Ten months after its initial drop, the South Korean survival drama Squid Game (2021) has not lost its sheen. The show’s first season earned as many awards as it did praise from all corners, and this was hardly surprising given its stunning production, direction, and script, not to mention a gifted cast and deeply philosophical and political commentary underscoring its every moment. With the announcement that the show will continue its run with another season, the buzz has only intensified. Yet, with no official release date, the thirst for more must be quelled until further notice. Here are 20 shows like Squid Game to help you with that quest.
Of course, there’s no better way to enjoy a binge worthy series than with your kush and bong keeping you company!
Best TV Shows Like Squid Game
Squid Game had plenty of spine-chilling, hair-raising moments. The show offered plenty of thrills to go with its horror-themed survival game plot. But it also delivered just as much nuance and commentary on pressing social issues, making it more than just a one-time thrill.
Here are more shows like Squid Game that are just as layered and complex as they are entertaining.
Snowpiercer was originally adapted into a movie in 2013. It was based on the French novel Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob. Directed by Academy Award-winning director Bong Joon-ho (Parasite) and featuring an all-star cast, the movie focused on the class war in a post-apocalyptic world.
The story was later re-adapted for the small screen as the 2020 television series of the same name. While similar elements, such as an ongoing class war, do underline the tensions of the show, it did ultimately focus more on the dystopian elements, including climate change and sustainability.
Overall, the Snowpiercer franchise is wonderfully crafted, directed, and acted. The show is set to end with season 4, the release date of which is yet to be confirmed.
Money Heist (2017)
The Money Heist franchise began as a Spanish crime heist drama that follows two major heist jobs, all mapped out under the guidance of a mysterious man known as the Professor. The show earned significant praise for its plot and direction, as well as acclaim for its music as well as its contributions to the reinvention of Spanish television.
The show’s success earned it a place on Netflix and several more seasons. Its lore was later expanded into a Korean version which serves as both a loose adaptation as well as a continuation of the original story. This makes it part of an extended universe, one that might see crossovers in the future.
Cumulatively, as of 2021, Money Heist’s five seasons had more viewing than any other movie or show on Netflix. While there is much to love about the show, such as its loveably flawed characters, there is another reason it is so popular. And that links to it becoming a symbol for anti-capitalist resistance worldwide.
If there is one thing that links shows like Squid Game, it is their ability to spark both conversation and social awareness.
With hints of Hunger Games and Maze Runner beneath the surface, this Brazilian show hits all the marks as a young adult-centric dystopian thriller. Yet, it manages to hold its own in many ways.
3% takes place in a world with a stark class divide. While a majority of the world lives in poverty in a region called the Inland, a small section gets to enjoy the luxuries of the virtual paradise known as the Offshore.
Every 20-year-old is given the annual opportunity to move up a class by participating in a series of tests. Only 3% of them ever make it through, and among those that don’t, some don’t even make it out alive.
Yet, the possibility of escaping the struggle to survive and entering a world of privilege is a good enough incentive to take the leap.
Happiness is set in a deeply familiar world. One ravaged by Covid-19, military interventions, quarantines, and supposed miracle cures with deadly side effects.
Police officer Yoon Sae-bom is exposed to a deadly virus that seemingly turns people into zombies, yet demonstrates an apparent immunity to it. She soon finds herself swept into a world of intrigue where ulterior motives threaten the balance of society. On one side stand those who hope to find a cure to the pandemic, the key to which they believe is in Yoon’s blood. On the other is human rights activists who believe humanity will prevail over the virus.
And amid all of it is a class struggle that showcases just how complex a global event such as a pandemic can truly be.
My Name (2021)
Survival shows like Squid Game often feature dystopian themes and a wide variety of characters. It offers them the chance to tackle larger social issues and complex themes using the relationships between these characters as well as between different social groups.
My Name, however, follows a lone female police officer who decides to avenge her father’s death. First, by joining a gang, then by masquerading as a cop.
