Win or Lose, These Were the Best Game of Thrones Players in the Series, Ranked The Talks Today

Game of Thrones was a tremendously popular fantasy drama that aired on HBO from 2011 to 2019. The celebrated series is based on George R.R. Martin’s novel series A Song of Ice and Fire. According to Time Magazine Game of Thrones is the world’s most popular show. The series was written by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and featured an outstanding ensemble cast, including Sean Bean, Emilia Clarke, Gwendoline Christie, Peter Dinklage, Kit Harrington, Lena Headey, Jason Momoa, Pedro Pascal, and many more.

Over its eight-season, 73-episode run, the series boasted the largest television budget ever heard of at the time and gained legions of devoted fans — that is, until its divisive eighth and final season, which The Guardian calls a fall from grace. The critically acclaimed series was nominated for a slew of awards throughout its tenure including several Primetime Emmy Awards.

Throughout the series, audiences were introduced to several cutthroat power-hungry characters all vying for their spot on the coveted Iron Throne. Westeros housed all manner of rulers, ranging from benevolent, honorable, and well-respected lords to merciless, manipulative, and downright maniacal matriarchs. For better or for worse, win or lose, these were the best Game of Thrones players in the series, ranked.


9 Sansa Stark

Any fan of Game of Thrones knows that Sansa Stark, played to perfection by Sophie Turner, is a survivor. The amount of cruelty and torture she suffered at the hand’s King Joffrey, Ramsey Bolton, Littlefinger, and Cersei Lannister surely outweighs the suffering of any other character on the show. Sansa was thrust into King’s Landing at a young age with a naive heart and soon had to learn how to survive without the safety and comfort of her family by her side. Despite her trauma, Sansa remained strong and emerged a bright and capable young woman, ready to fulfill her true destiny, taking revenge on her tormentors along the way.

Best Power Play: Drafting the Knights of the Vale to swoop in and save the day during the Battle of the Bastards. The battle would no doubt have been lost if not for Sansa stepping in, and Jon Snow even tells her so afterwards.

Related: Game of Thrones: 20 Most Hated Characters of All Time

8 Margaery Tyrell

Game of Thrones
Warner Bros. 

Margaery Tyrell was also a young woman who could play the game in her favor while never raising any suspicion. No doubt she learned from the best: her grandmother Olenna Tyrell, who single-handedly took down the barbaric boy-king Joffrey Lannister. Margaery always had an ulterior motive that no doubt served her and House Tyrell.

Best Power Play: Let’s face it, Margaery deserves a medal for even putting up with Joffrey and his barbaric personality. However, she was able to convince the dead-hearted King to interact with and care for his people, convincing him to donate food scraps to the poor. Her ability to convince the stubborn young King to do anything that didn’t ultimately serve him proves her sly influence.

7 Varys

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Varys was one of the more subdued players in Game of Thrones, which made him no less an effective player. Varys was not one to call attention to himself by making audacious over the top plays, but rather relished in his subtlety. Furthermore, he has a vast network of spies and alliances and is always well aware of the important happenings in Westeros.

Best Power Play: Setting Tyrion Lannister free. When Varys set the Imp free, he was an unwitting accomplice to the death of one of King’s Landing’s most notorious players, Tywin Lannister. He also set into motion Tyrion’s separation from the Lannister clan.

6 Tywin Lannister

Tywin Lannister - Game of Thrones
Warner Bros.

Tywin Lannister has loads of experience in ruling a Kingdom as he was the Hand of the King during Aerys Targaryen’s reign, and then again for his grandson Joffrey. The formidable patriarch of the merciless Lannister family, Tywin has a keen sense of how the gears of power work. In addition to his competence when it came to battle and gameplay, he always had the stomach to make the hard decisions. This made him ruthless, but also very effective. He was forever trying to pass on his lessons to his children Cersei and Jamie. He and Tyrion always had a strained relationship, and sending Trion to a mock trial for a crime he was innocent of would be Tywin’s eventual undoing.

Best Power Play: Tywin Lannister was the architect behind the Red Wedding, which would ultimately end the troublesome war in the north, while strengthening the Lannister’s alliance with the Frey and Bolton clans, and he also managed to redirect the blame toward the Freys. It was as strategic as it was brutal.

5 Petyr Baelish

Littlefinger Returns in Game of Thrones Episode 6.4 Photos
Warner Bros. 

One of the most power-hungry players in the Game of Thrones universe, Lord Petyr Baelish (Littlefinger) was also the most guileful. Littlefinger will be the first to tell you he can’t be trusted. His near-constant schemes for power were so cunning that none could be traced back to him, thus letting him fly under the radar. Littlefinger’s most ambitious leap for power, however, began in Season 1 when it is later revealed that Baelish had been responsible for Jon Arryn’s death and set up the Lannisters to take the fall and ultimately instigated all of the tragedy that followed including Ned Stark’s execution.

