Every Targaryen in ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘House of the Dragon,’ Ranked

Estimated read time 18 min read

House Targaryen was the ruling dynasty over the continent of Westeros for nearly three hundred years. Of the bloodline of the ancient Valyrian Empire, House Targaryen was the last to master dragons, immense fire-breathing reptiles of semi-magical origin, which they used to unite the warring kingdoms of Westeros into one nation. Unfortunately, their practice of incest, lack of clear successors to the throne, and increasing mental instability weakened their dynasty until they were overthrown and replaced by House Baratheon.



Between Game of Thrones and House of the Dragons, audiences meet many members of the Targaryen dynasty, from great rulers to crazy tyrants and everything in between. As House of the Dragon prepares for its second season this summer, it’s as good a time as any to look at the major members of House Targaryen and see how they compare to one another. Some are major characters, shaping the future of Westeros and Essos with their actions, and others are minor figures within both shows’ narratives. However, every Targaryen is memorable and distinctive, even if some tower above others.


Game Of Thrones

Nine noble families fight for control over the lands of Westeros while an ancient enemy returns after being dormant for millennia.

Release Date April 17, 2011

Creator David Benioff, D.B. Weiss

Seasons 8

17 Rhaegar Targaryen

Played by Wilf Scolding

Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark marry each other in secret by a lake in 'Game of Thrones' Season 7, Episode 7 Image via HBO

The eldest son of King Aerys II (David Rintoul), Rhaegar (Wilf Scolding) was seen by many as the perfect prince thanks to his skills in combat and noble personality. That said, he was also known for being very melancholy and placing a lot of emphasis on destiny. As such, even though he was married to Elia Martell and had children with her, he eloped with Lyanna Stark (Aisling Franciosi), married her in secret, and then died fighting Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) in the Battle of the Trident.

There isn’t a lot of good that can be said about the show’s depiction of Rhaegar. Sure, he was a brave knight and well respected by his friends, but his thoughtless actions led to his kingdom bleeding into civil war and the eventual downfall of his house. He also showed no consideration for what his actions would do to his wife and children and left Lyanna Stark in a tower while he went to die fighting Robert. Because the show threw prophecies out the window, and there are still no clear answers about his actions in the books, poor Rhaegar is doomed to remain at the bottom of most Targaryen rankings.

16 Aerys II Targaryen

Played by David Rintoul

The Mad King Aerys II Targaryen on the Iron Throne yelling in rage in Game of Thrones Image via HBO

In his early life, Aerys Targaryen seemed like he might make for a halfway decent king, especially with the highly capable Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) as his Hand of the King. However, after some traumatic events, Aerys descends into madness, seeing treason in every corner and alienating himself from potential allies. This eventually culminates in his execution of Lord Rickard Stark and his eldest son, Brandon, kicking off Robert’s Rebellion and leading to his death.

Aerys is the poster child for an evil, mad, uncontrollable, unpredictable Targaryen, with the only other contender being the infamous Maegor the Cruel. Though long dead before the series begins, Aerys’ legacy is felt all over, from the pots of wildfire that he left hidden around King’s Landing to worries that his daughter, Daenerys (Emelia Clarke), will grow up to be just like him. The way everyone talks about him also reinforces how terrible he was in life and helps the audience fill in the gaps themselves.

15 Jaehaerys I Targaryen

Played by Michael Carter

Jaehaerys and his descendants in House of the Dragon Image via HBO

The grandson of Aegon the Conqueror, Jaehaerys (Michael Carter), took the throne as a teenager and was tasked with rebuilding it after his father and uncle’s divisive reigns. Fortunately, he proved to be apt at the task, becoming Westeros’ longest-serving monarch, beloved for his stability and reforms. Unfortunately, he had a hard time securing a successor, leading to the Great Council of 101, where his grandson, Viserys (Paddy Considine), was chosen over his eldest grandchild, Rhaenys (Eve Best).

