Splatoon 3, the third entry in Nintendo's quirky, colorful multiplayer shooter franchise, is coming exclusively to Nintendo Switch this summer, on a yet-to-be-confirmed date.
Splatoon 3 promises to bring players a heap of new weapons, enemies, moves and customizations, as well as a new single-player campaign. Most exciting, though, is its brand new region: the Splatlands. The Splatlands look like a very different setting to the trippy, otherworldly landscapes associated with previous games, letting players ink up a sun-scorched desert inhabited by battle-hardened Inklings and Octolings.
We're still waiting for an exact release date for Splatoon 3 but Nintendo has at least given us a "Summer 2022" window to look forward to. That means it'll probably come sometime between June and September so there's really not long to wait now.
While we're still waiting for that release date, what we've seen from Splatoon 3 so far has us itching to get our hands on the game. Want to find out all the juicy details? Read on for everything we know about Splatoon 3 so far.
[Update: Could a recent patent signal potentially improved mini-maps? Read on to find out more.]
Splatoon 3: cut to the chase
- What is it? The next installment of Splatoon, Nintendo’s quirky competitive multiplayer shooter
- When can I play it? "Summer 2022" (June-September)
- What can I play it on? Nintendo Switch
Splatoon 3 release date and platforms
Splatoon 3 due to release in "Summer 2022" (so between June and September), but a more concrete date hasn’t been given as of yet.
Splatoon and Splatoon 2 had worldwide release dates of May 2015 and July 2017 respectively, so this release window follows the series' usual release pattern - though could be closer to the release month of Splatoon 2 than the original game.
While an exact release date hasn't been confirmed, we do know that Splatoon 3 (like its predecessors) is a Nintendo exclusive and so will only be available on the Nintendo Switch family of devices, including the original Nintendo Switch, Switch Lite and Switch OLED.
Splatoon 3 trailers
Salmon Run Next Wave trailer
Shown during the Nintendo Direct in February 2022, this trailer gave us a look at Splatoon 3's Salmon Run: Next Wave, the next iteration of Splatoon's Salmon Run co-op mode. The trailer shows Inklings airdropping into a battle zone and working together to take on waves of Salmonids (including a big boss called 'Flipper-Flopper'). Check it out below:
Return of the Mammalians trailer
Splatoon 3 made a welcome return during the September 23, 2021 Nintendo Direct presentation. Here, we got a look at more Turf War gameplay, featuring all-new superpowered special attacks. More interestingly, though, we were treated to a sneak peek at Splatoon 3's single-player campaign, titled Return of the Mammalians. Check it out below.
The Splatoon 3 announcement trailer gave us our first look at the upcoming game. The trailer opened with what looks to be the initial customization phase of your playable Inkling and their “buddy,” which appears to be a Salmonid - prominently featured as enemies in Splatoon 2’s Salmon Run mode.
Interestingly, previously gendered options (players could choose to be a boy or girl Inkling) appear to be gone. Familiar options of hairstyles, eye color and legwear remain, but it looks like Nintendo is doing away with making players choose one of two genders. This is a definite plus in terms of inclusivity and allows players to access hairstyles that were previously gender-locked.
From there, the trailer leads into what looks to be a brief glimpse at a single-player mode. Our Inkling makes their way through a post-apocalyptic, arid landscape, and it looks like someone suplexed the Eiffel Tower, as the ruined structure is half-buried upside down in the earth. The Inkling then boards a train before they find themselves in Splatoon 3’s new hub city of Splatsville.
The trailer closes out with a look at Splatoon’s familiar competitive multiplayer, which looks largely unchanged barring some new weapon types and a new way to enter an arena at the start of the match. Check it out below:
What is Splatoon 3?
Splatoon 3 is to be the third and latest installment in the Splatoon series. The first entry in the series, Splatoon, was first released on Wii U in 2015, with the sequel Splatoon 2 releasing for Nintendo Switch in 2017.
The series focuses largely on multiplayer battles between Inklings and Octolings - adorable humanoid characters that have the ability to transform into squids or octopi to swim through colored ink - but, unlike in previous titles, in Splatoon 3 players will be able to choose whether they want to be an Octoling or Inkling (which you can customize) from the beginning of the game.
This feature ties heavily into Splatoon’s gameplay. Its flagship multiplayer mode, Turf War, tasks two teams of four players to cover as much of the map as possible with their team’s ink. This is achieved via the player’s loadout of weapons. Keeping with Nintendo’s family-friendly vibe, weapons in Splatoon fire colored ink as opposed to bullets, and can be used to cover the map as per the objective, or to temporarily incapacitate your opponents.
Splatoon’s got quite a fun assortment of weapons — from the rapid-firing Splattershots to a literal giant paint roller, each weapon comes with its own build of sub-weapons and powerful special weapons. Splatoon 3 is set to add even more weapons including a crab walking, multi-legged vehicle called the Crab Tank and an ink-firing bazooka called the Trizooka (more on this below).
