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40 Best ‘Game of Thrones’ Characters – Ranked and Updated

From Arya to Yara, the Night King to the Mother of Dragons, we count down the ‘Game’s best and worst players

The strongest story arcs. The best one-liners. The most shocking demises. Whether they win or die, whether they’re hero or villain – or like most people on this show, somewhere in between – each character on Game of Thrones can employ an entire arsenal of factors to win the game that matters most: the battle for being crowned the series’ best character. As David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’ smash-hit fantasy saga returns to HBO for its seventh season this weekend, we’re counting down the 40 most memorable characters from worst to best – updated since we last did this around the start of Season Four. In a cast so sprawling that some heavy hitters didn’t even make the cut (also: sorry, Podrick Payne, we still love you!), who is the one true king or queen?

HBO

4

Sansa Stark

If a Disney princess had night terrors, the story of Sansa Stark might be what woke her up screaming. Ned’s elder daughter has had all her illusions about the world, and her safety in it, shattered. But her quiet, innate political shrewdness and emotional strength have enabled her to escape situations that likely would have cost every other Stark their heads. She avoided destruction by Joffrey, Cersei, Littlefinger and Ramsay alike – becoming a fan favorite in the process – and now she will either make or break her half-brother Jon Snow’s reign in the North. Sometimes, lone wolves do survive.

HBO

3

Tyrion Lannister

The wildly popular character who landed Peter Dinklage on the cover of Rolling Stone, the Imp is almost always the smartest guy in the room. But what matters is that he’s almost always the most decent dude there, too, struggling to do the right thing despite his ruthless family and his own more than slightly sketchy nature. Can he make up for his most unforgivable lapse, the murder of his ex-girlfriend Shae, by helping the Mother of Dragons carve a path of freedom and conquest through the civilized world? Whatever the answer may be, this much is for certain: He’s horny, he’s funny and he’s never less than fascinating.

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2

Jon Snow

So, wait: You’re telling us one of the three main characters of the epic-fantasy series is a sullen teenage outcast who wears a lot of black and worries about girls? Vacate the Iron Throne, we need to sit down. But Lord Snow, played by brooding heartthrob Kit Harington, has come along way from his pouty origins. He battled to save the realm from the invading wildlings, then fought just as hard to save his former enemies from the White Walkers and their zombie hordes – a decision that cost him his life at the hand of his racist underlings. And famously, it didn’t end there. Jon was resurrected by the Red Woman, recaptured his ancestral home Winterfell from mad Ramsay Bolton and got crowned by his grateful subjects. Yet not even he knows the real truth: He’s the secret son of a Targaryen prince, making him not only the King in the North but the Blood of the Dragon. His is the Song of Ice and Fire.

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1

Daenerys Targaryen

She’s the heir to a powerful, dysfunctional family with even more powerful and dysfunctional enemies. Her story is a non-stop confrontation with complex ideas about sex, war, gender, race, politics and morality. She’s played by Emilia Clarke, an actor who went from unknown to star overnight, with the Rolling Stone cover to prove it. Oh, and she’s a fireproof messiah with a trio of flying nuclear dinosaurs at her disposal. Now, after six seasons of waiting, she’s headed to Westeros to take back the Iron Throne, and quite possibly save humanity from extinction at the cold hands of the White Walkers in the process. The Mother of Dragons is the human embodiment of everything that makes Game of Thrones great. Bow down.

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