The surprise return of a legendary Mountain Dew flavor made me very happy this year

Last month, I got way too invested in a Mountain Dew. I searched multiple websites trying to get it delivered to my apartment, annoyed store clerks with questions about unstocked Dew they might have sitting “in the back,” recruited friends to scout out Walmart locations, and became an expert on the official online Dew tracker. Why do it all for a 12-pack of soda that usually makes me recoil in its extreme sweetness?

I didn’t do it for any old Mountain Dew variety—I did it for Halo Mountain Dew Game Fuel, and I’d do it again.

If you’ll allow me to paint a picture, dear reader: It’s 2007, I’m an 11-year-old with an Xbox 360, and the most important videogame of my brief life, Halo 3, was imminent. My brother was over the moon. It’s all anyone at my school wanted to talk about—I remember crowding around an older kid’s original iPhone to watch Halo 3 trailers. My dad pre-ordered the Master Chief green Xbox 360 with visor orange disc drive despite already having several Xboxes in the house. Just months before Call of Duty 4 would take over shooters, Bungie had our full attention.

As did Mountain Dew. Halo 3 Game Fuel was a brilliant piece of marketing. When I think back on those strong, positive bursts of hype in the months before Halo 3, the blood orange fizz of Game Fuel ranks just as high as those cool ‘Believe’ trailers. My mom tried to limit our access to soda at home, but she made an exception for our Game Fuel mania.

It might be hard to picture what made this particular collaboration special when drink brands plaster videogame logos on their cans all the time these days, but in 2007 it wasn’t so common for the world at large to roll out the red carpet for a big game release. The total makeover of the Mountain Dew can, Master Chief’s prominent placement on the key art, and the creation of a whole new flavor (Citrus Cherry) specifically for Halo made the whole occasion uncommonly important and essential to fans. 

Original Halo 3 Game Fuel, a Rosetta Stone for deciphering the year that was 2007. (Image credit: PepsiCo)

Mountain Dew brought back Game Fuel a handful of times over the years for similar partnerships and different flavors promoting World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Titanfall, and even a Halo 4 campaign in 2012 (the year many of us checked out on Halo) that produced an iconic image of Geoff Keighley surrounded by Doritos and Dew. None of these Game Fuel pretenders would reach the cultural heights of the OG Halo 3 edition, and I paid them no mind.

I was happy to leave Game Fuel in 2007 as a fun little footnote in the story of a fantastic game. Then last month, they brought it back again. This time, for a special Halo Infinite (slash Diablo 4) promotion, and they couldn’t have picked a better moment to reel me in. I got back into Halo in a big way this fall, and alongside the return of Game Fuel itself came the return of classic Halo 3 maps in Infinite and Game Fuel-themed cosmetics you can only get with codes on the soda. I’m not above having a little fun with stupid snack cosmetics in shooters, but there was zero irony in this Dew quest. I had to have some Game Fuel.

Sure, nostalgia had a lot to do with it, but Citrus Cherry is also a damn good Mountain Dew flavor. The best Mountain Dew has to offer…at least, that’s how I remembered it.

Game Fuel 2023

They sure made the stuff hard to find for a while. I started my search in early November when pictures of people finding new Game Fuel in the wild started cropping up. I won’t bore you with details, but it was certainly the most effort I’ve dedicated to soda. When the two corner stores closest to me wound up a bust, I turned to the official Mountain Dew product tracker. Pepsi Co’s sophisticated tracking technology returned a promising lead that was actually a cruel joke that’d haunt me for days: Walmart. Supposedly lots of Walmarts had the stuff, but I had to bust that myth the hard way.

Maybe it was fate, maybe it was Master Chief’s guiding hand, or maybe the stockers at my local WinCo were just faster to put out the new stuff, but I finally found it after a week: Halo Infinite Citrus Cherry and Diablo 4 Mystic Punch. Afraid that WinCo’s entire stock would somehow evaporate overnight, I got a 12-pack of each to be safe.

Man, I really like the colors they went with for the Halo one. It’s got the throwback orange that matches Chief’s visor and looks great against his olive green armor, but the new tiger stripes of purple and red is a dazzling palette that’d catch my eye in a fridge even if I wasn’t looking for it. Mountain Dew knows how to grab attention with label art, even if what’s inside is rarely worth the trouble. Is my favorite Mountain Dew still as good 16 years later?

(Image credit: PepsiCo)

Absolutely. I’m sorry adult me who shouldn’t be this giddy about soda for children, but this stuff rocks. The “cherry” half of the concoction basically tastes like Code Red (an A tier base Dew flavor), but it’s the roundabout punch of citrus that cuts the Code Red’s overwhelming sugar high. It’s still very sweet—probably too sweet for most—but it’s way more drinkable than standard green Dew, deeper than Code Red, and sharper than Taco Bell’s Baja Blast. If Mountain Dew had gone the whole way with this revival and brought Game Fuel slushies back to 7-Eleven, then I’d really be in trouble. It’s also nice that this is not a gimmick drink like Flamin’ Hot Mountain Dew. That stuff made me question my life choices, but Citrus Cherry tastes like a legitimate member of the Dew family. They could bottle this stuff up without all the gamer branding and it’d still be a good soda.

My partner and I (OK, mostly I) tore through our Citrus Cherry haul until all that was left was Diablo 4 Mystic Punch, the new flavor of the pair. I saved it for last because purple soda and I don’t have the best track record. Artificial grape isn’t my thing, and Mystic Punch is definitely that with some other berry stuff going on. It’s squarely in the camp of overwhelming Dew sweetness, so much that my partner gave up after one sip. I can’t recommend it.

Dew rewards

It’s nice that this is not a gimmick drink like Flamin’ Hot Mountain Dew. That stuff made me question my life choices.

I don’t regret picking up both flavors, though, because each 12-pack was worth a handful of Dew reward points. These are your standard 10-digit codes found under bottle caps or inside the 12-pack box. You can cash in points on the Dew/Doritos/Rockstar marketplace to unlock goodies for all sorts of Microsoft games (Diablo, Sea of Thieves, and Forza to name a few), but I only needed three points to get the Halo Infinite items I wanted: the Virescent and the Crimson Fuel visors that literally depict Dew condensation developing on your helmet, and the “Mountain Tiger” coating that emblazons my spartan armor with the same outrageous color scheme of the can.

I’m still rocking my Game Fuel armor over a month later, partly because it’s silly, but it’s legitimately become one of my favorite spartan fashion looks. It’s also fun to see other people rocking Dew colors and acknowledge our shared nostalgia, though that hasn’t gone well for me so far. The colors are nice and I even manage to stand out among teammates wearing $30 armor bundles. My armor color cost around $5.  Plus 290 calories.

(Image credit: 343 Industries)

With Game Fuel in hand and Mountain Tiger skin applied, I had a wonderful time last month playing old Halo 3 maps lovingly recreated in Forge by community members. The throwback playlist was a hit, and even inspired a few friends to reinstall the game. I’ve mostly been playing alone since I got back into Infinite, so the Halo 3 Refueled playlist was an excellent reminder of just how effortlessly fun a casual night of Halo can be with the right people.

I picked up a few more bottles of Game Fuel today so I could snap a decent picture for this article, but to be honest, it was just an excuse to have a little more fun with this nostalgia trip before it disappears. I’m positive this isn’t the last time I’ll enjoy this artifact of 2007, but I’m sad to see it go. I wonder what occasion will resurrect Game Fuel next?

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