The Splatoon universe (スプラトゥーン, Splatoon) refers to the Super Smash Bros. series' collection of elements originating from Nintendo's premier multiplayer-focused third-person shooter franchise. It's comprised of two installments (with a third game setting to be released in 2022) where players take on the role of Inklings, a race of shapeshifting humanoid squid creatures, and fight in paintball-styled team matches by using a variety of weapons that use their ink to "splat" opponents and cover the ground in the ink of their color. It holds the key distinction of being the first multiplayer shooter franchise to be represented in the Super Smash Bros. series.
In the past, first and third-person shooter games had been released on Nintendo platforms, but they were rarely developed by Nintendo themselves, instead being made by external developers (as seen with Rare's GoldenEye 007 on the Nintendo 64 and Retro Studios's Metroid Prime series) due to Nintendo's stance on producing family-friendly content. While franchises like Call of Duty and Halo have received and continue to receive consistent praise for being gritty and realistic, fans of both have also agreed that the genre had grown stale with each installment, with little room for gameplay innovation. To the surprise of many, at E3 2014, it was announced that Nintendo themselves were developing an online multiplayer third-person shooter known as Splatoon for Wii U. The game was a fresh take on the shooter genre, featuring creatures called Inklings shooting ink at each other in a turf war battle style, with the victorious team being whichever could cover the most area with their ink's color. Inklings themselves are capable of transforming into squids, allowing them to speed through the battlefield through their own ink (and simultaneously recharge their ink supply). The team behind the development of Splatoon was made up of core developers of the Animal Crossing series, later joined by the director of Star Fox 64 3D.
When the game was being developed, characters were one of the later thoughts the team had. Originally, the player was represented by a box with a nose (affectionately referred to by the development team as blocks of tofu), but as time went on, the team thought up ideas regarding anthropomorphic squids, rabbits, and robots. Mario characters were also considered, though the team wanted the game to be an original IP and not make it a part of an existing franchise. Due to not finding valid reasoning for rabbits or robots to shoot ink at each other, the squid idea was expanded upon, and eventually resulted in the creation of the shapeshifting humanoid characters known as Inklings.
At the forefront of the online game modes is Turf War, in which players shoot ink in an arena for a predetermined time of three minutes. In that time, the player must cover as much territory as possible with their ink; they may recharge their ink supply by transforming into their squid form while standing on their own ink. If they are hit enough times by a player on the opposing team, they will be KO’d and respawn after eight seconds. There are also special timed events called Splatfests where players can pick teams based on two choices depending on the theme and region (including cats and dogs, the past and the future, being physically fit or being rich, and even special crossover Splatfests with Pokémon, SpongeBob SquarePants, and Transformers). These Splatfest battles are announced by Callie and Marie, of the in-universe Squid Sisters pop duo; the two also announce when stages change in the multiplayer modes, occurring every four hours.
Other multiplayer modes include Ranked Battles, in which players can participate in one of three modes: Splat Zone battles feature King of the Hill-type battles where players fight for control over a particular area in the stage; Tower Control battles feature players taking control of a tower, and they have to remain in control of it so that it reaches their base before the opponents’; Rainmaker battles are Capture the Flag-style matches centered around players grabbing the titular Rainmaker weapon and carrying it to the other team's base, with opponents being able to pop the shield surrounding the Rainmaker, resulting in a large explosion. Players can make teams with people in their friend list in the Squad Battle or Private Battle mode as well, with the latter allowing the players to choose the game mode and stage as well.
Beyond online, Splatoon offers a full-fledged 32-level single player campaign known as Octo Valley. The premise is that the power source of Inkopolis, the Great Zapfish, has been stolen by the Octarians and the player, dubbed Agent 3, must work with Cap'n Cuttlefish and the Squid Sisters to retrieve it. The levels presented are structured similarly to a linear 3D platformer, with mid-level checkpoints keeping track of progress, various collectibles and upgrades to be found, hub worlds to explore, and bosses to fight upon clearing all the levels in a given hub. Even more single player challenges were unlocked via amiibo, with Splatoon seeing its own dedicated line of figures growing well into 2016.
