I’m going to be honest: I love The Witcher!
We love the sex, the fights, and the great CGI, but at its core is a story of single dad trying to do what’s right for his daughter even though he doesn’t even remotely know what that is. All while trying to sort through rather complicated feelings about his ex. And while being hunted and targeted by worldly and otherworldly forces.
A story we can all relate to, and one that’s just exciting as hell.
But what do we do as we wait for Jaskier’s next album to drop? I’m glad you asked because I’ve got some ideas.
The Witcher is a unique challenge for this because it is both a hit tv show, an award-winning series of video games, and an award-winning series of books. So, for this article, I’m giving you some personal recommendations for all three.
Here’s what to watch/play/read when you’re missing The Witcher. Enjoy.
Movies and TV shows
Disney’s The Mandalorian is basically The Witcher in Space. A lone, cynical bounty hunter finds himself in charge of protecting a child from evil forces that want to use him for their own.
There’s lots of action, fight scenes, magic flying around (Star Wars calls it The Force), monsters, heroes using grunts instead of their words, and the ever-present reminder that the real monsters are people. It’s also impossible not to love the bond between the Mandalorian, Din Djarin, and his ward, Goo Gone—no, Grogu.
1988’s fantasy classic (from the same mind that gave you Star Wars) still slaps!
Until The Lord of the Rings trilogy came out, this was probably the best fantasy movie ever made. And, much like with The Witcher, at its heart, this movie is about a father trying to keep his adopted daughter safe. While being in way over his head.
The story is about Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis), a hobbit-like creature and farmer who one day discovers a baby floating down the river giving off full Moses vibes. This red-headed little girl is Elora Danan, the future Empress and destined to bring about the downfall of the evil queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh).
This movie also features a young Val Kilmer as Madmartigan, a rogue and scoundrel (you know George Lucas loves those), and the greatest swordsman in the world. And an ally that you’re never sure is actually on your side. And he does have some really cool fight scenes!
Seriously one of my favorite movies of all time, and—fun fact—Disney+ is making a sequel series with Warwick Davis reprising his role.
If you really liked the politics, the almost-but-not-quite Game of Thrones style bare-knuckle boxing, then I’d like to introduce you to this deep dive into science fiction classics.
This tv show from 1993 was written by J. Michael Straczynski (Sense 8) and is basically the UN in space. That said, it also has a very Lord of the Rings vibe to it as the show’s characters gradually become aware of the reemergence of an ancient race of aliens known as the Shadow.
The special effects are now wildly outdated and a few of the acting moments are campy (their biggest competitor at the time was Star Trek) but this show is one of the best. I’m not kidding.
First of all, you have a stellar cast led by Bruce Boxleitner (you may remember him as Tron) and the late Mira Furlan. There are so many powerful and great acting moments as characters try to deal with their own hatred, prejudice, and abject fear of one another.
Then there’s the writing. J. Michael Straczynski was the first one to make what we would term a “modern tv show,” since he wrote every season to have its own overall arc, rather than just every episode. While the show starts off with a “Monster of the Week” approach, it quickly becomes apparent that every single episode has an important piece of the show’s puzzle. In later seasons, Straczynski abandoned that model for the modern approach of having the entire season be one long arc.
Like Willow, this show is also being remade into a new series.
The Heroic Legend of Arslan
Like everything else on this list, this is my favorite!
The Heroic Legend of Arslan is a Japanese anime that adapts the manga by the same name and a light novel series… also of the same name.
The manga was written by Hiromu Arakawa, who you may remember as the creator of Fullmetal Alchemist, while the light novels were written by Yoshiki Tanaka, who also wrote The Legend of Galactic Heroes.
The story is of a young prince, Arslan, who witnesses his country’s defeat in battle and conquest by religious zealots. With no money and no army, he and a lone knight, Daryun, must journey across their ravaged country as they try to drive out the invaders.
One of their biggest impediments is the fact that Arslan, unlike his ferocious father, is kind. And he wants to abolish slavery, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Daryun is a lot like Geralt, he’s an unparalleled warrior who is devoted to helping a young royal. He grunts a lot less than Geralt does, but still, the similarity is there.
