10 ‘Squid Game’ Characters, Ranked by intelligence

Squid Game hit Netflix like a storm in 2021, becoming a global obsession. The crazy death game throws 456 players into children’s games, making them risk it all for a shot at the big prize money. It’s no surprise it became a Netflix hit, grabbing Golden Globe nods, SAGA shoutouts, and even bagging a few Emmys. Riding high on this success, Netflix dropped the news of a second season last June. And if that wasn’t enough, they gifted us a British reality show spin-off, Squid Game: The Challenge, on November 22nd.



Besides the crazy plot, what was fascinating about Squid Game was its characters. Maneuvering through insane challenges meant tough decisions, backstabbing, and shattered friendships. Players had to be sharp to outwit each other, and some did it better than the rest. This ranking isn’t just about how smart they were tackling challenges; it’s about their craftiness, sly moves, and how they played the game to outsmart and outpace their competition.

Squid Game
Release Date
September 17, 2021

Jung-Jae Lee, Park Hae-soo, Oh Yeong-su, Wi Ha-joon

Main Genre

Action, Adventure, K-Drama


10 Han Mi-nyeo

Portrayed by Kim Joo-ryoung

Han Mi-nyeo ready to kill both her and Doek-su in Squid Game's glass bridge.
Image via Netflix

Player 212 Han Mi-nyeo is one of the most charismatic players in the game. She stepped into the Squid Games arena burdened by debts, a common thread among the participants. Mi-nyeo, driven by the need to settle her financial score, strategically formed alliances, not fueled by altruism but by a fierce determination to navigate the challenges successfully. Her brief romance with Jang Deok-su adds a poetic touch to their fate in the show.

Acknowledging that she may not be the brightest or the brawniest, Mi-nyeo compensates with a different skill set – manipulation. Masterfully orchestrating alliances and extracting herself from thought situations, she cleverly survived the chaotic riots. Opportunistic and savvy, she consistently sought information about upcoming challenges. Her journey reached a pivotal point at the Glass Stepping Stones, where a blend of calculated intelligence and a stroke of luck propelled her forward. Mi-nyeo’s ability to navigate the complexities of the game highlights the multidimensional strategies at play in the Squid Games.

9 Byeong-gi

Portrayed by Yoo Sung-joo

Byeong-Gi portrayed by Yoo Sung-joo in Squid Game
Image from Netflix

Byeong-gi, a doctor turned organ trafficker, tangled up in a medical mess that landed him in the ruthless Squid Games. Facing mountains of debt from a medical mishap that cost a patient’s life, he entered the deadly competition. In the chaos of the Squid Games, Byeong-gi struck a deal with a shady bunch of guards. All he had to do was carry out surgery on the deceased contestants, extracting organs for the staff’s illicit trade. In return, he pocketed extra food and got the inside scoop on upcoming games. Not a bad hustle, considering the circumstances.

Being a doctor would make Byeong-gi one of the smartest; however, he rarely tackled a challenge without bending the rules. Determination and a fierce will to live were his driving forces, pushing him to cheat. Deep down, he knew he wasn’t the brightest one in the games and cheating became his survival strategy, his one smart move in a game.

8 Abdul Ali

Portrayed by Anupam Tripathi

Ali Abdul the moment he realizes Sang-woo betrayed him in the marble game of 'Squid Game'.
Image via Netflix

Abdul Ali was Player 199 in the Squid Games, a family man, and with a wife and a baby boy. The driving force behind his entry into the games is the desire to secure a better life for his loved ones, especially after his employer left him high and dry. In a plot twist during the first challenge, Ali emerges as the hero by saving Gi-hun’s life, sparking a friendship and alliance. Unfortunately, Ali’s elimination from the Squid Games is sad, a consequence of falling victim to Sang-woo’s cunning tricks in the Marbles challenge.

Known for his kindness, Ali consistently displays moments of strength throughout the challenges. Despite being a fish out of water, not being familiar with Korean customs or the games themselves, he swiftly catches on to the rules. Teamwork is his mantra, and it’s his own trusting nature that eventually leads to his elimination. Ali is definitely an intelligent man; navigating the intricacies of the Squid Games required intelligence, especially considering he had to pick up the Korean language along the way.

