pikmin dark lore behind the scenes

When you think of Pikmin, you probably think it's another bright, sunny Nintendo franchise for the most part. You're a cute little spaceman running around with a bunch of cutesy little multi-colored minions, collecting fruit and random doodads and occasionally fighting very large bugs. Even with the occasional grisly deaths of many of your multi-colored minions, it's about as close to a G-rated videogame as you can get, right?

Wrong. Like a surprising number of Nintendo properties, there's actually a ton of weird, creepy, insanely dark bits of lore bubbling right beneath the surface of this seemingly kid-friendly colorful game.



1. The Game Takes Place On a Post-Nuclear Apocalypse Earth

pikmin - pikmin - The Games Are Actually About a Demon's Awakening

The planet that all three Pikmin games take place on isn't named until Pikmin 3 (and it's name is the more technical designation of PNF-404), but the planet is pretty clearly Earth - or at least a very Earth-like planet that shares an alarming number of very specific similarities with our own planet. But there is something very ominous about everything, and I'm not just talking about the freaky enormous bugs or the tiny multi-colored plant creatures who willingly act as your personal slaves no matter what dumb order you give them. No, I'm talking about the people on this planet. Namely, the fact that there are none.

Some kind of apocalyptic extinction event has occurred on PNF-404 - the remnants of human (or human-like) civilization are everywhere, but there are no humans to be found anywhere. The humans are gone - either abandoned the planet or died out - but the signs of their existence remain - and many of those signs clearly point to Earth: Duracell batteries, 7-Up bottle caps, Famicom cartridges, Kiwi shoe polish, etc. And yet, at night - there are no lights visible. No cities, no streetlights, nothing.

Beyond the impossible-to-conceive odds of another planet just happening to come up with the English language, identical technologies, and exactly similar brands (and logos!) for a multitude of products, it's interesting to take a look at the PNF-404 map and compare it to Earth....250,000,000 years in the future.

pikmin original continents

Notice a few things? The way Australia and Antarctica have combined beneath the supercontinent of the rest of the world?  The general shapes of the reformed continents? Everything points to the Earth we all know and love - and in a far-flung future, where humanity has all died out (and our products have proved themselves to be WAY more durable than anticipated).

But what caused humanity's extinction in this world? If you read the header for this, you already know: NUCLEAR ARMAGEDDON.

pikmin lore giant bird enemy

In the first game, one of the ship parts you acquire is called the "Geiger Counter" (which is apparently necessary for flying a ship, for some reason). In reality, Geiger Counters are used to measure radiation in a certain nearby vicinity - and, for the sake of argument, we should assume that's what Olimar's ship uses it for also. The thing is, Olimar has no idea WHAT the Geiger Counter actually does....except that it gets REAL noisy sometimes. Here's his discovery notes around the item:

"It's the Geiger Counter! Every spaceship needs one of these, but I don't actually know what it's for. Every once in a while, it goes wild and lets out a lot of noise, but I never pay much attention to it, so it doesn't do me much good. I really should read that instruction manual one of these days!"

In other words, Olimar's occasionally passing by big deposits of radiation, and has no idea that it's happening or what it means. We know what it means, though - there is a LOT of radiation mysteriously prevalent on this planet, and the likely explanation is nuclear war.

This would also explain a lot of what's going on in Pikmin - between the weird ant-flower hybrid creatures the game's named after, the enormous ladybugs, and stuff like the burrowing snagret (which is a gross hybrid bird-rat creature), heavy doses of radiation plus a few billion years makes everything suddenly make a lot more sense.



2. The Games Are Actually About a Demon's Awakening

pikmin - The Games Are Actually About a Demon's Awakening

To preface this, we should probably explain a relatively famous Japanese urban legend/demon called Umibōzu. The Umibozu is a demon that lives in the ocean, waiting for ships to come by so it can attempt to capsize them and (according to some of the legends) won't stop until it can take the captain, if the captain has failed to offer Umibozu the proper respect. See where this is going yet?

pikmin - pikmin - The Games Are Actually About a Demon's Awakening

There are three enemies throughout the entire Pikmin series that are almost entirely water-based: the Goolix (in Pikmin 1), the Waterwraith (in Pikmin 2), and the Plasm Wraith (in Pikmin 3). And there is heavy evidence that each of these beings are meant to represent Umibozu in some way - namely in that they are being comprised entirely of water, but also in the plots that bring your characters to PNF-404. In Pikmin 1, a passing asteroid knocks Olimar's ship out of space and onto Earth. In Pikmin 2, this doesn't happen - Olimar and Louie are planning to land on the planet already, but there is a subtle detail in their flight path which is given almost no attention:

See that? Their ship barely misses a second asteroid impact by A HAIR'S LENGTH. But what's the significance of this, you may ask? This is meant to represent Umibozu capsizing the ship - bringing it down and removing its ability to continue. And then again in Pikmin 3, the Koppaites headed towards the planet are struck by some kind of mysterious disaster (which is never actually explained) and crash land on the planet. Hell, even in the game's ending, we're meant to believe that something supernatural caused it...

