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Pikmin 3 is the third installment in the Pikmin series, released for the Wii U. Its existence was revealed at E3 2011, following nine years of near-total silence since the release of Pikmin 2. Gameplay was first shown at E3 2012, and the game was launched on July 13th, 2013 in Japan, followed by releases on July 26th in Europe, July 27th in Australia, and August 4th in North America.

Breaking the tradition set by the first two games, the player does not step into the shoes of Captain Olimar this time around, but rather three new pilots from the planet Koppai: Alph, Brittany, and Charlie. Their planet is suffering a massive food shortage, and in a desperate attempt at salvation the three fly to the Pikmin planet (which they dub PNF-404) to collect fruit seeds to cultivate back home. However, an accident before landing scatters the trio and their Cosmic Drive Key, a component critical for getting back home, across the wild surface of the planet. The three pilots, with the help of the Pikmin, must reunite, recover the drive key, and gather enough fruit to save their race from extinction while dealing with a familiar pair of explorers that also seem to have business on the planet...

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Pikmin 3 introduces a system where the GamePad can be used to have a quick look-around of the map, alongside a "go here" feature that can be used to have captains automatically head to a specific location, making multitasking easier and more efficient. While the Pikmin varieties introduced in the previous game don't return in the game's main storyline (although White and Purple Pikmin appear in certain DLC missions), two new variants are introduced — Rock Pikmin, who can shatter hard obstacles and deal increased damage when thrown but which can't cling to enemies, and Winged Pikmin, who deal very little damage to enemies but whose flight allows them to safely move above enemies, obstacles and hazards.

A number of DLC packs were released for the game, consisting chiefly of collections of one-short mission scenarios. The Collect Treasure pack, released on October 1, 2013, added four stages themed around collecting large quantities of items. The Battle Enemies pack, released on November 6, 2013, instead has four stages focused on killing monsters. A third DLC, released on December 2, 2013, adds eight new stages (the previous DLC remixed preexisting ones instead), four being Collect Treasure missions and four being Battle Enemies ones. A port for the Nintendo Switch, titled Pikmin 3 Deluxe, was released on October 30, 2020 and developed by Eighting. The port incorporates all DLC from the Wii U version and adds a number of features to the base game — a prologue and epilogue starring Olimar and Louie, selectable difficulty modes, cooperative play, and the return of the Piklopedia from Pikmin 2.

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This game provides examples of:

  • Achievement System: 3 Deluxe awards "badges" for completing certain objectives.
  • Alphabetical Theme Naming: The game's playable characters are Alph, Brittany and Charlie, the three playable characters. Also a potential Shout-Out, as Alph and Charlie's names are derived from the NATO alphabet.
  • Another Side, Another Story: Pikmin 3 Deluxe has an additional side story chronicling Olimar and Louie's misadventures before and after the main story of Pikmin 3 takes place.
  • Anti-Armor: Rock Pikmin specialize in shattering and destroying hard, crystalline objects that other Pikmin can't so much as scratch. Thus, when facing enemies such as the Armored Mawmad or the Calcified Crushblat that are completely encased in crystalline armor, Rock Pikmin play a vital role in destroying their targets' armor plating to leave them exposed to other Pikmin's attacks.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Pikmin 3 adds a few changes and features to deal with some of the more annoying aspects of the previous games.
    • The weight of many treasures and creatures have been tweaked in order to lower how many Pikmin are needed to carry them. In the previous games, the average treasure would need at least 20 Pikmin to carry, with some going into the 40s at times. Here, most fruits weigh around 10, with 20 as the absolute maximum. This helps greatly in your Pikmin management, as you can now carry more objects at a time while still having enough pikmin left for other tasks.
    • The "go here" function. While Pikmin 2 has two captains, the closest thing it has to a "go here" function is the Napsack, which can only be used to carry a captain back to the ship at most. This makes using the two captains effectively rather annoying. Pikmin 3's "go here" function allows you to remotely command a captain and his/her Pikmin to go somewhere without doing it manually, making multi-tasking far less straining.
    • Pikmin who are farming berries will automatically head back to the berry plant to continue farming them, unlike in Pikmin 2 where they wait at the ship until you manually guide them back to the plant. This makes building up sprays far easier and less of a chore to do.
    • In the first two games, items carried back to the ship interrupt what you're doing to play a cutscene explaining said item, disrupting your concentration and possibly costing you Pikmin in the process. Especially in the second game, where the number of items is increased from 30 to 201. In Pikmin 3, this only happens with plot-relevant items or suit upgrades, and fruit is only detailed at the end of the day, making such instances of this far less frequent.
    • Sub areas are separated by tiny loading zones but, for sake of consistency, you can see your Pikmin walk past the fade to black for the captains, and these Pikmin are also out of reach of your whistle for purposes of being called back. While they're in said loading zones, Pikmin are considered "safe" if the day ends so you don't lose them because it's physically impossible to retrieve them.
    • When Louie steals your juice and thus your counter is unexpectedly reduced to 0, the new area that the plot unlocks has multiple juicy fruits within ease of reach, so while things are suddenly very desperate, you're not in any immediate danger of a game over unless you end the day or just faff around.
    • The game removes the ability to swarm Pikmin, and they usually default to following All in a Row. For boss fights, where it's easier for Pikmin lagging behind to get caught, they automatically bunch up closer together.
    • Pikmin 3 Deluxe:
      • Entries in the Piklopedia are added when you carry an enemy's body back to the Onion. For enemies that don't leave behind a body, their entries are added upon defeat, and the invincible Iridescent Flint Beetle gets logged when you attack it. However, enemies that only spawn in finite amounts per playthrough (mostly minibosses and unique monsters like the Calcified Crushblat) will always get logged upon death, preventing their entries from becoming Permanently Missable Content because they weren't carried back.
      • The way that squads work has been overhauled, now when you tell a squad to charge, it only uses the selected type instead of all of them, so you no longer have to manually split squads to keep them from, for example, charging face-first into a fire enemy because they're bunched in with your red Pikmin. Squad splitting also keeps the currently active squad on hand. And at the same time, there's no "cooldown" on this action so if you do want to send your entire army, you can just mash the X button to rapidly pile them up.
