2018 is almost over! We did it! Another year done!
This year featured incredible audio drama debuts, finales to classics, and continuations of great shows. Here are my personal favourites from this year. Please remember that this is based on my own personal opinion and if a show’s not on the list it doesn’t mean that it’s bad or that I hate it.
- Must have released at least one episode in 2018
- Must have multiple episodes out
- Could be an actual play, but must have some element of fiction
Interference is one of the cutest love stories that came out this year. The characters are true to life, and the writing allows for calm episodes of character development in between more intense plot-focused episodes. Geneva coming out to Jacq came at just the right moment for me. I love that Chel accepts queer people but not trans people, as that mirrors much of my own experience.
cw: transphobia (addressed), loud noises, screaming, fire, explosions, raised voices
29. H.G. Wells Has His Regrets
The English major nerd in me jumped at this show as soon as I heard about it and I DO NOT regret it. It’s an absolute delight, with a fantastic performance from James Carpenter as H.G. Wells. Every time he yells about his time machine five years are added to my life span. H.G. Wells Has His Regrets makes learning about classic authors interesting and accessible (you just need a time machine to do so).
cw: existential talk
28. Flyest Fables
Flyest Fables is the type of show you want to listen to while curled up with a cup of tea. Morgan Givens has such a soothing voice. He does the voice acting for all of the characters and manages to make each voice distinct. The concept of storykeepers feels like something I would have read when I was younger, giving each episode a nice touch of nostalgia even though the story is set in the modern day.
cw: bullying, poverty, grief, mentions of racism
27. The Far Meridian
The Far Meridian made a name for itself as a great audio drama with a strong first season. Returning this year with its second, it did not disappoint. This season has focused more on Peri’s relationship with her parents and perfectly captures the tension that can emerge between parents and their adult children. Eli Barraza continues to amaze with her strong performance as Peri.
cw: electrocution, loud noises, injury, crowd noises, panic attacks, agoraphobia, explosions, vomiting, death, violence, anxiety, PTSD
26. Lesser Gods
With each scene monologued by a different character voicing all roles, Lesser Gods’ setup could have very easily failed but the skills of its main cast pulls it off. Lesser Gods is an innovative show taking the end of humanity and turning it into a story of endurance, strength, and love of many kinds (and also a bit of murder).
cw: violence, death, abuse, vomiting, murder, NSFW, guns, alcohol, needles, drugs, medical procedures, slut shaming (addressed), blackmail, explosions, enclosed spaces, kidnapping, manipulation, grief, miscarriage, crowd noises, injury, blood, raised voices, loud noises. The recent season has dealt with the aftermath of a difficult pregnancy and labour (including a C-section) and the entire show involves the main characters forced to have sex in an attempt to repopulate the Earth.
Aftershocks is a horror story set at a mental health hospital where, for once, the patients are not the villains and mental illness isn’t scary. Aftershocks portrays mentally ill people with respect and dignity not typically afforded to those who have the less “acceptable” mental illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
cw: needles, electrocution, loud noises, raised voices, blood, injury, grief, panic attacks, manipulation, gaslighting, drugging, kidnapping, broken glass, sirens, murder, screaming, transphobia (addressed), child endangerment, abuse, self-harm, suicide, death, violence, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, Tourette’s syndrome
24. We Fix Space Junk
We Fix Space Junk is the space comedy you’ve been looking for. Kilner and Samantha are such a delight to follow, voiced by the fantastic Beth Crane and Rebecca Evans. Crane also writes each episode, delivering mind-blowing landscapes with each planet the duo travels to.
cw: death, screaming, cannibalism, crowd noises, murder, guns, medical procedures, death threats, enclosed spaces, drugging, poverty, grief, brainwashing, injury, blood, raised voices, insects, loud noises
23. Solutions to Problems
Solutions to Problems are half hour episodes that manage to feel like half a minute. Although the problems sent in are all somewhat alien in nature, there’s something distinctly familiar about each one, even if it’s tackling how to handle your partner having affairs with a you from a different timeline. Solutions to Problems finds what we all have in common, and does so through delightful hosts Janet and Loaf, voiced by the incredible Austin Hendricks and Nathan Comstock.