Like Aerys, Jaehaerys is long dead before the events of House of the Dragon, but his impact is still felt throughout the first season. His decades of peace and prosperity are brought up in comparison to Viserys’ reign, both in terms of how he kept the peace going and in how he compares to his predecessor. Jaehaerys is wise and competent, possibly the best Targaryen king to sit on the Iron Throne. However, Jaenaerys’ legacy is more divisive, as his actions concerning the Great Council set the standard of men inheriting over women, causing no end of trouble for Viserys’ daughter, Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock and Emma D’Arcy).

house of the dragon poster

House of the Dragon

The reign of House Targaryen begins with this prequel to the popular HBO series Game of Thrones. Based on George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood, House of the Dragon is set nearly 200 years before Game of Thrones, telling the story of the Targaryen civil war with King Viserys.

Release Date August 21, 2022

Creator Ryan J. Condal, George R.R. Martin

Seasons 2

14 Baela and Rhaena Targaryen

Played by Shani Smethurst/Bethany Antonia and Eva Ossei-Gerning/Phoebe Campbell

Baela and Rhaena Targaryen looking to the distance in House of the Dragon Image via HBO

The eldest children of Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) by his second wife, Laena Velaryon (Nanna Blondell), Baela (Shani Smethurst and Bethany Antonia) and Rhaena (Eva Ossei-Gerning and Phoebe Campbell) inherited much of their parent’s wild and bold personalities. Following their mother’s death, they became wards of their grandmother, Rhaenys, and were later betrothed to Rhaenyra’s eldest sons to strengthen her alliance with the Velaryons.

Though young, both are more than eager to do their part and ensure that their stepmother is crowned Queen of Westeros. Baela and Rhaena haven’t had a lot of time to establish themselves as characters, but what has been shown has promise. Rhaena has some feelings of inadequacy over not having a dragon of her own, made even worse when Aemond (Leo Ashton) claims her mother’s dragon, Vhagar. Meanwhile, Baela rides the dragon Moondancer, which means she could play an active role in the upcoming civil war. Their literary counterparts are major players in the conflict and its subsequent resolution, meaning fans will likely see more of these two in future seasons.

13 Aegon II

Played by Ty Tennant/Tom Glynn-Carney

Aegon II holding the Catspaw Dagger in Episode 9 of House of the Dragon Image via HBO

As Viserys’ eldest son by Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke), it was assumed that Aegon (Ty Tennant and Tom Glynn-Carney) would be named Prince of Dragonstone and heir to the Iron Throne. However, Viserys remained committed to Rhaenyra, and Aegon grew up to be ill-suited for rule, preferring a life of debauchery and sloth. Despite this, his mother and grandfather, Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), continue to push Aegon towards leadership to fulfill their political ambitions.

Aegon is not a great person, especially regarding his love of assaulting women, fathering bastards, and watching children fight each other in underground pit fights. However, the show does make a point of showing how his terrible upbringing is linked to his behavior, as his father was barely in his life, and his mother stressed a need to hate and fear his older half-sister and her children. Though Aegon initially has no ambition to rule, his mind changes when he sees how much the people love him at his coronation. Aegon is not particularly complex or cunning, but he is also not terrible; if it weren’t for his place in the line of succession, he might actually be quite unremarkable.

12 Helaena

Played by Evie Allen/Phia Saban

Helaena Targaryen with her face covered by a veil looking up in House of the Dragon Season 2 Image via HBO

The only daughter of Viserys and Alicent, Helaena (Evie Allen and Phia Saban), is married to her oldest brother, Aegon, and has three children: Jaehaerys, Jaehaera, and Maelor. Beyond their marital duties, Aegon leaves Helaena alone, which is fine for her, as it allows her to indulge in her interests, like studying insects. She also has a habit of saying cryptic things, which match up with major events in her family’s life.

