Best Fiction Podcasts & Audio Dramas 2022 – Not Just the Usual Suspects!

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So it’s about time we revisited our Best Fiction Podcasts roundup. We’re three-quarters of the way through the year, into awards season (you can vote for the AudioVerse Awards and the Discoverpods awards if you like). Soon, we’ll glide into December, when “Best Of” podcast lists dominate the swap-o-sphere.

These roundups of capsule reviews tend to have the same podcasts over and over again. Good audio drama podcasts don’t go away. More people are discovering audio drama podcasts for the first time, and it can be hard for them to discover more podcasts beyond the ones dominating the top of the charts.

As always, defining The Best Audio Fiction Podcasts of 2022 (or any year) is a slippery task. Not only because it’s hard to define “best,” but also because there are so many really good audio drama podcasts.

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Best Fiction Podcasts for 2022

Put together by Lindsay Harris Friel, creator of the Jarnsaxa Rising audio drama series, co-host of the Audio Drama Writers’ Independent Toolkit podcast, and editor of the Fiction Podcast Weekly newsletter.

Celebrity and Independent Audio Drama Podcasts

The 2020 pandemic brought a lot more players to podcasting. 2021 and 2022 have seen more podcasts with celebrities and professional funding than ever before. Theatre companies used audio drama to tide them over until in-person performance can safely resume.

For podcasters, this can feel like when you were a kid, enjoying a paddling pool, and then some really big kids splashed in, to crowd you out and sink your boats with water displacement. For audio drama podcast audiences, it’s confusing. But, more audio drama podcasts don’t mean that yours has to leave. It’s a big Internet.

Celebrity and big-budget podcasts are a big gateway. Independent audio dramas have focused appeal. Let’s distil this search for audio drama podcast excellence, shall we?

podcasting deck of cards
Who are the Fiction Podcast Aces this time around?

If You Like That Fiction Podcast, You’ll Love This Fiction Podcast

Comparison doesn’t serve podcasters well when it feeds competition. It’s healthy, however, when we’re trying to narrow down a wide range of options. In the interest of podcast discovery, the statement “if you like this, then you’ll also like that,” can help audiences find shows they’ll care even more about. Let’s give it a try.

looking for the best fiction podcast with zombies?
“You don’t look alive to me”

Best Fiction Podcasts if You Like We’re Alive

We’re Alive is the show that made a thousand audio enthusiasts say, “I want to do that.” Fortunately, K.C. Wayland is generous with his knowledge. Not only has he made other audio drama podcasts, but he also wrote the educational book, Bombs Always Beep. If you enjoy immersive adventures where intrepid folk battle an indescribable horror in an unforgiving world, here are some others you should try.

The Cleansed

The Cleansed: An apocalyptic tale about Maria and Luke, siblings who escape with rebel leader John Prophet to save the world from a second man-made apocalypse.

Primordial Deep

Primordial Deep: A team of scientists and marine explorers searches for a deep-sea creature too big to imagine. The immersive sound design on this adventure will have your heart racing.

A Scottish Podcast

A Scottish Podcast: Lee, a washed-up former radio DJ, wants to see his show The Terror Files mentioned up there alongside podcasts like The Black TapesLimetown, and The Message. And he’ll stop at nothing to achieve it. Aided by his jaded musician pal Dougie, the pair travel the length and breadth of the country in search of Medieval Demon Kings and Lovecraftian Gods of the Sea.

podcast listener collecting mattresses and socks
A Black Tapes listener enjoying her sock and mattress collection

Best Fiction Podcasts if You Like Limetown or The Black Tapes

Both of these stories follow an investigative journalist digging her way through a web of unanswered questions. Whether the enemy is Big Tech or supernatural, the mystery depends on perception and unreliable witnesses. If you enjoy these podcasts, you’ll like:

Arden

Arden, in which a journalist and a detective unravel the mysterious disappearance of a Hollywood starlet and the unidentified body in the trunk of her car.

Death by Dying

Death by Dying, where the obituary writer of Crestfall Idaho investigates mysterious deaths, and finds himself tackling more than he can handle.

How i Died

How i Died, where a forensic pathologist relies on a unique advantage; that he can talk to ghosts.

Best Fiction Podcasts if you like Welcome to Night Vale

This late-night radio missive from a surreal desert town inspired a surprising number of fans to dress up as super-powered glowing clouds. The radio host framework isn’t difficult to reproduce. Making that unique is another question. Here are some standout offerings.

