In the end, every game has a winner.
In the first season of Game of Thrones, Cersei Lannister warned that, “when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.” The HBO series will end this year in its eighth season, meaning we will soon know who ends up on the Iron Throne (if anyone) and who dies trying.
In anticipation of the end, we went back to the beginning of the series to score how the houses progressed season by season. We included every Westerosi house which (at some point) held a wardenship or (at some point) sat on a throne… foreign or otherwise.
The houses were given points for every living character loyal to them. They received an additional point if those characters possessed magic. They also gained a point for every army they controlled. Bonus points were awarded if a house made progress from the previous season or if they did something awesome (like killing an annoying child king). No house has scored higher than twenty throughout the series so far.
We DID NOT include the White Walkers in this ranking because they don’t represent a major house, wardenship, or sit on a recognized throne. But we recognize that they, too, have a chance of winning control of Westeros by the end of Season 8.
Houses scoring above 10 points (at any given time) are contenders for the Iron Throne. Houses scoring between 5 and 10 points (at any given time) have measurable influence in Westeros. Houses with less than 5 points (at any given time) are not practically influential.
This is how the major Westerosi Houses rank going into Season 8:
Ranking: Furthest from the Iron Throne.
Points On the Board: 0
Best Chance to Win: has passed.
For a house with the words “Growing Strong,” House Tyrell was consistent in failing to grow their influence. They spent a lot of time in proximity to power without ever sustainably grasping power. Their most effective member, Margaery, spent three seasons trying to become queen but only two seasons actually on a throne. Even then, almost immediately after she was crowned she was imprisoned by religious zealots.
Throughout the series, House Tyrell controlled a large portion of the realm’s food supply and boasted one of the largest armies in Westeros. But they weren’t subtle in shifting alliances. They bounced from Baratheon to Lannister to Martell and Targaryen partnerships. They are a house which aimed to benefit from advantageous relationships but ended up losing everything due to unwieldy opportunism.
The high point for House Tyrell was in the fourth season when Olenna killed Joffrey. They got serious bonus points for getting rid of the most annoying character in the series. But, that success was fleeting as House Tyrell lived and died in the Lannisters’ shadow. Regardless of how far they fell, you have to give it up to the ol’ Queen of Thorns for stickin’ it to the incest twins and their sadistic child.
The Golden Roses start Season 8 at the back of the pack with no living members. They have basically no chance of getting anywhere near the Iron Throne again.
Ranking: 10th closest to the Iron Throne.
Points On The Board: 0
Best Chance to Win: if the Night King is able to resurrect Ramsay from his dog’s excrement.
House Bolton never held enough power to be a real contender for the Iron Throne. However, they are one of only two houses on this list that started out as lowly bannermen. Roose Bolton turned every lever in order to advance his project to control the North. He even named his bastard Ramsay a true born heir in order to assist in retaking Winterfell. Ramsay Bolton tortured, flayed, and threatened to torture or flay anyone who got in his way. Ramsay was a valuable attack dog for Roose. In the end, however, both Roose and Ramsay were destroyed by the dogs they trained.
The house lost quite a few points when Ramsay killed Roose, his step-mother Walda, and the baby brother who would supersede Ramsay’s claim as Warden of the North. They lost the rest when they lost Winterfell and Ramsay was eaten by his own hunting dogs. In terms of power plays, the Boltons made some of the most terrifying advances in the series. In terms of actual power, the Boltons have no living characters left to even try for the Iron Throne.
Ranking: 9th closest to the Iron Throne.
Points On the Board: 0
Best Chance to Win: If Ellaria Sand ever gets out of that cell and does something immediately.
House Martell never tried very hard to claim the Iron Throne. The Dornish, after all, already consider the Martells royalty. The southernmost house was more interested in vengeance than power. When they were introduced in the fourth season there was a chance, albeit slim, that revenge might drive them to claim more power. Elia Martell (who was once married to the heir of the Iron Throne) was brutally murdered by the Lannisters’ mad dog bannerman Gregor Clegane before the events of the show began. It stands to reason that the Martells might have taken the throne in their efforts to avenge their sister by destroying the Lannisters. But they did not. The Martells boast one of the most consistent downward trajectories of all the houses. They existed more as a counterweight to the major players in the game rather than an actual player themselves.
The closest they came to progressing toward the Iron throne was when Trystane was betrothed to Myrcella Baratheon. But those hopes were thrown away when both teenagers were killed on their way to King’s Landing between Seasons 5 and 6. Little by little, through (mostly) self-inflicted wounds, the Martells lost members of their house and points on the board. Moving into Season 8, it’s possible that some of Oberyn’s theoretically surviving bastard daughters could rally the Dornish back into the fray. But there are no previously seen Martell characters alive and free at the end of Season 7. For that reason, they rank pretty low due to their lackluster performance.
Ranking: 8th closest to the Iron Throne.
Points On the Board: 1
Best Chance to Win: if “the Blackfish” isn’t dead or Lady Stoneheart becomes a thing in the show.