Although she might have less time than her brothers, Helaena is easily the most likable of her siblings thanks to her atypical interests and gentle personality. She doesn’t seem to have any ill will towards Rhaenyra and her children and even happily dances with her eldest son, Jacaerys (Leo Hart and Harry Collett), at a feast with the family. Helaena is probably a dreamer, and her prophetic statements also add an air of mystery that leaves audiences wondering just how her words will be made into reality and what consequences will follow.

11 Lucerys Velaryon

Played by Harvey Sadler and Elliot Grihault

Lucerys Velaryon looking ahead in House of the Dragon Image via HBO

As the second son of Rhaenyra and Laenor, Lucerys (Harvey Sadler and Elliot Grihault) is selected by his grandfather, Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint), as the heir to Driftmark upon his passing. Luke is well-meaning and far too inexperienced to play a game where everyone else is ahead of him. Whether it’s inheriting Driftmark or taking part in the Dance of Dragons, Luke is but a puppet of fate, whether he realizes it or not.

Luke is an innocent young man who always does his duty, no matter how much it hurts. He is among the Dance of Dragons’ first casualties, killed by Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) and his dragon, Vaeghar. His death is pivotal, turning a war of succession into a blood conflict that nearly destroys the realm. It also shows the cost of the civil war, both in how children become little more than pawns for their parents to move around and the destructive cost of fighting with dragons.

10 Jacaerys Velaryon

Played by Leo Hart and Harry Collett

Jacaerys Velaryon sitting on a table and looking intently ahead in House of the Dragon Image via HBO

As Rhaenyra’s eldest son, Jacaerys is next in line for the Iron Throne after her, upon which time he will take the Targaryen name. For his part, Jace takes his responsibilities very seriously and spends lots of time studying history and practicing the High Valyrian language. As civil war begins to brew, it is Jace who suggests that he and Luke deliver messages to the great lords about joining Rhaenyra, both because dragons are fast flyers and because it would shut down any question of their parentage.

Jace has all the best qualities of a royal prince: he cares about his people, knows when to be diplomatic, and conducts himself politely and respectfully. Of course, this doesn’t mean he won’t fight to defend his family’s honor when he needs to. Though old enough to know the truth about his parentage, Jace doesn’t let the whispers of others get him down, as he knows that his bond with his dragon, Vermax, confirms his Targaryen heritage. Jace is a great character and the closest thing the Dance has to a true hero. Season 2 will surely expand on his role, and then viewers will really see what he’s capable of—for a while, anyway.

9 Viserys

Played by Harry Lloyd

Viserys Targaryen frowning and looking to his left in Game of Thrones Season 1 Image via HBO

Following the death of his father and the end of Targaryen rule in Westeros, Viserys (Harry Lloyd) and his infant sister, Daenerys, are sent across the Narrow Sea for a life in exile in Essos. Viserys tries his best to provide for his sister but ultimately turns into a spiteful individual who can think only of his stolen birthright. This leads him to give Daenerys to the powerful Dothraki Kahl, Drogo (Jason Momoa), in exchange for an army.

Viserys serves as the first major obstacle in Daenerys’ story of finding inner strength, but there is a lot of tragedy in his character. He’s someone who lost everything and has to live his whole life being looked down upon and insulted, which made him, in turn, abuse and hurt the one person who still cares for him. This doesn’t excuse Viserys’ actions towards Daenerys, and his pride ultimately leads to his death in one of the most iconic moments in Season 1 of Game of Thrones, but it does help to explain them. Viserys is also a wildly entertaining character, mainly because his ridiculously skewed version of his family’s history makes him deranged to the point of absurdity.

8 Aemond

Played by Leo Ashton and Ewan Mitchell

Aemond Targaryen sitting on a chair in House of the Dragon Season 2 Image via HBO/Ollie Upton

The second son of Viserys and Alicent, Aemond, has never been one to lack ambition. Teased in his youth for not claiming a dragon, Aemond eventually claims the largest in Westeros, Vhagar, at the cost of an eye. Still, the event did little to deter him; Aemond’s ambition only climbed higher as he aged until he began viewing himself as the more worthy successor to the Iron Throne over Aegon.

