Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and when George R. R. Martin‘s epic fantasy novel series A Song of Ice and Fire was transformed into one of the biggest hits in the history of television, you can be sure a whole slew of imitators weren’t far behind.
Once considered a niche genre, sexy, violent, fantasy tv shows, films and video games are now something of the norm — but can any of them hold a candle to HBO‘s eight-season reign? It’s been three years since Game of Thrones aired its final episode, but studios and producers are still trying to capture the same magic by bringing homages and (oftentimes) straight up ripoffs to the screen. Let’s look back at all the imitators a GOT junkie would love.
One of the earliest shows to try and take the crown from Game of Thrones, Vikings premiered in 2013 and ran for six seasons. Inspired by the legendary Viking hero Ragnar Lodbrok, Vikings hoped to capture the epic, historical fantasy tone that Game of Thrones had quickly come to master. While it’s clear to even a casual GoT fan that Vikings is working on a leaner budget, the History Channel show found an audience all its own and has recently spawned a sequel spinoff series: Vikings: Valhalla for Netflix.
Seeing their rival HBO strike gold with Game of Thrones, Starz quickly put a fantasy series of their own into development. In 2014, the fruits of their labor were revealed as Black Sails, an action-adventure pirate series that debuted at the San Diego Comic-Con. Written as a prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel Treasure Island, Black Sails riffs on the sex and violence in Game of Thrones with a historical adventure bent all its own. A hit with both critics and fans, Black Sails ran for four seasons before its ship set sail for good.
Netflix has not been bashful in its pursuit of a mega-budget show that can capitalize on the Game of Thrones audience. Though their track record may be less than stellar (Marco Polo, The Last Kingdom, etc.), they finally made a splash with The Witcher. Fans were already familiar with The Witcher short stories and a critically acclaimed video game series. But this new fantasy drama television series created by Lauren Schmidt Hissrich makes its Game of Thrones influence apparent from the opening scene.
The most recent entry into the Game of Thrones imitation game, Robert Eggers’ epic The Northman boasts a GoT-like budget (estimated at $90 million) and a plot that would make Martin proud. A Viking who raids Slavic villages vows to seek revenge on his uncle, who brutally murdered his father. Having had previous success with horror hits The Witch and The Lighthouse, Eggers appears to have tapped into the Game of Thrones playbook for this fantasy adventure film, currently in theaters.
God of War
Though the God of War video game series predates the Game of Thrones tv series (but not the books), this 2018 reboot takes a page out of G0T lore. The third-person, action-adventure game follows the Greek God of War, Kratos. However, it shifts from Greek mythology to a loosely inspired Norse narrative with clear allusions to Game of Thrones, and may be one of the most important and successful GoT imitators to date. Widely acclaimed for its story, world design, music and combat, God of War is not only a must-have for fans of HBO’s television show but any gamer on the lookout for a stellar action-RPG.
Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla
As much a ripoff of Game of Thrones as God of War, Ubisoft’s long-running Assassin’s Creed series returned in 2020 with Valhalla. This twelfth installment of the series is set in 872 AD and depicts the violent Viking expansion into the British Isles. Not only does Valhalla take cues from the tone and action of Game of Thrones, but a hidden easter egg within the game’s Dunwic region directly references Tyrion Lannister.
Three years after its final episode aired, Game of Thrones fans still hungry for well-made stories about kings, queens, renegades and liars have an abundance of work to choose from. A runaway hit like Game of Thrones is bound to spawn a bunch of impersonators and followers. Thankfully, this influential series inspired several new films, television series and video games that are successes in their own right.
While you wait for this summer’s House of the Dragon, HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel series, with the patience of the Night King, check out some other GoT articles below:
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