Have any of these 15 shows become “the next Game of Thrones”?

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Whether you still love Game of Thrones years after the finale or you’ve burned that bridge following the controversial season 8, the show was a television phenomenon like nothing that had come before. It’s easy to forget nowadays, when there’s a new big budget science fiction and fantasy show every couple of weeks, but when Game of Thrones first began airing in 2011 it was revolutionary. HBO took a huge chance on a show about dragons and warring noble houses and monsters lurking in the frozen north beyond an eight-hundred-foot tall ice wall, and it paid off for all of us.

As with any success, Game of Thrones has bred no shortage of imitators. When the series ended in 2019, it left a power vacuum that many streaming services and networks have sought to fill. From Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos outright proclaiming he wanted Amazon Studios to “find the next Game of Thrones” to the myriad fantasy shows created by Netflix and others, the Streaming Wars have raged across the realm. And while the battle continues, enough contenders have come and gone at this point that it’s worth taking time to look at these hopefuls for the throne, and to gauge how successful they’ve been at taking it.

The Witcher
The Witcher season 2. Image courtesy Jay Maidment, Netflix /

3. The Witcher

The first season of The Witcher debuted the same year that Game of Thrones ended, and there’s some shared ground. The Witcher follows the adventures of a professional monster hunter named Geralt of Rivia, but we soon see that the human beings who populate the Continent can be just as vexing as the bloodthirsty beasts. Geralt spends at least as much time getting roped into the games of high lords and ladies as he does fighting Leshy and the like, and it’s a tossup which is more dangerous. There are also generous helpings of the sex and violence that drew so many eyes to Game of Thrones, although it’s often a bit more cartoony.

The Witcher is based on a series of books by Andrzej Sapkowski, but the show has made some important changes. Most notably, the books — at least the early ones — stick pretty closely to Geralt’s point of view, but the show makes bigger use of the ensemble cast to produce a Game of Thrones-like effect, where we have multiple stories running concurrently that may eventually intersect. It’s hard to look at that and wonder how often they talked about Game of Thrones in the writers’ room.

The Witcher sets itself apart from HBO’s mega-hit by focusing more on the high fantasy aspects; there are plenty of elves, dryads and other fantasy fixings here. That includes many prominent sorcerer characters, whereas Game of Thrones pretty much just had Melisandre. Then there’s the tone, which is broader and more goofy — whether intentional or otherwise — than anything Game of Thrones served up.

The Witcher isn’t to everyone’s taste, but it’s gained a large fanbase eager for more. Netflix is determined to give it to them; in addition to more seasons, it’s made an animated movie and is debuting a spinoff show this year. The Witcher has done a solid job of scratching the Game of Thrones itch for people, although it’s different enough to not have really taken its place. – Dan

©2020 Amazon Prime Video; photo by Jan Thijs
©2020 Amazon Prime Video; photo by Jan Thijs /

4. The Wheel of Time

The Wheel of Time is another obvious contender for the throne. The first book in Robert Jordan’s doorstopping fantasy series came out years before A Game of Thrones, and the two series definitely share some things in common. Both of them kind of ask the question, “What if The Lord of the Rings was more realistic?” For The Wheel of Time, that answer takes the form of a story about a prophesied chosen one, Rand al’Thor, who resists his destiny every step of the way, and who is jerked around by various groups hoping to use him for their own ends. Some of the plans within plans and political feints will feel comfortingly familiar to Game of Thrones fans.

The Wheel of Time also has a richly imagined fantasy world that dwarfs pretty much anything else in the genre. We’re talking multiple far-flung civilizations, lots of different sorts of magic, and backstories that go back thousands of years. If you want world-building, The Wheel of Time has it.

That said, The Wheel of Time also has a precocious-teen-protagonists-on-an-adventure angle that Game of Thrones never really did, although the books ease off on that aspect as they go on. It’s also milder in tone that Game of Thrones; you won’t find much in the way of sex or extreme violence here, and even though plenty of characters have ambiguous motives, there’s ultimately a pretty traditional good-vs-evil binary at work. On The Wheel of Time, we’re more certain who the good guys are. – Dan