In Netflix’s Addictive New Narcos Game, You Build a Drug Empire in Facebook Messenger

Bringing a retro vibe to a modern interface

Headshot of David Griner

Selling drugs on Facebook Messenger is rarely a good idea, but just this once, it’ll probably be OK.

Netflix just launched Narcos: Cartel Simulator, a game created in partnership with Vice-owned agency Carrot to be played fully within the messaging app.

The game takes place in 1994, and the aesthetic was drawn from games designed for graphing calculators and other LCD screens in the ’90s.

Cartel Simulator follows up last year’s more elaborate mobile game, Narcos: Cartel Wars, developed by Plamee and published by FTX Games.

In the new Messenger game, you play a small-time drug dealer who owes money to the Cali Cartel. It’s essentially a game of supply and demand, as you travel drug marketplaces around the world, trying to buy low and sell high.

If you manage to pay off the cartel before their repayment deadline, the game opens up a bit and enables you to start building wealth of your own.

The Messenger interface is surprisingly perfect for a game like this, with most options served up as text-only multiple choice. Despite the minimalism, there’s enough to keep you engaged and, in the opening gameplay, quite stressed about your fate if you fail to give the cartel its due.

The game was created to help promote Narcos’ third season, which rolled out on Netflix earlier this month.

@griner David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."