To punch, the current leader must be in a condition where they can punch, and the button used for throwing should be pressed. This will make the leader throw their fist and punch nearby enemies. This is a way to defeat enemies without using Pikmin, but it provides about the same damage that a single Pikmin can output (far less than even that, in Pikmin 3) although with the advantage of greater durability and dodging capability. As such, punching is not recommended as a primary means of attack, best used when the target has particularly low health (Bulborb Larvae are an excellent example), as part of a full Pikmin swarm, or while Pikmin are busy with other tasks. A leader's attack cannot damage hazards or other leaders, not even in competitive two-player modes. It can however damage Pellet Posies, nectar eggs, and other similar objects.
Other uses for punches are:
The following things are also able to be punched, although doing so causes no damage:
In Pikmin and Pikmin 3, as well as Pikmin 2 before the Brute Knuckles are retrieved, only a single punch may be thrown at a time, and its damage is negligible. However, in Pikmin 2, there are a few strategies and improvements that can increase the punching mechanic's usefulness, like the aforementioned Brute Knuckles.
In Pikmin 3, the damage caused is far smaller than any other game, and leaders can only punch if they are near a punchable object. It should also be noted that it is nearly impossible to hit some objects if the leader is standing in place – moving towards the target while throwing punches maximizes the hit ratio.
In Pikmin Adventure, the player is capable of punching, too. However, they can punch anywhere, even if they are not near an enemy or object that takes damage when punched. They still have to have no Pikmin to throw in order to punch, however.
What determines whether a leader can punch or not depends on the game.
In Pikmin and Pikmin 2, the current leader must have no Pikmin nearby, meaning that they must either have no Pikmin in their party, or the closest one must be a considerable distance away. Then, the player must simply press the same button as the throw button, / .
In Pikmin 3, a leader can only throw a punch if they are close enough to an enemy or punchable object. They must also not have any Pikmin on their group (having other leaders is fine). Finally, the player must press the usual throw button, / / , or under the stylus controls.
The following strategies can be used in Pikmin 2:
If a leader is on the party, they will punch alongside the active leader. Because of their simplistic intelligence, they usually remain close to the active leader, until a punch is thrown, at which point they will actively go out of their way just to attack the enemy, returning to their partner's side after throwing a jab. If the player's leader continues to punch, so will the other leader. Inactive leaders cannot use the Rocket Fist. Because in some control schemes the punch button also throws, attempting to punch while another leader is in the party in Pikmin 3 will likely end up in said leader being thrown; if not, the secondary or tertiary leaders will not throw a punch themselves, as was the case in Pikmin 2.
In Pikmin 2, a glitch makes it possible to punch faster if the current leader is walking or turning. While doing so, the animations for the punches are sped up significantly, and it is possible to send out jabs faster than normal. It is, however, difficult to keep walking and facing the target enemy; the most effective way to do it is to walk against the enemy, and balance the positioning so that the leader doesn't slip off from the creature's sides. Alternately, / can be quickly swept left and right, ensuring that the leader is always walking, but not moving away. The hitbox for the punch attacks is considerably big, meaning the player does not have to necessarily face the enemy in order for the fist to connect.
The Rocket Fist is an upgrade in Pikmin 2 that is obtained after the Brute Knuckles are salvaged. This allows the current leader to perform a three-punch combo, with a devastating third punch; this can be achieved by pressing the punch button in quick succession.
In Pikmin 2, the main punch causes 7.5 points of damage; with the Rocket Fist, the second punch also causes 7.5 points, and the third punch causes 18.75 points of damage. The first punch connects 5 frames after the button press, the second connects after 17 frames of the first punch button press, and the third after 32 frames. If walking, however, the punches connect 5, 10 and 18 frames after the first button press; meaning that, when walking, the punches can hit 1.7 times faster.
In Pikmin 3 the punch was massively nerfed, causing only 3 points of damage, being overall slower, having a very small hitbox, and not having the Rocket Fist as an upgrade. In addition, one can no longer control their leader's movement while throwing a punch, and unlike Pikmin 2, other leaders following the current one won't punch alongside them – their presence will in fact nullify the player's ability to punch, barring certain controls schemes.
The third punch in Pikmin 2, available with the Rocket Fist, has a particularly large hitbox. With it, it is possible to hit enemies quite far away, both horizontally and vertically. This allows leaders to harm otherwise unreachable enemies, like the Withering Blowhog, or a Gatling Groink on top of a toy tower.
In Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U
In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, none of Olimar's attacks consist of punches. However, for the sequels, Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, some of his moves were changed to reflect the punches leaders can throw in Pikmin 2 with the Rocket Fist upgrade. Olimar's neutral attack consist of the two initial punches (although reversed in order), and his forward tilt attack has him wind up his fist and throw it forward, much like the third and final sequenced punch in Pikmin 2.