Squid Game, the hugely popular hyper-violent Korean series, has officially become Netflix’s biggest title ever at launch. It’s a fun and endearing show that keeps you on the edge of your couch. If you have watched it, you must be craving for more. And to satisfy your hunger for Squid Game, you must be looking for other similar series or waiting for the next season. But what to do next if you’ve already done this? I’ve a good option for you. Instead of just idly waiting for the next season of Squid Game, you can always jump into the books similar to Squid Game. These dystopian books can bring in the same harsh feelings of anxiety, stress and tension that you experience in Squid Game.
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But before heading to the books you need to satisfy your hunger for Squid Game, let me set the atmosphere for those who are unaware of Squid Game or just getting started. Those who are already familiar with the show may skip the introductory section and jump straight to Books similar to Squid Game
What’s Squid Game about?
Precarity, debts, online gaming, suicides… Squid Game, the dystopian series aired on Netflix since September, reflects the ills and horrors of South Korean society, exposing the reality of its capitalist culture and highlighting the growing wealth gap.
The show focuses on a group of impoverished people who receive a mysterious invitation to participate in competitive games inspired by childish play. Without knowing anything about the invitation, hundreds of people come to the venue to play a series of dangerous games in an attempt to win the fortune of a lifetime. Think of Hunger Games but in a little more culturally significant way and a much more tragic scenario. At the end of Squid Game, the winners will be able to take home a millionaire prize. However, what they don’t know is that the losers won’t make it out of this game alive. Now the competitors will need to fight to survive this macabre dispute.
Though violence in Squid Game has the lion’s share, the true horror the series evokes isn’t from the cruelty of the games; it’s from the struggles that haunt each character. What makes them willing to participate in something deadly like this?
Squid Game series is engaging, suspenseful and psychologically intense that messes with deeper emotions. And with lots of blood. Of course, this popular series is not for everyone! (Recommended age group 16+)
Squid Game Is Not New. Do You Know It’s Origin?
The idea of ‘Squid Game’ is not new. It actually dates back to 2008, when its director Hwang Dong-hyuk created Squid Game based on his own economic struggles and the class disparity within South Korea. He struggled to convince producers to fund a project that deals with society’s difficulties. But the show was rejected by several studios as it was considered too ‘brutal’ and ‘unrealistic’ to be aired. Unfortunately, Dong-hyuk had to stop writing the script for the show because he was forced to sell his laptop worth $675 due to the financial crisis, a Wall Street Journal report said.
Thus, although the original script was crafted in 2008, it took until 2019 for a production studio to pick up the show. And now, according to a CNN report, it’s the most-watched series launch in Netflix history with 111 million views during its first month of operation. Perseverance is key!
Why’s ‘Squid Game’ So Popular? What’s its Significance?
Squid Game has revolutionized the entire audiovisual world. It’s the biggest phenomenon in recent history, far surpassing Netflix’s greatest hits such as ‘Bridgerton’, ‘The Paper House’ and even competing with ‘Game of Thrones’. But the question is: Is the series really as good as everyone says? Yes or No. Squid Game is the best mix of the ‘Hunger Games’ saga, the Saw franchise and other great titles like Hostel, with which it shares great similarities but from which it differs radically as well. However, schools and child psychologists have urged parents against exposing their kids to such violent shows including Netflix’s “Squid Game”, despite its 15-rated.
Squid Game is so popular because it is a stark reminder of the times we live in. It is a series that vindicates all the originality and genius of South Korean cinema and makes us enjoy all the exaggerated Asian acting but with a thoughtful, evolutionary and complex story with characters reflecting all kinds of human conditions. It also reflects the strength of a mysterious organization, the struggle for survival and a millionaire loot.
The significance of Squid Game lies in the life lessons it gives:
- Just moving fast towards your goal is not important, you should move with a plan.
- If you want to win in life, you must learn how to listen.
- Be honest and never betray your friends.
- To survive in every situation, you must prepare to think outside the box
- Double down on your strengths and learn how to be a great team player.