I recommend both the anime and the manga series. I would recommend the light novel series except that I have not been able to find it translated in English (except for one unofficial version online that is a translation of a translation). I would also recommend the original OVA anime from the 80’s… but I can’t find it anywhere.
Any modern options?
Ok, snarky. Yes, I did opt to give you some older options, mainly because no one else is likely going to say them.
Now, if you’re looking for a bloodlust fix that only The Witcher gave you, I would suggest Game of Thrones, Castlevania, and Spartacus. Wonderful narratives with huge followings of fans. I also want to give a shout-out to Spartacus for being deceptively good. I’m not joking, that show had some amazing dialogue. Tons of blood and boobs, but also great dialogue.
If you’re looking for a good medieval fix, I would direct your attention to History Channel’s Vikings (and the soon-to-be-released Vikings: Valhalla on Netflix), and to The Last Kingdom on Netflix. It’s actually really neat to watch together because these two shows tell the story of the Viking Age from both sides: the Vikings and the Anglo-Saxons.
If you’re missing Jaskier and his antics, I would suggest Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop. A lot of people didn’t like it, but I’m not one of them. It was hilarious and campy and the three leads had so much chemistry!
Finally, if you just want some regular fantasy, a rewatch of The Lord of the Rings is probably just what the doctor ordered. I would also suggest giving Amazon’s The Wheel of Time and Vox Machina a try.
The Last of Us
You want to talk about dad’s doing their best to protect their adopted daughters from monsters, then you can’t go wrong with The Last of Us series.
Created by the same people behind the Uncharted games, The Last of Us follows a cynical smuggler, Joel, who takes a young girl, Ellie, across the post-apocalyptic United States. Much like Ciri, Ellie is special, since she is probably the only person out there with an immunity to the disease that turned much of the population into the Infected (basically zombies).
The game centers around the father-daughter bond that forms between the strangers Joel and Ellie much like the show (particularly season 2) focuses on the bond between Geralt and Ciri.
Fun fact: HBO is planning on making a tv series out of this game starring Pedro Pascal as Joel and Bella Ramsey as Ellie.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance
While Kingdom Come: Deliverance does not have a gruff and cynical hero like Geralt, and while it lacks the moody “war is hell” vibes that the Witcher 3 gave off, it does have one thing that all you White Wolves can love: sword fights.
While Kingdom Come is not the best open-world adventure game I’ve ever played (that title is still held by Skyrim), it does have one of the best sword fighting mechanics I’ve ever seen. It’s one of those “easy to learn/hard to master” type of things, but the payoff of getting really good with a blade in Kingdom Come is worth it.
This historically accurate game tells the story of the fictional Henry, a blacksmith’s son with dreams of adventure in medieval Bohemia, whose own adventure is thrust upon him when his home is destroyed in a Hungarian invasion. Looking for revenge, Henry becomes an agent of Lord Radzig to hunt down the allies of the king of Hungary.
All said, this game truly shines with sword fights modeled after Historical European Martial Arts (often abbreviated as HEMA), giving you some stunning and cool moves.
Ghost of Tsushima
Speaking of cool sword fights…
Much like Kingdom Come: Deliverance, Ghost of Tsushima is based off of a real historical event: the first Mongol invasion of Japan. Launching their fleet from Korea, the Mongols attacked the little island of Tsushima.
The local samurai put up a brave defense but were all killed.
Almost all of them.
This is where the game picks up, with you controlling one of the only surviving samurai, Jin Sakai, who has to learn to use dishonorable warfare if he is to have any chance of retaking his home.
While the Mongols are firmly evil, the lines become blurred between who is right: the hardline samurai who care more about honor than the common people, or the commoners who are willing to commit war crimes to protect their homes.
Red Dead Redemption II
Rockstar’s 2018 game about being a gunslinger in the old west is still one of the best games I’ve ever played. If you haven’t played it, you should.
