The Splatoon franchise was an unexpected hit for Nintendo. The Big N’s take on a platform-leading FPS resulted in a fun, fresh, funky game that placed as much value on customization as it did mechanical skill. While the first Splatoon was hampered by its exclusivity on the Wii U, Splatoon 2 reached a much wider audience on the Switch.
Nintendo is keeping things in the family by releasing the upcoming Splatoon 3 on the Switch as well, but you’d be mistaken to think it’s exactly the same as the previous game.
While Splatoon 3 is building on the modes, maps, and characters of its predecessors, it also includes plenty of new elements that both new and returning players will want to sink their teeth into.
A few weeks ago, Nintendo released a brand-new Direct with extensive information about the upcoming splat-for-all, so we know just about everything to expect when the game launches on Sept. 9.
Here’s everything you need to know to stay fresh ahead of Splatoon 3‘s launch.
Like the franchise’s previous games, Splatoon 3‘s biggest draw is its multiplayer Turf War mode. This player-versus-player mode tasks two teams of Squids and Octolings with covering as much turf with paint as possible through the use of a variety of weapons. Teams can also splat each other, briefly taking their enemies out of the fight, but the ultimate goal is to have a higher percentage of the map covered in your team’s paint color than in the opposing team’s color.
Splatoon 3 will include Regular Battle, the unranked and more casual version of Turf War, as well as the brand-new Anarchy Battles. There are two types of Anarchy Battles: Series, which is for solo players and sees Inklings competing to win five rounds in a row, and Open, which features one battle and is open to both solo players and groups. All Anarchy Battles will have the same rotating selection of modes as Splatoon 2‘s ranked battles: Splat Zones, Tower Control, Rainmaker, and Clam Blitz.
Also included are Private Battles, where users can set up invitation-only lobbies for up to eight players and two spectators and pick a mode to duke it out with their friends. If your friends are currently in the middle of an open Turf War or Private Battle game, you can join them using the ghost system in Splatoon 3‘s multiplayer lobby. The lobby also enables you to watch match replays from your recent games.
Coming sometime in the future will be League Battle, a Splatoon 2 mainstay that enables groups to compete for overall League Power, and X Battles, a new solos-only mode for players who are ranked S+0 or higher.
Salmon Run is Splatoon‘s cooperative mode, and it’s making a big return in Splatoon 3. Players will be able to band together on a team of four and defeat Salmonid enemies to collect valuable eggs. In addition to encountering regular enemies and Boss Salmonids, players can team up to take out King Salmonids, a dangerous class of Salmonid that requires a lot of damage in a limited period of time to defeat. Players can attack them using egg cannons, a special weapon saved exclusively for the Xtrawave of enemies that accompanies King Salmonids.
The mode is mostly the same as it’s always been, but there are a few new collectibles that players can find and new Salmonids to face off against. For those who prefer playing cooperatively rather than competitively, it’s great to see that Salmon Run is making a return.
Return of the Mammalians
Return of the Mammalians is Splatoon 3‘s story mode. It can only be played solo, and it will reportedly conclude the story that’s been running since the first game. During Return the Mammalians, players will take on the role of Agent 3, a new recruit of the Squidbeak Splatoon division who’s looking to erase the Octarian army once and for all. Along the way, players will meet up with several main characters from previous games, including Callie and Marie from the original Splatoon.
Nintendo hasn’t shared too much about the story in an effort to not spoil anything, but Splatoon 2‘s story mode was received extremely highly by fans, so chances are that Return of the Mammalians will be well worth playing.
Tableturf Battle is a brand-new in-game card game that imitates Turf War. In the mode, players can build their own deck and face off against others in an attempt to cover all of the squares on a tabletop board. There are over 150 different cards for players to collect and use in the mode. Nintendo hasn’t revealed too much additional information about this mode, so players will likely have to wait until launch to learn exactly how it works.
As part of Splatoon 3‘s new Splatlands setting, the game is coming with several new playable stages. Foremost among them are Scorch Gorge, a desert-themed zone; Eeltail Alley, an urban zone that’s somewhat reminiscent of The Reef from Splatoon 2; Mincemeat Metalworks, which takes place on the deck of an abandoned cargo ship; Undertow Spillway, an underground map that received a deep-dive video a few months ago; and Hagglefish Market, a seedy pier where players will need to work around vendor tents.
In addition to the new maps, several maps from previous games will be returning. Fans of the original Splatoon will be excited to see Museum d’Alfonsino, Hammerhead Bridge, and Mahi-Mahi Resort return in new form. Inkblot Art Academy, Sturgeon Shipyard, MakoMart, and Wahoo World from Splatoon 2 will also be present in the new game.
Splatoon 3 will have a total of twelve playable stages at launch, with more coming in free updates after the game’s release. Two upcoming stages were teased in August’s Splatoon 3 Direct, including one that looks like an apartment complex and one that features a large pyramid.
All basic weapons from Splatoon and Splatoon 2, including the popular Dualies, Splat Roller, and Splat Charger, will be available in Splatoon 3. The game is also adding two new basic weapons: Stringers, a crossbow-like gun that fires a spray of shots as well as a charged shot, and Splatanas, which can be used to rapidly swipe at close enemies or send bursts of paint flying forward in a line.
