Many people are drawn to storytelling podcasts for their entertainment value, but they can also serve as an excellent resource for podcasters creating within similar genres.
We compiled a list of 20 of the most popular story podcasts- from highly produced content from media moguls like NPR to smaller, independent creators who've struck it big; this list has it all. These podcasts provide a wealth of narrative techniques, character development strategies, and innovative storytelling structures that can offer inspiration (and enjoyment).
Best Fictional Podcasts
Storytelling podcasts offer a unique blend of captivating narratives and imaginative production that transport listeners into a world of make-believe. Here are some good story podcasts that are currently topping the charts.
Dust is a weekly sci-fi podcast with three seasons as of 2023. The most recent season is called Chrysalis and features conscious AI trying to take over the world and the known universe through a journey full of suspense and mind-bending plot twists.
Myths and Legends explores the fascinating stories behind fairy tales. This one blends the nonfiction and fiction genres as the hosts talk about the origin of classic fairy tales. From stories like Snow White and Cinderella to lesser-known myths, this podcast is a great way to learn about the cultural roots that inspired the stories many of us grew up on. Hosts Jason and Carissa Weiser tell these stories in an engaging style, bringing to life characters as varied as King Arthur and Beowulf. New episodes drop on Wednesdays.
Victoriocity is a detective comedy podcast set in the alternate history of London, 1887. Inspector Archibald Fleet and journalist Clara Entwhistle set out to investigate a murder but find themselves embroiled in a conspiracy bigger than they could have imagined. This podcast is scripted and heavily produced with an impressive cast of voice actors.
The Amelia Project is a fictional podcast that follows the exploits of an underground organization that creates new identities for people who want to disappear from their current lives and reappear with a new identity. The series begins with "client" interviews and quickly unfolds into a thrilling drama involving suspects, secrets, and suspense.
Lovers of Dungeons and Dragons might like this one. Hello from the Magic Tavern is an improvised comedy podcast that follows the adventures of Arnie Niekamp, who falls through a dimensional portal behind a Burger King in Chicago and finds himself in the magical land of Foon. The hosts work out the basic plot line beforehand, but everything else is spontaneous.
Top Nonfiction Story Podcasts
This American Life has been around for a long time and continues to be one of the most popular podcasts and a beloved radio broadcast to many cities nationwide. Every week, host Ira Glass explores a theme and true stories about what it's like to be human in the modern world. The storytelling is expertly crafted and explores several story arcs of real people and their experiences along a specific theme. The arcs always come together at the end with a satisfying conclusion. It's hard to miss with this one.
#7. Modern Love
Modern Love is a podcast based on the popular New York Times column by the same name. Hosted by Meghna Chakrabarti, each episode features an actor or celebrity reading a personal essay about love stories and relationships. Each episode features personal stories that are inspiring, heartwarming, and often heartbreaking as the writers open up about their real-life experiences of loss and self-discovery.
#8. Reply All
Reply All is a podcast from Gimlet Media about the Internet and how to survive in the modern world. Hosts Emmanual Dzotsi and Alex Goldman explore stories of people tangled up in online culture and technology, with topics ranging from cryptocurrency to online dating scams.
Radiolab is a science and philosophy podcast from WNYC studios, owned by National Public Radio (NPR). Hosted by Jad Abumrad, this podcast is known for its captivating sound design and creative storytelling. The show covers a wide range of topics like artificial intelligence, ethical dilemmas, evolutionary biology, and other compelling topics.
#10. Love and Radio
Love and Radio is a podcast that takes an in-depth look at the human condition. Host Nick van der Kolk interviews people about their journeys, including addiction, abuse, and grief. The stories range from raw and honest to inspiring, leaving listeners with a lot to think about.
Best Anthology Story Podcasts
Note: An anthology podcast is a series featuring multiple stories, often interconnected but ultimately independent of each other. As opposed to audio dramas, which usually follow one overarching story or set of characters, anthologies can be thought of as a collection of short stories or vignettes compiled by various authors and artists.
