Marvel’s Avengers: How Kamala Khan Became the Heart of the Game

Kamala Khan is the breakout star of Marvel's Avengers. Here's why Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix decided to center the story on Ms. Marvel.

Marvel's Avengers Kamala Khan
Photo: Square Enix

This Marvel’s Avengers article contains spoilers.

Marvel’s Avengers, the new superhero action game from Tomb Raider developer Crystal Dynamics and publisher Square Enix, sees the return of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to modern platforms. But while the new adventure might let gamers and fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe alike take control of the team as seen in the movies, there’s one character who’s captivated players above all others. I’m of course talking about young Kamala Khan, the Avengers superfan who becomes an inspiring superhero in her own right.

While the game opens with the Avengers at the height of their powers and popularity, it’s really young Kamala (voiced beautifully by Sandra Saad), destined to become the superhero Ms. Marvel, who is at the center of this story. We first meet her in the opening A-Day sequence when terrorists attack San Francisco and unleash a powerful Terrigen blast that destroys the city and turns people caught in the Terrigen mist into superpowered Inhumans. Kamala is transformed during that attack, becoming a shape-shifting Inhuman who can elongate as well as alter her size at will.

The game quickly becomes a story about Kamala reassembling the Avengers, who disbanded after their failure in San Francisco, because she believes they’re the only heroes who can stop the evil tech corporation Advanced Idea Mechanics (aka AIM) from subjugating the world. AIM, led by the scheming MODOK, has replaced superheroes with its robot army and is hunting Inhumans. Although she hides her powers at first, Kamala soon realizes that someone needs to step up and do something. From the onset, she brings hope to a superhero universe that seems devoid of it, and her rise from freedom fighter who is way over her head to full-fledged Avengers is easily the highlight of the game’s story campaign.

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Early in her quest to reassemble the team, Kamala tracks down Bruce Banner, who brings her back to the old Avengers HQ, an airship known as the Chimera. Here, we watch as Kamala interacts with Avengers history and learns more about the heroes she admires. She nerds out about Captain America‘s original shield, her first encounter with Thor at an Avengers gift shop, a message from Nick Fury, and the list goes on. Her fangirl tendencies often lead to some truly funny moments — like when Kamala asks Captain America to say “Avengers Assemble” right before the final fight with MODOK and is met with groans from the rest of the team — but they’re also heartwarming.

Kamala is really us, fans who’ve spent years reading Marvel comics and watching the MCU movies. What would we do if we met our favorite comic book heroes in the flesh? But Kamala’s story isn’t just about meeting the Avengers. It’s also about belonging, as she learns more about her own powers and her place in a changed world where regular people need to rise up and be the heroes.

Crystal Dynamics felt it was important to introduce Kamala’s perspective to the Avengers formula in order to explore the Marvel universe and the Avengers in a new way. We’ve already seen how the Avengers assembled in the comics and movies. The video game needed a new way to bring these heroes together while telling a personal story about what it means to be a hero.

“That freshness of having Kamala in there was an imperative to get players synchronized with a new character, in a new way that feels fresh, that feels unique,” Crystal Dynamics head Scot Amos told Den of Geek on a Zoom call. “She’s just becoming an Avenger. So she’s brand new to this world.”

According to Crystal Dynamics, Kamala was always at the center of the story it wanted to tell, and this should come as no surprise. The Pakistani American teenager from Jersey City quickly became a fan-favorite in the comics when she debuted in 2013 in Captain Marvel #14, and as Marvel’s first Muslim superhero, she remains a shining example of inclusion done right in an industry whose characters are so often white and male. Created by Sana Amanat, Stephen Wacker, G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, and Jamie McKelvie, the world’s biggest Captain Marvel fan has been headlining her own series for the last six years and has earned her place in the Marvel pantheon. Alongside Spider-Man’s Miles Morales, Kamala is easily the best Marvel characters introduced in the last decade.

“When you look at the game and you look at it from its inception, Kamala Khan has been there from the beginning. I know that you remember the [announcement] trailer, right? The very first one, there was just the gauntlet, and the shield, and there was a voice. And that was the voice of Kamala Khan,” game designed Lauryn Ash said, recalling the game’s cryptic debut teaser from 2017. “That was a unique perspective that this game wants to drive forward. This is about our unique original Crystal story, and take on the Avengers. And Kamala Khan gives us that perspective, that super fan.”

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As we wrote in our review, it’s clear that Crystal Dynamics has put the most care into Kamala’s character, and that comes through in the gameplay, too. Kamala is an absolute blast to control in the game, as you swing around with her stretchy arms and take down AIM baddies with her size-altering powers. While not everything in this latest take on the superhero genre clicks, Kamala is responsible for a pretty big chunk of what does work in the game. I can’t imagine that Marvel’s Avengers would be the same without her.

Marvel’s Avengers is out now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Google Stadia. It will hit PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X at a later date.