New special weapons are also coming for those who successfully fill their ink gauge. Not all of them have been revealed yet, but the Direct did shine a spotlight on the Tacticooler, which distributes power-ups to players and their teammates; the Wave Breaker, which sends out shockwaves that must be jumped over to be avoided; and the Reefslider, a rideable shark that charges forward for a short distance before exploding, splatting all nearby enemies and turf. Existing special weapons like the Booyah Bomb and Ink Storm will also come back in the third game.
While Splatoon 3 is bringing back a variety of previous characters in Return of the Mammalians, it’s also introducing some new stars. The big faces of the game are an idol trio known as Deep Cut. Consisting of performers Shiver, Frye, and Big Man, this fun group hosts the Anarchy Splatcast, which acts as the news delivery service for players. Unlike previous games, players won’t be forced to sit through the show each time they turn on the game; instead, it will run in the background as they explore the Splatlands. Deep Cut will share information on the ranked mode rotation, upcoming Splatfests, game updates, and other events and news.
There are plenty of new minor characters to meet, too. Gnarly Eddy and Nails run Naut Couture, the Splatlands’ headgear shop. Jel La Fleur can be found in Man-o’-Wardrobe, the new clothing shop. In Crush Station, which shells shoes, players will be able to meet Mr. Coco, a comically oversized crab.
In Return of the Mammalians, players will be able to catch up with Callie, Marie, and Cuttlefish from the original Splatoon as they go about their adventure. Familiar face Sheldon will be returning as the shopkeeper of Ammo Knights, the Splatlands’ weapon store, and Murch from Splatoon 2 will once again allow players to customize the buffs on their gear.
Splatfests will be back in proper form in Splatoon 3, with the first one running prior to the game’s release on Saturday, Aug. 27. Splatfests are themed battles where players pick a side and fight on celebratory stages during a set real-world period of time. Rather than choosing from two teams to fight for, as in past games, players will be able to pick from three, with each one receiving support from a different member of Deep Cut. The first Splatfest will feature rock, paper, and scissors, with players picking their favorite move to fight for.
Because there are three teams involved, Splatfests will now have a handful of three-team battles. The team currently in the lead will be tasked with defending a center section of the Splatfest map from two members of both of the opposing teams. All players are looking to score even more points for their team, with the winning team receiving rewards after the Splatfest results are calculated.
Like in previous games, players will be able to outfit their Inkling or Octoling with a variety of hats, glasses, masks, shirts, dresses, shoes, and accessories. There will be plenty of new accessories in Splatoon 3, as have been detailed in posts on the game’s official Twitter account. Each piece of gear comes from a unique brand and includes power-ups that affect players’ performance in Turf War and other battles.
Gear comes with pre-set power-ups, but those can be changed by speaking with Murch in the main Splatlands area and exchanging currency for a chosen power-up rather than a random one. Power-ups make a noticeable difference on performance, so players interested in taking their play further will want to research which options work best for them.
New to Splatoon 3 are lockers, Splashtags, and post-game emotes. Your locker and the locker of other players you’ve recently played with can be found in the lobby. Players can decorate the front and inside of their locker with items, weapons, stickers, photos they’ve taken in-game, and other decorations. Splashtags are patterned name tags that feature different banners, badges, and titles that can be unlocked as players go through the game. Like Animal Crossing: New Horizons‘ titles, Splatoon 3 titles are made of two words from preset lists that can be combined to make silly names. Post-game emotes will display on the team screen after a win and run the gamut from silly to dramatic.
Locker decorations, Splashtag embellishments, and post-game emotes can be purchased from the new in-game catalogue at the shop Hotlantis. Additional catalogues will be released to players for free every three months for two years.
The Splatoon portion of the Nintendo Switch Online app is getting a glow-up in the form of SplatNet 3. Through the app, players can purchase gear that can’t be found in the game, check the current ranked mode rotation, read up on their battle stats, and more. It will be available at launch for those with a Nintendo Switch Online membership.
Players will be able to scan Splatoon Amiibos on their Switch in the main Splatlands plaza. Scanning an Amiibo allows players to assign a pre-set outfit to it, which can easily be pulled up and equipped later on. Amiibo will also grant unique gear and can be used in in-game photos. Three new Splatoon Amiibo will be arriving during the 2022 holiday season for use with Splatoon 3, including an Octoling, an Inkling, and a Smallfry from Salmon Run.
According to the Direct, “large-scale” paid DLC will be coming to Splatoon 3 in the future. While no additional details were shared beyond an outline of what looks like Pearl and Marina from the previous Splatoon, Splatoon 2‘s Octo Expansion DLC has gone free-to-play for Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack subscribers, potentially preparing the way for fresh DLC in the new game. Octo Expansion was a huge hit with players, so it’s likely that we’ll see something similar come to Splatoon 3 in the coming years.
Splatoon 3 launches on Sept. 9 for Nintendo Switch.