Pikmin is the greatest game ever, I think.
For those unfamiliar with the game, it’s basically a simplified RTS game, with a focus on resource gathering and multi-tasking. That is, the enemies that you encounter are not consistently coming to demolish your home base with constant aggression, instead you take them on at will, taking your time building your army between battles.
The basic premise to the game is that you’re a spaceman, Olimar, who’s crash landed and needs the Pikmin to help him rebuild his spaceship so he can fly home. When Olimar crash lands on the Pikmin planet, 30 pieces of his spaceship are spread across 5 different levels in the Pikmin world. As you play through the game you encounter three different colored Pikmin species: blue, red, and yellow. Red Pikmin can survive flame, while blue can survive water, etc. A given piece of the spaceship may be behind a body of water, across a wall of flames, and to retrieve that piece safely you’ll need to alternate between Pikmin types.
Like all RTS games, the trick to the game is limited resources and micromanagement. Pikmin are weak little creatures by themselves, but you can have an army of 100 at a time. Numbers will not win the game though, a fair bit of strategy and timing matters a great deal in the game. You’ll use your Pikmin to attack enemies, break down walls, build bridges, and bring treasures home. You can break a wall down with 10 Pikmin, but such a task will burn 20 minutes, the same wall will come down much faster with 85 Pikmin. The same rule applies for other tasks such as attacking enemies or bringing treasure home.
The game is beautiful. The Pikmin and Olimar are about 1 inch tall, and the Pikmin world has a striking resemblance to earth. As you play, you’ll guide your Pikmin through lush green gardens, dreary underground caverns full of pools of water, and otherwise, and the eye candy never stops.
A major draw of the game that few knock-offs get right is the ability to multitask. That is, the game is very much non-linear. You can beat the original Pikmin game in some 5 hours or less once you’re familiar with it, because you can set one troop of Pikmin to do one task, while you travel elsewhere with another group working on another task. The challenge becomes attempting to fetch 3, 4, 5 pieces in a single “day” (15 minutes) of game time. Some days are best spent taking your army of 100 Pikmin to vanquish monsters and collect treasures that’ll spawn more Pikmin reserves, while other days could be spent preparing all paths to pieces, allowing a massive 5 piece day a bit later.
The downside to Pikmin? There are only three games in the series.
In the years since Pikmin’s release, there have been a few almost-as-good games released, and there doesn’t seem to be a consistent list of knock-offs anywhere else on the web, so, behold, the list of games like pikmin:
Games Like Pikmin
There are three Pikmin games.
The original Pikmin game was released in 2001 on Nintendo Gamecube (amazon link). Later, a version with motion controls was released on the Nintendo Wii (amazon link). The Wii can also play gamecube discs, with a gamecube controller – and IMO the gamecube controls were a bit more precise when you become an experienced player.
Finally, the latest game in the series, Pikmin 3 (amazon link), released in 2012, brings the Pikmin series into the HD-TV era. It was released on the Nintendo Wii-U system.
Little King’s Story (Nintendo Wii version linked, a Playstation Vita port is available as well.)
Little King’s Story is a great Pikmin clone on the Wii. You play a young king who directs his various subjects to do tasks. Like Pikmin, you can set various subjects to do a bit of work and go on to do something else with another set of subjects. I own a copy of Little King’s Story and have enjoyed it quite a bit, almost as much as I enjoy the Pikmin series. A sequel to the game is coming out on the Playstation Vita in Japan, and hopefully in the United Stats shortly after.
Eco-Creatures: Save the Forest (Nintendo DS)
Eco-Creatures is the first Pikmin knock-off on a portable system. Like Olimar, the main character is fairly weak and cannot accomplish much on his own, but he has armies of squirrels and other creatures he can accomplish much with. Surprisingly, the game allows you to have 100 minions at once, which is an impressive technical feat on the DS. I wrote a in-depth review about the game years ago here: Yes, Eco-Creatures is like Pikmin on the DS. If you are a Pikmin fan, I would *highly* recommend this game. If you enjoy the first title, there’s a sequel that was only released in Japan, it will play on a US DS or 3DS (DS games are not region-locked, though 3DS games are). The sequel is titled Ecolis: Aoi Umi to Ugoku Shima, and appears to have a fair bit of Japanese text in it, understanding what to do in the game may be difficult if you do not know how to read Japanese.
Overlord (XBox 360, PC) (Released as Overlord: Raising Hell on Playstation 3)
Overlord seems to be a direct rip-off of Pikmin, but a bit more linear in gameplay style. Overlord’s visuals are stunning. Overlord has been characterized as a mix between Fable and Pikmin. In the game you are an evil Overlord who reigns destruction via his minions (like Pikmin) and you can choose how much destruction you will cause as you make your way through the game (a bit like Fable). Unlike Pikmin, which seems to be a thinly veiled commentary on human nature wrapped in a cute package, Overlord is overtly, and humorously evil. There is also a sequel, Overlord 2, which many reviews indicate is not as good as the first game in the series. A prequel, Overlord: Dark Legend was released on the Wii. Be careful of the Overlord:Minions game for Nintendo DS, this is a Lost Vikings type game, not a Pikmin knock-off.
Army Corps of Hell (Playstation Vita)
This newcomer from Square Enix was created by some of the same people who worked on the original Pikmin game for Nintendo. Reviews caution to not take the over-the-top style of the game seriously, it’s meant to be humorous. Reviews also caution that the game may not be “as great” as Pikmin, in that it’s a bit repetitive and not free-form / open-world style like Pikmin.
Adventures of Darwin (Playstation 2)
Adventures of Darwin is a budget-level title that was released with a $20 price tag, when Playstation 2 games were normally $40-$50. I bought a second-hand copy of the game years ago and could not figure the game out, which reviews say is about par for the course for the game. Nevertheless, Adventures of Darwin is definitely a Pikmin clone, albeit a low-quality one.
Do you know of another game like Pikmin that should be listed? Please, email me!