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Splatoon 3 review: Inkcredible things always come in threes

The series' third entry is absolutely splat-tastic!

Splatoon 3 hero flying
(Image: © iMore)

Our Verdict

Splatoon 3 may not have reinvented the wheel, but the improvements made to existing mechanics make this entry feel even more incredible to play than I could have imagined.

For

  • + Quality of life enhancements
  • + Improved single-player content
  • + Refinements to online modes
  • + Enhanced self-expression

Against

  • No fixes for connection issues
  • Catalogs encourage FOMO

Splatoon 3's announcement for the Nintendo Switch certainly came as a surprise to everyone. Nintendo doesn't often place multiple entries in a franchise on a system aside from spinoffs, and Splatoon 2 was widely loved by its community. 

The games are Nintendo's take on the third-person shooter, replacing ammunition with colorful ink and switching up the objectives to established game modes like capture the flag. Utilizing various brilliantly designed weapon classes that mirror traditional weapons with an arts-and-crafts twist, the company managed to make a genre associated with more somber tones fun for everyone.

Splatoon 3
DeveloperNintendo
PublisherNintendo
GenreThird-Person Shooter, Platformer
Install size6 GB
Players1 player (Hero mode), 2-8 players (Multiplayer modes)
Playtime30 hours
Release dateSeptember 9, 2022
Retail price$60
PlatformNintendo Switch

Splatoon 3: What's good

Splatoon 3 Octoling with Splattershot Jr.

(Image credit: iMore)

Just when you couldn't think that this game could get any better than Splatoon 2, it shows you just how much it's improved after five years. There are tons of quality-of-life features introduced in Splatoon 3 that, for me, make the existence of this game more than justified

The new landing system all but eliminated spawn camping in multiplayer matches, allowing players to sneak around when the enemy team has made it onto their side of the map. One of my favorite new features is that players receive feedback on how well their team is doing, with notifications illustrating when players get splatted, as well as a "WIPEOUT!" notification when every member of one team appearing in that team's color. 

For support special weapons like the new Tacticooler, an icon appears showing where it is in relation to you so that everyone has a fair chance to grab a drink. If you're a seasoned Splatoon player, it's immediately apparent how much smoother the experience is this time around.

Splat-tastic single-player

Splatoon 3 Hero mode upside down city

(Image credit: iMore)

One criticism of the single-player Hero Mode in both Splatoon and Splatoon 2 was how one-note it was, in a way that felt like a tutorial dragged out over several hours. I never finished the story mode in either of those games for that reason, and admittedly felt nervous going into Hero Mode in Splatoon 3. 

Splatoon 2's paid DLC, the Octo Expansion, was a challenging single-player mode that didn't try to hold the player's hand at all. With multiple paths to the same goal and a variety of challenges that test your puzzle-solving, combat, and platforming skills, the Octo Expansion was the real single-player campaign in my eyes.

Splatoon 3 hero mode stage

(Image credit: iMore)

When I realized that Splatoon 3's single player took the best aspects of Octo Expansion and polished them, I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least. With around 8 different locales to go through, players are often given the choice of a weapon, each with their own difficulty resulting in increased or decreased rewards. 

The locations were masterfully crafted, invoking curious stares from me, and featured a villain I did not expect at all. I won't spoil it here, but I encourage anyone who was underwhelmed by Hero Mode in the past games to give this one a chance.

Multiplayer mode improvements everywhere

Splatoon 3 Tableturf Battle victory

(Image credit: iMore)

Hero Mode wasn't the only single-player content available, and contrary to some assumptions, a solid new mode was added in the form of Tableturf Battle. As the name suggests, it's a tabletop version of Turf War, where players must use shapes on cards to fill up more space on a map in a limited number of turns. 

While initially a simple game from a mechanics standpoint, I could tell just how much strategy was required for me to really get good at this game. It's imperative that you learn to balance both blocking off your opponent and inking your own turf, and overall I had a blast playing. 

What was almost just as enjoyable was unlocking new cards, which can be found around the map in Hero Mode, leveling up your catalog, and playing the gacha-oriented Shellout Machine. There are over a hundred cards to collect and endless possibilities for different decks to build, which offers a nice reprise from multiplayer battles and appeals to the collector part of my brain.

Splatoon 3 Turf War

(Image credit: iMore)

Speaking of multiplayer battles, the three main modes got significant overhauls. Turf War has the aforementioned quality-of-life improvements, but the regular online competitions, called Splatfests, were changed completely by adding a third team that players can choose to compete for. 

These three-team tournaments, as well as the new Tricolor Turf Wars, bring an added dynamic to Splatfests that make them very distinct. While Splatfests in previous games were special, they were essentially regular Turf Wars with assigned colors. Tricolor Turf Wars are a new element that can only be experienced during a limited period, which is great for bringing people together.

Splatoon 3 Anarchy Battle series loss

(Image credit: iMore)

Ranked modes have also been overhauled, with Splat Zones, Tower Control, Clam Blitz, and Rainmaker modes falling under Anarchy Battles instead of being individual game types. You can choose to play in a series of battles or one giant battle, striving to earn points by winning. 

Ranked modes in Splatoon 2 were frustrating for me, because as soon as I began making headway, a couple of unlucky match-ups meant I would quickly go down in rank. Anarchy Battles are much more forgiving, because even if you lose a series, the medals you earn during battles for inking turf, splatting enemies, super jumping, and more counted towards your rank points. The game recognizes the effort you put into the game instead of punishing you, which I appreciate.

