Anyone who knows me at all knows how obsessed I am with horror movies, but even within the world of horror, Battle Royale is by far my favorite subgenre. If you watched Squid Game on Netflix recently (if you haven't, WYD?) and can't get enough (welcome to my world), you've come to the right place. Currently the world's most-watched series on Netflix—and slated to become the most watched of all time!—the show is finally bringing death games to the mainstream. Although it is a sadly scarce genre (compared to other genres, that is), there are some hidden gems out there that will provide the same adrenaline-pumping, mind-boggling feels. For your viewing pleasure, I've compiled a list of shows and movies that you should promptly add to your watch queue. Fair disclaimer that some of these aren't in English, but as Bong Joon-Ho famously said, "Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films."
Alice in Borderland
The biggest comparison that has been made to Squid Games since its release is, by far, Alice in Borderland. The premise: Arisu, a genius gamer who never lived up to his potential, suddenly finds himself in an abandoned version of Tokyo where he must compete in life-threatening games to avoid getting lasered in the head by a mysterious entity. If you survive, you get granted a several-day "visa," after which you have to willingly return to another game. Naturally, alliances are formed, friendships are tested, and betrayals are made.
As the Gods Will
Don't complain about your life being boring—Shun Takahata did, and he found himself forced to participate in a killing game at school the next day. Anything but boring, the first game is the Japanese version of Red Light, Green Light (Daruma-san ga koronda)—with death as the penalty for losing. The other games that follow are just as dangerous and chaotic, including basketball, Kagome Kagome, and Kick the Can.
When a college student is invited to join a mysterious reality show called Liar Game, she finds more than she bargained for in a psychological survival game wherein participants succeed by tricking each other. The one who is the biggest trickster gets to win—what else?—a handsome cash award.
The legendary movie that inspired so many death games, 42 ninth graders are sent to a deserted island. But this isn't paradise—an explosive collar is fitted around their necks and they are given a mission to kill each other and be the last one standing. Equipped with a map, food, and various weapons, they're told that only the last survivor is allowed to leave the island.
If you're looking for mind-testing games that don't involve too much blood, this dystopian Portuguese series should be right up your alley. Every year, each 20-year-old is given a series of tests. Although participants aren't shot in the head for failing, they are denied entry to an island paradise dubbed the Offshore, and are forced to remain in poverty for the rest of their lives. The worst part? Only 3 percent of the candidates pass (that's less than the Harvard acceptance rate!).
Memories of the Alhambra
Not a death game per se, but this show has games and death. The Netflix Korean drama about an advanced AR game incorporates elements from just about every genre you can think of: sci-fi, fantasy, adventure, and romance. Forget the augmented reality that you think you know; this new and intricate version allows you to see through a contact lens so you can't differentiate between game and real life. But when a system glitch causes users to feel pain and die from their wounds, CEO Yoo Jin‑woo needs to track down the missing game coder to find out why it's happening—and what they can do to stop it.
You may have your qualms about corporate life, but look on the bright side—at least you're not forced to kill your coworkers. An ordinary day at the office takes a turn for the worse when 80 employees at the Belko Corp. in Bogotá, Colombia learn that they are locked in the building (no 9 to 5 here) and have to kill their coworkers with nothing but staplers and hole punchers at their disposal. Oh, and they also have explosive trackers buried in their heads that will detonate if they don't participate.
Would You Rather
The classic game gets a sadistic twist, to say the least, when it's announced that the winner will be awarded obscene amounts of money. Sounds swell, but as the game progresses, it becomes clear why there is only one winner—mainly because there is only one winner left standing.
Escape rooms are a concept practically made for this genre—in this one, six strangers are thrown into a series of them for a chance to win tons of money. If you've been in an escape room before, you'll know that being timed is normal; getting killed for missing the timer is not. Unfortunately, these contestants soon find that death awaits at zero if they fail to solve the puzzle.
A cult-classic for good reason, Cube is a must-watch for anyone who likes escape rooms because, well, the cube is the OG escape room. When a group of strangers wake up inside of it (not knowing how or why they got there), they have to navigate a maze full of other cube-shaped rooms to escape (with many fatal booby traps along the way). The Kafka-esque situation is a perfect example of the slow spiral into insanity the human mind can take.
Transferring to a new school is rough, even rougher when you have to play a death game with them. The game's instructions come via text message from someone who calls himself "The King," and all class members must participate. Lucky for Nobuaki Kanazawa, he hasn't made any friends so there's zero emotional attachment. Unlucky for him, he's played the game before at his previous school, so he has the difficult choice between saving his classmates or prioritizing his own survival.
Zero: Ikkaku Senkin Game
Zero Ukai is a middle school teacher with a pretty cool side hustle. He's a modern-day Robin Hood hero of sorts who steals large amounts of money from criminals to return to the victims. But when his (good?) deeds draw the attention of a twisted and wealthy man, he is forced to participate in a deadly game at an amusement park with 100 billion yen at stake.
Based on the famous manga, the live-action series features a good-for-nothing man named Kaiji Itou who has a severe gambling addiction. Unable to pay his debts, he takes up a shady offer to participate in an illegal underground gamble on a cruise ship. What follows is a deadly roller coaster of mind games, including rock-paper-scissors, Japanese Mahjong, and a high-stakes tissue raffle.
In this futuristic sci-fi-thriller fusion, fifty strangers wake up in a dark room to find out that they are being executed one at a time based on a set of rules that have been set by an unknown force. As they realize they have to pick one person amongst them to live, the movie gets at the root of one of the biggest philosophical conundrums: What determines the value of a human life?
Saw: The Series
We're ending this list with probably the most popular American death game series of all time. Fair warning: If blood and gore isn't your thing, this probably isn't for you, but you can't help but be a tad impressed by the intricacies and complexities behind every Jigsaw-created trap.