Who's the biggest Game of Thrones bastard: Joffrey Baratheon or Ramsay Bolton?

Game of Thrones thrives on its bad guys. Without them everything would be lovely and wonderful in the land of Westeros. We all thought we’d seen the worse villain to ever grace our TV screens when Thrones invited evil King Joffrey to make our skin crawl on a weekly basis, but with the introduction of the truly mad, bad Ramsay Bolton, people have been questioning if he might be worse. 

We settle things the old fashioned way here on GR+ which means a rousing debate about the pros and cons of each argument. Except it’s more like two of us arguing in public and then demanding everyone on Twitter agrees with us. Well, it beats a trial by combat. Read on and decide who gets your vote for being the biggest shit in Westeros. It’s kind of like deciding if you were #TeamCap or #TeamIronMan except no wants to be on either side, and we’d all rather just hide behind Jon Snow. 

"There’s definitely no cure for being a cunt" Lauren O'Callaghan presents the case for Joffrey 

Obviously, Joffrey is the biggest bastard in Game of Thrones! Don’t let yourself become complacent towards his wrongdoing just because he happens to be dead. OR IS HE? Yeah, he is. The fact is, Ramsay Bolton could live to the ripe old flaying age of a 102 and he still wouldn’t beat Joffrey in the bad guy stakes. Do you remember how you felt when Game of Thrones first appeared on your screens? Before you got used to the blood and death, and the fact that every time someone was the least bit happy they seemed to have their entrails ripped out of them seconds later? When you didn’t really know the type of person Joffrey was. And then, as the episodes continued, you slowly realised he’s arrogant, spoilt, even a little malicious… OMG he’s had a young buy butchered for play fighting! Yeah, realising that true evil comes in the form of a blonde haired child isn’t something you forget easily. 

Joffrey took that first spine-chilling moment and ran with it, going on to kill hero Ned Stark, emotionally torture his fiancee Sansa (as well as anyone else who was around), and generally bring ruin and destruction to anyone who dared cross his path. Oh and by the way, he was still King this whole time. That’s why you’ll never convince me Ramsay is worse than Joffrey because although he’s arguably maimed and tortured more people, no one’s pretending he's a swell guy for it. No one’s sitting him on the Iron Throne telling him how wonderful he is. He doesn’t have a mother who enables his malice while fiercely protecting at the same time. His soldiers don’t overlook his rotten character and stay loyal to him because of a sense of duty. You might think none of this matters. That Ramsay doesn’t need those things because he takes them anyway, but as his dear old dad warned him, if he acts like a rabid dog, he’ll be treated like one. We’re already starting to see the effects of his appalling actions and while flaying people alive might keep your allies by your side for a time, there’s no way it’s going to last. The moment things turn south, he’ll be wishing he was a pompous little Prince who could demand other people die for him because of his royal blood. 

Of course, the real test is Sansa. The poor girl has been on the receiving end of both Joffrey and Ramsay's sadistic treatment, and while Ramsay's abuse is admittedly horrific, don't downplay Joff's torture because he got other people to do it for him. Let's forget he had her Dad killed and then forced her to look at his severed head. He had his guards beat her in front of everyone in the Red Keep, but, you know, left her face alone because he 'likes her pretty'. He threatened to make her eat the head of her brother Robb, not to mention have his guards hold her down so he could rape her on her wedding night. Let's not pretend that just because some of these threats never came to fruition, it means he didn't do some serious damage to Sansa. Torture is torture. 

Plus, let’s just compare Ramsay and Joffrey’s upbringings. While there’s no doubt Joff’s Mum is a bit of a nutter with serious smothering issues when it comes to her kids, it’s safe to say he had a pretty good childhood. Sure, his ‘Dad’ wasn’t a great role model, but he never wanted for anything. He had the best tutors in the land. Never went hungry or cold. Basically he owns EVERYTHING in Westeros. These things can definitely lead to a Marie Antoinette attitude towards others, but it certainly shouldn’t turn him into a complete psychopath. Whereas, Ramsay on the other hand, is the product of rape who was raised under the vile Roose Bolton who taught him everything he knows, and only realised his son had outstripped him when it was too late. Sure, he didn’t grow up destitute but as we all know being constantly reminded you’re a bastard doesn’t do wonders for a young boy. Of course he’s a hateful rapist/murder! He’s known nothing else. Does Ramsay’s harsh upbringing excuse his actions? Absolutely not. But forgive me for thinking the twit who has everything he could ever want, but still demands his subjects die for him with a smile on their face, is worse than the bastard who is doing the only thing he knows. 

