On April 17, 2011, a new HBO drama about warring families, icy zombies, and CGI dragons premiered, and whether you loved it or hated it, there’s simply no denying the kind of impact Game of Thrones had not just on television, not just on pop culture, but on the world in general. Its epic journey was a wild, weird, and fascinating adventure, and to mark the occasion Collider presents “What Is Ten May Never Die,” a ten-week retrospective on the show’s legacy — what we remember fondly, what we wish we could forget, and everything in between.
For fans of George R.R. Martin‘s unfinished “A Song of Ice and Fire” book series, it wasn’t enough just to watch Game of Thrones; they had to play it, too. But since wielding Varlyian steel blades, riding fire-breathing dragons, and conscripting an army of the dead is very dangerous business, we need an outlet that’s a little less deadly, yet just as deceptive and dramatic as the story itself. So it’s no surprise that quite a few types of games have attempted to adapt the ASoIaF magic over the years. It may surprise you to learn, however, that at least one of these games pre-dated the smash hit HBO series itself, while others were actually cancelled in-progress despite the overwhelming popularity of the series.
Those game adaptations came in a variety of flavors: board games, browser games, PC/console games, and mobile games to name a few. Not all of them are created equally, of course, so we’ve gone through the fraught history of these GoT game adaptations to bring you the ones worth seeking out. So whether you’re a Lannister looking to pay your debts or a Stark trying not to lose your head, the following games will (safely) give you the chance to do just that.
But first, a word of warning since some of those games aren’t worth a copper penny. Those that didn’t quite make the cut include:
- A Game of Thrones: Genesis – Developed by Cyanide Studios and released in September of 2011 by 1C-SoftClub, this real-time strategy game aimed to span roughly 1,000 years of Westeros history, but was panned as a blatant cash-grab. Blasted for undercooked mechanics, vague objectives, and overly specialized units, even the chance to control a Targaryen dragon couldn’t save this rushed RTS.
- Game of Thrones: Tale of Crows – The Apple Arcade / iOS game from Devolver Digital is one of the newest additions on this list, having come out in August 2020, but unfortunately it lands on the wrong side of recommendations. Its idle narrative story takes place well before the events of Game of Thrones by visiting the Night’s Watch at Castle Black and The Wall some eight millennia before Jon Snow knew anything. Praised for its presentation and potential but half-baked in its execution, this one’s a rare miss for both Game of Thrones and Devolver Digital. (Don’t worry too much; both Devolver Digital and Cyanide Studios get a second shot at it.)
- Game of Thrones: Seven Kingdoms – It’s easy to take a shot at this project because it was cancelled before Bigpoint and Artplant could get it off the ground. Planned as an MMORPG based on G.R.R.M.’s series, property rights changed hands and the result was another entry on the list below, 2019’s Game of Thrones: Winter Is Coming.
With that out of the way, and in no particular order, here are the best Game of Thrones games out there to play your own, well, game of thrones:
Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series
One of the best-remembered adaptations of HBO’s Game of Thrones was the Telltale Games Series by the same name. But it was also one of the most unfortunate examples of such projects.
The 2014 game took one of the minor noble houses from G.R.R.M.’s books and built a larger history around it. Players took control of the exiled House Forrester, whose loyalties to House Stark were tested during the tumultuous times in the northern reaches of Westeros. Less action-focused and more narrative-driven than your typical video game, this episodic tale forced players to make tough decisions during intense moments as they played out on the screen.
The world of A Song of Ice and Fire seems tailormade for Telltale, even more so than The Walking Dead -verse which the series knocked out of the park. All the more the tragedy that Telltale’s business strategy was unsustainable, leading to a cancellation of their Game of Thrones series before the compelling, character-focused story could come to a satisfying conclusion.
Blood of Dragons
Did you know that there was actually a Game of Thrones-type game before HBO’s Game of Thrones ever took over the airwaves? Well, we’re stretching the definition of “game” here just a tad, but the browser-navigated, text-based M.U.S.H. Blood of Dragons grew out of the passionate ASoIaF social community back in 2007. This is basically the OG GoT experience. It not only introduced tons of fans to the franchise well before HBO even began casting their hit show, it also let them get in on the action. Opinions! Were! Posted! The overall fan-driven community story was also officially approved by G.R.R.M. For those in the know, Blood of Dragons was the first chance to dive into the fantasy world in a meaningful way, and for some, the only Game of Thrones “game” they ever needed.
Game of Thrones: Beyond the Wall
A relatively recent addition to the list of games, this mobile title from publisher Behaviour Interactive and developer GAEA Mobile arrived only about a year ago. The tactical strategy game sees you assembling your own perfect version of the Night’s Watch (ironic, considering it’s usually criminals and exiles who are banished north to The Wall) by recruiting and assembling your favorite characters from the series. You’ll defend Castle Black and protect The Wall itself from all sorts of enemies, from Wildlings, to giants, to other creatures of the dark. The free-to-play mobile RPG also features PvP, an original story and hero character, plenty of familiar faces, and lots of chances to upgrade them along the way.
The only knocks on this game over the last year had to do with minor gripes, like not having the cast providing any voice acting, and more major concerns like a lack of content or bottlenecking activity due to requiring in-game energy to play it at all. Still, it sounds like this GoT adaptation is a cut above your typical FTP mobile game.
