14 Captivating TV Shows Like "Game of Thrones" That’ll Hook You Instantly
What Series Are Like "Game of Thrones?"
We get enough brain-dead TV series every week. Every once in a while, though, a show like Game of Thrones lands on our screens and hooks us.
It’s gripping, gory, and beautiful. From dark dungeons to snowy mountains, the contrasting landscapes are captivating, each with a new story to tell. With its strong narrative and jaw-dropping visuals, there is no wonder that it has broken all sorts of records. The acting might seem a little wooden at times, but this is perfectly in keeping with the medieval look and feel of the show. Yes, it is dark and gloomy, but again in keeping with the narrative. Yes, some scenes can be hard to stomach for some people. If you can digest a lot of nudity (which is awesome), heart-wrenching deaths, and shocking betrayals, though, Game of Thrones is just the thing.
It also happens to be one of the most pirated TV shows ever. No wonder they premiered the 6th season in 172 countries simultaneously (by far the largest TV simulcast ever)! The only problem with Game of Thrones is that there isn’t enough of it. With only ten episodes every year (only seven in 2017), we are left craving more.
So of course, a lot of people are looking for TV series like Game of Thrones, including me. I decided to take a look around and compile a list of some other shows similar to Game of Thrones.
What Shows Are Like Game of Thrones
- Black Sails
- House of Cards
- The Tudors
- Boardwalk Empire
- The Bastard Executioner
- The Last Kingdom
- The Borgias
- American Gods
- The Expanse
How'd you rate Game of Thrones out of 5 stars?
Rome could easily have achieved Game of Thrones's popularity. It’s a shame that it was canceled after only two seasons. Rome never got the audience it needed to keep it on the screen and it was crazy expensive to produce.
Good news is, you can still watch 22 episodes of this excellent series on HBO Go or Amazon on Demand. Everything you need to know is covered in those few episodes. It doesn’t feel unfinished. You’ll know who is standing and who has fallen by the end of the second season.
Rome lacks in nail-biting fights, but it more than makes up for it with its gritting storyline and convincing acting. If you are looking for a great storyline like Game of Thrones, Rome is your best bet.
Vikings follows the story of Ragnar Lothbrok, a farmer who ultimately becomes the king of Denmark, as he terrorizes France and England with his constant raids. He is joined by his troubled brother Rollo, his first wife Lagertha, and the shipbuilder Floki in his quest.
Although it’s not Game of Thrones by any stretch of the imagination, I still love its storyline that has managed to captivate for four seasons. As you watch, you'll find yourself pulling for guys you loathed in the first season and booing last season's heroes. The plot and character development are artful, and as far as the depiction of medieval Scandinavia goes, I’d say it’s pretty accurate. If you love Game of Thrones but its nudity and violence are sometimes a bit too much to handle, you should defiantly give Vikings a shot. If you love this drama, check out some similar shows to Vikings.
3. Black Sails
Sex, violence, and nudity – Black Sails doesn't lack in these elements.
Airing on Starz and set as a prequel to Treasure Island, the plot follows the adventure of one of the most feared and infamous pirates of the golden age, Captain Flint. On an island overrun with thieves, pirates, and prostitutes, Flint has to maintain control. The first season helps you get acquainted with the characters and style of storytelling. You might think that everything is a tad flashy, but the second and third seasons will help change your opinion.
If you are looking for some action, Black Sails is a good bet. Check out some more shows like Black Sails while you're at it.
4. House of Cards
If plot twists, back-stabbing, and political intrigue are what you love most about Game of Thrones, House of Cards is for you. The plot follows politicians of various rank and influence in Washington D.C. With familiar faces like Kevin Spacey and Kate Mara, the whole cast thrives under Fincher’s direction. Fincher has pulled off this drama in the best way possible. Taking the plunge of 13 episodes per season is not easy.
House of Cards is a serious political drama. What if someone is not into politics? Would they like it? The short answer is ‘yes'. Even if politics is not your cup of tea, you should find House of Cards enjoyable. The writing is to the point, sharp, and accurate. It never goes over the top or underwhelms, either.
One advantage House of Cards has is that you can watch one episode after another without any commercial breaks or programming schedules. You could even watch the whole season in one sitting (wouldn’t recommend it) if that’s your thing. On top of that, episodes don't include any flashbacks or recaps, thus freeing up significant time for more stories, conspiracy, and action. However difficult it is to get used to this kind of program scheduling, once you start paying attention, House of Cards grows on you.
