When you hear “Netflix” and “gaming” in the same sentence, you probably think of the duo of Stranger Things games or their incredible game-to-TV adaptations like Castlevania and Arcane. If you’re tuned in to gaming and tech industry news, you might even remember news that the DVD rental-turned-streaming service made some interesting developer acquisitions recently. What shockingly few people seem to know is that Netflix actually offers mobile games part and parcel with a subscription through their mobile app—and some of them are really good.
The state of mobile gaming is in a strange place. It seems like the platform is diverging in two directions; on one hand, some studios (including some pretty big ones) are making approachable, simple, addictive games designed to milk the player for cash. On the other, developers are embracing premium subscriptions like Apple Arcade or Google Play Pass to house their work.
It’s a fascinating phenomenon that’s often overlooked in the largely console-centric conversation around subscription services in gaming. From retro games to day one AAA releases to indie gems, Game Pass, PS Plus and Nintendo Switch Online all offer their fair share of bangers, but these mobile subscriptions serve as a lifeline of sorts for quality games that aren’t designed with predatory monetization tactics in mind. Apple Arcade’s been home to some of the best games of the last few years before they’ve hit console and PC. Standout outings like Grindstone and What the Golf? both got their start on Apple Arcade. Google’s Play Pass hasn’t had quite the same success, but it’s an equal to Apple’s offering in that it offers an alternative to the money-grubbing tactics employed in a lot of the most popular mobile games.
Enter Netflix, with a bizarre—though worthwhile—approach to the gaming space, let alone the mobile space. For no extra charge, Netflix has added games to its subscription that you can play on mobile devices. Tucked away in a tab at the bottom of the Netflix app, you’ve probably looked at it half a dozen times without even realizing it. Tapping on it reveals a small but impressive library of mobile games.
Don’t let the “mobile” categorization scare you off, though. A touch screen certainly can’t replace the tactile feel or precise level of control that a keyboard or a controller can bring. Not to mention the fact that mobile gaming has, like I mentioned earlier, become dominated by low-impact games designed to melt time and dollars.
But if controls are really an issue, many of Netflix’ games have controller support. Beyond that, all these games are included in your subscription. There’s no need to worry about in-app purchases, gambling-like gacha mechanics or advertisements.
Plus, a bunch of the games on Netflix’ mobile app are just great—some of them even work better on mobile than they do on PC or console. Into the Breach punctuates this point with force. Hailed by many as the best tactics game ever made, Into the Breach takes everything there is to love about games like XCOM or Mario + Rabbids and condenses it into bite-sized strategy battles. In trimming off nearly every ounce of excess from these beloved tactics games, Into the Breach houses a rich, deep tactics experience that’s near-impossible to put down after just one round. That said, if you need to, the game accommodates you in its design; no battle lasts more than a couple minutes, making Into the Breach an ideal mobile game to pick up and put back down.
Form factor aside, tapping a mech and then tapping where you want it to go beats out repeated button presses or mouse clicks to move it (especially for people like me who deal with wrist overuse problems). Into the Breach gracefully nails the jump from PC to mobile, just like nearly every other game ported to mobile.
Other games, like Poinpy, feel natural and perfect on the platform. From the creator of Downwell, Poinpy controls perfectly on mobile because it was designed to be played on a touch screen. This charming arcade platformer follows in Downwell’s footsteps as another tight, simple game that’s gripping and approachable.
Even just these two games are worth the price of admission for a month. Not to mention the fact that you get access to Netflix (if you don’t already have it) and with it, tons of great shows like Seinfeld, Iron Chef: The Quest for an Iron Legend, and I Think You Should Leave.
We’ve still yet to see the full range of games and content for the service. Games from Netflix’ internal studios are already in the works, but there’s no shortage of creative mobile games out there. If Netflix can curate a collection of top-notch games the way it has for TV and movies, the sky’s the limit for this service, especially as game streaming technology continues to improve and evolve.
With each passing month, Netflix’ offerings of mobile games grows and so does its value as a gaming subscription. Even in its infancy, this library spans a wide range of playstyles and experiences; writing it off just because it’s a mobile-exclusive service, or because it’s tied to a company that’s had very little experience in gaming is shortsighted. Don’t miss out on all-timers like Into the Breach, Before Your Eyes, Poinpy or Moonlighter just because mobile gaming has a rep.
Charlie Wacholz is a freelance writer and college student. When he’s not playing the latest and greatest indie games, competing in Smash tournaments or working on a new cocktail recipe, you can find him on Twitter at @chas_mke.