Happy end of 2019/almost start of 2020! This year has been quite busy for audio dramas, with a lot of premieres of new fantastic shows! Here is my list of the top 30 audio dramas of 2019.
- Must have at least three full episodes out
- Must have released at least one full episode in 2019
- Full episode can be of any length, but must not be a teaser, trailer, or mini-episode
- Must have some element of fiction
30. It Was Never Just About The Revolution
If you missed this gem, now’s the time to catch up. At ten minutes an episode and six episodes total, you can hear its glory in just an hour. For such a short show, It Was Never Just About The Revolution packs a lot into each episode, and has built a beautiful (if terrifying) world. Sunny Chang does an incredible job as Jemma, the lead, and is able to bring the world to life even without anyone to play off of.
cw: grief, violence, death
29. Quid Pro Euro
Another short show that you can listen to in the same timespan as an average blockbuster movie, Quid Pro Euro is a clever comedy podcast. While I don’t always get the jokes (I am Canadian, so it’s inevitable that some won’t land), the ridiculous nature of the show means that I’m always finding something to enjoy.
Have a box of tissues next to you for this one, it’s a hard hitter. The powerful story of a Korean American son and his immigrant mother and their struggles to connect as they don’t speak the same language, MOONFACE focuses on Paul trying to figure out how – and if – he should come out prior to their trip to Korea.
cw: homophobia, racism
27. Oracle of Dusk
Oracle of Dusk is a powerhouse of what I am going to call “vague storytelling” (there’s probably a proper theoretical name for it, but I don’t know it). This is a story that is told without any real details – the clients are not named, the Oracle is not named, and many details are brushed over (e.g. “after that day in your office” but the events of said day are not described). Despite this lack of detail, you always know exactly what the Oracle is talking about because the emotions are there. It is absolutely beautiful.
cw: grief, abuse, gaslighting, manipulation, addiction, death, choking
26. Love and Luck
Love and Luck is the soft queer romcom you’ve been waiting for, with the wonderful addition of stories of resistance and strength right alongside the romance. Season two focuses on queer history and how it ties in with modern queer resistance movements, and is just as gorgeous as season one.
cw: homophobic & transphobic violence, abuse, raised voices, alcohol, panic attacks, poverty, ableism (addressed), injury, blood, medical procedures, loud noises, anxiety, PTSD, grief, death
Looking for a fun comedy to relax to on the weekends? I recommend Oblivity. This podcast about the crew of a Pluto research station is absolutely hilarious and will have you falling in love with the main cast by the end of the first episode. Oblivity’s episodes are largely stand alone, so it’s also good for a more interspersed listen if you need/want to listen to something else between episodes (which I always appreciate).
cw: violence, death, war
24. Mission Rejected
Mission Rejected gradually turns on the heat, building to a season finale that ties everything all together. Mission Rejected plays to one of my weak points, which is a ragtag crew of misfits tasked with stopping complete destruction. It’s funny, it’s emotional, it’s well written and well acted; in short, it’s wonderful.
cw: violence, guns
23. Barjory Buffet: The Cruise Detective
If your weakness is mysteries but you don’t love how sad most end up being, I highly recommend checking out Barjory Buffet. It takes the premise of mysteries – a detective skilled in deduction with a reoccurring sidekick and an intriguing murder premise – and makes everything twenty times more ridiculous. Add to that the absolutely incredible acting of the two leads, played by Rachel Crowe and Brad Beideman, and you have a recipe for a fantastic show.
cw: violence, death, vomiting, murder, alcohol, teeth, death threats, gambling, enclosed spaces, fatphobia, animal death, crowd noises, kidnapping
22. How i Died
There are a few common premises for audio dramas. One is a missing person. The other is a small town with a secret. How i Died falls into that second category and puts a new spin on it with ghosts and murder. The acting is fantastic and the audio editing is absolutely gorgeous. It will pull you in right from the start and has me sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for season two.
cw: violence, death, terrorism, grief, rape, abuse
21. Moonbase Theta, Out
Moonbase Theta, Out broke from form this year by switching to 20 minute episodes for season two and expanding the cast beyond Leeman Kessler’s Roger Bragado-Fisher to retell season one beyond the formal communications back to Earth that we saw in season one. While I had already been a fan of Moonbase Theta, Out, season two cemented it as a show that I truly loved with amazing performances delivered by all the cast.