I’m not the only one who thinks so either. Author George RR Martin sent Joffrey actor Jack Gleeson a letter saying “congratulations on your marvelous performance, everyone hates you.” Has Iwan Rheon (aka Ramsay Bolton) had a letter from George? No. Plus, Jack Gleeson did such an amazing job portraying the evil Joffrey that at the age of 21 he’s retired from acting. Playing the evil King has literally ruined him from acting ever again! He’s probably curled up in a ball somewhere crying and hugging himself asking God why no one can remember he was just doing his job.* When Joffrey died the world literally jumped for joy. Never had so many people been so happy to see a young man choke to death on his wedding day. Just thinking about it’s put a smile on your face, hasn’t it? And that’s why Joffrey Baratheon is the biggest bastard in Game of Thrones. Ramsay Bolton wishes he was this evil. *mic dropped*

*He’s not, I checked. 

"His name might have changed, but he’ll always be a bastard" Matt Elliott argues for Ramsey

There are two doors in front of you. One leads to Joffrey Baratheon, the other Ramsay Bolton. Do you open the door containing the sniggering, milksop princeling, or the one with the nakedly unhinged dick-flayer? You probably noticed I’ve given you a hint in the question - you’re smart like that. 

Now, I know there’s more to being a bastard than just being frightening. The Mountain, for example, is a monster, but he’s a creature of impulse. You couldn’t really call him evil. Ramsay Bolton is both. He chooses to be awful, and he’s terrifying because he’s so good at it.

By comparison, Joffers simply isn’t that good at being bad, and the harder he tries, the more like a Playmobil villain he looks. He managed to fail despite great wealth and incredible power. He can only murder or displace people, and never personally inspires loyalty or fear. His family name is his most powerful weapon, and even they think he’s a prick. Ramsay, however, can dig into a person’s soul, strip away the things that define them and ruin them forever. His skill is getting to the heart of what destroys people and exploiting it in a way that makes him feel inhuman. Joffrey was annoying: Ramsay is actually Satan. It’s like comparing hayfever to having your eyeballs spooned out. So what if Joffrey tortures cats? Ramsay Bolton was probably doing that when he was still in Stark-flesh diapers. He can make eating an apple look scary, for fuck’s sake. An apple.

Ramsay is the worst-best bastard because he’s thoughtfully, flamboyantly, creatively awful. He doesn’t just marry Sansa: he forces Theon to give her away - Theon, you remember, who Sansa believes killed her brothers, in the very place she grew up. He sends Theon’s severed wang to his own father, then tucks into a delicious sausage. He’s the master of kindling hope in the hopeless, then tearing it away. The scale and spite of Ramsey’s cuntitude is boundless. And if you actually cross him, then The Seven save you. He flayed a grandma for saying, “the North remembers”. Imagine what he’d have done with Ned Stark? Sansa would still be getting bits of dad in the post now. Death would have been a mercy.

Joffrey’s nastiness is almost superficial: a thin coating of asshat paint, created to cover cracks and hide insecurities. Ramsay’s bastardry runs deep. It’s the mortar itself. He’s happy to do every awful thing personally, because it’s not just about displaying power or commanding respect. He’s less interested in what people think - he just enjoys causing misery. Can you imagine Joffrey doing anything so proactively horrible? He’d struggle to peel an orange, let alone a Greyjoy. Flaying people is such a routine thing for Ramsay that he’s taken to hunting pregnant women with dogs as a hobby. That’s right: Ramsay has even ruined dogs, and we should never forgive him for that. In contrast, Joffrey’s Hound was the coolest, chicken-munching mothereffer in the show. 

Worst of all, you can’t beat Ramsay. He’s winning. He thrived in the harshest house in Westeros, despite a miserable upbringing and vile father. He’s beaten one of the most capable military commanders in the land. Every time you think he’s been outsmarted, he finds a way to succeed. Did you think for a single second that Osha’s plan would work? Of course not. Compare that to Joffrey: a man who compulsively started the a war that tore the Seven Kingdoms apart, and still managed to choke to death at his own wedding.

You could argue that Joffrey had less of an excuse for being a bastard, because of his sheltered origins. Another way of looking at it is that Ramsay was born of evil. He’s a force for misery from moment of his conception. Joffrey doesn’t even know he’s a bastard - Ramsay, on the other hand, has used the knowledge about his miserable origins to become the worst person in Westeros.

Congratulations, Ramsay. You’re a piece of shit. 

Lauren O'Callaghan

Lauren O'Callaghan is the former Entertainment Editor of GamesRadar+. You'd typically find Lauren writing features and reviews about the latest and greatest in pop culture and entertainment, and assisting the teams at Total Film and SFX to bring their excellent content onto GamesRadar+. Lauren is now the digital marketing manager at the National Trust.