House Tully often seemed more important than it was because the oldest Tully daughter, Catelyn Stark, was an important character. Both of Hoster Tully’s daughters were, in fact, married to Lords of influential houses. Those connections would have given the Tullys sustainable power had Robb Stark won the War of the Five Kings. But, in Season 3 Robb was killed by the Freys. At that time, Hoster Tully was dead, Catelyn Stark was also killed, Edmure Tully (the youngest child) was captured, and Lysa Arryn (the middle child) was ignoring them all to breast-feed her pre-teen son in the mountains. Upon reflection, the Tullys rarely held any real influence throughout the series.
In terms of points, the Tully’s numbers were consistently depressed. In Season 6 Hoster’s brother, Brynden “the Blackfish,” got a bonus point for making Jaime Lannister and the Freys look like dweebs at the Siege of Riverrun. But Edmure lost that point almost immediately by giving up the castle to those dweebs. All in all, the Tullys had almost no growth since the first season so they rank pretty low for a house that still has a surviving Lord and an heir.
Ranking: 7th closest to the Iron Throne.
Points On the Board: 1
Best Chance to Win: if Edmure and Roslin’s child becomes a real beast, real quick.
House Frey’s singular goal in the series is to prove their critics wrong. They’ve manifested no grand plan for power and probably have one of the lowest chances of claiming the Iron Throne. Regardless, they thoroughly humiliated and destroyed the Tullys (who were a greater house in every way). So the Freys deserve their place in the ranking. They did always hold a certain level of power given their capacity to dictate passage across the River Trident (effectually blocking access across Westeros). But in Season 6, almost every living Frey including the head of the house was killed by Arya Stark for murdering her family and being generally icky.
Like the Boltons, the Freys gained an impressive amount of points throughout the series. But by the end of Season 6, they were basically back to where they started. The last surviving Frey who matters is Roslin, who’s married to, and a parent with, Edmure Tully. Even if the Tullys take the Riverlands back, Walder Frey’s grandchild will be the heir to Riverrun. For that reason alone, House Frey ranks higher than House Tully going into the next season.
Ranking: 6th closest to the Iron Throne.
Points On the Board: 1
Best Chance to Win: if Gendry makes moves.
House Baratheon started Game of Thrones on the Iron Throne and impacted a ton of storylines throughout the series. Between Robert, Stannis, Renly, and Gendry there are few parts of Westeros that a Baratheon didn’t affect.
Despite Robert serving as king of Westeros for the bulk of Season 1, none of Cersei’s children were fathered by him, so the Baratheons started off with less power than you’d expect of a house who usurped the Targaryens’ throne. For most of Game of Thrones, the house was primarily represented by the longest living brother, Stannis. After the first season, their power dipped slightly when Joffrey ordered the murder of all Robert’s bastard children (except for one), and Stannis killed his brother Renly. The house was on a downward trajectory by the end of Season 2 when they lost the Battle of the Blackwater.
Their highest point was in the fourth season when Stannis ended the Battle of Castle Black and gained a strategic vantage point to plot his quest for the Iron Throne. Despite that, they haven’t come close to regaining their influence in Westeros yet. All the Baratheons, except for Robert’s last living bastard Gendry, are dead
Because the Red Woman was pledged to Stannis (until it became obvious that he’d die in battle), the Baratheons scored consistent magic points. But in terms of armies and allegiance, their numbers dwindled throughout the series. The only reason House Baratheon still ranks this high is that Gendry is miraculously alive and active in the plot. However, Gendry is a Storm, not a Baratheon. Bastard technicalities aside, here’s hoping he has a good plan for his father’s house going into Season 8.
Ranking: 5th closest to the Iron Throne.
Points On the Board: 3
Best Chance to Win: if Robin keeps letting Yohn Royce call all the shots.
House Arryn was involved in most of the story’s major plot points but was rarely in control of its impact. Petyr Baelish controlled the house by seducing Lysa Arryn before the story began. He convinced her to poison her husband, effectively starting all the conflict. She then sent a letter to Catelyn Stark that indirectly lead to the death of Ned Stark. Lysa was complicit in Baelish’s scheme to kill King Joffrey. Publicly the Arryns remained neutral in the wars across Westeros up to Season 6. But behind the scenes, Petyr Baelish manipulated the house for his own gain. In fact, the Knights of the Vale largely only sided with House Stark in the Battle of the Bastards because Baelish wanted to mend his relationship with Sansa.
In terms of points, Baelish did not leave House Arryn destitute after his death. They still have a standing army and Robin Arryn has a loyal counselor in Yohn Royce. So the Arryns are on a stable footing to survive the game of thrones. But their flat trajectory makes it hard to say if they’ll survive the long winter and the army of the dead.
Ranking: 4th closest to the Iron Throne.
Points On the Board: 4
Best Chance to Win: if Euron marries Cersei or Theon breaks Yara free to help Daenerys.
