5. Death Parade
While it might not seem much like Squid Game at first, the Death Parade anime does have several things in common. For one, it questions the very nature of humans, though on a much deeper level than the live-action series. Rather, the main focus for the most part of the anime is how and why the humans make the ‘bad’ decisions when faced with extreme circumstances.
It’s set in the afterlife, and humans are sent to a bar, with the bartender acting as an arbiter who decides whether they go to heaven or hell (reincarnation vs void). The main character is Decim, one of the bartenders/arbiters, and he presents the people who die with games to play. They are meant to bring out the very worst emotions in them, while the arbiter himself shares no sentiments. The games are also creative, featuring stuff like throwing darts, air hockey, billiards, twister, and so on, only with a painful twist.
The anime has a single season of 12 episodes, and it’s available on Funimation. Also, the opening theme is reaaally cool:
©Yuzuru Tachikawa ©MADHOUSE/NTV/VAP
4. Deadman Wonderland
A prison that simultaneously serves as a theme park for the public. That’s what Deadman Wonderland is about, and Igarashi Ganta quickly stumbles inside of it. One of the games we see is a ‘dog race’ for the prisoners, but the obstacles can kill them, or masked employees do it instead if they try to run away.
However, there’s an even darker side to Deadman Wonderland in the anime, limited to a secret group of people who gamble on the prisoners, much like in Squid Game. The prisoners who participate are ones with the power to control their blood, Deadmen, and they fight each other with brutal penalties for whoever loses. Meanwhile, the winners get a lot better rewards than in the regular part of the facility.
The series has a single TV anime season of 12 episodes, as well as a special OVA. You can watch both on Funimation.
Official Website: www.ntv.co.jp/deathparade
Official Twitter: @dp_anime
©2010 Jinsei Kataoka, Kazuma Kondou/Kadokawashoten/Deadman Wonder Land Ward G.
Now for an anime that has the players as the gamblers rather than others betting on them. Kakegurui is set in a prestigious high school where money is everything, and the hierarchy is determined by gambling. There are all kinds of games, and most of the top ranked students have developed unique ways to cheat and made it practically impossible to beat them.
That’s until Jabami Yumeko joins. The cute girl has a psychotic addiction to gambling, and enjoys the thrill of it enough to risk her body to experience it. There are plenty more eccentric characters, which make for some very intense gambles. Unlike Squid Game, the students are all children of rich people and future leaders. The part that’s similar is the intense games they come up with, as well as the price they have to pay for losing.
The anime has 2 seasons of 12 episodes, and both are available on Netflix.
Official Website: kakegurui-anime.com
Official Twitter: @kakegurui_anime
©Homura Kawamoto, Toru Naomura/SQUARE ENIX, Kakegurui Production Committee
2. Alice in Borderland
If you watched the Netflix live-action series, you know what Alice in Borderland is about. People are transported in what seems to be a parallel world, and they are forced to play games to survive. The difficulty and type of the games is based on playing cards, and it features both physical and intellectual challenges.
The anime and live-action of the series are like Squid Game in the way participants have to survive while not being able to trust anyone. The anime version is a 3-episode OVA, and it features the MC Arisu as he gets thrown into the game with 2 of his friends. While it covers the same amount of content as the first 3 episodes of the Netflix series, there are noticeable differences, and you might enjoy it even if you already saw the live-action. All 3 episodes are available on HIDIVE.
The anime serves as a nice introduction to the story, and you can read the manga or watch the live-action if you enjoy it. Netflix has also announced a 2nd season for the live-action series.
©Haro Aso, Shogakukan/Anisun Project
Finally, the number 1 anime like Squid Game, and one anyone who watched it would think of, Kaiji. This show has so many things in common that at times it seems like it was used as the inspiration. Seemingly simple games? Check. Desperate participants who have no choice but to do it in hope of repaying their debts? Check. No hesitation to do away with said participants? Check. Rich people enjoying it all? Check.
Kaiji is also the name of the MC, who gets thrown into the chaos of being in debt due to an irresponsible friend. He has to risk his life in shadily organized games in order to earn enough money to pay it all back. While the games seem simple, such as restricted rock-paper-scissors, Kaiji has to rely on his intellect and quick thinking to make it through alive. Betrayals are always a risk, as well as the brutal reality of being addicted to gambling.
This anime is a serious take on addiction, and Kaiji doesn’t rely on luck as much as Squid Game did. It teaches different lessons, and the main character struggles to rip out of vicious cycle.
The anime has 2 seasons of 26 episodes titled Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor and Kaiji: Against All Rules. Both are available on Crunchyroll. There is also a spin-off focusing on Tonegawa, which has 24 episodes and is available on HIDIVE.
Official Website: www.ntv.co.jp/kaiji
That’s 10 anime shows I thought had some things like Squid Game. There’s probably other shows that might fit as well, more or less than the ones above, and the list is based on the things I watched.