Mecrury: A Broadcast of Hope

Mercury: A Broadcast of Hope This daily fiction podcast from Atlanta Radio Theatre Company is a different kind of zombie story. What do you do when you’re trapped in a radio station during the zombie apocalypse? You help people. Episodes older than 24 hours are only available through their Patreon page, so when you see this in your feed, listen as soon as you can.

The Earth Moves

The Earth Moves: People tune into Brent Ziff’s radio show to hear him make fun of losers. But tonight’s loser, Leo Short, is calling with a message straight from the bowels of the Earth that’s going to put everything Brent knows on shaky ground. Writer and producer Mac Rogers has been churning out audio drama thrillers (Steal The Stars, Give me Away) for years. Thank goodness there appears to be no stopping him.

podcasting from space
“There’s plenty SPACE for great fiction podcasts – amiright?” – Dad in Space (a fiction podcast that never was)

Best Fiction Podcasts if You Like Wolf 359

Set on board the U.S.S. Hephaestus space station, the dysfunctional crew deals with daily life-or-death emergencies, while searching for signs of alien life and discovering there might be more to their mission than they thought.  Wolf 359 utilizes comedy, character exploration and drama in a way that’s reminiscent of Red Dwarf and Star Trek Deep Space 9.

Oblivity

Oblivity A disgraced war hero is posted to Pluto on her toughest mission yet: to oversee a small, dysfunctional research team. You know all the side characters in space adventures who have to be saved by the Captain Kirks and Starbucks of the galaxy? What if there were finally an adventure where the underdogs save the day? This podcast turns a lot of the expectations of sci-fi adventure stories around to provide a fast-paced and delightful dig into human nature.

Oz9

Oz9: Sacred cows make the best burgers, and Oz9 is a feast of satire. A disorderly crew in ships better left in a junkyard take the very wealthy and reckless for a space cruise, in the interest of avoiding legal and financial trouble writ large. If you enjoy hearing the rich and powerful taken down a notch or two, this is your show.

Civillized

Civilized: This improvised dark comedy podcast raises a lot of questions and will always keep you guessing. Humanity’s final hope lies in terraforming a new world. A fleet of engineering ships are sent in advance of the colony ships, sure to follow in their wake. But one lone ship becomes separated from the fleet and crash lands on an alien planet. This podcast includes an interactive audio story, in which you play the alien, Albaska The Under-Appreciated. The choices you make determine how the story proceeds, and what you’ll hear next.


Have you heard our very own space exploration show Hostile Worlds before?


Best Fiction Podcasts if You Like Homecoming

Homecoming centers on a caseworker at an experimental facility, her ambitious supervisor, and a soldier eager to rejoin civilian life — presented in an enigmatic collage of telephone calls, therapy sessions, and overheard conversations. 

This podcast made a huge splash when it was first released, not only for its high-profile celebrity cast, but also for for its compelling story and immersive style. If you’re interested in a psychological thriller that uses metaphor to make us examine our politics, why not try:

Terms

Terms: Do we really need an electoral college? Why? What would happen without it? If The West Wing kept Sorkin’s tension, but dropped its optimism, you’d have this political thriller.

Quid Pro Euro

Quid Pro Euro:  In 1995, a number of videotapes were made for employees of the European Union. Through the course of the series, they learned what they could expect to happen in the twenty-first century. The audio from these tapes is released now as a podcast. Felix Trench’s satire experiments with audio degradation to show the idealism of The European Union, eroded by misunderstanding.

Dashing Onions’ When We Were Two

Dashing Onions’ When We Were Two: This story seems like a Twilight Zone version of a Harold Pinter play, on its surface. They say everyone has a double, but what if you literally did? What if your double had your home, money, job, clothes? Who would you ask to take you in? This story about a family forced to care for each other with suddenly limited resources, in unexpectedly close quarters, for reasons they can’t understand, shines a light not only on Brexit, but also on the recent pandemic.

Fiction Podcast Weekly - finding podcast news
The Fiction Podcast Weekly newsletter – are you signed up yet?

Best Fiction Podcasts if You Like Princess of South Beach

Princess of South Beach is rocketing up the Spotify charts, and with good reason. Not only does it feature a stellar cast, it’s available in English and Spanish. Twin sisters María del Carmen and Gloria are separated at birth and raised in dramatically different ways – one in a convent and the other in the lap of luxury.

When a freak accident kills Gloria, María del Carmen assumes her identity and uncovers that Gloria’s rich family isn’t as picture perfect as they seem. If you’re interested in stories made by Latinx artists, for Latinx audiences, you should definitely check out these indie tales.

