The History Channel’s biggest series to date is pretty much the best alternative to Game of Thrones out there today. Vikings has it all – warring clans, bloody sieges, and a good helping of romance and seduction to boot. Rooted in the adventures of Ragnar Lodbrok, a Viking farmer turned hero, and his sons, the series is both incredibly thrilling and even partially historically accurate (it owes its storyline to the Ragnars saga Loðbrókar and Ragnarssona þáttr, two Old Norse tales), providing pure entertainment value while also possibly teaching you a thing or two you never knew about the famed Scandinavian warriors. What’s more, if you like your fantasy on an epic scale, Vikings delivers where Game of Thrones cannot – the show spans not just several years, but an entire generation. If Game of Thrones took over your life since it first aired in 2011, Vikings is definitely the series for you.
Seasons 1 to 4 of Vikings is available to stream on Netflix. Season 5 will air on the History Channel in November.
What sort of list of alternatives would this be without HBO’s second-biggest export on it? Of all the series that HBO have put out over the years, Westworld looks to be the only one that could have contended with the sheer might of Game of Thrones, and the ratings for Westworld‘s first season even surpassed that of Game of Thrones‘s own, making it the most-watched premiere season of a HBO show, ever. And believe me, the hype is real. The show revolves around the titular theme park, Westworld, a Wild West-themed attraction that bored and often twisted rich people visit in order to realise their deepest fantasies, which normally involves a copious amount of sex and bloodlust (as it does in every other HBO show). Multiple storylines weave together to form the sprawling mystery that is Westworld – a possible robot uprising? Relationship drama? Existential crises? Murder and sabotage? Evan Rachel Wood in the best role in her career? You name it, you’ve got it. If you want the same sort of thrill that Game of Thrones has, and are willing to swap the fire-breathing dragons and crafty eunuchs for cowboys and techies, Westworld is your best bet.
Season 1 of Westworld aired on HBO last year. Season 2 will return in 2018.
If you’re into Game of Thrones for the ridiculous amount of nudity and sex in the show, this is probably the show you’ll want to catch next – that is, if you haven’t already seen it. Sensationalising the reign of Henry VIII, one of England’s most notorious kings (mostly because he had six wives, four of whom he either divorced or executed), The Tudors made waves during its four-season run for its lavish costumes, its surprisingly engaging court-intrigue storyline, and its depiction of Henry VIII as a slender, sexy Englishman instead of the awfully obese bloke that he really was. Make no mistake, though. Henry is almost as ruthless as Cersei is (though his character thankfully lacks Cersei’s incestuous desires), and each of his wives has their own agenda up their beautifully brocaded sleeves. Who knows, the British accents might even help you fool yourself into thinking that this is just a different version of Game of Thrones.
Seasons 1 to 4 of The Tudors is available to stream on Netflix.
Want some historical accuracy with your British period dramas? Instead of The Tudors, you could consider The Crown. Instead of focusing on a long-dead English monarch, The Crown documents the beginning of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, who’s currently hanging on to the throne longer than a Duracell bunny on crack. While this series doesn’t exactly mirror the sometimes breakneck pace at which events in Game of Thrones happen, it is nonetheless a very thought-provoking drama, and an examination of what it means to be a woman in one of the most demanding positions of power in the world. Claire Foy is excellent as the young Queen Elizabeth, and Matt Smith (who you may remember as the Eleventh Doctor) is equally compelling as her often conflicted husband, Prince Philip. If you need something to put your brain cells back to good use after a Game of Thrones binge, you don’t need to look much farther.
Season 1 of The Crown is available to stream on Netflix. Season 2 is currently in production.
A lot of people unjustly mistake Outlander for just another trashy, badly-made period piece based on its (rather misleading) publicity, but that couldn’t be any further from the truth – if anything, it only ranks slightly below Game of Thrones on the ladder. Based on another bestselling book series, Outlander tells the story of Claire, a British Army nurse, who gets transported back in time to 1743 after visiting some mystical Scottish standing stones on her honeymoon. Trapped in the midst of an ongoing civil war, Claire finds herself able to provide medical help using her knowledge from the future, but soon finds herself at the centre of a very dangerous circle of enemies, all while falling for handsome and funny highlander Jamie. There’s no real way to describe Outlander properly without giving away massive spoilers – which should be testament enough to how well-written it is – but even if you’re still a little reluctant, sit yourself down in front of the first three episodes anyway, and you’ll find yourself hooked soon enough. After all, it’s got romance, magic, wars, and a strong female character at the helm to boot.
Seasons 1 and 2 of Outlander are available to stream on Netflix. Season 3 is scheduled to air in September.
