Why is Pikmin called Pikmin?
One of Nintendo's most popular game series, the Pikmin series, has spread its unique charm across multiple console generations, including a handheld g...
One of Nintendo's most popular game series, the Pikmin series, has spread its unique charm across multiple console generations, including a handheld game and even an augmented reality mobile game, allowing you to play on the go.
The creative half-plant, half-animal creatures after which the game is named are curious little beings that come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. Each type of Pikmin possesses a unique ability that helps them survive on the treacherous planet you must explore in each game. But where do Pikmin come from, and why are they called that?
What Are Pikmin?
Your first encounter with the peculiar little creatures called Pikmin may have been in the original game, Pikmin. Released in 2001 for the GameCube, the game combined Nintendo's iconic creativity with real-time strategy and puzzle elements.
Created by Shigeru Miyamoto, a video game designer at Nintendo, Pikmin are tiny plant and animal hybrids encountered by various galactic explorers such as Captain Olimar, Alph, and Brittany.
On the planet PNF-404 (which stands for "Planet Not Found" and humorously incorporates the HTTP status code 404 for "Page Not Found"), these creatures all have a distinctive plant-like protrusion on their heads with three stages to indicate the growth of each individual Pikmin: Leaf, Bud, and Flower.
Although individually weak, their true strength is revealed when large groups of Pikmin are brought together. They can lift heavy objects and attack creatures much larger than themselves.
The Pikmin inhabit a mysterious world that bears resemblance to Earth but with some significant differences. The species on PNF-404 are unlike anything we would recognize, such as the nocturnal predators called Bulborbs and the aquatic Water Dumples.
That being said, a significant portion of the environment players must traverse consists of discarded cans and soda bottles, while the location known as "Hero's Hideaway" appears to be an inhabited, modern home.
Another compelling clue that seems to suggest PNF-404 is Earth is the oxygen-rich environment that the animals and plants in Pikmin breathe, but it is a deadly toxin for Captain Olimar and the other protagonists from the various games.
There are several types of Pikmin you can encounter, each with its own color that corresponds to its unique ability. Red Pikmin are immune to fire, while blue Pikmin can breathe underwater. There are also yellow Pikmin, purple Pikmin, white Pikmin, rock Pikmin, winged Pikmin, ice Pikmin, and bulb Pikmin.
There are also some special categories of Pikmin, including Bulbmin and Mushroom Pikmin. Mushroom Pikmin are actually regular Pikmin that have been attacked by a puffstool. This turns them purple, and instead of a leaf on their head, a mushroom grows in its place.
Bulbmin are a special type of species that are officially not considered Pikmin, but they strongly resemble them. They are young Bulborb creatures that have been infected by an unknown parasite, causing them to present themselves as Pikmin. These unfortunate creatures only appear in Pikmin 2, and the exact nature of what infected them has never been explained.
These friendly little creatures generally follow the person who plucked them from the ground and obey their instructions. When not assigned tasks, Pikmin can be found sleeping inside round capsules called Onions, while they climb on slender legs to protect themselves from nocturnal predators that would otherwise devour them.
In-Game Name Origin
Pikmin received their name through the thoughts of the stranded Captain Olimar in the original game. As he contemplated his encounter with the Pikmin and his situation of being stranded on an alien planet, Olimar needed something to name his newfound companions.
Since they reminded Olimar of a special type of vegetable from his home planet Hocotate called the Pikpik carrot, he decided to name the Pikmin after them.
It is only in the fourth installment of the series that you are given the scientific name of the species, Pikminidae. Even then, players must rescue the civilian survivor Dalmo, who provides you with the Piklopedia to help you keep track of the various fauna and flora on the planet PNF-404. All Pikmin also belong to the class Ambuloradicis. In Latin, this means "wandering root," a quite fitting designation for these mysterious creatures.
Real-World Name Origin
The real inspiration for Pikmin differs slightly from Captain Olimar's. Originally, the small creatures were called "ippiki," which means "a small animal" in Japanese. During the development of the first game, the programmer Colin Reed mistakenly heard the name of the creatures as "Piki," and the nickname stuck for a while. As the development progressed, "Piki" gradually became "Picky."
When the team gathered and decided on an official name, they settled on "Pikmin" because it sounded a bit like the phrase "pick me" and the word "Vitamin," which was a fitting choice since Captain Olimar has to pluck them from the ground. As these provisional names were circulating during the development of Pikmin, you can sometimes find variations of the name "Piki" in the game files.