Aemond is the biggest wildcard in the Green Faction, and not just because he rides Vhagar. When he wants something, he is not afraid to reach out and take it, which has led to him becoming a formidable warrior and learned scholar in history and philosophy. Unlike many other Targaryen rulers, who believe their name is enough to justify their power, Aemond understands the true importance of knowledge, influence, and battle skills. However, what he has in ambition, he seemingly lacks in cunning, which leads to him making several rash decisions with long-lasting consequences.

7 Rhaenyra

Played by Milly Alcock and Emma D’Arcy

Rhaenyra Targaryen wearing Jaehaerys' crown in House of the Dragon Season 2 Image via HBO

As the only living child of King Viserys and Aemma Arryn (Sian Brooke), Rhaenyra is heir to the Iron Throne, trained by her father to rule Westeros. Though she tries to do her duty, she also possesses a wild, passionate side that leads to her working around the law and traditions in ways that suit her. This leads to numerous scandals that cost her friends and allies, but despite being on the back foot, Rhaenyra is fully prepared to fight for her rights to the throne.

Rhaenyra is a complicated figure who acts as a strong deconstruction of the rebellious princess archetype. While she cares for her duties as a princess, her impulsive nature and belief that her royal blood will free her from consequences continue to build up until she has just as many enemies in Westeros as she does allies. At the very least, she loves her family and made sure to raise her children to be just as committed to their duty as she is to hers. And while adult Rhaenyra is slightly less fiery than her younger self, the upcoming Dance provides the perfect chance to see her spark return in major ways.

6 Rhaenys

Played by Eve Best

Rhaenys Targaryen standing in a room in House of the Dragon Image via HBO

Despite being the daughter of King Jaeherys’ eldest son, Rhaenys was passed over for Viserys at the Great Council of 101 because Westeros wasn’t ready for a woman ruler on the Iron Throne. Still, Rhaenys lived a good life, married to Corlys Velaryon and rode one of the largest dragons in Westeros, Meleys the Red Queen. Though her relationship with Rhaenyra has been rocky for years, she ultimately decides to stand with her in the impending civil war.

As the oldest of the living Targaryens in House of the Dragon, Rhaenys proves that with age comes wisdom and experience. Rather than fighting for power or personal glory, she would prefer to see her family safe and happy, and when asked for advice, cautions temperance and peace. She also tries to offer guidance to the young women around her, such as explaining to Rhaenyra all the trials she will face, and telling Alicent that she has trapped herself in a life of subservience instead of power. Rhaenys really is the Queen Who Never Was—but should’ve been.

5 Daenerys

Played by Emelia Clarke

Daenerys Targaryen is revered as a savior by the freed slaves of Yunkai. Image via HBO

Known as Stormborn, Daenerys initially spent her years traveling Essos with her brother, having little to no control over her own life. This changes when she is married to Drogo and begins to discover her inner strength. After reviving three dragons in a blood ritual, Daenerys becomes committed to bringing change to the world and reclaiming the Iron Throne.

Despite her now infamous ending, Daenerys remains one of Game of Thrones’ best and most popular characters thanks to her strong journey from slave to liberator. Though her age and naïveté lead to her making poor leadership decisions, she genuinely believes in her cause and wants to make a world where nobody lives in bondage, be it through chains or the structure of society. Sadly, it all came crashing down as the show failed to properly portray her fall to madness in its final season. Still, Daenerys role as a pop culture icon is ensured, no thanks to Benioff and Weiss, but to Emilia Clarke’s powerful performance, which always managed to elevate even the worst material.

