Sonic Mania, GTA Vice City, and Hades — here's why Netflix is the best value in iPhone gaming right now

Sonic Mania on iPhone 15 Pro Max
(Image credit: Future)

No, you’re not reading this wrong — you can download exclusive games as long as you have an active Netflix subscription, and it’s glorious.

My wife and I have been Netflix subscribers for years because of the many documentaries available on the service. When I saw that the company was going to offer iPhone games as part of its subscription, my first reaction to the news was an eye-roll. I was expecting adaptations of its shows and movies, such as Stranger Things and House of Cards.

Imagine my surprise in December 2023, when Netflix announced three classic Grand Theft Auto games were to be made available as part of its gaming efforts. Not only that, but these were to be the remastered editions that still aren’t available separately to buy. Fast forward to 2024, and I can now play games such as Hades, a roguelike action game, and Sonic Mania Plus — a game that I regard as one of the series’ best since the blue blur starred in Sonic 3 on the SEGA Mega Drive, way back in 1994.

It’s this amazing effort by Netflix in the past year that has made me reconsider what it’s like to play certain games on my iPhone 15 Pro Max as part of a subscription. Granted, I can sign up for Apple Arcade, the company’s gaming subscription service, but it doesn’t include these classics by Rockstar and SEGA.

Although there are three games I’m playing non-stop thanks to Netflix, here’s why you should consider exploring all of the games the company offers — especially if you’re a new or existing customer.

Why Netflix’s method of offering games is an ingenious one

Netflix’s games offering on iPhone and iPad is ingenious. Every game is currently exclusive to the service and can be downloaded from the App Store. However, once you reach the title screen of these games, you must sign in with an active Netflix account to proceed any further. This moment must be tempting for potential customers, as they can download these games and see what they could be playing if they were subscribed to Netflix.

These games also come with support for third-party controllers, such as those offered by 8BitDo, Xbox, and more. Although these titles are only available on iPhone and iPad, you can play them on other Apple devices by using the AirPlay mirroring feature. Go to Control Center > AirPlay Mirroring, and select your Mac or Apple TV. Your iPhone or iPad’s display will then appear on the device you’re mirroring.

Let’s not forget though — these games are part of your subscription, with no extra cost. That includes all three of Netflix’s tiers — from the $6.99 / £4.99 per month Standard tier to the $22.99 / £17.99 per month Premium tier. That’s a fantastic value proposition if you’re currently finding it difficult to find something to watch on your iPhone. Instead, you could download games like Katana Zero or Sonic.

Netflix is clearly committed to offering more games for its users, with over 80 games available for iPhone and iPad. The next game, Cozy Grove: Camp Spirit, an RPG adventure, arrives on June 25. With the amount already offered, I’m curious as to what else will appear on the service by the time 2024 wraps up.

As I’ve mentioned before, since December I’ve been downloading and playing the games Netflix offers. With this in mind, here are three games I’ve been playing non-stop lately — all of which you can play right now with an active Netflix subscription.

Sonic Mania Plus

Sonic Mania on iPhone through Netflix

(Image credit: Future)

Sonic Mania Plus was a surprise to so many when it was released back in 2017 because it was the first 2D Sonic pixel game to be made by SEGA in over 20 years. It also helped that the game was being made by a prolific few in the Sonic community who had managed to create some fantastic hacks, such as playing as Knuckles in Sonic 1 — something that was impossible back in 1994.

Taking place over 13 levels, Sonic Mania Plus features a mix of levels from past Sonic games, like Green Hill Zone and Flying Battery Zone, as well as new ones, such as Studiopolis Zone. I regard Sonic Mania as highly as Sonic 3 & Knuckles from 1994, mainly because of the fantastic level design, great bosses, and music that perfectly suits the game.

I was very surprised to see Netflix announcing that a version was to be made available for iPhone and iPad through its service earlier this year. It meant that I could replay the game all over again, and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing on my iPhone. Nothing has been changed with this new port, it’s the same game released in 2017, and I couldn’t be happier.

