Alice in Borderland is a great anime and Netflix adaptation whose success lies in the games we see throughout the story, how well represented the psychology of the players is, and the great amount of empathy it conveys to the viewer, so… What are for me the best Alice in Borderland games?
This article contains spoilers taken from the official Alice in Borderland manga. The series on Netflix has not yet shown all the events and games that will appear in the list, and you will be skipping a lot of information. If you are really interested in knowing all these games you can read the official manga, or start reading the manga where the Netflix series ends (after 10 of Hearts).
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Alice in Borderland – Best Games and Tests
Currently we know of a total of 20 Alice in Borderland games. If I’m not mistaken there are 2 that are exclusive to Netflix, and the rest have only been shown in the manga or are adaptations of some game shown in the original work. From these 20 known games I will show a top 10 of what for me were the best test designs in this work of the Japanese mangaka Haro Aso.
Top 10 Games of Alice in Borderland (Manga and Netflix Series)
Top Honorable Mention – Survival (K of Spades)
The game Survival of the King of Spades has no interesting rules, nor complex mechanics. All you have to do to complete it is kill the current King of Spades, Isao Shirabi, a former mercenary who got trapped in this world and completed all the games of his era until he became the King of Physical Trials. Like all figure games, this is an all versus one game.
The most interesting detail of this game is the map, which covers the entire world except the places where you are playing another game. Thus players stuck in Borderlands declare it to be the most unfair game of all; for while you are not playing any game, you are participating in this one, and although you have an entire city to hide in, you are facing a professional mercenary with a submachine gun and sniper gear.
Top Honorable Mention – Croquet (Q of Hearts)
I can’t give a place in the top 10 to the game «Croquet» by the Queen of Hearts, because I don’t think it’s one of the most interesting or well worked Alice in Borderland games, but without a doubt its development was incredible, and it completely exceeded my expectations.
The main mechanic of this game consists of talking with the Queen of Hearts, and you complete the game if after talking with her she hasn’t convinced you to commit suicide. As simple as it may sound, it was the last game of all to be completed, and it took 7 days until someone managed to get out alive. Also, if you decided to face this challenge in any way other than talking, and by some chance you ended up killing the Queen, the game could not be completed and all the players in the world would die when their visa expired.
Mira Kano a prestigious psychiatric neuroscientist in the real world, and the Queen of Hearts in Borderlands, poured a certain drug in the tea to make the players who stopped to have a drink a little more suggestible, and with her lip service and her relentless capacity for psychological manipulation she got them to take their own lives, taking advantage of the fact that no one really wanted to be in that world, where almost every day they suffered physically and psychologically.
Top 10.- Witch Hunt (10 of Hearts)
10 of Hearts was the last of the Alice in Borderland non-figure games to be completed. Its setting was very original, and so were its rules. However its development was not as interesting as it could have been. Still I’m not saying it was a bad development, and it seems the most suitable to continue the story and the psychology of the characters.
All trials have a game setting: in this case The Beach hotel itself, where the best organized Borderlands players were hiding out, was the game setting, and everyone there was immediately forced to participate. The idea of the game was to investigate the murder of a girl, and burn at the stake the culprit hiding among them. Although the difficulty of this game was 5 Hearts if it had been played under normal conditions, Mira Kano changed its difficulty to 10 Hearts upon learning that the leader and an executive of The Beach had also been murdered moments before the game began.
After the leader and the executive expertised in intelligence games were killed, the militia and the physical testing experts were left in charge of The Beach, and the game turned into a real massacre. The death of the girl who had to be investigated until the culprit was found was not a murder, but a suicide, but due to all the chaos no one realized it until time was about to run out. It is known that 12 people survived out of the 66 who started the game.
Top 9.- Pilla pilla (5 of Spades)
The 5 of Spades is one of the first games we see in the Alice in Borderland series. Players were locked and unarmed in a building and had to find the right room before the game ended, dodging the two people with guns and machine guns who wanted to assassinate them so they wouldn’t win.
It’s a really interesting game, where we meet a couple of people very relevant to the course of the story, they show us that all games have a strategy to be solved (the people with guns were always hovering around the area of the winning room to keep an eye on it, and that was a very important clue), and they even allow themselves the luxury of leaving us with a bad taste in our mouth when it is revealed that the assassins in the building were also players forced to participate in the game, with the rules reversed: if any of the other players won, they lost.
Top 8.- Escondite (7 of Hearts)
The 7 of Hearts, Hide and Seek, is the game that we find in the second or third chapter and that completely turns around the player’s expectations. After having introduced us to the four main characters of the story, we are taken to the first game of Hearts, where the game often requires killing other players to be completed. In this case it was not going to be different: only one out of all the players in this test can survive.
To win you need to be the wolf at the exact moment the test ends, and the rest of the players will be the sheep. If any sheep has visual contact with you, it will steal the title of wolf, and so on until the countdown ends. In this game of hide and seek between wolf and sheep, it is the wolf who must hide and run away from the flock, or they will end up stealing your chance to get out alive.