Players take control of Arthur, a hard-bitten gunslinger and outlaw in 1899, when being an outlaw was becoming harder and harder. In a game that’s all about robbing banks and trains (and taking care of your horse) the real story is all about redemption as Arthur, ie. you, can decide whether you want to do anything good with your life as it starts to fall apart.
The game probably takes the best look at charismatic leaders and the problems they cause since Dune. And if that’s not enough, Arthur is definitely a man of few words who loves his horse and is willing to do anything for the people he cares about. And, like Geralt, grunting is a major part of his vocabulary.
This is also the only other game on this list besides The Witcher 3 where shaving is a big part of the game.
The Wolf Among Us
Speaking of hardboiled men using mono-syllabic grunts (no, Dad, you’re not in this article) we have Bigby Wolf, the Big Bad Wolf, who is the sheriff/private investigator for an enclave of refugee fairy tale characters living in New York City.
It’s been eight years and this game came out and it still slaps. Just like with the Witcher, The Wolf Among Us, and the comic book series it was based on, does a darker retelling of classic fairy tales. The game takes a deep dive into the investigative aspect of the story, and the end result feels a lot like Geralt’s own investigations into monsters: collect clues, follow leads, get the crap beat out of you, and smile sardonically at leggy brunettes.
Speaking of which, Bigby Wolf and Snow White probably have the best in-game chemistry of any game characters I’ve ever met. Followed closely behind by Geralt and Yennifer (sorry Triss).
And—I am so excited to announce—they have just revealed the trailer for The Wolf Among Us 2. Get pumped, ’cause you know I am!
Some other options for you
So, if you’re looking for that high fantasy fix that the Witcher gave you, then I’ve got some options.
First up is the new Baldur’s Gate III, a modern Dungeons and Dragons RPG that will give you plenty of magic and mayhem as you could wish. And as a bonus, the main character is slowly turning into a Mindflayer. Fun times, guys.
Next, we have the Pillars of Eternity series. These games are really fun and have massive Baldur’s Gate vibes. It also balances the story with some really great and creepy dark fantasy vibes. If this doesn’t convince you allow me to give you two more points: these games feature the cast of Critical Role in their voice credits, and in the second game you get a pirate ship as your home.
Now, we have the historical sandbox game, Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord. This game lets you lead a small band of mercenaries to become whatever you want, be it a king or a bandit lord. The game also has a very active modder community that has done numerous full conversion mods, including one for The Witcher. Also, this game has the best mounted combat mechanic that I’ve ever seen.
Finally, I’d like to put forward the various Assassin’s Creed games. With some levels of historical research that even impresses me, the AC games do give you a nice open-world adventure with plenty of sword fights that even Geralt would approve of.
The Witcher Saga by Andrzej Sapkowski is a great series of books. That said, it does rest firmly in the “modern” fantasy trope of using political fighting or at least secular warfare as a smokescreen for a much bigger looming threat.
This trope was (I think) started by Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series, but it is best known as the setup for George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Naturally, I highly suggest those books for anyone interested, but I do have to warn you that, as someone who reads Icelandic sagas for funzies, I have a hard time keeping up with who’s who in those books.
I also recommend, in addition to this list, Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It’s pretty obvious and Sapkowski has even admitted that Tolkien was a big influence on his work.
Without further ado…
The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
In my article about the stories that inspired the Witcher, I talked about how the detective stories by Raymond Chandler inspired Sapkowski’s monster hunting Geralt. Now, I’d like to direct your attention to another character inspired by the hardboiled Phillip Marlowe: Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden.
Harry is much more likable than Marlowe but just as hardboiled and tortured. But Harry, much like another guy of the same name, is a wizard. But this Chicago wizard uses his magic and his connection to the world of Faery to investigate the crimes that no one else can. Like Geralt, he hunts monsters, tries to do it alone but rarely manages to, and is perpetually broke.
Harry instigates wars between various magical factions, but it’s always a distraction from the real danger.
The Necromancer’s House by Christopher Buehlman
This book is on here for two very important reasons: an innovative use of necromancy and the villain.
