Winter is almost here, which means that another season of Game of Thrones is coming to an end. After another fantastic series full of shocks, and thrilling action, fans may have a very long time to wait for season 8, with unconfirmed reports of a possible delay until May 2019.
If true, that’s a very long time for GoT fans to be going through withdrawal, and there will be some viewers looking for something else to binge on in the meantime. There are new medieval dramas and dark fantasy shows like The Witcher and Britannica in the works that have a lot of promise but are quite a long way from even a mention of a release date yet.
While it seems that every show is being dubbed the next Game of Thrones or at least aiming to match it in terms of quality, there are a lot to choose from that are actually worth your time. So we’ve put together a list of quality shows past and present that should keep fans of nearly every genre from Sci-fi to fantasy, happy until long wait for the final season of Game of Thrones is upon us.
15. Marco Polo – Sweeping Landscapes, Epic Battles, and Martial Arts
Marco Polo is a historical epic from Netflix with blistering martial arts, beautiful settings, and a stunning soundtrack. The series only ran for two seasons, with an accompanying special episode focusing on the character Hundred Eyes. Despite the series getting canceled, fans of Game of Thrones will enjoy the large scale battles, political backstabbing, and colorful characters.
Benedict Wong’s commanding performance as Kublai Khan, the first non-native to rule over all of China, is a real standout for the show, showing sides of both vulnerability and a terrifying ruthlessness. Wong’s performance complimented the quietly intelligent portrayal of Marco Polo by Lorenzo Richelmy and allowed for some great on-screen chemistry.
14. The Borgias – The Renaissance Lannisters
The real-life story of the Borgia family was one of the inspirations for the Corleone clan in The Godfather novel by Mario Puzo. While it’s not exactly historically accurate, the series makes up for this with a fantastic and entertaining story and its beautiful Renaissance setting.
Jeremy Irons does an incredible job as the devious Cardinal, who rises to become Pope Alexander VI through the use of bribery, and maintains his papacy through corruption, murder, betrayal, and secret family alliances.
Fans of the Lannisters in Game of Thrones will love the tale of family loyalty, sibling rivalry, and power. There’s even brother and sister incest if that floats your boat. Unfortunately, The Borgias suffered a similar fate to Marco Polo and was canceled before its time due to its heavy production costs, but the series is still worth seeking out. The series finale was released as an e-book after a planned two-hour season finale was also scrapped.
13. The Tudors – Betrayal, Violence, And A Breakout Performance From Natalie Dormer
Showtime’s The Tudors is a historical fiction series much in the same way that The Borgias is, so while historical accuracy may not be at the forefront of this entry it’s no less entertaining. Further deviating from historical depictions, Henry VIII of England is played by series lead (a much slimmer) Jonathan Rhys Meyers, but his performance as Henry is a commanding one all the same.
Meyers is supported by a great cast of actors such as Man of Steel’s Henry Cavill, and a breakout performance from Game of Thrones’ very own Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell) as the defiant Anne Boleyn.
The series ran for a full four seasons, and is full of power struggles, political intrigue, betrayal, sex, and violence. What more can a Game of Thrones fan ask for?
12. House of Cards – Littlefinger For President
A political drama set in a fictional modern day America might not be a Game of Thrones fan’s first choice when it comes to filling the gap in the long wait for the final season of their favorite show. House of Cards stands apart and far above shows featuring do-gooder presidents like The West Wing, and Designated Survivor starring Kiefer Sutherland. Try to imagine if the devious Petyr Baelish (Littlefinger) from GoT slithered, deceived, and connived his way to the presidency in the US, and you’ll be on the right track.
The series stars Kevin Spacey as the manipulative and Machiavellian Frank Underwood, and Robin Wright as his wife, Claire Underwood, who is just as cunning, and cold-hearted as her husband. The story unfolds as we watch the two scheme their way up the political ladder from Congress to the presidency.
11. Black Sails – Naval Battles And Pirates As Ruthless As Euron Greyjoy
Fans who have enjoyed the naval battles in Game of Thrones, and more specifically the pirate Euron Greyjoy, will definitely love the Starz series Black Sails. Unfortunately, despite being another fantastic character, the televised version of Game of Thrones hasn’t quite given Euron the screen time he deserves in comparison to his appearance in the books.
Being set during the golden age of piracy and as a prequel to the Treasure Island novels, Black Sails is full of characters like Euron Greyjoy, from real life pirates like Edward “Blackbeard” Teach, to fictional characters like “Long” John Silver.
