If you’ve been riding the waves of the Internet these past few weeks, you might be one of millions who have gotten hooked on the record-breaking Netflix series that is Squid Game.
Since you’re reading this article, we’re assuming you’ve already done your bingeing homework. Otherwise, we’ll have to warn you for spoilers coming right up ahead!
Featuring a survival contest where the winner can take up to KRW 45.6 billion (roughly PHP 1.97 billion), Squid Game is a thrill-packed K-drama that literally slaps players (and viewers!) with the highest possible stakes. The premise? Win all six of our childhood-themed games, and we guarantee that you can pull yourself out of your soul-crushing debt by becoming an overnight billionaire!
(Here reads the subtext: If you lose, you die.)
Right off reading this eye-catching synopsis, many curious Netflix viewers — myself included — hardcore binged all nine episodes of the series, only to find the story so intriguing that we were left desperately craving for more. While there hasn’t yet been any confirmation regarding a second season for Squid Game, we can definitely assure you that there are plenty more death game plots to watch on screen.
With that said, here are five Asian shows about survival games that you can feast on:
1. Alice in Borderland
Alice in Borderland is probably one of the closest dramas you can get to Squid Game, and viewers know it. It’s why the show is trending again and re-entering the top 10 Netflix charts despite a lack of additional promotions.
Prior to its resurging popularity, Alice in Borderland was already the most successful Japanese title on Netflix upon its release last December 10. Adapted from the manga of the same name, the series follows video game recluse Arisu and his two best friends as they suddenly find themselves in a parallel version of Tokyo, where they are forced to play a series of games to survive.
However, what makes the show different from Squid Game is that, for the most part, the games are a test of skill and cooperation rather than a forced death battle between players. Moreover, unlike Squid Game, the series has also already been renewed for a second season to the delight of eager fans.
Where to Watch: Netflix
2. Battle Royale
If Squid Game has ever made you flashback to Katniss Everdeen fighting for her life in an inescapable arena where thousands watch you die for sport, then Battle Royale will surely do the same. It is, after all, one of the earliest popular book/film pioneers of the “let’s group a bunch of people together and watch them kill each other” genre, heavily speculated to have inspired the Hunger Games itself.
Essentially, Battle Royale (2000) tells the story of what happens when a totalitarian version of the Japanese government decides to curb the country’s juvenile delinquency: Dump a class of students onto an isolated island and set a killing game that lasts until only one remains.
Decades after its release, the film has become a cult classic for good reason — in addition to its already intriguing story, Battle Royale is also a disturbing but heartbreaking study on the nature of humanity in their plight to survive.
Where to Watch: Just Watch (VPN recommended)
3. Liar Game
According to Director Hwang Donghyuk, Squid Game was partially inspired by the Japanese manga Liar Game. It tells the story of a naive college student named Nao who receives 100 million yen alongside an invitation to take part in the titular game. In this competition, players are encouraged to swindle each other of their respective hundred million budgets, leaving the others in debt.
Full of suspense and psychological thrill, Liar Game has become so popular that viewers can actually choose to see two different live-action adaptations, with the first taking place in its original Japanese setting and the second in South Korea.
Where to Watch: YouTube
4. As the Gods Will
Yet another Japanese contribution to the survival games genre, As the Gods Will is a 2014 thriller-horror film that is adapted from the manga of the same name.
Interestingly enough, what makes As the Gods Will a companion watch to Squid Game is their shared love for extremely high-stake children’s games. In fact, the first game that high school student Shun Takahata unwittingly finds himself playing, lest he die, is actually Daruma-san ga koronda — aka the Japanese version of Red Light /Green Light!
Unlike Squid Game, however, the teenaged players never actually consented to take part in death games. Having no clue as to the mastermind behind the event, all the students can do to survive is to win.
Where to Watch: Vudu (VPN recommended)
5. Animal World
Last but not least, we’re finishing this list with a Chinese title!
Adapted from the Japanese manga Kaiji, Animal World (2018) is a psychological action film that follows an unlucky teenager named Zheng Kaisi, who, like Gihun in Squid Game, is heavily burdened with debt and his struggles to pay his mother’s medical bills.
In order to pay off his dues, Zheng Kaisi is invited onto the ship Destiny, where passengers from all over the world come together to play Rock-Paper-Scissors for money. As expected, the deadly games are all played for survival, leaving players no choice but to entangle themselves deeper into a web of deception and lies for a chance to be free.
Where to Watch: Netflix
Liked our post-Squid Game recs? Check out our drama list for more live-action manga adaptations now!