      • Pikmin that are in the middle of a harmless task like building walls or carrying objects now take two whistles to stop, so you don't cancel a task unless you're really sure you want to. Pikmin in combat will still respond on the first whistle, since if you're calling them back, you're probably doing it to keep them safe.
      • Holding the throw button while locked onto a target now automatically throws your pikmin instead of having to repeatedly tap it, this makes it much easier (and nicer on the thumb) to throw a squad of pikmin to a ledge with waiting captains, or to stack up a significant number of them on an enemy that can't be reached by charging.
      • Ledges that you're meant to throw captains or Pikmin onto now have tiny screws on them that can be locked onto, making it less likely you could miss with tragic results and letting you do the automatic throws mentioned just above.
      • Finally, a button is added to the Drake that, if pressed, sends out a global "return to base" ping that will make your Pikmin drop what they're doing and try to get back to the Onion if possible, making it significantly less annoying to get stray Pikmin before sundown or leave them to their fate (assuming nothing lethal is in the way and the path isn't blocked).
  • Antlion Monster: The Sandbelching Meerslug is a big-lipped worm fought in a patch of sand, and its main attack involves creating a large funnel in the sand and using it to send your Pikmin sliding into its waiting mouth.
  • Apocalypse How: Koppai is facing a class one due to a massive food shortage threatening it with catastrophic worldwide famine.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Inverted. Though one can find several notes left behind from Olimar, Olimar left them there as helpful hints for anyone who experiences the situation he was in before in the first game. The first log you find in 3 where you learn Olimar is the one leaving the messages, it's a "tell my family I didn't make it" type of log, implying that it was actually an Apocalyptic Log. Not only do you learn he's alive later, he's much more active than the logs lead you to believe; not only that, he's been just barely one step ahead of you the whole time. The secret log videos which players can find also suggest that some of the more outlandish files and placement of the logs can be attributed to the faulty bargain-priced equipment his boss provided, leaking or ejecting data files as he travels.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Louie is guilty of stealing all the food supplies of the S.S. Drake… and Charlie's favorite rubber ducky.
  • Badass in Distress: Olimar was able to take on several monsters and other things when he got stuck on PNF-404 in the first two games. Here, he needs to be saved by the Koppai crew.
  • Bag of Spilling: In one of the secret logs, Olimar, after watching Louie get attacked by an electric creature, laments that they didn't hold onto the electric-resistant material they used to upgrade their suits in Pikmin 2.
  • Barrier Change Boss: The Plasm Wraith has elements of this, it spits out balls of gooey stuff, (plasm, presumably) each of which is vulnerable to only one type of Pikmin, which appear to be Cast from Hit Points, and then reabsorbs them after a while if they aren't destroyed. Downplayed in that you can just beat it with a Zerg Rush on the boss's main body, but it's overall a far slower and less efficient way of taking it down.
  • Battle in the Rain: The game does this for the last two bosses. Rain normally happens randomly, but if the player does not fight the Quaggled Mireclops the day it can be fought, all following days in that area will be rainy until it is defeated. The same goes for the Plasm Wraith, meaning that both bosses will usually end up being fought in the rain.
  • Bee-Bee Gun: The Scornet Maestro is a giant bee-like creature that has control over smaller Scornets. Its attacks all consist of calling its Scornets to its side and then shooting them at you in a number of patterns, such as in a steady, single-file stream of angry bees or large lines all moving for you at once.
  • Big Eater: A large part of Koppai's population eats too much, which leads to a worldwide famine. Several astronauts from the planet are entrusted the task to look for food on different planets. Three such captains (Alph, Britanny and Charlie) end up finding the Pikmin planet, where they find lots of fruit (as well as their seeds, so they can be harvested in Koppai).
  • Big, Thin, Short Trio: The three main characters are the big, stout Charlie, the tall but thin Brittany, and Alph, the shortest of the group.
  • Bleak Level: The Formidable Oak. It's on a giant termite mound in the middle of the desert, there are initially no enemies, the music is very minimal (unless it's raining), and the color scheme outside is mostly brown. After encountering enemies that aren't the Eldritch Abomination Final Boss, killing them reveals that they are actually made of the same substance said boss is made of. There isn't even any fruit; the goal of the level is to instead get Olimar to the ship.
  • Blob Monster: The Plasm Wraith can turn parts of itself into crystal, water, a kind of flammable goo, or a spike that can generate electricity. It also floats.
  • Bowdlerise: One of the many unorthodoxly-named real-world items that you can collect in-game is an avocado. In the Japanese version, this item is referred to as a "Crocodile Scrotum", whereas in the English versions, it's known as a "Scaly Custard".
  • Brick Joke: Charlie's favorite rubber duck goes AWOL around the same time as when Louie steals the ship's food supply. When Louie is brought back to the ship, the ship reports that Louie has the rubber ducky on him.
  • Broken Armor Boss Battle: The game makes use of this trope through its use of Rock Pikmin, which specializes in smashing hard objects and features the use of crystal as a material that no other Pikmin type can break or affect.
    • The game's first boss, the Armored Mawdad, is covered by a crystalline shell that renders it impervious to your Pikmin's attacks, as they just bounce off its armor without causing any damage. In order to defeat it, you must use Rock Pikmin to shatter its shell and expose its soft flesh, at which point all Pikmin types are able to harm it. This extends to breaking the two purely crystalline mandibles the Mawmad used to corral Pikmin towards its mouth, which if shattered severely limit its ability to control and herd off your forces.
    • The Quaggled Mireclops has a single vulnerable area, a large fruit-like bulb, that's encased in a large crystal. You need to partly shatter it to start the battle, but a large quantity remains present around the bulb once the fight begins and the Mireclops can only be damaged once the crystal has been entirely removed.
    • A later miniboss, the Calcified Crushblat, is entirely encased in a solid shell of thick, bumpy crystal that makes it completely impervious to attack unless you destroy it with Rock Pikmin.