Game of Thrones: Winter Is Coming
Guess what? Another browser game! This one is also official (and licensed as such) but goes beyond fan-written text-based scenarios and throws in all the audiovisual bells and whistles you’d expect in a game. And though it was released a little over two years ago by publisher Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and developer Yoozoo Games, the browser game is still getting content updates as of just this past week.
Taking advantage of the ubiquitous Unity engine, the strategy-driven, base-building Game of Thrones: Winter Is Coming puts you in control of “an ambitious Westeros lord” who, rather than having dreams of bloody conquest, is actually seeking peace throughout the Seven Kingdoms. Ambitious, indeed! But good luck, because as any Game of Thrones fan knows, peace doesn’t last long in this world, and Winter is coming…
Reigns: Game of Thrones
Devolver Digital had a better showing with their 2018 title Reigns: Game of Thrones. (I told you they’d get another shot, even though, technically, this game came before Tale of Crows.) Taking a swipe-happy, card-based approach to the property and applying the fantasy world setting to Nerial’s successful Reigns series, this game sees players swiping across their screens to make decisions that will have huge impacts across the nation of Westeros. Your every swipe will influence military strength, religious favor, domestic popularity, or state wealth, all with branching impacts that compound as you progress through the game. It’s a clever way to highlight the more nuanced aspects of ASoIaF that are all too often left out of the more swords-and-sorcery focused adaptations. And when you sit the Iron Throne, even a swipe of your little finger can do more damage than all the swords in the North…
Monopoly: Game of Thrones
If there’s a more cutthroat game than Monopoly out there that you can also play with your friends and family, I haven’t seen it. The brilliant marketing minds over at Hasbro have made hay by licensing out their popular, pro-Capitalism board game to just about any property that wants to take a crack at it. Game of Thrones x Monopoly is a no-brainer. I wrote extensively about my time playing a round of this officially licensed board game, and you can check out more details below, but if you’re a fan of both Game of Thrones and Monopoly itself, you should probably pick this one up ASAP.
Game of Thrones: Conquest
This mobile game from Warner Bros., HBO, and developer Turbine has been kicking for nearly four years and is still going strong. In fact, this month celebrates everyone’s favorite, Queen Cersei, whether you love her or hate her or both. The free-to-play strategy game plays out mostly on the scale of armies and kingdoms, though you can still collect your favorite characters from the series itself. You’ll have 30 characters to recruit (through a gatcha system), some 120 Seats of Power to conquer, armies to raise, cities to raze, and dragons to blaze. All that power in the palm of your hand (if you can get past the very expensive upgrades, occasionally glitchy crashes, and other familiar faults that plague mobile games like this one)!
Game of Thrones: Ascent
Its banner days behind it, this Facebook / mobile game from Disruptor Beam (now Beamable) ran from 2013 to 2019, nearly the entire run of the HBO series itself! It was, perhaps, the most true-to-the-show game from the bunch. Over 9 million players tackled the game’s 3,500+ quests that followed in the footsteps of their favorite Game of Thrones heroes, villains, and lore drops, nearly step for step. This game was absolutely dripping with fan service and was never shy about making those connections blatantly obvious. With regular updates and expansions to keep the adventures going over more than five years, the only downside to Game of Thrones: Ascent was that it was tied to closely to the show itself. When HBO’s flagship series came to an end, so did this game, for better or worse.
Game of Thrones
Simply titled and straightforward with its ties, this RPG from publishers Atlus and Focus Home Interactive, and developer Cyanide, came out soon after the HBO show debuted. A rare Game of Thrones title that launched on consoles and PC, the game actually split players’ attention between two different heroes on two branching quests. This game, more than the others, gave you a chance to really develop your character, build upon your skills, and put your tactical and physical prowess to the test through diplomacy and all-out battle, all with consequences going forward.
On a fan-friendly note, some cast members from Game of Thrones reprised their roles in-game, and even G.R.R.M. had a cameo as well. And if you hear recognizable music while playing it, that’s by design, too. But while the story and the characters were praised, the graphics took a hit from critics, as did the repetitive combat system. Despite its issues, fans of this game have praised it for coming the closest to delivering the experience of the world of Game of Thrones, and how the players themselves would fare in it.
A Game of Thrones: The Board Game – Digital Edition
If it’s straight-up strategy you want, look no further than George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones: The Board Game – Digital Edition and its “A Dance with Dragons” expansion. (More of a mouthful than one of G.R.R.M.’s detailed feast descriptions, yeah?) Asmodee Digital and Dire Wolf Digital’s themed strategy game is available on PC and mobile, and will absolutely test your strategic mind. If you haven’t played tactical games like this before, boy howdy, you’re in for a real brain-buster. But perseverance will reward you with not only plenty of fan-service drops from ASoIaF lore but also the thrill of victory snatched from the jaws of defeat.
The digital adaptation of Fantasy Flight Games’ top-selling strategy board game sees you taking control of one of the major Houses in order to wage wars of all kinds against your neighboring lords and ladies. You’ll need to master your resources, muster your forces, secure your borders by land and sea, and even develop your diplomacy if you hope to not only survive but to thrive and conquer. It’s a tough game even in the tutorial stages, and it only gets tougher once you factor in multiplayer against real live opponents, should you choose to do so. But the combination of Risk-like map movements and special character cards with their own skills makes A Game of Thrones: The Board Game a singularly cerebral experience.
The final season of ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ is coming soon? Cool cool cool.
About The Author
— to collider.com