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Netflix’s Video Game Lineup Has Become Surprisingly Good

You probably didn't even know your Netflix subscription gave you access to a library of (surprisingly excellent) games.
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Did you know that Netflix’s service includes access to a variety of video games? If not, you’re not alone. The service isn’t one of the most widely-known aspects of the Netflix lineup. But with Netflix’s subscriber numbers plunging for the first time in its history and consumer tastes shifting, it’s not surprising that the company is diversifying its offerings to up its appeal among its core demographics.

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Netflix seems to be poised to take its “one subscription and it’s all yours” model to the video game industry. When the video streaming service was young, it had access to a huge slate of content, as many production companies didn’t yet see the value in digital streaming. As the money poured in and people abandoned cable, most media producers created their own streaming platforms to compete with Netflix–often pulling their shows and movies from the rival streaming service. 

Netflix has responded by pumping out its own stream of original content, but this approach hasn’t been enough to keep its subscriber numbers from taking a dip this year. Now, faced with more competition than ever, it’s time for Netflix to either get creative or go the way of Blockbuster. Enter: video games on Netflix.

The Netflix of Video Games

Netflix’s entry into the world of gaming is a bit ironic. When Microsoft unveiled its ambitious Game Pass subscription, many outlets referred to it as the “Netflix of Video Games,” referencing Netflix’s single subscription cost allowing users to watch a wide library of TV shows and movies. It’s worth pointing out how novel this approach was when Netflix was one of the first major streaming platforms. 

At one point in time, online streaming was almost entirely a storefront affair. When you found a show you wanted to watch, you’d need to purchase it outright to watch it. If you wanted to watch a movie online, you’d need to either purchase it from a storefront or rent it from an app like Amazon. Netflix’s approach seemed generous at first, but it made the company extremely wealthy in a very short period of time. 

The same can be said for Microsoft’s Game Pass. The concept of paying a low monthly fee to access a library of over 100 games is still mind-boggling for some gamers, and the industry is still adjusting to the presence of Game Pass. Sony introduced its own competing service, a rebranded PlayStation Now, earlier this year to keep up with the competition.

Wading into the Arena

So, from a certain point of view, Netflix’s entry into the games industry makes sense. The company acquired a development studio, Night School, to make in-house games. Night School created the popular and acclaimed indie game Oxenfree, and many gamers are excited to see what the studio works on next.

Netflix already offers a wide range of entertainment options. It’s dabbled in interactive media in the past. For instance, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch plays out like a “choose your own adventure” book in film form, asking viewers to make decisions for the characters in the film to shape the narrative. Bandersnatch and other similar interactive movies blur the line between a video game and a film, as they’re not strictly passive. Still, they also offer a minimal amount of agency to “players.” 

Now, Netflix has fully entered the video game industry–but in a perplexing way. Yes, if you have a Netflix subscription, you can access a library of games for no extra cost. However, it’s tough to find these games, and the company has done a shockingly bad job of announcing these features to users. So, where do you go to play your free Netflix games? Well, it’s complicated.

How Can You Play Netflix Games?

If you want to play the games you get with your Netflix subscription, you’ll need to go digging. You can’t find these games in the Netflix app. Instead, you need to open Netflix on your smartphone–either Android or iOS phones work. Scroll down to the row called “games,” and you’ll see an assortment of titles to choose from.

If that’s not confusing enough, you don’t even play these games through the Netflix app. Instead, when you tap on a game you want to play, you’re directed to your phone’s app storefront, where you’re prompted to download the game. It’ll have a little Netflix-branded “N” in the corner, the only evidence that the game is connected to your Netflix account in any way. When you open the game’s app, you’ll be prompted to sign in with your Netflix account. Thankfully, this sign-in seems to work across all of the games on offer.

Despite this maze-like process, you can access a surprisingly robust library of mobile games through this service. Genuinely excellent titles like Into the Breach, Moonlighter, and Poinpy are available through Netflix’s game offerings. Recent data shows that almost no one is aware of this, though, as less than one percent of Netflix subscribers have taken advantage of these games that they’re ostensibly already paying for. 

Are They Worth Playing?

So, if you have a Netflix subscription, you’re already paying for a handful of excellent games you can play on your phone for no extra cost. But which ones are worth your time, and which ones should you just avoid? Let’s break down which of these titles you should check out today using your existing subscription.

Some of these titles, like Into the Breach and Exploding Kittens, are available on more than just mobile devices. However, if you’re eager to try them out without spending any extra money, this is a great way to dip your toes into these top-notch titles while you’re on the go. 

Into the Breach

Into the Breach is a turn-based tactical game that tasks players with defending a far-future version of earth from the threat of an invading alien species. The player controls a team of mech pilots who steer giant robots into catastrophic close combat with the insect-like Vek invaders. This game is blisteringly hard, though, so it’s likely that you’ll fail to save the planet, and you’ll have to travel back in time and try again. Think Pacific Rim meets Edge of Tomorrow.

This time-travel gameplay mechanic lets you send one of your pilots back into the past, complete with any skills they unlocked during a previous run, in an attempt to steer the timeline into a brighter future. As you complete more runs and score achievements, you unlock new teams of mechs you can use in increasingly tricky runs through the game. 

The moment-to-moment gameplay is all turn-based, and you get a chance to activate each of your mechs once per turn. You get complete knowledge of how the Vek will act on each subsequent turn, and it’s up to you to prevent them from causing any damage to civilian population centers. This makes Into the Breach a perfect mobile game for players who want a brain-teaser between meetings at work or while they’re riding the bus.

Moonlighter

Moonlighter is another roguelike title that challenges players to tackle blisteringly-difficult dungeons. As you delve deeper into each challenging maze, you’ll find bigger and better loot awaiting you when you slay monsters. If you fail, though, you drop all your loot and have nothing to show for your adventure. But that’s just what happens at night–you play as a moonlighter, after all. During the daytime, you manage a shop.

That might sound a bit boring compared to adventuring and chopping up monsters. However, Moonlighter’s genius falls into its brilliant gameplay loop. When you sell more items in your shop, you’ll have more resources to tackle the dungeons. If you get deeper into the dungeons, you can make it out with better goods to sell to the townsfolk in the daytime. When does your character find a chance to sleep? Who knows!

This addictive gameplay loop makes Moonlighter a perfect mobile game. It’s already absorbed hundreds of hours of players’ time on systems like the Nintendo Switch, so it’s well worth your time as a mobile title. 

Poinpy

Finally, Netflix subscribers who want a fun distraction to play on their phones should also check out Poinpy. This cute mobile title sees you taking control of the titular bouncy dinosaur, Poinpy, as he jumps off of walls and enemies to gather fruit for the demanding Blue Beast. The Blue Best tasks the player with collecting specific recipes to make him smoothies, which keep him satiated as you keep bouncing ever upward in the addictive platformer-style levels. 

Poinpy is easy to learn–you just swipe down on the screen to send the little dinosaur soaring through the air, slingshotting him upwards. However, it’s not easy to master this tricky game–you have a limited number of jumps you can use to collect the fruit the Beast wants, so you need to plan your moves carefully and get the angles just right.

So, which of these great games will you play first with your Netflix subscription? Did you even realize Netflix had games? If you’re already subscribed to the service, you’ve got nothing to lose, give them a try!