Salmon Run fun

Splatoon 3 Salmon Run Tornado

(Image credit: iMore)

Salmon Run was first introduced in Splatoon 2, and is a co-operative multiplayer mode where players must eliminate Boss Salmonids and fill their quota of Golden Eggs collected from them. Players are assigned one of four random weapons in each of the three rounds, encouraging players to learn different weapon types and play styles.

Not only were new Boss Salmonids and environmental phenomenon introduced in Splatoon 3, but the best quality-of-life feature of all was introduced — throwing Golden Eggs. This saves tons of time and improves efficiency when it comes to filling your quota, and players immediately adjusted to the new feature. I honestly can't imagine Salmon Run without the egg-throwing mechanic now, and the additional 24/7 availability makes it easily my favorite mode in the entire game.

Splatoon 3 Salmon Run Xtrawave King Salmonid Win

(Image credit: iMore)

I know I initially said that Salmon Run shifts are comprised of three waves, but if you fill up your Cohozuna meter high enough, your team can participate in a fourth wave featuring a King Salmonid. Players continue to collect Golden Eggs, but must aim them at the Cohozuna to drain its life meter. Doing so grants you shells, which can be used for purchasing things like new work suits.

There's a Big Run mode that hasn't been released yet, where enemies from Salmon Run infiltrate the regular stages in Turf War and other modes. Big Run is apparently also going to be a collaborative event similar to Splatfest, and while it's not yet accessible, I'm certain it'll be just as fun.

Adding your own flare

Splatoon 3 lockers inside

(Image credit: iMore)

This game is all about being yourself, and as a big Animal Crossing fan, I love any chance to customize my gaming experience. Splashtags were introduced in this game where players could post their tags, a title, and badges. These elements can be earned through normal gameplay, completing achievements, and are a way to show off your skill and progress in the game.

You'll see Splashtags when in a match, as well as next to a player's locker, which is another new feature where you can decorate your own little corner of Splatsville. While these features are optional, I love having something to work towards outside of a higher player level, and it's really entertaining to see the decoration combinations that players use to express themselves creatively. 

Splatoon 3: What's bad

Splatoon 3 Turf War Wipeout

(Image credit: iMore)

While the multiplayer aspects of this game benefitted from some revamping, there's still one glaring omission that I think can dampen the experience for some. The only Nintendo Switch model with a built-in Ethernet port is the OLED model, which makes up a minority of all consoles sold. This means that unless players purchase an Ethernet adapter separately, most players use Wi-Fi to play online. Wi-Fi is not as reliable as a wired connection, which means that some players may disconnect from online matches.

When someone disconnects, the match ends for everyone. While those who remained disconnected are not punished, they won't gain any experience and their time is now wasted. For the player who disconnected, they'll be punished with a ban if their internet continues to prove unreliable. I would have loved to see AI or bot players take the place of the disconnected player, so that connected users could finish a match. AI players are present in Hero Mode in the form of Octolings, so it's not unheard of.

Splatoon 3 catalog

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Like I've said, I love collecting things. Players can collect not only cards, but stickers, decorations, and poses in the in-game catalog. Given to the player by Harmony at Hotlantis, this catalog levels up similarly to the player's level, and players earn rewards each time it levels up.

New catalogs release every few months, which means there's a limited time in which you can upgrade your catalog to level 100. Leveling up takes time, and when I first saw the sheer number of rewards that would disappear eventually, I sometimes found myself playing longer than I wanted to for some extra experience. Fear of missing out, or FOMO, comes when people worry that they'll lose the opportunity to obtain or experience something, and catalogs unfortunately facilitate this phenomenon. Of course, if catalogs eventually rotate back into the game, this problem would be mitigated, but there hasn't been any word on that yet.

Splatoon 3: Should you buy?

Splatoon 3 Deep Cut members posing

(Image credit: iMore)

I definitely think this game is worth the purchase, even if you played Splatoon 2 previously. Not only is there all-new content available, but the content that does return has been modified into arguably its best possible state. The story, writing, characters, and overall vibes are immaculate, and I honestly had to tear myself away from the game just to write this review.

Some of the game's lacking mechanics did irk me a bit, but I had to dig deep to find things to complain about at all. The silver lining to be seen here is that they're also fixable through a patch, which is entirely possible during the two years Nintendo intends to add new content to the game. 

Even if you're new to the series, or if you're not the biggest fan of shooters, you can see how much care and love developers poured into this game. Splatoon 3 blasted through records with millions of units sold in its launch weekend alone, and will definitely be remembered as one of the best Nintendo Switch games.

A trilogy triumph

Splatoon 3 is the ultimate Splatoon experience on the Nintendo Switch. The polish lovingly applied to existing game modes and the addition of Tableturf Battles make me feel like the developers really wanted players to not worry about the shortcomings of past games. Though AI players are still absent from matches where others had connection issues, and catalogs may push players to grind beyond a point that's enjoyable, I still think that this is one of the best online multiplayer experiences on the system.

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Splatoon 3

Fans of Nintendo's thrilling take on the third-person shooter can purchase the game today. It's everything you love about Splatoon — inking turf to win Turf Wars, customizing your Inkling in fresh gear, and tons of diverse weapons — now with all-new content. 

Buy from: Amazon (opens in new tab) | Nintendo (opens in new tab)

Nadine Dornieden
Contributor

Nadine is a freelance writer for iMore with a specialty in all things Nintendo, often working on news, guides, reviews, and editorials. She's been a huge Nintendo fan ever since she got to pet her very own Nintendog, and enjoys looking at Nintendo's place in the video game industry. Writing is her passion, but she mostly does it so that she can pay off her ever-growing debt to Tom Nook. Her favorite genres are simulation games, rhythm games, visual novels, and platformers. You can find her at @stopthenadness on Twitter, where she'll more than likely be reposting cute Animal Crossing content.