#11. The Grey Rooms
The Grey Rooms is an immersive serial anthology horror podcast from The Grey Room Productions. In each episode, the show's main character experiences a different type of death through the eyes of another person. The podcast is currently in its fourth season, which features a train where the guests are forced to experience the last minutes of another's life. Not a light listen.
Curious Matter Anthology is an audio drama anthology of short sci-fi and supernatural horror stories. Each story follows its protagonist as they unravel their way through the inexplicable. The series also features mystery and suspense stories with twists that will leave you guessing till the end.
Tales From Beyond the Pale is a horror and supernatural anthology podcast from Glass Eye Pix. Episodes are a half-hour long and are imaginatively produced to blend the vintage feel of the macabre with a modern twist. This series is created by filmmakers Larry Fessenden and Glenn McQuaid. Each story is creative, creepy, and spine-tingling but can also be quite funny at times.
Breathing Space follows a group of humans in space who have colonized the unknown frontier and are struggling to survive without an established society. Each episode weaves a story of characters living on the edge of society who must decide between morality and a survivalist, kill-or-be-killed mentality. Episodes release on the first and third Fridays of the month.
#15. Zero Hours
Zero Hours is a sci-fi anthology podcast from Long Story Short Productions and explores different versions of possible end-of-the-world scenarios. Episodes start in the past and eventually become futuristic, each grappling with the question of how to live in times of upheaval and does so with a thought-provoking, thrilling, and sometimes even comedic style.
Dreamnasium features the adapted short stories of American Screenwriter Georggrey Thorne. The episodes are adaptations of his writing and span the genre spectrum, including sci-fi, fantasy, and mystery. It's a highly entertaining series with dynamic characters, fantastical settings, and a full cast and crew with impressive production.
Top Audio Drama Story Podcasts
#17. Dr. Death
Dr. Death tells the story of Christopher Duntsch, a neurosurgeon who was convicted of gross negligence and malpractice after dozens of patients were left paralyzed or dead. This six-part series dives into one of the most talked about medical malpractice cases in recent history and explores the complex intertwining relationships between doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies. The podcast is based on a true story told as an embellished, fictional audio drama.
S-Town is a seven-part podcast from This American Life and Serial. It tells the story of John B. McLemore, an eccentric man living in rural Alabama who sets out to investigate a murder on his property. The series follows McLemore's life as he unravels dark secrets and grapples with painful truths about himself and those around him. It isn't technically True Crime, but it will leave you on the edge of your seat with suspense and intrigue.
#19. The Bright Sessions
The Bright Sessions is an intriguing podcast from Lauren Shippen that falls under science fiction and supernatural audio drama. The story revolves around Dr. Bright, a psychologist with a unique roster of patients who all have special abilities.
Each session dives into their lives, powers, and struggles. The podcast takes the listener on a journey through the extraordinary lives of ordinary people, the challenges they face, and the discovery of self in the process. This series is a must-listen for anyone interested in a blend of character-driven storytelling and supernatural plot lines.
Welcome to Night Vale is a twice-monthly podcast featuring long-form storytelling about the fictional desert town of Night Vale and the strange things that happen there. It follows the life of Cecil, the host of Night Vale's popular community radio show, and his mysterious interactions with otherworldly creatures. Episodes feature guest appearances by various authors, musicians, and comedians who make this podcast a must-listen.
The producers of the show said they came up with the idea of a town in the southwestern United States where "all the conspiracy theories were real" and created from that premise. It seems to have struck a chord with people–the show has over 330 million downloads with listeners in nearly every country.
By examining the work of successful storytelling podcasts, hosts can gain insights into what makes an audience tune in week after week and how to create deep, compelling narratives that resonate with listeners. Essentially, they serve as a masterclass in storytelling that can elevate any podcaster's narrative prowess!