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The Absolute Best Fantasy TV Shows on HBO Max

HBO Max has a ton to offer in the fantasy realm outside Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon.

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Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Expertise Breaking news, entertainment, lifestyle, travel, food, shopping and deals, product reviews, money and finance, video games, pets, history, books, technology history, generational studies. Credentials
  • Co-author of two Gen X pop-culture encyclopedia for Penguin Books. Won "Headline Writer of the Year"​ award for 2017, 2014 and 2013 from the American Copy Editors Society. Won first place in headline writing from the 2013 Society for Features Journalism.
Gael Cooper
5 min read

While scrolling through HBO Max's fantasy offerings, Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon aren't the only TV series deserving of your attention. The streaming service features all flavors of fantasy, from the hilarious to the harrowing. 

Here are our top picks for fantasy shows currently available on HBO Max.

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Ollie Upton/HBO

House of the Dragon (2022—)

If you've been missing Game of Thrones, dive into House of the Dragon, a prequel set about 200 years before Thrones. The show focuses on the dragon-riding Targaryen family. King Viserys (Paddy Considine) sits the Iron Throne, and he's declared daughter Princess Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock/Emma D'Arcy) his heir. But not everyone likes that idea, including bloodthirsty Prince Daemon (Matt Smith) and Queen Alicent (Emily Carey/Olivia Cooke), who's the mother of the son Viserys longed for years to have. And if you know author George R.R. Martin, you know to prepare for sword fights and tournaments, weddings as bloody as any battle, and family dysfunction that includes, uh, incest. Jaime and Cersei have nothin' on these couples.

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Cartoon Network/YouTube/CNET Screenshot

Over the Garden Wall (2014)

Half-brothers Wirt (Collin Dean) and Greg (Elijah Wood of Lord of the Rings/Hobbit fame) get lost in a supernatural forest called The Unknown while trying to find their way home. A friendly frog, talking bluebird and mysterious woodsman (voiced by Christopher Lloyd) all accompany them in their quest, while a creepy Beast attempts to turn them into trees. You'll get modern Hansel and Gretel vibes. The 10 episodes are a neat 11 minutes each, so this show doesn't require a huge time commitment.

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Cartoon Network/YouTube/CNET Screenshot

Dexter's Laboratory (1996-2003)

Boy genius Dexter, with his Peter Lorre accent, has clueless parents and an older sister who just don't understand his scientific prowess. He can invent a cloning machine, a Beardatron that grows instant facial hair and teach animals to talk, but he can't seem to get rid of his nemesis, fellow boy genius Mandark. This is the third animated series from Genndy Tartakovsky to make this list, and like the others, it's high-quality crazy creativity all the way.

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BBC/HBO

His Dark Materials (2019-2022)

Based on the popular book series, His Dark Materials follows scrappy orphan Lyra and her daemon (animal companion) Pan as she learns to read a mysterious truth-telling instrument called the alethiometer and embarks on an essential and dangerous journey. CNET's Katie Collins writes that for as much as the adaptation is a fantastical adventure, "it is also a nuanced exploration of religion, philosophy, physics, alchemy, politics and myth." The first two seasons are on HBO Max now, and a third season is on its way.

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BBC

Doctor Who (1963-present, though not all episodes available)

Some say Doctor Who should be categorized as science fiction, but the long-lived show definitely has fantasy elements. The Doctor (don't call them Doctor Who; that's the show name) is a Time Lord, an extraterrestrial being who appears to be human and travels the universe in the Tardis, which appears to be a blue British police box. Ncuti Gatwa is the current Doctor, replacing Jodie Whittaker, the first female Doctor. This show is beloved by generations, but you can jump in at any time. HBO Max doesn't have the show going back to its 1963 beginnings, but you can still watch plenty of episodes there.

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Cartoon Network

Samurai Jack (2001-2017)

The lead character in Samurai Jack was sent forward to a dystopian future by a shapeshifting demon named Aku and must travel back to his own time to stop evil from triumphing. The animated show blends traditional Japanese samurai warfare with robots, monsters, aliens and more. Creator Genndy Tartakovsky was inspired by the 1970s David Carradine show Kung Fu, which sent a Shaolin monk with martial-arts training through the American Old West. HBO Max has all five seasons; the first four, which ran from 2001 to 2004, and the fifth revival season, which ran in 2017 and is considered by many to be a darker, more adult take on the series.

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HBO

Game of Thrones (2011-2019)

You know nothing, Jon Snow, until you've watched the massive, 73-episode Game of Thrones series. You might not love the controversial ending, but the show itself, with its dragons, White Walkers, direwolves and more, is a fantasy masterwork. Just don't get too attached to any of the characters, as few of them get happy endings. Oh, all right. You can cling to Tyrion (Peter Dinklage).

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Adult Swim

Rick and Morty (2013—)

Is Rick and Morty fantasy? Sci-fi? Something else? The acclaimed adult animation series focuses on mad scientist Rick, his grandkids Morty and Summer Smith, and their parents, all going on bizarre adventures across dimensions. In one episode, Rick learns that he may have impregnated a planet -- not a resident of the planet, but the actual planet. You kinda have to watch it to understand.

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Cartoon Network

The Powerpuff Girls (1998-2005)

Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup aren't your average kindergarteners: They're superhero sisters with a scientist dad, Professor Utonium, and they help their city, Townsville, fight off criminals. They're possibly the cutest and toughest girl-power superheroes ever. The show aired from 1998 to 2005 on Cartoon Network, and all six seasons are now on HBO Max.

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HBO

The Leftovers (2014-2017)

The Leftovers, based on Tom Perotta's 2011 novel, tells the story of a world where 2% of the population simply vanishes in an event that comes to be known as the Sudden Departure. It's not the story of those who vanished as much as of those they left behind, who must try to come to grips with the unexplainable loss. All three seasons are on HBO Max.

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Adult Swim/YouTube/CNET Screenshot

Genndy Tartakovsky's Primal (2019—)

Genndy Tartakovsky, known for Samurai Jack and Dexter's Laboratory, among other animated classics, took inspiration for Primal from pulp novels and the like. It's about the bond between a caveman and a Tyrannosaurus, bonded by tragedy, who struggle forth as the most unusual pair of buddies. While the series is far from silent, there's no dialogue, so get prepped for that. The first 10-episode season is on HBO Max now.

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Cartoon Network/YouTube/CNET Screenshot

Steven Universe (2013-2020)

The magic of Steven Universe doesn't come through in a simple plot explanation. In this dazzlingly deep animated show, Steven Universe has adventures while surrounded and supported by his friends, the Crystal Gems, magical humanoids who teach him about love, loss and family. (Steven himself is half-human, half-Gem.) All five seasons, plus the Steven Universe Movie, and an epilogue series, Steven Universe Future, are on HBO Max.

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Photograph by Eli Joshua Ade/HBO

Lovecraft Country (2020)

There's horror, there's supernatural, and yes, there are fantasy elements in Lovecraft Country, the acclaimed 2020 HBO series about a Black man traveling through the segregated South in the 1950s. Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) is hunting for his missing father, and he must battle not only racism and prejudice but horrific, nonhuman monsters reminiscent of an H.P. Lovecraft novel.

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Cartoon Network

Adventure Time (2010-2018)

Jake the Dog and Finn the Human live in the post-apocalyptic Land of Ooo, where they interact with such colorful creations as the Ice King (voiced by Tom Kenny, voice of SpongeBob SquarePants), Princess Bubblegum and more. Don't be fooled by the idea that this is a kid's show; Adventure Time is also beloved by adults.

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