The rumblings are true: Streaming giant Netflix is getting into games ... in some fashion. Beyond the confirmation that the company’s initial focus will be on mobile games that will be included in the subscription, details are scarce for Netflix’ plans but the concept of a “Netflix for games” has long been had its appeal.
It doesn’t sound like Netflix will become the place to play “Fortnite,” “Grand Theft Auto” or “Call of Duty” or a bevvy of interesting and unique indies anytime soon, but there are several services that are getting close to just that. The best in my opinion has to be Xbox Games Pass.
Xbox Games Pass isn’t quite the “Netflix for games” but if you would indulge my binging of everything streaming for a moment, it’s more like the “HBO Max for games.” There’s not a massive number of games on here but what is here is generally pretty good and it includes quite a few big-ticket blockbuster games on the same day they would be released in theaters — err, store shelves. All of Microsoft’s first-party games like “Halo,” “Forza Horizon,” “Gears of War” and “Microsoft Flight Simulator” have debuted on Games Pass as well as several other indie releases.
At $10 to $15 per month depending on whether you want to game on Xbox consoles, PCs or both, the price is easier to stomach in a world where console games are starting to come in at a whopping $70 a pop. It’s also particularly good for a game reviewer with a short attention span. I’ve had a few too many years where I look back at my purchases of random games on the Nintendo eShop or Steam — frequently made somewhere around bedtime, for some reason — that have hardly been played.
A load of those games — “Bloodroots,” “Children of Morta,” “Donut Country” and “Enter the Gungeon” to just name a few — are all currently available on Games Pass. As are several of my favorite games that I have actually managed to review — “Control,” “Monster Train,” “Slay the Spire” “Star Wars: Battlefront II.” In the doldrums of summer games releases, the service has proven to be an excellent place to find something to try out.
The problem with a lot of these services, though, is Alaska’s less-than-ideal internet access. An unlimited connection is pretty much a must for most gamers at this point, and even more so when it comes to full-on streaming services like Google’s Stadia and PlayStation Now. Right now, Games Pass requires you to download a full copy of the game to your console or computer, which will quickly chew through your bandwidth if you’re trying everything out, but at least packing in the hours in a game won’t run up the internet bill.
Still, the selection of games and the ability to usefully sort games into genres (something that a lot of other platforms seem to struggle with) means that there’s nearly always something that at the very least looks interesting enough to spend an afternoon with.
I’ve bounced off roleplaying games “Octopath Traveler” and “Pillars of Eternity” but have thoroughly enjoyed my time with mountain biking “Lonely Mountains Downhill,” story-driven “Spiritfarer,” and the open-world survival game “Grounded.” The best part is that, like Netflix or HBO Max, there’s nothing but time — and a bit of bandwidth — to lose if you run into a dud. And more often than not, there’s something that you thought looked good but not good enough to see in theaters — err, shell out up to $70 for.
Matt Buxton is a freelance writer and gamer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.