[ed. Note: This ranked list is continually updated as Netflix adds more interactive specials.]
When netflix started experimenting with interactive specials in 2017, it was the first step in adding real games to its list of offerings. Initial interactive titles were designed for kids, but with the release of 2018’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and You vs. wild of 2019, the streamer’s ambitions began to expand. While interactive shows – essentially choose your own adventure stories – are some of Netflix’s most distinctive offerings, however, it seems the streamer is moving away from them. or at least he plans to switch from the ip-focused, story-driven specials he started with, and focus on titles like cat burglar and trivia quest, which are more about testing skill.
Until the company makes that big shift, we’ll continue to measure each new interactive offering based on how interactive it is and how much our choices affect what’s shown on screen. The service’s latest interactive special, Ranveer vs. wild with bear grylls, prompted a new update to our rankings. we consider how fun each interactive is, what kind of stories they’re telling, and whether your choices actually have any effect on the overall story.
honorable mention: headspace: unwind your mind
[disclosure: unwind your mind is a collaboration between headspace and vox media studios, a unit of polygon’s parent company vox media.]
this shouldn’t even count as an interactive experience, but netflix has tagged it as interactive, so we mentioned it. the only interactive part of this is choosing which headspace program you want: meditation, relaxation, or sleep. you can customize from there, but it’s just a glorified menu. useful for what it is intended for, but not so much for a history experience.
honorable mention: trivia quest
Similarly, netflix files trivia quest under the interactive tag, but it is not an interactive story like the following entries. It’s based on a popular app called Trivia Crack, and it’s basically a daily trivia game. The game gives the trivia questions a minimal story as you have to answer correctly to free the little characters who have been captured by an evil sword. it’s more interactive than mindspace – relax your mind, but it’s still designed to be a quiz game first and foremost. there isn’t much wiggle room beyond whether you get answers right or wrong.
19. cat thief
the cat burglar trivia game is really a lot of fun. there are so many different combinations of scenes that can play out. viewers play as a cat who steals a priceless painting from a museum and outwits a guard dog. There are six different segments: Entering the Museum, Distracting the Guard, the Prehistory Exhibit, the Ancient Artifacts Exhibit, the Medieval Exhibit, and the Painting Theft itself, with each segment having multiple alternate scenarios. for example, breaking into the museum might involve jumping over the door or digging a tunnel. the choice players get appears to be random, but either way, the success of each segment depends on how accurately and quickly players can answer a series of silly trivia questions.
The problem is that it doesn’t score well by the standards of this rating. your specific choices do not lead to customizable results. Your success in the trivia sections determines whether the cat burglar is successful in the given task. each trivia section is a random category, such as “chess moves” or “best birthday presents,” and each features three rounds of two answers to choose from (“good knight or bad bishop,” for example, and “surprise summons”). or surprise”. party”). While not explicitly for adults, the trivia questions are designed for a slightly older audience than the tom and jerry aesthetic implies: players will at least need to know what a subpoena is.
If you fail, the cat loses one of three lives and restarts the segment with a different scenario. It’s a nice different twist on the Netflix interactive, but the story doesn’t change based on your input and you have no control over the options.
18. you vs. savage
the original bear grylls interactive special is honestly pretty boring. Each episode takes Grylls into a new setting, where his adventures unfold like an episode of his show Man vs. wild, except technically the spectator gets to choose their survival actions. but almost all options either end in instant failure or lead you to the “right” path. The series never really feels interactive, playing out like a pop quiz on how well-versed audience members are with Grylls’ personal survival preferences. (yes, he wants to eat bugs, he always wants to eat bugs).
The premise sounds far fetched and could have been played for laughs. (a possible grand miss might include grylls freezing in a cartoonish ice cube, for example), but the producers take the idea very seriously, which means it’s just a forgettable experience.
17. stunned friend: the stack of maybe
Buddy Dumbfounded: The maybe stack follows a simple premise. Buddy the stunt driving dog and his friend Darnell from the stop-motion series Buddy Thunderstruck need to decide what crazy thing they want to do, so they go through their bag of “maybe” ideas and pick two. viewers can choose which one to try. there is no overarching narrative at all. the player’s choice is limited between two ridiculous options: drink three espresso drinks or make a pizza with all possible ingredients, for example.
