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squid game took the world by storm and I’m here for it! The world is now full of memes, comments and most great cosplays inspired by the K drama. The show became such a phenomenon that it became about a month after its release Launch of Netflix’s biggest series ever! And I can honestly say it absolutely deserves it. If for some reason you haven’t watched it, I absolutely recommend that you do. It’s terrifying and violent, so maybe keep that in mind before you watch it. But if you’re in your right mind and want to give it a try, I don’t think you’ll regret it!
If you’re here, you probably already know what the show is about. But just in case you need some convincing, here’s a quick summary: squid game revolves around a competition in which 456 players – who are deeply in financial debt – have the chance to win 45.6 billion won (about $38 million dollars). All they have to do is play and win six kids games like Green Light, Red Light or Tug of War. But these are deadly versions of the games, and if you break the rules or lose you will be shot.
squid game is as exciting as it sounds. If – like me – you can’t get it out of your head, you’re in the right place. Because there are many books that have the same vibe! I think there are two types of books such as: squid game. First, there are the ones that revolve around surviving deadly games. Second, there are the thrilling, suspenseful and terrifying thrillers set in South Korea.
So without further ado, here are ten books like squid game!
Books like Squid Game about survival
Battle Royale: Remastered by Koushun Takami
Of course, I’ll start this list with one of the OG survival mangas! It’s so popular that people thought The Hunger Games was a scam from battle royale (even if it isn’t). Like it squid game, this manga is about a group of people who are forced to compete in a deadly game in which there can only be one winner. In this case, however, the players are high school students who are taken to a remote island. They are also provided with tons of weapons by an authoritarian program so they are the ones who kill each other. It’s less like a structured game, but it’s just as brutal, violent and exciting as squid game.
#Murdertrending by Gretchen McNeil
In #MurderTrending, we follow a group of convicted felons living on Alcatraz 2.0 trying to survive as a group of masked individuals kill them one by one. As if that weren’t bold enough, it’s all a reality show that’s streamed live. In particular, the story follows Dee – who was convicted of murdering her stepsister, even though she didn’t. To survive, Dee joins a group called the Death Row Breakfast Club. She has no hope of survival, but with their help she might be able to evade the murderous executioners and prove her innocence. Like it squid game this book is all about a fight for survival serving as entertainment for others.
All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody
In We all villains, seven families choose a champion to participate in a tournament where there can only be one winner. This is a more fantastic story, as the prize of winning is control of a source of high magic for the next two decades. So the seven champions (um, villains) enter the arena with one task: kill each other and be the last one standing. Not everyone has to participate this year. So the seven teenagers have a choice – to accept their fate or to rewrite it. This is a book where the competition is willing rather than forced — just like squid game. Because the families don’t to have to participate in the tournament, they choose to do so for their personal gain. Plus, it might not be $38 million dollars, but the price still comes with a tremendous amount of power.
Alice in Borderland by Haro Aso
Okay, technically this manga isn’t in English yet. But I just had to put it on this list! It comes out on March 15, 2022 – although you can pre-order it now and watch the Netflix adaptation while you wait! Like it squid game, this manga has a main character struggling with his life. His name is Arisu and he wants something that can change his life. One day, while watching fireworks with two of his friends, they are all transported to a parallel world called Borderland. There, people are forced into a series of deadly games if they are to survive. While the challenges here are different and more mind-numbingly complex, this is one of the books closest to squid game.
Gambling Apocalypse: Kaiji by Nobuyuki Fukumoto
Gamble Apocalypse looks great too squid game! A main character who is deeply in debt? bill. An impossible offer to settle that debt? bill. A series of games where you die if you lose? bill! This manga follows Kaiji Itō, a man who is up to his neck in debt that he cannot pay. One day a loan shark comes to collect his money. But he gives Kaiji a choice: Kaiji can pay him off for the next ten years, or he can participate in a game. If he wins it, he can also win the money he needs. This sends Kaiji into a spiral of play and survival. Will he come out alive?
Thrillers like Squid Game set in South Korea
These books are not exactly thematically similar to squid game. But the show is a part thriller set in South Korea that is heavily influenced by its culture. These books are like that – and they have the same dark, gritty, brutal and fear-inducing vibes. That’s why I think they’re perfect for this list! Moreover, all these books are written in translation by Korean authors.
The Law of Lines by Hye-Young Pyun
This is a dark and grim book about crime, debt and grief. The law of lines follows two storylines that overlap. On the one hand, we have Se-oh, a woman who lived with her father – until she comes home to find their house in flames. The police consider her father’s death a suicide, as he had an overwhelming amount of debt. But Se-oh is not satisfied with this explanation. So she takes the investigation into her own hands.
On the other hand, we have Ki-jeong. One day she gets a call that her younger half sister is dead. Her death was also considered suicide – but this too does not satisfy Ki-jeong. So she heads to her sister’s college campus to find out what really happened. One of her biggest clues is her sister’s cell phone, which Se-oh has in the call log…
Your Republic Is Calling You by Young-Ha Kim
Your republic is calling you is about morality and secrets. It also has a North Korean character — like squid game! The story is more character-driven, rather than action-packed. It follows Gi-yeong. He is a foreign film importer in South Korea. He has a wife and a daughter. He is also a North Korean spy who has lived in the country for over 20 years. One day, he receives an email from the home office that he must return to their headquarters the next day. He hasn’t heard from them in ten years. Is this message real? Has anyone discovered his identity?
Seven Years of Darkness by You-Jeong Jeong
It has been seven years since a young girl was found dead in Lake Seryong. Seven years ago, three men were caught in a cat-and-mouse game while trying to figure out what had happened. Seven years since the last showdown that ended in mass tragedy – and Sowon’s father was sent to prison for murder. Now Sowon lives in the shadow of his father’s mysterious and inexplicable crime. One day he receives a package that promises him the answers to all his questions. What really happened at Lake Seryong? Seven years of darkness is a twisty, intriguing and disturbing tale of control and revenge.
The Only Child by Mi-ae Seo
This eerie slow burn is more of a psychological suspense than a thriller. But it still has the dark and brutal vibes that the rest of the thrillers on this list have. The only child follows criminal psychologist Seonkyeong after she receives an unexpected phone call. Turns out, the famous serial killer named Yi Byeongdo is finally willing to be interviewed — except he doesn’t want to talk to anyone but her. Seonkyeong agrees, and on the same day her husband’s daughter from his previous marriage arrives at their house. Seonkyeong knew nothing about her stepdaughter, who is behaving very strangely. And when she meets the serial killer, her whole life is about to change. Why does he only want to talk to her? Why did her husband never name his daughter?
The Plotters by Un-su Kim
And last but not least, the plotters is gritty, sassy, darkly humorous and absolutely unspeakable! The book is set in an alternative Seoul, where killer guilds compete for market dominance. In this world there are murderers and conspirators. The former do the kills, while the latter are the masterminds behind them. Reseng is one of the killers. One day, he steps out of step on a ‘job’, which turns into a slippery slope when he discovers an extraordinary plot in which he is a pawn. Now Reseng must decide whether he’s okay with someone controlling his life, or whether he wants to take matters into his own hands. This book has the same unconventional vibe you get from it squid game, and I promise you won’t be able to put it down.
For more books set in Korea, check out our list of the best Korean fiction in translation.