House of the Dragon, the upcoming Game of Thrones spinoff prequel, is just a few months away. The fantasy series about the beginning of the end of the Targaryen dynasty premieres on HBO and HBO Max on August 21, about three years and three months after Thrones ended.
Game of Thrones isn't the cultural powerhouse it once was, thanks to the negative response to the final season. Nowadays people seem to only remember it for not ending how they wanted it to, but that's revisionist history. Because for the majority of its eight-season run, Game of Thrones was awesome. No other show had its scale and scope, and its acting, writing, and direction were better than any fantasy series had ever been. Game of Thrones ushered in the current TV era of big-budget, effects-heavy IP adaptations by being so excellent that no one could deny it. It expanded what was possible on TV, and changed the medium forever. If you're still resentful of the final season, you should get back in touch with the fact that Game of Thrones was actually good before House of the Dragon premieres.
You could rewatch Game of Thrones, but that might be too painful. If you don't feel up to that, you could watch some other shows like Game of Thrones that aren't Game of Thrones but will get you hyped about dragons and palace intrigue again. Maybe you just need reminding that stuff like Game of Thrones can be great, you know? So we've compiled a list of shows that hopefully will give you a feeling like Game of Thrones once did. From gripping historical dramas to escapist fantasies to shows that star GoT alums, they're all shows that have a bit of that Game of Thrones magic.
Amazon's epic fantasy series is openly trying to be the next Game of Thrones; showrunner Rafe Judkins even told the New York Post that he visited the set of Game of Thrones for advice and inspiration. The Wheel of Time is an adaptation of a mammoth series of novels by author Robert Jordan that influenced George R.R. Martin as he was writing the Song of Ice and Fire series. It's about a group of four young people who set out on a quest around the world alongside a magical woman named Moraine (Rosamund Pike) and her protector al'Lan Mandragoran (Daniel Henney). Moraine believes that one of the four is the reincarnation of the Dragon, a powerful magician who is prophesied to either save the world or destroy it. That relatively simple premise makes it accessible to viewers who may not be high fantasy devotees, which was the key to Game of Thrones' initial success. From that premise, it builds a fantastical world of hideous monsters, grand battles, and magical intrigue. And it has one familiar face from Game of Thrones in the cast: Michael McElhatton, who played Roose Bolton, the Stark bannerman whose betrayal led to the Red Wedding. -Liam Mathews
What if Game of Thrones... but in space? That's kind of what Apple TV+'s Foundation is going for, with its bottomless budget and the incredibly rich universes it inhabits. The sci-fi series follows an autocratic regime that decides a mathematician's warning that the empire is about to fall and send mankind into a period of dark ages is scientific nonsense, so it's ignored by banishing the mathematician and his believers to the outer reaches of the universe. With a variety of biomes, intricate politics, and fantastic fashion, Foundation will remind you a lot of your favorite fantasy show.
Depending on who you ask, Outlander is either the sexiest show on TV, or it's a historical drama with a touch of sci-fi. Or maybe it's both! Based on the book series by Diana Gabaldon, Outlander revolves around Claire (Caitriona Balfe), a married World War II nurse who, after mysteriously time traveling back to 1743, falls in love with Jamie (Sam Heughan), a young Scottish warrior. You should know upfront that it definitely lacks the near-constant thrill that Game of Thrones brought (there are way less expensive battle scenes, is what I'm saying), but if you're looking for something that will give you an occasionally accurate history lesson and get you invested in a sweeping romance that spans centuries, Outlander is the show for you.
Black Sails is about pirates, but not the fun, rum-drinking Pirates of the Caribbean kind: These are gritty pirates. A prequel to Treasure Island, Black Sails is set in the early 1700s and revolves around Captain Flint's (Toby Stephens) debaucherous life as the leader of a band of swashbucklers. He brings on Long John Silver (Luke Arnold) as a member of his crew, and together, they engage in a sprawling battle for New Providence Island. Black Sails has often been compared to Game of Thrones, and even though it's not a fantasy, there are plenty of elements about this show that fans will recognize and enjoy: its period setting, its excellent characters, its engaging storytelling and world-building, and some beautifully shot battle scenes. (And some gratuitous nudity.) Also, if it helps, the ending wasn't anywhere near as divisive.
