What’s the best Game of Thrones video game?
Over the past decade, Game of Thrones has become a bonafide powerhouse in the realms of television and fantasy literature. However, despite its massive pop culture presence, there’s one entertainment avenue in which George R.R. Martin’s politically charged fantasy drama has mostly floundered: video games.
Not counting the various browser games, mobile titles, and unofficial game mods out there, only four proper Game of Thrones video games have been released during the show’s eight-year run. None of those four really blew fans away when they launched, and none of them manage to fully capture the many facets that make the world of Westeros so compelling. However, they do at least show that Games of Thrones has potential as an interactive medium despite its complex presentation.
As you’ll see in our below list, each of the four games did its best to capture the magic of Game of Thrones in its own way. And true to the spirit of the Game of Thrones series, we decided to also rank each game and determine which among them is most worth playing.
#4 A Game of Thrones: Genesis
Many Game of Thrones fans likely scratched their heads in confusion when they heard the premise behind PC developer Cyanide’s 2011 title A Game of Thrones: Genesis. Even though it launched during the same year as the HBO show’s first season, Cyanide technically only had the rights to George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series, not the HBO show’s assets.
To circumvent this technicality, Cyanide utilized an entirely different period of Westerosi history than the one depicted in the show as the basis for its game. Specifically, Cyanide’s game was a real-time strategy title set 1,000 years before the events of Game of Thrones proper, hence the title Genesis.
As they directly experienced the founding of the Seven Kingdoms, Genesis players navigated various maps and captured location nodes (towns, castles, etc.) by using units such as soldiers, spies, and maesters. Players could also take command of the series’ iconic houses like the Starks or Baratheons, and different houses naturally had their own strengths and signature units. In true Game of Thrones fashion, it was also entirely possible to win solely through underhanded political dealings and shifting alliances, though having a strong military presence (or a dragon) certainly didn’t hurt.
Is it worth playing?
Unfortunately, Genesis sounds a lot more fun on paper than it is in practice. When it comes to actual gameplay, the player is often just sitting there watching their units slowly amble around the map to interact with whatever node they’ve been assigned to. All of the deployable units in Genesis also utilize a basic rock-paper-scissors format which means the potential for strategic maneuvering is very limited.
Pair all of the above with the fact that Genesis was only barely recognizable to fans of HBO’s show and it’s easy to see why Cyanide’s initial foray into George R.R. Martin’s world was met with a resounding “meh” from fans and critics alike. It might be worth checking out if you’re a big-time RTS fan, just don’t expect the same amount of technical depth you’d find in a Civilization or Total War title.
#3 Game of Thrones
Roughly a year after the launch of Genesis, Cyanide actually took a second stab at making a Game of Thrones game with 2012’s succinctly titled Game of Thrones. For its second game, Cyanide made a point of securing the HBO show rights, and the second game’s tone shows that the studio put those rights to very good use. Whereas Genesis was a mostly non-violent strategy prequel, Game of Thrones thrust players into an uber-violent action/role-playing side-story set during the same time period of the show’s first season.
The 2012 game puts players in control of two separate protagonists: a grizzled Night’s Watch ranger named Mors Westford and a Red Priest of R’hllor named Alester Sarwyck. Both men are former Lannister knights, both are haunted by grim family histories, and both are also expert fighters. Since Game of Thrones was also marketed as an action/RPG title, players naturally spent most of their time conversing with unsavory characters and/or killing them in real-time combat.
When they weren’t putting bad guys to the sword, Game of Thrones players were also uncovering a plot involving a hidden half-Baratheon/half-Targaryan heir to the Iron Throne. The game’s story is filled with an appropriate amount of twists, turns, shocking revelations, and sudden betrayals given its source material, but similar to Genesis, it’s much better to read about Game of Thrones than to actually play it.
Is it worth playing?
Cyanide’s Game of Thrones isn’t totally irredeemable, but it’s the sort of game only a diehard Game of Thrones fan could love. Familiar characters from the show like Varys and Cersei Lannister do technically show up, but Cyanide couldn’t sign on any of the show’s actors so their Game of Thrones game counterparts feel like off-brand knockoffs. Game of Thrones does feature a cameo from George R.R. Martin himself as a helpful maester, though, so there’s that.