  • Broken Bridge: The watery portion of the Garden of Hope where Blue Pikmin are obtained is blocked by a cinder block, which is giant from the point of view of the characters. It's not opened until after getting Louie, where he'll run off with the juice and blow up the block.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": The fruit all have amusing names; lemons are "face wrinklers", the banana is a "slapstick crescent", the peach is a "mock bottom", and so on. The Slapstick Crescent is notable because Brittany claims the others have gone bananas for it while having no clue what to actually call it.
  • Call-Back:
    • In Pikmin 1, in order for Olimar to get his first ship part, he needs to make enough Pikmin to push a cardboard box out of the way. In order for Alph to reach the ship after crash-landing, he needs to do the exact same thing.
    • During his side story in 3 Deluxe, Olimar muses that collecting lost ship parts feels familiar.
  • Christmas Episode: The "Round 3" DLC includes a level themed after a Christmas party taking place in someone's house.
  • Colossus Climb: The battle against the spider-like Shaggy Long Legs requires you to get your Pikmin to climb up the creature's legs to pluck out the protective hair on its torso and limbs that prevent you attacking it directly. This is one of the rare instances where it's an actual Colossus Climb, as usually Pikmin have to be thrown by a captain onto larger enemies.
  • Console Cameo: Each member of the crew carries a Kopad which in-universe has all the non-character control functions the Wii U Game Pad has. When playing on the TV with the game pad, cut scenes featuring the characters using their pads as communication devices show them holding their pad (as seen from their point of view) and the other character appears on the screen of said pad, along with their dialogue boxes, much too small to read. A message tells players to look down at their GamePad, which now shows the same scenes as the Kopads. When using just the GamePad or one of the alternate control schemes, the cutscene doesn't feature the hands and pad border.
  • Contractual Boss Immunity: All but two bosses have a "damage threshold" that prevents Pikmin from killing them in one cycle. This is especially obvious with the Scornet Maestro; you can see its health wheel go down when swarmed by Pikmin... only for the wheel to stop a quarter-way through for no logical reason.
  • Creepy Centipedes: The first major Boss Battle is against the Armored Mawdad, a centipede-like beast with lots of amphibious legs and a thick crystalline-armored carapace.
  • Cypher Language: The Koppaite script, seen scrolling various places in the background. It is a cypher for English, and a lot of it is meaningful, including developer's notes here and there. Some of it, however, is just gibberish.
  • Damage-Sponge Boss: The only thing you can do to the Plasm Wraith is to simply swarm all of your Pikmin onto its body, but it can take a ridiculous amount of punishment even if you use Ultra-Spicy Spray. Worse yet, if you don't attack the blobs the boss drops upon losing health, it heals itself. Said blobs eventually become cubes that you have to use a certain Pikmin type to take out, so the battle can drag on for a long time if you don't try to take out the blobs/cubes alongside attacking the boss.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!:
    • If you're used to the New Play Control versions of the first two games, this is bound to come up. Dismiss is moved from C to shaking the Nunchuck, switch the Pikmin you're throwing is moved from B to C, and swarming was removed entireley.
    • The Pro Controller's control scheme is also mapped differently compared to the original GameCube version's control scheme, despite the similar controllers.
    • 3 Deluxe changes some the controls from the original Wii U version. If you're used to the original, the new controls might need some getting used to.
  • Developer's Foresight:
    • The game has a rather large list of plot-related logs that seem to account for the day ending at any point, such as a unique log for finding the data file on the path to the Armored Mawdad but not getting to the actual boss, or for defeating the Quaggled Mireclops but failing to actually bring Louie back to the ship afterward.
    • Attempting to use Sequence Breaking glitches without getting certain critical points (such as trying to enter the Sandbelching Meerslug's arena without rescuing Charlie, getting Blue Pikmin prior to Louie stealing the juice, or trying to fight the Quaggled Mireclops without rescuing the Blue Onion) will result in the game placing Invisible Walls to prevent you from going further.
  • Didn't Think This Through: One of the reasons Koppai is having a massive food shortage is because of a general lack of planning for the future.
  • Difficulty by Region: Despite the franchise being notable for its speed-running community, Pikmin 3 has a lot of off things added in the North American version that discourages speed-running the game, such as adding invisible walls to certain areas if you attempt to do it out of sequence, or making it so the bosses stop taking damage after a certain amount during each phase of their fight (for example, being able to take out only one-third of the Scornet Maestro's health each time you knock it down, or being flat-out unable to kill the Armored Mawdad until it gets at least one attack in). These features are not present in the Japanese, European and Australian versions of the game, meaning it's flatly impossible to get the same time attack scores people who have those versions of the game do.
  • Downloadable Content: The Wii U version received three level packs for Mission Mode. The first pack includes five new Gather Treasure missions, remixing the five maps already in the game. The second includes five new Battle Enemies missions, but used remixed story maps instead of the Mission Mode maps. The last pack added five new missions for both types, using five entirely new maps. The first map in each pack is free, while the other four are paid content. The Updated Re-release Pikmin 3 Deluxe for the Switch includes all DLC as part of the base content.
  • Dramatic Irony: The Koppaites think that the Hoctotatian that stole all their food is Captain Olimar. Anyone who knows anything about the previous game knows it's actually Louie (naturally) the moment they laid eyes on him.
  • Easter Egg:
    • If you get twenty of all the Pikmin types available in the main story mode following you, they'll hum the title screen song to Pikmin 2.
    • You can find several cave drawings of the Pikmin doing various tasks in out-of-the-way places in each region.
    • Collecting all of the fruit will grant more than enough juice to finish the game. But if it that massive supply of juice gets drunk, Brittany will have special dialogue about it. You pretty much have to go out of your way to see it.
  • Escort Mission: The Formidable Oak has you go up to the top, have Pikmin carry Olimar, and then guide him along a different route back to base while fighting enemies and solving puzzles. And while this is happening, the Mama Bear Eldritch Abomination known as the Plasm Wraith stalks Olimar in an attempt to reclaim him. Once you get back to base, the Plasm Wraith goes One-Winged Angel and absorbs Olimar to initiate the Final Boss fight.
