Netflix wants you to keep your account… No, Netflix NEEDS you to keep your account. So, in order to keep you around, the company needs to give you other reasons to paying your monthly tithe. And it seems to believe a pivot to mobile video games might do the trick.
If you weren’t paying attention to trade news last November, it’s likely you had no idea Netflix offers games. But the company has slowly built up a catalogue of 23 titles, and according to Variety, they’re planning more based on shows like Shadow and Bone, Too hot to Handle, and Money Heist.
Not only that, but Netflix announced it had signed deals with respected game studios like Subset Games, the makers of Into the Breach (coming to Netflix July 19th), and Night School Studio, the makers of adventure game Oxenfree.
Apparently, the streaming giant wants to remain coy about the future of its gaming suite. The company’s Head of External Games Leanne Loombe told guests at the Tribeca Film Festival June 13 Netflix wants to keep things quiet “because we’re still learning and experimenting and trying to figure out what things are actually going to resonate with our members.”
Considering the company is not looking too hot financially, we might see its experimental phase shift into overdrive soon.
Netflix’s stock price is down by 68 per cent year-to-date and has cut around 150 staff from its animation teams and social media accounts. Last week, it announced another 300 axed personnel across three continents. The company wants more subscribers and for current users to keep their accounts in perpetuity, but those fired writers wrote that Netflix is failing to promote what it’s got on offer, to its own detriment.
So you won’t find it mentioned anywhere on your Netflix subscription but the company already has mobile games available for download if you have an account. (You’ll also have to jump through some hoops to get these titles on your device.) But are these offerings hidden gems or hidden with good reason? We played them all so you don’t have to and ranked them from worst to best.
23. Dragon Up
There’s a sense among some of these Netflix games that they were designed with the soul of time wasting mobile games at heart, and none represent this better than this offering. There’s not much here unless you like clicking on a screen where you’re told. The game’s threadbare background and story is barely enticing enough for its obviously young audience, and parents should be looking to give their kids a much more engaging gaming activity than this.
22. Townsmen – A Kingdom Rebuilt
It’s a fantasy medieval-ish city building game without any of the interesting decision making or stakes you can find in the Anno series, City: Skylines, or (my personal favourite) Frostpunk. It’s not the worst example of the genre since it’s removed most of the blatant predatory monetisation you can find in other versions of the game, but there’s not much else going on that demands a Farmville level of obsession from a player.
It’s a match-three game. It’s Candy Crush. That’s really it. If you want a cat version of Candy Crush, here it is. Otherwise let your paws scratch somewhere else for that gaming itch.
20. Dungeon Dwarves
This game is rather infuriating for how little action is required by the player, even as a so-called “idle game.” Your set of dwarves struggle down a single causeway, and all you do is click to upgrade their abilities. There’s not really a timer that adds any stakes, so you could potentially just sit there for hours as your dwarves grind away on whatever’s in front of them.
19. Shooting Hoops
This rather straightforward pun title is indicative of just how one note this game is. Remember that silly basketball game people used to play on Facebook? It’s like that, but instead this game has you clicking on the screen to fire a little dart, throwing the basketball up in the air. You play it for five minutes and you’ve seen everything the game has to offer.
18. Teeter (Up)
This infuriating little game could be called a dexterity game if the damn ball behaved with any sense of actual physics. You move a bar up by two ends while trying to balance a ball and get it into a small hole. You can’t lower the bar either, so if you miss your mark you have to let the ball slide off before you can restart. It’s good to curse your way through a few minutes of struggle before moving on.
17. Dominos Café
It’s dominos. That’s it. You can change out your avatar and mess with the background and dominos’ colour, but that’s it. You can play dominos with this app and nobody will bother you with ads, so if you have a Netflix account you might as well make this your go-to dominos app if that’s your thing.
16. Stranger Things: 1984
Stranger Things’ fan favourite character Jim Hopper gets a call that some kids are missing. He drives over to the local lab, and immediately starts beating the **** out of a security guard. I remember sitting there after clicking on a guard thinking “well that was unexpected.” It’s a game that tries to take the quaint aspects of old school NES-era adventure games like The Legend of Zelda but other than extremely simple click-based combat and easy puzzles, there’s no sense of adventure or feeling of exploration.
15. Exploding Kittens
This IRL card game blew up in popularity over the last few years, but as somebody who’s played quite a few card games, the gameplay is nothing to write home about. It practically plays itself after a while. The gross-out humour doesn’t so much insult me, it bores me. It lacks the simplicity and surprises found in similar offerings like Coup or Love Letter. But this version of the game is fine for those who enjoy the physical edition.
14. Card Blast
It’s a game about trying to make poker hands from a rotating set of random cards. The game’s tutorial does a good job of setting up its mechanics, but the difficulty quickly ramps up as cards are being spat at you at a breakneck speed. Some might find that difficulty too challenging if you’re not good at either time or space management, but there’s enough there for analytically-minded folks to sink into.