The game becomes even more interesting when the four protagonists realize that they have been best friends all their lives and it is not worth fighting to the death to see who survives. They decide that their friendship should prevail over the life and death they were gambling on, so during the last few minutes of the game the tables turn and it is the sheep who start hiding from the wolf, so that one of them survives even though he didn’t want to be the one to come out alive.
Quickly the game changes from a 3v1 game where you have to hide to survive to a 1v3 game where you have to find your friends to pass the baton to one of them and give your life for theirs.
Top 7.- Fugitive (4 of Clubs (Manga))
The 4 of Clubs, also called Fugitive, is one of the Alice in Borderland games that is somewhat better thought out in the manga than in the Netflix series. It consists of being at the finish line by the time the 50-minute countdown ends, or else you won’t be able to complete the game alive. This game involves 6 players, but one of them was the undercover King of Diamonds, because he felt like seeing how people dealt with team games.
The location of the game is a 10km long tunnel, so anyone would think that they have to run 10km in 50 minutes to reach the finish line. In fact they all think that on the cell phone they are given at the start of the test they have a step meter to know how far they have run, as they all have 0 meters on their meter at the start of the game.
During the 50 minutes that the test lasts, we see how the players suffer without rest as they run through the tunnel. In the manga version, not only do they encounter a tiger, but they also have to pass an area full of crocodiles, another frozen area at negative temperature, and then an explosion that sends the entire bridge structure flying through the air.
Just as it happens in the Netflix episode, it turns out that their cell phone from the beginning was marking the distance to the finish line: 0 meters. They even had a bus with graffiti that said «goal» on it, but they were so nervous that no one noticed. In addition, the test was a Cloverleaf test, which means that it does not require great physical effort or intelligence. Contrary to what happens in the Netflix episode, all those who have managed to reach the end of the tunnel and run the 10km end up dying in agony and suffering, completely destroying their psychological stability when they see that they had been running non-stop from the finish line, and that now all that awaited them was certain death.
It is a gloomy game that perfectly expresses what the world of Borderlands is, and as in the manga our protagonists do not participate in this test no miracle is necessary for them to end up getting out alive. Simply those who gave their 100% to reach the end of the tunnel end up dying in an incredibly unfair way, and only the King of Diamonds, who played lame and stayed on the initial bus, and another girl who didn’t want to let him die alone, survive.
Top 6.- Alien Invasion (9 of Hearts)
The 9 of Hearts, Alien Invasion, is by far the most recent game of them all, published in a spin-off of Alice in Borderland that came out last year 2020, if I’m not mistaken. It’s a mini-story in which you’re told how our protagonist returns to Borderland for a brief faction of time, but now has a goal to fight for and strive to get out alive: his first child with the girl he met when they were both trapped there.
Alien Invasion is also a very interesting game. You need to survive 6 rounds and spend all your cards to get out of there alive.
You have seven cards: 1 with which you take away someone’s chance to pass the round, and 6 others with which you give someone that same chance. The fun is that in each round there is a person who has to die for sure (except for a detail that is discovered at the end, but that’s not what I find interesting about the game). So with that pressure of knowing that not everyone can save you, you are forced to play this test by manipulating others at some point and walking on eggshells.
If you spend your card too early to kill someone else, it may happen that in the last round your opponent still has that card and then you will lose for sure. It can also happen that you spend too soon all your save cards to gain the trust of others and in the last rounds you have nothing left to offer them, to give two simple examples. In the end this game of Hearts has no absolute strategy, and requires manipulating the other players, cheating and being cunning.
Top 5.- Life or Death (3 of Clubs (Netflix))
The first test our protagonists face in both the anime and manga is the 3 of Clubs, however, it completely changes from one medium to the other. In the manga it is much blander, and in order to survive they have to answer random questions, working as a team, as the clovers indicate.
On the other hand, the Netflix adaptation isn’t so much about teamwork as it is about intelligence, so it should be a Diamond test, because being clovers it cheats a lot. Still, it’s pretty well thought out, and it gives you a perfect insight into how the whole world of Borderlands works. In fact, its very name describes the world itself to you, where you’re playing for life or death almost every day, and one bad decision can end your time there in one fell swoop.
I found the Netflix game to be very original, plus it perfectly introduces you to the main idea of the series; that’s why it’s in the number 5 spot.
At first it seems like a game of luck, where you always have a 50% chance of choosing the right door and survive; however, as the main character points out, it is not a game of luck (none is), nor a team game (although it would have to be as it is a test of Clubs), but it is a test of cunning, and of understanding the space in which you are playing.
Top 4.- Blackjack (6 of Diamonds)
The 6 of Diamonds, with the name of Blackjack is a somewhat peculiar game, a little bit at the convenience of the script, because although no one was supposed to know neither the difficulty, nor the suit, nor the game itself before the inscriptions were closed, for this test that is precisely of intelligence and just about blackjack, 4 very intelligent people and experts in blackjack meet. It is also the only known game that despite not being a game of Hearts, requires other participants to die before declaring a winner.