Splatoon was released on May 28th, 2015 in Japan, the following day in North America and Europe, and two days after in Australia. It was critically acclaimed for its innovative ideas, and became the fifth-fastest selling Wii U title in the UK. The game's critical reception on release was incredibly positive, with outlets praising it for reinvigorating the stagnant shooter genre while also not sacrificing the signature "Nintendo" style. Initial criticisms were mainly directed at the game's lack of voice chat compatibility, amiibo-locked content, and limited online options. Over time the game saw numerous free content updates with Nintendo adding in new gear, weapons and game modes, as well as continuous Splatfests. The final Splatfest theme for Splatoon was Callie vs. Marie and concluded on July 24th, 2016, thus ending all official support and content updates for the original Splatoon. By the end of its lifespan the game had sold about 5 million copies, making it the most successful new home console IP since Wii Sports.
Splatoon-like gameplay was spotted in the official debut trailer for the Nintendo Switch console in October 2016, and months later it was announced that a full sequel, Splatoon 2, would be released for the new system. On July 21st, 2017, Splatoon 2 released worldwide to another round of critical acclaim and becoming one of the top ten best-selling games on the Nintendo Switch. Splatoon 2 kept several aspects of the first game, but also brought its own fair share of changes, switching Callie and Marie out with Pearl and Marina, of the in-universe Off the Hook pop duo, and featuring several new modes. A new Ranked Battle mode, Clam Blitz, was added the December after Splatoon 2's release and features players attempting to fill the enemy team's basket, and if ten clams are collected, the player obtains a Power Clam which possesses the ability to destroy the barrier around the basket if it is thrown at it. League Battles replace the Squad Battles from the previous game, while the new Salmon Run is a horde mode that has players collecting a set amount of salmon eggs while fighting off Salmonid enemies in a set of three waves. Another wave of amiibo figures themed around Splatoon 2 also saw periodic releases, and the game was also compatible with all previous Splatoon series amiibo.
On March 8th, 2018, it was revealed in a Nintendo Direct that the first ever piece of paid DLC in the series would be coming to Splatoon 2 on July 31st, 2018 in the form of the Octo Expansion, focusing on a new character, Agent 8, an Octoling who has lost their memories and wants to escape the underground subways and testing facilities they ended up in, fighting the Octarians who have turned against them to get to the surface. Upon finishing the mode, Octolings will become playable in multiplayer matches and Splatfests. At E3 2018, it was revealed that the expansion would be released for download on June 13th, 2018. The final Splatfest theme for Splatoon 2 was initially Chaos vs. Order, but four encore Splatfests have occurred with the fourth and final one being Super Mushroom vs. Super Star, which concluded on Janurary 17, 2021, three years and 6 months after the game first launched. As of March 2021, the game had sold over 12.21 million copies worldwide, making it the ninth best-selling video game on the Nintendo Switch overall. There are currently no plans for future paid DLC for Splatoon 2. In a Nintendo Direct on February 17th, 2021, a third installment, Splatoon 3 was announced, set for a release in 2022.
Since its debut in 2015, Splatoon content has been featured in a number of Nintendo and non-Nintendo related media, to the point of being considered Nintendo's latest mascots. For example, the Inklings were featured in a crossover with the Squid Girl manga series, as downloadable Mii Fighter costumes in Super Smash Bros. 4, as Mystery Mushroom costumes in Super Mario Maker on Wii U, as playable guest characters in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on Nintendo Switch, and the Inkling Squid's eyes being used as a sticker bundled with Nintendo Labo: Variety Kit. The Splatoon franchise was prominently featured as the first new universe in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, with the Inklings appearing as playable newcomers.
While it is a small first appearance, the Splatoon universe makes its debut in Super Smash Bros. 4, in the form of Mii Fighter costumes and a trophy.
Main article: List of SSB4 trophies (Others)
Splatoon representation was massively expanded on in the transition to Ultimate, elevating it to a primary universe with the addition of a new fighter in the form of the Inkling, as well as a new Assist Trophy and stage, many new tracks and remixes, and a new Mii Gunner costume based off of the default Inklings in Splatoon 2.
Main article: List of SSBU Music (Splatoon series)
Arrangements and remixes unique to Ultimate.
Tracks sourced directly from the Splatoon games.
Main article: List of spirits (Splatoon series)
Media with elements appearing in the Super Smash Bros. series