13. Stranger Things 3: The Game
This game has been out for a while, and had been grandfathered in to Netflix’s gaming initiative. It’s a weird kind of beat-em-up that makes a few funny references to Stranger Things’ third season. It does a bit better than Stranger Things: 1984 at aping that old school gaming nostalgia since you have much more control over your characters than the point-and-click-style top-down adventure.
12. Bowling Ballers
It’s an autoscroller where you control the direction of a bowling ball rolling down a brightly-coloured track. It’s just tiring to see how few of these games try to offer anything original. Once you play it for 15 to 30 minutes, you’ve played most of it. It’s too easy and too staid to make any real impression.
11. Into the Dead 2: Unleashed
Into the Dead is another awkwardly-titled auto runner, but this one has some rather been-there-done-that plot points to keep players a little more engaged. It’s extremely easy to just avoid the zombies, but the game keeps incentivising the player to shoot them as well. Despite the action happening on screen, there’s very little that the player actually controls beyond moving left or right or occasionally pressing the shoot button.
10. Arcanium: Rise of Akhan
I do love a story-based card game. Slay the Spire and Griftlands are two great examples, which is why it’s so annoying that Arcanium: Rise of Akhan feels like it lacks so much of what those games do well, namely getting you involved in the world while building a deck that makes each character feel unique. The mobile rogue-like card game is a solid time. But, with some card text missing and the game art sometimes feeling incohesive, it can’t really overshadow any of its contemporaries. There’s a big wall of text to describe the where and why of what you’re doing, but nothing that helps the player get to know they characters they’re controlling.
Moonlighter, a game that combines light roleplaying as a shopkeeper with dungeon crawling, doesn’t really do both to the scale you would expect from the best of each of their respective genres. Nevertheless, it’s a very fun, solid game for those who like a pinch of Stardew Valley community building amid bursts of high-stress dungeoneering ala the 2D Zelda games or The Binding of Isaac.
8. Asphalt Extreme
Asphalt Extreme makes me long for the days of arcade-style racers like the Burnout or Motorstorm series. The gyroscopic controls are actually pretty good, though the game does some obvious handholding to keep you from drifting into too many obstacles. You can tell that other versions of the game contained a lot of microtransactions, as there was so much in-game currency flying at my face it made me a little queasy.
7. Hextech Mayhem: A League of Legends Story
Hextech Mayhem is essentially a rhythm game that asks you to time your button presses as your little explosive-enthusiast makes his way across the screen. It’s fun enough, though it’s rather hard to fail when the game constantly restarts you if you hit an obstacle. The game can get so intense you could miss the rather vibrant graphics and animation happening in the background. However, the music always is on-point, driving the action forward with a solid rhythm.
6. This Is a True Story
It would be great to get more experimental games on Netflix’s slate like This is a True Story, a game about a young woman struggling to cross a harsh landscape as she attempts to collect enough water to cook a meal for her family. As much as I appreciate what it tries to do, there’s a part of me that wishes the games’ controls made you feel more of the drudgery of the characters’ long trek across the landscape rather than just pressing right on the screen. As it is, the game focuses on telling its story with no real control.
5. Relic Hunters: Rebels
This is a pretty solid attempt to bring a looter shooter to the mobile market. It’s like a twin-stick shooter except you use thumb presses to direct your shots. It’s better played with a controller, an obvious downside on a mobile device. In addition to fun gameplay, the story is much more than you can expect from other games on the mobile market.
4. Krispee Street
This vibrant Where’s Waldo?-style game is a delightful diamond-in-the-rough. Based on the webcomic of the same name, this hidden object game asks you to spot characters in a cluttered, colourful map. It’s honestly one of the most absorbing games of its type that I’ve played. You can see the attention to detail on each object, and as you move over certain spots in the map you’ll hear the sounds of a character playing a violin to the crowd, or a DJ spinning a record, all of which meshes with the upbeat music so well it made me feel a small glow in my ravaged heart.
3. Shatter Remastered
It’s a no-hassle, unique brick-breaking game that combines slick controls with interesting mechanics like the ability to blow or suck-in the balls you’re trying to keep from getting to close to the edge of the screen. Each level keeps things fun and unique, and it’s one of the better games Netflix has on offer for a quick burst of distraction.
2. Wonderputt Forever
I’m the type of guy who has a lot more fun playing bad or broken minigolf maps on games like Golf With Your Friends than I do playing most other major releases. Wonderputt Forever does everything it needs to do to keep me engaged. I love watching the scene transitions between levels, and it understands the best part of minigolf games, which is hitting your ball in ways that deftly avoids delightful little obstacles to sink that 1,000-to-1 putt.
If there’s one game on this list that should get your attention, it’s this little jewel from the creator of Downwell. Instead of moving your character down, this time you’re tasked with travelling up, deftly judging parabolic arcs to reach the next platform and occasionally dealing with a rather bipolar cat. The game constantly throws new mechanics your way to keep things fresh. Try it. It’s the kind of game that makes having a Netflix account actually worth it.