Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 review: Super Smash Avengers Bros.

Nintendo's exclusive new Marvel game feels like a throwback brawler with a crazy amount of characters to pick up.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
3 min read

The Wasp, one of many, many characters in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3.

Screenshot by Scott Stein/CNET

I never followed Marvel universe until the cinematic cycle sucked me in. Ten years ago, before most of these Marvel films existed, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 was basically a multicharacter, co-op Marvel brawl-adventure. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3, coming after Avengers: Endgame, now feels like a spinoff movie in video game form.

And yet, what's weird is this is a completely different story. Sort of.

Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order doesn't have the same story as the Marvel movies, but its alternative/parallel plot ends up sucking in a crazy number of characters. I've been playing a bunch of hours on my own and with my kid, and we've already unlocked The Wasp, Daredevil, Venom, Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, Iron Man, Miles Morales, Spider-Gwen, Thor, Wolverine, Luke Cage, Star-Lord, Groot, Gamora and more. Any plot developments in the Avengers movies (no spoilers!) don't carry over here. But Thanos and a hunt for the Infinity Stones is still the main story thread (as if I really needed a story thread).

The four-player game is a semi-overhead-style game, sort of like Diablo 3. At any time, you can swap among the four characters playing. Once new characters are added, they can be swapped in for different team combinations. The last I checked, I was playing with Venom, Ms. Marvel, The Wasp and Daredevil.


Venom's in my main 4.

Screenshot by Scott Stein/CNET

Characters can end up being tiny on a small Switch screen; TV docking is a good option. Tons of characters attack in waves, you fight them, and then there's another place where more bad guys attack. It's pretty linear and arcadelike in that regard, but every character can level up and add enhanced powers like an RPG. 

Along the way, there are cartoonish cut-scenes and plenty of voice acting, which ranges from solid to bland. These aren't the "Marvel movie" versions, but they often come close. Lots of characters, including Jessica Jones and Elektra, make cameos along the way.

I played prerelease, so I didn't get to play online. But the four-player co-op mode will allow online players to hop in and join the story, which seems like it would be fun.


This isn't even nearly as crowded as some battles get.

Screenshot by Scott Stein/CNET

Playing co-op on a 60-inch TV with my son was still a bit challenging at times: there are so many things going on, and characters can be hard to make out. 

So far, what I've loved is the insane mash-up of it all. Even after the Avengers movies, seeing the sheer onslaught of enemies and heroes in this game is wild. I've already fought the Green Goblin, Sandman, Kingpin and Ultron. Different sections move through different parts of the Marvel universe. I like seeing where the story will take me, and much like Smash Bros., part of the fun is seeing which character you'll unlock next (there are two dozen already, and I feel like I'm just scratching the surface).

But the gameplay gets repetitive, and feels like a slog at times compared to more modern games. 

Still, if you wanted Diablo in Marvel form, or a co-op arcade brawler Marvel experience on Switch, this might be your best bet. My son said he really liked it. It sucked us in over a weekend. And with a season pass of extra DLC content (a separate purchase) on the way, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 could end up being a pretty vast pocket universe to explore.