Podcasting is the perfect partner for storytelling, and people have been using this platform to tell fictional tales since the medium itself was born.
And just like podcasting on a whole, fiction podcasting has grown steadily year after year.
The term “fiction podcast” can mean many things to many people, but for me, I prefer the use of dialogue, music and sound effects to tell stories.
I still often enjoy narrated podcasts and fiction radio station-style shows, but I’m a fan of audio drama above all else.
Creating a “Best Fiction Podcasts” List
Obviously any “best of” list is totally subjective. This is just my own personal opinion, and you might understandably come up with a list of 10 completely different shows yourself.
My actual list of favourite fiction podcasts is long enough to fill a small ebook, and I’m hearing great new shows being launched every other week now.
Whittling this list down to a mere 10 was a painful experience, but I’ve got my reasons for choosing each of them, as you’ll hear.
So let’s start right at the top… (oh, and a word of warning, some of the audio clips are NSFW!)
1. We’re Alive
We’re Alive is the story of a small group of survivors caught in the midst of a zombie apocalypse in Los Angeles. This series began in 2009 and helped shape the medium of Modern Audio Drama as we know it today.
We’re Alive is a show that managed to nail everything. Well-written, well-acted, and extremely well-produced on a consistent release schedule. It isn’t at all surprising that the show has since shot past the 60 million download mark.
See also, Bronzeville.
2. Edict Zero FIS
Edict Zero FIS is a cyberpunk crime drama that takes place on an Earth-like planet in the distant future.
To be honest, I’ll never be able to pick a favourite between this show and We’re Alive, and this is more of a “joint first” than second place.
With Edict Zero, the depth and detail of the characters and story is unrivalled anywhere else in the audio drama world. On top of that, it has probably the finest soundscape and production levels that you’re ever likely to hear.
Though the release schedule isn’t exactly consistent, the episodes are huge, and there’s a big back catalogue to binge through.
3. Campfire Radio Theater
If horror is your bag, then look no further than Campfire Radio Theater.
Campfire is an anthology series, where tales of the macabre range between original works and adaptations of popular legends and mysteries.
The chilling writing of each story is brought to life in its own eerie and atmospheric soundscape that fuels the imagination.
With 20 episodes in 5 years, Campfire’s approach is undoubtedly that of quality over quantity. But when new episodes drop into my feed, they go straight to the top of my playlist.
4. The Once & Future Nerd
The Once & Future Nerd is the story of a group of US High School kids who find themselves transported to a world of orcs, elves, and warring armies.
The series lovingly mocks the quest-driven fantasy tropes we see in RPG games like Skyrim. And yet, at the same time, has built an immersive world that absolutely does take itself seriously.
With ToaFN, the creators themselves will admit that it took a few episodes to find their feet production-wise. But trust me, the series quickly blossoms into something amazing.
5. Hadron Gospel Hour
In Hadron Gospel Hour an attempt to weaponise the Great Hadron Collider has gone horribly wrong, resulting in the destruction of our timeline.
I’ve always considered HGH to be one of the most unique audio dramas out there. Early episodes tended to feature a lot of sketches, skits, and even non-scripted interviews.
As the series evolved, more emphasis was gradually placed on the weird and wonderful main characters. Not only is it an incredibly funny and well-made show, it’s also a shining example of the creative freedom you have as a fiction podcaster.
6. Alba Salix: Royal Physician
Alba Salix Royal Physician is the story of a witch and long suffering employee of a bickering King and Queen in a land of magic and fairies.
Despite this grand high-fantasy setting, Alba Salix is a hilarious sitcom where much of the humour comes from the more mundane aspects of the characters’ lives.
Episode 5 – To Market, To Market – is some of the best audio drama comedy writing I’ve ever heard.
7. Wynabego Warrior
Wynabego Warrior is a modern day old west tale. The story of a man determined to find the old west that he remembers from the silver screen of his youth.
This is an incredibly funny character-driven show that grows on you with each episode. I’ve always thought that it had a kind of King of the Hill/Mike Judge vibe about it.
An audio drama in the traditional sense of the word, this is the debut series from Kentucky-based group Audioblivious, who’s production quality has gone from good to great as the show has progressed.
