Content warning: Squid Game and the other materials suggested in this blog are recommended for Adults only due to extreme violence.
If you've been keeping up with popular culture, one of the most popular streaming television shows of the year was Squid Game, a South Korean survival drama created by Hwang Dong-hyuk for Netflix. 456 players, who are deep in financial debt, accept the offer from a stranger to play a series of children's games, like "Red Light, Green Light," in order to win a large cash prize. However, Seong Gi-hun, a struggling divorced father and the main character, soon discovers the strange game is not at all what it seems... raising the stakes (and cash prize) with each player's violent demise.
Hwang based Squid Game (named after a Korean playground game) on his own financial struggles earlier in his life, as well as the economic and class inequality many South Koreans face. On September 17, the show was released worldwide and garnered much critical and international acclaim. With its to-the-point social commentary, favorable and unfavorable characters, and plenty of raw tension, Squid Game has made its mark in streaming platform history. As of November 2021, it is Netflix's most-watched television series, attracting more than 142 million household viewers and 1.65 billion viewing hours during its first four weeks.
If you watched Squid Game, or are intrigued by its premise, try one of these books or movies similar to the fast-paced action of the Korean drama.
Battle Royale (2000)
They thought it was any ordinary school field trip. Way before Squid Game and The Hunger Games, there was this 2000 Japanese film. Based on the 1999 novel by Koushun Takami, a group of ninth grade students are forced by the government to compete in an epic game of Battle Royale, where they must fight to the death for three days until only one survives. Some students like Shuya attempt to find a way off the island, while others willingly participate in the game. As the violence increases and the numbers fall, can Shuya and his other classmates survive?
The Long Walk by Richard Bachman (Stephen King)
Written by the King of Horror himself (under his pen name), the game that's in this book is just as twisted as any of the games in Squid Game. Sixteen-year-old Ray is about to compete in an annual match of stamina and wits known as the "Long Walk." Ninety-nine other boys will join him, where they are required to keep a steady walking pace for four miles without stopping. The prize: anything he wants for the rest of his life. But dystopian America has other rules they must follow. No outside aid. Slow down under the "speed limit," and you get a warning. When you hit three strikes, you're out - permanently. And there is no finish line - the winner is the last boy to survive.
The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix
Although this book doesn't have a plot that involves sinister games with prize money, what happens to Lynette Tarkington and the other final girls is just as brutal. Twenty-two years ago Lynette survived a massacre which has dubbed her as a "final girl" - in other words, she was the only survivor. For more than a decade, she's been meeting other women who have survived the unthinkable (much like the victims in Squid Game) and has slowly been piecing her life back together. Then, one of the women misses a meeting, and Lynette's worst fears come crawling back - someone knows about them and is determined to unravel their lives once again. But these are final girls... and no matter the danger they face, they won't give up.
All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody
Instead of strangers, this is family business. Seven families in the fictional city of Ilvernath select a player from their own kin to complete in a generational tournament to the death for control of the most powerful resource in the world: high magick. The victor has unlimited access to high magick for the next 20 years. Now the games have now gone public, and reporters, dark tourists, and government agents prepare to watch the blood events unfold.
#MurderTrending by Gretchen McNeil
Seventeen-year-old Dee suddenly finds herself in a precarious situation, much like the contestants in Squid Game. Framed for the murder of her stepsister, she's sent to an island called Alcatraz 2.0 that offers "televised capital punishment." The island operates in a similar fashion as Squid Game as well, where a man only known as "The Postman" leads and makes money through a very popular app. The public can livestream this twisted entertainment through the app and watch convicted felons get hunted down by professional assassins and executioners. Dee and the other innocent inmates must band together and fight for their lives to find a way out of the chaos.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
You knew this wouldn't be left out. In a dystopian North America where the rich thrive and the poor struggle, the cruel rulers of the Capital demand tribute for its annual Hunger Games. Two contests from each of the 12 major districts go head-to-head to fight to the death in an arena, where it is televised for the whole country to watch. Katniss Everdeen volunteers in her younger sister's place, where she must battle not only dangerous adversaries and rough terrain, but also first love.
The Most Dangerous Game (1932)
Based on the 1924 short story by Richard Connell of the same name, Bob, a lone survivor of a shipwreck off the coast of South America, lands on a small island that Russian count and big game hunter Zaroff calls home. He explains to Bob that he has found "the most dangerous game" on the island, which is why he is there. When other shipwrecked survivors begin disappearing, something doesn't seem right... then Bob discovers the trophy room, where the trophy collection is certainly not lions, tigers, or bears.
The Running Man by Richard Bachman (Stephen King)
Ben Richards is down and out - no job, no money, and a young daughter in need of proper medical attention. So he must turn to the only way to strike it rich in dystopian America: participating in a televised and violent government-run program where he becomes the "running man," a contestant who has 30 days to survive the world after being branded as "enemy number one." It means billions of dollars if he survives... but no one has survived longer than eight days. Will Ben go the distance in this game of life or death?