While each fun option results in a different scene, the next one plays out exactly the same as if you had chosen the other option. When you choose between trying to gain superpowers and exploring a sewer, you get different scenes, but they both throw Buddy and Darnell into the same doctor afterwards.
however, what gives the stack of perhaps a slight boost is that it’s actually a bit fun and at least more entertaining than you vs wild. it’s very much the kind of humor that will send a 10-year-old rolling on the floor: it’s basically idiotic, but for kids. And hey, sometimes the perfect late-morning pick-me-up is watching Buddy and Darnell dive into a sewage pit, rejoice that they’ve found the fountain of youth, and then realize what they’ve done.
16. battle kitty
This is a rare case where the program is sophisticated and fun, but your choices don’t affect the result. Battle Kitty follows a smart talkative and determined kitty who wants to become the most fearsome warrior on Battle Island. He and his orc’s best friend, a fashion designer orc, meet up with other warriors and must defeat monsters to progress through the island.
unlike other netflix interactives, the options are embedded in the images on the screen. each of the eight hour-long episodes features a map with buttons you can press to see how the different segments unfold. the order of the segments doesn’t seem to matter, but you have to watch all the longer ones to collect the keys needed to pass the episode. if you try to jump forward, the program will say that you didn’t get enough keys and send you back to the correct level. It’s much more sophisticated than other Netflix interactives in terms of how the options appear.
but this list measures how much your player choices affect the game. and while you can shuffle around a few segments, there aren’t many options other than which areas of the map to explore, in what order. you can do them all, or just the minimum. you can complete all the videos in a section before moving on to the next in the available episode, or you can bounce. But you can’t determine kitty’s moves or tactics, or decide what weapon she uses against her enemies, even when she lists the options on the screen. Battle Kitty feels like watching another person play a game, as Kitty and the Orc jump around the screen and even open selection menus to choose weapons. humor is fun, but mostly you’re personalizing how you watch a show, not how the story unfolds.
15. kimmy vs. the reverend
The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Interactive Special takes place after the events of the series finale, with Kimmy set to marry a handsome prince played by Daniel Radcliffe. But after discovering a mysterious book in her backpack, she suspects that the reverend who kidnapped her and kept her in an underground bunker for most of her life may have another bunker full of women somewhere, so she sets off. to release them.
kimmy vs. The Reverend has its funny moments, and to its credit, the cutscenes and jokes leading up to the election are some of the most entertaining interactive specials. the characters actually talk about selecting options, rather than simply reiterating the options or looking expectantly at the audience. but the options themselves are disappointing. pick the “wrong” one and the story instantly ends in failure, which isn’t fun. quick glitch is a trend that continues in some of the other titles, but feels even more jarring in kimmy vs. the reverend, because the characters ask you to deviate from the characterizations of the sitcom. this one is also longer than most netflix interactive shows, so getting a “game over” really stops the experience.
On a more metatextual level, it seems a bit strange that even though you’re supposed to help kimmy find agency and heal from her past, the game basically removes any agency by imposing certain choices on you. The only real difference in the endings comes from a side story with Kimmy’s friends Titus and Jacqueline.
14. captain underpants: epic choice-o-rama
Epic Election-O-Rama features elementary school cartoonists George Beard and Harold Hutchins saving their beloved tree house from being demolished by Principal Krupp. this involves appealing to your neighbor, who may or may not be a famous retired action movie star.
the captain underpants special only has a few options that really pack a punch. At the beginning, when making what seems like the first big choice, two of the options simply represent hypothetical situations and force you to choose the third. many of the options have a clear right and wrong, and the wrong one immediately becomes the “right” option. Most of the options are purely for playing a different clip, like when Harold and George argue over which movie to watch. in general, there are fewer options between the long and confusing segments. It’s not a very funny play, unless you’re really into captain underpants.
13. the last children on earth: happy apocalypse to you
Another interactive adventure based on a Netflix cartoon, The Last Kids on Earth: Happy Apocalypse To You follows the characters in Netflix’s post-apocalyptic adventure series. Jack, the brave leader of the last children in the land of the title, wants to organize a party for his crush June, so the four protagonists cross the wasteland full of monsters where they live, trying to find the necessary components for the party: cake , balloons and a fountain of nachos and cheese.
