Modes are gameplay configurations available to the player. There are both online modes and local modes that players can access from Inkopolis Plaza (Splatoon) or Inkopolis Square (Splatoon 2), with the online modes being featured in the Battle Lobby found at the far north side of the hub.
- Main article: Level
Online modes share a level system where points earned during matches add up to a new level. As the player's level gets higher, in-game characters will notice and will compliment the player on becoming more "fresh". As players level up, they unlock new weapons to purchase, new modes to play, etc. At Level 20, players can go to Spyke or Murch to add ability slots to gear or re-roll gear abilities for 30,000 Cash or one Super Sea Snail. Additionally, players can receive a new piece of gear or weapon from Judd every five levels starting at Level 25. The current maximum level is Level 50, as of version 2.0.0. 
Matchmaking mode choices are available from the battle lobby menu. The matchmaking mode determines which stages a player can play on, which game modes can be played, and how opponents are chosen.
|Regular Battle||Regular Battle modes can be accessed by players of all levels. Currently, the only mode is Turf War.||✓||✓|
|Ranked Battle||Ranked Battle becomes accessible when a player reaches level 10 by playing Regular Battle. The modes included in this category require a higher level of strategy compared to regular modes, and wins and losses will be counted toward players' ranks. Players begin with a "C-" ranking, but are able to improve and regress based on how well they perform, with Ranks ranging from C- to S+. It wasn't available until enough players worldwide reached level 10. Updates on the progress of the "Ranked Splatometer" were posted on official Nintendo social media accounts. Ranked Battle was unlocked on 1 June 2015.||✓||✓|
|Squad Battle||Squad Battle allows groups of two, three, or four friends to play together as a squad in Ranked Battles. This mode was released in Version 2.0.0 of Splatoon. Squad Battles are grouped either 4v4, 4v3, or 3v3 battles. Players can form Twin Squads (2 player), Tri-Squads (3 player), and Quad-Squads (4 player) with their Nintendo Network Friends. Twin Squads are temporarily teamed up with a second Twin Squad for a Quad-Squad. A Tri-Squad that is playing against a Quad-Squad has a quicker respawn bonus..||✓|
|League Battle||League Battle allows groups of two or four friends to play together as a squad and compete with other groups to earn as many points as possible within a particular rotation. This mode becomes accessible when a player reaches at least B- rank in any Ranked Battle mode. League Battles do not affect the players' ranks; instead, teams are given a League Power rating specific to each two-hour rotation they play in.||✓|
|Splatfest Battle||Splatfest is a special recurring event that happens on an irregular basis, currently hosted by Off the Hook in Splatoon 2. Players choose between two teams, such as Cats (orange) or Dogs (blue), and battle. Inkopolis Square and all of the stages are decorated for the event. Splatfest features its own ranking system based on the player's total points earned during the event. At the end of the event, the player is awarded an amount of Super Sea Snails based on their final ranking. The final Splatfest score is based on both popularity and the amount of wins. It can be accessed by players of all levels. The only mode is Turf War.
Splatfest was previously available in Splatoon, hosted by the Squid Sisters in Inkopolis Plaza. The final Splatfest for Splatoon, Callie vs. Marie, ran from July 15-17, 2016. This mode is no longer available in the original Splatoon.
