Splatoon 3 - 6 things Nintendo needs to fix in the sequel

Splatoon 3
(Image credit: Nintendo)

Splatoon 3 closed out February 2021’s Nintendo Direct presentation, much to the delight of series fans. As the first Nintendo Direct in well over a year at that point, concluding with such a huge game was a good move, and shows the company is willing to keep supporting the series that flourished with Splatoon 2 on the Nintendo Switch.

And while Splatoon 2 was a marked improvement over the bare bones Wii U original, there’s still a lot of work to be done to ensure Splatoon 3 can reach its full potential. Splatoon 2 continued to build upon the original’s foundation, but a number of shortcomings and omissions stopped it from feeling truly complete.

With Splatoon 3 destined for a 2022 release, then, and with a likely appearance at E3 2021 on the cards, Nintendo has a chance to really push the boat out with its multiplayer splat-em-up. Here’s six improvements we’d love to see made over Splatoon’s previous efforts.

Splatoon 3 hub city

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Improved connection quality

It’s no secret that Nintendo Switch Online (and Splatoon as a result) does not have the most stable connection quality in the world. In fact it’s often pretty dire, with games like Splatoon 2 and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate causing players to drop out of matches entirely on a semi-regular basis.

Exacerbating things is the Switch’s complete lack of an ethernet port, making a wired connection an impossibility without the use of a USB adapter. The quality of Splatoon 2’s online connection was spotty at best, then, and something Nintendo should absolutely iron out in the sequel.

Splatoon’s core gameplay is superb, and it’s even better when matches play out as intended, with no lag and/or disconnects. As such, Splatoon 3 could really benefit from improved online infrastructure, and three games in (and by 2022, no less) it’s a must at this point.

Splatoon 3

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Open-world campaign?

Splatoon’s single-player offerings have always been fun, inventive romps that are a joy to play through the first time. The only downside is their short length. Even aiming for full completion via collectable hunting, you’ll likely blast through Splatoon’s campaign modes in just a few hours.

The exception to that rule is, of course, Splatoon 2’s gigantic Octo Expansion, a paid DLC adventure that offered tons of single-player challenges (and no shortage of shockingly mature, nightmare fuel lore as a bonus).

We’d love to see Splatoon 3’s campaign take a leaf from Octo Expansion’s book. And judging by the debut trailer, we might be getting just that. The post-apocalyptic wasteland paired with the capsized Eiffel Tower and train tracks that stretch into infinity could prove to be a departure from Splatoon 1 and 2’s isolated stages.

Ideally, Splatoon 3’s campaign will be a more open-ended experience. Not necessarily open world, mind, but potentially something like explorable hubs with plenty of things to find and do, such as sidequests, collectables and the odd easter egg here and there. There’s enough Splatoon lore at this point to serve a larger campaign, which is sure to please longtime series fans if handled correctly.

Splatoon 3

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Playing with friends

This is a big one. If you’re not familiar with Splatoon, you might be shocked to hear that only specific modes let you party up with your friends. Sure, you can play with your friends in ranked and player matches, but you’re not guaranteed to be on the same team.

If you wanted to play with friends in Splatoon 2, you had to do so through the dedicated Squad Battle mode, and that’s not even unlocked from the start. You first had to grind up your character’s level (which still took a noticeable chunk of time) to unlock the mode.

This has to change in Splatoon 3. If Nintendo doesn’t want friends to team up together for standard play, then at least have Squad Battle unlocked from the start instead of punishing friends for wanting to play together in the first place.

Splatoon 3

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Better map rotation

This one’s arguably not a huge priority, but certainly something Splatoon 3 should consider to prevent long term play from becoming too stale. The way the Splatoon series handles map rotation was outdated when it debuted in 2015, and it certainly won’t fly in 2022.

Splatoon’s map rotation feature has always been strange. Instead of pulling randomly from the entire map pool, like most multiplayer games would, Splatoon instead spotlights two maps at a time. That means only those two maps are available to play, until the time at which those maps are swapped out for two others.

It’s an infuriating system. Obviously, some maps are less popular than others, so being forced to play those when they show up in the rotation is almost like Nintendo doing everything it can to stop players from playing its multiplayer game. Speaking of...

Splatoon 3

(Image credit: Nintendo)

No time-sensitive modes

Splatoon 2 introduced the awesome Salmon Run mode. This cooperative, wave-based horde mode was chock full of unpredictable, chaotic gameplay, and a ton of cosmetic rewards that could only be earned in this mode. The problem? It wasn’t always available to play.

Basically, Salmon Run is only available on certain days of the week, at certain times. So if you want to play the mode, you have to wait until it’s available. This is completely nonsensical. We get that the big focus of Splatoon is its competitive multiplayer suite, but variety is the spice of life, is it not? Moreover, Splatoon is more than popular enough to consistently support an ancillary mode like Salmon Run, without compromising its main attraction.

Salmon Run could and should make a return in Splatoon 3, or at least a mode adjacent to it. But there’s absolutely no reason for it to be kept behind an arbitrary time wall. By keeping the mode open for players to check out at any time, it’ll encourage players to return to it when they need a break from the high octane shootouts of the main multiplayer component.

Splatoon 3

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Actual character builds

Splatoon’s existing loadout system is actually quite good. As it stands, weapon loadouts come in packs that bundle the main weapon, a sub weapon (usually a grenade or support device) and a game changing special ability. It’s a good system for keeping game balance in check, but it’s undeniably rigid.

Splatoon 3 shouldn’t settle for this. If the series truly wants to evolve its multiplayer battles, it should go absolutely nuts with class customization. Instead of holding the player’s hand and essentially choosing their options for them, they should be able to mix and match the weapons and abilities they enjoy using the most.

This would genuinely make matches far more unpredictable. Previously, skilled players would be able to identify ahead of time which sub weapons and specials an opponent might have based on their weapon choice. With fully customizable classes, that crutch is thrown out of the window, meaning players will have to rely more on quick wits to get the upper hand.

Ultimately, we’re sure Splatoon 3 is going to be a solid Nintendo release with all the polish and charm you’d expect from the company’s first-party lineup. We just hope it does enough to differentiate itself from its predecessors. Splatoon 2 was eventually able to do this with the Octo Expansion DLC, but a more robust and feature rich experience at launch for Splatoon 3 would allow the Nintendo Switch exclusive to hit the ground running.

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Rhys Wood
Hardware Editor

Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.