10 Asian ‘deadly game’ movies and shows to watch while waiting for ‘Squid Game’ Season 2

Deadly Game trope

How far would you go to win a large sum of money? Would you betray a friend, endanger loved ones, risk everything?

These questions are at the center of “Squid Game,” Netflix’s latest hit and the newest entry to the “deadly game” genre. It’s a compelling theme that stokes audiences’ empathy as they watch protagonists facing overwhelming odds.  

With the show ending its final episode with a massive tease for a potential second season, viewers have been left wondering what comes next in the series. 

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Fortunately, there are a wealth of Asian films and shows that take the intriguing game-to-the-death concept in varied directions. So if you can’t wait, here are some titles to tide you over until the next “Squid Game” season comes around.

10. “A Million

What it’s about:

In the 2009 South Korean thriller film “A Million,” eight reality TV show contestants must fight to survive in order to win 1 billion won (around $845,000). The characters find themselves in deadly situations while trapped on an isolated Australian island. 

Why it’s on this list: Come for the stars, stay for the thrills.

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More reasons to watch: The movie features an ensemble cast, with veteran actors Park Hae-il, Park Hee-soon, Lee Min-ki and Shin Min-ah in lead roles. The film takes the viewers through several twists and turns, up until the final nail-biting scenes. 

9. “As the Gods Will

What it’s about: 

“As the Gods Will” is a 2014 live-action adaptation of the manga series of the same name by Muneyuki Kaneshiro and Akeji Fujimura. Just like the manga, the movie follows a group of students forced to play a series of children’s games with deadly stakes. 

Why it’s on this list: The sheer wickedness of the innocent-looking dolls will give you nightmares to last for weeks. Some have also accused “Squid Game” of plagiarizing certain shots from “As the Gods Will.”

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More reasons to watch: The movie features tension in almost every scene as the students desperately try to complete each challenge without dying. This is partly due to the top-notch special effects that make the Daruma doll, Matryoshka dolls and Maneki Neko extremely terrifying.

8. “Kaiji” trilogy of films

What it’s about:

The “Kaiji” film series is a trilogy of live-action films based on a popular manga that revolves around a young gambler who enters a deadly gambling competition to clear his debts. The 2009 film “Kaiji: The Ultimate Gambler” was based on the first part of the manga series called “Gambling Apocalypse: Kaiji” while its 2011 sequel “Kaiji 2” was based on the second part of the manga series called “Tobaku Hakairoku Kaiji.” The third and final film, titled “Kaiji: Final Game,” featured a completely original story and a new supporting cast.

Why it’s on this list: The quest to clear one’s debt is a motivation any viewer can relate to. 

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More reasons to watch: Playing the films’ protagonist is star Tatsuya Fujiwara, who many Japanese movie fans know as Shuya Nanahara in the “Battle Royale” films, Light Yagami in the “Death Note” films and the villain Shishio Makoto in the live-action “Rurouni Kenshin” films.

7. “Liar Game” (Japanese series)

What it’s about:

“Liar Game” is a 2007 live-action television series adapted from a popular manga of the same name. The series follows a college student named Nao Kanzaki who becomes a participant in the Liar Game Tournament, where contestants are encouraged to cheat and lie to obtain other contestants’ money.

Why it’s on this list: It follows a compelling premise that sees a naive protagonist in a battle of wits that rewards cheaters.

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More reasons to watch: The 11-episode series became so popular in Japan that it was followed by a second season and two more films. “Liar Game: The Final Stage,” released in 2010, continued Kanzaki’s story, while “Liar Game: Reborn” follows new protagonist Yu Shinomiya. 

6. “Liar Game” (Korean series)

What it’s about:

The 2014 live-action “Liar Game” television series also adapted from the original “Liar Game” manga. It follows the story of student Nam Da-jung, who is invited to the reality show “Liar Game” after passing a hidden camera audition. Participants in the psychological survival game are forced to trick each other while on their quest to win 10 billion won ($8.4 million).

Why it’s on this list: This newer take on “Liar Game” includes the mystery of the game host’s (played by Kang Do- young) motivations.

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More reasons to watch: The Korean iteration also added some fresh elements to the mythos like using a TV reality show as its premise instead of the underground theme of the Japanese version. 

5. “Animal World

What it’s about:

Animal World” is a 2018 live-action Chinese movie that is also based on the “Kaiji” manga series, but done with a more liberal interpretation.  The plot follows Zheng Kaisi, who struggles to pay for his mother’s medical bills due to rising debt and is forced to join a gambling tournament where participants play “rock, paper, scissors” for money. 

Why it’s on this list: The insane clown sequences are a joy to behold.

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More reasons to watch: It stars Li Yifeng, one of China’s most popular celebrities as protagonist Zheng Kaisi and American actor Michael Douglas as the mysterious Anderson.

4. “GANTZ” films

What it’s about:

The “Gantz” film series is a live-action adaptation of the popular manga series from creator Hiroya Oku. The first film follows two high school students who, after being killed in a train accident, are transported to an alternate world to participate in a game. Along with other dead people, they are forced to hunt down and kill aliens. The story is further explored in the sequel, “Gantz: Perfect Answer.”

Why it’s on this list: The obliteration of terrifying aliens is satisfying to watch.

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More reasons to watch: Both films, released in 2011, feature stars Kazunari Ninomiya, an award-winning actor from the Japanese idol group Arashi, and Kenichi Matsuyama, who played L in the “Death Note” live-action films. 

3. “Alice in Borderland

What it’s about:

“Alice in Borderland,” a Japanese television series based on the manga of the same name, is about a group of friends who are forced to compete in a series of dangerous games with varying degrees of difficulty. Players who fail to complete the tasks are killed by a mysterious red laser from the sky.

Why it’s on this list: Friendship betrayals — ‘nuff said.

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More reasons to watch: The series, which premiered on Netflix in December last year, has been renewed for a second season following the positive reviews it received from both viewers and critics. 

2. “13 Beloved”

What it’s about:

This award-winning 2006 film from Thailand features an underground reality show that forces contestants to participate in increasingly challenging, degrading, and dangerous stunts to win cash prizes. The film follows protagonist Phuchit Puengnathong as he takes on 13 tasks to win the ultimate prize. 

Why it’s on this list: Your willingness to root for the underdog will be tested in this film.

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More reasons to watch: “13 Beloved” won several awards in Thailand and at international festivals. It gathered enough global attention that a Hollywood remake of the film was released in 2014 titled “13 Sins.”

1. “Battle Royale” 

What it’s about:

Adapted from Koushun Takami’s 1996 best-selling Japanese novel of the same name, the film follows the story of high school students who are forced to survive on a remote island by killing each other.

Why it’s on this list: It’s THE “Battle Royale.” This Japanese film from 2000 is the OG of the “teen death game” film genre and is considered one of the most influential films made in recent decades. The concept of the “last person standing” in a “battle to the death” has been used in popular Hollywood films such as “The Condemned,” “Death Race” and “The Hunger Games” series, among others. 

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If for some reason you haven’t seen this cultural phenomenon, now is the time to look it up.

More reasons to watch: Seriously, go find out yourself.

Featured Image via Pena Production (left)SahaMongkolMedia (center), Movieclips Trailers (right)

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