pikmin dark lore

But the darker part of Umibozu is its focus on getting the captain - and while the Goolix doesn't have any particular features that make it seem like it is targeting Olimar specifically, it does have a unique property: it doesn't leave anything behind. Nothing to make more Pikmin with, and no treasure parts. But when you encounter the Waterwraith in Pikmin 2, the parallels get clearer.

pikmin - pikmin - The Games Are Actually About a Demon's Awakening

In a cave known as the Submerged Castle, something terrifying occurs. The Waterwraith appears if you stay in any level of the cave for more than five minutes. It drops two massive rollers on the ground, then appears in the level and endlessly chases you. Your Pikmin can't damage him. All you can do is run. At the end of the cave, the Waterwraith presents itself as the final boss. However, there are purple Candypop Buds at the end as well, allowing you to transform your Pikmin into purples. The sound of the purples bashing against the ground/the wraith itself is enough to stun him so you can damage him.

But here's the weird part: when the Waterwraith first appears, the Hocotate Ship scans it and ominously tells you that, although it can physically see the creature, it can't detect it with its sensors. The ship even says "Could its physical form be anchored in another dimension? ...Attacking it is futile! If only we could force it to take on physical form..."

pikmin - pikmin - The Games Are Actually About a Demon's Awakening

Things hit the fan in Pikmin 3 though. The final boss of Pikmin 3 is the Plasm Wraith. A golden liquid creature who seemingly has an obsession with Olimar. Pikmin 3 has you following the events of Alph, Brittney, and Charlie, who are Koppaites (as opposed to Olimar and Louie being Hocotatians). The Koppaites find electronic notes taken by Olimar throughout the game however, and through those we find that when exploring the planet, Olimar remarks that he sees a "glittering gold material" on top of a tree, and that he will explore it first thing the next morning. Louie refuses to go with him, however. Then, Olimar remarks that the life-form has "taken a real shine" to him, but refuses to let him go. Every time he tries to leave the tree with the Plasm Wraith, it forcibly takes him back to the top of the tree.

SEE WHERE THIS IS GOING YET?!

As the Koppaites try to save the unconscious Olimar, enemies appear around the area. Once defeating these enemies however, unlike normal enemies, they don't drop their bodies for the Pikmin to collect. The enemies melt into the ground in a golden liquid, as they're just projections by the Umibozu/Plasm Wraith. The arc of the three Pikmin games tracks with the idea that Umibozu is Goolix in Pikmin 1, who evolves into the Waterwraith in Pikmin 2, and finally into its ultimate form - the Plasm Wraith in Pikmin 3. And all the while, it remained obsessed with taking down Olimar - the captain of the ship that awoke it from its slumber.



3. The Luigi stand-in sidekick is one of the most devious villains in Nintendo history

Pikmin 2 introduced us to Louie, Olimar's goofy, slightly taller and lankier sidekick. That physical description combined with the name makes things pretty clear - if Olimar is the generic heroic Mario stand-in, Louie is meant to be Luigi. But Nintendo is too clever to leave it at that. No, the whole thing is a set-up - make Louie seem like a harmless Luigi-style goofball moron designed for comic relief, when in fact he was the most twisted villain in the Pikmin series all along.

Louie is a rookie employee of Hocotate Freight, a somewhat successful interplanetary delivery company based in Hocotate. On his first shipment ever, he's allegedly attacked by a Ravenous Space Bunny that eats the entire shipment of Golden Pik-Pik carrots, sending the company into a crippling 10,100 Poko debt. The only hope for the company is to have Olimar and Louie travel to PNF-404 to collect enough treasures to pawn to get the company out of debt.

And so they arrive at PNF-404 and begin collecting whatever odds and ends they can find. In the Piklopedia, while Olimar writes detailed information about the biology of each creature discovered, Louie writes about the best way to prepare them in a meal. Seriously - someone at Nintendo wrote over a hundred recipes for fictional insects.

So, sure that's weird - but otherwise, most things in Pikmin 2 proceed as you'd expect. But at the end of the game, Olimar takes off to his home planet to get the company out of debt, only to realize he has accidentally left Louie behind on PNF-404. While the credits roll, we see Louie looking frightened, and exploring the strange and unfamiliar world while solemn music plays.

There is, however, a post-game to Pikmin 2 - wherein Olimar returns to PNF-404 to get even more money for his company, and to rescue Louie (hopefully). Eventually you find him, deep within the center of a circular cave. But when you approach him, a monstrous spider-creature appears (called the "Titan Dweevil"), equipped with weapons seemingly SPECIFICALLY-designed to kill Olimar's Pikmin. The spider has an electricity shooter, a water gun, a flamethrower, and poison gas at his disposal - weapons to exploit the weaknesses of EACH type of Pikmin.

And all the while, Louie is sitting on the Titan Dweevil's head, allegedly unconscious.

pikmin lore evil spider

When you finally defeat the Dweevil and rescue Louie, he insists on being called "The King of Bugs," which is a little strange. But then things begin coming more clearly into focus - the ship's description of Louie reads "After he was kidnapped, he somehow managed to hijack a colossal insect's brain!"

