If you were to ask me what I thought about Netflix potentially getting into interactive media, I probably would have answered: I can see it. And I’d probably imagine something along the lines of Bandersnatch with a simple choose your own adventure interface that is easy enough to do with a remote control and technology that very easily translates over to more children friendly media like Minecraft or Legos. That would make perfect sense. And if you asked me to ponder a little harder, I could picture a world where trivia games come back into fashion. I still vaguely remember Trivial Pursuit DVDs that you could plug and play, so a streaming version of that wouldn’t be out of the question.
However, I don’t think I would have ever imagined that Netflix would dive head-first into the mobile gaming arena and be so aggressive about it.
It’s been just about two years since Netflix announced that they were going to start curating a mobile gaming library; a sentence which is still a little baffling to type out but one that makes some semblance of sense. Mobile gaming is a lucrative industry and including a collection of games does bolster the proverbial bang for your buck for your Netflix account. One subscription and you can access the games on your phone with no ads or additional fees. And when they announced the initial rollout, it seemed within reasonable bounds: two Stranger Things tie-in games, two basic physics games, and a card game.
Over the years, Netflix has gone the predictable route of including games that tie-in to their popular series with things like Love is Blind and Too Hot To Handle. Cross promotion is a good business model that garners retention and new viewers and players.
However, Netflix has also gone the inexplicable odd route and truly dedicated itself to being a pioneer in the mobile game space. This is something that became readily apparent to me when they announced that they not only were adding one of my personal favorite games, Into the Breach, to their collection, and that the Android and iOS versions game would launch with an Advanced Edition DLC. That would also be coupled with the PC and Switch versions that would reap the benefits from the quote unquote Netflix money and receive the update for free. Which means thanks to Netflix, I got several new mech squads, pilots, enemies, and a difficulty setting I have only been brave enough to touch once. But that type of investment and branch in genre and sourcing caught my eye.
And over the years, I find myself paying attention to the in-app promotions for their latest games and have an eye on the comprehensive list. It’s constantly impressive the caliber of titles they have in their ranks.
For fighting game enthusiasts, the streamlined arcade fighter Samurai Shodown was added this September. The console version is a popular fixture on our Twitch channel, and the trailer of the mobile version raised a lot of eyebrows as a way to enjoy the methodological 2.5D fighter.
If action games are more your speed, there is TMNT: Shredder’s Revenger. Another remake of an arcade classic, the vibrant colors pop off the screen and the simple controllers will lead to hours of fun with the classic beat ‘em up formula with a 2023 level of polish. You could also partake in Moonlighter, a fascinating game that combines elements of dungeons with business simulation as you play a shopkeeper by day and sword wielder adventurer at night, going into ancient ruins to acquire wares that you can sell in order to invest in other local businesses or improve your own armaments.
Furthermore, while researching this article, I discovered that Dead Cells would be joining this roster (and there’s a good chance by the time this article is actually published, Dead Cells: Netflix will already be out). Dead Cells is one of the original harbingers of the Roguelike. The fast paced Metrovania scroller that heralded a revitalization of my favorite genre. It is a game I have sunken hundreds of hours into even though I haven’t managed to complete a run on the base difficult because the Hand of the King is a brutal boss fight, and I haven’t quite mastered balancing my biome clearing, survivability, and boss slaying. And you get the full game with your Netflix account. That’s every single DLC including the Castlevania which given that Nocturne is maybe more calculated than I realized and a brilliant decision all around.
For more story-driven titles, come take your pick. Perhaps you’re a fan of Annapurna Interactive and want to delve into the liminal horror of Kentucky Route Zero, taking control of Conway as he wanders alongside a fictitious interstate attempting to make a delivery. Maybe you caught snippets of the recursive story of 12 Minutes starring James McAvoy and Daisy Ridley and want to parse together their dark secrets.
You could opt for equally supernatural Oxenfree games, whether you’re following Alex or Riley as they try to uncover the mystery of an anomalous radio signal. History buffs may appreciate Valiant Hearts: Coming Home. Or perhaps you need something a little cozier and subtle emotional devastating by way of Spiritfarer.
And we can’t possibly forget the bread and butter of the mobile game library, puzzle and card games with Exploding Kittens (which is a fun example where the mobile game of the card games acts a prelude to the eventual animated series that Netflix is producing), Reigns: Three Kingdoms, or Storyteller.
It continues to be a very odd decision, but Netflix seems earnestly dedicated to supporting small and indie devs and giving them a digital platform that allows their games to reach more people. They’re picking games that can work with small screens and balancing their IPs with a wide range of games that span genre and mechanics. And while I don’t find myself playing these games with my Netflix account since I have already started many files on various consoles and porting to mobile has historically had some hitches here and there, it’s also been a boon to say to a friend with a Netflix account, “hey you should check out one of my favorite games.” Try to Into the Breach, give Reigns: Three Kingdoms a shot, hey do you trip heavily into nostalgia with Bloons Tower Defense 6?
I will give credit where credit is due. Netflix is making a concerted effort to draw their viewers into gamers, and there’s a growing list of games that is convincing me that a download or two is more than reasonable.