Whether you’re surprised, excited, or annoyed by House Greyjoy’s survival, the fact remains that they rank pretty high for a house that’s at war with itself. The Greyjoys spent most of the story creating obstacles for more powerful houses to overcome. But they became a contender for the Iron Throne in Season 6 when Euron Greyjoy killed his brother to claim the Salt Throne. That move split the house in two between Euron’s supporters (who voted for his rule) and Yara’s army (who sailed away with the Iron Fleet). In an effort to gain full control of the Iron Islands, both Greyjoys pledged their allegiance to opposite sides of the war. Euron gave his newly built navy to Cersei Lannister in exchange for her hand in marriage. Yara gave her ships to Daenerys Targaryen in order to retake the Salt Throne.
When it comes down to scoring, the Greyjoys never gathered enough power to be true rivals to the top three houses. But, in terms of power by association, they’ve been successful in sustaining influential friends towards the end of the series. Regardless of whether Euron’s fleet helps Cersei or Theon can steal Yara (and some ships) back for Daenerys, a Greyjoy will be seated next to the ruler of Westeros when all is said and done. That is if there’s anyone left alive to rule.
Ranking: 3rd closest to (ending up) on Iron Throne.
Points On the Board: 9
Best Chance to Win: if the Starks and Targaryens are killed by the Army of the Dead.
If this list were merely ranking how intensely the game was played, House Lannister would be at the top. But this story doesn’t ignore basic karma, so every deviously good move created a disastrously lethal consequence for the Golden Lions.
When Jaime one-handedly pushed Bran Stark off a tower, he started a chain of events that ended with him losing that hand. When Cersei plotted to kill Robert Baratheon, it gave Joffrey the power to behead Ned Stark and set off the War of the Five Kings (a decision that eventually killed the boy king). When Tywin staged a trial to get Tyrion sent to the wall, it resulted in his own death. Even Tyrion’s attempts to support his family resulted in his alliance with a foreign invader. The Lannisters started the story with the most influence in Westeros. They are now the house which has lost the most influence throughout the series. Regardless, they are still close to winning the Iron Throne for good.
House Lannister has always been rich in points from allegiance and armies. But they took a backseat to Daenerys when she arrived in Westeros in Season 7. Now the Lannisters, like the Greyjoys, have unwittingly hedged their bets by planting house members on each side of the political divide. The best outcome for the house will be for Cersei to retain the Iron Throne. If she does not, that likely means Tyrion retains his title as the Hand of the Queen. If Jaime somehow outlives Cersei AND Tyrion he could be reinstated to the Queen’s Guard or allowed to reclaim Casterly Rock. Regardless, House Lannister has a good chance of surviving past Season 8.
Ranking: 2nd closest to the Iron Throne.
Points On the Board: 11
Best Chance to Win: if Sansa and/or Arya outlive Jon and Daenerys, then travel south to kill Cersei.
House Stark has been on a roller coaster since the beginning of the show. But their accidental divide-and-conquer strategy worked well in the end. The most pivotal members (Ned, Catelyn, and Robb) were killed pretty publicly, marking the house’s lowest point at the end of Season 3. Rickon didn’t survive either, but his death in Season 6 coincided with a high point for the house. Once the Starks reclaimed Winterfell after the Battle of the Bastards it seemed likely that their house would survive. Over the course of the seasons, Sansa, Arya, and Bran were all able to get themselves back home safely. They retook what they lost and are now ready to fight the army of the dead. It turns out that being split up across Westeros is what made it impossible for their enemies to destroy them.
After Ned’s death, the house seemed like it was heading for ruin. But the direwolves of the North gained more than they lost by the end of Season 6. With the revelation that Jon is a Targaryen (albeit with a Stark mother), it complicates which house gets the points that he brings in Season 7. Regardless, when you add up the surviving Starks with the armies they’ve amassed and the magic they possess, their points rank them in second place to take the Iron Throne going into Season 8.
Ranking: Closest to the Iron Throne.
Points On the Board: 17
Best Chance to Win: if Daenerys defeats the Army of the Dead, and Cersei, and gains the love and support of the people of Westeros.
House Targaryen has the most impressively positive progression of any house on this list. They started the story in the middle of the pack but quickly lost a lot of their power by the end of the first season after Daenerys accidentally lobotomized Khal Drogo and lost his Khalasar.
After that early hiccup, Daenerys made steady progress in terms of gaining allies and growing her armies. Like the three dragons that were magicked into the world, House Targaryen grew from something small and feisty to something majestic and terrifying by Season 7. They currently have the most points of any house.
Daenerys has an enormous amount to do before she can sit comfortably on the Iron Throne. Her house needs to solidify its alliance with the Starks (which is not guaranteed but looks likely based on Season 8 trailers). They need to beat the army of the dead, which has stolen one of their dragons. They need to destroy Cersei before she has a chance to blow everyone up. Then, after all of that, the Targaryens need to win the support of the people of Westeros who previously denounced their rule and sat a usurper on their throne.
House Targaryen has the largest armies and stands to gain the most allegiances going into Season 8. It also boasts a pretty strong magic score with its two remaining dragons. The question for the Targaryens and every other house on this list isn’t whether the Three-Headed Dragon can succeed, but rather, whether or not Daenerys will fail.