What’s the Next ‘Squid Game’? These New Overseas Originals Might Be It

Streaming
Yinchen Niu/VIP+; Adobe Stock

Netflix is keen to find its next non-English original that will have mass-global appeal like “Squid Game.” Non-English-language titles are critical for the streamer to be able to grow outside the U.S./Canada region, which only drove about 7% of Netflix’s net paid subscriber growth during all of 2021.  

But other streamers are also increasingly trying to find that TV hit which will catch fire globally to help them grow outside of the saturated domestic SVOD market.

To help make sense of what may ascend to “Squid Game” heights next, Variety Intelligence Platform put together a list of its most anticipated non-English-language original titles set to drop across various streaming platforms in 2022. Certain streaming platforms, like the U.S.-only Peacock, weren’t considered for this article because they’re simply not in enough markets to set off a “Squid Game”-like phenomenon. 

Below is a list of the top 15 non-English-language streaming TV series — in no particular order beyond platform of release — that could be the biggest attractions for their platforms in 2022. 

NETFLIX

1. All of Us Are Dead (Korean language; January 28)

This series, which follows a group of high school students trying to survive a zombie virus outbreak, will benefit from the increased interest across global territories placed on Korean-language content that recent series like “Hellbound” and “Squid Game” helped drive. Additionally, Lee You-mi, who plays Ji-yeong in “Squid Game,” stars in “All of Us Are Dead” and has already promoted the new zombie series to her 6.7 million Instagram followers in a post that received over 800,000 likes. It’s likely that Lee You-mi has gained many followers outside Korea since “Squid Game,” and that suggests that “All of Us Are Dead” could eventually rank in Netflix’s Top 10 rankings in non-Asian countries.

2. Feria: The Darkest Light (Spanish language; January 28)

This horror TV series follows two sisters who must deal with the reality of their parents being involved in a cult ritual that ended in death. While the darker subject matter of this series may not be for some of the global viewers who’re open to viewing some of the other series on this list, horror TV is still capable of putting big numbers on Netflix — especially in the U.S. “The Haunting of Bly Manor” was viewed for roughly 1.2 billion minutes and ranked as Nielsen’s second-most-viewed series during the week of October 5 in 2020, for example. “Feria” doesn’t star any actors with big mainstream U.S. appeal, though awareness of previous Spanish-language Netflix hits like “Who Killed Sara” could spur some Americans to sample the new horror TV series.

3. 1899 (German language; TBD 2022)

“1899” follows the story of an immigrant ship’s voyage from Europe to New York and is likely to be one of Netflix’s most-viewed non-English language series during the week following its debut. The German-language series comes from Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar, who created the German-language Netflix original “Dark,” which debuted its first season in December 2017. Over 90% of viewers of “Dark” S1 weren’t from Germany, Netflix disclosed in March 2018, and that’s just one sign that the “1899” creators have a robust fan base in many markets globally. As of Jan. 5, Netflix’s “1899” was the most anticipated foreign-language streaming series debuting in 2022, by measure of the number of global users of TV Time (an app that lets user users track content they watch) following a certain title.

4. The Sound of Magic (Korean language; TBD 2022)

There is likely a group of Korea-based Netflix viewers awaiting the release of “The Sound of Magic,” given it is based on the webtoon (a type of digital comic originating in South Korea) “Annarasumanara” that had hundreds of thousands of likes as of this writing. “The Sound of Magic” follows the story of a high school girl who wishes to grow up as fast as possible and meets a magician. The Netflix series stars up-and-comer Choi Sung-eun and the more-established Korean star Ji Chang-wook, who serves as a valuable promotion asset to viewers globally due to his 18.6 million Instagram followers. As of Jan. 5, “The Sound of Magic” was the fourth-most anticipated foreign-language streaming series debuting in 2022, by measure of global TV Time users following a title. 

5. Cyberpunk: Edgerunners (Japanese language; TBD 2022)

“Cyberpunk: Edgerunners” is a standalone series set in the same universe as the “Cyberpunk 2077,” a once-intensely-anticipated game that was ultimately marred by technical issues following its December 2020 release. Despite the troubled rollout of “Cyberpunk 2077,” which is estimated to have sold 17.3 million copies in the year following its release, “Cyberpunk: Edgerunners” is likely to still attract meaningful viewership due to the high-profile of the gaming IP that it’s based on. Just consider how exceptionally well certain Netflix originals based on established game IP have previously done: “The Witcher” S1 and S2 rank among Netflix’s 10 most-watched English-language series of all-time, while “Arcane” was one of the streamer’s top 10 most-watched English language series for six weeks straight following its debut.

6. Money Heist Korea – Joint Economic Area (Korean language; TBD 2022)

What little information is currently available already suggests that this Korean “Money Heist” remake could very well end-up being one of the top three most-viewed non-English Netflix originals of 2022. S3, S4 and S5 of the original “Money Heist” currently rank among the top 5 most-watched non-English Netflix series of all-time, which suggests to us there is a large global viewer base at least more willing to sample the Korean “Money Heist” over a show based on entirely new IP. What should also help the Korean “Money Heist” get out the gate quickly is that Park Hae-Soo (who acted as one of the “Squid Game” protagonists) is starring in the series. 

7. Our Blues (Korean language; TBD 2022)

Little (such as plot details and exact release date) is currently known about “Our Blues,” but the series has cast notable actors that could help it find success in territories beyond Korea. “Our Blues” will feature Lee Byung Hun, who acted a minor role in “Squid Game” as the Front Man, and Shin Min Ah, who some viewers in the U.S. might have become familiar with over the past few months because he has starred in another Korean Netflix original, “Chief of Staff.” It’s possible that some U.S.-based Netflix viewers have checked out “Chief of Staff” recently because it also stars Lee Jung Jae, who played the protagonist in “Squid Game.”