cw: death, enclosed spaces, grief, injury
20. Nym’s Nebulous Notions
This is another one of 2019’s hidden gems. Nym’s Nebulous Notions dropped all on one day and is a contained story, so wasn’t talked about much after the first few days. But it is truly fantastic. The voice acting is wonderful, and the story is so engaging. It’s one of those stories that really stays with you.
cw: death, grief
19. VAST Horizon
The sound editing for VAST Horizon is exemplary. The show takes place on a spaceship that is falling apart and focuses on Dr. Nolira Eck as she tries to make her way to safety, and it really feels like you’re running right alongside her. Siobhan Lumsden and Tanja Milojevic give absolutely incredible performances as Nolira and AI respectively.
cw: death, violence, genocide, injury, grief, war
18. Fan Wars: The Empire Claps Back
Microfiction has become increasingly popular in recent years, and is incredibly difficult to get right. No show has captured the beauty of what microfiction can do quite like Fan Wars. A show built on a love for Star Wars and a romance that blossoms out of that love, Shenee Howard has created something truly unique.
17. The Amelia Project
The Amelia Project also broke from their season one form this year, introducing an overarching season long plot and including more details about the mysterious Amelia Project and its origins. Season two included some of their best episodes, and took risks that 100% paid off. The Amelia Project is doing some fascinating new things with the “characters are recording this dialogue” format, and you should be paying attention to them.
cw: violence, death, suicide, kidnapping, transphobia, murder, guns, medical procedures, broken glass, not safe for driving
Timestorm rereleased their first handful of episodes and the rest of their first season this year and is one of the most beautiful audio dramas I’ve heard. Timestorm has struck the perfect note and created a show that is informative, important, and enjoyable to adults and children alike.
cw: sexism, bullying, deals with Hurricane Maria, but does not portray the hurricane itself
15. McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop
This is a last minute edition to this list because I literally just finished it two days ago at the time of writing, so that should tell you everything you need to know. The writing is incredible. Every episode is only ten minutes long yet so much happens in each one because Minerva Sweeney Wren doesn’t mince words. The characters are all so real and complex, and pull you right along on the adventure from the moment you press play.
cw: murder, death, violence
Oh, Centered. The brief great love of my life this year. Centered has only released four episodes so far (thus making it JUST BARELY ELIGIBLE for this list) and is currently between seasons, but it was an instant fave. Panic attacks are depicted realistically without being likely to trigger one in listeners, and complicated family dynamics are portrayed realistically and respectfully.
cw: anxiety, panic attacks, drugs, NSFW
13. Quietly Yours
I don’t know how, but Quietly Yours has perfected what I’m going to call “comfort horror.” That’s when they’re saying something truly horrific but their voice is so soothing that you still want to listen to it before bed. Despite being an anthology, each episode features fully fleshed out and interesting lead characters, even though the story is the main focus.
cw: death, zombies, violence, death threats, murder, drowning, existential talk, war
12. Prism Pals
Prism Pals has released some absolutely buckwild episodes this year, but they’ve kept their focus on developing the party and plot. The cast is composed of some strong personalities, which makes every episode fun to listen to, without having one player overshadow the others or get left in the dust. The characters are a delight, and while there are a lot of NPCs, they’re all distinct and memorable.
Disclaimer: I did appear on their Pride Week Q&A. That did not affect the show’s placement on this list.
cw: violence, death, child endangerment, guns, death threats, enclosed spaces, grief, manipulation, injury, blood, electrocution
11. Greater Boston
In 2019, Greater Boston released the conclusion to their third season, which dealt with the aftermath of the mayoral election. It’s a powerful ending to a powerful season that tackled social issues ranging from racism to classism and how those problems intersect for many people. Alexander Danner and Jeff Van Dreasen approach these topics with care and respect for the real life people listening to the show.
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
10. Bike Brigade
Bike Brigade finished their series this fall, and while I’m sad to see it go, I can’t say I didn’t love the ride. Bike Brigade is absolutely hilarious, and while each episode had me nearly crying with laughter, they also always had at least one strong emotional moment. This year’s episodes have dealt with being closeted in the sixties, the loss of a parent, and the after effects of trauma. Each issue is tackled with respect and thoughtfulness, with enough time for listeners to sit and reflect before the party moves onto the next scene.
cw: gore, raised voices, blood, injury, brainwashing, choking, grief, manipulation, gaslighting, kidnapping, death threats, fire, murder, screaming, child endangerment, abuse, death, violence, drowning
9. Solutions to Problems
This year was big for comedy shows getting a little bit more serious with their overarching plotlines. Solutions to Problems always dealt with questions that were somewhat serious in nature – though it was always a comedy show – but this year it tackled why one of the leads, Loaf, had left his home planet and what the repercussions of that for his family were. This year also featured the fantastic “Hot Messes Together” which is quite possibly the best comedy episode I have ever heard.
cw: raised voices, death threats, war, existential talk, death, violence
8. The Beacon
The Beacon may have only just returned for season two last month, but it’s already showing why it’s one of the current greats in the audio drama world. Each line is nailed by the actors, each episode has a focus so that information is concisely imparted on the listener, and the writing is absolutely stunning.