One of the best things about this show is the removal of the fourth wall. You’ll find Frank Underwood talking to the camera every once in a while as a way of explication and expressing his opinion. Actor Kevin Spacey pulls those scenes off in style.
5. The Tudors
The Tudors is the story of Henry VIII’s reign over England. It’s about his political control over the region.
Just like Game of Thrones, this show is all about politics and the struggle for power. It might not be historically accurate, but it still is a lot of fun to watch all the four seasons. If you’re looking for historical accuracy, skip this entry. Then again, I don't think historical inaccuracy is a problem for a Game of Thrones fan. You’re here for some serious, gritty drama, and The Tudors has plenty of that in the store.
Spartacus is a series crammed with some intense action, violence, and drama – everything you’d expect from a TV show like Game of Thrones. Though this show doesn’t dwell in fantasy, it has gladiators with swords. Did I mention that there are tons of plot betrayals? You can stream the entire thing on Netflix.
7. Boardwalk Empire
Taking place amidst a thriving illegal alcohol business during the era of Prohibition, when the political landscape was laced with violence and corruption, Boardwalk Empire is a story about Nucky Thompson, a politician who also happens to be a mobster, playing both sides to his gain. Due to his lavish lifestyle, the federal government starts looking into him, making life a little bit harder for our man than it already is.
What surprised me is how far the makers of this series were willing to go with every little detail. It’s beyond accurate. Every furnishing, every corner, every street looks and feels authentic, as if everything was shot in 20s. In this show, a new standard is set for storytelling with everything far beyond perfect. With a talented and experienced cast, amazing cinematography, and twisting story lines, Boardwalk Empire cements its place as one of the best historical shows to ever air on TV.
8. The Bastard Executioner
The Bastard Executioner started airing September, 2015. After watching the one season aired before it was canceled, I was convinced that this medieval epic deserved a place in this list of shows like Game of Thrones.
It cost a whopping $10 million to make the two hour premiere, and subsequent episodes cost almost $2 million each. Judging by the quality of content and ratings, though, I’d say it was money well spent.
The story is set in Wales somewhere around 1300. It’s about Wlikn Brattle, a soldier who has had enough of the war and is looking to live rest of his life in peace. Unfortunately, he finds out that he has no option but to pick up the sword again, this time as a badass executioner. The first few episodes don’t reveal much, but it’s certain that The Bastard Executioner isn’t going to be a weekly execute-bad-guys episode. It’s trying to tell a larger story.
This might be the ultimate cure of Game of Thrones withdrawal. Less fantasy, and perhaps less nudity, but we have a lot of gore, blood, story line, and violence crammed in every episode.
9. The Last Kingdom
It’s a shame that more people don’t know about this series or the story it's based on. Just like Game of Thrones, The Last Kingdom is based on a series of books called The Saxon Stories. Set during 10th century AD in England at the time when Viking invasions were at their peak, The Last Kingdom is a story about Uhtred, an orphan born in Northumbria who must choose between the people who raised him and his native country.
Eye-gouging, beheading, stabbing, and crucifixion, amongst other things, is all here for your pleasure. There are a lot of bone-crunching battles with ever so satisfying clings of swords. The only thing lacking is explicit nude scenes, something we have grown accustomed to in Game of Thrones. It’s not surprising as the show is aired on BBC, which is not a premium channel. Still, a show well worth your time.
This Tom Hardy starrer takes us back to 1814 in London, as his character struggles to get back his lost pride in a land where he has almost no friends.
FX network has been home to some of the best TV dramas in recent times. From the madness in American Horror Story to the irreverent Fargo, they have been delivering one hit after another. If anything, they lacked a good historical drama. Not anymore.
Taboo is easily one of the top 10 shows to land on the small screen in 2017. After a strong season 1, FX is gearing up to air the second season sometime in 2019. Here's hoping that the second season maintains the intrigue of the first.
My only gripe so far is that it's too focused on a single character at this moment. It would be infinitely more interesting if more players get involved in it. For now, the show lacks a multi-layered storyline, something a historical fiction must have. Despite its shortcomings, it delivers on most of its promises.
11. The Borgias
The Borgias follows the story of a family who rose to prominence in Italy during the period of Renaissance. This 9 part mini-series is crammed with all the nudity, incest, murder, blood, and violence you can stomach, so much so that it's cartoony at times. Think of it as Game of Thrones lite, except with way more incest. It's said that this family didn't discriminate when it came to sleeping with someone. On that account, this insidious depiction stays true to the grim historical reality.