Unfortunately, the game’s appropriately dark plot and aforementioned G.R.R.M cameo aren’t enough to excuse its repetitive combat, low-quality graphics, and threadbare RPG elements. Again, Game of Thrones isn’t a total disaster, but given the low bar Cyanide itself set with Genesis, that’s not saying much.
#2 Reigns: Game of Thrones
Ok, technically Reigns: Game of Thrones isn’t an entirely original GoT game but rather a spinoff of Francois Allot’s hit Tinder-esque indie game Reigns. However, its clever combining of cheery aesthetics and typical Game of Thrones grimness earns it a spot on this list.
Similar to A Game of Thrones: Genesis, Reigns: Game of Thrones puts players in the mother of all hot seats: the Iron Throne itself. The player is randomly assigned an existing character from the series (like Jon Snow, Daenarys, Sansa Stark, or Tyrion) and then asked to rule the Seven Kingdoms by making a series of yes or no decisions. Choose wisely and the people love you, choose poorly and you’ll soon face one of the game’s many (surprisingly charming) bad endings.
Is it worth playing?
While it doesn’t explore such scenarios as much as fans may like, Reigns: Game of Thrones presents plenty of interesting “what ifs?” for players to consider. What if Tyrion wound up on the Iron Throne? What if it was Sansa or the Three-Eyed Raven? George R.R. Martin’s established narrative has its share of clear contenders, but for fans who enjoy looking at all potential outcomes Reigns: Game of Thrones puts forward possibilities not seen anywhere else.
That being said, Francois Allot’s Game of Thrones-themed spinoff also isn’t exactly the richest or most in-depth experience out there. The game’s card-based format also relies heavily on chance and randomized draws, leading to many games where the player loses not because of an error in judgment but because the cards just didn’t pan out. Even in the unfair world of Game of Thrones such losses can be a bitter pill to swallow, especially when they occur multiple times in quick succession.
Despite its random nature, Reigns: Game of Thrones is still worth playing mainly thanks to its easy pick-up-and-play format and its tongue-in-cheek presentation. You may not get hours and hours of enjoyment out of it, but you can at least charm your fellow GoT fans with the game’s distinct visuals and hilariously over-the-top endings.
#1 Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series
Before it met an unfortunate (and sudden) end late last year, Telltale Games had produced a number of episodic adventure games based off of existing media licenses, one of which happened to be Game of Thrones. Telltale’s Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series was the closest any studio had come to a “proper” Game of Thrones game, at least as far as fans of the show were concerned.
For its foray into Seven Kingdoms storytelling, Telltale didn’t hold anything back. Set during the same time period as the third and fourth seasons of the show, Telltale’s interactive series focused on House Forrester, a minor house whose members act as bannermen to House Stark. Players got to control several different House Forrester family members, some of whom found themselves in far-flung locations like King’s Landing, The Wall, and even across the narrow sea in Meereen.
Unlike Cyanide, Telltale also spared no expense when it came to portraying characters and events from the HBO show. Iconic faces like Jon Snow, Daenarys Targaryan, Tyrion Lannister, Margery Tyrell, and Ramsay Bolton are all present with full voiceover and facial capture from their corresponding show actors. Telltale was also careful not to overshadow its more original Forrester creations with the HBO icons, instead finding a healthy balance between fan service and organic character development.
Is it worth playing?
Much like Telltale’s other properties, Game of Thrones: ATGS relies heavily on dialogue and scripted events for its gameplay, but it’s still got some pretty compelling storytelling. Unfortunately, whatever illusion of choice players think they have clearly evaporates during key moments, breaking an otherwise unshakable sense of dread in the face of tough odds. Players are often forced to choose from several abhorrent outcomes, but the impact of those choices isn’t really felt over the long run.
Of course, we can’t ignore the elephant in the room that is Telltale’s eventual closure. Telltale did plan on doing a second Game of Thrones season, but those plans obviously never came to fruition. The first season ends with some pretty crazy cliffhangers, but now we’ll never know how those cliffhangers are resolved. Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series is still worth playing for its production values, just brace yourself for an ultimately unfinished story.