The story does not overtly tackle social issues quite in the same way. But in blurring the lines between “good” and “evil,” it offers a nuanced perspective of the common citizen’s struggle to seek justice.
All of Us Are Dead (2022)
There are plenty of survival and death game shows like Squid Game out there. These shows like Squid Game aren’t all intensely philosophical, however. Some are beautifully crafted survival dramas that will have you on the edge of your seat.
All of Us Are Dead is a zombie apocalypse coming-of-age horror show based on the webtoon Now at Our School by Joo Dong-geun. It centers on a high school that is overrun by zombies following a failed experiment. The government soon cuts off the students in an attempt to contain the outbreak. With no alternative, they are forced to rely on their wits and each other and make use of their limited resources to survive.
Alice in Borderland (2020)
There are plenty of Japanese shows like Squid Game to binge while you wait for season 2. But among them, Alice in Borderland definitely stands out.
Much like Squid Game, this sci-fi thriller features fatal survival games. But where Squid Game focuses more on class, Alice in Borderland takes a stab at immigration.
The show follows a group of individuals trapped in an abandoned Tokyo. They are forced to participate in a series of games that use playing cards. The reward for winning is an extension of their “visas” which allow them to continue playing the game. If their visa happens to expire, they’re shot dead by lasers in the sky.
The show definitely has shades of Battle Royale to it, but beyond certain elements, it manages to hold its own and remain engaging throughout its gruesome run.
Queen Sugar (2016)
The term “class war” understandably conjures up vivid imagery of resistance, violence, and perhaps even a bloodbath. Certainly, shows like Squid Game opt for that route when making their point. But more often than not, the class struggle that we experience shows up in seemingly innocuous ways. And Queen Sugar is a prime example of how that version of the class divide ought to be depicted.
The show centers on the estranged Bordelon siblings who are forced to band together to save their family’s struggling sugarcane farm. While some parts of the family hold on to tradition, others have gotten accustomed to the urban life away from home. The tensions that arise from these divides inform much of the show’s plot.
The show becomes even more layered, however, owing to its focus on African Americans. As such, the intersection of race and class makes for a unique premise. One that is beautifully scripted and brilliantly acted.
Outer Banks (2020)
Much Like Queen Sugar, Outer Banks tackles class divides in unique ways. It focuses more on suburban community life, offering a glimpse into the social divide between the wealthy elites and the working-class locals. More specifically, it showcases how class wars can impact the youth, who are forced to carry on this inherited battle.
When a merry band of working-class teens stumbles upon a treasure map and some unsavory secrets, including clues about their ringleader’s missing father, the line demarcating the divide starts to blur. Soon, friends and foes find themselves switching sides as the drama unfolds.
Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990) & Bel-Air (2022)
When it comes to a masterful depiction of the class divide, it doesn’t get much better than the iconic Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
The original sitcom from the ‘90s shot Will Smith to international stardom. The later re-imagination, which dropped this year, takes a much darker, gritter approach to the same story.
Both versions of the show feature a premise centered on the extremely wealthy Banks family who agree to take in cousin Will, a witty street-smart teen from a working-class family out in West Philadelphia. The clash between their two entirely different worldviews and experiences is the basis of the show’s plot.
While the original show is mostly rooted in comedy – and some of the best at that! – it also offers some gut-wrenching moments that encapsulate the issues that lie at the intersection between race and class. This is especially powerful considering the people being forced to grapple with these issues are merely teens themselves.
The re-imagined show is much lighter on the comedy, a choice that works quite well given the nature of the social issues it deals with.
“What Are The Rules in Hell?”
For a long time, class warfare has proved to be an extremely engaging premise. Books, movies, and shows have tackled the heavy topic in a myriad of ways, to varying levels of acclaim.
Shows like Squid Game, however, have tapped into what truly makes class war such a gripping story: the fact that it just so happens to be a reflection of the world as we know it. Even when the tale features zombies or CEOs, it ultimately boils down to lived experiences. And what is more compelling – and thrilling – than that?