Many Switch owners are still hard at work in Splatoon 3, grinding their rank for Anarchy Battles, Salmon Run, and Tableturf. Splatoon has some of Nintendo’s most consistent post-launch support thanks to events like the Pokemon Scarlet and Violet-themed Splatfest, but it also has a multimedia presence through hologram concerts like a recent Nintendo Live showing for Deep Cut. One part of that live event brought in the Squid Sisters to perform “Calamari Inkantation 3MIX” from Return of the Mammalians, offering a clear reminder of the story mode’s impact on Salmon Run.

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With Splatoon presenting fans a fairly cut-and-dry competitive multiplayer shooter that puts more of an emphasis on covering the ground with ink, Splatoon 2 expanded the series’ scope to include co-op activities. Salmon Run was intended to showcase the Switch’s portability and local play potential, according to producer Hisashi Nogami, and it certainly succeeded at that. However, Splatoon 3‘s story introduced new context behind the mode’s in-universe conception that makes it an unexpected wellspring of lore. Spoilers for Splatoon 3 ahead.

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How Splatoon 3 Changes Salmon Run Forever

Salmon Run’s premise is simple: Teams of four players work together to defeat waves of enemies called Salmonid as a number of “Boss Salmonid” varieties appear and drop Golden Eggs when defeated. One could compare it to Splatoon‘s take on the zombie hordes in Left 4 Dead, with Boss Salmonid acting akin to Special Infected that cause havoc using facsimiles of tools available to players; Steelheads throw bombs, Flyfish fire Tenta Missiles, Big Shots create shock waves, and so on.

Players have to survive three waves and collect enough Golden Eggs to meet quota for every Salmon Run attempt, and sometimes there will be event rounds involving unique mechanics like playing hide and seek to find Goldies. The structure and quotas are set by Mr. Grizz, who only speaks to the player via a wood-carved radio that depicts a grizzly bear eating a salmon. In Splatoon 2, the sense that this mode was a part-time job for Inklings and Octolings was enhanced by limiting play to a select few hours every week, but Splatoon 3‘s Salmon Run: Next Wave is available 24/7.

Another major addition to Next Wave is King Salmonid, as some runs will have a bonus round battling Cohozuna if players have built up their appearance meter. However, Return of the Mammalians offers the biggest shake-up by revealing Salmon Run fans have been secretly fueling the saga’s climax. Mr. Grizz is revealed to be an actual grizzly bear who survived the eradication of mammalian life, sentient following centuries in isolation and able to create Fuzzy Ooze that turns other beings into mammals by utilizing Golden Eggs. The story mode ends with Inklings, Octolings, and Salmonid teaming up to stop Mr. Grizz from all-but eradicating marine life.

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Future Splatoon Games Have to Address Return of the Mammalians’ Implications

It’s hard to casually enjoy Salmon Run after this reveal, which retroactively colors the perception of this part-time gig that abuses the Salmonid species. The reason why players began collecting Golden Eggs in the first place was an unconsenting part in genocide, and even with that threat eradicated – as shown by the wooden radio replaced by a salmon eating a bear – Mr. Grizz still barks orders between each round.

This bit of retroactive worldbuilding is a brilliant way for Nintendo to blend gameplay with narrative in the Splatoon series, and it will undoubtedly have implications for the future. Prior to launch Splatoon 3 teased a “Big Run” game mode that seems to let Salmonid armies invade regular multiplayer maps from Turf Wars and Anarchy Battles, and it would make a lot of sense for this aggression to follow revelations about Mr. Grizz and the harvesting of Golden Eggs.

Beyond that, the fact that Mr. Grizz continues narrating Salmon Run after his defeat in Return of the Mammalians opens up further questions. He was last seen jettisoned into deep space, which means the radio is either broadcasting pre-recorded messages or there’s someone new running Grizzco Industries. Fan theories suggest Li’l Judd has taken over the mammalian plot, but whether this is addressed in Splatoon 3 DLC or Splatoon 4 remains to be seen.

Splatoon 3 is available now on Nintendo Switch.

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