The story follows Andrew Blankenship, a modern necromancer who uses his magic to speak to the dead through old VHS tapes. He’s also incredibly vain and has been using his magic to keep looking young. And he’s sitting on a fortune in stolen magical artifacts. Magical artifacts he stole from Baba Yaga.
This book is on this list for those of you who liked the antagonist of The Witcher’s season 2. The Baba Yaga of The Necromancer’s House is terrifying in a way that would make even Jim Butcher shudder. The book is also a wild ride, and I highly recommend it.
Gentlemen Bastards by Scott Lynch
While none of the characters in this series are precocious bards, these books are just chock full of Jaskier energy.
The series’ first book, The Lies of Locke Lamora, tells the story of Locke, an expert conman who has been scamming from the rich for years in a fantasy version of Renaissance Venice. He’s hyper-intelligent, and sometimes just hyper, and he’s also the center of a plot by a mysterious enemy trying to kill the city’s underworld.
Scott Lynch’s Locke is incredibly entertaining, and Lynch’s prose has some of the best timing I’ve ever seen in a fantasy series. Seriously, more people need to read this so that we can all chuckle as we say, “Nice bird, asshole.”
The Song of the Shattered Sands by Bradley P. Beaulieu
This series of books started with Twelve Kings in Sharakhai and tells the story of Çeda (pronounced chay-da) on her quest to kill the twelve immortal kings of a sprawling desert metropolis.
There are gods, mysteries, humongous hyena things, and enough Byzantine politics to make even George R.R. Martin happy.
But Çeda’s quest for revenge comes at the same time that the ancient blood mage Hamzakiir is awakened, and both of these dynamic forces are being played off of each other as one of the kings tries to put himself above all the others.
Honorable mentions in books
There are too many books to put on a reading list, but here are a couple of honorable mentions. All of these are book series. Some of them are still in progress (cough, cough, Patrick Rothfuss, cough, cough), while others are finished. All of them are highly recommended.
The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson tells the story of a rebellion against an immortal tyrant, and then what happens to them all after they win.
The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss is so far only two books into a trilogy but they are amazing stories. Having started a mysterious war, and obviously killed a king somewhere along the way, the legendary Kvothe tells the story of his life to a chronicler from his humble beginnings as a traveling actor, then an orphan and a beggar, to finally becoming a young magical prodigy at a school.
Finally, fate in all in Bernard Cornwell’s The Saxon Tales, which tells the story of Uhtred of Bebbanburg, an exiled lord in Anglo-Saxon England who was raised by Vikings but through twists of fate has had to fight against them. But the real star of the series is the combative relationship that waxes toward respect between Uhtred and King Alfred the Great. This is the story behind Netflix’s The Last Kingdom.
But what if I just really miss Geralt?
If all of these options seemed cool but just weren’t your speed, don’t worry, I have even more options:
First is the Witcher’s spin-off animated movie The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf. Then we have the soon-to-be-released live-action limited series The Witcher: Blood Origin. And if all of this weren’t enough, Netflix has also announced plans for a new anime movie as well as a new “kids and families” series.
No idea what that’s going to look like, but I’m excited.
Next, there are several other Witcher games from CD Project Red besides The Witcher 3. In addition to the video game version of Gwent, there is also Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales, which revolves around the story of Queen Meve of Rivia and Lyria.
I haven’t heard any word yet on if they’re planning on more games, but they did recently work out a new royalties deal with Andrzej Sapkowski, so who knows?
Finally, there are the books that started them all. The Witcher saga by Andrzej Sapkowski is a really well-written epic. It has some great dialogue, a style of prose that you won’t see in many other fantasy series, and some of the funniest shenanigans that you will ever come across.
It’s easy to see why so many people were inspired by Sapkowski’s work when you read it. It’s an incredible work of art. I feel that I must say, however: as incredibly feminist as Sapkowski obviously is, I cannot help but feel that there is one particular scene that must read differently in Polish culture. It’s not a big scene, but you’ll know it when you see it.
Still an incredible series, and I highly recommend it.
I hope this helps. Cheers.
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