With so many different platforms vying for subscribers in today’s crowded streaming market, some services have come with up some inventive ways in hopes of getting people to add one more app to their collection. Some offer live news and sports, others are home to blockbuster movies the same day they open in theaters, but Netflix, one the heavyweights of the streaming game, has a rather unique offering for its 1.1 billion subscribers: interactive shows, movies, and specials.
Not familiar with the concept? Well, imagine those choose your own adventure books from your childhood and apply that same logic here, and voila. From interactive shows on Netflix like the various Bear Grylls programs, to movies including Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. The Reverend, here are some of the best offerings right now.
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch
Released in December 2018, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch broke ground as one of the first interactive specials on Netflix, and it did not disappoint with its intriguing story and unorthodox storytelling techniques that allowed viewers to create a personal experience. Basically, the nostalgia-filled movie centers on Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead), a young programmer in 1984 Britain who is in the process of adapting a choose your own adventure book written by his later mother into video game form. However, in typical Black Mirror fashion, the process becomes much more complicated and a whole lot more terrifying.
The story is made even crazier due to input from individual viewers’ decisions along the way, choices that impact the ending one way or another. Hell, there are even flowcharts created by fans in the aftermath of the film’s release.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy Vs. The Reverend
Set a few years after the conclusion of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the 2020 Netflix interactive film, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. The Reverend, is a silly yet comprehensive choose your own adventure story with a number of unique endings. The basic gist of the comedy is that Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) is preparing to marry Prince Frederick (Daniel Radcliffe), but before doing so, she has to take care of some unfinished business with Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon Hamm) after discovering an adventure book in a hidden pocket in her backpack. When her former captor escapes prison to a second bunker, it’s up to Kimmy to stop his diabolical plan before her wedding day.
Like any great choose your own adventure story, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend gives the viewer a myriad of decisions to make along the way. But, be careful as there are some not-so-happy endings if you don’t make the right decisions on the journey.
Escape The Undertaker
The latest Netflix interactive special is Escape the Undertaker, which feels like it’s what would happen if you took the Boneyard Match from WrestleMania 36, added the New Day, and then topped it off with some unused ideas from a Scooby Doo cartoon. It’s short, it’s silly, and, honestly, it’s a lot of fun. The Undertaker, holed up in a spooky mansion with security cameras and other systems at every corner, decides to play a game with the New Day to see if they can find and escape with his all-powerful urn.
Along the way, you will spend time with WWE Champion Big E, Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods as they split up to cover more ground, in typical horror fashion. Whether or not the fan-favorite stable achieve their goal is entirely up to the viewer who makes a series of split-second decisions to make it to the next part of the amusing interactive story.
The Boss Baby: Get That Baby!
Since its introduction in 2017, The Boss Baby franchise has become one of the most successful and popular animated properties in both movies and television. Well, now you can add interactive storytelling to that collection, thanks to the Netflix special The Boss Baby: Get That Baby!. Released in 2020, Get That Baby! puts you in the shoes of a Baby Corp. recruit as you are put through a series of situations that will determine which job you will end up taking on.
With a total of 16 possible outcomes, The Boss Baby: Get That Baby! is something you can return to time and time again until you see all that Baby Corp. has to offer. And, although this is geared more towards a younger audience, nothing is stopping parents from jumping in and having a little fun.
Puss In Boots: Trapped In An Epic Tale
With a name like Puss in Boots: Trapped in an Epic Tale you would think that the DreamWorks animated choose your own adventure would be a fun spin on classic fairy tales, and you’re right. Released in 2017, this brief and clever adventure allows the viewer to decide if Puss in Boots fights a tree or a giant, friendly bears or really not friendly bears, and various other interactions and branching storylines before reaching the end of the storybook.
The first interactive special released on Netflix, Puss in Boots: Trapped in an Epic Tale also happens to be one of the best options for children and adults alike.
The You Vs. Wild Interactive Titles
If you are a fan of the long-running survival show Man vs. Wild, then you are more than familiar with Bear Grylls and his adventures in various dangerous locations around the world. Much like that series, Grylls’ You vs. Wild brand follows the TV personality in one dire situation after another, but this time you decide what happens throughout each episode or movie.
The original You vs. Wild series consists of eight episodes ranging from searching for a doctor in the heart of the jungle, to a two-part adventure in the desert, with multiple choices in each. A second special, You vs. Wild: Out Cold, follows Bear Grylls as he deals with amnesia after a plane crash in a mountain range, and you make all the decisions for him. Then there’s the movie Animals on the Loose: A You vs. Wild Movie in which you help Grylls find animals that have escaped from a nature preserve.
Minecraft: Story Mode
Minecraft will forever go down as one of the most consequential video games in history, with gamers of all ages using the game’s massive sandbox world to make creations of their own design, or recreate famous locations, both real and from fantasy. And, although there isn’t a narrative in the main game first introduced in 2009, there is Minecraft: Story Mode, a point-and-click adventure available on a number of different devices and Netflix.
Told over the course of five episodes, Minecraft: Story Mode lets you customize its main hero, Jesse (Patton Oswalt for the male version, Catherine Taber for the female), and takes on you an epic adventure that explores the game’s lore with all kinds of surprises. Faced with multiple decisions and quick-time events along the way, this interactive story is rather robust.
Carmen Sandiego: To Steal Or Not To Steal
Starting with the 1985 release of the computer video game Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, the iconic, titular master thief has appeared in movies, TV shows, board games, and more, entertaining and educating generations of kids in the process. The 2020 Netflix interactive special Carmen Sandiego: To Steal or Not to Steal combines elements from the games and animated series to create a shockingly fun and comprehensive choose your own adventure story. When her friends are captured by the V.I.L.E. criminal organization she once led, it’s up to you and Carmen Sandiego to save the day.
This one plays just like those old point-and-click adventure films and serves as a great introduction to one of the most iconic multimedia entertainment franchises of the past 35 years. Are you up to it, gumshoes?
Buddy Thunderstruck: The Maybe Pile
Based on the Buddy Thunderstruck stop-motion animated series, The Maybe Pile follows the truck-racing dog Buddy and his best friend, Darnell the ferret, as they go through a series of ideas that could be awesome or could blow up in their faces (mostly the latter). But, instead of letting this dynamic duo have all the fun, it’s up to the viewer to make the final decision on choices from the “maybe pile” with various results.
While not as deep as some of the other options found on this list, Buddy Thunderstruck: The Maybe Pile is perfect for younger audiences who like fart jokes and scenes of a ferret and dog drinking a bunch of coffee with hilarious results. Did I mention fart jokes?
Headspace: Unwind Your Mind
Netflix and Headspace have been doing some really cool things since they first partnered up in early 2021, and one of the most interesting titles to come from the collaboration is Headspace: Unwind Your Mind, an interactive special that gives you relaxing results based on what you want out of the program. For example, at the beginning of the special you are asked if you want to meditate, relax, or sleep. From there you are asked a series of questions that help you do everything from meditate, to getting over something that happened recently, or use sleep training exercises.
Each of these interactive shows, movies, and specials give you a little something different from Netflix outside of all those other great original programs. But, if you’re looking for more standard options, check out our list of the best shows to binge watch on Netflix.
Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.
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