Sometimes a game comes into your life exactly when you need it. Sometimes it clicks so perfectly that an entirely new console purchase is in order. For me, Splatoon was precisely that game.
For as many issues as the Wii U had, great software certainly was not one of them. For years prior it had delivered fantastic exclusives like Super Mario 3D World, Pikmin 3, Mario Kart 8, and more. As a college student preoccupied with class, work, and a wealth of fantastic JRPGs on my 3DS, buying a Wii U had never been a serious consideration. However, all of that changed the moment I saw the very first Splatoon Nintendo Direct and was shocked to find that I was genuinely interested in an online shooter.
Just like how Hades became many players’ gateway into the roguelite genre, Splatoon opened my eyes to the joys of competitive shooters. I’d always been put off by the realism of established franchises like Call of Duty and Counter-Strike, but Nintendo’s first stab at an online shooter was delightfully bright and colorful. And while others in the genre had established player bases with high skill ranges, Splatoon was fresh (pun intended) so I was able to get in on the ground floor and hone my skills alongside everyone else.
All of this coalesced into a title that completely changed the way I thought about my favorite genres. I realized I loved being part of a tense battle that comes down to the wire. I discovered the rush of relying on my teammates and seeing that trust pay dividends as we cleared match after match. Some of my best gaming memories of the last half decade are of finding a really reliable team during a Splatfest and playing endlessly into the night because none of us wanted to go our separate ways. That thrill of overcoming all odds, of clenching a last-second win and moving up the ranks with my team, had a profound effect on my gaming life from that point on.
In the following years, I would dig into everything from Halo 4 to Apex Legends, and my experiences with Splatoon even pushed me to try hero shooters like Overwatch and Paladins. Whereas I’d once scoffed at the idea of playing anything even remotely competitive out of fear of losing and getting frustrated, the sheer amount of fun I’d had gradually getting better at Splatoon and making so many great memories helped me shake that fear and led to me trying so many more types of games because of it.
Splatoon really came at the perfect time for me. I was at a low point, working a minimum wage job at my local movie theater to scrape by. I’d be on my feet for six to eight hours straight working the cash register and cleaning before finally getting to hobble home, grab some food and take a load off. Frustrated, sore, and tired, I was rarely in the mood to dive into my typical RPGS; instead, hopping into mindless matches of Splatoon served as the perfect way to blow off steam and clear my thoughts. This became my daily routine for months, and at times it’d be the only thing keeping me going through especially long shifts. In this way, playing Splatoon was just as cathartic as it was genuinely fun.
From introducing me to the joys of competitive multiplayer to providing a much-needed way to decompress after long shifts at a soulless job, Splatoon had a seriously positive impact on my life. Its colorful, cartoony aesthetic and notably fantastic use of the Wii U gamepad still hold up to this day, and it’s easily become one of my all-time favorite franchises in gaming. And if nothing else, it taught me an important lesson: sometimes, all it takes is the right game to get into a genre.