8. Remarriage and Desires (Korean language; TBD 2022)

This story follows individuals who’re hoping to upgrade their position in society by using an exclusive matchmaking agency to marry or remarry into the top tier of society. The series, which looks to satirize Korean society, seems like it will hit on certain themes (i.e., the difficulty in significantly changing one’s social and financial status) that contributed to making two prior Korean megahits “Squid Game” and “Parasite” successful. So that satire angle may help “Remarriage and Desires” resonate with audiences. But the new series could also benefit from the existing fan bases of its stars like Kim Hee-Seon and Jeong Eu-Gene, which had nearly 630,000 and 390,000 Instagram followers as of this writing. 

9. Glitch (Korean language; TBD 2022)

“Glitch” follows the story of a girl who tries to track down her missing boyfriend with the help of a UFO club. This series plot feels a little creepy and like something that might even get a little dark. But that could help “Glitch” because being uniquely creepy and dark could help set it apart from the many other Netflix originals, in a way similar to how “Squid Game” was set apart from other TV series. “Glitch” will also benefit from the megastars in its cast including actress Jeon Yeo-been (1.4 million Instagram followers as of this writing) and K-pop signer/model NANA (3.1 million Instagram followers).

10. Somebody (Korean language; TBD 2022)

This series may have a relatively nondescript name, but it could take off in 2022 because it revolves around a developer and her friends who become involved in a murder case that’s linked to a dating app. The dating app element seems like something that could make the show feel particularly topical, given the increasing number of romantic relationships that begin online. For example, a February 2021 Morning Consult survey found that 13% of U.S. adult respondents said that they met their partner online, slightly up from 10% in 2020. But keep in mind that Kim-Young-kwang, the lead actor of “Somebody,” has over 1 million Instagram followers and will also help market the series to get its viewership tally initially going. 

PRIME VIDEO

11. The Therapy (German language; TBD 2022)

Germany mystery thriller “The Therapy” is an adaption of Sebastian Fitzek’s debut novel “Die Therapie,” which follows the story of a therapist who must reevaluate his daughter’s disappearance after being paid a visit by a schizophrenic stranger. “The Therapy” could perform well on Prime Video because Fitzek is one of Germany’s biggest psychological thriller authors and has sold over 11 million copies of his various books, which have been translated into over 24 languages. In other words, there may be a decent amount of consumers in different countries who’re interested in seeing how the onscreen adaption Fitzek’s debut novel turned out, and positive initial reviews from these fans could spark further viewership growth of the show. “The Therapy” will build on momentum created by previous Prime Video German-scripted originals like “We Children from Bahnhof Zoo,” which premiered in the U.S. last April.  

APPLE TV+

12. Container (Russian language; Spring 2022)

This title marks Apple TV+’s first Russian-language series and will follows a surrogate mother who must navigate the house dynamics of a rich government family that she is carrying a baby for. It could draw some U.S. eyeballs off the bat because it stars Oksana Akinshina, who was in 2004’s “The Bourne Supremacy,” which grossed nearly $300 million globally. Additionally, “Container” may appeal to Apple TV+ viewers who were impressed by the streamer’s critically acclaimed series “Tehran” and are looking for another foreign-language thriller. “Container” was selected to be showcased at MIPDrama in 2021, an annual event spotlighting upcoming high-end dramas to international buyers, and that implies that some other media execs already view the Russian series as having potential global appeal.

13. Pachinko (Korean language; TBD 2022) 

Already featured in our non-foreign language-focused top 20 anticipated streaming titles of 2022 list, Apple TV+’s “Pachinko” could not be passed up in our 2022 list of anticipated foreign language titles. The development of “Pachinko” might not be known to many TV viewers who don’t follow Apple TV+ closely, but its reportedly big budget is something that shouldn’t be ignored — THR in August 2018 reported that the series would have a budget comparable to that of Netflix’s “The Crown.” And VIP+ in September 2021 argued why Apple TV+ needs to start regularly pumping out more big-budgeted TV series. Apple TV+’s “Pachinko,” is reportedly slated for 2022 and is an adaption of Min Jin Lee’s novel of the same name that follows the story of a Korean family in Japan. The NYT named “Pachinko” as one of its 10 best books of 2017. 

HBO MAX

14. García! (Spanish language; TBD 2022) 

This title, based on a graphic novel of the same name, follows the story of a reporter who works with a cryogenically frozen spy from the 60s to prevent Spain from falling back into a dictatorship. The story seems like it’s out-there enough to catch the attention of viewers who might not typically watch Spanish TV series otherwise, but the visual effects of “García!” could help it gain steam as well. Madrid-based Zeta Studios (which produced Netflix’s Spanish-language phenomenon “Elite”) is producing “García!” and called the to-come Spanish-language series a “very ambitious project” and “one of its biggest bets,” which implies impressive visuals. 

15. Búnker (Spanish language; January 27) 

HBO Max’s forthcoming “Búnker” follows the story of a father who retreats to a fallout shelter in his basement, where he encounters and teams up with seemingly disparate groups (like Korean and Russian scientists) for a common cause. The protagonist of the series is played by Bruno Bichir, who was in 2018’s “Sicario: Day of the Soldado,” which grossed over $75 million globally. And that may act as a hook that gets some U.S. HBO Max viewers started on “Búnker.” What could keep many viewers watching the series is its seemingly chaotic-but-entertaining storyline that’s being served in a 30-minute-comedy format — something that might appear as more digestible than the hourlong dramas that many have likely come to expect from HBO.