The series story chronicles Captain Flint’s (Toby Stephens) hunt for the lost Spanish treasure galleon Urca de Lima, the rise of John Silver (Luke Arnold) from a petty criminal to the notorious Captain Silver, and the war for control of New Providence between the British Empire and the pirates.
10. Rome – The Forerunner To HBO’s Game of Thrones
Taking away all the high and dark fantasy elements, HBO’s Rome is about as close you can get to a Game of Thrones. Although the series doesn’t quite reach the scale of the nail-biting battles you see on GoT, it more than makes up for this in gritty characterization, fantastic storytelling, and top-notch performances from the cast.
Rome charts the power struggles, bloody betrayals, civil war, and the rise and fall of Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony during the Ancient city of Rome’s transition from a Republic to Empire. The series stars an ensemble cast with names like Ciarán Hinds (GoT’s Mance Rayder), Ray Stevenson, Kevin McKidd, James Purefoy, and Tobias Menzies, known to Game of Thrones fans as Edmure Tully.
Just like Game of Thrones, Rome isn’t simply a story of good versus evil, each character displays the ability to be both heroic and brutal, and similarly to HBO’s blockbuster, no one is safe, with all characters being capable of dying when you least expect it.
9. The White Queen/The White Princess – The Real Starks vs The Lannisters
It’s no secret that Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin has taken a lot of inspiration for his books from real events that have happened in history. One major influence on the rivalry between House of Lannisters and the House of Starks is known in history as the War of The Roses, which was a series of wars fought between two rival houses known as the House of Lancaster and the House of York for control of the throne of England.
The White Queen and its sequel The White Princess are based on Phillipa Gregory novels The Cousins’ War. The story focuses on three women, Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort (played by Catelyn Stark actress Michelle Fairley), and Anne Neville and their quest for power, as they manipulate events behind the scenes.
8. Sons Of Anarchy – Family Betrayals And Brotherhood
It’s a shame that Kurt Sutter’s medieval drama The Bastard Executioner didn’t quite pan out to be the historical epic it had the potential to be. The setting and the groundwork based during the historic Welsh rebellion were all there. However, for the lack of a better term, the execution wasn’t.
Thankfully, Sutter’s Sons of Anarchy is still worthy of being on this list. Citing the classic Shakespeare play Hamlet as an inspiration, Sons of Anarchy is a story of betrayal, uneasy alliances, violence, and scheming powerful women operating behind the scenes. SoA feels every bit the medieval drama replacing horseback with Harley Davidsons
Those who loved Jon Snow’s rise in the Brotherhood of The Nights Watch will enjoy watching the bonds of friendship between Charlie Hunnam’s character Jax and his men, who have been considered outcasts, unfold over the course of seven seasons.
7. Da Vinci’s Demons – Fantasy, Cults, Warriors, and Politics
Da Vinci’s Demons is a historical fantasy drama series based on a young Leonardo Da Vinci’s early years, most notably the unexplained four-year gap in his historical timeline. Conceived by David S. Goyer whose screenwriting credits include The Dark Knight Trilogy, Blade, and Dark City.
Set in Renaissance Florence, Leonardo finds himself caught up in a political power struggle between the Medici and the Pazzi families, all while he’s trying to obtain the mysterious Book of Leaves. His quest for the book puts him in direct conflict with the Catholic church and involved with a cult that shares similarities to Game of Thrones‘ Faceless Men, The Sons of Mithras.
Da Vinci’s Demons is fun and pure fantasy; the costume design can occasionally look a little too modern but the sets recreate Florence well considering it was all filmed in Wales, and the performances are excellent throughout with a great cast. Game of Thrones fans will notice James Faulkner who played Randyll Tarly as the villainous Pope Sixtus IV.
6. Into The Badlands – Ancient Mythology, Warring Houses, And Blistering Martial Arts
AMC’s Into The Badlands is a post-apocalyptic martial arts fantasy adventure, probably the least complex show on here in terms of storytelling, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less compelling. Despite its post-apocalyptic setting, though, the story is based on a 16th Century Chinese novel called The Journey West. Instead of emperors and factions, the show features Barons, Regents, and a feudal society that has arisen from the ashes of a devastating world war.
The characters maintain strong ties to the original story, with Hong Kong superstar Daniel Wu’s character Sunny representing the Warrior Monk, Bajie played by Nick Frost represents Zhu Bajie (otherwise known as Pigsy), and MK played by Aramis Knight is the Monkey King, a boy with a secret hidden, but dangerous power, that he struggles to control.