  • Eternal Engine: The "Round Three" DLC includes a level type like this, and it's up and running instead of rusted out like the metal chambers from Pikmin 2. It features conveyor belts and switches that the three captains need to work together to get around.
  • Everything Fades: After being killed, the enemies in The Very Definitely Final Dungeon collapse into puddles of yellow slime that quickly dissolve. In this case, they're not actually real creatures, but fascimiles made out of the Plasm Wraith's gelatinous body, and as such disintegrate back into ooze when 'killed'.
  • Extreme Omnivore: The enemies become this when you realize they're essentially eating rocks. How do animals that eat carrot-like creatures become instantly adept at eating rocks?
  • Eye Scream: You can have your Pikmin attack the eyes of Bulborbs to stun them and disrupt their attacking pattern. Useful if one is chomping down on your Pikmin. The Bug-Eyed Crawmad must also be attacked in the eyes in order to flip it over and expose its soft belly.
  • Feed It a Bomb: The Sandbelching Meerslug periodically creates an antlion-like sand pit in an attempt to draw your squad into its mouth. When it does this, it's possible to toss in a bomb-rock and let the Meerslug swallow it. It will detonate in its mouth and blow it onto the surface, where it will lay stunned and vulnerable to attack.
  • Final-Exam Boss: The final level forces you to travel (while being chased) multiple environments requiring the use of all the skills of your Pikmin. The boss itself attacks with elemental hazards similarly to the Titan Dweevil from the second game, and can fly into the air (mandating the use of Winged Pikmin to bring it back down).
  • Flunky Boss: The Scornet Maestro commands a horde of up to 100 Scornets and manipulates them into defending itself and attacking. The Maestro cannot attack or defend itself whatsoever without the help of Scornets.
  • Food Porn: The fruit look good enough to eat, and the ones with rough exteriors (like kiwis) are split open to show the juicy innards. The game even lets you spin the fruit around to view it from any angle. When the fruit are processed at the end of the day, the juice is also brightly colored, lovingly animated and positively thirst-inducing.
  • Forest of Perpetual Autumn: The Twilight River takes place in a temperate forest in rich fall colors, with red, yellow, orange and brown leaves filling the background, forest floor and scenery.
  • Fragile Flyer: As their name suggests, Winged Pikmin can fly, which allows them to bypass most obstacles and bring items back to your ship quicker. In order to prevent them from being overpowered, they also deal the least amount of damage to enemies.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: In Pikmin 3 Deluxe, Alph can try to get a strawberry, which he will then catalogue in a glossary about fruits. However, because Brittany is the botanist of the group but she's unavailable, the fruit's entry remains empty until she is rescued.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: Alph and Charlie volunteer to distract the Plasm Wraith while Brittany brings Olimar to their ship. However, the Plasm Wraith only targets Olimar, and therefore it will follow Brittany while ignoring Alph and Charlie. As a result, it is a more effective strategy to have Brittany distract the Plasm Wraith while Alph and Charlie go ahead and clear the path to their ship.
  • The Ghost: Brittany makes frequent references to her Auntie Bea in her notes, but Auntie Bea is never shown in the game.
  • Giant Enemy Crab: The Bugeyed Crawmads are minibosses that appear twice in story mode and a few more times in bonus levels and resemble heavily built and armored mantis shrimp. They're some of the largest non-boss enemies in the games by a fairly substantial margin, dwarfing both the player characters and the smaller Hermit Crawmads they sometimes appear alongside. They have two weak points to attack: Their giant dangling eyeballs and then their soft belly.
  • Golden Ending: If you beat the final boss and end the game before you get all of the fruits in the game, you will get an ending that states that the heroes' homeworld has been saved for now, but they're only kicking the can down the road on the species' starvation, whereas if you get all the fruit, you get a much more upbeat ending extolling the virtues of teamwork and stating that the planet was never again in danger of mass starvation.
  • Gotta Catch Them All: There are sixty-six fruits, and the game awards you a better ending for finding them all, but to finish the game you only need as much fruit juice as you need days to find the Cosmic Drive Key.
  • Guide Dang It!: Completing the Piklopedia is mostly an easy task for completionists, since you'll likely run into every enemy at least once over the course of gathering all the fruit, aside from a few inside the Formidable Oak. However, the Red Spectralid is very likely to be a Last Lousy Point: unlike the frequent White and Yellow Spectralids, Red Spectralids can only spawn at the body of the Quaggled Mireclops on days following its defeat, a place you'd only revisit out of sheer curiosity.
  • Happy Ending Override: After being saved in the last game, Hocotate Freight ends up in another debt that unfortunately isn't cleared this time.
  • Hero of Another Story: While the Koppaites are running around collecting seeds for their people, Olimar and Louie are running around collecting treasure for Hocotate Freight, which is once again in debt.
  • He Was Right There All Along: The Quaggled Mireclops, which at first appears to be merely an oddly-shaped hill poking out of the mud, with something organic-looking buried inside of a crystalline substance. Try to break it, and the 'hill' underneath you will begin to rise...
  • Human Snowball: The snowballs shot by Arctic Cannon Larvae can pick up Pikmin and send them rolling downhill until the ball crashes and breaks apart.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • After defeating the Sandbelching Meerslug, Charlie calls the creature gluttonous, and says that he's glad Koppaites aren't gluttons like it was. Of course, it was their appetites than led them to despoil their planet and send him to PNF-404 in the first place.
    • Brittany chastises Louie because he always talks about food. However, of all the Koppaites, she's the one who talks about food the most.
  • Indestructible Edible: The game has you collecting a variety of fruit, all of which look perfectly ripe and not spoiled in any way despite many of them being found buried in the dirt, submerged in river, lying around in caves or within the guts of large animals.
  • Interface Spoiler: Deluxe includes the Piklopedia, which not only has Alph's standard observations of the creatures, but Brittany and Charlie have their own thoughts on them as well. The menu has empty spaces which one gets filled by Charlie after he joins the party, indicating that you'll have two more people writing in as well. Given that one of the early Data Files is explicitly written by Captain Olimar, it's clear he'll be one of the Piklopedia writers and who the other one will be.
