The death game genre in anime is extremely popular among fans of horror and thriller anime, but because to the massive success of “Squid Games,” it appears that this genre is gaining traction among mainstream viewers as well.
There’s something about the suspense of watching this genre that keeps us on the tip of our seats, trying to figure out who will survive and how to best defeat and win the game. What makes these animes even more enjoyable is that they frequently incorporate an emotional aspect in which characters must choose between friends and companions who will survive and who will die.
Since “Battle Royale,” the notion of pitting random individuals against one another in lethal contests for survival has captivated the media. While “The Hunger Games” did a fantastic job with the subject, anime has done a much better job with it, with hundreds of various methods to get kids to murder one other.
“Death games” is a popular anime concept because it removes all the frills and shows life as a true survival game, allowing for some unexpectedly profound philosophical discussions if not, at the very least, some quite horrific episodes. If you’re looking for something to watch and would like to binge on a sick and twisted death game anime, we’ve got you. Following are our eight best picks for you to enjoy!
Danganronpa: The Animation (2013) (Dan-gan-ron-pa)
“Danganronpa” is the epitome of the classic death game. It gathers a group of teenagers, offers them a variety of personalities and powers, and instructs them to murder one another until only one remains. The main distinction in this series is that the host is a teddy bear called Monokuma (Mono-koo-ma), and it stipulates that the killer must not be apprehended after each killing.
For each murder, Hope’s Peak Academy students must conduct an investigation and hold a trial. If their deductions are correct, the killer is put to death. If they make the wrong decision, the killer wins and everyone else is put to death. It’s an engrossing game that lends itself to an anime adaptation well.
While the anime doesn’t live up to the game that it derives its story from, it is still an engaging and fun watch. It boasts engaging characters, a vibrant art style, and an excellent narrative. “Danganronpa” features a fantastic ensemble of characters. For their age, each of the students is the best in the country at something.
These range from the mundane (such as “Super High School Swimmer” or “Super High School Class President”) to the absurdly inventive (such as “Super High School Fortune Teller” or “Super High School Biker Gang Leader”). Of course, their school principal, the demonic talking robotic teddy bear, Monokuma, casts a pall over all of these people.
Fans of the game will no doubt be happy to see many of the game’s most poignant moments replicated with complete voice acting, especially since only the courtroom scenes were fully voiced in the game.
The anime does move at quite a fast pace as it tries to fit in 15 hours of gameplay into 13 episodes but if you’re anything like me, binging a 13-episode anime is a job done in one night.
The anime “Btooom!” is based on Junya Inoue’s manga series of the same name, which he wrote and illustrated. “Btooom!” chronicles the exploits of Ryta Sakamoto, an unemployed and lonely young man who is a world-class player in the titular video game. Ryta(Rai-ta)finds his love interest and in-game wife, Himiko, locked inside the real-life version of the game when he is nominated to join. Ryta and Himiko(hee-mee-ko) must discover a means to return home with the support of the other gamers.
“If you die in the game, you die in real life,” is something that a very popular anime, “Sword Art Online” is a huge proponent of, but what if the game was happening in real life? “Btooom!” is a popular online game with plenty of firearms and explosions, as is typical of modern gaming. One player, on the other hand, may have been a little too fond of the game, since they built a complete real-life version of it. Many players awaken on a mystery island with a large arsenal of weaponry at their disposal. The winner is the last person standing; however, losers will not be allowed to respawn.
The animation in this series is said to be top-notch. If you’re someone who enjoys games or anime which make use of weapons, this one will really draw you in. What sets it apart is that the game primarily uses bombs as weapons instead of guns or knives. The show is predictable at times while not so predictable in others, making it an enjoyable watch. Trauma, violence, and gore are all there in this series and it will definitely get you thinking about humanity’s inner darkness, as you watch even kids getting involved in the game’s murderous promise.
Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor (2007) (Ka-ee-jee)
This anime follows Kaiji Ito, a deadbeat who lives in poverty and is based on a seinen manga produced and illustrated by Nobuyuki Fukumoto. He passes time by gambling, losing, and venting his frustrations on high-end foreign automobiles. However, his life is turned upside down one day when a vanished co-worker, who had borrowed a large sum of money before his disappearance, shows up at his door, claiming that Kaiji was named as a co-signer on the loan. Suddenly, he’s liable for $3,850,000, and he has no way of paying it. Endo Yuji, a loan shark, tells him that he can either pay him back over time, for the rest of his life or take a chance and have his debt vanish in one night. If he accepts this offer, he’ll join the ship Espoir and take part in a strange gaming event that might pay off the roughly four million yen he owes and possibly leave him with some cash. Well, he accepts the offer.
There’s an inherent degree of suspense in anime that revolves around gambling, but this particular medium frequently finds ways to amplify it. “Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor” begins with an inconspicuous introduction of an underground gambling match on a cruise ship, but before Kaijirealizes what’s going on, it becomes a way of life for him. “Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor” succeeds because the protagonist Kaiji is frequently out of his environment but driven by undeniable zeal. The games Kaiji is compelled to play aren’t particularly exciting, but he’s forced to compete with tough clients.
Kaiji unravels bizarre games and punishments set up by cruel rich elites, who watch and revel in the pain of those below them on the economic ladder throughout the series. Kaiji zealously claws his way through each near-death and near-ruin “game” with everything he has, in an attempt to not only better his own life but to finally take down the mastermind behind them. What kind of person doesn’t enjoy a good underdog tale?
Alice in Borderland (2014)
There are a number of fantastic anime programs that use Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as aesthetic inspiration for twisted fish-out-of-water tales. Three companions have whisked away to a realm where they are put to the test on a physical, emotional, and psychic level through bizarre games in “Alice in Borderland”.
The premise of “Alice in Borderland” isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s a hit thanks to its dark mystery and strong character ties. “Alice in Borderland” has become a massive hit, and there’s also a live-action adaptation on Netflix, which has a feel that’s very similar to “Squid Game”.
“Be cautious about what you desire” should literally be the tagline of this series. Antisocial outcast RyoheiArisu(Ryo-here Ari-soo) wished to escape his humdrum life, but a careless wish on a firework sends him and his two friends to the post-apocalyptic Borderland, a terrifying parallel reality where danger lurks around every turn and survival is not guaranteed. To live to fight another day, Ryohei and the other unwilling players must win a series of deadly games, each one more perilous than the previous — yet going home will put not only Ryohei’s talents but also his humanity to the ultimate test. The trio begins to play in order to figure out how to get back home. Ryohei has been searching for a deadly game that will give him the true feeling of being alive and it looks like he has found it but, will he survive?
This one is a definite must-watch if you’re a fan of this genre or looking to explore what this genre has to offer. It has a near-perfect mix of mystery, madness, suspense, emotions, and death which will keep you hooked until you finish watching and realize it’s 7 AM and you’ve binged it all.
Kakegurui (2017) (ka-kke-gurui)
“Kakegurui” is probably the first anime that non-anime watchers stumble upon when it comes to the death game genre. This is probably due to the fact that the characters are heavily cosplayed by people on TikTok and Reels and in an online world, virality is a touch away. Many anime series use simple games of chance and gambling as the fuel that propels the exaggerated death game antics ahead. YumekoJabami (Yu-mey-ko Ja-ba-mi), the main character, finds intense pleasure from the excitement of gambling in “Kakegurui”, which is one of the most outlandish cases. Although characters in “Kakegurui” do not die physically, the social hierarchy system at Hyakkaou(Hya-kkou) Private Academy teases a fate that is worse than death for many of these status-driven characters. Here, reputation and wealth are everything, and “Kakegurui” enjoys the irony of how a single gamble can change everything in an instant.
“Kakegurui’s” universe is similar to “Kaiji’s”, however, the victims are wealthy children and the games are more graphically violent. This refers to people betting their fingernails, submitting to servitude, or just playing Russian Roulette. Hyakkaou Private Academy is a ruthless institution. It encourages gambling, but the country’s wealthiest and most powerful people manipulate the games, either through the rules or with the cruel truth that they can bet indefinitely. Its halls are more usually packed with losers than true victors, as it uses this to oppress and punish the student body. It is available on Netflix and is widely watched by fans and newcomers to the anime world alike. If you’re looking for a show to dip your toes into the waters of the Death Game genre, then this one is definitely it. However, if you come across the live-action version on Netflix, stay as far away from that as possible; it does not do the anime justice in any shape or form.