Timestorm

Timestorm: When the Ventura twins are yanked into another dimension, they meet a distant cousin who gives them an extraordinary mission: travel through time to witness their culture’s true history. This compelling, fun time travel adventure teaches and celebrates Puerto Rican history and heritage.

Ochenta Stories’ Mija

Ochenta Stories’ Mija: Mija is a young Latina growing up in New York City. She is the daughter of Colombian immigrants, and this is her story. At a time when immigrant voices aren’t heard, Mija aims to share their stories to celebrate immigrants and their contributions on an international platform.

Kalila Stormfire’s Economical Magick Services

Kalila Stormfire’s Economical Magick Services: If you like stories about minority witches in modern-day working-class neighborhoods, meddling love goddesses, and morally ambiguous spellcraft, this is the tale for you. Creator Lisette Alvarez describes herself as “a queer Latinx creator who wanted more stories that reflected their reality.” Add a little sparkle to your audio drama listening experience.

best fiction podcasts about horror and sci-fi
Horror and Sci-fi lend themselves well to fiction and audio drama podcasts

Best Fiction Podcasts if You Like Aaron Mahnke’s 13 Days of Halloween

Every October, the world suddenly re-discovers audio fiction. There’s something about cooler temperatures, brilliant leaves, and fire pit gatherings that make people want to hear a spooky story. Aaron Mahnke took Lore from indie story podcast to streaming service juggernaut through sheer determination.

In 2020, his production, 13 Days of Halloween takes what indie podcasts do well (immersive, multi-layered stereo storytelling) and cast Keegan-Michael Key as the Caretaker. Despite their claim that it’s the first 3D audio fiction project, this is far from the truth. if you want a spatial audio fiction experience that’ll get your heart racing and have you jumping at every shadow this October, these indie fiction podcasts should fill the bill nicely.

The Owl Fields 3D Escape Room

The Owl Field’s 3D Escape Room: I made the mistake of starting to listen to this at about 9 pm on a weeknight, and had to stay up all night until I’d solved every puzzle and heard every bit of the story. The story is scary, the puzzles are challenging, and the binaural sound design is so realistic that it’ll make you jump out of your skin. Escape Room: Frequency is an interactive 3D audio escape room where you must find and solve all the puzzles within 60 minutes. This full-cast audio drama’s audio-based puzzles provide a fresh challenge for even the most seasoned escape room enthusiast. 

Campfire Radio Theater

Campfire Radio Theater: This horror anthology podcast has been scaring the heck out of the Internet for nearly TEN YEARS. That’s right. John Ballantine’s first episode premiered in December of 2011. This show has more tenure than Serial. With so many episodes, there’s something to scare everyone, and you can hear voice acting talent who star in other indie podcasts. If you want, “of course I listen to podcasts” credibility, you have to listen to Campfire Radio Theater.

11th Hour Audio Productions

11th Hour Audio Productions: Similarly, 11th Hour Audio has something to scare everyone, because of its huge and varied community of creators. More than just a horror anthology podcast, it’s a chance for producers and talent to collaborate, locally or with folks from around the world. The talent ranges from folks who are new to their craft to seasoned veterans. This global and diverse community of creators gather for one month a year to delight your ears with fantastic tales and immersive worlds, and celebrate horror, Halloween, and Audio Drama Day.

Why Independent Audio Drama?

if you’re familiar with the IATSE shutdown, you know that a typical Netflix or Amazon Studios movie involves hundreds of people working 16 hour days, sometimes without breaks. These are professionals, and even they’re exploited. This is typical throughout Hollywood, but streaming services have different contracts, and are more exploitative.

Independent audio drama creators don’t have the money, time, resources, and security that the pros do. They’re making foley in their own bathrooms and kitchens, juggling scriptwriting and editing with day jobs and families.

In the case of fiction podcasts, this doesn’t mean the quality is any less. It means the stakes are higher. You can queue up Motherhacker and Girl In Space back to back, and not be able to tell which one is the indie. Independent audio fiction podcast creators want to tell their stories more than the stable of screenwriters and editors in any major studio.

If you’re going to crash on the couch with a movie, stop, put on your headphones, close your eyes, and try an independent audio drama instead. You’ll be the change you want to see in the zeitgeist, and visit a world that may surprise you.

dungeon crawler podcasters
There’s always something else…

Best Fiction Podcasts: What Did We Miss?

Are we missing your favorite audio dramas(s) in our Best Fiction Podcasts roundup? Shout us up on twitter, and let us know what you love and why.

If you fancy creating your own, then we actually have a comprehensive guide on how to make a fiction podcast too.

