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Our Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy Battle Royales and Competitions

These characters are forced to compete in brutal contests, often to the death.

Battle Royales and Competitions Like The Hunger Games

Reading The Hunger Games as a teenager certainly gave me a penchant for gladiatorial combat and strategic battles, alongside a healthy tolerance for bloodshed. Books where characters (willingly or unwillingly) participate in competitions that test their strengths, mental acumen or magical prowess tend to be pretty immersive—taking the reader on a special journey as the protagonist tries to figure out the best way to survive. Incorporating gaming elements is also a fun away to inject liveliness into a story. 

If you’re in the mood for some SFF titles where characters fight to the death or are trapped in a Russian roulette-like situation, check out these books! 


The Hunger Games

By Suzanne Collins

Suzanne Collins sort of heralded the YA dystopian fantasy genre with the publication of The Hunger Games in 2008. Set in the dystopian world of Panem, the novel had a simple but bloody premise: Every year, a child from each of the 12 districts are randomly selected to participate in a televised battle royale game where there can only be one victor. 

When Katniss Everdeen’s 12-year-old sister is chosen to participate in the Hunger Games, she volunteers in her place. She is joined by Peeta Mellark from the same district, who has feelings for her, further complicating her survival strategy. 

Packed with action and tons of tension, the entire trilogy makes for an unputdownable read. 

fantasy books for teens

An Ember in the Ashes

By Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes is inspired by the gladiatorial battles of ancient Rome. It unfolds the story of Laia, a slave girl who decides to spy on the Empire’s military academy from within to rescue her brother. 

There she meets the soldier Elias, and the two are pitted against each other in the Trials. They are forced to make difficult choices, not just for each other but for the future of the Martial Empire that they are trying to overthrow.


Ready Player One

By Ernest Cline

Ernest Cline’s debut novel is set in a dystopia where the world is so overrun by the horrors of climate change that inhabitants have turned to OASIS, a virtual reality. 

The creator of this simulator left behind an Easter egg and claimed that the first person to find it would win his entire fortune as well as become the owner of OASIS. The story narrates the adventures of Wade Watts, a 15-year-old teenager who uncovers the clues leading to the treasure. 

If you’re a geek at heart or explored virtual worlds like Second Life or been fascinated by alternate reality games (ARGs), be sure to give this one a read. It was even adapted into a critically-acclaimed film, directed by Steven Spielberg in 2018. 

the selection

The Selection

By Kiera Cass

The Selection is set in a future caste-based world where every individual is assigned a number from one to eight based on their place in society. While the Ones are akin to royalty, the Eights include those who are disabled, struggling with addiction, unemployed, and orphans.

The novel narrates the story of America Singer, a Five who is particularly skilled with the violin. With her dwindling savings, America decides to compete with 34 other girls in the “Selection” to win the Prince’s heart and further her station.


Poison Princess

By Kresley Cole

The first book in the beguiling Arcana Chronicles introduces the reader to a dark, post-apocalyptic word inspired by the magic of tarot cards. 

Here, the tarot cards are reincarnated each century to participate in a battle royale death match where there can only be one victor. The story follows the adventures of Evie, a reincarnation of the Empress card, as she learns about an ancient prophecy and age-old rivalries.

If you’ve loved The Hunger Games or The Wicked + The Divine graphic novels, you’re sure to enjoy this riveting series. 


Red Rising

By Pierce Brown

Pierce Brown’s novel Red Rising is set in a world where Earth is almost uninhabitable and a thousand people live beneath the surface of Mars, mining precious elements so that the red planet can eventually be terraformed. 

Darrow is one such helldiver who stumbles upon a secret—that Mars is habitable and inhabited by the Golds, the class comprising the wealthy and the powerful. He decides to infiltrate their command school, only to be sucked into a deadly competition. 



By Veronica Roth

The story of Divergent takes place in a post-apocalyptic Chicago where the world is divided into five factions based on people’s personality types. There’s Abnegation for the selfless, Amity for the peace-loving folks, Candor for the honest ones, Dauntless for the warriors, and Erudite for the intelligentsia. 

At the age of 16, people are expected to undergo a test that determines the Faction that fits them best and participate in a Choosing Ceremony while the uninitiated struggle to survive on the streets.

But getting successfully initiated into a faction isn’t enough, as the initiates (including Tris, the Abnegation-born protagonist who chooses Dauntless) have to undergo a lot of brutal training sessions to prove themselves.


The Maze Runner

By James Dashner

If you’d like a taste of a battle royale set within a changing labyrinth, give Dashner’s The Maze Runner a read. It tells the story of Thomas, a boy who wakes up in the Glade with no memory of his former life, surrounded by a vast and ever-changing maze that is inhabited by strange creatures called the Grievers. 

Can the Gladers like Thomas ever find an escape route and be free?

Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow

By Jessica Townsend

Finally, if you wish to take a break from dystopian battle royales and read something more light-hearted, try the Nevermoor series by Townsend. 

The books follow Morrigan Crow, who was born on an unlucky day and is thus cursed to die in twelve years. But as the day of her death approaches, she is saved by Jupiter North who takes her to the fantastical world of Nevermoor where she takes part in the Wundrous Society trials.

Wildly inventive, thrilling and heartwarming, the Nevermoor books are a perfect palate-cleanser after a dark and gritty read.