20 Best Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror TV Shows of 2023

20 Best Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror TV Shows of 2023

As 2023 draws to a close, the Gizmodo’s io9 staff has had to admit something about ourselves: we watch a lot of TV. From a starting list that was admittedly alarmingly long, we managed to winnow down our 20 favorites—including animation, sci-fi, horror, and fantasy, and titles both brand-new, some seasons in, and (in one case, at least) multiple decades old.

Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake

Image: Max

The Ice King’s fictional world turns out to be real in this-alt universe adventure, where Fionna and Cake go on their own quests to save their world. Its multiverse jumping and eccentric storytelling is a joy to behold with more adult existential themes than its predecessor Adventure Time. It’s such a cozy and thoughtfully weird series that feels snuggling up in a familiar blanket with a warm cup of tea.

Blue Eye Samurai

Image: Netflix

This show came late in the year, which makes it all the more surprising that it’s managed to make the strong impression that it has. It’s hard to decide what the best of Blue Eye Samurai is, because it all synthesizes and blends into each other so well: a compelling cast of characters voiced by actors working with good material, further boosted by slick animation and a dedication to take itself seriously. It’s one of Netflix’s best original series in years, and a bloody good time well worth watching.

Castlevania: Nocturne

Image: Netflix

A smart successor that revitalized what Powerhouse had previously done with Castlevania animation, Nocturne did more than just reboot the cast and setting of its take on Konami’s legendary action games. It also engaged with the generational conflict that has driven Castlevania from the beginning, while also expanding its world beyond the supernatural trappings of Western fantasy—making a series that was as rich with character and the context of history as it was epic monster-fighting action.

Doctor Who

Image: BBC

Doctor Who may not have been on all that much this year, only just returning for a trio of anniversary specials and with eyes on Christmas Day for the start of Ncuti Gatwa’s tenure in the TARDIS. But what a trio of specials it’s been—a remarkable celebration of Doctor Who not through cameos and callbacks, but by being a prime example of the show doing what it does best. With incredible star turns from David Tennant and Catherine Tate, and plots that spoke to the variety and malleability of Doctor Who’s format while championing its deeply human heart, after a few years of ups and downs, Doctor Who feels back in a way it hasn’t in years right now. What a way to celebrate being 60 years young!

The Fall of the House of Usher

Photo: Eike Schroter/Netflix

In his final Netflix project after The Haunting of Hill House, The Haunting of Bly Manor, Midnight Mass, and The Midnight Club, Mike Flanagan plunged into the world of Edgar Allan Poe and came away with his most gorgeously gruesome series yet. As usual, a stellar cast elevated the material, most playing characters so deliciously loathsome you couldn’t help but relish watching their theatrically gory demises. Special props to the chameleonic Carla Gugino for playing the mystery woman who seals the family’s well-earned doom.

For All Mankind

Image: Apple TV+

If we’re being honest, we’re putting the fourth season of For All Mankind on here without the season actually being over yet. But, as has been the case with the first three seasons, season four has been so remarkably good, we’re confident in the pick. Taking the story into the new millennium, and really digging into what being on Mars means, has been sensational.

Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai

Image: Max

Tze Chun’s animated prequel take on Joe Dante’s Gremlins is a welcomed return to Gizmo’s world and a clever origin story. Following a young Sam Wing (the older shopkeeper from the original film), we discover the danger Mogwais have always been in—and the mythology behind their magic.


Image: Prime Video

Two years after punching our faces in, Invincible’s new season is as entertaining and bloody as ever. While hobbled by only being the first half of a larger story, the first part of season two continues the show’s solid formula of superhero carnage mixed with effective interpersonal drama. Compared to its debut, Invincible’s sophomore outing is more sure of itself and hopefully manages to stick the landing when it returns with the rest of its episodes early next year.

The Last of Us

Image: Liane Hentscher/HBO

The best video game adaptation ever. That was the bar HBO and Naughty Dog basically had to hit for their adaptation of the popular game into a full-on TV show to work. And guess what? They did it. The Last of Us was emotional, powerful, and shocking, and that’s even for gamers who knew where the story was going. We can’t wait for it to come back.

Monarch: Legacy of Monsters

Image: Apple TV+

Apple’s splashy entry into the Legendary “Monsterverse” had a lot against it coming in—could you sustain a cinematic monster show on a streaming budget? What about the Godzilla-shaped elephant in the room? What we got has been, surprisingly, the strongest entry in this Western monster chronology by far, with fantastic action balanced with compelling character work from its human cast, anchored in great dual performances by Kurt and Wyatt Russell. Monarch is a giant-sized jolt in the arm for Legendary’s monster movie world.