  • Joke of the Butt: Two of the fruits, a peach and a plum, are respectively called the "Mock Bottom" and the "Lesser Mock Bottom." Brittany's notes on both of them remark how they resemble butts.
  • Jungle Japes: Tropical Wilds is an area set in the jungle near its beach. Dense greenery surrounds the explorable area and, as the name suggests, the stage has a tropical theme. It also overlaps with Palmtree Panic, as it's a sandy area with plenty of aquatic enemies, its boss being set closer to the sandy beach in a place that offers a view of the ocean.
  • Justified Tutorial: As the game's main characters are new additions to the cast who have never been to the Pikmin's world before, the tutorial sections of the game consist of them getting used to their new surroundings and teaching themselves how to lead the Pikmin.
  • King Mook: The Scornet Maestro is this to the smaller Scornets it controls, as is the giant Bug-Eyed Crawmad to the smaller, more common Hermit Crawmads.
  • Late Character Syndrome: You don't receive Blue Pikmin until the very end of the game and by that point much of their usefulness is taken up by Winged Pikmin, leaving them only useful for the handful of puzzles and fruits in previous areas that require them.
  • Leitmotif: The game has a few, more traditional leitmotifs for the various characters. The first seven notes of 2's main theme are associated with the Pikmin themselves, and the tune that was used for discoveries and gathered treasures has become indicative of Hocotate as a whole. The new protagonists from Koppai have their own motif, and finally, the final boss has one. Brittany, Charlie, and Louie each get their own theme when they are introduced, as well.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang!: With the number of captains upped to three (compared to one in Pikmin and two in Pikmin 2), it's shown that this is more-or-less the point of the game.
  • Letter Motif: The protagonists are named Alph, Brittany, and Charlie, while their ship is named Drake.
  • Lily-Pad Platform: The Pikmin and the playable characters ride lilypads in the Twilight River section. Justified: after all, they all are very small.
  • The Lost Woods: The Garden of Hope, which is an original location that still borrows many of the characteristics seen in its previous games' counterparts, while also featuring a large tree slump guarded by a crystal-covered monster named the Armored Mawdad as well as a muddy field where the Quaggled Mireclops rests.
  • MacGuffin: The Cosmic Drive Key. The plot revolves around tracking the thing down so the Koppaites can return home.
  • Marathon Boss:
    • The Plasm Wraith continues the tradition of long-lasting final bosses. Before you even actually fight it, you're forced to go through the longest Escort Mission in the game. Once the actual fight begins, you'll very quickly discover that the boss easily rivals the Titan Dweevil in regards of total health. Be aware that the boss' health can actually regenerate if you don't go out of your way to attack the source of healing. In fact, it can take so much punishment, you don't actually end up killing it.
    • Among the minibosses, the Shaggy Long Legs takes the longest to defeat because the player has to unveil the weak point first, and for that all eight knots of hair (located in the legs) have to be dealt with. It doesn't help that the boss has a bad habit of moving from one place to another, forcing the captains to either go on foot to the proper destination to resume the fight, or split up to intercept the boss (which itself is risky if one of the captains is currently low on Pikmin).
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: Alph, who will sometimes state in his notes he has twelve older brothers, one older sister, and one younger brother.
  • Military Alphabet: The three captains are named after the first three letters in the NATO alphabet: Alph, Brittany, and Charlie.
  • Mini-Boss: The Shaggy Long Legs, Burrowing Snagret, and the Bug-Eyed Crawmad, which provide tougher-than-usual challenges in their own dedicated arenas but don't cap off exploration of a large area, don't yield progression items, and are a lot simpler than the game's proper boss battles.
  • Mirror Boss: The Scornet Maestro. While the other bosses are giant predators, the Maestro is a relatively small bug who commands an army of 100 tiny flying insects, mirroring how you can control up to 100 Winged Pikmin. The Maestro can't defend itself if it gets caught without any flunkies; while you have a punching attack as an Emergency Weapon, it's weaker than a single Pikmin strike, making it very impractical.
  • Monster Compendium: While not present in the original game, Pikmin 3 Deluxe includes a new Piklopedia, this time listing how many times the creature in question has been killed and where it's usually found, alongside a video demonstration of the creature. Each of the five playable captains has notes describing the creatures; Olimar and Louie follow the same trends they did in 2, while the three Koppai captains have unique outlooks, with Alph taking an engineer's look and describing the creature's structure, strengths, and weaknesses, Brittany describing the creature's appearance and habits, and Charlie noting the creature's attacking techniques and how to fight them.
  • Mood Whiplash: The Collect Treasure version of Fortress of Festivity is an adorable Christmas-themed level where you finally get to use all seven main types of Pikmin. There are no enemies or hazards, and you would practically have to be trying to get Pikmin killed in the level — until you find a way up onto the pizza, where you have to face off against a sudden miniboss fight against a Bug-Eyed Crawmad. This isn't too hard if you know how to fight one and have gotten enough of the Pikmin from the stage, but it's still quite a contrast from the peaceful atmosphere of the rest of the area.
  • Moth Menace: The Vehemoth Phosbat, the second boss of the game, is a bioluminescent half-moth half-bat creature that dwells in dark caverns. When not exposed to bright light, it is completely intangible and proves to be a very serious threat. It even ate the Koppai team leader Charlie at the start of the game.
  • Multiplayer-Only Item: Like in the second game, the multiplayer mode include several items that can be earned randomly, and each of them provides a different effect either in favor of the player who got it, or against the rival player.
  • Multiple Endings: The game gives different endings depending on how much fruit you get.
    • The worst ending has the narrator state that, even with careful planning, the characters have most likely only delayed their species' extinction.
    • The good ending (at least twenty fruit) has the narrator state that careful planning and management will allow for the people of Koppai to live on, with the characters having learned the necessary skills thanks to working with the Pikmin.
    • The best ending (all sixty-six fruit) has the narrator exclaim that the explorers have more than enough resources to rejuvenate life on Koppai and raise the possibility that the crash of the S.S. Drake was intentional. Additionally, there's a post-credits scene showing another object crash-landing on PNF-404, and the final log entry reveals that Louie never got on the ship with the rest of the characters.