Olimar ever wonders "Could he have been controlling that beast all along?!"

Adding even more fuel to the fire is the fact that you receive emails from Louie's grandmother, establishing that Louie enjoyed playing and toying with bugs as a child...as well as eat them. So Louie has lots of experience with bugs, and doesn't really care about using them for his own means.

But Louie's story gets even darker - see, if you 100% Pikmin 2, you get a special cinematic entitled "Louie's Dark Secret":

That's right - it's revealed that the entire premise of the game was a lie. The golden Pik-Pik carrots, whose value was so great that their disappearance sent the company into an insurmountable debt, weren't eaten by a ravenous space bunny at all, but Louie. Louie, by himself, ate the entire cargo and lied about it, forcing Olimar (and himself) to risk their lives to gather treasure...and risk the lives of countless Pikmin as well.

Your partner was responsible for every Pikmin death in the game, essentially. It would be like finding out Luigi sold Princess Peach to Bowser. Even if you don't buy the theory that Louie was in control of the Titan Dweevil (which he totally was), he's the whole reason the conflict in the game exists at all. He's the bad guy.

But Louie's deceptions don't end in Pikmin 2 - while Olimar and Louie are not the focus of Pikmin 3, they both play an integral role in the game. The Koppaites (the protagonists of Pikmin 3) come across Louie, still on PNF-404 - always in some sort of distress. They rescue him a few times - but the first time they rescue him, Louie wakes up, hijacks their ship, lands it further away, and steals all of their food. Because Louie's a dick.

Additionally - and this is PURELY speculative, so forgive me - the plight of the Koppaites and their quest on PNF-404 is significantly different and unrelated to the previous games. See, their planet has run dangerously low on food supplies, and their aim on PNF-404 is to bring home as much food as possible. Why would their planet have no food all of a sudden - and how could it be tied to the previous games? Some have suggested that the shipment of golden Pik-Pik carrots that Louie ate ALL BY HIMSELF were intended to arrive on Koppai (we never do learn their official destination). Again, this is headcanon to some degree, but it would make sense - and make Louie an even greater villain, literally contributing to mass starvation.

pikmin luigi standin villain

There is also an implication of a darker force at work between Pikmin 2 and 3 - that perhaps the demonic entity represented by the water-bosses has infected or possessed Louie in some way, making him a pawn of the planetary evil that has overtaken PNF-404 and ultimately culminates in the battle against the Plasm Wraith. Think Will in Stranger Things 2 - especially because we KNOW Louie ingested some of the Waterwraith in Pikmin 2. That's right - it didn't attack him or try to take him over by force, Louie actually INVITED IT INTO HIS BODY BY TRYING TO EAT A MONSTER.

In the game's Piklopedia, Olimar writes detailed explanations of the biology of the creatures on the planet, while Louie writes detailed explanations of how to cook and prepare each creature for a meal. Under the Waterwraith's section, Louie writes:

"Inedible.  Known to cause mass hysteria, followed by leg spasms and internal thunderings."

How would he know that? The same way Louie's been able to write his food preparation notes on EVERYTHING - he ATE SOME OF IT. And now...it's become PART OF HIM.

The saga of Possessed Louie continues in Pikmin 3, where we are treated to a number of video logs recorded by Olimar, and the final one is Olimar approaching the enormous oak tree that serves as the spot for the game's final battle against the Plasm Wraith. And he says some things very, very telling about Louie in that last log...

pikmin dark lore behind the scenes

pikmin dark lore behind the scenes

He specifically calls out that Louie is "perpetually mute," virtually never speaking at all. But here, he speaks up to warn Olimar against disturbing the site - and knows to run away before there's any sign of the Plasm Wraith emerging. If the Plasm Wraith were in his mind or controlling certain aspects of his consciousness, it would make sense to warn away interlopers from intruding on his "master's" domain.

It would also make the ending of the game make a lot more sense - see, by that point, Louie is back on the ship and tied up. But when you 100% the game, the Koppaites mention that Louie was on the ship when it took off, but that he is no longer aboard.

Special thanks to u/namohysip for grabbing this screencap from their Wii U Game Pad!

While it IS possible they left without him, it seems more likely Olimar would have insisted on bringing him aboard - and given he was tied up at the time, Louie probably couldn't put up much of a fight. But then, how do we explain how Louie isn't on the ship any longer? Well, look to the last thing you see in the game, after the credits have rolled....a strange object falling to PNF-404.

Or, perhaps, returning there...

pikmin dark lore behind the scenes

At first glance, it almost appears there's yet another ship crashing on PNF-404 (that could theoretically lead to Pikmin 4, another wacky adventure). The Pikmin run excitedly towards the crash site - but the implication that it's Louie who's crashing (after having desperately found a way out of the ship during its launch) changes the tone remarkably. Those Pikmin aren't running towards another ship and a fun adventure - they're running towards the greedy, hungry, demon-possessed lying asshole who is there to serve his evil master.

Screw you, Louie.