2015 was another banner year for independent sci-fi and genre web series.
From a technical standpoint, many of the best web series of 2015 boast production values that make them almost indistinguishable from network and cable series.
The previous year also saw the medium continuing to come into its own as a viable entertainment niche - with its tremendous potential yet to be fully realized!
The following sci-fi and genre web series are among the very best of 2015.
Each one is outstanding in terms of premise, narrative structure, characterization, representation, production value, and aesthetic appeal.
So in no particular order, here are The 7th Matrix's picks for the top sci-fi, fantasy, and horror web series of 2015.
The Mercury Men
This ultra-stylish homage to classic sci-fi serials such as Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon is superb in every way.
Set in 1975, a mild-mannered office worker finds himself smack in the middle of an alien invasion while working the late shift alone.
This project has a complicated history, as it was actually released several years ago as an exclusive feature on the SyFy channel's web site. Then it vanished for several more years, until its creator decided to make all 10 episodes available on YouTube in 2015.
Thank god, because this retro, sci-fi adventure is a fun and wildly entertaining joyride!
This charming (pun intended) web series features the misadventures of a coven of five young witches of color.
Quirky, funny, scary, and extremely appealing, the brainchild of creator Lindsey McDowell follows in the footsteps of popular series featuring powerful women, like Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Charmed.
However, instead of being relegated to the role of understanding, "sassy," funny, best friend or sidekick, these young women of color are the main protagonists.
This web series is a refreshing triumph in the representation of women of color on screen.
Watch, and let it cast its spell on you.
This cyber-punk adventure is set in a near-future dystopia where video games have become completely immersive experiences due to advances in haptic technology.
Against this backdrop, a recent high school graduate becomes involved in a counter-culture movement of gamers who use advanced haptic technology to learn lethal combat skills.
Because of its subject matter, Haphead feels eerily prophetic.
Adding to the verisimilitude of the series is its gritty tone, exceptional production value, and the engaging performances of the cast - especially the lead actress.
With recent developments in virtual reality tech aimed at the consumer market, Haphead succeeds in not only being a fascinating sci-fi saga, but also as a modern cautionary tale as well.
Space Riders: Division Earth
The series introduces us to two incompetent slackers who are granted great powers by the "Galactic Ministry" to protect the earth.
This satire of the popular children's tv series Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is irreverent, ridiculous, and laugh-out-loud funny.
Real Fake History
The premise behind this web series is brilliantly clever - what if pivotal fictional moments in comic books, video games, television shows, and movies actually happened?
From the alien invasion of New York City as depicted in the hit film Marvel's The Avengers, to the bloody confrontations of The Bride in Tarantino's Kill Bill opus, each episode hilariously reports on these events by replicating the reporting style of documentaries by esteemed filmmakers such as Ken Burns.
Lending even more credence to these "mockumentaries" are the narrations provided by distinguished character and voice-over actor Phil Morris.
What happens when a powerful wizard from an alternate dimension finds himself trapped and powerless in our reality?
Starring Tehmoh Penikett (Helo, Battlestar Galactica) and Erin Karplunk (Being Erica), Riftworld Chronicles is a delightful fish-out-of-water fantasy-comedy.
Armed with charismatic leads, top-notch visual effects, and a smart script filled with biting social commentary, Riftworld Chronicles is a charmer with mass appeal.
One of the most disturbing horror web series I've seen this year, L.A. Macabre tells the story-within-a-story of a group of young Los Angeles documentary filmmakers investigating a local, defunct Charles Manson-like cult.
When one of their group becomes involved with an ex-cult member, the filmmakers begin experiencing strange phenomena that indicate the cult may still be a very dangerous threat.
The story-within-a-story narrative conceit is masterfully used in this project to produce an atmosphere filled with tension, a sense of dire jeopardy, and chills.
This British import about the arrival of a massive UFO that floats over the city of Bristol, England immediately grabs you by the throat from the explosive opening scene - and doesn't let go.
What separates this web series from all the countless other alien invasion-themed sci-fi shows is its focus on the human equation, in lieu of being a visual effects orgy.
Horizon imagines how the government and its citizens might actually react if an alien spaceship were to appear in the sky.
The result is a gripping, fascinating exploration of an event that would be one of the most monumental in all of human history.
Another golden entrant in the fantasy category, this project - produced and shot in gorgeous New Zealand - tells the story of a group of gamers who find themselves magically transported inside the fictional world of their World Of Warcraft-like online video game.
They also discover they are inhabiting the gender-swapped bodies of the characters they created for the game.
AFK (Away From Keyboard) is an earnest love letter to gaming, while also being a shrewd commentary on the complex social dynamics specific to the online gaming world.
This web series about four strangers connected by the phenomenon of lucid dreaming is one of the most fascinating and beautifully shot on our list.
The premise of lucid dreaming is grounded in real world science - making it even more compelling. The cast performances are nuanced and completely captivating.
The surreal world of dreams is brought to vibrant life by dazzling, breathtaking cinematography.
Watching Anamnesis is a singular viewing experience we can't recommend highly enough.
The Outer Darkness
The Outer Darkness harkens back to fun, creepy, classic tv horror anthologies such as Tales From The Crypt.
This anthology of hair-raising horror tales also has another key component - an utterly grotesque host.
The Croupier is an achievement in ghastly creature design on par with that of the iconic Cryptkeeper.
The Outer Darkness is a welcome return to wonderfully wicked, spine-tingling horror storytelling.
The Fourth Door
An original web series commissioned by Verizon to help launch its new Go90 mobile app, The Fourth Door is a project that defies categorization - and that's a good thing.
The story of a woman and young boy fighting to escape a dreamlike alternate dimension is unlike anything we watched last year.
With its eclectic mix of action, mystery, and drama - in addition to bizarre, ethereal landscapes - The Fourth Door will transport you to a world where dreams become reality. A world where nothing is what it seems.
The brainchild of actor/producer/director Reagan Gomez, this web series about two sisters looking for their missing father while coping with the advent of the zombie apocalypse, is a trailblazer.
Born from her frustration with the cardboard depiction of people of color in similar properties, like The Walking Dead, Ms. Gomez weaves a deeply compelling survival story told from the perspective of a Black family.
These characters possess their own agency, and rich interior lives that make what could be just another by-the-numbers zombie tale an electrifying narrative.
Surviving is an excellent addition to an ever-growing movement of stories told from the perspective of marginalized and underrepresented groups.
So there you have it, The 7th Matrix picks for the best sci-fi and genre web series of 2015.
We were most excited by many notable trends last year, including the increase in projects created, produced, and directed by diverse filmmakers.
We also continue to be impressed by the grade-A production value of many of these independent projects - projects that look indistinguishable from their network and cable counterparts.
As we stand at the dawn of the new year, I am certain we fans of online genre content will continue to be pleasantly surprised by the quality, originality, and diversity of web series yet to come.
As always, I look forward to another year of discovering and sharing such gems with you.
Wishing you all the best in the new year,
Founder, The 7th Matrix
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