7 Jank Deok-su

Portrayed by Heo Sung-tae

Jank Deok-su portrayed by Heo Sung-tae in Squid Games
Image via Netflix

Player 101 is Gangster Jank Deok-su, one of the most aggressive and hostile players in the game. Deok-su wasted no time assembling what he believed to be the toughest crew for the challenges. He orchestrated a riot that resulted in the tragic death of 27 players, all met with a chilling lack of remorse. His one fatal mistake was to betray My-nyeo, who ends up being the reason of his elimination.

Embracing his role as the villain, Deok-su relies on force and a confrontational approach to navigate the brutal games, but he also has moments of strategy. Recognizing the value of insider information, he forges an alliance with Byeong-gi, a move that reveals a layer of calculated intelligence. Deok-su also demonstrated his individual prowess by winning the Marbles challenge, outsmarting an arrogant opponent. However, every tale has its twist, and Deok-su’s fatal misstep comes in the form of betrayal.

6 Hwang In-ho

Portrayed by Lee Byung-hun

Hwang In-ho, portrayed by Lee Byung-hun in Squid Games
Image via Netflix

Hwang In-ho was the head staff of the Squid Games, also known as the Front Man. As the head of the staff, he’s the puppeteer pulling the strings, holding absolute power over all guards. In-ho was a former police officer with a past of obscure dealings and faced financial troubles. This propelled him to participate in the 28th Squid Games in 2015, where he emerged victorious. However, his triumph came at a cost – his once-close relationship with his brother, Hwang Jun-ho, crumbled into oblivion, as In-ho vanished without a trace, cutting ties with his family.

Tasked with overseeing the entire spectacle, In-ho assumes the role of Front Man with a hefty load of responsibilities. From monitoring every screen to intervening when chaos erupts, he runs a tight ship. When the staff is exposed, In-ho executes the « no mercy » policy. Juggling the demands of the VIP room and relaying orders to the host during the event showcases the intricate dance he orchestrates. It’s a workload that demands more than muscle – it demands a strategic mind, and In-ho has the brains to keep this twisted show on the road.

5 Hwang Jun-ho

Portrayed by Wi Ha-joon

Jun-ho, played by Wi Ha-joon, confronts the Front Man in Squid Game.
Image via Netflix

A police detective, Jun-ho took on a risky undercover mission to unearth the truth behind his brother’s disappearance after participating in the 28th Squid Games. Infiltrating the games under the guise of a worker, and then elevating himself to the roles of manager and waiter, Jun-ho’s primary objective was to discover the fate of his missing sibling. The revelation that In-ho not only participated but emerged as the elusive Front Man hit Jun-ho like a thunderbolt. Their final face-off ended in tragedy as Jun-ho, shot by his own brother, plummeted into the ocean, leaving his fate hanging in the balance.

Jun-ho’s journey from dedicated police officer to undercover operative showcased not only his physical prowess but also his sharp intellect. Successfully navigating the treacherous world of the Squid Games, he uncovered a sinister plot involving organ trafficking from deceased players. Maintaining his composure under the guise of a waiter for the VIPs, Jun-ho demonstrated his ability to thrive under pressure. His cunning reached its peak when he managed to extract vital information from a VIP, a testament to his intelligence and strategic prowess in the high-stakes game of survival.

4 Seong Gi-hun

Portrayed by Lee Jung-jae

Gi-hun playing the first game Red Light, Green Light
Image via Netflix

Brilliantly played by Lee Jung-jae, the main character of this show is Seong Gi-hun, also known as Player 456. Driven by the desire to secure a stable financial future for his daughter and wipe out looming debts, Gi-hun steps into the world of the Squid Games. Throughout the twisted journey, Gi-hun showcases not only his intelligence, evident in his triumph in the 33rd Squid Game, but also his empathetic nature. Forming an alliance with Sae-byeok, Sang-Woo, Ali, and Il-Nam, he demonstrates compassion, standing shoulder to shoulder with his fellow players to conquer each harrowing challenge.