Mrs. Davis

Image: Peacock

An all-powerful artificial intelligence that has basically become God hires a nun to find the Holy Grail. That’s the setup for Mrs. Davis and, if you can believe it, that’s also the most sane thing about the entire show. With each episode, the story got wilder and wilder—finding a line, crossing it, and keeping right on going. Throughout, reveal after reveal kept your jaw on the ground until the very final moment.

My Adventures With Superman

Image: Adult Swim

Superheroes had a rough 2023 for the most part, but the characters in My Adventures with Superman made out just fine. By putting the romance of Clark Kent and Lois Lane on equal footing with the standard superheroics, the show managed to stand out and provide a fun spin on Superman that felt assured in what it has to offer in the larger pantheon. It’s disposable, but the fun kind that always has a laugh to provide or some charming banter to indulge in, which is what most people want from superhero shows to begin with.

One Piece

Photo: Casey Crafford/Netflix

They said that anime could never work in live action, and until Netflix’s One Piece that was mostly true. With a stellar cast led by Iñaki Godoy as the endearing Pirate King that was promised, Monkey D. Luffy, the tales of the Straw Hat Crew come to life in a first season of exciting adventures that has us ready for more. Matt Owens and Steven Maeda bring to life a faithful adaptation homage to the heart of Eiichiro Oda’s beloved global franchise.

Our Flag Means Death

Photo: Nicola Dove/Max

Season two of the queer pirate adventure provided the tender reunion between Blackbeard and Stede Bonnet that fans were longing for—but it also proved the series has surprising depth when it comes to both story and character development. With its blend of raunchy comedy, inspired needle drops, seaworthy hijinks, and earnest performances, the show built to a finale moment that reminded us, quite heartbreakingly, why it’s called Our Flag Means Death in the first place.

Rick and Morty

Screenshot: Adult Swim/YouTube

Could Adult Swim’s blockbuster hit survive the firing of Justin Roiland, a creative force behind the scenes who also voiced the two main characters? Season seven, which wraps up December 17, has more than proven the affirmative, delivering some series-best moments (you’ll never look at spaghetti the same way again) with an energy that feels fresh and exciting–helped along by top-notch performances from all the cast members, including the two crucial new additions.

Scavengers Reign

Image: Max

Nature is scary as all hell, but can also be touching and beautiful. That’s the core thesis of Scavengers Reign, a show that never fails to show you some of the creepiest stuff you’ll see all year or present a lovely, truly new alien world. With a cast of characters ping-ponging between varying levels of preparedness on a world indifferent to their existence, the show could easily coast off that alone. But it’s the atmosphere and sheer scope of its environment that makes it so mesmerizing, equally a show you want to binge but also do one episode at a time to let them soak in properly.

Scott Pilgrim Takes Off

Image: Netflix

The fact that the whole live-action cast from Edgar Wright’s cult classic film came back to reprise their roles was such a boss move on the part of comic book creator Bryan Lee O’Malley and showrunner BenDavid Grabinski. Even cooler is that this version of the story you know isn’t what you think—and really flies off the rails of the original comic and its film adaptation. Let’s just say you learn a whole lot more about the ensemble of characters you already loved, in episodes that explore their stories too.


Image: Apple TV+

More than just one of those one-word sci-fi shows on Apple TV+, Silo was like Lost but underground. A twisty, turny, futuristic mystery that sets the bar high in its shocking first episode, then recalibrates while keeping everything exciting and tense. Has the world really ended outside? Why is everyone stuck in this silo? Who is in charge? It’s a show that grabs your interest and never lets up.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

Image: Paramount+

Strange New Worlds’ sophomore season had a lot to live up to after its predecessor was one of, if not the, strongest debut seasons a Star Trek series has ever seen. And yet, by pushing itself in new styles and directions, and digging more deeply into its characters, Strange New Worlds’ second tour of duty managed to hit the same kinds of highs as the first, firmly establishing itself as one of the best modern Trek series around. Plus, that musical episode just can’t be beat.

What We Do in the Shadows

Photo: Russ Martin/FX

To quote Laszlo: “Well, fuck my old boots!” In its fifth season, What We Do in the Shadows still felt like a fresh delight, consistently finding new situations for the vampires to find themselves in–going to the mall, attending a Pride parade, becoming accidental stars on the local news, spending too much time at Panera Bread–and making them absurd and hilarious. Amid all the goofballery, the season’s emotional throughline saw Guillermo finally becoming a vampire (or a half-vampire, at least)—before realizing, in a very well-earned arc, the value of staying human instead.