It’s already been a long wait since the last episode of “Game of Thrones” aired on HBO in June 2016. But as we gear up for the new Season 7 sometime in mid-2017, there are plenty of shows available for streaming to recapture the mix of action, fantasy and adventure that we’ve come to expect from “Game of Thrones.” So, as we prepare for the imminent arrival of Season 7 of “Game of Thrones,” here are 7 shows that might be reasonable alternatives.
You’d normally expect a big blockbuster series like “Vikings” to appear on a premium cable TV channel like HBO or Starz, but this is actually a History channel original series that’s remarkably good. First of all, you have Vikings, so you know that there’s going to be plenty of action and violence. And there’s a great back story, too, as we watch the rise of Ragnar Lothbrok from poor farmer to Norse legend. There’s plenty of power struggles and warring kingdoms, so this is actually a really good “Game of Thrones” alternative. The only downside is that it’s not currently available on Netflix – but it is available via Hulu, Amazon Prime and Apple iTunes.
Just from the title, you know this “sword-and-sandal” series is going to feature some amazing gladiator action from ancient Rome. What makes this series unique is that it has 3 regular seasons and 1 prequel season, so you learn the whole story behind the rise of Spartacus as an unknown Thracian warrior into one of the true legends of the modern era. For a series so packed with action and bloody fight scenes, it’s also remarkably filled with sex scenes and frontal nudity scenes. The historical backdrop, the gladiator scenes and all the imperial drama of Rome makes “Spartacus” a very good alternative to “Game of Thrones.” It’s available via Netflix and Amazon Prime, but not on Hulu.
Marco Polo (Netflix)
In December 2014, “Marco Polo” was Netflix’s big, splashy entrée into the world of sweeping historical dramas. While Season 1 starts off relatively slowly, by Episode 5, the action really starts to pick up. And, whoa, just wait until you get to Season 2. If you’ve been fascinated by the story of Marco Polo and his travels around the world, this is the place to start. The narrative focuses on Marco Polo’s early years in the court of Kublai Khan, the leader of the Mongol empire. In this series, you get the same sweeping storytelling arc as “Game of Thrones.” This is a Netflix Original, so of course, it’s available via Netflix. You can also find it on iTunes. Unfortunately, Netflix canceled the series after just two seasons, reportedly after losing $200 million on the production (try explaining that to your boss!).
“Outlander” is a mix of historical fiction, fantasy and romance. It tells the story of a World War II nurse who finds herself transported back to Scotland in the 18th century, where she encounters a band of Highlanders. And, from there, it’s on to the Jacobite rebellion, featuring the attempt by Charles Edward Stuart to regain the British throne. Unlike other series that have tried to emulate elements of “Game of Thrones,” this series is strongest on the romance angle. As an added bonus – Diana Gabaldon, the author of the books that inspired “Outlander,” is a friend of George R.R. Martin, the creator of “Game of Thrones.” You can definitely see some of the shared influences on both shows. The series is not yet available on Netflix or Hulu, but you can find it on Starz On Demand, Amazon Prime and iTunes.
The Shannara Chronicles (MTV)
Part of the re-invention of MTV was coming up with original programming like “The Shannara Chronicles,” which adapts the popular “Sword of Shannara” trilogy series from Terry Brooks. There are plenty of elves, demons and quests to satisfy most fans of magic and fantasy, especially fans of movies like “Lord of the Rings.” (And, just like LOTR, “The Shannara Chronicles” was filmed in New Zealand.) The good news is that this 2016 series is now available via Netflix, just in case you don’t get MTV.
The Last Kingdom (BBC)
This BBC historical drama is based on books written by Bernard Cornwell, who is also a colleague of George R.R. Martin. And the storyline should be familiar to any fan of “Game of Thrones” – a displaced heir is on a mission to unite all the kingdoms of the land. “The Last Kingdom” tells the story of England in the ninth century, when the land was divided into several kingdoms while being attacked and ruled by Danish invaders. As an added bonus: Netflix has decided to create a second season of 10 episodes that will premiere in 2017.
Bruno Heller’s “Rome” is an old HBO show, so you won’t have to go very far to get your “Game of Thrones” fix. In many ways, back in 2005, this HBO show was “Game of Thrones” before there was “Game of Thrones.” It tells the story of Julius Caesar in ancient Rome. So much of the look and feel of the show will remind you of “Game of Thrones.” As an added bonus, a surprising number of “Game of Thrones” cast members actually showed up in “Rome” first – including Ciaran Hinds as Julius Caesar. So if you’re looking for greater understanding of how “Game of Thrones” started, look no further than “Rome.”
That just about brings us full cycle, from “Game of Thrones” to the show that inspired and laid the groundwork for “Game of Thrones” on HBO nearly a decade earlier. Of course, there’s not a single show on TV today that can match “Game of Thrones” for its storylines, mix of fantasy and history, and combination of violence and drama. So one option might just be to go back and re-watch “Game of Thrones” from Season 1 through Season 6 so that you’ll be ready for the awesomeness that’s about to happen in mid-2017 when we finally get Season 7 of “Game of Thrones.”