I play lots of games across every platform for work, but my most-played game in 2023 was one I primarily engaged with for personal enjoyment. While I sunk dozens and dozens of hours into games like Baldur’s Gate 3, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Fire Emblem Engage, Fortnite, Starfield, and more, my most played game was something that didn’t even come out in 2023.
That honor goes to Marvel Snap, a collectible card game from Second Dinner for PC and mobile
Playing it for extended periods daily, I racked up over 300 hours in Marvel Snap throughout 2023. It’s been a year of ups and downs for the deck-building game as it found its footing after a wildly successful launch in late 2022. Through everything, it has retained its core strengths, benefitted from transparent communications from its developers, and constantly added exciting new cards that shook up the meta. With all of that, Marvel Snap has become a comfort game I can play no matter the time or where I’m at.
The core gameplay loop of Marvel Snap is just as captivating to me now as it was the first time I played it over a year-and-a-half ago. Matches are quick and exhilarating, removing much of the fluff that can lengthen or drag down other card games. It has also stayed fresh thanks to the variety of viable decks and random locations. The carrot of progression is continually dangled in front of me, as there’s always a daily or weekly mission for me to complete, a new card to collect, or boosters for me to earn.
These gameplay strengths were present when the game entered beta in May 2022 and still are. While the meta has evolved significantly over time, the core game experience has remained intact. Second Dinner has shown restraint when it comes to changing what works for Marvel Snap, and that has worked in the game’s favor because the game’s systems encourage experimenting with different decks.
Particular standouts include a discard-focused deck centered around M.O.D.O.K. and Apocalypse, which I played a lot throughout the first half of the year, and a summoning deck where The Collector and Loki served as the backbone. Currently, I’m having a lot of fun trying to find which deck compositions work best with Blob, a card that absorbs and gains the power of every card left in my hand. Even if Second Dinner were to stop adding cards altogether, I still think I could continue to play the games for years, experimenting with corners of the meta I haven’t even explored yet even after hundreds of hours of play.
Thankfully, Second Dinner shows no signs of slowing down. A new card is added to the game almost every week, and we’re at the point where Second Dinner tests some truly off-the-wall ideas, like Blob. On top of that, a patch or over-the-air (OTA) hotfix comes almost every week to adjust game balance. Its feature set has also expanded, with new cards now being easier to obtain thanks to the Token Shop .Spotlight Caches and Conquest also provide a longer-lasting battle mode. The game is also on PC now, even though most of my playtime is still on mobile.
Second Dinner is underappreciated as one of the most transparent live-service developers working today, as it thoroughly explains every decision made in an OTA or patch and frequently responds to player questions on the official Discord. That’s not to say every update is flawless. Marvel Snap is ending the year on a somewhat lower note for me, as a December 2023 update added a flawed deck-builder system, a controversial change to America Chavez’s card, and some new bugs. I’ve also noticed that gold prices for new card variants have increased, with new emotes locked as albums of purchased variants.
Heading into 2024, Second Dinner has some work to do in terms of balancing cards and making radical changes without much notice. I appreciate the constant communication the developers provide and how frequently Marvel Snap updates, though, and I hope it doubles down on this next year. Because Second Dinner is so transparent, I feel safe spending so much time (and some money) on the game, even with the troubles publisher Nuverse encountered this year.
Very few live-service games click with me, and Marvel Snap addresses many issues that tend to disappoint me with these kinds of games. Its developers are readily transparent, updates are frequent, and progression systems give me a reason to play it not just every day, but multiple times within a day. Above all, Marvel Snap is a fun comfort game for me. It’s the only thing I could will myself to play after my dog passed away earlier this year, and it’s something I can play to de-stress or distract myself when life gets too hectic.
A lot of games I play can feel like work, even if they’re fantastic. While I came to terms with that several years ago and don’t have many problems anymore, when a title like Marvel Snap connects with me on a deeper level, it nestles itself into my daily routine in a way few games can. That allowed Marvel Snap to come out on top as my most-played game in one of the industry’s most hectic years ever.
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