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This Splatoon 3 boss is a cruel reference to a nightmarish Super Mario Sunshine level

Big Man didn’t disappoint

Inklings and Octolings face off in a city street in artwork from Splatoon 3 Image: Nintendo
Ana Diaz (she/her) is a culture writer at Polygon, covering internet culture, fandom, and video games. Her work has previously appeared at NPR, Wired, and The Verge.

Splatoon 3 launched on Friday, and thanks to a boss fight in the new shooter, you can now relive the horror of one of the worst levels from Super Mario Sunshine.

In Splatoon 3, you play as cephalopod-inspired characters called Inklings and Octolings, which shoot colored ink from guns and other weapons. The game is known for its online competitive multiplayer, but it also has a single-player campaign in which you explore an arctic land called Alterna. One of these levels contains an Easter egg that references Super Mario Sunshine.

[Ed. note: This post contains spoilers for one of the later boss fights in Splatoon 3’s single-player campaign.]

The level that references Mario Sunshine is the boss fight for the sixth area of Alterna in the single-player campaign. In it, you battle Big Man, the lovable giant manta ray of Deep Cut. When you initiate the fight, he disappears into the ground and you see a light shadow of a giant manta ray appear on the ground that covers the floor with paint. As you spray the silhouette, it will split into smaller and smaller manta ray shadows. If you split them up enough, you eventually prompt the next stage of the battle:

an image of a boss fight with big man in splatoon 3. the image shows an octoling spraying orange paint on two shadow-like manta rays on the ground. the manta rays excrete a duel tone paint that’s yellow and blue-green in color. Image: Nintendo via Polygon

The fight is actually a reference to a nightmarish level from Mario Sunshine called “The Manta Storm” that takes place in the Sirena Beach area. In Super Mario Sunshine, Mario is tasked with cleaning up a paint-like goop scattered across a beach resort town, whereas in Splatoon, the whole point is to cover the field with as much paint as possible. The reference feels thematically relevant given the gameplay parallels between the two games.

In the level, Mario has to spray water on a giant shadow manta ray that’s covering the beach with paint. As he sprays water onto the manta ray-shaped menace, it splits into smaller and smaller versions. The Splatoon developers aren’t event being subtle about the connection. The Mario Sunshine level and Big Man fight even use the same trippy yellow and greenish-blue dual-tone pattern.

The reference can either be horrifying or delightful, depending on your experience with the GameCube platformer. At the time, the Mario level garnered a reputation for being quite difficult, since you had to chase down so many manta rays on the beach, and is remembered as one of the most absurd levels in the game — so there’s a bit of a cruel irony to the reference.

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