There are a few branching options in the happy apocalypse for you, but the final ending still comes down to instant failure or success. some of the options affect specific endgame conditions, but not enough to drastically change the story or its outcome. but for the most part, the choices are at least entertaining and frequent enough to feel appealing, even if some of the choices only amount to cute interludes. make a “wrong” choice here, and you might get an extra fluffy scene, then go back to the other two options.
12. spirit riding free: ride along adventure
Based on Spirit Riding Free, an animated series loosely inspired by the spirit of the 2002 film Dreamworks: Stallion of the Cimarron, Ride Along Adventure follows a brave group of young teenagers and their horses. This show technically takes place in the Wild West, but you wouldn’t be able to tell from the very modern-looking clothes and attitudes. three out of four horse girls distract the fourth’s horse during the day so that the girl can throw a surprise party for her steed. But what starts out as a simple horseback adventure turns into danger as the horse is kidnapped and the girls must rescue it.
spirit riding free: ride along ultimately falls into the same traps as some of these lower ranked specials. if the viewer chooses the “wrong” option, the story just seamlessly pivots to the “correct” option. for the most part, no matter what you choose, the same story unfolds. however, some early choices affect endgame scenarios, giving this an advantage over entries that generally don’t take earlier conditions into account.
11. Animals on the Loose: A You vs. Wild Movie
Credit has to be given where it’s due: Bear Grylls’ second interactive adventure is so much better than the first. Now there’s a loose overarching narrative: The electric fence at a nature reserve has mysteriously closed, and the bear must fix it and round up some escaped animals. has a few separate quests to embark on, and the order you choose them in affects the resulting choices. here’s a fork!
There are some instant endgame options, but they don’t end the entire experience, just the single mission. the options are also much more entertaining than the first you vs. wild interactive experience. one sees a bear wrestling a boa constrictor in the water, while another gives him the choice between luring a lion with meat or offering himself as bait. some of the options don’t matter (no matter what food you eat, for example, nothing seems to change), but there’s enough variability to have a fun time.
The only drawback is the long slivers of time where there is no choice at all, where the bear just does the wild thing. you might miss an upcoming election if you get distracted when he ponders the shores or walks by, grunting.
10. carmen sandiego: to steal or not to steal
Carmen Sandiego Interactive Adventure is currently one of the only Carmen Sandiego games available to play. After Carmen’s friends Ivy and Zack are kidnapped by the evil organization Vile, the game unfolds with various heists that Carmen must undertake to appease Vile.
While it’s definitely one of Netflix’s most aesthetically pleasing interactive adventures (the animated series itself has some stunning moments), it forces viewers down a path at first. The viewer is asked to either rescue Zack and Ivy, or steal for Vile. the former results in an instant ending. many other options play out in a frustratingly similar fashion: choose a course of action and you’ll be seamlessly pushed to the option you didn’t select. there are some options with consequences that affect whether the endings are successful. but towards the end of the story, there is only one clear branch. Carmen will still take on most of the missions, and only the order is changed.
9. ranveer vs savage with bear grylls
in this special, indian superstar ranveer singh teams up with bear grylls. In an over-the-top romantic gesture, Singh is on a quest to obtain a special and rare flower for his wife from the Serbian desert. she needs grylls survival skills to help her get there.
The first two major decisions immediately alter how the rest of the special unfolds, and some decisions made very early on also affect what happens towards the end. the only reason ranveer vs. wild is below the best bear grylls specials is because, depending on whether you initially choose to rappel down a cliff or zipline, you may end up without as many important choices to make.
Actually, if you make certain decisions early, you might find yourself going into a long period without much to do other than watch singh talk about how amazing his wife is. (it’s endearing, but not very interactive. I guess there are some things you shouldn’t change!) and some of the later choices end up being just for flavor, leading singh to talk more about his wife, ponder who is he. as a person or, in true bear grylls fashion, choosing between two equally disgusting things to eat.
but if you make the wrong decision at the first branch point, you really feel the consequences of your actions and are prompted for more options to help you overcome your failures. ranveer vs. wild is more fun and interactivity than some of the grylls stories, plus an incentive to choose the “wrong” option to explore more options.