- Being left behind means nothing. You can still succeed.
- Don’t rush things, everything falls into place at its time.
- Live within your means and spend more than what you have.
- Lastly, those are winners who chose roles compatible with their strengths.
Books Similar to Squid Game: 20 Best Dystopian Thrillers
While nothing can compete with Squid Game which is definitely its own unique experience, the books below will land you almost near the same thrill and brutality-inducing ground. In fact, some of these books are as harrowing and terrifying as Squid Game.
1. All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody
A book that presents a darker version of Hunger Games with an added charm of magic. Every 20 years, a curse requires seven families in a small town to offer a competitor to take part in a tournament to the death. The one remaining contestant will win ‘high magic’, the most powerful magic in the world, for the next 20 years. But one contestant has a different plan. She wants to find a way to break the curse, save the competitors, and free the people of the town from this bloody cycle. Will she succeed?
Utterly shocking and breathtaking, All of Us Villains is one of the must-read books similar to Squid Game in its roller coaster ride of emotions.
2. Unwind by Neal Shusterman
A book perfect for the fans of Squid Game, Unwind is about a dystopian world where abortion is illegal but kids between the age of 13 and 18 can be unwound. Unwinding is a ‘process by which a child is both terminated yet kept alive’—meaning every part get’s transplanted so the kids are not really dead, just divided. And parents actually sign their kids to be unwound when they are too stupid, too troubled, too difficult. The book follows the journey of teens on the run from this insane law.
Extremely thought-provoking, fascinating and horrible, Unwind will truly make your emotions explode.
3. Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Red Rising is an incredibly significant series for the fans of Squid Game. The book opens the doors to a new world, full of strategy and battles. The old empires are gone, and humankind is now broken into Colors: a complex caste system created by centuries of war, genetic engineering and body modification. Darrow is a lowly Red, whose only wish is to survive his brutal life terraforming Mars. But he may be destined to change everything. The book has a brutal way of getting its point across. It’s an action packed with revenge, betrayal and a clever criticism of the government.
One of the best books similar to Squid Game, Red Rising is mesmerizing and intensely harrowing!
4. Panic By Lauren Oliver
Panic is a game that happens every summer in the forgotten town of Carp where high school graduates participate in several dangerous challenges. At the end of the game, only one will receive the prize money. The games are too dangerous, even deadly. But is it worth the risk? The plot goes far beyond knowing who wins or doesn’t panic, who will or won’t meet the challenges, it makes you want to know more about everything happening around panic.
Amazon’s latest Prime Video series, Panic certainly covers some of the same anxiety-inducing grounds that are characteristic of Squid Game.
5. Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
A class trip meant for fun turned deadly when a group of children was thrown into the vicious program created by a totalitarian government known as ‘Battle Royale’ where only one survivor will remain by the end of the game. Battle Royale really destroys the essence of morality and brings you to the deepest and most sinister part of your mind where people cannot trust each other and fear turned into a killing machine. Moreover, in its depiction of violence, the book is as shocking as Squid Game.
Dark, gritty, gory and depressing, could there be another book sharing such striking similarity with Squid Game?
6. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
In a dark future, on the ruins of the United States, a televised competition is held in which two teenagers from each of the twelve districts of Panem are chosen at random to fight to death. When her little sister is drawn to the competition, Katniss Everdeen, aware of the danger, has no hesitation to volunteer in the ruthless Hunger Games. The book brings intense cruelty, huge amounts of blood and gore, and highlights the same themes that we find in Squid Game.
Squid Game’s depiction of the quest of survival and horrors of elitist cruelty has hit the audience. The Hunger Games explores similar themes. Besides, it’s compelling, fast-paced, and definitely a must-read book for the fans of Squid Game!