cw: raised voices, death threats, war, existential talk, death, violence
22. Time Bombs
Time Bombs is the product of one week’s work from Fear of Public Shame, the masterminds behind Wolf 359. No, seriously. They made an entire three episode production in a week and it made my top 30 list. Fear of Public Shame really is THAT GOOD.
cw: violence, raised voices, injury, loud noises
21. Janus Descending
Janus Descending is an intense journey. The scrambled order of the episodes means that you know how Chel and Peter’s journey will end, but incredible performances by Jordan Cobb and Anthony Olivieri and strong audio editing by Julia Schifini makes for a story full of suspense. You don’t want to miss out on Janus Descending.
cw: gore, loud noises, raised voices, blood, injury, choking, grief, broken glass, guns, murder, body horror, vomiting, screaming, death, violence
20. Tails from the Dark Dragons Inn
Tails from the Dark Dragons Inn is such a fun actual play. It’s so clear that the players are having fun making the show and genuinely love their characters and DND. The world building that has gone into the show (particularly the second season) is incredible and I cannot wait to find out the answers to the mystery they’re currently weaving.
cw: violence, death, child endangerment, body horror, murder, alcohol, fire, enclosed spaces, claustrophobia, kidnapping, torture, slavery, poverty, grief, animal death, injury, blood, gore
19. The Infinite Bad
It’s been three months and I’m still upset about The Infinite Bad’s finale. It was the perfect end to a brilliant adventure. The Infinite Bad is a brilliant example of just how big a story actual play podcasts can tell and how much you can do with just a few characters. Saying goodbye to Dorothy, Cornelia, Sebastian, and Joy was one of the hardest goodbyes of the year.
cw: violence, death, child endangerment, racism (addressed), vomiting, body horror, murder, guns, alcohol, fire, drowning, medical procedures, purposeful mouth noises, teeth, death threats, enclosed spaces, claustrophobia, kidnapping, drugging, torture, grief, choking, colonization, injury, blood, gore
18. What’s the Frequency?
The audio editing in What’s the Frequency? is so badass, I love it. What’s the Frequency? tells a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the last second. It’s one of the last shows that I listened to this year, and I’m so glad that I was able to squeeze it in right at the end.
cw: violence, death, suicide, self-harm, child endangerment, screaming, vomiting, body horror, murder, police brutality, guns, purposeful mouth noises, broken glass, teeth, blackmail, explosions, death threats, gambling, kidnapping, drugging, torture, manipulation, toxic relationships, grief, choking, brainwashing, crowd noises, injury, blood, raised voices, loud noises, electrocution, gore
17. Girl in Space
Girl in Space is the perfect show to heal the hole in your heart from Wolf 359 ending last year. Follow X as she tries to solve mysteries of the past and present colliding together in a fiery explosion at the same time that her space station is taken over by an ominous company. If Sarah Rhea Werner’s amazing writing wasn’t enough, she also gives a killer performance as X, alongside equally great performances from the rest of the cast, most notably Kay Krause, Lincoln Donovan, Josh Crute, and Jamie Killen.
cw: needles, gore, electrocution, loud noises, raised voices, blood, injury, grief, manipulation, gaslighting, enclosed spaces, death threats, explosions, broken glass, sirens, medical procedures, guns, murder, death, violence
16. Dark Ages
Dark Ages goes a new route by updating a fantasy setting to modern day. It never tries to shy away from either element, and thus delivers a truly unique story. The writing is humorous but allows for moments of serious emotions. Most of the voice actors perform more than one role, and are able to make each part distinct without much trouble.
cw: violence, screaming, NSFW, alcohol, death threats, crowd noises, raised voices, loud noises, enclosed spaces
15. Fate and the Fablemaidens
Fate and the Fablemaidens has done a lot in under a year. Renee Rhodes does a fantastic job world building as the DM, and the players have built incredible characters that are a joy to follow each episode. Their first character focused arc just started, focusing on Sam Turley’s Changeling Barbarian. Turley has been delivering an emotionally devastating performance since the arc began, and I cannot wait to see how Twyddle will grow and change over the next few episodes.