And finally, if you’re interested in staying up-to-date with the world of audio drama, be sure to sign up to the Fiction Podcast Weekly…

The Fiction Podcast Weekly

Fiction Podcast Weekly is an email newsletter, bringing you the latest from the world of audio fiction, audio drama, and sound storytelling.

Are you involved in the medium in any way? Whether that’s as a writer, producer, voice actor, curator, or even just a hardcore listener who loves the ‘behind the scenes’ stuff. Whoever you are, whatever you do, this is a great way of staying up-to-date with the latest happenings and opportunities in the fiction podcasting realm!

What Our Readers Think About Best Fiction Podcasts & Audio Dramas 2022 – Not Just the Usual Suspects!

Sorry, comments are closed.

  1. Pete Lutz says:

    I hope you’ll see fit to include Pulp-Pourri Theatre, which is producing new episodes on a monthly basis, and is an anthology series adapted from or inspired by pulp fiction. Considering we won several awards last year, we are fairly certain you and your followers will enjoy it.

    • Cheers Pete, I’ve never heard PPT before but it has been on my ever growing list for a while.

  2. tygr. says:

    Wait, all of the “Cinematic Epics” have been dead for several years! And there are so many more good, ongoing podcasts that would fit into this category. For example: Wolf 359, EOS 10, The Elysium Project, Audio Diary of a Superhero… all of them great, interesting and new audio dramas that would really benefit from a mention on a list like that.

    • Edict Zero is still well and truly alive Tygr, and so is We’re Alive (the new project Lockdown will be released in a few months). It is a shame about Leviathan though as I really enjoyed it. There’s a good case for including The Cleansed in here too, and I’m looking forward to checking out the shows you mentioned. Appreciate it.

  3. J.C. says:

    These are some solid recommendations. There’s a lot of great audio drama podcasts (an some not in podcast form) out there. I run Audio-Drama.com, an online audio drama directory with almost 3,000 links. If you ever do another list, I could recommend many productions.

    Also check out the Audio Drama group on reddit, where new shows are posted and discussed daily: https://www.reddit.com/r/audiodrama/

    • Cheers J.C, A-D.com is a great site. I often read the Reddit page to look for new shows too.

  4. Danilo "Dansfx" Battistini says:

    Hello!

    First of all, thanks for all the good material you’re providing and also I’m a brazilian listener of “Audio Drama Production Podcast”, it really helps me a lot!

    My country doesn’t have much material about Audio Drama but I’m really into this stuff, thanks for everything and cheers!

    • Thanks Danilo. Good to hear from you. Are you producing a show yourself at the moment?

      • Danilo "dansfx" Battistini says:

        Hi!

        I’m not producing a show “series-like” with episodes, but I’m producing monthly short stories for my Podcast Contador de Historias (it means Story Teller in english) and I’ve recently released an audio drama adaptation for the book Odd and the Frost Giants (Neil Gaiman) altough it’s in portuguese hahahahaha (:

  5. MadMikeyD says:

    While you have listed lots of great stuff, I see the glaring omission of Decoder Ring Theatre’s “Red Panda Adventures” and “Black Jack Justice,” my two favorites. And the great “Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd” deserves a spot as well. Oh, and also “Thrilling Adventure Hour.” There are just so many.

    • Great suggestions Mike. Yeah there’s a whole load of shows that I love that I’ve left out of this list. I had to draw the line somewhere or it might have turned into a book 🙂

      • DALE MCFAUL says:

        I grew up listening to CBS Radio Mystery Theater. I encountered no other audio productions untill 2013 , these being OTR rebroadcasts on SiriusXM. I had been a longtime Audio Book Junkie, borowing mostly from the lending library. Being on the Road I found that nearly all Fuel Stops had more space allocated to audio books than to Cigaretts. But cleaning out the Truck one day, I found myself with a couple of banker boxes full of media. Unlike music, audio shows tend to become re-runs, like books or movies. Finding that the local library did not want them, I found a bookstore (experienced volumes only) that paid 8% of the original sticker in cash$48.50 ( you could get a 25% credit towards anything in the store. I then found ARCHIVE.ORG . I at once became a contributor. Guilt alone, and 20,000GB per month in downloads for 6 months, will insure that their yearly emails I recieve will have its desired effect for years to come. I at last purchased a preloaded 500GB pocket drive loaded with 74,000 episodes. All the Public domain OTR that exists, I think. I had heard of a group of artists in Portland OR that produce original weekly Detective episodes. I guess 74,000 sidetracked me. Tardy,as usuall, I am delighted to find the artform is not dead. They say everyone has one Novel inside them. This was probably mine, so even tho you may never see another post from me, I assure you I will be lurking in the wings. Thanks .

