Is Squid Game based on a true story?

Cameron Frew
Still from Squid Game on NetflixNetflix

Everyone’s raving about Squid Game: The Challenge, a real-life version of the hit Netflix series – but is the original Squid Game based on a true story?

Squid Game first hit Netflix in 2021, upon which it became an immediate sensation. The South Korean series follows a secret competition that pits 456 contestants of all ages against each other in life-or-death children’s games, such as Red Light Green Light and Tug of War.

Quickly and surely, the pool of players is whittled down to a much smaller group, either as a result of being shot by the guards or plummeting to their death after a misstep in Hopscotch.

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While undeniably entertaining, it’s also horrifying, which begs the worrying question: is Squid Game based on a true story?

Is Squid Game based on a true story?

No, Squid Game isn’t based on a true story. The show’s creator was influenced by anime and manga, but no real events.

In Squid Game, everyday people become the bloody playthings of billionaires, all because they’re desperate to scrub their debts and emerge on the other side with a huge amount of money. Its satire of capitalism isn’t exactly subtle, and while it may echo real-life desperation across the world, it’s (thankfully) not inspired by any actual murderous games – that we know of, anyway.

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Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, creator Hwang Dong-hyuk explained the show’s origins. “So back in 2008, I had a script that I had written, which I was running around with trying to get investment, but it didn’t work out and it wasn’t made into a movie,” he said.

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“So that actually put me into a really difficult financial situation — I was broke. So I spent a lot of time killing time in comic book cafes, reading. And I read a lot of comic books revolving around surviving death games — manga like Liar Game, Kaiji and Battle Royale.

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A still from Squid GameNetflix

“And well, I read some stories about these indebted people entering into these life-and-death games, and that became really immersive for me because I was struggling financially myself. I was even thinking that I would love to join a game like that, if it existed, to make a bunch of cash and get out of this terrible situation.”

Manga and anime proved to be a key influence on Squid Game and his wider filmography. “I freely admit that I’ve had great inspiration from Japanese comics and animation over the years. When I started, I was in financial straits myself and spent much time in cafes reading comics including Battle Royale and Liar Game,” Hwang told Variety.

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“I came to wonder how I’d feel if I took part in the games myself. But I found the games too complex, and for my own work focused instead on using kids’ games.”

Squid Game: The Challenge Episodes 1-9 are available to stream on Netflix now. You can check out our other coverage below:

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About The Author

Cameron is Deputy TV and Movies Editor at Dexerto. He's an action movie aficionado, '80s obsessive, Oscars enthusiast, and a staunch Scot. He earned a First-Class Honours Degree in Multimedia Journalism from Glasgow Caledonian University, accredited by the NCTJ and BJTC. He began his career at UNILAD, starting as a Junior Journalist and becoming Entertainment Editor prior to joining Dexerto. You can contact him at