Even though the final seasons of Game of Thrones were a masterclass in “how to completely trash your multimillion dollar series and almost eradicate its cultural impact,” it’s undeniable that the show based on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books did define the 2010s. I say this with all the bitterness of someone who was very disappointed and is still knee-deep in Westerosi lore, because sadly I love my Targaryens way too much to abandon them.
All of this to say that after spending so much time following the political and familial intrigues spinning around the most uncomfortable chair in the Seven Kingdoms you might be on the lookout for something similar. So, banning the most obvious answer—being House of the Dragon, Game of Thrones’s own prequel spin-off set some two hundred years before Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow—here is a guide to nine shows that could manage the task of immersing you in Game of Thrones vibes.
I, of course, picked each of them because they had certain elements in common with Game of Thrones—so for your convenience, those elements have been turned into the sections into which this guide is divided. So it’s easier for you to choose what to watch if you want to lean more into Game of Thrones’s fantasy elements or its political intrigue, its family drama or its historical setting.
The period dramas
Black Sails (Starz, 2014-2017)
One of the most brilliant and most criminally underrated pieces of television I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing, Black Sails acts as a prequel to the events in Robert Luis Stevenson’s famous novel Treasure Island, exploring what happened to the likes of James Flint, John Silver and Billy Bones long before Jim Hawkins stepped into the picture.
Set during the Golden Age of piracy in the waters around Nassau, the show revolves around a magnificent cast of characters—which includes real historical pirates like Calico Jack and Anne Bonny—struggling to find their place in a world where the British Empire becomes ever more domineering and life-altering.
While lacking Game of Thrones’s most fantasy-esque elements, Black Sails’ four seasons feature both incredible violence and powerful reflections on the role that stories play in shaping the lives and histories of people—you know, what showrunners Benioff and Weiss were trying to do in Season 8 and spectacularly failed.
Vikings (History & Amazon Prime Video, 2013-2020)
I feel like you can’t have a list featuring bloody period dramas without mentioning the OG Viking show—the aptly-named Vikings. Its six seasons follow Ragnar Lothbrok—based on legendary Viking chief Ragnar Lodbrok—and his family as they start the wave of Viking explorations and raids in Britain and later France.
You’ll get your fill of bloody battles and executions with Vikings, that’s for sure, but I would say that its most Game of Thrones-esque features are its heart wrenching family dynamics as Ragnar’s family drifts closer and then apart, children and brothers dispersing around the world.
The White Queen (BBC, 2013)
It’s no secret that George R.R. Martin looked at English history to get his inspiration for the events of A Song of Ice and Fire—and while there are many period dramas set in late Middle Ages to early Renaissance England, The White Queen is probably one of the best there is. The first of a long series of shows based on author Philippa Gregory’s historical novels, its story opens up right in the middle of the War of the Roses, spanning the reigns of Kings Edward IV and Richard III.
Brilliantly acted and with spectacular costumes, The White Queen’s court intrigues—spun by powerful women who might not sit on the throne but who very much change the course of battles and dynasties—will definitely remind you of all the game of throning that happens within the halls of the Red Keep.
The Borgias (Showtime, 2011-2013)
We all know that twins Jaime and Cersei Lannister have a much closer relationship than any pair of siblings should have, but you know what historical figures could basically be considered their real-life counterparts? Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia, two of Pope Alexander VI’s children, who lived in Renaissance Rome. While accusations of incest between the two have never really been proved, the rumours made their names famous throughout Italy and Europe both during their lifetimes and beyond—so much so that it’s no surprise that they were turned into the subject of a period drama.
The Borgias follows the family throughout Pope Alexander’s ascension to the Holy See and his children’s tumultuous marriages. You’ll definitely find all the intrigue and the backstabbing you oh-so-loved in Game of Thrones here.
The fantasy pieces
The Witcher (Netflix, 2019-ongoing)
The release of The Witcher coincided with the final beats of Game of Thrones, meaning that everyone rushed to dub Netflix’s series as “the new GoT.” Which I feel is not fair to either show, since they share some common traits but also quite a handful of differences. While both Game of Thrones and The Witcher are fantasy shows, the most genre-typical elements—magic, monsters, dragons, you name it—are much more centre-stage in The Witcher than in Game of Thrones, which tried to remain somewhat anchored in reality even as dragons and White Walkers started to roam the realm.
That means, however, that if you were a fan of Game of Thrones’s more fantasy scenes you’ll definitely find that The Witcher has all of them and more—while political intrigue is somewhat reduced as the adventures of lone-grunting-man Gerald of Rivia are more solitary.
His Dark Materials (BBC, 2019-ongoing)
Based on Philip Pullman’s trilogy of the same name, His Dark Materials might be the most out-there rec on this list so far. Even though the time periods in which the two shows are set in are wildly different—with Game of Thrones being Medieval and His Dark Materials definitely post-Industrial Revolution—they do share some similarities that I think make HDM deserving of a spot on this list.
Both shows, for example, have fantasy elements that are dictated by the worldbuilding of their respective settings—and the bond between humans and their daemons might be just what you need if you loved the relationship the Stark children had with their direwolves, or Daenerys with her dragons. Let’s not forget the great big conflict at the heart of His Dark Materials, made of world-altering secrets kept by powerful organizations—not exactly court intrigues but equally entertaining.
The Wheel of Time (Amazon Prime Video, 2021-ongoing)
Amazon Prime Video’s series is fresh off of its first season and it’s as high fantasy as they come. Based on the series of books of the same name by Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson), The Wheel of Time features everything you would expect from one of the founding stories of the fantasy genre—an unspeakable evil that returns throughout the cycles of time, heroes destined for glory or destruction, magical sisterhoods, epic battles.
It’s definitely a lot more classical fantasy than Game of Thrones, but if you enjoyed the bits of magic we got to see throughout Westeros and Essos then you’ll love the amped-up version that The Wheel of Time offers you.
The family histories
Succession (HBO, 2018-ongoing)
At its core, Game of Thrones is about families as much as it is about desperate fights for power. And like any story in which a single group of people wields a ton of influence, the relationship between the various members of that family is ultimately what shapes the world at large— sometimes with tragic consequences.
So if you liked this particular aspect of Game of Thrones the best, then you’ll find that some of those dynamics return in Succession, HBO’s dark comedy about the heirs to a global media conglomerate. All the thrones and heads on spikes might be metaphorical rather than literal, but the intrigue is still there— only this time is dressed in suits rather than armour.
The Sopranos (HBO, 2001-2008)
The Sopranos can arguably be considered the true start of the so-called “golden age of television,” of which Game of Thrones is—or was—a shining example. The story of Tony Soprano, caught between his mobster empire, his family and his therapy sessions, is pretty much a textbook family epic—one that will definitely remind you of Game of Thrones with its high stakes, conflicts, and violence.
The Crown (Netflix, 2016-ongoing)
Family drama might be one thing, but royal family drama is a different beast entirely—as perfectly exemplified by the Netflix megahit The Crown, telling the story of Queen Elizabeth II’s life from her ascension to the throne to her later years, caught between the divorce battles of her children.
While all the blood in The Crown is metaphorical—you won’t see any of the British royals literally gut each other at dinner—the struggles and conflicts that the characters go through, trying to find space for their own desires under the ever-watchful eye of royal protocol, are no less vicious than the ones you see in Game of Thrones.
—The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]