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Netflix's game catalogue is often overlooked - but plenty are worth your time

From Poinpy to Into the Breach.

Few seem to have noticed, but Netflix is quietly building a service that's home to the best in mobile games - and one that hints at something bigger on the horizon.

Yes, we've seen these Silicon Valley types trying to 'do games' before. Google tried and quickly failed with Stadia. Apple Arcade is...good, but fading fast. Amazon, meanwhile, seems to be all over the place with its MMO, steaming service Luna and handful of other projects.

Netflix is different, though. Its primary business is entertainment, not to sell ads (Google), phones (Apple) or offer free next-day delivery on slight variations of things you've already bought (Amazon). And you can see that rather more discerning eye in the first batch of Netflix games, which have all arrived in the last 18 months. There's now over 50 in total, and more added every week or so.

Poinpy is a delight.Watch on YouTube

Like Apple Arcade, Netflix games are free of ads and in-app purchases. They can be found within the iOS and Android Netflix app you probably already have, and the current portfolio caters for both casual players and even the stylish, charismatic, discerning folk that might read Eurogamer.

You, a purveyor of fine taste and someone who was into Four Tet before he got big recently, will already be aware of games like Into the Breach, Kentucky Route Zero, Immortality, TMNT: Shredder's Revenge and Oxenfree. All of those games are right there on Netflix now, with some caveats. Slippery-fingered folk might struggle with TMNT's virtual controls, and I've not managed to successfully download Immortality on my beaten-up iPhone 11 yet: it takes forever and takes up too much space - and so is perhaps only for those with the very latest high-end devices.


Outside of these familiar indie bangers there's more surprising, Netflix-exclusive games to be had, too. You, the long-time fan of Charlie Kaufman's work, might dig what's on there, in fact.

Poinpy is perhaps the best known Netflix original, thanks to a Geoff Keighley-fronted livestream reveal last summer. It's the second game from creator Ojiro Fumoto, following his beloved debut Downwell.

That game is an almost-monochrome retro platform shooter about graceful descent, while Poinpy is effectively the opposite: a cartoon dream about bouncing ever upwards, collecting fruit to please a giant blue fire-breathing cat-thing. From the zip of the slingshot-and-slam play loop to the purity of the art and zing in the audio, it's the must-play game on Netflix.

Tomb Raider Reloaded might have caught your eye recently, which plonks Lara Croft into what is effectively a new version of popular mobile shooter Archero. Once it gets going, it's a frenzied top down bullet-fest where Lara only shoots when you lift your finger from the screen, so the action seesaws between dodging bullets and finding space to return fire. It's good stuff.

There's even a League of Legends spin-off in the mix here. Hextec Mayhem is a rhythm-runner made by the folks behind the obscure but well-loved Bit.Trip games, extending the loose 'indie deep cuts' theme here.

Developer Frosty Pop is the low-key lynchpin of Netflix's more casual game selection with four frothy, fleet-footed arcade games on the service.

Wonderputt 1

Shooting Hoops is a high score game that stars a basketball with a gun fixed to it; Teeter Up asks you to raise either end of a platform to get an unruly ball past hazards and into the goal; Bowling Ballers is a simple but exuberant runner. There's also the gentler Krispee Street, a lovely hidden object game set in a cartoon world adjacent to those 'Oh no' and 'Strange Planet' comics.

Each one really shows off Frosty Pop's considerable design chops - the studio was spun out of a design agency, and it shows in the subtle style, detail and character in all four games.

Terra Nil Snowfall
Terra Nil.

Let's cram in some more, shall we? Skies of Chaos is a blue-skied retro top-down shooter with cartoony intermissions you won't skip; Wonderputt Forever turns crazy golf into a strange adventure through future-retro dioramas; a new Reigns game set in the Three Kingdoms era serves up lashings more mischievous choose-your-own-adventure larks. And environmental builder Terra Nil has, according to this very organ, "lingering moments of actual perfection" in it. Whew!

For something knottier, there's the latest game from Monument Valley maker Ustwo Games, Desta: The Memories Between. It's a lush turn-based strategy game in which the dodgeball-like fights double as conversations between the lead character's childhood friends, acquaintances and enemies.

Actually, let's linger on this last one, because it tells us plenty about what's happening in the cold war between the incumbent Apple Arcade and newcomer Netflix.

Remember: Ustwo Games has a long history with Apple, stretching back to when it won the tech giant's iPad Game of the Year in 2014. Apple later used Monument Valley 2 as the flagship game with which to unveil the new-look App Store in 2017, and Ustwo Games was there again at Apple Arcade's launch with sentimental fix 'em up Assemble With Care. (Disclosure: I was loosely involved in all three of those things, to varying degrees)


So Desta appearing on Netflix, and not Apple Arcade, felt a bit like mobile gaming's version of Square Enix switching from Nintendo to PlayStation in the nineties. That was the set-up, it seems: the punchline is that both Monument Valley games are now coming to Netflix too. The streaming platform brazenly teased that it has signed the third game in the series as part of that announcement, too.

There's more: elite-tier mobile game developer Super Evil Megacorp is also on board, and is part of what Netflix has described as a "big bet" for its gaming platform: an ambitious transmedia project in which a game, TV show and maybe more will co-exist within a new Netflix-owned universe.

To be vulgar for a moment, Netflix is also not afraid to spend a few quid. It is well-known within the industry for spending eye-watering amounts on salaries, and don't forget it has splashed out on four studios in a little over a year: Oxenfree maker Night School Studio plus mobile game specialists Spry Fox, Next Games and Boss Fight Entertainment.

The plot thickens: it also hired former Overwatch director Chacko Sonny to lead a new studio in LA, the same one that was spotted hiring a game director to work on "a brand-new AAA PC game". Other Netflix job ads have mentioned an Unreal Engine-powered third person action-RPG, too. Huh!

Netflix says it wants its games to be playable "wherever you have Netflix" through the cloud in the near future. So perhaps you can see where this is all going: Netflix games playable with a pad on your flatscreen TV or PC as well as on your phone or tablet.

It'll take years for those bigger console-style games to ship, so Netflix won't be competing with Xbox Game Pass or PlayStation Plus anytime soon. But in under a year it's already toppled Apple Arcade as the premier mobile subscription service, and so far it just appears to get games more than the other tech giants. (It also has loads of money, let's not forget that)

And if it does all go terribly wrong? At least we'll have Poinpy.

Neil Long is a former App Store editor who runs, a website for the mobile games industry.

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