Darwin’s Game (2020)
FLIPFLOPs wrote and drew the Japanese manga series “Darwin’s Game”. Nexus aired an anime television series adaption of the same name from January 3 to March 20, 2020. This anime will definitely reel you in if you give it a chance.
Anime shows and video games have had a strong relationship for long, whether they’re directly adapting a title or simply looking into the medium for plot inspiration. “Darwin’s Game” is a fast-paced cat and mouse game that spans eleven episodes. Teenager KanameSudou (ka-na-meySu-do-u) is playing a new mobile game when he notices strange effects and realizes that reality and the game have merged. In real life, Kaname’s opponents from the mobile app are advancing on him, and he’s compelled to battle for his life and prove how much he wants to exist. He has no idea that he is in the middle of a life-or-death struggle. Those who participate in the game are granted a Sigil, a special power that differs from one participant to the next. Kaname, trapped in this game of unending slaughter and conquest, sets out to clean the board and find and kill the Game Master.
This anime has managed to strike a balance between death and grave peril without becoming hopelessly depressing. In reality, the protagonist is neither an untouchable superhero nor a helpless fool, which is refreshing. The characters are all extremely well written and show growth and development and are not one-dimensional. Finding a happy medium is difficult. While the tale isn’t perfect, it is reasonably nicely written. Overall, the production values are excellent. This is one to watch and it keeps getting better as the season progresses.
Battle Game in 5 Seconds (2021)
“Battle Game in 5 Seconds After Meeting”, also known as “Battle Game in 5 Seconds”, is a Japanese manga series written by SaizHarawata and illustrated by Kashiwa Miyako. The series was turned into an anime series with the same title. The show description says that it all began on a typical morning like any other. Akira Shiroyanagi, a high school student, is obsessed with konpeito candy and video games but one day he gets into a battle because of a mysterious female named Mion. Mion then informs the people she has assembled that they are no longer included in any official documents. They had been given special abilities and were about to be put to the test. Akira resolves to use his abilities to rise through the ranks and eventually destroy this organization. Combat, using diverse talents amidst the new generation is about to begin!
The premise is quite similar to that of “Darwin’s game” and the characters are pretty good but obviously there are challenges in converting a massive manga story into a 12-episode anime and thus, this one falls short in that respect. However, if you have not read the manga and are interested in the death game genre, this one will make for a good watch. The show definitely improves as you watch it, and the latter episodes are much much better character and story-wise.
Death Parade (2015)
YuzuruTachikawa developed, wrote, and directed “Death Parade”, a Japanese anime television series produced by Madhouse. “Death Billiards”, a short film made by Madhouse for the Young Animator Training Project’s Anime Mirai 2013, was the inspiration for the series. Between January and March of 2015, the television series aired in Japan. In the series, when someone dies, they are transported to one of the numerous strange bars staffed by bartenders who serve as arbiters in an afterlife tower. They must engage in Death Games with their souls on the line, with the arbiters deciding whether their souls will be sent for rebirth or expelled into the void. The focus of the series is the Quindecim bar, where people who died at the same time are taken to. Decim is the lone bartender of Quindecim.
“Death Parade” is a truly unique anime series that, despite being a “death game” show, deviates significantly from the norm. “Death Parade” is about two deceased people who must engage in harmless recreational activities like billiards, darts, or air hockey for the eternal salvation of their souls, and has a surprisingly serene tone. “Death Parade” is best known for its morbid and high-stakes interpretation of ordinary games, but each episode also serves as an instructive character study, transforming the show into a character-driven anthology.
“Death Parade” teaches the audience various lessons about life and death. People don’t always wind up where they intended to go, and they don’t always act the way they want when it’s over. Life isn’t always flawless, and happy endings aren’t always guaranteed, so live each day to the utmost because tomorrow is never guaranteed. The tale is not broken into arcs or a linear story because of the show’s format. Rather, it develops topics and elaborates on them with the help of the characters. All in all, an enjoyable watch.
That brings us to the end of our list of eight death game anime’s that you should absolutely watch! What do you think of the Death game genre? Are there any other similar anime that make the cut?