4 Jon Snow

Played by Kit Harington

close-up of Kit Harrington as Jon Snow from 'Game of Thrones' Image via HBO

The secret child of Rhaegar and Lyanna, Jon (Kit Harington), is taken North by Eddard Stark (Sean Bean), who passes him off as his bastard son. Though Jon has a good upbringing with Eddard’s children, he always feels left out and decides to join the Night’s Watch as a young man. There, he learns of the growing threat beyond the wall and commits himself to doing all that he can to stop them from coming south.

Jon is perhaps the closest thing that Game of Thrones has to a singular protagonist and isn’t all too bad in the role. His time with both the Night’s Watch and among the Wildlings north of the wall helps shape him into a capable leader who inspires others to fight alongside him for the greater good. Unfortunately, his Targaryen blood doesn’t factor into the story by the end and feels more like a neat fact for the audience than the other characters or the world at large. Still, Jon is among the best characters in Game of Thrones, an honorable hero who rejects power and simply chooses to act because it’s right.

3 Aemon

Played by Peter Vaughan

Maester Aemon Targaryen in Game of Thrones Image via HBO

Born to King Maekar I, Aemon became a Maester of the Citadel to remove himself from the line of succession and refused to accept the crown on his father’s death, letting it fall to his younger brother, Aegon V. He went to the Wall and became the Maester of the Night’s Watch, and remained faithful to his vows even after learning of the fall of his house. Even after going blind, Aemon continued his duties at the Wall and was always there to provide advice and counsel to those in need.

Aemon is one of the best members of the Night’s Watch, thanks to his age, wisdom, and helpful personality. Time and time again, Aemon is offered positions of power but chooses instead to stick true to his vows, no matter how strong the temptation to break them is. He offers a source of encouragement to the younger members of the Night’s Watch, helping people like Jon Snow become the men that Westeros needs to protect it. Aemon led a full life of service and commitment to a higher purpose, making him a standout among the usually power-hungry Targaryens.

2 Viserys I

Played by Paddy Considine

King Viserys Targaryen, wearing his crown and looking displeased in House of the Dragon Image via HBO

After succeeding his grandfather as King of Westeros, Viserys ruled in an era of peace and prosperity. The final rider of the greatest Targaryen dragon, Balerion, Viserys spent a lot of time going over prophecies and hoping to have a son. Following the death of his wife, Aemma, and their son, Baelor, he names Rhaenyra as his heir and does what he can to prepare her for rule.

Viserys is easily the most complicated king presented in either show. He is, by all accounts, a good man committed to his duty but also frustrated that he never had the chance to prove himself a valiant warrior like his forbearers. His love for Rhaenyra causes him to overlook many of her shortcomings, and his desire to avoid conflict leads him to tolerate multiple slights that really shouldn’t have been excused. Still, he is a wonderfully complex figure, especially among the Targaryen clan, and Considine delivers an acting masterclass in the role, including the show’s most powerful moment when Viserys sits on the Iron Throne for the last time.

1 Daemon

Played by Matt Smith

Daemon Targaryen in armor kneeling in House of the Dragon Season 2 Image via HBO

Known as the Rogue Prince, Daemon is the greatest warrior in the Seven Kingdoms, as well as the most volatile and deadly. Wielding the Valyrian Steel sword, Dark Sister, and riding Caraxes the Blood Wyrm, Daemon is always looking for his next great adventure, be it waring in the Stepstones or traveling the world. Unfortunately, his do-what-I-want attitude leaves him with few friends at court and alienates him from his brother, Viserys.

George R. R. Martin, the author of the A Song of Ice and Fire books HBO, has called Daemon his favorite Targaryen, and it’s no surprise. Daemon is a multifaceted character who can come across as both a hero and a villain depending on the situation: he’s a slave to his impulses and will happily murder anyone in his way, but he also loves his family dearly and wants more than anything to be by Viserys’ side. Above all Targaryens, Daemon best represents their house motto, “Fire and Blood,” and is prepared to unleash both as he works to claim whatever prize his eyes are currently set upon.

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NEXT: ‘Game of Thrones’: The Targaryen Family Tree From Aegon the Conquerer to Jon Snow