Why Is Pikmin Called Pikmin?

One of Nintendo’s most beloved games, the Pikmin series has spread its unique charm across several generations of consoles, a hand-held game, and even an augmented reality mobile game, so you can play on the go.


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The creative half-plant/half-animal creatures that are the game’s namesake are curious little things, coming in all shapes, colors, and sizes. Each type of Pikmin comes with a unique ability that helps them survive the dangerous planets you have to explore in each game. But where did Pikmin come from, and why are they called that?


What Are Pikmin?

Pikmin 3 Alph leading Pikmin carrying fruit with Bulborb following

Your first introduction to the strange little creatures known as Pikmin might have been back in the original Pikmin game. Launching on the GameCube back in 2001, the Pikmin game blended Nintendo’s iconic creativity with a real-time strategy and puzzle game.

Created by Nintendo all-star video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto, Pikmin are tiny plant and animal hybrids encountered by various galactic explorers like Captain Olimar, Alph, and Brittany.

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Found on planet PNF-404 (which stands for Planet Not Found and then the HTTP status code 404 for “Page Not Found), these creatures all feature a distinctive plant-like protrusion from the tops of their heads, with three tiers to show each individual Pikmin’s growth, leaf, bud, and flower.

While individually they are weak, getting large groups of Pikmin together reveals their true strength, being able to lift heavy objects and attack creatures much larger than themselves.

The Pikmin live in a mysterious world that seems to resemble Earth, though with some major differences. The species living on PNF-404 don’t resemble anything that we would recognize like the nocturnal hunter, Bulborbs, and the aquatic Water Dumples.

That said, much of the environment that players have to navigate features discarded tin cans and soda bottles, while the Hero’s Hideaway location seems to be in a lived-in modern-day home.

The other convincing piece of evidence that seems to suggest that PNF-404 is Earth is the oxygen-saturated environment, which the animals and plants in Pikmin breathe but is a deadly poison to Captain Olimar and the other protagonists from across the games.

Pikmin 4 Oatchi and a group of Pikmin stand on a lawn

There are several types of Pikmin you can encounter, each one with a color that corresponds with their ability to some degree. Red Pikmin are immune to fire, while Blue Pikmin can breathe underwater. There are also Yellow Pikmin, Purple Pikmin, White, Rock, Winged, Ice, and Glow Pikmin.

There are a few special categories of Pikmin as well, which include the Bulbmin and Mushroom Pikmin. Mushroom Pikmin are just regular Pikmin afflicted by the attack of a Puffstool, turning them purple and replacing the leaf on their head with a mushroom.

Bulbin are a special type of species, not officially a Pikmin but closely resembling them. They are young Bulborb creature that has been infected by an unknown parasite, causing them to present themselves as a Pikmin. These poor creatures are only found in Pikmin 2, and what is actually infecting it has never been explained.

These friendly little fellas generally follow whoever plucks them from the ground, following their orders. When they’re not doing tasks, Pikmin can be found sleeping in round pods called Onions by Captain Olimar, climbing up spindly legs to avoid the more nocturnal predators that eat them.

In-Game Name Origin

Pikpik carrots in the menu in Pikmin 4

Pikmin get their name from the musings of the stranded Captain Olimar from the original game. While reflecting on his encounter with the Pikmin and his situation of being stranded on an alien world, Olimar needed something to call his newfound companions.

Since they reminded Olimar of a special type of vegetable from his home planet of Hocotate called a Pikpik Carrot, he decided to name the Pikmin after them.

It isn’t until the fourth entry in the series do you get the species’ scientific name, pikminidae. Even then, players must rescue the civilian castaway Dalmo, who gives you the Piklopedia, which helps you keep track of the various fauna and flora on planet PNF-404. All Pikmin also belong to the class Ambuloradicis. In Latin, this translates to “walking root”, a pretty good designation for the mysterious creatures.

Related: Every Type Of Pikmin And What They Do

Real-World Name Origin

Pikmin Game Designer Shigeru Miyamoto

The real-world inspiration for Pikmin is a little different from Captain Olimar’s. Originally, the diminutive creatures were called “ippiki”. In Japanese, this means “one small animal”. During the development of the first game, Programmer Colin Reed mistakenly heard the name of the creatures as “Piki” and the nickname stuck, for a time. Over the course of development, Piki slowly became “Picky”.

Once the team sat down and decided to settle on an official name, they landed on Pikmin, which they thought sounded a little like the phrase, “pick me” and the word “vitamin”, a fitting choice since Captain Olimar must pluck them from the ground. Since these temporary names were floating around during Pikmin’s development, you can sometimes find variations of the “Piki” name in the game’s files

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