The Real-Life Korean Children's Games Featured in Netflix's 'Squid Game'

Squid Game, the captivating new Netflix K-drama on track to become the streamer's biggest show ever, takes viewers through a deadly survival competition themed around children's games.

The gripping series sees 456 cash-strapped people battle each other in six games inspired by children's games played in South Korea and other countries for the chance to win 45.6 billion Korean won (around $38.4 million). The losers from each game face death.

Here we take a closer look at the games featured in Squid Game.

Red Light, Green Light

The first game featured in the series was a Korean version of Red Light, Green Light, a popular children's game played in other countries. The name of the Korean edition of the game translates to "The mugunghwa flower has bloomed." Mugunghwa (known as the rose of Sharon in English) is South Korea's national flower.

In the K-drama series, all 456 contestants are brought into a simulated open field type setting where the players must move closer towards a finish line near a giant robotic doll resembling a little girl.

The contestants could only make a move when they heard the words (in Korean): "The mugunghwa flower has bloomed" (which are eerily broadcast in a child-like voice), after which they had to stay frozen in place. Those who moved during the silence were eliminated from the game and shot dead.

A still from "Squid Game" on Netflix.
A scene from the "Red Light, Green Light" round in "Squid Game" on Netflix. Netflix

Dalgona Candy Challenge

The second game in the competition saw players be tasked with carving out different shapes from Dalgona candy, a type of honeycomb cookie.

Also known as bbopgi in Korean (which means "plucking" or "picking out" in English), the retro crispy street snack made from melted sugar and baking soda was popular among kids in the 1970s and 1980s.

It comes with a shape pressed into it and children often try to eat around the outline of the shape without breaking it, which was the challenge given to the players in the Squid Game series—except they were each given a tiny needle pin to do so.

Monitored by staff members ready to eliminate losers, any players who broke the outline of the shape they were given (either a circle, triangle, star or umbrella) were immediately shot dead.

A still from the "Squid Game" series.
Player no. 456 seen during the Dalgona candy round in "Squid Game." Netflix

Tug of War

This popular children's game played around the world was the third challenge of the competition.

In the series, the contestants were divided into groups and made to play tug of war against each other in teams. Played on an elevated platform with a large gap in the middle separating the two teams, the wrists of the contestants are chained to the rope used in tug of war.

Once the losing team got pushed over the edge of the platform and fell through the gap, the rope was cut off by a giant guillotine, leaving the losing players to fall to their deaths.

A still the "Squid Game" series.
A still from the "Squid Game" K-drama series. Netflix

Marbles

The fourth game of the competition was themed around playing marbles, another retro childhood game popular globally.

For this round, the players were asked to form groups of two and compete against each other within the pair. They were allowed to choose whichever marble game they'd like to play and some were seen guessing how many marbles the other person held in their hand, while others threw the marbles on the ground toward a target.

Each contestant was given 10 marbles and to win the game, one player had to win all 10 of the other player's marbles, with the loser being immediately shot dead by a staff member.

A scene from "Squid Game" series.
Players seen during the marble game round in "Squid Game." Netflix

Stepping Stone Bridge

The stepping stone bridge game, which sees children stepping over stones poking out of a stream or river to get to the other side, formed the theme of the penultimate match of the survival competition.

The stepping bridge in the series featured glass panels instead of stones and was placed at a deadly elevated height. Each of the players was required to walk across the bridge. Some of the panels were made of stronger, tempered glass, while others were made of the weaker, normal glass. So depending on the panel they stepped on, some players plunged to their death.

A still from "Squid Game" on Netflix.
A still from "Squid Game" on Netflix. Netflix

The Squid Game

The final round of the competition was the Squid Game, a children's street game that was played by many Koreans in their childhood, including the series' director Hwang Dong-hyuk.

Hwang recalled the Squid Game was the most competitive of the games he'd played as a child and said is most symbolic of the "modern competitive society" we live in, at a press conference on September 15 ahead of the premiere of the series.

The game entails two people (or teams) having to combat each other within a grid drawn on the ground that roughly looks like the outline of a squid.

Before starting the game, it must be decided who or which team will play the attacker (offense) and who will play defense, as there are different restrictions for each role.

The rules of the retro game are explained by the narrator in the opening scene of the Squid Game series, which shows children playing the game. "In order to win, the attackers must tap the small closed-off space on the squid's head with their foot. But if someone on the defense manages to push you outside the squid's boundary, you die," the narrator says.

The version of the game in the latest series sees each player also use a knife as they battle each other in the bloody round of the competition.

A still from "Squid Game" on Netflix.
Player no. 218 seen the night before the Squid Game round of the deadly survival contest. Netflix