‘Squid Game’ is an immensely popular South Korean action-drama series that revolves around a group of desperate, debt-ridden individuals who take part in a deadly game for a chance to win ₩45.6 billion ($38.1 million). Writer-director Hwang Dong-Hyuk stated that he read a lot of comics (including Japanese manga) and wanted to make a show around the survival game trope set in the Korean context. Survival game is a popular genre of manga/anime. So, there are probably quite a few anime that inspired Hwang to create ‘Squid Game.’
If you have already watched the series and are curious about anime with similar concepts and themes, we have the perfect list of recommendations. You can watch most of these anime similar to ‘Squid Game’ on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Crunchyroll, or Funimation.
10. Full Dive: The Ultimate Next-Gen Full Dive RPG Is Even Shittier than Real Life! (2021-)
‘Kyuukyoku Shinka shita Full Dive RPG ga Genjitsu yori mo Kusoge Dattara’ or ‘Full Dive: The Ultimate Next-Gen Full Dive RPG Is Even Shittier than Real Life!’ or simply ‘Full Dive’ revolves around Hiroshi Yuuki, a talented gamer who starts playing a virtual reality MMORPG called Kiwame Quest after being roped into buying it at a shady store. He soon learns that the game is realistic to a dangerous degree. Despite this, he decides to keep playing.
Both ‘Full Dive’ and ‘Squid Game’ take the survival game trope and introduce unique elements. If ‘Squid Game’ is consciously simplistic in its choice of the games that the characters play, ‘Full Dive’ ironically explores something many video games rigorously pursue — realism.
9. I’m Standing on a Million Lives (2020-)
In ‘100-man no Inochi no Ue ni Ore wa Tatteiru’ or ‘I’m Standing on a Million Lives,’ a group of teenagers is transported to a game world by a mysterious entity called the Game Master, who informs them that they have to complete specific quests in a given time. In that world, they are virtually immortals and can revive if at least one of them is still alive.
Beyond the fact that both ‘Squid Game’ and ‘100-man no Inochi no Ue ni Ore wa Tatteiru’ are part of the survival game genre, they revolve around complex and imperfect protagonists. While ‘Squid Game’s Seong Gi-hun is a chronic gambler with a massive debt looming over his head, ‘100-man no Inochi no Ue ni Ore wa Tatteiru’s Yuusuke Yotsuya is self-centered and a recluse.
8. Sword Art Online (2012-)
One of the most popular survival game anime of all time, ‘Sword Art Online’ predominantly follows Kazuto Kirigaya, who ends up trapped inside the eponymous VRMMORPG and discovers the only way to get out of it by winning the game. All other alternatives will result in the player’s death. ‘Sword Art Online’ has become a sprawling franchise that includes spin-offs, anime films, and video games. Like in ‘Squid Game,’ the concept of the game within this anime is always simple.
7. Gantz (2004)
‘Gantz’ tells the story of high-school students Kei Kurono and Masaru Katou, who die in a subway accident while trying to save an intoxicated, homeless man and subsequently find themselves in a room surrounded by strangers. They learn that they have to kill aliens who are living on Earth in various disguises. The title refers to the mysterious black sphere that gives the combatants their missions. Like ‘Squid Game,’ ‘Gantz’ invests time and effort into demonstrating who its characters are.
6. Hunter x Hunter (2011-2014)
In ‘Hunter x Hunter,’ Gon Freecss has grown up on Whale Island believing his father, Ging Freecss, to be dead. However, when he learns that Ging is alive and has garnered fame as a Hunter, Gon sets out to take the Hunter Exam to follow the older man’s footsteps. During the exam and journey afterward, Gon meets numerous interesting individuals; some end up becoming his friends, while others play the role of his enemies.
In both ‘Hunter x Hunter’ and ‘Squid Game,’ family serves as an important plot device. Gi-hun plays the game to get his daughter’s custody and arrange the treatment for his mother, whereas Gon becomes a Hunter to build a connection with his missing father.
5. The Future Diary (2011-2013)
In ‘Mirai Nikki’ or ‘The Future Diary,’ Yukiteru Amano is among the 12 people chosen to play a survival game by Deus Ex Machina, the god of time and space. The participants learn that the eventual winner will become Deus’ successor. Each player’s phone has been transformed into a Future Diary, which can predict the future in a way that corresponds with the respective user’s personality. Both ‘Squid Game’ and ‘Mirai Nikki’ explore human depravity by showing what we are capable of if we are given the correct incentive.
4. Darwin’s Game (2020-)
‘Darwin’s Game’ is centered around Kaname Sudou, who starts playing the eponymous game after receiving an invite from a friend. Initially, he has no idea what the consequences of losing the game can be. Each player is allocated a sigil, which corresponds to a particular power they are given. Both Kaname and Gi-hun of ‘Squid Game’ develop a smoldering sense of hatred for their respective game master. For Kaname, it devolves a step further and turns into murderous intent.
3. Kakegurui (2017-)
As with ‘Squid Game,’ gambling is a major theme in ‘Kakegurui,’ even though the latter glorifies the vice, while the former accentuates its destructive potential. ‘Kakegurui’ is set at a prestigious school called Hyakkaou Private Academy, where wealthy students put their fortune on the line to win fame, recognition, and power. The school’s hierarchy system is not based on academic or athletic excellence but on how good the students are as gamblers.
2. Alice in Borderland (2014-2015)
‘Imawa no Kuni no Alice’ or ‘Alice in Borderland’ is an original video animation that follows Ryouhei Arisu and his two anti-social friends, who get transported to a deserted version of Tokyo while hiding from the authorities. They soon discover that they now have to play deadly games if they want to survive. The type and difficulty of these games are demonstrated through playing cards. Both ‘Imawa no Kuni no Alice’ and ‘Squid Game’ use survival games as a metaphor to showcase social ailments.
1. Tower of God (2020)
Based on a South Korean web manhwa series written and illustrated by SIU, ‘Kami no Tou’ or ‘Tower of God’ follows Twenty-Fifth Bam, who has lived his entire life in a dark cave. His only understanding of the world outside is a crack far above. One day, a girl named Rachel falls through the crack, changing his world. He discovers that there is a tower that Rachel must climb to make her heart’s desire come true. Intrigued, Bam follows her and begins scaling the tower himself. Like ‘Squid Game,’ ‘Kami no Tou’ deals with themes such as mystery and cultural and economic disparity.
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