7. Divergent by Veronica Roth
Veronica Roth’s thrilling trilogy, Divergent has conquered not only the world of readers, but also the world of the big screen. The despotic story of Beatrice, who lives in a society devastated by factions, pushes us through various adventures. The action takes place in a dystopian version of Chicago. The population is divided into five factions. And every year 16 teens have to choose a single faction to be dedicated to. Beatrice must choose as well, either she stays with her parents or leaves for another faction. But her choice shocks everyone including herself. Will she regret it?
New York Times #1 bestselling series, Divergent is extremely graphic, providing realistic descriptions of assault and death, hence sharing striking similarities with Squid Game.
The first book in James Dashner’s best selling trilogy, The Maze Runner is a sci-fi dystopian novel with action packed in every page. Thomas wakes up in an elevator at the center of a huge maze with no memory of his past, all he remembers is his name. When doors open, he finds himself in a community of boys surrounded by massive walls named Kayran. They have no idea who they are and why they’re here. And following the arrival of a girl with a terrifying message, they’ve two options: must find a way out or die. Remember. Run. Survive. The plot is extremely intriguing and will keep you hooked.
Much like Squid Game, The Maze Runner deals with fear, action, truth and friendship. It’s definitely one of the books similar to Squid Game.
9. The Player of Games by Iain Banks
Satirical without being reductive and experimental whilst remaining accessible, The Player of Games is sober, witty as well as introspective without being self-obsessed. It’s, in fact, a page-turner, whilst simultaneously being a deeply considered philosophical and technological examination of the history and future of sentience. The book is about a master game player from a semi-utopian culture who goes to an alien planet to try their fabulous game, a game so complex and challengeable that the winner will become an emperor. The book is second in Bank’s Culture Series.
A phenomenal and thrilling dystopian book, The Player of Games hooks you from the beginning much like Squid Game and takes you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions!
10. The Running Man by Stephen King
The Running Man is a dystopian story set in the not so distant future where one of the only ways to make money is by participating in degrading reality shows, including a man-hunting one called The Running Man. Extremely dark and frightening, the book is very much similar to Squid Game in depicting people trying to get money but could lose their life in the long run. Ben Richards, who is desperate for money for his family and unwell child, enters The Running Man. All Ben has to do is survive 30 days without being caught and he’ll win a big cash prize. But will he succeed?
Gripping from the beginning to end, The Running Man is one of the must-read books similar to Squid Game.
11.The Grace Year by Kim Liggett
Each year, a community’s 16-year-old girls are sent into the wild for a year—the Grace Year—to rid themselves of the feminine power they supposedly possess, with the expectation of returning to civilization subdued and ready to marry if given a veil or work in the fields. But not all of the girls come back at the end of the year. What happens during the Grace Year? The book follows Tierney as she and the reader learn the secrets and dangers of what happens during the Grace Year.
A dystopian book that will remind you of Squid Game, The Grace Year is a book of secrets and the power inside every woman. It’s an addictive, haunting page-turner with heartbreaking themes.
12. The Long Walk by Stephen King
Ray Garraty is selected to compete in The Long Walk, a national tournament that takes place in dystopian America year after year. One hundred boys must keep a steady pace of four miles an hour without ever stopping. The last man standing wins ‘The Prize’, anything you want for the rest of your life. Riches beyond your wildest dreams. Slow down, and you’re given a warning. Three warnings, and you’re out. Stephen King, in The Long Walk, has used the concept of ‘less is more’ to create this truly horrifying dystopian tale where 100 boys walk endlessly until one of them earns the right to live. What happens to the 99 others?
Full of physical and psychological terror, The Long Walk is one of the truly horrifying books similar to Squid Game.
13. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy’s, The Road is a dystopian and hauntingly beautiful story of a father, a young son, and their quest for survival. It is set in a post-apocalyptic America, where humanity is pushed to the brink of survival. The story follows one man and his son heading slowly for the coast. They have nothing but a pistol to defend themselves against the men who stalk the road, the clothes they’re wearing, a cart of scavenged food, and each other. The narrative is tense and gripping and at once throws you into the dark, ashen world alongside the characters.
