10 More Shows ‘Squid Game’ Fans Need To Watch
There's gonna be lots of blood and guts in this one.
In a move no one saw coming (unless you were paying attention), Hwang Donghyuk’s Squid Game managed to become the most watched Netflix series ever, amassing a total of 1.65 billion watch hours since its release. Coming out of a year like 2020 where people lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and there was no relief for the average person, a certain level of class consciousness amassed within society at large, and Squid Game dramatized situations a lot of people were going through. That’s the Marxist version.
It’s near impossible, but if we tried to look at the series without the backdrop of its social context, it was just good. The characters were complex and intriguing, the brutality of the deaths was not something most were not used to seeing when it released, there were obvious stakes, and the acting was phenomenal. You could tell that this was something that took precious care and time to create, and it did, because Hwang worked on the show for 10 years before it ever became a reality. The world was shocked when it went number one, but imagine how he felt.
Now that the rest of the world (me included), is waiting on the show to return, with a possible return date of 2024, it seems we’ll be waiting a while. It’s never easy to follow a hit, but if you’re looking for something to tide you over until the show returns, you’ve come to right place. Here are 10 shows like Squid Game to enjoy while you wait.
This one is so obvious that comparisons were being made before Squid Game was formally released. If there’s one show that comes close to the South Korean thriller it’s definitely Kaiji but this isn’t a surprise to anyone that’s read the manga or watched the anime. Did I mention there’s also a live action?
The series features a man named Kaiji Itou who is plagued with a gambling addiction. Destitute and unable to pay his mounting debts, he agrees to participate in an illegal gambling ring in the underbelly of a cruise ship. Sound familiar? Not the cruise ship part, but you get what I mean. What came next was psychological torture wrapped in children’s games such as rock paper scissors, mahjong, and a game that involves falling to your death. And let’s not forget the tissue raffle.
As the first Brazilian Netflix Original Series, 3% did not disappoint. At first glance, it seems like a serialized version of The Hunger Games, but you quickly find out it’s more than that. Like all great sci-fi dystopias, the series takes place in a world where the population is divided into two distinct groups. The Inland houses most of the population, which is chronically poor. There’s no water, food, medicine … basically anything to contribute to a standard of living fit for an animal, much less a human being.
The Offshore is a faraway utopian society that has everything its residents could ever need. When Inland citizens turn 20, they have the opportunity to compete in what is known as “The Process” to have a chance to move to the Offshore. Only 3% make it every year.
The process consists of exceptionally difficult tasks that test not only physical strength but mental strength, as well. The tests range from a simple interview to deciphering the truth under the influence of a hallucinogenic gas. If you’re looking for some of the class intrigue and social commentary found in Squid Game, then this is the show for you.
Though people die sometimes, it’s not the main draw of the show. However, when contestants lose a certain challenge, they are sent back to the Inland, and for most, that’s a fate worse than death.
Though not a TV show, Battle Royale has inspired death game competitions since its inception. Based on the manga of the same name, written by Koushun Takami in the year 2000, Battle Royale focuses on a filed trip from hell. In an effort to curb juvenile delinquency, the government has adopted a practice of kidnaping children and placing them on an island where they must participate in survival games. There were so many other steps that could have been taken before we got there.
The students are pitted against each other in a fight to the death that includes weapons and an exploding collar if they go out of bounds. They have three days to kill or be killed, and each moment exudes debilitating heart palpitations. If you’re into the gruesomeness that Squid Game has to offer, then this might be for you, but be aware that it features kids in middle school.
This one is special because Hwang has directly cited Liar Game as one of his inspirations for Squid Game. Liar Game is another Japanese entry, but this time it’s a TV series also based on a manga by Shinobu Kaitani, written and illustrated in 2005. This is one of the tamer shows on this list because although there’s a large sum of money being competed for, the point isn’t to kill people for losing tug of war. This show focuses on the aspect of debts and what people are willing to do in desperate situations, while Squid Game cranks the dial to 1000.
At the beginning of the game, contestants receive 100 million yen and the objective is to do whatever you can to take the other players’ money. Did anyone else just get Sangwoo and Ali vibes from that? It’s ironic because the show itself operates on a debt like system because losers must pay money equivalent to their losses to the winner. Season two of Squid Game might delve more into the storyline because the objective of those in Liar Game is to bring down the organization from the inside.
Alice in Borderland
Alice in Borderland is often compared to Squid Game but many don’t know that Alice actually came first. Or it at least premiered first. Squid Game displays poverty-stricken desperation, because the second time they’re brought back to the island, the contestants are well aware that there is a real possibility of dying, but debt has made their lives unlivable anyway. Alice in Borderland portrays a different type of desperation because none of them asked for this.
I can’t reveal why they’re there because I’d be giving away the show, but one of the most sinister things about it is that they’re not even competing for anything … it’s just about the will to stay alive. Seeing as most of the contestants are gamers, Alice in Borderland has a more sophisticated game setup and follows some of the more sci-fi tropes in media. The characters in this show are geniuses, because the ways in which those games are set up do not call for anything less. Oh, and season 2 will be released this December!
The second anime on this list is Darwin’s Game. It follows the battle royale style with a bit of fantasy added at the outset. Kaname Sudō receives an invited to play Darwin’s Game. He accepts and quickly finds out that the game isn’t so much of a game because people can actually die. After the death of his friends, Kaname sets out to find the true identify of the game master to put a stop to it once and for all.
This series probably strays the furthest away from the concept of Squid Game, but some of the core attributes are there if you squint—being led into something under false pretenses, and wanting to know who is in control of your destiny.
As the Gods Will
If Shun Takahata had just waited a day he would have never complained about his life being boring, because as soon as he did, he was made to compete in a survival game the next day. Such is the nature of As the Gods Will. The most notable comparison between this show and Squid Game (besides the killing) is that the Japanese version of Red Light, Green Light—Daruma-san ga koronda—was played here first. And just like Squid Game, everything goes downhill from there.
The two shows are so often compared with each other that Hwang was actually accused of plagiarism, to which he responded by saying that he had begun waking on Squid Game long before As the Gods Will premiered.
Panic is the culmination of what young people are willing to do, for anything, but especially when it comes to escaping what they deem a “podunk” town. Panic was released on Prime Video months before Squid Game (they need to get better with promoting these shows … it’s getting embarrassing) but was canceled after only one season, most likely due to ratings.
Every summer, high school seniors compete in a competition called “Panic,” where they have the chance to win $50,000 in the hopes of escaping Carp, Texas. If we’re being honest, this show is nowhere near as good as Squid Game, and it was definitely intended for a young audience, but if the premise is what you’re interested in, it might be right up your alley.
Now this one is interesting—probably the most unique on this list because all of the players are already dead. Yeah, you read that right. Every single one of them. Instead, they’re competing to live. In the beyond, there are a group of bartenders serving as the guides for lost souls. In the event of a death, said soul is sent to bar to play a series of games that determines if they will be reincarnated or cast into the void for the rest of eternity. The concept is brilliant.
Escape rooms are top tier. If you’re ever looking to break the ice with someone or a group of someones, you can always count on an escape room to do the job … just not this one. Any one but this one. No way around it, this is a horror film—not suspense or thriller, just plain horror. Six people receive puzzle boxes in the mail, and once solved, they receive an invitation to participate in an escape where failure means death. Think the Saw franchise … but at least they get a $10,000 reward.
(featured image: Netflix)
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