HBO’s subscription-selling show has run its course and there’s nary a worthy follow-up in sight. What are GoT-loving gamers to do to cope with the loss? Thankfully, there are numerous games which capture some aspect of George R. R. Martin’s books or of the ridiculously popular show.
Fortunately for all the fans that want to make their own ending to the Game of Thrones story, there are numerous games that either have very similar themes and setting to the show or the books of George R. R. Martin or have dedicated mods that overhaul their world into the ones known from the HBO’s show.
Source: HBO, Game of Thrones
But before we delve into the list of the video games like Game of Thrones, let’s take a look at what makes A Song of Ice and Fire (and by extension Game of Thrones) such a landmark in the fantasy landscape. If one had to describe GoT in two words, the most fitting ones would be “bloody politics”. Blood is inextricably woven into the political tapestry of the setting.
The state of the world in the first book/season is a direct result of generous and largely non-consensual blood-shedding, which left the previous king (from house Targaryen) very dead and his throne very eligible. What follows are several years of major noble houses trying to get on the Iron Throne (literally made out of hundreds of swords fused together). Four of the main players are houses Stark, Lannister, and Baratheon, and the remnants of house Targaryen represented chiefly by the daughter of the deposed king: Daenerys Targaryen of too many names.
Over several novels (and seasons of the HBO show), the houses keep forming uneasy alliances only to betray one another, or make an attempt at exterminating their opponents altogether. It’s all the fascinating politics of Medieval Europe you’ve probably never learned about in school, but with dragons, giants, shadow demons, blood feuds, incest, actual seers and even snow zombies.
Capturing Westeros in a video game form
One would think a world with so much history and faction interactions would spawn successful games, but so far they’ve been hit-or-miss. There have been several strategy games and even an action RPG. Some, like A Game of Thrones: Genesis, were neither popular among the fans of the show or the books and did not receive much praise from the gaming community. There also were and still are, numerous browser and mobile games set in the world of Ice and Fire, but they are not very high-rated.
The only good Game of Thrones video game, that had an official license from the show and the approval from the writer himself seemed to be Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series, which was quite successful but very soft-lived. The graphic adventure by Telltale Games was a series of interactive cinematic cutscenes, which at certain points allow the player to make choices influencing the way the story unfolds.
With such lacklustre offerings, it’s a good thing there are games which capture some aspects of the Song of Ice and Fire experience even without using the license. Let’s take a look at a few of them, drawn from two genres.
Crusader Kings II
|Genre:||Grand strategy, role-playing|
|Developer||Paradox Development Studio|
Crusader Kings II is probably the closest thing to ASoIaF/GoT we’re ever going to get with betrayals, incest, and all.
The game has a fantastic mod dedicated to the story and characters know from Martin books called AGOT (A Game of Thrones mod) which was created by fans of the show and the books that spotted the perfect gameplay of CKII.
CKII puts you in charge of a single noble house and tasks you with increasing its power on the continent. You can arrange marriages, stab your allies in the back, secure the purity of your bloodline with incest, and deal with the consequences. It accurately and in detail models Medieval European politics, which makes it a perfect fit for the character-driven Game of Thrones. There’s even a total conversion mod which turns Europe into Westeros!
Medieval II: Total War
|Genre:||Real-time tactics, turn-based strategy|
If you’re inclined towards military operations, cast your eye at Medieval II Total War.
Total War games are all about widespread conflicts. You manage the provinces you control, move armies, and tweak the economy in a turn-based mode, and then engage in massive real-time battles once your and your enemies’ forces inevitably clash. It won’t give you a character-driven experience of Crusader Kings II but does a great job at modeling the large conflicts Westeros’ history is full of. The total conversion mod, Westeros: Total War, takes place during the War of the Five Kings.
Europa Universalis IV
|Developer||Paradox Development Studio|
EU, from the developers of Crusader Kings, moves the scale upwards and concerns itself only with grand-level politics and military actions.
EU doesn’t care for the small-scale stuff, it concerns itself with the actions of nations and armies. It’s almost abstract in the level of detachment, but still incredibly complex and difficult to master. It allows you to take control of a nation and change the course of its history. Which, when converted with a Game of Thrones mod may help you put house Tyrell or even the unlucky Starks on the Iron Throne. Or even disregard the symbol and make your own seat of power. It’s up to you.
Expand your chosen civilization from a single hexagon to a map-spanning empire through diplomacy, military might, or cultural influence.