  6. Sigrid says:

    There’s also lesbianromantic.com (The Lesbian Romantic Podcast) for the #lgbt community! And yes, this is a shameless plug of my own productions 😉

    Great blog post! Wish there was more audio fiction like this…

  7. Melissa says:

    The Thrilling Adventure Hour (although it is currently “finished”) is well worth listening to. But – here’s a caveat. you must start at the beginning. I tried to jump in mid-way, and it wasn’t making any sense to me. I didn’t like it at all. My brother said no, go to the beginning and start there. I did. It’s so fabulously brilliant that I went back and listened to all the episodes twice.

    After Nightvale, they have been great at introducing new podcasts as well. Alice Isn’t Dead, and Within the Walls are brilliant female-led storytelling podcasts. Again, they are a series, so it’s no good jumping in mid-way.

    Thanks for this article. I’m so excited to listen to more fictional and fabulous stories!!

  8. Zak says:

    If you’re looking for a comedy anthology in the vein of Naked Gun, then try out Radio Phonic Audio For Hearing (and also listening). They do a few serial shows as well as one-off “pilots.”

  9. Brent Robison says:

    Hi Matthew,
    Thanks for providing so much helpful information! My collaborator and I are new to the podcast world and are learning an incredible amount. Our podcast, The Strange Recital, launched in August with twice-monthly episodes, each featuring a short story plus an author interview with a twist. We fall into a weird gap between literary and speculative, sort of like Selected Shorts meets The Twilight Zone. Hope you’ll listen and enjoy! http://thestrangerecital.com

    • Aidan says:

      I love Nightvale and was just checking that someone mentioned their podcasts in the comments. Your podcast sounds really cool; I’ll have to give it a listen. Pretty long list now that I’ve read this article. 🙂

      It’s good. I need to break away from political podcasts. My very sanity depends on it. XD

      • Cheers Aidan, yeah you need some escapism now and then eh…

  10. Julia Dulia says:

    If you haven’t given it a listen yet, you NEED to check out Welcome To Nightvale, its what got me into podcasting in the first place and its probably my all time favorite besides maybe Limetown.

    • Sarah says:

      I feel like we all started out with Welcome To Night Vale. It’s like the gateway podcast for many listeners. Nearly every time I ask a friend what podcast they started out with they say WTNV. It gets you hooked on the audio drama genre, not to mention the podcast itself.

  11. Tristan says:

    Wow! This a seriously comprehensive list! Thanks for sharing, now that NoSleep season 8 is over I needed some new podcasts to listen to to hold me over.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • You’re welcome Tristan. Let us know what ones you enjoy.

  12. Sarah says:

    Don’t forget Archive 81, guys. It’s one of the best besides Alice Isn’t Dead, Wolf 359, The Bright Sessions and The Black Tapes Podcast.
    Whoa, I actually had to stop myself there. There’s so many wonderful podcasts out there. Honestly, all you really have to do to find recommendations for audio dramas is search up #podcasthell on Tumblr if you want to find all the good ones. The best ones are totally captivating and interesting to the point of listener obsession so generally they’re under that tag. A great story is the bane of any working class procrastinator’s existence. How many times have I ignored a deadline to listen to Wolf 359? (-_-) Oh well, it was totally worth it though.

  13. John says:

    Check out http://www.yarnpodcast.com
    Short autobiographic stories fro Ireland. Mixture of narration and actors with original music.

  14. Richter Von Streed says:

    You can’t be serious. I loved We’re Alive and decided to try EDICT ZERO FIS but I couldn’t make it through 3rd episode. While audio quality was good, the acting was weak and the ambient sound effects seemed almost arbitrary. The voices of many of the characters were over-exaggerated and cartoonish and completely ruined the immersion for me. Here’s to hoping your other recommendations result in more fruit.

    • On3Foot says:

      I’m probably years out of date but i just came across TheDarkVerse by Sharkchild , ive only listened to a few so far, the storytelling and soundscaping are immaculately crafted, spanning all manner of subject matter from lovecraftian horror to futuristic cyber punk, shot through with intricate touches of dark humor and esoteric deep cuts, overall its top notch both as literature and as an immersive listening experience

  15. eli says:

    We’re alive is very long and of incredible quality. It is a zombie survival drama!

    • nathan says:

      We’re Alive is the gold standard of audio dramas! Everything from character development, plot, storyline and the amazing sights and sounds for your ears. I have listened to it 4 times through and still love every second.

      • Julie says:

        YES! YES it is!! Gold rush is the next one and it will be out September 2019!! I cannot wait!!!

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