Last week, Features Editor and chad mobile game enjoyer Eric Switzer convinced a bunch of us to try out Marvel Snap, the newest virtual card game on the block. It’s got all the staples of a standard mobile game. Daily and weekly challenges, a season pass, multiple forms of currency to spend huge amounts of real cash on, and matches you can play while on the toilet or waiting for the bus. Also, it’s free to play. I bounce off most games like this as soon as I hit a wall that can only be broken with money, but Snap has held my attention for longer than I thought possible, and all I’ve bought is the season pass. It’s the best mobile game I've played in years, and it’s given me hope that this free-to-start model can actually work.
Marvel Snap leverages its IP brilliantly. With hundreds of characters to pull from, it’s not short of ideas. There are big names like Hulk and Captain America, and lesser-known characters like Squirrel Girl and Nova. Rather than buy cards in packs, you unlock them in various pools as you increase your collector level. There’s an element of randomness to the order you get new cards, but you’re always pulling from the same pool, and if you play the game long enough, you’ll get every card eventually. This first season is centered around Miles Morales and the Symbiotes, which means Miles and various Symbiotes are all up for grabs as rewards.
It leans into the comic book and multiverse nature of the Marvel Multiverse by offering quirky variants of cards and a fun upgrade system that makes cards flashier, but not more powerful. Want a Baby Ant-Man? You got him. A pixelated Elektra? She’s there too. Now have the art break out of its frame, then make it 3D, then animate it, now make the name shimmer. Okay, that last one feels a bit phoned in, but the early upgrades are frequent and bold, making your collection more visually exciting the more you play.
People love to collect cards and comics, so collecting comic cards just makes sense. What helps is that you can do well in the game without having to go for the most powerful cards. Like Hearthstone, you gain one energy per turn. Unlike most other card games I’ve played, you only get six turns in total. Matches are swift, and you can only really play one heavy hitter per game, meaning there’s no need to worry about filling your deck with the biggest, baddest cards, just use the characters you love the most.
I hit a wall around rank 30, but Eric reminded me to use the game’s snap and retreat mechanics to my advantage. To rank up, you bet cubes. I think they’re meant to be the Tesseract but I’m not sure to be honest. It doesn’t matter, anyway. The more cubes you have the better it means you are, so get after them. At any point in a match, you can snap to bet more cubes. If your opponent does this too then the final pool goes from two to eight, meaning one victory can be worth four cubes. Retreat before the final turn and you only lose one cube if no snaps have happened. So even if you only win one match out of four or five, you can rank up pretty easily as long as you bet strategically.
These quick, tactical battles are made even more interesting by the locations. Iconic places like Wakanda, Sokovia, and Knowhere divide the board into three separate battlegrounds where you have to fight to have the most power. Win two out of the three locations and the game – and the sweet, sweet cubes – is yours. The locations are each buffed with effects, some are simple like giving you more energy or adding an extra turn,while others are more bizarre, like drawing from each other’s decks and swapping hands. They add a fun element of chaos that means even skilled players can get caught out by playing all their cards on a tile that later reveals itself to sap their power every turn.
What I love most about Marvel Snap is how much it leans into being a mobile game. It’s not a game that’s on mobile, like Florence or Monument Valley. It’s a mobile game through and through. You’re encouraged to spend money so you can buy the resources to upgrade your cards and increase your collector level, but the game never loses its shine if you don’t. It’s a fun, free, card collecting game, that’s it. The three lots of daily challenges – two every eight hours – keep me checking in throughout the day. But even without them, just trying to climb the ranked ladder is rewarding enough.
I never thought a game like this would be a game of the year contender for me, but I’m not alone at TheGamer – several other members of staff have been loving this. The huge swathe of triple-A releases coming up may push it further down the podium, but Season 2 launches in a couple of weeks, and if it’s as much fun as the first has been, then Marvel Snap is going to prove to a lot of people that mobile games aren’t to be ignored.
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