A really powerful depiction of the highs and lows of humanity in its darkest hour, The Road is one of the books similar to Squid Game you won’t ever regret reading!
15. Kill Code by Clive Fleury
A dystopian thriller that takes place in 2031, Kill Code is quite similar to books like The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner and Divergent. But what makes Kill Code unique is that it deals with more mature themes. The world depicted in the book is full of conspiracies and injustice. It is set against a backdrop of a failed economy and the rise of unemployment, which feels extremely realistic. And everyone who is not on the top, among the rich and the powerful, must find their own ways of survival. The book is more about human nature and societal upheaval than anything too speculative. It is, in fact, a hardcore dystopian thriller with fascinating characters and a plot that keeps you engaged.
A quick-paced and entertaining read with a protagonist who stands up for what’s right, Kill Code is one of the books similar to Squid Game in its thematic concerns.
16. Freedom Trials by Meredith Tate
Super intense and suspense packed, Freedom Trials is perfect for lovers of Squid Game. Evelyn Summers is in a type of prison for a crime she can’t remember. All prisoners have their memory wiped of their crime during admission. Now, Evelyn is almost rehabilitated and ready to return to life. But prior to her release, she―along with other “reformed” prisoners―must pass seven physical, mental, and virtual challenges known as the Freedom Trials. If she fails, she’ll be sent to the Green Room to be executed. But, when a new prisoner arrives with secrets of her past, she is forced to decide: follow the rules and go home or uncover the truth about herself and risk paying the ultimate price.
Highly recommended for fans of thrilling dystopian/suspense fiction, Freedom Trials is a page-turner, full of action and uncertainty.
17. Murder Trending by Gretchen McNeil
What if the death penalty becomes a reality show? McNeil’s Murder Trending is a chilling dark comedy about a prison island where government-sanctioned killers hunt down convicts and stream their deaths on ‘The Postman’ app. Their new target is the ‘Death Row Breakfast Club’—a group of wrongfully convicted teenage prisoners. The battle for survival begins. Now the group must have to prove their innocence before their executions are streamed for the world to see.
A dark, unique and intelligent tale, Murder Trending comments on the harsh realities of social media. The horror depicted in this thriller are similar to those of Squid Game.
18. Endgame # 1: The Calling by James Frey
Endgame: The Calling is the first book in a game-changing series by bestselling author, James Frey. Twelve youngsters from different ancestral lineages living on earth fight each other for the survival of their race. They don’t possess any special powers. They just have to use the training that has made them true killing machines as well as their own insight to eliminate their competitors and unravel charades that will lead them to the end of the game. Treachery, courage, friendship—everything will follow their path, according to their personality, intuition and traditions. And there will be only one winner. What will happen to the rest?
In its depiction of bloodshed, brutality and struggle for survival, Endgame: The Calling is much like Squid Game.
19. The Assassin Game by Kirsty McKay
A gripping page-turner, The Assassin Game is a YA thriller about teen geniuses who continue their isolated boarding school’s tradition of a strategic game of pretend assassinations that leads to a real death. Cate is invited to play Killer, the exclusive game played by an elite group of students. Members must avoid being ‘killed’ by the Killer’s pranks and to discover who the Killer is. But when the game becomes too real, Cate must race to find out the truth behind it’s too late.
As engaging as Squid Game but with less violence, The Assassin Game will keep you on the edge until the very end!
20. Alice in Borderland by Haro Aso
Featuring a battle for survival in a parallel universe, Alice in Borderland is a Japanese manga series that exploits human emotions at a progressive rate. Misguided Arisu and his group of friends find themselves in a strange, abandoned version of Tokyo. The population has disappeared, electricity too. Some places are lit at night. These are game arenas where only victory allows them to live. If not, death is waiting for them. All the games are pretty well thought out. The reader alternates between physical games, reflective games and the games where feelings are tested.
Filled with riddles, endurance and bloodshed, this Japanese suspense-thriller manga will definitely quench your thirst for Squid Game.
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