Turf War is great, fast-paced fun as each team battles to claim as much of the map as possible while also keeping opponents at bay. Players can freely swim through their own team’s ink for faster traversal and surprise attacks. On the other hand, your opponent’s ink will slow you down drastically as well as damage you over time. Rounds typically last for three minutes, making each match a frantic scramble as the music intensifies towards the end.
For multiplayer fun that's more cooperative than competitive, Splatoon 3 will see the return of Splatoon 2's Salmon Run, a cooperative horde mode where players work together to fight AI-controlled waves of enemies. This time around, it's called 'Salmon Run: The Next Wave'.
The Next Wave actually looks like it bears a fair few similarities to Splatoon 2’s Salmon Run but a new egg-throwing mechanic has been added to keep things fresh and the Splatoon 3 Twitter account has highlighted a few new enemies that players will have to face. These include the Salmonid Boss “Fish Stick”, creatures known as “Flipper Floppers”, and an “unfathomably terrifying creature” known as King Salmonid which Nintendo has promised to reveal more about in the future.
While we've spent a great deal of time observing these terrifying new specimens, we must note that all Boss Salmonids from Splatoon 2 can also be observed invading the Splatlands. Inklings with prior experience from Splatoon 2 may be able to draw on this knowledge to defeat them. pic.twitter.com/iEwBncczyhFebruary 10, 2022
Of course, it’s not all about the multiplayer. Splatoon 3 will offer players a brand new single-player story mode too. Called Return of the Mammalians, this mode takes place in a location known as Alterna and will see players “take control of Agent 3 and fight against the evil Octarian army alongside the New Squidbeak Splatoon”.
There’s much about the story mode that remains a mystery but Nintendo revealed in a Squid Research Lab post last year that the campaign, as hinted by its title, will see the return of Mammals, long believed extinct in the world of Splatoon.
It’ll be up to the player as Agent 3 alongside their “trusty little Smallfry buddy” to investigate why some Octarian soldiers are growing fur and what it might have to do with a mysterious substance called “Fuzzy Ink” which Inklings don’t react to at all well.
Between the competitive Turf War, the cooperative Salmon Run and the single-player story mode, Splatoon 3 sounds like it has all bases covered for its launch, with a mode for everyone.
Splatoon 3 news and rumors
Patent could indicate better maps
A patent filed by Nintendo could point to better maps in Splatoon 3. Spotted by Axios Gaming’s Stephen Totilo, the patent aims to improve in-game mini-maps and, given it mentions players “shooting ink”, it does seem possible that it’s referencing the Splatoon games.
Here's some newish Nintendo patent that I think is about making better mini-maps for games like Splatoon. Don't have time to decode it, so letting all of you amazing patent readers have at it instead. Let me know! https://t.co/YG23Ouoloa pic.twitter.com/OYt2hud3ToApril 19, 2022
According to GoNintendo, the gist of the text-heavy patent is that Nintendo is aiming with this patent “to make it easier for players to understand not just their own position, but the position of helpful items and other areas of import on the map.” GoNintendo adds that the patent proposes dynamic shifting of cameras “based on moment-to-moment action, as well as with the changing areas of importance on the map.”
Patents aren’t, of course, always implemented in games even if they are filed, so we’ll have to wait and see if Nintendo makes use of this one in Splatoon or any of its other games.
We don’t have a release date for Splatoon 3 just yet but pre-orders for the game have opened at various outlets, though not the official Nintendo eShop. As spotted by Nintendo Life, pre-orders are open in the US and UK at various retailers including Amazon, GameStop and GAME for both physical and digital editions of the game.
More new art
Following the reveal of the new Splatoon 3 trailer during February 2022's Nintendo Direct, the official Splatoon 3 Twitter account shared some artwork for the game's Salmon Run mode, including images of the new Sockeye Station map and Salmonid bosses.
New Splatoon 3 screenshots and artwork from Salmon Run Next Wave. pic.twitter.com/aNNjs4cH1QFebruary 10, 2022
Salmon Run is returning
In a Nintendo Direct held in February 2022, it was confirmed that the popular cooperative multiplayer mode, Salmon Run, will be returning for Splatoon 3. Titled Salmon Run: The Next Wave, this mode will see teams of players work together to fend off waves of Salmonids while collecting their eggs. It appears to bear many similarities from the original Salmon Run mode but there are new bosses to face and a new egg throwing mechanic to make things even more interesting.
Nintendo has detailed some of the new weapons players will get their hands on in Splatoon 3 (some of which we caught a glimpse of in the game's September 2021 trailer) in a blog post. So what new toys do players have at their disposal? Well, there's a crab walking, multilegged vehicle called the Crab Tank, that lets players attack with a powerful rapid-fire gun and a cannon with a wide blast area. You can see it below.
Then, there's Big Bubbler, "a modified version of a special weapon popular in Inkopolis. By making it fixed, the size has been greatly increased! It seems Inklings in the Splatlands think bigger is better. Well, this certainly does look useful for protecting one's allies!" Check it out below.
The Trizooka is another modified weapon from Inkopolis and "it has a powerful shot that fires three blasts at once and can be fired three times in total each use!" You can see it below.
