Screenshot from Nintendo's launch trailer for Splatoon 3

What’s It Like Jumping Into “Splatoon 3” As a Newbie To The Franchise?

I've never had so much fun while also feeling very uncool and unskilled

Until the launch of Splatoon 3, Splatoon was one of the few Nintendo series I hadn’t seriously dipped my toes into. I’d played for a few minutes at friends’ houses, sure, but the series had never really grabbed me. However, considering the hype and critical praise around Splatoon 3, especially in Japan, I figured now is as good a time as any to jump into the franchise. Which is true. But I’ve also found that Splatoon 3 definitely assumes you’ve played Splatoon before. Which I have not. It’s been fun, but a bit rough.

Recommended Videos

To both its benefit and detriment, Splatoon 3 throws you right in. The tutorial up front is quick and brief. The issue is that once I jumped into multiplayer mode, which is the game’s main modus operandi, I’ve been continually confronted with players who understand this game—its controls, its tricks, its tactics—way better than I do. They’ve probably played one or both of the previous games, after all, which is a huge head start. I, meanwhile, took an embarrassingly long time to figure out what the hell is up with Special Weapons. (It’s not explained very well. You charge your meter by doing your thing, and then you have to hit R, by the way. R the Joystick, not either of the triggers.) I also cannot do a Squid Surge to save my poor Inkling’s life. Don’t even get me started on Squid Rolls.

So I’ve definitely been overwhelmed by the learning curve in multiplayer. I get killed all the time. I should get a trophy for how often I get that trophy. Therefore, trying your hand at story mode first (ie, following the old man into the sewers) is probably the best way to go for new players. You can get used to the game’s mechanics without the pressure of having opponents or real people who you’re letting down because you are bad at Splatoon.

Still, the aforementioned old man, Cap’n Cuttlefish, is a reoccurring character in the series. Which has an actual linear timeline. Ol’ Cap’n quite frequently makes references to previous games which go completely and utterly over my head. “The Octarians look kind of different than I remember, don’t they?” he recently asked me. “I have absolutely no goddamn clue,” I wanted to say back. “Also, what’s an Octarian again?”

Additionally, one of the things about Splatoon which is both a huge benefit and a definite source of overwhelm for new players is how many kinds of weapons it has. Brushes, Rollers, Chargers, Dualies… Even though you’re only getting this information in threes, it’s a lot when you’re also processing everything else. Whenever I go up a level, I’ve just been experimenting with whichever of the three new unlocked weapons captures my imagination the most. Splatoon expects you to change up your weapons and gear quite frequently, so feel free to experiment. Hopefully, you’ll kind a weapon class or two that works for your play style. I, for one, unlocked my first Splatana (a type new to Splatoon 3) yesterday, and it’s been going great, thank you.

Overall, there’s definitely a vibe as a new player of, “Am I missing something?” The answer is yes: I missed playing Splatoon 1 and 2. It’s a bit disorienting. I really hope that feeling will fade. Because, all of the confusion over things which seem like they should be obvious aside, the fact of the matter is that Splatoon 3 is very addictive and fun. I am now kind of person who picks up Splatoon 3 saying I’ll do a couple rounds, 15 minutes tops, and then I put down my Switch an hour later. And I’m probably late for something, too. Like sleep. Or food.

I’m hoping that I eventually get past this awkward learning curve and not always be the worst-performing player on my team. Splatoon seems simple, but there’s a lot of tactics and slick mechanical tricks happening under all that ink. And that’s usually the mark of a good game. I would caution other newbies to expect to feel like the new kid at school for a while, though. (I won’t even get into how the game’s incredibly cool and hip aesthetic makes it the first video game perhaps to ever make me feel “old.”)

The learning curve is going to be steeper than you think. You’re going to have more “huh?” moments than you think, too. But hopefully, at the end of that curve, there is a beautifully executed Squid Surge for all of us.

Image credit: Nintendo

The Mary Sue is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more about our Affiliate Policy
Image of Kirsten Carey
Kirsten Carey
Kirsten (she/her) is a contributing writer at the Mary Sue specializing in anime and gaming. In the last decade, she's also written for Channel Frederator (and its offshoots), Screen Rant, and more. In the other half of her professional life, she's also a musician, which includes leading a very weird rock band named Throwaway. When not talking about One Piece or The Legend of Zelda, she's talking about her cats, Momo and Jimbei.