A strong ensemble cast has done an amazing job with their characters, but Jeremy Irons steals the spotlight with the portrayal of Rodrigo Borgia, a conniving, capricious diplomat with a silver tongue. As he uses his authority and reach to become Pope, the downward spiral begins for his family.
It's a shame that Borgias doesn't get as much attention or paise series like Game of Thrones and Vikings (it has gone downhill) garner. If you haven't watched it, there couldn’t be a better time to get started.
12. American Gods
An ex-convict is hired by a cheerful, mysterious old man as his bodyguard. Little does he know that he's about to find himself in the middle of a brewing war between the old and new Gods. As they engage in a power-shifting war, he learns more about this secret side of America where mythical Gods and magic are real.
Rarely does a show stays as faithful to the original material as American Gods. Whatever liberties this show takes are essential for the small screen adaptation. If anything, this show has expanded the horizons of this fantasy world. If you're already familiar with the book, American Gods will get you hooked in its high fantasy world in no time.
Those who haven't had the chance will find it a little difficult to get into this show, especially in the first few episodes. Stick to it, however. If you pay close attention, you'll understand it's symbolism as well as the main storyline as all the seemingly disparate phases converge into a beautifully weaved story-one that ends with a cliffhanger in season 1.
Even at its weakest, American Gods is a visual extravaganza - an anomaly that's unlike anything else on contemporary TV. This part comedy part supernatural thriller will provoke quite a few people, thanks to its mocking underlying tone beneath its no-nonsense, capricious exterior. Suffice to say that this show will leave a different impact on people from different backgrounds.
Directed by Stephen Williams, Westworld is a cerebral show with a storyline so convoluted that you'd almost wanna give up on it. It's a show that rewards loyalty and persistence with some mind-boggling storytelling-one that's filled with treacherous twists and turns along the way.
Sci-fi is usually a niche genre, but this is one of the very few series that has managed to garner worldwide attention despite having the same hooks of every other sci-fi shows. It works, mostly because of an unfathomable production value only the likes of HBO can afford. Couple it with a star-studded cast and you have a recipe for one of the best mind-benders of this generation.
The showrunners and the giant network itself should get a hat-tip for pushing this show beyond the boundaries of normalcy, into the uncharted realm.
It's not easy to get unit this show, especially if you're coming on the heels of a causal, brain-dead series that doesn't demand a lot from the audience. Westworld, however, trusts you enough to let you piece together some of its most confusing moments. It plays like a Chinese puzzle and treats you like a seasoned player who's flawless at his game. Are you up for a challenge?
Despite the uneven nature of the second season, it sets up an intriguing premise for what's next to come. Catch up with its twisted stories before the third season begins airing.
If you love Westworld, come back and checkout out some similar shows to it.
Outlander has seen both highs and lows over the course of the past four seasons, partly because it can be brilliant and mundane in such a short span of time, sometimes in a single episode. While it doesn't hit every attempted mark, it certainly hits pretty close to the home.
Its emphasis on time transcending romance might have you believe that this show is a light-hearted historical piece. It sure is, for the first few episodes. Make no mistake. This series has an uncanny ability to fool its viewers and catch them off guard with a few twists up its sleeve.
There is a rape scene, which I won't talk about in detail, that plays a huge role in shaping the story. This particular scene is just a preview of the ordeal to follow. Outlander is permeated with disconcerting themes like this, and this is pretty much everything you need to know about this time-warping period piece. Take Game if Thrones, add some mature romance and slow burn drama, and strip it off the epic battles; the end result will be Outlander.
If you like this show, maybe checkout out some similar shows to Outlander while you're at it.
15. The Expanse
This crackerjack sci-fi drama might not have the splender of HBO's Game of Thrones, but its enigmatic storytelling will hook you right from the get go.
The whole drama is set in the space, revolving around our solar system for the most part. Though it starts off slow, things pick up pace gradually. Unlike GoT, this heavy-handed series is best watched in small doses.
Cacneled by SyFy, the network it was on, Amazon came to the rescue and ordered the 4th season. Though the show has been nothing short of exceptional with its storytelling, here is hoping that the deep pockets of Amazon will help the showrunners with the CGI department.
Are there any other TV shows like Game of Thrones that should have been on this list? Let me know in the comments section, and I’ll be sure to check them out!