasing the entire game.