8. The Bright Sessions
The Bright Sessions is a science fiction audio drama about people with supernatural abilities in therapy with the mysterious Dr Bright.
Like many “indie” shows, The Bright Sessions started with humble beginnings. By mid-2016 though the show’s popularity and fanbase had started to snowball.
It’s now one of the best-known fiction podcasts out there, and is now currently in development for television.
The raw quality of the actors’ performance grabbed me with this show immediately from episode 1, and few shows can rival the chemistry clearly present between these characters.
9. The Black Tapes
The Black Tapes is an investigation of the paranormal. The team look into a number of demonic and ghostly occurrences which gradually appear to have some sort of chilling connection to each other.
The show’s “as real” documentary approach helped influence many other creators in recent years, as the “docudrama” became a subgenre in its own right.
It’s also very accessible for podcast listeners who had previously only consumed factual shows. The Black Tapes continues to pull countless new listeners into fiction podcasting, and has been great for the visibility of the medium as a whole.
10. The Truth
The Truth is a long-running anthology show that has mastered the intimacy of audio drama.
From an alternative history trip to the moon, to the death of Edgar Allen Poe, The Truth’s subject matter has always been truly eclectic.
The episode That’s Democracy is some of the finest audio drama ever made, and managed to do more in 13 minutes than what many films achieve in a couple of hours.
For a great self-contained audio-drama, check out Locke & Key with a free trial on Audible US or Audible UK.
Over a few hours of completely spellbinding audio, you get the full story of a family, driven from their home in California back to their ancestral lands in Massachusetts. The move is forced by a tragic event, but leads the kids of the family to discover some amazing secrets about their family’s house.
You can get it for nothing if you sign up for a free Audible US trial. I loved it!
What Do I Know?
As I mentioned, this is purely my personal picks, and there’s a massive amount of shows I think are top quality that I’ve not listed here.
As for my own efforts, I am a creator as well as a fan, and I’m heavily involved in the science/space audio drama/documentary hybrid that we run here at The Podcast Host. It’s called Hostile Worlds.
And I also run a horror/black comedy series called A Scottish Podcast. That’s an audio drama about a washed-up radio DJ who launches a paranormal investigation podcast.
Prefer the Pick’n’Mix approach where you just want to sit back and let someone choose a story for you? Then check out these long running podcasts.
Radio Drama Revival
Radio Drama Revival is a weekly showcase of stories post-golden age of radio drama from across the world.
Sonic Society “spreads stories through the theater of the mind” on a weekly basis. Formed in 2005, it is a true institution within the medium.
I’ve discovered loads of shows by listening to them for the past few years, and they continue to dig up works, new and old, to this day. If you’re churning through all your favourite fiction podcasts at an alarming rate, be sure to subscribe to these two and stay in the loop finding fresh stuff.
Fancy Making Your Own?
Audio Drama Production Podcast
The Audio Drama Production Podcast is a podcast about – funnily enough – the production of audio drama. It isn’t just production that’s covered though, the subjects of storytelling in general, writing, voice acting, and creating sound effects are often talked about too. The ADPP features interviews from many of the medium’s top names.
How to Make a Fiction Podcast
We also have a blog series titled How to Make a Fiction Podcast. Unsurprisingly this is aimed towards helping you do just that. It covers story format, structure, writing for audio, finding actors, recording, production, launching, and monetising your series.
Finding More Audio Fiction
There’s a collection of short audio promos in the Audio Drama Production Podcast Trailer Park. You’ll be sure to find something that catches your ear there before having to download or subscribe to anything. If you produce a fiction podcast yourself you can also submit your own trailer to be listed there.
We also ran a regular fiction podcast of the week feature on the site until recently. There’s loads of great shows in the archives there.
If you’re on Twitter, follow the #AudioDramaSunday hashtag where you’ll find links to the shows that are creating a bit of hype.
On top of that, keep an eye on Audiotainment News for all the latest releases in the world of audio drama and fiction podcasting.
And, if you’re burning through every new fiction podcast you find at an alarming rate, there’s some great audio drama available on Audible.
Don’t forget to listen to your fiction podcasts on a decent set of earbuds or headphones too. You might as well take advantage of all the producer’s hard work. Check out our guide to the best headphones for listening to audio drama.