Every Game In Alice In Borderland Ranked By Recklessness
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Every Game In Alice In Borderland Ranked By Recklessness

Jul 07, 2023

Contains spoilers for "Alice in Borderland" Seasons 1 and 2

Ever since the 2000 movie "Battle Royale" and its far more successful American twin, "The Hunger Games," hit cinemas, audiences have been captivated by stories of unwitting people pitted against each other in life or death scenarios. Joining those is "Alice in Borderland," released on Netflix in 2020 and adapted from the pages of a manga of the same name, released a decade earlier.

Set in a world where the city of Tokyo has been almost entirely depopulated, the mystery surrounding the whereabouts of its citizens isn't even the most pressing question. Instead, the few people still in the city, which is now dubbed the "Borderlands," are forced to take part in a series of deadly games at the whim of a shadowy organization. The only thing that's certain is that failure to partake in and win the games will result in certain death, forcing protagonist Ryohei Arisu (Kento Yamazaki) and hundreds of other players to press on.

Though the onscreen adaptation of the series has some noteworthy differences from its source material, most importantly in a number of the games themselves, it still captures the manga's thrills and perils perfectly. With that in mind, we've set out to rank almost every significant game — minus a few less memorable ones — from Seasons 1 and 2 of "Alice in Borderland" by their level of danger and recklessness.

One of the most intriguing games we've seen in the series, serving as the final challenge of the second season and the Borderlands themselves, "Croquet for Beginners" swaps the series' typically bloody thrills for more low-key drama. Of course, as fans of "Alice in Borderland" are well aware, games in the Hearts category are heavily influenced by psychological themes of trust and manipulation, and in that regard, "Croquet for Beginners" doesn't disappoint.

On the surface, it's a simple game of just three croquet rounds between Arisu, Usagi (Tao Tsuchiya), and the Queen of Hearts (Riisa Naka) that, win or lose, the players must simply complete. Unsurprisingly, however, the Queen's strategy relies on getting into the minds of her competitors and attacking their very will to keep on playing. Despite a close call, both Arisu and Usagi are such seasoned players at the many games the Borderlands have hurled at them by this point that even the Queen of Hearts is unable to throw them off for good.

While an unassuming name like "Balance Scale" doesn't exactly conjure images of sulfuric acid ready to drop on terrified players, that's exactly what's at the core of this game. An undeniable fan favorite with a fittingly intimidating opponent in the King of Diamonds, four players compete against him (Tsuyoshi Abe) in the ultimate game of wits.

Strapped into a chair, each player must choose a number between zero and 100. Once their choices are locked in, their selections are compiled, averaged, and then multiplied by a percentage, with points either added or deducted to each player's score based on how close they were to the final tally. Reach a score of negative 10, and it's lights out for the unlucky player. With each competitor's death, new rules are added by the King of Diamonds to make the game even more challenging, giving rise to new strategies for each survivor. It's sadistic, complex, and nearly impossible to escape alive, but also one where careful gameplay is needed to come out in one piece.

One of a handful of games that we only get a brief look at, "Bingo in Match Factory" plays with the concept of the popular game of Bingo and takes it up a notch, while adding in the type of vicious twist you'd expect by now. And as if most of the games featured in "Alice in Borderland" weren't already hard enough, "Bingo in Match Factory" has the added challenge of being played in near pitch black conditions.

In the first season game, Usagi and a number of other players are trapped within a desolate building, and challenged to find enough numbers to fill a provided bingo card. Cloaked in complete darkness, players are given only a handful of matches to see with, transforming the building into a veritable maze. Still, given that this one is just a matter of being lucky and skilled enough to solve the puzzle before exhausting a limited supply of fuel, there's little in the way of reckless plays by the competitors.

A classic riddle with a high stakes twist, "Light Bulb" drops its players in a room, tasking them with finding out which of three switches turns on a light bulb that they can only see while the switch is deactivated. Of course, this is "Alice in Borderland," meaning that the game can never be that simple. The puzzle fittingly ups the ante with a ticking clock for the players coming in the form of the room rapidly flooding, threatening to not only drown the players, but also shock them with electrically charged rods for good measure.