  • Nerf:
    • Punching. In the first game, it provides a way for Olimar to attack without his Pikmin, and in the second game it's even more useful with a second captain and the Rocket Fist upgrade. Not only does the third game not allow you to attack with multiple captains anymore, but the punches are harder to land and do less damage than a single Pikmin.
    • Purple Pikmin in Mission Mode have lost all of the combat strength and stunning ability that made them such powerhouse game breakers in their debut game, merely retaining their 10x lifting strength.
    • Similarly, White Pikmin can no longer locate underground items, have no poison hazards to destroy, and the poison they release upon being consumed by enemies is much weaker. Their main draw is really just their ability to retrieve items quickly.
    • Electricity kills any Pikmin that are not yellow in the second game, without you being able to save them. Here, it only stuns them.
  • Nice Mean And In Between: The three captains fall into this. You have the somewhat naïve and energetic Alph (Nice), the Deadpan Snarker food hogger Brittany (Mean) and the mostly nice but stern Charlie (In-Between).
  • Nintendo Hard: The Ultra-Spicy mode in 3 Deluxe makes the game like this if you so choose. Days are shorter, Pikmin drown quicker, fruit gives less juice, and the amount of Pikmin that can be deployed is nearly halved.
  • No Body Left Behind: In [[spoiler:the Final Landing site Formidable Oak], every defeated enemy collapse into puddles of golden liquid that swiftly evaporate.
  • Non-Indicative Name: The Formidable Oak is not an oak or even a tree at all. It takes place on a termite mound in the middle of a desert.
  • Noob Cave: The game has both the snowy cavern in Distant Tundra through which Charlie goes during the prologue (later explored in a proper way), and a small cavern Alph goes through in his first day in Tropical Wilds.
  • Noodle Incident: It's never really explained how Hocotate Freight ended up in debt again.
  • Nostalgia Level: The round three DLC contains this in the form of the 'Forgotten Cove', which is basically a compressed Forest Navel. The Collect Treasures version not only features Red, Yellow, and Blue Pikmin, it even has a Baldy Long Legs in the exact same room where the Beady Long Legs was fought in the first game!
  • Once More, with Clarity!: The ending credits montage of concludes with a scene where the Pikmin see something falling into the atmosphere of their planet and running off to investigate. The "Olimar's Comeback" side story in Pikmin 3 Deluxe opens with Olimar and Louie returning to PNF-404 to retrive their ship, with the pod they're riding in burning up as they enter the planet's atmosphere. The last scene of the credits then replays.
  • One-Hit Kill: The final boss will instantly kill any enemy it touches during the "chase" phase. Subverted in that the enemies are made out of the same material as it and are implied to be created by the same being. The Plasm Wraith could just be re-absorbing them, but the process still resembles the enemies "dying," their health circles instantly draining.
  • Only The Leads Get a Happy Ending: The game ends with Koppai's food shortage remedied, but Hocotate Freight is still in debt and they've lost two employees on top of that.
  • Only One Save File: Only one save file is stored per Wii U account. Its two predecessors have three each. To make up for this, the game provides a rollback function allowing the player to return to a previous day, should they feel their progression is flawed (i.e. too many Pikmin lost along the way, or too little fruit juice left).
  • Optional Boss: Deluxe features a new boss at the end of the "Olimar's Comeback" sidestory: a golden mix between a Shaggy Long Legs and the otherwise-absent Raging Long Legs from Pikmin 2. Since it's not part of the main game, it lacks a Piklopedia entry and thus goes unnamed.
  • Orchestral Bombing: The game uses orchestral music for particularly large-scale boss battles, a pretty sharp contrast from the lower-key, atmospheric themes heard in the rest of the game (and series).
  • Palatial Sandcastle: The dirt gates look like giant sandcastles (at least compared to the minuscule characters), with crenelled turrets on both sides and a big sturdy wall that can only be brought down by a continuous assault of Pikmins. Also, the Bingo Mode arena "Sandbox Kingdom" features a big sandcastle that could serve as an actual castle for the puny Koppi and Hocotatians.
  • Palmtree Panic: The Tropical Wilds consist of a stretch of tropical forest next to a beach. Most of the area's exploration is done in the forest's undergrowth, although several areas require the player to navigate areas of shallow water, but a path leads to a sandy arena in the beach proper where the area's Sand Worm boss is fought.
  • Planet of Copyhats: The game manages to do this to an entire planet. In the first two games, the only vegetables Hocotatians are shown eating are Pikpik carrots, and in the second game Olimar and Louie keep sneaking bites of all the edible treasure, many of which are meat. The President of Hocotate Freight is also the only one shown to be especially greedy when it comes to the planet's treasure. In Pikmin 3, the Koppaites talk about Hocotatians as if they're all treasure-loving vegetarians, but it's unclear if this is grounded in fact or simply stereotyping.
  • Planet of Hats: The residents of Koppai are all Big Eaters, which is part of the reason they're in the situation they're in (the other being a lack of foresight for said gluttonous habits). Brittany also mentions that Hocotatians are renowned for being greedy treasure hunters.
  • Previous Player-Character Cameo: Captain Olimar only appears at the end of the game. Louie appears a while earlier in the story.
  • Rapid-Fire "No!": Alph will let out rapid fire noes when he's getting chased or hurt by enemies.
  • Replay Mode: The game adds a boss replay mode within Mission Mode to challenge the bosses that have been unlocked by finding them in the main campaign, this time with a time limit and some of the Pikmin needing to seized from the ground for extra challenge.
  • Resource-Gathering Mission: The story of the game is that the planet Koppai is suffering from a food shortage due to a booming population, leading to Alph, Brittany, and Charlie being assigned to travel to PNF 404 to retrieve the seeds of the planet's flora and bring them back to Koppai. Any fruits found will also be converted into juice to sustain the crew during their mission, meaning more time to find more food.