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. Quest Friends!
Quest Friends! has quite possibly the cutest aesthetic of any audio drama currently airing. It is promoted as having “tone and worldbuilding reminiscent of Avatar: The Last Airbender,” and I really can’t think of a better way to describe it. The players all do a fantastic job at developing the world through their characters, and the GM, Kyle Decker, does an incredible job describing the scenes, even if his descriptions are a bit cursed at times.
cws: violence, death, spiders, murder, existential talk, death threats, gambling, manipulation, toxic relationships, grief, drowning, miscarriage, injury, blood, choking
CARAVAN is the queer audio drama that you’ve been waiting for. It plays with pre-existing conventions of storytelling (narrator, cliffhangers, etc.) but makes all of them seem fresh and exciting, like CARAVAN was the one that invented them. CARAVAN delivers an exciting story with some absolutely fantastic performances from its leads, especially from Sushant Adlakha, the voice of Samir.
Note: CARAVAN is 18+
cw: violence, death, guns, existential talk, anxiety
5. Lakeshore and Limbo
My one weakness in life….. mysteries. Add to those mysteries a team of loveable idiots, and you have an irresistible show that also happens to be Lakeshore and Limbo. The mysteries are well developed enough that you actually do have a mystery each time, rather than a “how have you not figured this out yet” each time, and it’s 100% possible for the listener to solve the mystery alongside the players. The players are all fantastic, and the way they play off of each other is incredible. There’s never a missed beat, and the story keeps moving in interesting ways, even if the team’s just talking in the Winnebago.
cw: violence, death, child endangerment, vomiting, body horror, murder, guns, alcohol, fire, blackmail, death threats, enclosed spaces, claustrophobia, kidnapping, injury, blood, raised voices, gore, zombies
4. The Magnus Archives
The amount of effort and build up that has gone into The Magnus Archives is absolutely incredible. There were reveals this season that had been built up since episode one. Not one word is wasted. The Magnus Archives is a horror podcast, but rather than the moral of “everything’s terrible and everyone’s going to die,” it insists on hope even in the worst situations. I think saying that it’s purely a hopeful show is a stretch, as bad things do happen, but it never tries to tell the listener that it’s impossible to beat the Entities or that rebuilding is impossible. It will be hard, and people will be lost, but The Magnus Archives never loses itself to despair.
cw: violence, death, gore, body horror, murder, police brutality, cults, paranoia, loud noises, insects, brainwashing, grief, manipulation, gaslighting, torture, kidnapping, enclosed spaces, spiders
3. Queer Dungeoneers
This is quite possibly the most ridiculous serious show I’ve ever listened to. Now, I know that a lot of the shows on this list fall into the category of “this is hilarious but also very serious” (I might have a type), but Queer Dungeoneers really is absolutely batshit crazy for a story that is all about stopping the apocalypse, fighting Death, and reuniting with dead loved ones. Queer Dungeoneers covered a lot of ground this year (41 episodes!) and I don’t think there was a bad episode among them. Episode 35 even earned my first (and only!) six star ruling.
cw: zombies, raised voices, blood, injury, death, grief, fire, murder, violence, toxic relationships, manipulation, child endangerment, enclosed spaces, abuse
2. Stellar Firma
Stellar Firma was the first of two podcasts that got a perfect score while I was making this list. That means that I can think of absolutely nothing that I would change about it. The acting is perfect, the soundscapes are incredible, the improv is hilarious, I love it all. It’s the kind of dark satire that weirdly makes you feel better afterwards, even after jokes about a planet blowing up because of the characters’ ineptitudes. It just works.
cw: violence, death
1. Inn Between
This is it, folks. The top show of 2019. A soft, found family story about an adventuring party trying to save a kingdom and keep themselves together. The actors give absolutely stunning performances, and the writing is incredible. Inn Between has been getting five stars from me almost every episode since season two began because oh my gosh, this show is so emotional and beautiful. Hannah Wright has created a modern classic.
cw: enclosed spaces, death, violence, alcohol, choking, references to child endangerment, murder