If you’ve been paying attention to television shows in the past month or two, you’ve probably heard of the overwhelming success of Netflix. Squid game. Whether you’ve seen the show itself, memes inspired by it, or the Roblox versions of it, the Korean thriller quickly hit our screens and became one of the most popular shows of the year.
The series follows Seong Gi-Hun, a gambler who decides to participate in a series of life or death children’s games in which the last person standing gets a big fat bag of money. Fans have praised the slasher’s anti-capitalist message and its bold, exciting graphics. But for fans of battle royale games, the concept behind the show is nothing new. Since PlayerUnknown’s battlefields has become popular, it seems that every major game company has gotten into the fray and is offering its version of the last-man-standing format Fourteen days to be at the forefront of everyone.
So it’s only natural for writers to compare a battle royale show to video games. However, I am here today to defend another thesis. It’s not the real squid game Apex legends, Fourteen days, or another battle royale game. The real game that captures the heart and soul of Squid game is Super Mario Party – or any other Mario Party game.
[Spoiler Warning: This post contains spoilers for the ending of the television show Squid Game.]
On the surface, Super Mario Party has nothing in common with the bloody, gloomy competition in Squid game. However, if you look a little deeper, they both use a playful, childish aesthetic to mask a much darker reality. In Squid game, participants play a number of deadly versions of children’s games such as red light green light or tug of war. In red-green light, those who drive on red light are shot on the spot, and in the tug-of-war, the losing team is pulled from the side of the high ledge.
Super Mario Party is actually a very dark game when you think about it. As some TikTokers have pointed out, Mario Party mini-games have eerily similar concepts when compared to Squid game. Sure, there are no guns, but the premise is similar. Four characters compete against each other in a series of dangerous mini-games for their chance to win more coins and Powerstars, the highest currency in the Mario universe. These characters are in a constant state of dying and resuscitation only to be tested again and again by a number of Squid game-like mini-games. In “Isthmus Be the Way” that doesn’t lead to being blown up in time. Soak or Croak looks like a friendly water gun game until you realize it’s a last man standing competition where you fight and knock others off the edge of a circular platform.
There is literally a whole subset of games where you compete solely for coins. Among them is “Air to a Fortune”, in which each of the four characters is placed on clouds, with neighboring clouds having different amounts of coins. Everyone secretly picks a neighboring cloud to jump, and if you and your neighbor happen to pick the same one, you both fall and get no coins. It’s a particularly psychological game that requires you to guess whether you should risk it to get more money or just give it all up. It might as well be a game in Squid game.
Aside from the shared childlike nature of the games, which makes the life-and-death scenarios even more dystopian, the two agree that their competitions seem to require skill to win, despite the fact that both are somehow rigged. In Squid gameThat means the old man Oh Il-nam is going further than he should have, and also prefer Gi-Hun to win. In Super Mario Party, this manifests itself through the bonus stars at the end. Just this week I played a round in which – after activating several gold pipes, buying mushrooms and spending my money on four stars – in the end I lost because one of my competitors only spent money on one and in the end got a whopping three bonus stars .
Both Squid game and Mario Party present this absurd vision of competition that is initially based on merit but is not. At least the Mario Party games can be fun (if you don’t care about winning); but they teach an important life lesson. Sometimes you don’t earn everything you win.