Missing Squid Game? Try These 15 Hardcore K-Dramas
These series will, hopefully, keep you on the edge of your seat much like a certain deadly game of Red Light, Green Light (although, of course, there's no replicating its magic).
"Squid Game" was the Korean drama that had us all contemplating the value of life, money, and that childhood game we'd rather forget. But now that the screen has gone dark and Season 2 is nowhere near, you might be yearning for something just as heart-pounding – and we got just the list for you.
1. "Stranger" (2017)
Prepare to delve into a world where corruption meets mystery. "Stranger," starring the stoic yet brilliant prosecutor Hwang Si-mok, takes you on a whirlwind of crime, justice, and the gray areas in between. Much like "Squid Game," it challenges your perceptions of right and wrong, but with a legal twist. It's a cerebral game of cat and mouse, with stakes just as high but in the courtrooms and dark alleys rather than a dystopian playground.
2. "Kingdom" (2019)
"Kingdom" is not for the faint of heart. Imagine a historical setting, a mysterious plague, and the added horror of flesh-eating zombies. It's a riveting tale of power, survival, and the undying nature of... well, the undead. Each episode unravels a bit more of the mystery, drawing you deeper into its intense narrative. The stakes? Only the fate of a dynasty and the living (or not so living) inhabitants of the kingdom.
3. "Extracurricular" (2020)
"Extracurricular" explores the darker side of youth, where desperation meets crime. It's a tale of high school students, but not as you know them. They're entangled in a world of illegal activities, each driven by their own compelling reasons. The tension and moral quandaries presented in this show will have you questioning the lengths one might go to escape desperation. It's a drama that, much like "Squid Game," isn't afraid to plunge into the abyss of human psyche.
4. "Signal" (2016)
Dive into a gripping narrative where past and present collide in "Signal." This drama interweaves the lives of detectives from different times through a mysterious walkie-talkie. It's a blend of crime-solving, time-travel, and heartfelt drama. The intensity comes not just from the cases they solve, but from the emotional journey of connecting two eras and the relentless pursuit of justice. Think of it as a time-traveling "Squid Game" minus the games but with all the suspense.
5. "Save Me" (2017)
"Save Me" takes you into the unsettling realm of cults and psychological manipulation. It's a story of a family engulfed in the sinister web of a religious cult, and the desperate attempts to save them. The show masterfully creates an atmosphere of tension and dread, akin to the foreboding ambiance of "Squid Game." It's a chilling reminder of the dangers lurking in the shadows of society, masked as salvation.
6. "Vagabond" (2019)
"Vagabond" takes you on a high-octane journey of a stuntman, Cha Dal-gun, who becomes entangled in a web of espionage and intrigue following a tragic plane crash. Think of it as James Bond meets Korean drama, with less martini and more heart-wrenching twists. Dal-gun navigates the treacherous waters of politics and corruption, and let's just say, his stuntman skills come in quite handy.
7. "My Name" (2021)
For a dash of undercover drama, "My Name" follows the story of a young woman who joins an organized crime ring and becomes a mole in the police force to uncover the truth behind her father's death. It's a tale of revenge served cold, with a side of identity crisis. The intensity is akin to a dramatic game of Who Am I, but with higher stakes and more martial arts.
8. "The Guest" (2018)
"The Guest" – a title that sounds like a charming bed and breakfast reality show, but it's actually far from it. Here we have a psychic, a priest, and a detective teaming up, which sounds like the start of a particularly bizarre joke but is in fact a recipe for supernatural thrills. This trio delves into the murky waters of demonic possessions, making your average ghost hunt look like a quaint game of hide-and-seek.
9. "Sky Castle" (2018)
"Sky Castle" takes you into the lives of wealthy families obsessed with the academic success of their children. It's a satirical and intense look at the extremes of parental pressure and the dark underbelly of elite society. Think of it as a Korean Desperate Housewives, but with less Wisteria Lane whimsy and more cutthroat competition for university spots.
10. "Hellbound" (2021)
In "Hellbound," supernatural beings appear out of nowhere to condemn people to hell, creating chaos and a cult-like religious fervor in society. It's a blend of horror, social commentary, and the occasional "What on earth is happening?" moments. Imagine a Sunday school lesson gone terribly, terribly awry.
11. "Mouse" (2021)
"Mouse" presents a chilling narrative where a fearless rookie police officer, Jung Ba-reum, faces a psychopathic serial killer, blurring the lines between good and evil. The twist? A groundbreaking brain surgery that raises questions about the nature of human identity itself. It's like watching a game of cat and mouse, if the cat and mouse both had PhDs in psychology and a penchant for moral ambiguity.
12. "Voice" (2017)
In "Voice," we enter the world of an emergency call center and follow officers who tackle crimes in real-time. Think of it as a Korean version of "911, " but with more intense phone calls and fewer Hollywood clichés. The plot thickens with a personal quest for vengeance as the protagonist seeks the serial killer responsible for his wife's death.
13. "Flower of Evil" (2020)
"Flower of Evil" spins a tale of a seemingly perfect husband with a dark secret and a detective wife on his trail. It's a romantic game of cat and mouse, with a side of potential marital discord. As the wife unravels the truth, the husband struggles to keep his past hidden. It's like "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," but if they were in a twisted Korean drama, and Brad Pitt had a secret basement.
14. "Strangers from Hell" (2019)
In "Strangers from Hell," a young man moves into a cheap apartment, only to find that his neighbors could be straight out of a horror movie. It's a psychological thriller where the real estate market is terrifying in a way that's not just about the prices. Each episode peels back layers of the protagonist's sanity, leaving viewers to wonder if it's the apartment or his mind that's haunted.
15. "Nobody Knows" (2020)
"Nobody Knows" follows the story of Detective Cha Young-Jin, who carries the weight of a childhood trauma: her best friend was murdered by an elusive serial killer, an event that has haunted her for years. Fast forward to the present, and Young-Jin is now a dedicated detective, known for her unwavering commitment to justice. The drama rekindles when similar murders begin occurring, pointing to the return of the same killer.