Leaving that aside, the game itself is very interesting: a poker game in which you bet chips and are hanged when you lose them all. Plus you can cheat but if you get caught, the one who caught you gets a gun with a bullet, to do with it whatever he wants.
The game itself is a non-stop game of cheating and dirty tricks, from card counting to sleight of hand, to trading bad cards for good ones, to many other underworld poker strategies. In the end the resolution of the game is very interesting and intelligent, and if its development is already good, the closing, as I say, gives it the finishing touch.
Top 3.- Beauty Contest (K of Diamonds)
In my top three Alice in Bordeland games is Beauty Contest, from King of Diamonds. Despite its name, it is the ultimate game for completing Intelligence cards, and in fact the origin of this title comes from a famous mathematical experiment to analyze the economist behavior of human beings. The premise of this «Beauty Contest» is that to win you don’t have to do what you think is best, but what the group thinks is best, and it involves the King of Diamonds along with four other people, who in this case also stand out for their incredible intellect.
I have an extensive analysis (in Spanish) of this game in my blog, but I will still comment briefly because it has no waste whatsoever.
As all the players knew beforehand that this game is the King of Intelligence game, it was expected that the smartest players who had survived Borderlands would come. Thus begins a game in which you must choose a number between 0 and 100 trying to predict the overall average of the group always multiplied by 0.8.
As one of the players mentions, this test is borderline more like a game of Hearts than Diamonds, but instead of analyzing the psychology of people, as in the other games, in this one you must analyze the rationality of each of your opponents. It would be a really boring game if it were played by perfect machines, but because these 5 super intelligent players are far from being machines, it becomes a test that requires incredible intelligence to be overcome.
Top 2.- Osmosis (K of Clubs)
The game of the K of Clubs, Osmosis, has it all. The King of Clubs is a magnificent character, the approach of his game is unbeatable and the development of the game leaves no one indifferent.
The basis of the test itself is something as simple as the typical game of «Capture the Flag», which many of us have played when we were little, only with a few modifications: it is played in a 5v5, and each team has 10,000 points to distribute among their players as they wish before starting the game; then they can no longer change that distribution. The rules during the game are as follows:
- Players on the opposing team do not know the points of anyone on your team unless you have contact.
- If you have contact with an opponent, the player with the most points will steal 500 from the player of the opposing team.
- You can be in direct contact with your teammates to add up your points in the meantime.
- If a player reaches 0 points he will die.
- The team with the most points after two hours wins.
- There are buttons hidden in the game area that give permanent points. Between 500 and 3,000.
- Protecting your base is important because if an enemy manages to touch it you will get 10,000 extra points.
- Someone who is touching his own base has infinite points, and if he touches someone of the enemy team he will die instantly, no matter how many points he has.
Osmosis is a game to work as a team, but besides that it is necessary to have a good strategy and points distribution to be able to face the rivals or at least not to lose your life because of it, besides requiring a good physical condition to be able to run, and a great psychological capacity to understand your rivals, their strategies and their way of facing the challenge. This simple game of King of Clubs requires a really balanced team, as well as a great coordination and trust among all.
Top 1.- Solitary Confinement (J of Hearts)
My favorite Alice in Borderlands game is the Jack of Hearts Solitary Confinement, where none of the known characters from the story participate, but you meet a few other very interesting survivors. The idea of the game is also quite original, and along with the King of Diamonds game, it becomes the second known game to extend its duration beyond sunrise.
In this test 20 people participate, and they will have to be locked in a building with unlimited food and drink until they manage to defeat the Jack of Hearts, who is an imposter among the 20 players present in the building. Violence is also not allowed, and the Jack must be defeated in a way that is original to say the least:
Every player has on his back a symbol from the poker deck (clubs, spades, diamonds or hearts) that all the other players see except himself (in short: everyone knows everyone else’s symbols but no one knows his own symbol). In the building there is not a single thing that reflects, so you have to know your symbol every certain period of time or you will die. Also every time it is time to communicate your symbol, it will change and start another round again.
Basically it is a game of trust and betrayal. You have to find a person you fully trust and a partner who fully trusts you or at any moment you could be sent to certain death. In this ordeal it doesn’t take long before different personal relationships are formed: some as pairs of partners, some as a group, and some as players going it alone. As it is a game of Hearts and the players already knew it we can find many people expert in manipulation, such as professional swindlers, cult leaders, successful commercials, directors of large and influential companies or psychopaths perfectly integrated into society.
The idea of the game seems great to me. It is like a Among Us much more convoluted and before the game was even known. Besides, its development is incredible: the manipulation strategies used by each player are (I think) very faithful to human psychology, and you find very interesting resources and analysis by those who are clearly the singing voices in this test.
End of my Top games of Alice in Borderland
You can leave a comment with your opinion, or highlighting any data you think is incorrect or can be improved; I’ll be happy to read it.