8. you vs wild: cold
this time, the creative team at bear grylls got the job done! each iteration of the interactive franchise you vs. wild has vastly improved on the last one, and the third is a true survival adventure, with the viewer’s choices making canon sense. In this interactive special, Grylls wakes up after a plane crash and has forgotten who he is and all of his survival skills. he has vague hunches about what he’s supposed to do, but asks the viewer to contribute at every step.
The initial set of options (search for food, water, or shelter) veers back into the usual territory, where if you choose the wrong option, the story immediately jumps to the correct one or game over. But once Grylls gets his basic survival needs, he must embark on a rescue mission. here, the big fork choice happens: should you walk through the mountains or go through some spooky tunnels? and that election is not the only important one in history. Each path offers other, smaller options: does the bear push through his altitude sickness or wait for it to pass? Does it mark your path with tiles or with knots?
Each of these questions affects the endgame conditions and determines what additional steps you must take to get the game to safety. Grylls’ acting is incredibly stiff at times, but overall this interactive is a vast improvement over the first you vs. wild experience, and is an engaging piece of work in itself.
7. puss in book: trapped in an epic tale
Based on the Netflix animated series Puss in Boots (which spun off from the Shrek film franchise), The Puss in the Book: Trapped in an Epic Story casts the fearless feline hero into a magical book where a narrator cheeky tries to keep him trapped. so that he can act out the events of various fairy tales. Viewers are asked to choose which stories to play (a Sinbad-style pirate tale or a Snow White homage, for example) and then control the smaller options within the story.
the cat in the books, in general, offers a few different offshoots and endings. you can choose which fairy tales to act out and you can get out of the book in different ways. But the best part of the Puss in Boots interactive special is the tone. repeatedly breaks the fourth wall with more taste than a black mirror: the cunning references of bandersnatch. Puss begs the viewer to make certain decisions, while the narrator delights in torturing him and getting the audience to participate as well. On a branch, Puss figures out how to gain control of the narrative, leading to some really funny moments as he savagely forces his former opponents to sing and dance.
6. armstrong stretch: the rupture
stretch armstrong: breakout follows the flex fighters, three high school students in super-powered suits, just after their high-tech billionaire mentor turns on them and frames them as criminals. After a massive villain breakout, the flex fighters must save the city and stop the real villain.
Starting this game without much knowledge of the program puts viewers at a disadvantage at first, but after a few clicks, the story makes more sense. As with the Carmen SanDiego game, the break tends to respond to “wrong” choices by turning you back to the “right” one. But unlike the Carmen Sandiego or Kimmy Schmidt special, fewer of those wrong choices end in instant failure. while some of the options are inconsequential, there are enough to offer different branches with specific consequences. Choosing to follow the multi-farious heavy villain means taking down a high-tech skyscraper, while going multi-farious to follow the flexible fighters means a different battle against an electric villain. there are actually different ways things can play out, with only a few frustrating games.
5. johnny test’s ultimate meatloaf quest
Playing through the interactive johnny test adventure, I got five completely different endings before repeating. that’s particularly notable, considering many of the previous titles only offer alternate paths to fairly even endings.
Johnny Test’s Ultimate Meatloaf Quest is a spin-off of the popular Cartoon Network show Johnny Test, where a hyperactive boy named Johnny serves as the test subject for his awesome older sisters’ various science experiments. In the Netflix interactive, viewers take control of Johnny as he navigates through different realities to find one that has the perfect meatloaf, so that he and his genie sisters aren’t doomed to eat their horrible meatloaf. father for dinner.
The first real option (besides the tutorial to show the mechanics) takes a page from the matrix, telling johnny and his dog duke to enter either a blue or a red portal. those are basically the two different branches of the story: one takes you to a world where dogs keep people as pets, and the other to a reality full of monsters. players may eventually have the option to check out the other path, depending on their later choices. It’s all pretty silly, but with a title like Ultimate Meatloaf Quest, it fits pretty well.