As many audience members know, and as Arisu quickly figures out, the key to surviving this game is relying on senses beyond the visual cues. Certainly one of the easier games depicted on screen, this one could have easily topped our list if cooler heads didn't prevail. But given how it turns out, "Light Bulb" has one of the least reckless executions and outcomes despite the undeniable danger.

Season 2 of "Alice in Borderland" got off with a bang with "Survival," which saw every player in the Borderlands become a participant in one of the most intense games we'd seen so far. In the game, a masked and highly skilled gunman (Ayumi Tanida) with an arsenal of weapons at his disposal sets his sights on anyone and everyone within the Borderlands, indiscriminately ending players' times in the world at random and in violent fashion.

For his targets, the only option is painfully simple: kill or be killed. Unfortunately, that goal is much easier said than done, and as the bodies pile up, the only advantage the players have over their masked assassin — their superior numbers — begins to dwindle. A grueling game of cat and mouse that lasted for nearly the entirety of Season 2, it's only brought to a close with a final bloody showdown between the King of Spades and the surviving players.

Though the name would imply a blood-soaked version of one of the world's oldest strategy games, the actual game in "Checkmate" is far more simple, yet no less harrowing. Players are split into two teams and challenged by the Queen of Spades (Chihiro Yamamoto) to a game of tag that's divided into more than a dozen brief rounds, with the winning team earning the gift of survival. Each player, as well as the Queen, is also equipped with a harness that delivers a powerful but non-lethal shock upon being tagged, taking them out of that round. From there, they're left to try and tag as many other players as possible, thereby growing their own team and improving their odds of winning.

Despite such a simple premise, "Checkmate'" never lets up on its intensity, as the rapidly progressing rounds wind up stacking in the Queen's favor. With little hope for defeating her, the players on the opposing team are seemingly left to choose between betraying their teammates by joining the Queen, or certain death.

Neck and neck with the previous game is "Osmosis," which stands as one of the most complicated games in the entire series. Swapping the smaller, more intense rounds of tag that we'd later see in "Checkmate" for one prolonged battle isn't the only way this one is different, as it also incorporates far more rules and strategy into the mix. Players additionally have to divide and assign 10,000 points amongst themselves, to be gambled later when the game begins.

Set in a large space dominated by shipping containers, both players and citizens are given the simple goal to reach the end of the game with the most points, which can be gained by both battling others on the playing field, or even reaching an opponent's base. Thanks to a carefully devised plan by Arisu and the other players, "Osmosis" wasn't the most reckless game in "Alice in Borderland," but definitely one of the most challenging.

Right at the halfway point is "Solitary Confinement," which sees 20 players either allied or pitted against one another in a prison cell block. The game tasks every player with wearing a type of necklace that displays a random card's suit on the back of their neck. Unable to view the symbol themselves, they're left with no choice but to rely on the good will of their fellow players to help them correctly guess their symbol. Guess wrong, and they instead meet with a grisly end.

Among their ranks, however, is the Jack of Hearts (Kai Inowaki), whose sole goal is to deceive the 19 real players and come out alive himself. For the players, the game ends when they weed out the Jack of Hearts and take him out. Though one of the trickiest games in the entire series, "Solitary Confinement" only reaches the seventh spot in our lineup as the players have to be anything but reckless to make it out in one piece.

Though very similar to the aforementioned "Checkmate" and "Osmosis," where "A Game of Tag" tops its peers for our purposes is in the reckless actions that its players take. The very first game that we see Usagi play in, the contest this time finds her, Arisu and other players locked in a game of tag for their very survival, this time in an apartment building against a pair of masked and well-armed taggers.

For all its similarities to the previously covered games of tag, this one — which rises to the level of the Five of Spades — is different thanks to its staggering body count. Unlike "Checkmate" and "Osmosis," which only left citizens dead save for Tatta (Yūtarō Watanabe), "A Game of Tag" results in over half of its players winding up dead, most of which could have been avoided if not for their inexperience in the Borderlands and hasty actions within the game itself.