GTA: Vice City

GTA Vice City on iPhone through Netflix

(Image credit: Future)

There’s a good chance that you’ve played GTA: Vice City on Apple devices before — but this is the first time that the remastered Definitive Edition has been made available for iPhone and iPad. This release features brand-new graphics, new weather effects, new ways to aim at targets, and more.

I should note, however, that when Definitive Edition came out in 2021, it was beset with issues. For example, character models would be janky in cut scenes, weather effects such as rain wouldn’t be transparent, covering the display, and much more. Three years on though and it looks like the major bugs have been fixed in this mobile version.

Vice City shines on my iPhone 15 Pro Max, especially when I use a third-party controller like the 8BitDo Pro 2. This game perfectly showcases why using touch-screen controls can be a frustrating experience, especially when you try to target an enemy, drive a vehicle, and much more. With the 8BitDo Pro 2, I can control the game just like I used to on the PlayStation 2 version of Vice City. The lighting and graphics as I drive down the beach are fantastic. I’ve found myself spending hours in the game as I complete missions and try to collect the secret packages scattered throughout the city.


Hades on iPhone through Netflix

(Image credit: Future)

I first played Hades on my Nintendo Switch, not long after the game’s release in September 2020. Much of the world was still in lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the United Kingdom, so some days would be spent playing games. Hades was one such example, and I was hooked within five minutes of starting the game.

Hades is a roguelike action game presented in an isometric viewpoint. You go through multiple rooms, fighting a bunch of enemies, and once you win, you get to collect a power-up that can boost your attacks, defense, or more. That’s essentially what Hades entails, and it’s fantastically addictive because of it.

You’ll find yourself coming back to the game to beat several rooms, just so you can build up more skills for attacks. I did this in 2020 on my Switch, and I’m doing it all over again on my iPhone, thanks to Netflix. The touch controls on the display work surprisingly well — I found myself easily defeating hordes of enemies with this as I was on a train at the weekend for example. Hades is a fantastic game, and as the sequel was released for PC just last month, I’m already holding out hope that Hades 2 is coming to iPhone through Netflix sooner rather than later.

A great start to Netflix’s gaming offering

It’s not a huge surprise that I’ve been impressed with the gaming catalog that Netflix has released so far on iPhone and iPad. In addition to the three games I’ve mentioned, there’s even more that can appeal to those who love Soccer, RPGs, and more.

It would be great to see some of these games be made available for other Apple devices, such as Apple TV and Apple Vision Pro. Playing GTA: Vice City on one of these systems would be fantastic, and would perfectly replicate that feeling of playing the game on Sony’s PlayStation 2 console all those years ago.

For now, I’m content playing Sonic Mania and other games through the service, and I’m excited to see what else Netflix has planned for the future.

iPhone 15 Pro | $999 at Apple

iPhone 15 Pro | $999 at Apple

Featuring a Titanium finish, a USB-C port, and the powerful A17 Pro chip, it's the perfect device to play games offered by Netflix.

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Daryl Baxter
Features Editor

Daryl is iMore's Features Editor, overseeing long-form and in-depth articles and op-eds. Daryl loves using his experience as both a journalist and Apple fan to tell stories about Apple's products and its community, from the apps we use every day to the products that have been long forgotten in the Cupertino archives.

Previously Software & Downloads Writer at TechRadar, and Deputy Editor at StealthOptional, he's also written a book, 'The Making of Tomb Raider', which tells the story of the beginnings of Lara Croft and the series' early development. His second book, '50 Years of Boss Fights', came out in June 2024, and has a monthly newsletter called 'Springboard'. He's also written for many other publications including WIRED, MacFormat, Bloody Disgusting, VGC, GamesRadar, Nintendo Life, VRV Blog, The Loop Magazine, SUPER JUMP, Gizmodo, Film Stories, TopTenReviews, Miketendo64, and Daily Star.