Happy Monday, one and all, and welcome to the first Weekly Video Games Thread of October! Normally, I’d like to add a bit of spooky flavor to the procedings with a horror-themed prompt, but I’ve got something I’ve been wanting to discuss for a while. And it’s all thanks to Pikmin 4. See, Pikmin 4 features the return of Louie, the sidekick from Pikmin 2 who’s since become a staple of Nintendo’s odd little real time puzzler war series.
Louie was originally added to Pikmin 2 as the second main character. The idea was that he and the original hero, Captain Olimar, would split up. But this was almost never actually useful. You couldn’t send Louie off on orders, so you’d have to physically pilot each captain and his Pikmin squad and eat into your already precious time (it was mostly just used for a few token puzzles where you need the characters to work independently, something that was reimagined with far greater panache in Pikmin 3). Why is this important? Well, it’s the thing that helps define ole’ Louie here.
So what kind of character is he? Is he a silent but noble knight, like Nintendo’s normal protagonists? Is he something of a blue collar everyman or a thoughtful scientist, qualities that both describe his coworker Olimar? No, what Louie is can be shrunk to one word: monster. His uselessness as a partner extends to the story, where he provides little to no creative or moral support, gets lost, and might be actually piloting the super-challenging final boss that has allegedly abducted him. And it’s not just this game, oh no! In Pikmin 3, he literally leaves you for dead—and right after you rescue him from a different creature! He crashes your spaceship and steals all your food! It’s honestly kind of awesome. Of course, he’s just as bad in Pikmin 4, hence this prompt I’ve been holding onto for months. This is all because Louie cares about literally nothing but eating. He eats flora and fauna while they’re still alive, he eats and complains about the meals that come from inedible matter, only leaves creatures alive if he has the capacity to exploit them to hunt other creatures, and the extent to which he shows any sign of higher thought is in his sociopathic recipes, which you can read in some of the games’ flavor text. Here are a few entries from the new game:
“This creature is mostly tendon, so it often gets stuck in your teeth. Smells like burnt plastic or possibly metal.”1
“Gently remove the jellied parts. Add fruit and a sweetener of your choice, and serve as a gelatin dessert.”2
“Sauté in butter, and cover with a sauce made from the green liver paste. Anyone with a highly developed palate will enjoy the slightly bitter flavor profile.”3
“Egg tastes best when smoked. The flavor of the belly and the head is pleasantly warming.”4
I could go on and on. Pikmin 4 has dozens and dozens of wonderful enemies, and he has an enchantingly gross way to cook every one. This is a man who is not eating to survive, but eating for its own sake. To fill a pit in his stomach that never closes. A lot of the characters in this series aren’t that dissimilar—the plot of 3 is based on a species trying to solve its self-caused food shortage, and 4‘s entire supporting cast are mostly self-interested weirdos who view the Distant Planet as a frontier to exploit—but Louie goes so much further. He’s Gilligan by way of Marlo Stanfield, a comic millstone of pure id and consumption who will keep taking and taking until he is stopped.
I have absolutely no compunction calling him the single most malicious and evil Nintendo character. Okay, fine, second-most. First is the guy who commits genocide every hundred years, and then right under Ganondorf it’s Louie. Not Bowser, not Ridley, not the evil future clone of Robin who’s the size of a city. Yet I actually do like this gormless jerk. If Pikmin is Nintendo’s main avenue of social satire—and I think it absolutely is—this guy is copious consumption incarnate. He does nothing but laze around, eat everything to and past the point of self-harm, and repeatedly turn against his fellow Lilliputian explorers. That’s an interesting kind of character to me given the company that made him (they don’t even bother to make him likable or empathetic, and they try to make all their characters likable), and I like how far he takes the series’ ideas. Plus, that bit in Pikmin 3 still makes me laugh; it’s such a dick move that I can’t help but respect it.
So after all this time, here is the prompt: who are your favorite characters like this, ones who are entirely (or almost entirely) without positive qualities but who you just can’t help but like. Not your tormented or morally ambiguous or deep villains, but someone who’s just utterly worthless or loathsome or unpleasant—just in a way that actually makes you sincerely like them. Like, I dunno, Kefka. That guy’s pure evil but never stops being fun about it.
Aside from this… how was your gaming this weekend? My Xbox Series X came in! Perhaps I should’ve done a prompt about that… And of course, remember that Lovely Bones has published her latest Games News Roundup!