Best Power Play: Littlefinger married Lysa Arryn and used her as a pawn to gain power, first using her to propel his schemes forward, romancing her, betraying her, and ultimately murdering her. This move made Littlefinger Lord of the Vale and granted him control over the Vale army.

4 Cersei Lannister

Cersei on the throne
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As she once told Ned Stark “When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” This infamous quote proves Cersei Lannister‘s ruthless nature. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to Cersei; always eager to prove herself to her father, she was an apt pupil of Tywin. The great difference between them is Cersei let her emotions get the better of her, and she had fewer sensibilities than her father. Nevertheless, she is one of the most fearsome and gruesome competitors in Game of Thrones, making more big moves than perhaps any other player.

Best Power Play: Blowing up the Sept of Baelor with Wildfire. To evade her trial of faith with the High Sparrow, and get revenge upon her enemies, Cersei made the ultimate power move when she planted enough wildfire to kill the roughly 300 people inside.

Related: Game of Thrones: Cersei Lannister’s Most Evil Moments

3 Daenerys Targaryen

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Daenerys Targaryen, otherwise known as Daenerys Stormborn or Mother of Dragons, is for a large portion of the series believed to be the true heir to the Iron Throne (after her brother Viserys is murdered). One of the last members of House Targaryen, Daenerys fought tooth and nail for armies, ships, and alliances that would help her make her way to King’s Landing and take her place as ruler of Westeros. Along the way, she fought to abolish slavery and gained a loyal following. Eventually, though, her family lineage started to show when she stopped listening to her advisors and went Mad-King at the innocent people of King’s Landing. Actress Emilia Clarke fought the showrunners to preserve her characters humanity, to no avail.

Best Power Play: At the end of her time in Astapor, Dany is seemingly trading Drogon in exchange for the Unsullied. However in a shocking — and surprisingly satisfying — twist, Dany orders Drogon to burn the master with one word: “Dracarys”. Not only does Dany seek revenge on one of the cruelest slavers, but she also finally gains her well-deserved army.

2 Tyrion Lannister

Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones
Warner Bros. Television

Not only does Tyrion Lannister have the best one-liners in the series, but he also is one of the few characters guided by an internal code of morals. Born a dwarf and forever living in the shadow of his siblings, Tyrion had to fight harder to prove himself to the outside world and his family. His character is shrewd, intelligent, and influential. He also has the Lannister name to lean on. In addition to learning from his father Tywin, he was also named hand of the King twice, once for his nephew Joffrey, in which he attempted to set the young psychopath on the straight and narrow, and once for Daenerys Targaryen, a formidable feat, given that his family was responsible for the death of hers.

Best Power Play: Tyrion defends King’s Landing during the Battle of Blackwater against Stannis Baratheon. Not only did he devise a battle-winning plan of blowing up Stannis’ fleet with Wildfire, but Tyrion also stood his ground to fight and defend the city and people while King Joffrey cowered.

1 Jon Snow

Jon Snow in Game of Thrones
Warner Bros.

Much like Tyrion, Jon Snow was (believed to be) a bastard, so he forever had to prove his worth to his family and outsiders, which helped him earn great character. Jon idolized Ned Stark, whom he believed to be his father, and one of the most compelling lessons he learned from him is: “The man who passes the sentence must swing the sword.” Which Jon later upholds after the Mutiny at the Night’s Watch. Not only did Jon learn a lot from his father Ned. He also had many other great mentors like Master Aemon, Mance Rayder, Ser Davos, and Jeor Mormont. The teachings of these great mentors and his father led Jon to become a great military strategist which we see throughout the series in every battle he fights.

The most important lesson he learned from his father very early on was how important honor was; he was also an honorable man. Honoring his vow to the Night’s Watch, even despite a very attractive offer from Stannis Baratheon to become legitimized as a Stark and named Lord of Winterfell. Jon remained loyal to the Night’s Watch until his mutiny and murder (and subsequent resurrection). He was even named Lord Commander. Jon proves time and again that he is a fearless leader, he has a keen sense of who to align with and is always thinking about the greater good. If not for Jon bringing everyone together for the Battle of Winterfell surely no one would have survived. Furthermore, Jon proves in both the Battle of Castle Black and the Battle of the Bastards that he never stops fighting even in the face of total annihilation. As if all of this wasn’t enough let’s not forget he is the legitimate son of Rhaegar Targaryen, making him the true heir to the Iron Throne.

Best Power Play: In the final season of Game of Thrones, Daenerys follows in her father’s footsteps and kills thousands of innocent people in a firebreathing dragon-fueled hissyfit, even after Cersei’s army surrendered and there was no need for bloodshed. Jon realizes she must be stopped and he is the only one who can get close enough to her to do the deed. Despite his obvious feelings for her, he kills her for the greater good and to avoid further killing of innocents.

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