No matter whether you’re watching for the first time or are on your latest rewatch, catching up with Game of Thrones often ends with one big question (amid all of the other things we want to be answered): Are there other TV shows like Game of Thrones to tackle next?
Game of Thrones has, for better and for worse, changed television drastically since its 2011 debut on HBO. The fantasy series, which is based on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, has turned into a worldwide phenomenon—one that HBO and rival networks have tried to replicate. We’ve seen hints of Game of Thrones in shows that killed off big characters, offered plenty to theorize on, relished in the gore and violence, or put a major focus on the main characters as TV budgets became more ambitious. Amazon, which wanted its own Game of Thrones, went literally by greenlighting a TV adaptation of Lord of the Rings (a series that heavily influenced Martin).
Some shows might appeal to Game of Thrones fans because they cover common ground. Others might have more of a thematic resonance, even if it falls under a thematic genre. But until season 8—and any of the prequel series—arrives on our TVs, we’ve got more than enough TV shows like Game of Thrones to start exploring. Here are our top recommendations, listed in no particular order.
The best TV shows like Game of Thrones
- Seasons available: 6
- Status: Complete
- Streaming: Hulu
Lost followed a group of plane crash survivors more connected than they ever realized who came up against monsters, human and supernatural foes, and forces beyond their control as they tried to survive on a deserted island. It was both a breakout hit for ABC and a cult show with enough intrigue and mysteries to uncover in a time before those conversations played out on Twitter and Reddit, but it also featured an ensemble cast and emotional arcs that could tug at your heartstrings. The best episodes could juggle all of it with ease. With a few exceptions (sorry Nikki and Paulo), Lost was even able to introduce compelling characters well after we became attached to the original roster who crashed on Lost’s mysterious island.
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It also represents a potential scenario for Game of Thrones fans. Lost is remembered for what it did for television, but perhaps even more so for how it ended. While not the most-hated series finale in recent years, it’s one that still has fans divided more than eight years later. (For what it’s worth, I loved it—and no, they weren’t dead the whole time.) The ending was more about emotional closure over the mysteries, which left some of the fans who were invested in the latter hanging. The end of Game of Thrones may be even more highly anticipated, and for those with high hopes, a potentially disappointing ending might be even more devastating.
2) Black Sails
From the outside, Black Sails looked like one of the many, many Game of Thrones knock-offs that emerged in the wake of Game of Thrones’ success. It was a big-budget drama on a prestige network (Starz instead of HBO) with a big name behind it (Michael Bay produced) and an ensemble cast of mostly unknown actors. It leaned in both on its historical and literary roots—it took place in the early 18th century and included several Treasure Island characters—with plenty of sex and violence mixed in. And sure, it had a lot of that in its first season. But season 2 onward made it clear that Black Sails was a very different show, and the breadcrumbs only proved that was part of the show’s design from the beginning. It tackled politics, sexuality, and the downside of monarchy largely with characters on the outskirts of power, and at times, it arguably does so better than Game of Thrones.
- Seasons available: 2
- Status: Ongoing; season 2 ended June 24, 2018
- Streaming: HBO Go/HBO NOW
Westworld, which is loosely based on the 1973 Michael Crichton movie and takes us to a theme park where humans can interact with, seduce, and kill lifelike robots called hosts, was also initially written off for its use of sex and violence at the expense of its female characters. But throughout the first two seasons, it’s turned those tropes on their heads as a group of hosts gain consciousness and take over the park. As the humans push technology to the edge in search of immortality, the hosts are trying to discover their own humanity in the midst of their narratives, creating a complex and messy portrait of who they really are.
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4) Killing Eve
- Seasons available: 1
- Status: Ongoing; season 1 ended May 27, 2018
- Streaming: BBC America (with a cable log-in); Hulu (late 2018)
Written by Fleabag creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Killing Eve upends a classic story, the cat-and-mouse game, and places two flawed women at the center of it—but it’s much more than its genderbent premise suggests. On one end is Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh), an MI5 officer who is recruited by MI6 and becomes obsessed with the assassin she’s tracking, but the assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer) ends up being just as intrigued by her. (Fiona Shaw also has an excellent turn as Eve’s boss Carolyn Martens.) Rife with fast-paced action, suspense, and plenty of sexual tension, the eventual meeting of the leads—already with high stakes—more than pays off.
5) The Terror
- Seasons available: 1
- Status: Ongoing; season 1 finished airing May 21, 2018, while a second season of the anthology series will focus on a new story
- Streaming: AMC (with a cable log-in)
The AMC miniseries, which is based on a novel of the same name, has its basis in one of history’s great unsolved mysteries: the disappearance of the Franklin expedition. But the real horror and drama of The Terror (also the name of one of the crew’s ships) is often not with supernatural creatures that lurk in the arctic wasteland. Instead, it’s the paranoia, the illnesses, the bitter cold and boredom, and just how ill-prepared the men were for this particular journey. It’s also the rare story mostly about men that doesn’t treat its female characters solely as plot devices or make them completely two-dimensional.
