Squid Game, a dystopian Netflix thriller, successfully combined engaging characters, high stakes, timely themes of class conflict, and a distinctive visual aesthetic to become the biggest TV hit of 2021 and appeal to millions of viewers worldwide. It encourages TV producers by showing that, with the right execution, original ideas can still become huge hits.
In order to compete for a chance to win a 45.6 billion prize, 456 players—all of whom are in severe financial need—risk their lives by playing a series of lethal children’s games. The series’ name is based on a kid’s game with a similar name that is popular in Korea. Hwang had developed the concept in response to his own early-life financial struggles, the class divide in South Korea, and capitalism. Though he had first conceived of the idea in 2009, he was unable to secure funding for it until Netflix became interested in it in 2019 as part of their effort to broaden their selection of international programming.
Squid Game was launched on September 17, 2021, to generally positive reviews. It surpassed Bridgerton to become Netflix’s most-watched series, becoming the most-watched program in 94 countries, drawing more than 142 million member households and accruing 1.65 billion viewing hours in its first four weeks of release. A number of awards have also been given to the show, including the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Miniseries, or Television Film for O Yeong-su and the Screen Actors Guild Awards for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series and Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series for Lee Jung-Jae and HoYeon Jung, respectively. All three actors made history by becoming the first Korean actors to win in those categories.
The show was given a second chance in June 2022. The show received a second season renewal in June 2022, and it will air by the end of 2023 or the beginning of 2024. In addition, Netflix is creating a reality game show based on Squid Game that will pit 456 players against each other for a sizable cash prize.
Additionally, Squid Game’s lack of originality is a factor in its popularity. There are numerous other television programs and motion pictures that will in some way bring to mind the series by Hwang Dong-hyuk about a game in which indebted individuals fight it out to the death for a sizable sum of money.
A few months prior to the release of Squid Game, this young adult series debuted on Prime Video. It was cancelled after one season, but it’s still worth watching if you’re intrigued by the idea that some people would risk their lives in order to earn money that could change their lives. The story takes place in Carp, Texas, a tiny town with no exits. High school seniors who are about to graduate compete in a competition called “Panic” every summer. They must complete risky tasks in an effort to win $50,000, which would be sufficient to leave Carp. It’s true that it’s not as good as Squid Game and that it’s targeted at a smaller YA audience, but it demonstrates the relevance of Squid Game’s themes of economic desperation in America.
2. All Of Us Are Dead
The undead has been the subject of some of South Korea’s biggest international successes, with Netflix’s All of Us Are Dead being one of the biggest of them all. It ranks as the third-most watched non-English series on Netflix. Students are portrayed as they struggle valiantly against flesh-eating monsters, some of whom were their human friends just moments earlier, in this spine-tingling thriller about a zombie virus outbreak at a high school. Yoon Chan-young, Park Ji-hu, Park Solomon, Cho Yi-Hyun, and Lee Yoo-mi, who you might recognize from her role as the selfless Player 240 in Squid Game, are the series’ main actors. Based on the webtoon Now at Our School, the zombie film All of Us Are Dead offers a unique perspective on the genre by putting a focus on the characters’ relationships with one another.
Its setting and teen characters turn typical classrooms into bloody battlefields. The show’s examination of Squid Game-like themes, such as the abuse of power and the corruption of authority, also becomes more obvious as the virus leaves the school’s boundaries.
Give the new Netflix thriller Hellbound a try if Squid Game was your first Korean drama to see what else Korean TV producers excel at. The series, which is based on Yeon Sang-webtoon ho’s Hell and was created and directed by him for Train to Busan, masterfully blends morality and horror, much like Squid Game does with thrills. The rest of the world takes notice when angels start appearing on Earth to inform sinners of their death and that they are being transported to hell by three smoking creatures who beat the victims into a bloody pulp before frying them. This is especially true for a religious sect that believes this is God’s response to our growing ambivalence of right and wrong. You’ll enter it thinking one thing, but find out it’s much more complex, similar to Squid Game.
Adults shouldn’t have all the fun vying with one another for wealth. Say it with me: totalitarian government, where 20-year-olds have one chance to escape poverty and live among the wealthy and content on an island paradise. This is the setting for the Brazilian young adult series 3%. However, in order to do so, they must pass “The Process,” a series of assessments meant to determine the candidate’s value. The tests range from a straightforward interview to solving fictitious crime scenes to interpreting gas hallucinations. The goal is to advance to the next round, just like in Squid Game. This dystopian Portuguese video game will test your mental prowess without requiring too much blood. You should enjoy a good series. Each 20-year-old is subjected to a battery of exams every year. Failed participants may not meet violent deaths, but they are forbidden from entering the Offshore, an idyllic island, and must live in poverty for the rest of their lives.
