Review: League Of Legends-Inspired Coca-Cola Ultimate Offers Dr. Pepper Vibes

Are you a gamer with a thirst for soda? Even better, are you an internet-obsessed Gen Z consumer who loves "League of Legends?" If so, then Coca-Cola has a new drink it would like to sell you. Coca-Cola Ultimate is a collaboration between the iconic soda manufacturer and Riot Games, the company behind the popular "League of Legends" strategy computer game (or LOL as the true heads call it). It's the latest in the Coca-Cola Creations lineup of limited-edition soda flavors and the launch this week comes tied with a suite of online experiences, helping to add to the product's positioning as a drink for video game-loving digital natives.

As high-tech as the marketing for Coca-Cola Ultimate may be, our concerns are more analog: Is the fizzy, brown sugar water in a bottle worth paying your hard-earned cash for? We've previously ranked the best colas on the market — original Coca-Cola took our top prize — so we're wary of any attempt to screw with perfection. We sampled the new soda (and were pleasantly surprised by what we tasted) to deliver our take on the latest twist of this timeless formula.

What's in Coca-Cola Ultimate?

This limited-edition Cocoa-Cola Creations x League of Legends variety says on the label that it's "+XP flavored," as in all those delicious points players accumulate. We have no idea what gaining experience points is supposed to taste like, but that's par for the course for a Coca-Cola Creations beverage. Previous releases in this line have also had inscrutable flavor inspirations: Coca-Cola Starlight was ostensibly space-flavored, while Coca-Cola Move was said to taste like transformation. Suffice it to say that you won't really know what you're getting until you actually take a sip.

In terms of ingredients, Coca-Cola Ultimate is exactly the same as Coke Classic: carbonated water, high-fructose corn syrup, caramel color, natural flavors, and caffeine. Coca-Cola Ultimate Zero Sugar has slightly different ingredients than standard Coke Zero because sucralose is added to the formula.

But, of course, Coca-Cola Ultimate is a marketing device as much as it's an actual soda, so the product inside the bottle is only part of the story. You can scan a QR code on the label to visit the beverage's website, where you can (among other things) find information about earning special Ultimate Emotes in "League of Legends" or insert yourself into a special video adventure.

How much does Coke Ultimate cost and where is it available?

At our local supermarket, Coca-Cola Ultimate was on sale for $2 per 20-ounce bottle, as were all other Coke products. You don't have to pay extra for the special-edition soda. Also, 10-packs of little 7.5-ounce cans cost $6 for the bundle. The exact price may vary depending on where you live and which store you shop in.

Coca-Cola Ultimate began rolling out in U.S. and Canadian grocery stores on June 12, 2023. You can find a list of stores in your area that sell it (including delivery services) on the Coca-Cola website. The soft drink will be available for a limited time, but there's no specific end date; we're guessing that Coke simply made a certain amount of this soda, so when it's gone, it's gone. Consumers in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada can choose between the full-sugar and zero-sugar versions of the drink. China, Africa, South Korea, and the rest of Latin America outside of Mexico will only receive Coca-Cola Ultimate Zero Sugar.

How does it compare to other Coca-Cola Creations?

Coca-Cola Ultimate follows in a long line of limited-time-only Coca-Cola Creations beverages. These drinks all share certain attributes: They're typically accompanied by a marketing push that includes interactive digital elements, they come in specially-designed packaging, and they offer some special twist on Coke's base flavor. Ultimate sets itself apart because it's the first Creations collaboration with a gaming company.

Coke dipped its toes into the gaming market with an earlier release in 2022: Coca-Cola Zero Sugar Byte. It was described as pixel-flavored (yum!) and debuted alongside Fortnite-inspired mini-games. However, the games came with a disclaimer that they were not made by Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite.

Clearly, one aim of the Creations line is for the beverage company to make some inroads with the gaming community. Perhaps the company is jealous of Mountain Dew's reputation as gamer fuel? Plus, the Creations line is also explicitly targeted at Gen Z consumers. Coca-Cola Dreamworld was supposed to celebrate that generation's supposed love of dreams. Is that a Gen Z stereotype we don't know about?

Nutrition facts for Coke Ultimate

The nutrition information for the full-sugar Coca-Cola Ultimate is pretty similar to any other sugary soda out there — it's pretty bad for you. Like the ingredients, the nutrition facts are almost identical to Coke Classic: A 20-ounce bottle delivers 240 calories, 65 grams of carbs (all of which come in the form of added sugars), and negligible amounts of vitamins and minerals. The 65 grams of added sugar is more than the Food and Drug Administration recommends consuming in an entire day. Ultimate does have 15 fewer milligrams of sodium than normal Coke, but both contain only a small fraction of the daily recommended value, so it's not a particularly meaningful difference.

The zero-sugar version is calorie-free and compares to normal Coke Zero in terms of its overall nutritional profile. Interestingly, it has more sodium and potassium than its sugary brother, but the overall amounts are still quite small. Whether or not you view it as a healthier alternative to full-sugar soda depends on your opinion on the safety of sugar substitutes, a matter about which there is an ongoing debate.

The verdict: Is Coca-Cola Ultimate worth a taste?

Before this, the only Coca-Cola Creations flavor we had sampled was Starlight, which tasted like slightly sweeter Vanilla Coke. Ultimate is definitely a bigger departure from standard Coke flavors. At first, we thought it tasted like cherry, but then a whole bouquet of mixed fruit hit our palate. There was a noticeable bubble gum-like aftertaste (though the sweetness toned it down a little bit). We also picked up a strong tropical element that was reminiscent of bananas, which was balanced by red fruit notes that tasted a bit like ripe plum.

The vague mixed-fruit flavor combined with the characteristic vanilla, cinnamon, and citrus notes of Coke created a beverage that tasted a fair bit like Dr. Pepper (or perhaps we should compare it to Pibb Xtra, the Dr. Pepper-esque soda bottled by Coca-Cola). We actually enjoyed the sugar-free variety slightly more than the full-sugar one because it was less thick and syrupy. The sugary version was cloyingly sweet in a way that made it difficult to finish a whole bottle. Either way, this drink is worth trying, especially if you're a Dr Pepper fan looking for a fun variation on similar flavors.