The good old Civilization may not appear as good fodder for a Song of Ice and Fire game, and yet there are several mods which make Westeros appropriately hexagonal and turn-based. “Winter is Coming to Civ Deluxe”, “A Mod of Ice and Fire”, and “A World of Ice and Fire” all offer a slightly different approach, cover different parts of the timeline, and are worth checking out.
The Banner Saga
|Genre:||Tactical strategy/ role-playing|
As an ancient enemy comes back from oblivion, people displaced by the uprising seek shelter and allies elsewhere.
If that sounds familiar to what brought the wildlings in direct conflict with the Night’s Watch, you’re not wrong. Even during the Kickstarter for the first game in the trilogy, the developers cited Game of Thrones as one of the key inspirations. Character-driven, meaningful choices, and an engaging storyline, The Banner Saga and its Norse aesthetic may well fill that Iron Throne-shaped void in your heart.
The Witcher II/The Witcher III
|Developer||CD Projekt RED|
An insignificant man navigates the increasingly complicated political landscape to fulfill his own agenda.
Although at the ground level The Witcher is a game about a professional monster hunter trying to make a living, on the grand scale it’s a deeply political game, with old vendettas, conspiracies, and secrets running deep. Were we to step into the shoes of a monarch or a spy, the Witcherland would be as intricate as Westeros. The third game in the trilogy even features Charles Dance (the actor who played Tywin Lannister on Game of Thrones) as the voice of Emperor Emhyr var Emreis.
The world of the Witcher series shares many similarities with that of GoT as both author of The Witcher books, Andrzej Sapkowski and George R. R. Martin, are known for their realistic medieval settings with fully-fleshed characters, breaking taboos like incest, adultery or kin-slaying as well as great foreshadowing. On the mod front, you can at the very least give Jon’s Longclaw to Geralt.
Dragon Age: Origins/Inquisition
The hordes of twisted creatures rage across the land, while nations bicker and feud. Can alliances be formed before there’s no stemming the tide?
Dragon Age: Origins gives you an uneasy task of gathering forces capable of stopping the seething hordes of the Darkspawn: people of Thedas twisted by dark magic. In Inquisition, you move your forces to address crises and engage in diplomatic and military conflicts yourself. On both counts, there is some of the Game of Thrones DNA visible, but although Inquisition has a mod adding the Iron Throne to the game, Origins is closer to ASoIaF in general tone.
Mount & Blade: Warband
|Genre:||Action role-playing, strategy|
A newcomer to the land, you can form your own band of mercenaries, ally yourself with one of the rulers…or fight tooth and claw for your own domain.
Mount and Blade: Warband isn’t a pretty game, but it’s one of the most immersive and expansive quasi-Medieval games around. Fight roving groups of bandits, build your own army and reputation, lay sieges and defend your castles. Invest in a vineyard or assault caravans. With one of the total conversion mods (“A Clash of Kings” or “A World of Ice and Fire”), you could do all of that and more in Westeros.
The Elder Scroll V: Skyrim
|Developer||Bethesda Game Studios|
A civil war revolving around the rulership over the northern reach of Tamriel, the rebirth of an ancient force for destruction, and you, having to deal with all of this.
If you want a full Westeros treatment for Bethesda’s evergreen wintry adventure, seek The Game of Thrones Adaptation Mod for Skyrim over on Mod DB. Even without the mod’s developed storyline and artistic fidelity to the show, Skyrim is set in a harsh place, not unlike the Starks’ beloved North and even has winter-themed horrifying enemies in the form of underground-dwelling Falmer.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance
Bereft of home and family as a result of a Cuman invasion, a young man ends up on a noble’s court and has to learn a lot to survive this new situation and earn his keep.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance was quite a hit in 2018, an action RPG boasting about realistic combat and a living world of medieval Bohemia. Historically accurate, it lacks the magical elements of A Song of Ice and Fire, but retains the gritty reality of bloodthirsty politics and a common man’s insignificance. Sadly until Warhorse Studios improve mod support the planned big Game of Throne’s mod is on an indefinite hiatus.
Play-out Your Own Perfect Finale
Whatever feelings you were left with after the TV show’s finale, the games above will make you feel better. Conquer Westeros as your favorite faction, make all the right choices, and go sit on the most epic pincushion fantasy has ever known. Or see your kingdom burn down and your heroes lie dead, for an authentic experience.
The mention above games will both let you feel like a powerful lord or small, less important character and you can do almost anything with them. For all the unsatisfied fans of the show, this is the perfect opportunity to create an alternate, maybe better, ending to this fantastic story, while for those who just will miss the show, it is a nice touch of nostalgia that can be carried through many long hours of gameplay of one of these fantastic video games.