So you’re about to say goodbye to Game of Thrones. This last season might be a bummer (people really seem to hate it), but still, it’s always a little sad when something that’s been a part of your life as long as that show has goes away. It’ll leave a void, and you’re going to feel it, at least at first.
What are you going to do with that free time? How are you going to replace that mix of magic and intrigue in a fake medieval setting that you’ve poured tens of hours into over the last eight years? You could always read George R. R. Martin’s books (no relation), if you haven’t already, but that’s one hell of a commitment, especially since so many people seem positive that he won’t actually finish the story. You could rewatch the TV show from the start, but do you really want to be that person who just relives the same shows over and over? (I mean, yeah, The Wire’s great, but there are other shows out there, too, folks.)
You could try playing an official Game of Thrones videogame, but look at this list: other than Reigns: Game of Thrones, it’s not exactly a hit lineup we’re talking about. Hell, probably the most famous Game of Thrones games—Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series can’t even be bought on any digital storefronts anymore. You’d have to actually track it down in a retail store, like it was still the 20th century, or something.
Still, there’s something to this videogame idea. The Game of Thrones tie-ins might not do it, but you can find so many games that share much of the show’s attitude and aesthetics, and that are actually good, to boot. So let’s run down some of the best options for games that might help you get over your post-Game of Thrones hangover, even if they have absolutely nothing to do with Westeros or the White Walkers.
A Plague Tale: Innocence
What does gruesome violence, real-world politics, gradually increasing supernatural elements, and a heroic teenager with revenge on her mind sound like? Exactly. A Plague Tale doesn’t give itself over to fantasy as thoroughly as Game of Thrones did—it’s even rooted in a real historical setting, despite its entirely fictional (and ultimately fanciful) story—but its main thread resembles the plight of the younger Stark children, and it doesn’t shirk away from the shocking and grotesque.
The Witcher 3
One of the best-reviewed games of this decade is part of a deep, sprawling fantasy epic full of sex, violence and moral ambiguity. It embraces its medieval trappings as thoroughly as Game of Thrones, but with a greater emphasis on fantasy elements, including dwarves and elves as the like. That doesn’t make its stories any less believable or harrowing, though, or any less appropriate as a Game of Thrones surrogate.
The Dragon Age series is more high fantasy than Game of Thrones typically got. It’s a Bioware game, though, so unsurprisingly it’s as long and deep and perhaps even as well-written as a few seasons of the TV show. There are a few to pick from but we’d recommend Dragon Age: Inquisition or the original, Dragon Age: Origins. Some people love the second one that came between those two, but we’d have a hard time pushing that on anybody we liked or respected.
This Japanese action role-playing game is a little more complicated and esoteric than most of the games on this list—which actually makes it an even better fit as your new potential Game of Thrones stand-in. (I don’t think anybody would argue that Game of Thrones, no matter what faults you find in it, is at least marginally more challenging than most popular fantasy movies have been.) A cult favorite, Dragon’s Dogma might not be as morally ambiguous as Game of Thrones, but if you squint it might feel enough like the show to make it worthwhile.
The oldest game on this list, 1995’s Suikoden is a Japanese RPG with over 100 characters that can join your party. Faces will come in and go, some leaving a deep impact, others flitting by for a brief spell before fading away. If that doesn’t sound like how Game of Thrones approaches its character list, I don’t know what does. Suikoden is also full of political intrigue and shifting loyalties, with a story that’s a little bit more grounded and not focused on killing an apocalyptic, god-like evil as most Japanese RPGs from the ‘90s.
Nintendo’s strategic role-playing games have always been a bit of a big, sprawling mess, with dozens of characters who can die suddenly in any battle. (Again—what does that sound like?) The most recent versions have beefed up an in-game social component into a crucial relationship simulator, where you have to cultivate friendships—and romances—between the various members of your army. It’s all very chaste, especially compared to some of Game of Thrones more NC-17-rated scenes, but between the large number of battles, the constant specter of death, and the focus on how people interact with each other, it’ll keep you occupied in ways similar to HBO’s show.
The Elder Scrolls
Bethesda’s long-running series of role-playing games might be the most obvious gaming analogue to Game of Thrones. Games like Oblivion and Skyrim are morally ambiguous epics set in fantasy worlds that highlight the daily brutality of medieval life, with all kinds of dragons and giants and wizards weird cat-people merchants tossed in for good measure. It aims to be a more mature take on Dungeons & Dragons-style adventure, and Game of Thrones has some of those same Gygaxian roots.
Final Fantasy Tactics
Final Fantasy Tactics makes the list over other Final Fantasy games for two reasons. First, the spin-off series of tactical RPGs have storylines more reminiscent of Game of Thrones than the main games, with a focus on warring nation-states and how that impacts the lives of citizens and manifests itself through politics. Secondly, the original is still the best. It’s nimbler and more nuanced than expected from a game of its size and provenance, but the drama that unfolds is still of a massive scope and surprising emotional depth.
Garrett Martin edits Paste’s comedy and games sections. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.