REVIEW: Netflix games you can play for free – ‘Stranger Things’ RPGs
In case you missed it, Netflix has officially crossed over into gaming territory.
While scrolling through the streaming mobile app looking for something new to watch, you’ve no doubt come aross the tab showing a bunch of games that you can install and play for free.
While there are loads of "free to play" games you can download, pesky ads, pop-ups, and eventual paywalls can be a major hindrance and cause people to lose interest in games quickly.
There are currently 12 games available for Netflix subscribers to play completely for free, with no ads, no extra fees, and no in-game purchases.
While you can’t play on your Smart TV or within the Netflix app itself, you can play on any Android or iOS device where you have access to your Netflix account.
Most of the games can be played offline as well, which is great for those inevitable times when your WiFi is down, if you have to wait in line long while doing errands, or if you’re stuck at home undergoing forced quarantine and have run out of things to watch.
From the Netflix app on your phone, scroll to the games section, which will lead you to a GooglePlay link to download and install the game to your device.
Games are connected to your Netflix account, and you’ll need to pick a profile to play.
I tried installing and playing all 12 games currently available in Netflix's gaming library as of January 2022.
This review covers the two story-based roleplaying game (RPGs) tie-ins for Netflix’s Stranger Things series, namely Stranger Things 1984 (2017) and Stranger Things 3: The Game (2019), which were previously released to promote the show.
The other ten games include a mix of puzzle (Knittens, Krispee Street), sports (Bowling Ballers, Shooting Hoops, Wonderputt Forever), arcade (Teeter Up), tabletop (Card Blast, Dominoes Cafe), which are ideal for casual gaming on the go.
There's also a fun racing game (Asphalt Xtreme) and a substantial strategy card game (Arcanium: Rise of Akhan).
Some games are amusing enough to keep you occupied for a couple of minutes, while others will require a bit more investment on your part.
Expect Netflix’s library of games to expand as the streaming giant acquires more gaming studios. It would be great to see more original games related to Netflix IPs in the future.
Who knows, we could be getting gamified versions of Netflix’s other hits like Squid Game, Money Heist or Alice in Borderland. Or how about a zombie shooter game based on All of Us are Dead?
Stranger Things: 1984
Stranger Things: 1984 is a retro-styled action adventure game by Bonus XP based on the Stranger Things universe.
I loved playing this 16-bit style game when it was originally released back for free in October 2017, before it was added to Netflix’s library exclusively for subscribers.
Reminiscent of classic 80s RPGs from the SNES era like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, this game does a great job going through the plot of the first season (and part of the second season) of the Stranger Things TV series in a gamified format.
Since you’ll be playing on a mobile phone, gameplay is simplified with the use of the touch screen. Character movement, combat and picking up items are all done by tapping on the screen.
There are a total of eight playable characters you have to unlock (Hopper, Lucas, Nancy, Mike, Will, Dustin, Eleven, Max) who have their own special skills and abilities that reflect their characters. For instance, Lucas’ wrist rocket offers ranged attacks, Will can crawl through pipes, while Eleven can teleport between pool baths for faster backtracking.
Aside from the exploration and combat, the game has some fun puzzle elements and a few collectibles to hunt, including Gnomes, VHS tapes, and Eggos, adding to the RPG factor.
The game comes in two modes: Normal and Classic, described as “1984 hard” where players are returned to the beginning of dungeons upon death, and enemies respawn even after dungeons have been completed.
Stranger Things: 1984 is a fun retro pixel adventure game that brings you back to simpler times before the modern mobile games of today that involve microtransactions, gacha and ads.
While excitement has waned a bit for the Stranger Things series since it first came out, this game offers a nostalgic journey back to the events of the early seasons. The only drawback is that the game is pretty short. It’ll take you about six hours to finish the entire game in Normal mode, or seven or more for completionists who want to collect everything.
Stranger Things 1984 has been around for a couple of years now, so chances are high that most people have already played this.
For fans of old-school games and the series who want to replay it in a harder mode or those who haven’t had a chance to play this yet, Stranger Things: 1984 is one of Netflix's games definitely worth installing and playing. The charming retro visuals, nostalgic music, and puzzle elements make it fun to play and replay.
Stranger Things 1984 is available for Netflix subscribers on Android and iOS.
Stranger Things 3: The Game
Stranger Things 3: The Game, the official companion game to the third season of the hit original series, is a worthy successor to the original game.
The beat-em-up game also developed by BonusXP was originally released for consoles Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Mac, and PC on July 2019, and is now completely playable on mobile platforms for free for Netflix subscribers.
Similar to the PC's point and click mechanic, movement and actions are all done by taps on the screen, which can make some battles a bit harder than when playing with a controller on a larger screen.
The RPG lets you fight your way through a pixelated Hawkins, this time with 12 playable characters and story quests based on the third season of the series, along with never-before-seen quests, character interactions and secrets.
Similar to the previous entry, the game uses a 16-bit art style and is played in an overhead view, but it now comes with both local co-op and solo gameplay. While playing solo, players can use “buddy commands” to switch and control actions of both characters.
The storyline, quests and main bosses are picked directly from the TV series, but there are lots of extra errands that serve as sidequests thrown in for good measure for those who don't want to blast through the game too quickly.
The adventure game blends a distinctively retro art style with modern gameplay mechanics to deliver nostalgic fun with a fresh new twist. Visually, the game feels more upbeat than the previous Stranger Things game because of its summer setting, with new locations based on the show including the Hawkins swimming pool, StarCourt Mall, Scoops Ahoy ice cream shop, Dricsoll Farm, and more.
Aside from being able to play as Eleven, Mike, Dustin, Lucas, Will, Max, Nancy, and Hopper, new playable characters include Joyce, Jonathan, Steve, and Erica.
Unfortunately, Robin isn’t a playable character, but she does help you translate recordings for some quests.
Some characters have special skills that work as fun little mini-games within the game. Dustin can hack keypads where you have to press numbers in the correct sequence, while Joyce comes with bolt-cutters that require tapping at the right time to open locked gates. Max also doubles as a medic, by unleashing hearts to refill your health bar, which comes in handy for boss battles.
Crafting is a key part of the game, and you’ll find yourself faced with multiple fetch quests that will have you going back and forth to locations to find items you need to upgrade your characters. You can equip different stat-boosting trinkets, and unlock special outifts for the characters.
Some of the boss battles (particularly the second boss, Flayed Billy) feel pretty challenging, so you’ll need to figure out the best characters to use for different scenarios. Make sure to stock up on Medkits and Coke cans to refill energy when heading to dungeons, especially in the later chapters.
I’m only about halfway through the game, with two more characters left to unlock, after playing four hours in the main story, but I’m enjoying the gameplay so far.
The main story where you face off with five different bosses takes about eight hours to complete, and about 12 hours or more on a completionist run.
It can feel a bit fetch quest heavy and repetitive at times, which can be tedious. The game follows the events of the series very closely, so if you've watched the series, you pretty much know what's going to happen, but it's still satisfying to get to play as different members of the gang, find rare items, upgrade your party, and complete quests.
After completing the game for the first time, you'll unlock an Eliminator Mode where you start the game with your entire party. However, if a character dies, they will stay dead for the rest of the game.
In case you haven’t played this yet, it's a great way to refresh your memory on the events of the previous season as we wait for Stranger Things Season 4 to drop this 2022.
Stranger Things 3: The Game is available for Netflix subscribers on Android and iOS.