  • Retcon: The best ending establishes that the Koppaites and Olimar accidentally leave Louie on PNF-404 and don't bother to go back for him. The postgame Side Story Olimar's Comeback in Deluxe, however, shows both Olimar and Louie being sent back to the planet to retrieve the Hocotate Ship immediately after returning home, meaning that Louie did get on the SS Drake and got back the same time as Olimar.
  • Running Gag: The secret videos have Olimar explaining what he has been doing while Louie fails miserably in battle a short distance from him. The exception is the report that foreshadows their encounter with the game's final boss.
  • Same Content, Different Rating: The game got a bump up in the US, Canada and Europe, from the last game's E/3+ to E10+/7+ respectively. It's barely different from its two predecessors, other than a slightly darker plot, and has the same ESRB content descriptor of Mild Cartoon Violence.
  • Sand Worm: The Sandbelching Meerslug is an Antlion Monster resembling a fat worm with a vertebrate mouth that serves as the boss of the Tropical Wilds, where it's fought in a large sandpit. Much of the fight has you track it down as it tunnels about in the sand, then Feed It a Bomb once it makes the sand funnel with its mouth at the bottom. Ironically, since Pikmin are little more that 10cm tall, the Sandbelching Meerslug wouldn't be considered giant to us.
  • Seasonal Baggage: Like the second game, Pikmin 3 has the main areas based on the four seasons, though it employs a reverse order: Tropical Wilds (summer), Garden of Hope (spring), Distant Tundra (winter), and Twilight River (autumn); there's a fifth area, but it's thematically apart from the others and serves as the final destination. This also applies to the non-DLC Mission Mode levels in the third game, with an added desert environment.
  • Security Blanket: Captain Charlie brings a rubber duck with him on every mission because he considers it good luck. His odd love of it becomes an amusing Running Gag.
  • Sequel Hook: The game ends with a comet-like object falling into the distance while the Pikmin see it and run to check it out. Also, while the Drake is taking off, the Plasm Wraith can be clearly seen roaring at it, fully regenerated. Getting all the fruit raises the possibility that the SS Drake's initial crash was not an accident. And after that, if you try to play again, you can read a final ship log revealing that Louie has gone missing again.
  • Sequel Reset: According to Olimar's expedition logs in Pikmin 3, Hocotate Freight's latest venture left them in debt. Again. This is why Olimar and Louie are back on PNF-404 during the events of the game.
  • Shout-Out: The game references several NES games in its intro cutscene. In the scene where the three main characters are shown departing their home planet for PNF-404, the walking sound effect from Mario Bros. plays (the cutscene is a computer visualization of the game's backstory). When their ship malfunctions and they're forced to eject, the Duck Hunt Dog's laugh can be heard.
  • Simultaneous Arcs: The game starts this way, since the S.S. Drake malfunctions shortly before landing causing its crew to be split up. We start by seeing the first day of exploration from Charlie's point of view, then we switch to Alph's point of view as he attempts to locate the S.S. Drake.
  • Skewed Priorities: Olimar and Louie return back to the Pikmin planet because Olimar hopes to get enough funds to buy back his ship, the S.S. Dolphin, which was sold in the second game. After their ship gets destroyed by one of the game's bosses and leaves them stranded on the planet, it's still the only thing Olimar can think about. It gets to the point Olimar starts to neglect Louie until Louie finally snaps and can only think about his base survival instincts, leaving Olimar in the process. Despite this, Olimar is still hell-bent on getting his ship back, and eventually gets captured by the game's final boss as a result.
  • Skippable Boss: The game makes all six of its main bosses mandatorynote , but has optional minibosses such as the Bug-Eyed Crawmad, series-veteran Burrowing Snagret, and the Shaggy Long Legs. Some of them require going out of the way of the main boss's path to find them, and none of them drop anything other than fruit. However, in order to achieve the game's best ending, collecting all the fruit (including the samples guarded by all bosses and minibosses) will be necessary.
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: The Distant Tundra and Silver Lake take place in snow-covered areas, although the ice and snow are purely cosmetic and the two don't play any differently from other zones in the game.
  • Soft Water: Alph manages to fall from the planet's atmosphere, yet is only slightly dazed because he landed in a pool of water. Granted, Charlie also manages to survive the fall by landing in a pile of snow, and Brittany lands on solid rock and is no worse for wear, so it's possible that Koppaites are just naturally Made of Iron or don't hit lethal terminal velocity with their suits at the gravity level.
  • So Long, and Thanks for All the Gear: The game has a required example — the first time the team rescues Louie, he will make off with all your fruit juice the next day, which can result in a Game Over if you don't collect enough by sunset. Luckily, the glutton hasn't eaten any of it when he returns it, and he's also nice enough to open a previously inaccessible area with a large supply of fruit in it, so if you made sure to strip the Garden of Hope dry before this moment, the game devs have your back.
  • Speaking Simlish: How the in-game speech is represented, subtitled so that we can understand them, in order to avoid redubbing and Aliens Speaking English. Some words such as "Pikmin" and the characters' names are enunciated, however.
  • Springy Spores: The Bouncy Mushrooms cause leaders and Pikmin that jump on them to be launched to a fixed destination. Some springy mushrooms also appear in Mushroom Valley in the spin-off game Hey! Pikmin.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Mission 15 of Battle Enemies! encourages you to use Bomb Rocks to dispatch every enemy on the map besides Snitchbugs and Skeeterskates, rather than fight them head-on with your Pikmin. If you do it right, at the end you even get to blast an entire Baldy Long Legs to bits with ten simultaneous Bomb Rock explosions!
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: The main plot involves the captains from the planet Koppai coming to the Pikmin planet in search of food. It's mentioned in conversations that the Koppaites' brains are wired such they genuinely can't tell when they're full so they overeat, and that, plus a lack of planning of the consequences of those habits, has caused an apocalyptic food shortage. Each of the game's endings gets more optimistic the closer you are to having all fruits, but even in the 100% ending the narrator makes a note that, while their success will bring their world back from the brink, they need to plan for the future, otherwise they'll have to go through the whole song and dance again in a few decades — and this time there might not be another PNF-404 to save them.