There’s no better way to describe Reign as the lovechild of Game of Thrones and Riverdale, or any other series out there which involves teenagers, love triangles, and plenty of scheming behind closed doors. While taking extreme liberties with its historical roots, Reign is pretty much the secret guilty pleasure of anyone who owns a Netflix account, and if you’re looking for something less intense than Game of Thrones, this is the show for you. Reign oozes with teenage angst, sexual frustration, and more fanservice than the average anime – no other period drama comes with a trailer overlaid with pop music, and never will you find another teenage queen who’s so strangely relatable. So knock 13 Reasons Why off the top of your to-watch list, because when it comes to historical teen dramas, Reign undoubtedly reigns supreme.
Seasons 1 to 3 of Reign are available to stream on Netflix.
Before Steve Buscemi became one of the biggest memes of 2013, he was in what should be considered the best series from HBO in the last decade, and what could also be Game of Thrones, only set in the Roaring Twenties in America. Buscemi plays Nucky Thompson, the most powerful political figure in Atlantic City, whose illegal underhanded dealings often lead to trouble with equally dangerous mobsters, politicians, and government agents. But Nucky’s story isn’t the only one in Boardwalk Empire. The show rivals Game of Thrones in terms of both character development and the number of storylines it tackles. Boardwalk Empire also follows Jimmy, an aspiring mobster; Margaret, a widowed Irish immigrant down on her luck; Nelson, a former Prohibition agent on the run; and even historical figures like Al Capone, all coming together to create a huge, sprawling narrative that paints a brilliant picture of 1920s America. Even though it was bold, big, and very, very binge-worthy – just to give you an idea of how addictive it is, I marathon-ed the first three seasons in the week before my final exams four years ago – Boardwalk Empire was unfairly overlooked once Game of Thrones came out in 2011. Time to set that right.
Boardwalk Empire aired on HBO from 2010 to 2014. All episodes are now available on DVD or Blu-ray.
Now this one is for those of you who actually read the books, or those of you who actually read books, in general. If you could stomach the Red Wedding and Ramsay Snow’s gut-churning antics, Penny Dreadful will probably be your second favourite show. Taking famous characters from the darker side of classic literature (including Frankenstein’s monster, Dorian Gray, and Dracula) and throwing them into one huge Gothic blender, Penny Dreadful is any literature fan’s dream come true – that is, in the form of very creepy nightmares. Eva Green plays strong, silent heroine Vanessa Ives, who embarks on an odyssey through the supernatural side of London with an impulsive American man, Ethan Chandler. If the White Walkers, Bran’s visions, and the Night King were your favourite parts of Game of Thrones, then Penny Dreadful should be next in the queue for you.
Seasons 1 to 3 of Penny Dreadful are available to stream on Netflix.
I’d find it hard to believe if anyone alive in this day and age with a remote affinity for TV told me that they hadn’t heard of Stranger Things at all. Perhaps one of 2016’s best-loved and most-praised series, Stranger Things doesn’t have much in common with Game of Thrones at all, but deserves a spot on your watch list regardless, just because of how good it is. Combining cute kids, conflicted teenagers, a very controversial love triangle that divides fans to this day, spine-tinglingly scary adversaries, and Winona Ryder as a hysterical single mother, Stranger Things is a winning combo in so many ways. In fact, the series has made Netflix so much money, they could even afford the rights to use and edit Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ in the trailer above. It’s no exaggeration – once you start watching it, you’ll probably find yourself thinking, Game of What, Now?
Season 1 of Stranger Things is available to stream on Netflix. Season 2 will air on 27 October.
Finally, we have the most criminally underrated series to hit the small screen in the past couple of years – Tom Hardy’s Taboo. Born out of a father-son collaboration between Tom Hardy and his dad, the story follows James Delaney (played by Hardy himself), a mysterious and very dangerous man who returns to England after spending so much time in Africa that people presumed him dead. With him are fourteen stolen diamonds, which he plans to use to rebuild his late father’s booming shipping business. However, Delaney is not without competition – both his father’s rivals, as well as the government, want him out of the way so they can seize the company for themselves. Taboo is a series considerably darker than Game of Thrones, and Delaney’s opponents are no less murderous than the Boltons or the Lannisters. Neither is Taboo anything like most other TV series; its dark visual palette sets it apart, and the undercurrent of decay and corruption is the perfect mirror for the biggest motif in the series itself – though that doesn’t make it very easy to watch. Taboo is the perfect show if you’re looking for something more challenging to watch to get you out of that post-GoT brain coma.
Season 1 of Taboo is available to stream on Hulu.
Looking for more movies and TV shows to watch that will keep you up at night? We compiled a list of them here.