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Ten Fantasy Games That Rival HBO's Game of Thrones Miniseries

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Posted April 15, 2011 - By Kevin Kelly




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Most of us are pretty jazzed for the premiere of HBO's fantasy epic, Game of Thrones this weekend. If you haven't seen any footage from the miniseries you can check it out on their official YouTube page. With a bit of luck it can help rekindle The Lord of the Ring's fantasy craze of the early 2000s (which probably has a lot to do with why so many of the games on this list come from the mid-2000s). However, we feel for two classes of people likely to be affected by Game of Throne's inevitable awesomeness: those without HBO (and with too heavy a conscious to steal it online) and those who will love it so much they'll have no outlet for their passion as they wait the interminable seven days before the next episode.

Luckily, the past five years or so have been very kind to us in bequeathing unto our thumbs many different options for getting our nerd on in medieval fantasy settings. Riding high on fantasy geekery? Keep the nerd juices flowing with these quality medieval fantasy games.

The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion

Let's get this one out of the way first. Everybody should have seen this one coming. The juggernaut of the medieval fantasy genre, and one of the single best gaming experiences made this decade. If you haven't played Oblivion yet then go see a priest and after you're done confessing your sins come back and get to it.

Oblivion's greatness comes mainly because of its enormous fantasy realm that is completely open, and free for you to explore. Maybe that sounds a little bit less than manly, but it's an amazing experience. It's one of the most fully realized game worlds ever created, making it a great choice for those looking to sate their medieval cravings.

Mount and Blade: Warband

You've almost certainly never heard of it, but Mount and Blade occupies a very special place in our heart. It's a game that most people will probably dislike, but for maybe 25% of its players it will click. It's a true sandbox game with no goals except the goals you set for yourself.

Warband takes place in a medieval nation full of warring city-states. You play as a mere vassal of one of the lords of these sects. Slowly over the first few hours you will start building a small army which will grow over the course of the game. It's an army you'll utilize in action-based battles which have you sword fighting right along side your troops in massive 200+ character skirmishes. You'll have to arrange alliances, lend your forces to battles, and arrange marriages to gain power in your state. Cities can be conquered and you can become a powerful force in the world, but A Game of Thrones-esque politics are essential.

Lord of the Rings Online

We simply had to drop one of the Lord of the Rings games in here, and Lord of the Rings Online is quite simply the best of them all. The Lord of the Rings world is a bit fantastical, but it's very much grounded in reality in a lot of ways. 

LotRO gains extra points on this list for being the only game that allows you the chance to completely absorb yourself in your character and roleplay in-game with as many “mi-lady's” and “my liege's” as you can muster. Not that we condone that sort of thing. It's also free-to-play these days so cost isn't even an issue. It's not one of the crappy F2P games either, LotRO is a full featured MMO that rivals World of Warcraft.

King Arthur: The Role-Playing Wargame

The Civilization and Total War games are great and all, but they're seriously lacking when it comes to mystical blades and loyal knights. King Arthur: The Role-Playing Wargame makes up for that grievous oversight while keeping much of what makes those other games great. 

The whole King Arthur/Britannia thing may be a little bit too nerdy, but once you get past that there's a great game here. Especially when you start assembling your round table of knights, and awarding them provinces, equipment, and wives. The meat of the game though is its awesome real-time Total War-esque battles, and surprisingly fun (though very low-tech) mid-game text adventures that determine the course of the adventure.

Dragon Age: Origins

We're talking specifically Dragon Age: Origins, because Dragon Age 2 isn't going to scratch this itch. You'll need to hearken back to 2009 to really get to the lowest depths of Bioware's nerd vault. While Dragon Age 2 focused on combat, Origins focused on character building. The experience of traveling on this adventure with deep, troubled, and often hilarious companions is unmatched.

The game can be a bit clumsy at times, but there's nothing else like it out there. If you're fond of character-driven dramas then Dragon Age: Origins is the only choice. Other games will let you explore more or fight larger battles, but Origins allows you the ability to determine the fate of the realm and its people.

Lionheart: King's Crusade

This is the second release on this list from the masters of strategic nerdom, Paradox Interactive. Lionheart: King's Crusade isn't quite as fantastical as Game of Thrones or some of the other games on this list, but it's a political struggle for control of the realm combined with huge real-time tactical battles.

It takes place during the Crusades as you attempt to maneuver yourself into position to conquer the Holy Land. It lacks some of the more personal characters and role playing elements that others on this list provide, but it's a rock solid strategy game and a lot of fun to play.?

Heroes of Might and Magic 5

Heroes of Might and Magic 5 has the distinction of being the only game on this list that is completely turn-based. It's a strategy game in which you and your armies explore the map leveling up and battling along the way. If you crave wizards, demons, and undead in your fantasy games then HOMM5 is definitely something you should check out.

Don't be lured in by the fancy screenshots of the newer Might and Magic games like Dark Messiah (of Might and Magic) which is a pretty obvious attempt to clone the Oblivion formula except that it fails miserably. The turn-based gameplay of HOMM5 may be a bit slow for some, but it's vastly better than playing a poor imitation.

Stronghold 2

Defend your keep against the invading hordes in Stronghold 2, one of the most unique and celebrated medieval strategy series. As the name implies, in this game it's all about building up an army and some defenses to keep your city safe from an attacking force. Sometimes you'll be asked to counterattack or focus on economics, but the key goal is to revel in medieval tactics and strategy.

Too many medieval games are focused on assaulting castles and open field battles. Don't get us wrong, those are amazing, but the Stronghold series takes a closer look at the fine art of defensive warfare. 

 

The Sims Medieval

Go ahead, woo the maiden fair. We both know you want to. The Sims Medieval combines virtual lives and renaissance faires into a potentially deadly combination. If you're not interested in the all of the fighting and magic of the other games on this list, then maybe you'll prefer the subdued questing and intrigue of the Sims Medieval.

Control many of the mainstay characters of your kingdoms like the doctor, bard, spy, merchant (etc) as you're asked to complete quests and fulfill your ambition. It may not have gotten the very best reviews, but it should go a long way towards sating your need for tabards, crowns, and castles.

Gothic 3

I hear some of you out there yelling, “Gothic!? That's the poor man's Elder Scrolls!” And to be blunt, you're totally right, but the poor man's Elder Scrolls is still better than Divinity: Ego Draconis, Two Worlds, and Risen combined. 

Gothic 3 may not be the strongest fantasy game on the market, but it's world is still gorgeous. If you've played Oblivion and loved exploring its lush forests, then you need to give Gothic 3 a try. It's got plenty of faults, but if you can overcome them then you'll find a classic PC game that simply got eclipsed by the ridiculous majesty of Oblivion.

Honorable Mentions:

Honorable Mentions with sequels set for imminent arrival:

By Andrew Groen

Ten Fantasy Games That Rival HBO's Game of Thrones Miniseries
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