One of the earlier games that reminds both the players and the audience just how unforgiving life in the Borderlands can be, the events of "Hide and Seek" remain one of the most gut-wrenching moments in the series to this point. Joined by Karube (Kaita Machida) and Chota (Yūki Morinaga), friends from before they arrived in the Borderlands, as well as newcomer Shibuki (Ayame Misaki), Arisu arrives in the Shinjuku Botanical Garden. There, the group plays a quick game of hide and seek that winds up having long-lasting consequences.

With each player affixed with a high tech helmet and an attached collar rigged to explode, the quartet quickly realize that, per the rules of the game, only one of them will be moving on alive. Ultimately deciding that the one to live should be Arisu, the group members decide to stop playing the game and accept their fate. Though their actions are reckless, it can't be denied that they are even more heroic for giving Arisu a second chance.

The very first game that both Arisu and audiences are ever exposed to way back in the first episode, "Dead or Alive" still remains one of the series' most dangerous — unless you can count on Arisu's quick thinking to get you out alive. Trapped in an office building, Arisu, Karube, Chota, Shibuki, and another player must repeatedly choose between one of two doors, always marked "Live" and "Death." Despite the game's low rating, however, what's written on the doors isn't always what awaits players on the other side.

To progress through the building, the players seemingly must rely on blind luck to see them through the challenge, which quickly gets one player killed. Instead of leaving it to fate, Arisu manages to figure out the building's rough dimensions from little more than his view from a window, giving the gang a much better chance of survival. Like the game "Distance," this one shouldn't be quite as difficult as it ends up being for the players, but considering their total inexperience with the Borderlands, it's a small miracle most of them actually made it out alive.

"Distance," also known as the "Four of Clubs," is another one of the earliest games that Arisu and Usagi play together. While it's safe to say that every challenge in the series comes with an inherent risk of death, "Distance" isn't only one of the most safe, but also one of the least exciting. At least, given its low rating as the Four of Clubs, it should be. But thanks to a single reckless mistake, it winds up being anything but harmless.

Joined by three other players, Arisu and Usagi arrive at a highway tunnel and are tasked with reaching an unspecified goal. Assuming it to be somewhere down the length of the tunnel, and with a time limit of just two hours to reach their target, they hastily advance down the road. But at a critical moment, it becomes clear that the game's ultimate goal is located not at the tunnel's end, but at its entrance. That means that they've been proceeding in the wrong direction this whole time, leaving nearly half the team dead in one of the series' most foolhardy moments.

Though it may be given only a rating of seven, closer to the middle of a deck of cards, don't let the unassuming number fool you, as "Boiling Death" might just be the most underrated of all the games in "Alice in Borderland." The game is incredibly unforgiving and hardly fair at all to its players, making it one of the hardest in the entire series to make it through alive.

Told in flashback, the story of "Boiling Death" begins with over a dozen players assembling inside a sports stadium, before promptly being given the order to flee. Suddenly, the ground is rocked by a massive explosion, which begins to flood the arena with deadly boiling water. To make matters even worse, the stadium itself soon collapses, causing the death toll to dramatically rise. Given that there's little time to develop a strategy, "Boiling Death" is certainly one of the most reckless games we've seen (at least until Season 3 of "Alice in Borderland" shows up), though we can't exactly blame the players for taking whatever action they can this time to survive.

The final game to appear in the first season of "Alice in Borderland" remains one of the most memorable in the entire series, and is also at the very top of our list for the most reckless. Taking place at the Beach, a hotel that's home to one of the largest factions of players within the Borderlands, it starts with discovery of the body of game dealer Momoka (Kina Yazaki), seemingly stabbed to death. The grisly discovery thus kicks off a new game, the "Witch Hunt," where players are ordered to find her killer and burn them within two hours. What ensues is a chaotic night, dominated by brazen accusations and desperate violence as the Beach effectively cannibalizes itself in the hunt for the killer.

The true irony of the game, of course, is that the true witch is Momoka herself, who dies hoping to avoid further bloodshed in the Borderlands. Instead, her demise brings about a blood-soaked massacre that could have been entirely avoidable. As far as brazen moments go in the series, it's hard to find any that top the witch hunt in sheer recklessness.

Contains spoilers for "Alice in Borderland" Seasons 1 and 2