|Private Battle||Private Battle mode is a special mode where the player can fight with/against their friends in customized matches. These matches can be any mode and any stage and can have any number of players, from 1v1 to 4v4. This mode was released in the version 2.0.0 update in Splatoon, and was available at release in Splatoon 2. This mode is also available during Splatfest.||✓||✓|
|Turf War||A mode consisting of four players in two teams. The aim is to cover a map with their team's ink color; the team with the highest ink coverage after three minutes wins the match.||✓||✓|
|Splat Zones||Two teams fight to keep control of specially marked zones on the map by covering them with their ink. When all Zones are under a team's control, the team's timer counts down toward zero. The timer will stop if the opposing team takes control of the Zones, and their timer will begin count down. Both teams start at 100 on their counters. The team whose timer gets to zero wins the match. After 5 minutes, if neither team gets their timer to zero, the team who got their timer the lowest wins.||✓||✓|
|Tower Control||Players compete for control of a central Tower platform, which will move through the stage towards enemy territory along a path when a player stands on it. If the Tower is overtaken by an opponent, it will reverse direction. Whichever team rides the tower to their respective goal spot at the end of the path wins.||✓||✓|
|Rainmaker||Players compete for control of the Rainmaker, a unique weapon used only in this mode. The goal is to take it into the enemy base and place it on a pedestal, ending with a knockout if either team does so. The Rainmaker is very heavy, preventing the user from performing a Super Jump, but can fire ink tornadoes similar to those of the Inkzooka.||✓||✓|
|Salmon Run||A co-op multiplayer mode where up to four players collect Power Eggs and Golden Eggs by defeating Salmonids, and then deposit the Golden Eggs in an egg basket. Online Salmon Run is only available during pre-determined times; it is always available offline at The Shoal.||✓|
|Clam Blitz||The objective of Clam Blitz is to pick up clams, which are scattered around the stage, and deposit them into the shielded goal near the opposing team's base. Players picking up clams may choose to build the Power Clam needed to break open the opponent's goal, or toss the clams to teammates so that they can build the Power Clam; completed Power Clams can also be tossed between teammates, as carrying them introduces a risk to the carrier by showing the location of the carrier to all opponents.||✓|
- Main article: The Shoal
The Shoal is the local multiplayer option, only available in Splatoon 2. It allows players to play any battle mode or Salmon Run locally, using either wireless or LAN connections between Nintendo Switch consoles.
Games in the Splatoon series include a single player story mode with puzzle and platforming elements.
- Octo Valley (Splatoon) — Agent 3 fights the Octarians to get back the Great Zapfish.
- Octo Canyon (Splatoon 2) — Agent 4 fights the Octarians to get back Callie and the Great Zapfish.
- Octo Expansion (Splatoon 2 DLC) — Agent 8 escapes Deepsea Metro.
- Main article: Amiibo#Gameplay
amiibo challenges are single player missions that are only accessible through tapping in a Splatoon amiibo in the amiibo box, only available inSplatoon. The challenges have the player taking on levels in Octo Valley with a twist. Completing these challenges will net cash and exclusive rewards. In Splatoon 2, amiibos no longer provide challenges, but instead allow the player to gain exclusive gear, save loadouts and take pictures with their amiibo.
- Main article: Battle Dojo
Battle Dojo is a local 2-player mode only appearing in Splatoon, with one player using the Wii U GamePad and the other using a separate controller, such as the Wii U Pro Controller, and the TV screen. Both players must attempt to pop balloons to reach 30 points. If the timer runs out before one player has reached 30 points, whoever has the most wins. Getting splatted will subtract points, which will vary depending on what position the player splatted was in. In the last minute of the battle, every balloon popped is worth double the points.
These are other miscellaneous minor modes in the game.
- Arcade Machine: A local single player mode allowing players to play any of the retro squid mini-games they have unlocked outside of the battle lobbies. In Splatoon, only Squid Jump is unlocked by default. Squid Racer, Squidball, and Squid Beatz can be unlocked via amiibo Challenges. In Splatoon 2, only Squid Beatz 2 is available.
- Recon: Single player exploration of a stage, accessed from the Battle Lobby by pressing . The time limit, stage layout, and features match that which the player chose from the current rotation, allowing for some scoping out of the stage without the pressure of a battle.
- Tutorial: The tutorial can be played when the player starts Splatoon and Splatoon 2 for the first time.
An Inkling shooting an Inkzooka
A Roller moving down the hallway.
An Inkling aiming with a Charger.
A Turf War between pink and blue
An Inkling gaining points in a Ranked Battle
An Inkling in the Ranked Lobby. (pre. version 2.0.0)
Inklings playing the Saltspray Rig Splat Zone stage
The Blackbelly Skatepark Splat Zones
The Camp Triggerfish Splat Zones
Agent 3 shooting at an Octotrooper.
An Octo Valley Kettle
Agent 3 facing two Shielded Octotroopers
An Inkling with the Rainmaker
Hammerhead Bridge with the Rainmaker
Names in other languages
|German||Kampfart||Type of combat|