Into The Badlands isn’t anywhere near as deep or as dark as GoT, but the show is a fantastic display of escapism, with solid performances all round. Additionally, it features a great villain played by Marton Csokas and a notable support from Stephen Lang.
5. Battlestar Galactica – Psychological Drama, Powerful Female Leads, And Complex Storytelling
Universal’s Battlestar Galactica reboot starring the likes of Edward James Olmos, Katie Sackhoff, and others takes the Sci-Fi approach rather than fantasy. Yet, beyond its genre, this series has far more layers than one would expect and is every bit as complex and as thought-provoking as Game of Thrones. There’s also a surprising amount of lore, for those who love Greek Mythology, and the show makes several allusions and references to the Olympian gods like Zeus, Hera, Athena, Poseidon, Ares, Apollo.
At the same time, there are references to modern society, modern day terrorism, and religions including Evangelical Christianity. In addition, the central plot has a penchant for surprising twists, the ensemble cast is terrific, and the show features strong female leads. Just like GoT, Battlestar Galactica transcends its genre, and its science fiction setting to be something truly special.
4. Spartacus – A Slave Uprising, And Enough Love-Making And Violence To Make Game of Thrones Look Tame
Fans who loved the story revolving around Daenerys Targaryen freeing the slaves and raising an army to take on an Empire will love Spartacus. Not will only will fans of Game of Thrones love this series but so will those who enjoyed movies like 300, Gladiator, and the original Spartacus movie starring Kirk Douglas. The show features stylized battle scenes, fantastic set pieces, and enough blood, violence, and sex to make Game of Thrones look as tame as Disney’s Willow.
Don’t go into Spartacus expecting as deep and complex a story arch as Game of Thrones, but the series isn’t short of great performances, devious villains, political backstabbing, betrayals, and an emotional finale. Sadly the original Spartacus actor Andy Whitfield passed away, but prior to his passing, with Whitfield’s blessing, Liam MacIntyre picked up the reigns.
3. Vikings – Large Scale Epic Storytelling
Since Vikings launched on the History Channel and on Amazon Prime in 2013, it has always been compared favorably to Game of Thrones, and for good reason. For many fans, Vikings is either looked at as the next best thing to GoT and for some diehard fans, it is even better.
Starring Travis Fimmel in the lead role of Ragnar Lothbrok, the show portrays Ragnar’s rise from an ambitious farmer to become the notorious scourge. The show also places a heavy importance on his family, specifically Lagertha and his sons, who become legendary Vikings warriors in their own right.
Although Vikings isn’t heavy on the fantasy, it does dip its toes into some Viking mysticism and mythology, but its depiction of medieval Scandinavia, England, and Europe, is one of the best to grace the small screen.
2. The Expanse – Space Is Dark And Full Of Terrors
The Expanse is a television series that airs on the Syfy channel and is based on the series of novels by James S. A. Corey. The show features an ensemble cast with Thomas Jane, Shohreh Aghdashloo, and Steven Strait and is set in a future where humanity has colonized the Solar System.
Instead of kingdoms, like in Game of Thrones, The Expanse focuses on the uneasy peace between Earth, Mars, and The Belt, and the conspiracy that threatens humanity’s survival. The show features a politically relevant and thrilling plot that, just like Battlestar Galactica transcends its Sci-fi trappings to be something much more. In addition, just like GoT, despite the conflict, and political struggling, and scheming between the planets, there’s a much bigger threat looming over the universe.
1. The Last Kingdom – Political Intrigue, And A Warrior Caught Between Two Cultures
The Last Kingdom is a series based on The Saxon Stories series of novels, by Bernard Cornwell, the same author that wrote the Sharpe novels. The setting is completely different but the lead character Uhtred played by Alexander Dreymon shares many similarities to the Sharpe character. While Sharpe (played by Sean Bean) was a low-ranked soldier promoted to the rank of an Officer, and as a result, finds himself stuck between the upper and lower British classes. Similarly, Uhtred is a former Saxon noble, who was taken as a child and raised by Danes, and in turn, he is stuck between two cultures – he’s not a Dane, but he’s not quite a Saxon either.
Minus the mysticism, The Last Kingdom feels closer to the show Vikings rather than Game of Thrones. Although it follows a different story arch to Vikings, there are enough characters in both shows to make connections, albeit a few years apart. Despite this, there’s a ton of political drama and betrayals that easily compare to GoT, and it’s also a good idea not to get too attached to any particular characters in The Last Kingdom.
Where To Watch: DVD/Blu-ray, Netflix
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