5. Battle Royale
42 ninth graders are sent to a remote island in the fabled film that served as the inspiration for numerous death games. They are given the task of killing one another, but this isn’t paradise—an explosive collar has been placed around their necks. Only the final survivor is permitted to leave the island, so they are given a map, food, and various weapons. It’s not the first film where a group of people is forced to kill each other in order to survive, but it’s one of the first to really define the meaningless violence of the genre for modern audiences. Additionally, it’s the reason the Hunger Games were created and why your nephew is addicted to Fortnite and other battle royale video games. The Japanese movie from 2000 is about a high school class is taken to an island where they are instructed to kill one another until only one person is left alive. The story is set in an era when a totalitarian government employs very extreme measures to combat juvenile delinquency. Although it doesn’t sound like a great plan, the movie lives up to expectations.
6. Sweet Home
Do you want more of that crazy, dark energy from Squid Game’s Korean drama? Put on your safety belt and start the engine. A group of people is imprisoned in an apartment building in the fantasy horror series Sweet Home as the world around them transforms into monsters that represent their inner demons. Cha Hyun-soo moves out of his house and into an apartment following an unexpected family tragedy. Monsters soon start attempting to exterminate humanity. Realizing that monsters are hiding everywhere outside, the residents of the apartment are trapped inside the structure. Hyun-Su and the other occupants of the building fortify themselves there in the hopes of enduring as long as they can. There are no shady corporations manipulating games, but there is good interpersonal drama, like in Squid Game.
7. The Purge
The Return of the Archons episode from Star Trek: The Original Series served as inspiration for the dystopian action horror films that make up the American anthology media franchise known as The Purge. These films are distributed by Universal Pictures and produced by Blumhouse Productions and Platinum Dunes. The movies depict a seemingly normal, law-abiding America in the not-too-distant future. But in reality, the nation is a dystopia that observes an annual national holiday called “the Purge,” on which all crimes, including murder, are made less serious for a full twelve hours. The Purge on USA Network doesn’t feature any games of life and death, but even if they did, they wouldn’t be fair. Insanity would result if nothing was illegal for a night (or different lengths of time, like FOREVER), according to the television series based on the film franchise. It’s true that the series isn’t the pinnacle of American creativity, but if the chaos of Squid Game is what you’re after, The Purge will deliver. (But don’t look too far elsewhere.)
Cho Il-Hyung is the director of the 2020 South Korean zombie movie #Alive. It is based on the 2019 screenplay Alone by Matt Naylor (which was later adapted into another movie), who co-adapted his script with Cho, and stars Yoo Ah-in and Park Shin-Hye. The story centres on a video game live streamer who must stay by himself in his Seoul apartment while the world is overrun by zombies in order to survive. On June 24, 2020, in South Korea, and on September 8, 2020, globally via Netflix, it was made available. Critics tended to give favourable reviews. You’ll probably enjoy Netflix’s #Alive, a Korean zombie thriller about a young man who locks himself in if you liked the infrequent glimpses of humanity in Squid Game between Seong Gi-hun (no. 456) and Oh Il-Nam.
9. Alice In Borderland
The Japanese Netflix series Alice in Borderland is the ideal follow-up to Squid Game if you want to boil it down to “you play and win a game OR YOU DIE!” A video game enthusiast and his two friends are portrayed as they mysteriously wind up in a parallel Tokyo where they must play a variety of games to survive. In contrast to Squid Game, the difficulty is in problem-solving rather than competing with others, and once the games begin, they never stop. As does the violent crime! A 2020 Japanese science fiction thriller drama television series called Alice in Borderland is based on the Haro Aso manga of the same name. In the Shinsuke Sato-directed television series, Kento Yamazaki and Tao Tsuchiya play trapped allies in an abandoned Tokyo, where they are made to play dangerous games, the nature of which is determined by playing cards, and whose level of difficulty they must master. Players are given “visas” after making it through their first game; as they advance in the competition, these “visas” are extended; if they run out, players are killed by red lasers fired from the sky.
Each episode of the series, which was first announced in July 2019, was written by Sato, Yoshiki Watabe, and Yasuko Kuramitsu. Locations included various Shibuya neighbourhoods, and a green screen studio served as a replica of the well-known Shibuya Crossing, where a significant portion of the series takes place. Filming started in August and ended that same year in December.
10. Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor
The similarities between Squid Game and Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor are so striking that it’s possible the show’s creators watched that anime before deciding to base a live-action series on it. Its protagonist is a debtor who receives the chance of a lifetime to play a series of games against other debtors in order to pay off his debts. Others place bets on which contestants they believe will win while playing games like Rock, Paper, Scissors and walking across an electrified balance beam. Similar to Squid Game, it is brutal with characters taking extreme risks, but there is even more deceit as rivals compete to reduce their debts faster than the other.
11. Dr. Brain
Check out Dr. Brain, a psychological sci-fi thriller that debuted on Apple TV+ in November 2021, for the pinnacle of Korean dramas. In the drama, a brain scientist develops a method to transmit memories from one person to another with the intention of examining a family tragedy. Similar to Squid Game, it deals with accessing the minds of the living and the dead and imagines what that might look like (the correct response is like a psychedelic nightmare). Still, it’s also grounded in emotion that propels the narrative.
