Netflix has blessed us with some truly great television shows like Stranger Things, The Queen’s Gambit, and The Crown. It’s also cursed us with chronic indecision, leaving us scrolling down the Netflix main page for hours just trying to pick something to watch. The overwhelming amount of shows and movies can be chalked up to Netflix’s dual gifts of acquiring great shows to stream and producing tons of original content, but if there’s always something new on Netflix, how are we supposed to choose?
Generally speaking, a good strategy is to only watch the good Netflix shows, but finding out which ones are good take time. Let us carry some of that burden and list the best new Netflix original series released in the past 12 months.
1. Squid Game
Do we really have to recap? Netflix’s South Korean superhit Squid Game landed on the service in mid-September and exploded like none other, shattering the record for the most watched Netflix show of all time (the record has since been beaten by Arcane). Its dystopian premise, in which indebted civilians compete with each other in death-match versions of schoolyard games for money — is as dark as it comes, but Squid Game‘s candy-colored aesthetic makes the deadly proceedings substantially creepier. Squid Game is a whip-smart satire that calls out the loss of individual humanity in late stage capitalism, which for some weird reason resonated with millions of people all over the world. — Alexis Nedd, Senior Entertainment Reporter (*)
It would have been so easy for Netflix’s League of Legends TV show Arcane to be just “okay.” Nobody expects great things from video game adaptations in the first place, and coasting on the worldwide appeal of LoL was always going to be an option for the show’s creators. This is all to say that Arcane didn’t have to go anywhere near as hard as it does, but it does. The results are spectacular. Arcane takes the premise and lore of League of Legends and makes it merely the backdrop of a wholly engrossing tale of family, betrayal, inequality, and the generational cycle of violence. Its animation is also beyond top-tier, with a one-of-a-kind combination of 3D and 2D that is as impressive during action sequences as it is simply setting the scene for the show’s quieter moments. So thanks for slapping so dang hard, Arcane. Season 2 is going to be a blast. — AN
3. Shadow and Bone
Shadow and Bone is the rare book-to-TV adaptation that took full advantage of the time between publishing and premiere and used it to improve the source materials in multiple directions. Leigh Bardugo’s original novel was a smash hit, but Shadow and Bone the series makes the cast more diverse, adds a subplot starring characters from the companion series Six of Crows, and brings forth some of the book’s messed-up romantic politics in a thoughtful and entertaining way. Casting Ben Barnes as the Darkling, long thought to be the ultimate fancast, is only the very, very good-looking cherry on top of a series that takes the thematic responsibilities of YA fantasy seriously while being a dang entertaining show. —AN
LeSean Thomas’ miniseries follows the life and legend of its title character, a Black samurai who served daimyō Oda Nobunaga. Years after Nobunaga’s death, Yasuke lives as Yassan, a boatsman who shuttles villagers along the water and speaks little of his past. But a young girl with awesome power undoes Yassan’s quiet life and alias, thrusting him back into a world of warriors, magic and more. The show blends together sci-fi, fantasy, and history as only anime can, with LaKeith Stanfield at the mic bringing Yasuke sublimely to life. —Proma Khosla, Entertainment Reporter (*)
5. Sweet Tooth
Sweet Tooth was a surprisingly fantastical addition to the Netflix lineup this year and its big bet on childlike wonder paid off in spades. Even though its setting takes place after a deadly virus has decimated the human population and caused the collapse of civilization (yikes), Sweet Tooth is more of fairy tale told from the perspective of one of the other side effects of the apocalypse — a human-deer hybrid named Gus whose father sheltered him from the worst of the world until shelter became untenable. Gus’ journey through the world he barely knew existed is a beautiful coming-of-age story with a talented supporting cast and a flawless cute-to-concerning ratio. —A.N. (*)
6. High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America
A laundry list of successful titles proves Netflix knows how to make a good cooking show. But High on the Hog is really more than that. In this stunning four-part docuseries, food journalist Stephen Satterfield follows the journey of African cuisine across West Africa and the United States. It’s a celebration of culture and cultural preservation that not only inspires, but urges viewers to appreciate the complex origins of food and family tradition as part of our global history. —Alison Foreman, Entertainment Reporter (*)
7. Masters of the Universe: Revelation
Masters of the Universe: Revelation is nostalgia first and foremost, but it’s also far more than that. Kevin Smith’s sequel to the classic ’80s cartoon series (which owes its existence to a line of toys) is peddling the idea that even the childhood things we remember most fondly can live on in new and updated forms. They can change as the world changes. Just as it is in He-Man’s Eternia: The magic may be fading, as it is in this new story, but fresh faces and new ideas are always waiting in the wings to save it. —Adam Rosenberg, Senior Reporter
8. Love is Blind: After the Altar
We’re still eagerly waiting for Love Is Blind Season 2 to send a new batch of sexy singles into Netflix’s infamous dating “pods.” Thankfully, while we wait, we have Love Is Blind: After the Altar — a juicy, three-episode reality event that follows up with the contestants who appeared on the series two years ago. Nearly every member of the Season 1 cast returns, with major life developments and personal news to share. See who managed to make it and who, well, didn’t. (Plus, a highly dramatic crossover event with a cast member from Too Hot To Handle sets off an all-time great reality TV storyline with Giannina Gibelli and Damian Powers…) -A.F.
9. The Chair
The Chair isn’t without its flaws, but you do get a lot for a little with this smart dramedy from creators Amanda Peet and Annie Julia Wyman. Set on the campus of the fictional Pembroke University, Season 1 of The Chair follows English department head Dr. Ji-Yoon Kim (Sandra Oh) as she grapples with a scandal involving her fellow professor and love interest (Jay Duplass). Choppy pacing and some muddled messaging around cancel culture make this an imperfect, yet worthy binge, clocking in at six episodes in just three hours. —A.F.
Asterisks (*) indicate this entry previously appeared in another Mashable streaming list.