  • Teamwork Puzzle Game: The game outdoes the second with three captains: Alph, Brittany, and Charlie, each of whom can control their own Pikmin army. Successfully managing tasks with all three of them is essential to complete the game.
  • Technicolor Toxin: The game uses either an inky black (for aquatic enemies) or a neon pink (for the Vehemoth Phosbat) to represent poison.
  • That's No Moon: The Quaggled Mireclops. The protagonists encounter a breakable rock on an island in a large muddy pit. After partially breaking it open, a plantlike eye is exposed. The eye opens and the creature wakes up, revealing that not only is it alive, but the island you were standing on was part of its body.
  • Thematic Sequel Logo Change: Zigzagged. The early logo first introduced during E3 2013 has lavender flowers making up the "3" in order to represent the new Rock and Winged Pikmin. The final version, on the other hand, averts it by having the colors of the "3" have no bearing on the game's content.
  • Three Plus Two: The game has new cast members Alph, Brittany, and Charlie joined by returning characters Olimar and Louie.
  • Tripod Terror: The Quaggled Mireclops, the largest boss in the game, resembles a chunk of earth walking on three hoofed legs with a fruit-like head at the top. Its three legs are also its weak point, attacking them will cause the Mireclops to fall over, leaving its fruit-like head within reach of your Pikmin.
  • Turns Red: Every major boss enters a secondary, more aggressive phase when its health gets low.
  • Underground Level: The game has the caves that connect the outdoors portions of the areas, with the largest ones being a dark cavern where the Vehemoth Phosbat lurks, which must be artificially lit to defeat the creature, and the labyrinthine insides of the Formidable Oak.
  • Unique Enemy: In addition to a few new enemies getting this treatment, a lot of returning creatures from the earlier games appear only once in the game's main story.
    • There's a bizarre creature called a Crushblat that you can encounter in a new area of the first level you can only access when get blue Pikmin. It has no fanfare, isn't tough enough to be considered a boss (or miniboss), and doesn't respawn after you kill it.
    • Despite being shown off in the trailers, there are only two Medusal Slurkers in the entire game, one you kill to rescue your first batch of rock Pikmin and one hidden away in one of the trickier-to-reach secret areas. Both of them are a joke, only able to kill Pikmin if you let them.
    • Only one Watery Blowhog exists in the main story of Pikmin 3, located inside the Formidable Oak, and it's not a real one, just a copy created by the Plasm Wraith. Likewise, only one Puffy Blowhog is found in the story mode, early on in the Twilight River.
    • Pikmin 3 sticks the story's only Spotty Bulbear in a closed-off cave section of the Distant Tundra. While there is a piece of fruit nearby, it can be safely carried away by Winged Pikmin who fly above the Bulbear's range, so it only needs to be fought for its spoils and to complete the Piklopedia in Deluxe.
    • Even though Arctic Cannon Larvae are a recurring threat in the Distant Tundra, the vanilla Armored Cannon Larva is found once guarding a hill in the Tropical Wilds, and only appears again in Mission Mode.
    • Shearwigs are only found in the Formidable Oak, but they at least appear in a group of four. Like the nearby Watery Blowhog, these are Plasm Wraith formations and not true Shearwigs.
    • Red Spectralids were a common source of Ultra-Spicy Spray in Pikmin 2, but in Pikmin 3, the only time you'll see them in Story Mode is if you decide to return to the Quaggled Mireclops' arena after killing it.
  • Updated Re-release: Pikmin 3 Deluxe, released for the Switch on October 30th 2020, includes new features such as co-op play in Story Mode, the return of the beloved Piklopedia from Pikmin 2, difficulty levels, and a side mode covering Olimar and Louie's adventure on PNF-404 before the Koppaites crashed on the planet.
  • Variable Mix: In series tradition, Pikmin 3 carries this trope over with the main theme of each world. There's a "battle mix" when fighting an enemy, and a "carrying" theme for when you're carrying something back. Similarly, the "big boss" theme has a few variations as well, with the main theme, a mix for when the boss is on the attack, a distraught jingle for when you lose Pikmin to it, and a victorious theme for when the captains and Pikmin gain the upper hand.
  • The Very Definitely Final Dungeon: The Formidable Oak (Tower of the Sorrowful Beast in Japanese), the final area in the game, is a huge termite mound (referred to as an oak stump in English, for some reason) of all things. Its local enemies are actually extensions of the bizarre monster that inhabits it and serves as the final boss.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Push some Pikmin that are carrying objects around, just to hear them cry out as they almost drop it. You jerk.
  • Voodoo Shark: The (apparently) standard note  spaceman's suit had been redesigned to include a visible whistle embedded within the space helmet. While this does explain how they're able to whistle while still wearing their helmets, it brings another question on how the characters can still breathe despite the fact that the whistle itself makes a hole in their helmets and would thus allow oxygen-rich air to enter the spacesuit and poison its user.
  • Wake-Up Call Boss: The Armored Mawdad. Every enemy before it was fairly simple and could be killed by throwing a few Pikmin on top of it, or picking the right type to be immune to its attacks (Red for fire-shooters, Rock to avoid getting crushed to death). The Mawdad by contrast is much faster, has more tricks under its belt, and requires the player to use actual strategy between the two types of Pikmin introduced at that point. It's an early indicator of how the game will get more complex after it.
  • Weakened by the Light: The cave-dwelling Phosbats take continuous damage when in the light of a Glowcap or Light Bulb. Their adult form, the Vehemoth Phosbat, does not lose health in the light, but can be temporarily stunned by it, and enough light in an area prevents it from becoming invisible.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In Pikmin 3 Deluxe's Side Story mode, "Olimar's Comeback", Olimar and Louie are sent back to the planet by the president to retrieve the company-owned Hocotate ship that they had to leave behind. They utilize a new blue cone-shaped ship to make the trip. At the end of the mode, the two of them fix the Hocotate ship, blast off and return home... leaving the company-owned blue cone ship behind.
  • You Don't Look Like You: Many of the creatures differ from their appearance in previous games, most notably the Flint Beetle and the Pikmin Onions.

Alternative Title(s): Pikmin 3 Deluxe

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