Produced by Motion Content Group and Studio Lambert, The Circle is an American reality competition series that debuted on Netflix in January 2020. It is based on the original, eponymous British television program. As part of a collaboration between Netflix and All3Media, The Circle was also released on Netflix in France and Brazil in addition to its American release. According to the series’ marketing, it is a social media game where “anyone can be anyone in The Circle.” Its format and the idea of ratings have been compared to Big Brother, Catfish, and the Black Mirror episode “Nosedive.” In this sci-fi thriller set in the future, fifty strangers awaken in a dark room to learn that they are each about to be executed. The film tackles one of the most difficult philosophical dilemmas as they come to the realization that they must choose one person among them to survive.
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13. King’s Game
Transferring to a new school is difficult, even more difficult if a death game is involved. All students in the class are required to follow the instructions that are sent via text message from someone who introduces themselves as “The King.” Nobuaki Kanazawa has the good fortune of having no emotional ties because he hasn’t made any friends. Unfortunately for him, he’s played the game before at his previous school, so he is aware of the challenging decision he must make: Put his own survival ahead of saving his classmates.
The Cube is the original escape room and is a cult favourite for good reason. Unaware of how or why they arrived, a group of strangers wake up inside it and must find their way out of a maze of additional cube-shaped rooms (with many fatal booby traps along the way). The Kafka-like circumstance is the ideal illustration of the gradual descent into madness that the human mind is capable of.
15. Escape Room
Six strangers are placed in a series of escape rooms for the chance to win a tonne of money, making escape rooms a concept that was practically made for this genre. A 2019 American psychological horror film titled “Escape Room” was written by Bragi F. Schut and Maria Melnik and directed by Adam Robitel. Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll, Tyler Labine, Nik Dodani, Jay Ellis, and Yorick van Wageningen are among the cast members of the movie, which centers on a group of individuals who are tasked with escaping a series of dangerous escape rooms.
The movie’s production started in August 2017 under the working title The Maze, and casting began. From late 2017 to January 2018, South Africa served as the location for filming.
On January 4, 2019, Sony Pictures Entertainment released Escape Room in the US. The film has made over $155 million worldwide. Critics gave the movie mixed reviews, praising the cast and atmosphere while criticizing the formulaic story and lack of use of the premise. On July 16, 2021, the follow-up, Escape Room: Tournament of Champions, was made available. If you’ve ever participated in an escape room, you are aware that being timed is typical but that being killed for skipping the timer is not. Unfortunately, these competitors quickly discover that if they are unable to complete the puzzle, they will die at zero.
16. Would You Rather
When it is revealed that the winner will receive outrageous sums of money, the traditional game takes on a sadistic twist, to put it mildly. It sounds great, but as the game goes on it becomes obvious why there can only be one winner of the money, mainly because there is only one left. Brittany Snow and Jeffrey Combs star in David Guy Levy’s 2012 American psychological horror thriller Would You Rather. It is based on the “would you rather” party game and follows a woman named Iris as she attends a dinner party where she is forced to play risky games in order to assist her sick younger brother in finding a donor after he develops leukaemia. On October 14, 2012, Screamfest hosted the movie’s world premiere. It was On February 8, 2013, IFC Midnight made it available in a few theatres and on video on demand in the United States.
17. Belko Experiment
Even if you have some reservations about working for a company, at least you are not required to murder your coworkers. When 80 workers at the Belko Corp. in Bogotá, Colombia learn that they are locked in the building (there is no 9 to 5 here) and must kill their coworkers—with nothing but staplers and hole punchers at their disposal—an ordinary day at the office takes a turn for the worse. Oh, and if they don’t cooperate, explosive trackers hidden in their heads will detonate.
18. Memories of the Alhambra
This show does have games and death, though it isn’t a death game per se. Sci-fi, fantasy, adventure, and romance are all present in the Netflix Korean drama about a cutting-edge augmented reality game. Forget the augmented reality you think you are familiar with; this new, complex version enables you to see through a contact lens so that you are unable to tell the difference between a game and the real world. However, CEO Yoo Jinwoo must find the missing game coder to learn why this is happening—and what can be done to stop it—when a system flaw causes users to feel pain and die from their wounds.
19. As The Gods Will
Don’t whine about how dull your life is; Shun Takahata did, and the next day he was made to play a killing game at school. The first competition is a version of Red Light, Green Light (known in Japan as Daruma-san ga koronda), similar to Squid Game, with death as the penalty for losing. Basketball, Kagome Kagome, and Kick the Can are among the ensuing games that are equally perilous and chaotic.
20. Saw: The Series
Fair warning: This one probably isn’t for you if you’re not into blood and gore. However, you can’t help but be a little taken aback by the cunning serial killer in this film—and the difficult physical and psychological tests he subjects his victims to.