The order in which you choose portals affects the ultimate ending, as do the smaller choices within branches. ultimate meatloaf quest has one of the most complex decision trees in netflix interactives thus far, plus a cheesy and entertaining little element that breaks the fourth wall, as johnny’s sisters realize someone is manipulating their decisions. no early endings either!
4. boss baby: catch that baby!
Who would have thought that the boss baby interactive special would be in the top 5? but each of these specials could learn a thing or two from the boss baby: get that baby. It’s not that the special has more ramifications than some of the others, it’s that the presentation itself makes some of the early endings really enjoyable.
The whole setup of the boss baby interactive special is that it is a training simulation, designed to see which department of the baby corp makes the most sense to the player. that means even early endings feel like hits. Three villains in the boss baby universe are also seeking revenge, and you must lead the boss baby and his older brother to foil his plans. no matter which villain plan you choose, the characters start out in a maze of hay bales. Winning or losing the maze means that the next sequence of events plays out differently. there are clear options with ramifications. there are also a few puzzles to solve, some of which are quite difficult for what I guess is the young target demographic.
Overall, catch that baby! one of the most engaging interactive specials, with endings that never felt like premature traps and some surprisingly funny riffs on corporate culture.
3. escape from the undertaker
Not only are there several different endings in netflix’s crossover project with world wrestling entertainment, those endings are actually affected by viewers’ choices. This makes Escape the Undertaker one of the most robust Netflix interactives yet. on the one hand, user decisions do not lead to dead ends; instead, they offer different points of view on how the story unfolds. Escaping the Undertaker is less about making the “right” decisions and more about exploring. The story follows three wrestlers who travel to a spooky mansion to steal the powerful urn of wrestler Mark William Calaway, aka The Undertaker. (In wwe history, it is what gives him his powers). At first, users are asked to choose one of three fighters to follow the others, allowing for different explorations of the mansion and the spooky artifacts that house the undertakers.
the paths themselves are not much different and the story still progresses fairly linearly, save for the exact order of exploration in some areas. but still, the divergent branches make this one of the best interactives yet. It’s also silly fun! The acting is forced and corny, but when you’re trying to steal a Halloween-themed retired wrestler’s soul-sucking urn, there’s no such thing as subtlety. it’s ridiculous, and honestly, it’s fun to look at the different branches, because the initial emphasis is on discovery, not pass or fail.
2. black mirror: bandersnatch
The Emmy-winning standalone episode of Black Mirror follows a young game designer who sets out to create an interactive game. target, right? Unlike the cat’s approach in the books to playfully interrogate the fourth wall, Bandersnatch does so in a dark way, fueled by paranoia and drugs, and commenting more on the illusion of free will than the actual nature of the medium. but we wouldn’t expect less from black mirror.
A lot of options in bandersnatch are inconsequential, but there are enough important options to radically change the narrative. There are also multiple different meaningful endings, which is rare for an interactive Netflix experience. bandersnatch doesn’t have a “good” ending, all of them are terrible for the protagonist to some extent, which makes for a somber experience. but it’s more complex than some of the other specials.
1. minecraft: story mode
Minecraft: Story Mode is the only one of the choose your own adventure netflix stories so far that actually plays like a game and not an interactive video. Maybe that’s not a surprise, given that it’s a partnership between Netflix and Telltale Games, and it’s based on a game. does that make it inherently better? it sure makes it feel more interactive, like you’re actually taking part in the story. You’re not just leading the characters to a choice – you’re in the minecraft universe.
From the start, viewers of the story mode must choose between two versions of the main character, giving the story a more game-like feel. options crop up frequently, and while they don’t all branch out drastically into separate narratives, they do personalize the actual game experience. your character can be nice to rivals, a bit of an idiot, or something in between. sometimes there are sequences of puzzles to solve. Not all choices significantly affect the story, but they all feel like they’re expanding the experience. it’s closer to being a visual novel than any of the other titles.
also, minecraft: story mode is more robust and longer, with five episodes of almost an hour with several parts. (Most of these other titles, especially the children’s ones, are just over half an hour long.) it’s a meaty game to dig into, especially for minecraft fans, and definitely the interactive netflix experience that really feels more interactive.