By now, many have had time to binge watch and digest the third season of Netflix’s ‘Stranger Things’ and the reception appears to be largely positive. The Duffer Brothers’ Spielbergian middle-America freak show managed to retain its substantial charm factor while growing into a bigger and bolder show. And while there are certainly some portions of season three that are a bit loose, the finale left us wanting more right away. Naturally we’ll have to wait, at least a year and probably more. But with discussion about what to hope for in Season Four already underway, it also feels like it’s time to talk about this shows’ potential beyond the core narrative. Like it or not, we live in an era of universe-building, and while the Duffers have indicated that their vision of ‘Stranger Things’ will fit neatly into four or five seasons, it feels borderline naive to believe things will stop there. This show is a genuine phenomenon, and perhaps more than anything else, season three set up life beyond the primary show.
Maybe it’s too early to be talking about this, but season three expanded the world of ‘Stranger Things’ so thoroughly that it’s hard not to. We actually got our first hint of spinoff potential back in season two, when 011 went on a journey to the big city and met 008. That single episode, disliked as it was by many, broke the illusion that ‘Stranger Things’ existed only in Hawkins, Indiana. It showed us that there was a bigger world, with fresh characters similarly impacted by the events that have shaped Hawkins. And now, a season later, we have Russian infiltrations, kids branching off in different directions, new mysterious figures, and character pasts that need further explanation. From a history of Hopper, to a Steve Harrington rom-com, to a whole season in Russia, there’s limitless spinoff potential.
‘Stranger Things’ has produced video games, but is likely just getting started on this front. With its growing popularity, it could lead to much more, beginning with easy mobile adaptations in popular genres. Imagine, for instance, a Temple Run-like arcade game infused with elements of the show. Or think about what a mobile RPG could be like as you assemble characters to accomplish missions in Hawkins. On an even simpler level, â€˜Stranger Thingsâ€™ also has such a distinct aesthetic that it would be an excellent candidate for a licensed slot game. The UK’s selection of bonus slots available online are accessible to players all over the world, and habitually use major shows, films, and characters to establish themes. A â ’Stranger Things’ slot with the show’s theme music and imagery could become one of the biggest games on the internet.
VR and AR
This is basically an extension of the video game idea, but it has to be noted that ‘Stranger Things’ has incredible potential in mixed reality. The idea of a VR experience taking users into the Upside Down is borderline terrifying, but also somewhat irresistible. And in fact, news recently broke that Netflix is planning a ‘Stranger Things’ AR mobile game. It’s hard to imagine exactly what these experiences will ultimately be like, but anything that comes even remotely close to putting fans into the world of this show has hit potential.
The Long Game
This is more of a long shot, but we cannot help thinking about ‘Stranger Things‘ in the context of YouTube’s surprise, nostalgic hit, ‘Cobra Kai’ This show effectively picked up the original ‘Karate Kid’ drama decades down the road, continuing a beloved ‘80s tale and delighting millions of fans. ‘Stranger Things’ is ultimately a show about a group of kids in a small town, and the show seems as if it’s definitely going to wrap up with said kids in late high school, or perhaps heading off to college. This presents an opportunity like the one ‘Cobra Kai’ took advantage of, in that there’s a chance that years down the road, the series is rebooted and we revisit these same characters as adults. We could see how the events of their childhood have shaped them, and whether there are any lingering dangers. Of course this is assuming most or all of them make it out of the series alive – but even a decades-later series featuring a few of these original actors would be a treat. We just won’t know about it for a whille.