cw: raised voices, kidnapping, explosions, fire, drugs, guns, violence
14. Love and Luck
Love and Luck is a piece of queer happiness in a world of queer fear. But never one to ignore the realities of the world, this year Erin Kyan showed what queer resistance looks like: love, compassion, anger, hope, and just a splash of magic. Kyan also delivers a poignant performance as lead Jason, with Lee Davis-Thalbourne amazing as Kane right beside him.
cw: homophobic & transphobic violence, abuse, raised voices, alcohol, panic attacks, poverty, ableism (addressed), injury, blood, medical procedures, loud noises, anxiety, PTSD
13. Within the Wires
Within the Wires season 3 is the best yet. Not only switching focus from citizens of the new society to one of its creators but also travelling back in time from its previous seasons, Within the Wires delivers a fresh new look at a world that is sure to excite. Lee LeBreton’s paranoia-filled performance as Michael Witten will keep you on the edge of your seat.
cw: paranoia, blood, injury, animal cruelty, needles, brainwashing, grief, manipulation, gaslighting, torture, drugging, kidnapping, agoraphobia, claustrophobia, enclosed spaces, blackmail, war, medical procedures, drowning, alcohol, body horror, child endangerment, abuse, suicide, death, violence
12. The Adventure Zone
It’s hard to create anything that will stand up to the incredible piece of storytelling that was Balance, but if you think that’s going to stop the McElroys from trying, you are dead wrong. Travis McElroy delivered an amazing murder mystery in experimental mini-arc Dust, and Griffin McElroy has been running Amnesty – originally one of the experimental arcs – as a full campaign since April, delighting fans with each new episode.
cw: violence, death, child endangerment, body horror, spiders, murder, guns, alcohol, fire, drugs, existential talk, medical procedures, war, explosions, gambling, suicide, enclosed spaces, torture, grief, choking, animal cruelty, slavery, injury, blood, raised voices, insects, needles
11. Mount Olympus University
Mount Olympus University has been one of the most delightful new shows I heard this year and I look forward to the new episodes every week. Raeanna Nicole Larson writes and stars in the production, and does a better job each episode, even when you think it’s impossible. Mount Olympus University started out great and is only going up from here.
cw: anxiety, raised voices, toxic relationships, alcohol, vomiting, abuse
10. Super Ordinary
Marissa Tandon has delivered an incredible story in a short span of time. Each episode covers such a large portion of the plot and moves the story and characters forward in leaps and bounds, despite being only ten minutes long, sometimes even shorter. The actors deliver incredibly raw performances, immersing you entirely in the story, to the point where I’ve been startled when the episode ends and I have to return to real life.
cw: violence, child endangerment, screaming, alcohol, sirens, broken glass, explosions, panic attacks, ableism (addressed), miscarriage, crowd noises, injury, blood, raised voices, loud noises, anxiety
Arden is a raw and honest look at the ethics of the true crime genre. Christoper Dole, Sara Ghaleb, and Emily VanDerWerff do an incredible job building a story that keeps the listener in suspense, while also questioning why these are stories that we gravitate towards, whose stories we look at, and the harm these stories cause those in the vicinity of it. Michelle Agresti and Tracey Sayed deliver emotionally stunning performances as leads Bea Casely and Brenda Bentley, with all the subtly (and over emotionality) that is needed of the roles. If you have any interest in true crime whatsoever, Arden is a must listen.
cw: gore, raised voices, blood, injury, crowd noises, electrocution, grief, gaslighting, drugging, enclosed spaces, sexism (addressed), blackmail, sirens, slut shaming (addressed), sexual harassment, alcohol, murder, body horror, vomiting, screaming, homophobia (addressed), child endangerment, abuse, rape (not depicted), death, violence
8. The Beacon
Claudia Elvidge has delivered an absolutely incredible piece of art. Each character feels so real and is treated with such respect. While they all have different values and priorities, none of them are demonized for choosing to focus on themselves and their futures. The audience is allowed to make up their minds regarding their feelings towards each character, and while the podcast obviously centres Bee’s voice, it never presents her as infallible.