With winter now in Westeros and the Army of the Dead on its way south of the Wall, it’s possible we may see some of that desperation—which does appear in A Dance of Dragons—play out on our screens.
6) The White Queen / The White Princess
Martin famously took part of his inspiration for A Song of Ice and Fire from the real-life conflict of the War of the Roses, civil wars that saw two rival houses with claims to the English throne play the game in court and on the field. After years of in-fighting, the war ended with a political marriage between Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, which would eventually lead to the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. While it’s too early to tell if Game of Thrones will have a similar political alliance, with Jon Snow and Daenerys’ new alliance (as well as romance), the possibility is there.
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The White Queen (10 episodes) depicts the War of the Roses from the women who watched and schemed in it while The White Princess (eight episodes) follows the fallout of that war and the fragility of that truce.
- Seasons/status: 3
- Status: Ongoing; season 4 debuts Nov. 10, 2018, on Starz
- Streaming: Starz
Outlander shows much of the big picture—with the series taking place in the 1940s, 1960s, and 18th century Scotland—as a woman accidentally travels back in time during a series of Scottish rebellions against the English crown. But it’s also very much a show that takes the time to focus on its character as the central relationship—between Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser—face external and internal forces. It’s one of the best TV shows like Game of Thrones you’ll find.
8) Orphan Black
- Seasons available: 5
- Status: Complete
- Streaming: Amazon Prime
At the heart of Orphan Black, a thriller that explores bodily autonomy, cloning, and a person’s identity, is the women at the center of it. The women—primarily a group of clones all played by Tatiana Maslany, who makes you forget she’s playing all of them—each come in with their own beliefs, drives, and goals. It shows that the personal is political but also highlights just how fantastic it is to see all of those characters come together and pull it off, whether it’s sneaking out vital data or imitating one another at a function.
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9) Into the Badlands
- Seasons available: 3
- Status: Ongoing; season 3 ended June 17, 2018
- Streaming: AMC (with a cable log-in); Netflix (seasons 1-2)
Like Game of Thrones, Into the Badlands often turns genres on its head as it blends a post-apocalyptic world with feudal states, martial arts, and a mythological kingdom. It’s got plenty of mythology on its side, and amid all of the action and violence is a story about one man trying to discover who he really is.
10) The Expanse
- Seasons available: 3
- Status: Ongoing; season 3 ended June 27, 2018
- Streaming: SYFY (with a cable log-in); seasons 1-2 on Amazon Prime (season 3 is available for purchase)
Based on the novels by James S.A. Corey, The Expanse revels in its own complexities. It evolved from a fine but well-produced mystery sci-fi drama to something much deeper, exploring the kinds of themes we don’t often get in sci-fi. Martin is among its fans, and although SYFY canceled the series after three seasons, Amazon Prime has swooped in to bring a fourth season to life.
11) Wynonna Earp
- Seasons available: 3
- Status: Ongoing; season 3 is in-progress on SYFY
- Streaming: SYFY (with a cable log-in); seasons 1-2 on Netflix
Wynonna Earp, which is based on the IDW comic series, follows the great-great-granddaughter of the legendary gunman Wyatt Earp, who’s tasked with fighting the same people that Wyatt once battled, which are known as revenants, and the supernatural. It has hints of Supernatural, but it also mixes in a supporting cast of female characters, secret government agencies, and a gun that can send revenants to hell.
12) The Good Place
- Seasons available: 2
- Status: Ongoing; season 3 will debut Sept. 27, 2018, on NBC
- Streaming: NBC (with a cable log-in); seasons 1-2 on Netflix; recent episodes on Hulu
While Game of Thrones had the benefit of several books and years of swirling fan theories to fuel it beforehand, The Good Place’s big twist (which I won’t spoil here) came out of nowhere, although there are plenty of hints for viewers on a rewatch. It took a very funny show about a woman who wakes up in the show’s depiction of heaven (“The Good Place”) and discovers that she was sent there by mistake. She then teams up with her ethics professor soulmate to teach her how to be good.
The Good Place is funny, but it also doubles as the kind of comedy that’s interested in far bigger life conundrums (for an example, look no further than season 2’s Trolley Problem) and what it means for not only the characters we follow but for all of us.
13) The Crown
- Seasons/status: 2
- Status: Ongoing; season 2 dropped Dec. 8, 2017
- Streaming: Netflix
Netflix’s prestige political drama The Crown is more contemporary than many of the shows on this list, but the fine line that Queen Elizabeth II has to work should be more than familiar for Game of Thrones fans. She might sit on the throne, but she has to appease many of the men who serve her (including her own husband) without fracturing any of their egos—and when she does, it’s usually in private. Whenever she suffers, she has to do it with more grace than a man would in her position. And with season 3 looking at a middle-aged Elizabeth, we’ll get to see how the men in her life treat her now that she’s older.
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