If what you're really looking for in your post-Game of Thrones watching life is just people battling each other, look no further than Spartacus. This show, set in the 72 B.C. era Roman Empire, is about gladiators, which means it has blood and violence to spare. It has everything you're probably looking for: brutal fighting, betrayal, sex and nudity (seriously, when the characters on this show aren't trying to maim each other, there's a good chance it's because they're too busy having sex), and gore that's as exciting to look at as it is absolutely disgusting.
For anyone whose favorite part of Game of Thrones was the twisted family dynamics, meet The Borgias. The show, set in Renaissance-era Italy, follows the ruthless and scandalous Borgia family who are willing to do just about anything to maintain their power. When the show begins, Rodrigo (Jeremy Irons) has just become Pope Alexander VI by using nefarious tactics, which is probably the least insane thing that happens throughout its three seasons. This show has a healthy amount of blood and violence, but the things that makes this show most compelling are the characters and the ways they interact with each other. The Borgias is not at all afraid to shy away from incest, so Game of Thrones fans should feel right at home.
It's hard to remember a time before Game of Thrones, but I promise it once existed. In fact, back in 2005, HBO made Rome, a highly underrated drama set amid ancient Rome's transition from republic to empire. It's a short watch (only two seasons!) that has basically everything you're probably looking for: rival families trapped in power struggles with each other, well-choreographed fight scenes, intriguing characters, and more. Plenty of shows wish they could be the next Game of Thrones, but Rome was Game of Thrones before Game of Thrones even existed.
The Witcher, which is based on Andrzej Sapkowski's book series, stars Henry Cavill as monster hunter Geralt of Rivia, a witcher whose destiny becomes bound to the sorceress Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) and the powerful princess Ciri (Freya Allan). In case it wasn't already clear, this is a fantasy show, dealing with magic, knights, and terrifying monsters. There's been a lot of debate about whether or not The Witcher is trying to come up in Game of Thrones' image, and the comparisons are obvious, but this show isn't Netflix's attempt at a carbon copy. It's much more of a hard fantasy and centers around a smaller group of characters, leaning more into the "fulfilling your destiny" of it all. You will definitely walk away with the "Toss a Coin to Your Witcher" song stuck in your head.
The real draw here is Natalie Dormer, who, a few years before donning Margaery Tyrell's curly wig, played Anne Boleyn on The Tudors. Showtime's historical drama is set during King Henry VIII's (played here by Jonathan Rhys Meyers) tenure, touching on everything from his political struggles to his many wives, which is arguably what he's most famous for. If you already know the story of King Henry, there's not much here that will surprise you, but it's still a great drama with a strong cast that's a must-watch for anyone who loved the royal family stuff in Game of Thrones.
Set in 866, The Last Kingdom tells the story of Uhtred of Bebbanburg (Alexander Dreymon), a Saxon warrior raised from childhood as a Viking after Vikings invaded his home. The show is a great mix of politics, family, and war, and it's adrenaline-pumping in all the right ways. If you were disappointed by Daenerys' messy descent into Game of Thrones' designated villain, The Last Kingdom kind of makes up for that with Brida's (Emily Cox) own dark journey, which feels more warranted thanks to the way the show fleshes it out over several seasons.
Speaking of Vikings, have you checked out Vikings? Originally following the story of Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel), a Viking farmer who went on to become one of the most infamous Vikings in history, the drama is based on actual events and later transitions to focus more on his sons, including Ivar the Boneless (Alex Høgh) and Bjorn Ironside (Alexander Ludwig). Like Game of Thrones, Vikings is an epic that spans many years, and delights in exploring power struggles, how leaders fall, and family politics. It's the historical drama you've been looking for. Especially if you like a massive, big-budget battle once or twice a season.