Finally, there's the Killer Wail 5.1. According to Nintendo, "The six floating megaphones move autonomously and attack with lasers that chase enemies. For such a dusty place, it seems the Splatlands are brimming with shiny tech!"
A glimpse of the single-player campaign
A trailer for Splatoon 3 shown during a September 2021 Nintendo Direct gave us a look at the game’s single-player campaign: Return of the Mammalians. Details are still kind of lacking on the mode but the official description from Nintendo reads: “Take control of Agent 3 and fight against the evil Octarian army alongside the New Squidbeak Splatoon in Splatoon 3's story mode. Discover the secrets of Alterna, the Fuzzy Ooze and how it connects to the mode's theme, ‘Return of the Mammalians’.”
A further deep dive into the game’s trailer on Nintendo’s site points out that “as far as we know, mammals have disappeared from the surface of the planet (minus a couple cool cats, of course)” so it looks like the campaign will take players to a new location, Alterna, to investigate why some Octarian soldiers are growing fur and what it might have to do with a mysterious substance called “Fuzzy Ink”.
After Splatoon 3 didn't make an appearance at E3 2021 as many hoped it would, Nintendo broke its long silence around the game to reveal some new art. Posting through the official Nintendo of America Twitter account, the Splatoon team wished players a happy summer with the image which, while not revealing much, is a nice reminder that work on the game is still ongoing.
Whether you’re basking in the sunny vibes or just trying to beat the heat, happy summer wishes from the #Splatoon3 team! pic.twitter.com/6LuBxM6ELVJuly 14, 2021
Splatoon 3 hiring a level designer to integrate 'existing' stages
Nintendo linked a job opening for a Splatoon 3 level designer via their Japanese Twitter account. Spotted and translated by Twitter user OatmealDome, the job description looks to have some interesting responsibilities.
[Splatoon 3]Nintendo is hiring for a level designer. They will be responsible for the following tasks:- Adjusting stages, weapons, and gamemodes- Renovating “existing” stages- Placing stage objects per-gamemode- Balancing weapon parameter data https://t.co/js8xQqRK4ZFebruary 18, 2021
The job of the Splatoon 3 level designer calls for mostly typical fare, including placing stage objects and balancing attributes for weapons. However, more interesting is another responsibility that calls for renovating ‘existing’ stages.
This could be taken a number of ways. It’s possible that Splatoon 3 could be bringing back stages featured in the first two games, albeit with various twists and changes thrown in. When you think about it, this would make a degree of sense. Following Splatoon 3’s theme of chaos, we might witness stages reimagined in this image, potentially looking dilapidated or at least significantly altered.
Indeed, we now know that Salmon Run, the cooperative horde mode from Splatoon 2, will be returning in Splatoon 3 as Salmon Run: The Next Wave.
Splatoon 3: what we want to see
There’s many things Splatoon 3 can do to improve on its predecessors. While Splatoon 2 was a solid follow-up to the original with fun new modes to offer, it felt iterative, almost like it was made to keep up appearances on the Nintendo Switch. Not necessarily a bad thing, considering Splatoon 2 is the 9th best-selling Switch game to date, but we feel like Splatoon 3 could do so much more.
Firstly, there are genuine improvements that Splatoon’s matchmaking absolutely needs. Chief among them is being able to more reliably play with friends. If you can believe it, both Splatoon and Splatoon 2 did not allow players to queue into multiplayer matches with their friends in online lobbies.
Splatoon 2 introduced League Battle which did let players enter with premade groups, but confusingly, the mode was only available at certain times. In both standard and ranked play, it was impossible to play with friends outside of randomly running into them online.
The only way for friends to play with each other was via local play, or in private lobbies against one another. Splatoon 3 absolutely needs to address this. When every other multiplayer shooter on the market lets us team up with our friends, Splatoon has no excuse.
Axe time-limited modes
Speaking to the limited time aspect of certain modes, we’d love it if Splatoon 3 shied away from this practice. This was present for League Battle and Salmon Run in Splatoon 2, the latter being one of the best modes the series ever introduced. It was only available on certain days for a few hours at a time.
Nintendo should be incentivizing players to access modes like this whenever they want - it keeps us playing longer and ultimately get more enjoyment out of the experience. Splatoon is an incredibly fun series - Nintendo shouldn’t be looking for ways to make it less so.
A better single-player mode
Splatoon 3 could use more substantial single-player offerings. What’s present in Splatoon and Splatoon 2 is nice, but the base game story modes are very short, with little reason to revisit them bar some extra collectibles here and there.
Splatoon 3’s trailer has us craving a more open-ended single-player experience. Fun fact: the story’s direction seems to be taking cues from Splatoon 2’s final Splatfest results. The featured team choices there were Order vs Chaos, with Chaos handily winning.
As a result, the world beyond Splatoon’s hub cities looks to be in dire straits. The series has already established that it takes place in a post-humanity world, so Splatoon 3 has every opportunity to explore the mess us humans left behind.
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