cw: violence, death, homophobia (addressed), screaming, alcohol, fire, medical procedures, explosions, panic attacks, animal death, crowd noises, injury, blood, raised voices, insects, loud noises, anxiety, grief, mentions of bullying
7. The End of Time and Other Bothers
The End of Time and Other Bothers has one of the best parties of any actual play show. They’re a mismatched team, but the crew makes it work so well. They’re supposed to be saving all of time, but they keep angering goddesses and getting attacked by zombies, so it’s not going great so far, mostly due to their own mistakes.
cw: zombies, cannibalism, raised voices, blood, injury, fatphobia, drugging, kidnapping, death threats, explosions, drugs, guns, murder, vomiting, screaming, death, violence
6. Prism Pals
Prism Pals is such a cute show. The cast is all queer and just want to create a family-friendly queer actual play show. The players are all clearly having fun just playing DND and goofing around. The DM, Russ, has created an absolutely amazing world that I just want to run around in and explore because it’s so incredible and interesting.
Note: One of the players died shortly after they began recording and releasing episodes. This is dealt with in the show (in a very respectful way) so please look after yourselves.
cw: violence, death, child endangerment, guns, death threats, enclosed spaces, grief, manipulation, injury, blood, electrocution
5. Kids on Bikes
Kids on Bikes is the funniest show that I’ve had the pleasure to listen to this year. Nearly each episode has me crying with laughter, which makes it the WORST show to listen to in public, but the best show to listen to when I’m feeling down. While it’s absolutely hilarious, it’s also emotionally devastating, with serious moments that sometimes require you to pause the episode and just sit with them for a moment.
cw: gore, raised voices, blood, injury, brainwashing, choking, grief, manipulation, gaslighting, kidnapping, death threats, fire, murder, screaming, child endangerment, abuse, death, violence, drowning
Kaleidotrope is the show that I wish I had when I was a teenager. It’s cute and celebrates queer love of all kinds without shaming. It’s the perfect slow burn pining story where both characters are so obviously in love with one another but won’t admit it. It’s every fanfiction trope wrapped up with a lovely queer bow. It is, to put it simply, one of the greatest shows I’ll likely ever listen to.
cw: abuse, NSFW, blackmail, kidnapping, toxic relationships, crowd noises, raised voices, loud noises
3. Archive 81
Archive 81 season three is a feat of audio engineering and writing unlike any other. Each episode is powerful and absolutely stunning to listen to. Kristen DiMercurio and Peter Musante deliver incredible performances as Chris and Nicolas, giving just the right amount of fear and determination needed for the characters.
cw: needles, gore, cannibalism, electrocution, loud noises, raised voices, blood, injury, brainwashing, animal death, choking, grief, panic attacks, manipulation, gaslighting, torture, drugging, kidnapping, enclosed spaces, death threats, explosions, blackmail, teeth, broken glass, medical procedures, drowning, existential talk, fire, guns, murder, violence, body horror, vomiting, screaming, abuse, self-harm, death
2. Greater Boston
Greater Boston is one of the most powerful shows out right now. It deals intimately with racism, classism, isolation, grief, and addiction in ways that are respectful to those impacted. Alexander Danner and Jeff Van Dreason continue to deliver episodes that pack a lot of punch and keep the listener in suspense. Each episode builds on the last to create an absolutely stunning narrative.
cw: violence, death, suicide, child endangerment, racism (addressed), screaming, vomiting, NSFW, guns, alcohol, drugs, fire, existential talk, medical procedures, blackmail, explosions, trivializing mental illness (addressed), enclosed space, claustrophobia, agoraphobia, kidnapping, manipulation, panic attacks, poverty, victim blaming, grief, brainwashing, racial profiling, addiction, crowd noises, injury, raised voices, loud noises, PTSD, OCD
1. The Bridge
Shocking absolutely nobody, my top show of the year is The Bridge. It continues to develop an amazing story with the best characters and voice actors, while questioning what it means to belong and connect with others. Alex Brown and Rebecca Mahoney are incredible writers and have worked so hard this to give what is, simply put, the absolute best thing ever.
cw: depression, anxiety, gore, loud noises, raised voices, blood, injury, animal cruelty, animal death, grief, panic attacks, manipulation, drugging, kidnapping, gambling, death threats, sirens, medical procedures, drowning, existential talk, alcohol, guns, murder, child endangerment, suicide, death, violence