However, Gi-hun’s path isn’t without its shadows. Wrestling with a history of gambling addiction, he grappled with substantial debts and faced the menacing presence of loan sharks. His journey through poverty and desperation stems from a series of questionable life choices. In the games, Gi-hun reveals moments of brilliance, using strategies like throwing sand to gain the upper hand, yet, his compassionate core prevents him from taking a life. It’s this blend of intelligence, empathy, and kindness that makes Seong Gi-hun a compelling and multi-dimensional protagonist.

3 Kang Sae-Byeok

Portrayed by HoYeon Jung

Kang Sae Byeok, portrayed by HoYeon Jung, in Squid Games
Image via Netflix

Player 067 Kang Sae-Byeok was one of the finalists of the competition. The bond with her little brother is the driving force behind her determination, and she places her trust in Gi-hun to look after him in case she doesn’t make it. Sae-Byeok was always very quiet, rarely revealing her emotions. However, a pivotal moment in the Marbles game, where Ji-yeong sacrifices herself for Sae-Byeok to advance, cracks her tough exterior, showcasing a more vulnerable side as tears flow.

Navigating the games with a calculated calmness, Sae-Byeok relies on her own tactics and intellect to clinch victories in the initial challenges. Recognizing the importance of alliances, she joins forces with Gi-hun’s team, acknowledging that survival is only possibly with collaboration. Her level-headed approach and strategic game propel her forward, but her journey takes a tragic turn when Sang-woo inflicts a fatal wound, eliminating her from the competition.

2 Cho Sang-Woo

Portrayed by Park Hae-soo

Sang-woo, played by Park Hae-soo in Squid Game. in the last rounds of the Squid Game
Image via Netflix

Player 218 is Cho Sang-Woo, the childhood best friend of Gi-hun. Initially, Sang-Woo forms an alliance with Gi-hun and Ali. However, as the game progresses, his true colors emerge – survival at any cost, even if it means betraying those who trust him. Once a cunning player, Sang-Woo’s ruthlessness intensifies with each advancing challenge, showcasing a single-minded focus on claiming the ultimate prize. The Marbles game becomes a dark turning point, as he deceives and abandons Ali, sealing his fate. Sang-Woo goes further, taking the lives of two more players to secure his position in the competition.

Described as an exceptionally intelligent and successful businessperson, Sang-Woo studied at Seoul National University, one of the world’s top institutions. He then took the leadership of an investment team, engaging in illegal businesses, which led him to lose billions of Korean won, marking the beginning of his downward spiral. While Sang-Woo’s actions in the Squid Games are undeniably cruel, they are strategically calculated, reflecting the sharp mind that once led him to success. Yet, in a cruel twist of fate, his calculated moves do not guarantee victory, underscoring the harsh realities of the unpredictable game he entered.

1 Oh Il-Nam

Portrayed by O Yeong-su

Il-Nam during the opening game of Squid Game
Image via Netflix

Oh Il-Nam disguised as an elderly gentleman, orchestrated the dark spectacle that is the Squid Games. Bored with the opulence of his wealthy life, Il-Nam found that his clients shared the sentiment that money alone didn’t make life exciting. Il-Nam decided to create Squid Games, a sinister competition that he hosted until 2019. Il-Nam had a cheerful personality, always on the lookout for sources of amusement. He believed participating was more exhilarating than mere observation, genuinely relishing the experience.

Il-Nam’s brilliance shines through in the intricate design of the death games. Creating a complex, multi-level challenge required meticulous planning and strategic thinking, a testament to his intelligence. Years of observing contestants allowed him to fine-tune the games, analyzing their behavior to optimize the thrilling spectacle he craved. His financial status is equally commendable, having amassed his fortune through a career of lending money, which paid off handsomely later in life. Additionally, Il-Nam’s talent for savvy investments set him apart, explaining his elevated status above Sang-Woo, who faced financial downfall through unfortunate choices. Il-Nam stands as a mastermind whose intelligence, wealth, and quest for amusement shaped the chilling narrative of the deadly competition.

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