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In the weeks since the South Korean smash hit the platform, Squid Game seems to be all anyone wants to talk or tweet about, with its colorful veneer of kid-friendly games like Red Light, Green Light playing out in a violently terrifying (and apparently buzz-worthy) way. Out of 456 contestants, there can be only one winner of the closely-monitored “game,” with every other player taking home one whopper of a consolation prize: If you lose, you die.
While we’re on the subject of consolation prizes, where do you turn for more rat-in-a-maze nightmare scenarios when the game is over? A lot of Squid Game fans might finish their binge craving more than Netflix’s single-season, 9-episode gauntlet. Thankfully, a quick look at the screen history of high-stakes genre setups reveals there’s plenty of freaky fun to be found in other movies and shows that have struck a similar devil’s bargain in the past.
If your Squid Game binge has you begging for the game to never end, here’s a lineup of more entrapment fantasy fare to keep you perched on the edge of your seat.
Why not start with the film that many regard as the definitive fight-to-the-finish classic? Released two decades ago to huge Japanese box office success from the late director Kinji Fukasaku, Battle Royale put a group of junior high school students in the ultimate fight-or-die death match — all under the orchestrating eye of a totalitarian government. Banned in multiple countries for years following its 2000 release, it’s since gone on to become a cult classic…and it’s must-see mayhem for anyone who wants to witness the birth of the sub-genre that spawned later hits like Squid Game.
Watch: IMDb TV at Amazon Prime.
Sometimes everything you need to know is right there in the name: Escape Room (2019) and this year’s sequel, Escape Room: Tournament of Champions, are rat-in-a-maze thrillers where hapless contestants are tossed into escape rooms and forced to find their way out. Director Adam Robitel assembled an ensemble cast (including Daredevil’s Deborah Ann Woll) for both movies, sending them down a psychological horror rabbit hole in a deadly scurry to survive cleverly-designed contraptions and deadly traps under the presiding eye of The Gamemaster — a sadistic overseer who’s not exactly rooting for their success.
Picture it: You're stuck inside your apartment while ravenous monsters lurk just outside your door, waiting for your will to cave and your pent-up cabin fever to compel you to make a run for it. That’s the basic setup for Netflix’s Sweet Home, a South Korean apocalyptic horror series that takes its sweet time unfurling the psychological tension over 10 episodes.
Forget the claustrophobia: Sometimes you just wanna take the fight outside. Image Comics’ fan-favorite Deadly Class follows the globetrotting adventures of the students at the King's Dominion Atelier of the Deadly Arts, an assassin school that trains stealth killers in the arts of deadly espionage so they can carry out hits on high-value targets for crime families all over the world. What they lack in scruples, they more than make up for in lethal efficiency, all while honing their assassin skills at a school where deadly games are just part of the everyday curriculum. If you’d rather binge than read, Peacock is even streaming SYFY’s 2018 Deadly Class series, created in partnership with original comics creators Rick Remender and Wesley Craig.
Read: Image Comics
Alice in Borderland
Alice in Borderland combines the game-fantasy tropes of a playing card match with the real-life consequences of being dealt a bad hand. Based on the original manga of the same name from Haro Aso, Netflix's Japanese sci-fi series traps its youthful, video game-savvy cast in a dystopian version of Tokyo...and then forces them to battle their way to freedom ( or at least to the next round). All the while, the prospect of a deadly second-place finish looms as their evil incentive to stay sharp.
In the future, there’s a remote island where isolated young people are teased with stories of a bounteous offshore paradise — and then offered the chance to vie for a one-way ticket to go there. Getting off the island, though, is just their first problem. Netflix’s 3% takes its name from the success ratio for those who dare to endure “The Process,” a competitive escape scheme that bears more than a passing resemblance to the endgame fight-or-flight theatrics of dystopian classics like Logan’s Run. With four whole seasons, there’s plenty of room to explore the dark underpinnings of 3%’s wider lore-verse…just don’t expect to escape its clutches once you’ve begun.
The Hunger Games
No need to reinvent the wheel here: Katniss Everdeen is exactly the hero we need whenever we feel like thumbing our noses at a cynically totalitarian sci-fi system. Through four movies (so far) and the absorbing, bestselling book series from original author Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games has followed top survivor Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) through a death gauntlet we wouldn’t wish upon even our worst enemy. Through it all, we’ve learned one thing: Under no circumstances do you want to become a power-drunken mastermind like President Snow (Donald Sutherland), if it means ending up on Katniss’ hit list.