I recently started playing God of War (2018) again, and I’m finding it just as deep and emotional the second time around. The God of War series is no stranger to striking visuals and complex storytelling, and Santa Monica Studio delivers time and time again.
The franchise has evolved a lot in its story, themes, and mechanics since the original God of War in 2005. As part of our Games Ranked series, I’ll be taking a look at all nine God of War games, including both main series and spin-off titles. Will you join me in my quest? Let’s begin.
The God of War Games, Ranked
Starting at #9, let’s journey through the God of War games, leaving no stone unturned.
9. God of War: A Call from the Wilds
God of War: A Call from the Wilds is a text-based game released on Facebook Messenger prior to the release of God of War (2018). The interactive short story serves as a prequel to the main series title, introducing players to Atreus, his abilities, and his early life in the Norse wilds.
Since A Call from the Wilds was designed to promote the main game, it didn’t receive much critical attention. Players who completed all eight chapters of the game unlocked downloadable concept art for God of War (2018).
- Release Date: February 1, 2018
- System(s): Facebook Messenger
8. God of War: Betrayal
God of War: Betrayal follows Kratos on one of his usual violent campaigns through Greece. This time, Kratos quests to find and kill the assassin that framed him for the death of the giant Argos. Released as a 2D side-scroller on mobile, Betrayal is the only installment of the God of War series that wasn’t released on a PlayStation system.
Despite the unique side-scrolling format, Betrayal retains many of the basic combat mechanics of the other installments in the series. Players still progress through the game with platforming and puzzle-solving, and combat remains just as violent and combat-based as the 3D games. Betrayal also includes an Arena mode where players must attempt to survive through waves of enemies to progress.
The game received positive reviews, as many players were impressed with how it stayed true to the main series. They also praised the game’s brutality, citing it as one of the better mobile games on the market.
- Release Date: June 20, 2007
- System(s): Mobile
7. God of War: Ascension
Acting as a prequel to the main series, God of War: Ascension follows Kratos’s fight with the Furies after he escapes the Prison of the Damned. Ascension is the only installment in the God of War series to offer an online multiplayer mode, where players fight through the Prison of the Damned as other warriors who have betrayed the Gods.
Ascension introduces a few new combat mechanics to the typical gameplay of the God of War series. When weapons aren’t equipped, players have the option to punch and kick enemies. Kratos can also grapple enemies with the Blades of Chaos, allowing players to control the combat space better.
The game received favorable reviews, though it was criticized for its lackluster multiplayer. Even with an aggregate score of 80/100 on Metacritic, it clocks in at the lowest-rated console release of the series.
- Release Date: March 12, 2013
- System(s): PS3
6. God of War: Ghost of Sparta
God of War: Ghost of Sparta begins after Kratos has taken Ares’s place on Mount Olympus as the god of war. Plagued by visions of his past, Kratos is encouraged by Athena to pursue his memories. Encountering the fragmented remains of his family, Kratos must struggle yet again to reconcile his mortal and divine halves.
Ghost of Sparta doesn’t introduce many new gameplay mechanics, but it does build on the series’ visual appeal. Kratos can now perform air-to-air attacks and make use of vertical space during combat (i.e., launching enemies into the air and pummeling them into the ground). Specific death animations for particular weapons and magic attacks are also added for extra flair.
Though it did receive some initial criticism regarding its similarity to Chains of Olympus (an earlier PSP game in the series), Ghost of Sparta boasts positive reviews.
- Release Date: November 02, 2010
- System(s): PSP
5. God of War: Chains of Olympus
God of War: Chains of Olympus serves as a prequel to God of War (2005). After the disappearance of the sun god Helios makes the sky over Greece go dark, Kratos is tasked by the goddess Athena to find Helios and put a stop to the deep slumber induced by the dream god Morpheus. When his quest leads him to the Underworld, Kratos is forced to choose between the life he destroyed and his duty to the gods.
Combat remains relatively similar to that of previous installments in the series, though Kratos is restricted to learning only three additional magical abilities instead of the usual four. The game’s challenge mode —unlocked after completion of the campaign — utilizes these magical abilities in several of the tasks to unlock bonus costumes and other rewards.
Chains of Olympus performed extremely well, and is considered one of the best games released on PSP. It’s also celebrated for its adaptation of gameplay mechanics around the PSP’s single analog stick.
- Release Date: March 04, 2008
- System(s): PSP
4. God of War III
God of War III features Kratos’s last great battle in Greece, where he fights god and titan alike in his quest to open Pandora’s box and end the tyranny of the Olympian gods forever. This installment marks the end of what’s considered the series’ First Era, being the last game chronologically to be set around Greek mythology.
If vengeance is at the center of the original God of War trilogy, God of War III is a warning of the destruction that single-minded violence can bring. The death of gods and titans alike bring massive environmental changes to Greece that affect the setting throughout the rest of the campaign.
In addition to large-scale setting changes, the game also introduces a new combat mechanic in the form of weapon-specific magic attacks. Players can unlock additional weapons to use alongside Kratos’s Blades of Exile, each of which boasting their own unique ability for improved combat.
God of War III (and its eventual remaster for the PS4) is praised especially for its cinematic camera and strong, graphic visuals. It’s the second best-selling game in the God of War franchise.
- Release Date: March 16, 2010
- System(s): PS3
3. God of War II
God of War II opens with Zeus killing Kratos over the murder of Ares, stripping him of his godhood and sending him to the Underworld. Kratos is rescued by the titan Gaia, who instructs him to find the sisters of Fate and use their power to travel in time and take his revenge against Zeus.
The second installment improves upon the gameplay of its predecessor with better puzzles and a greater number of boss fights, though the core mechanics remain mostly unchanged. Kratos still fights primarily with his chained blades, though other powerful weapons can be unlocked to offer alternate combat options. As with the first game, Kratos can use up to four magical abilities that add more nuance to the base gameplay.
God of War II received universal acclaim, and is still considered to be one of the best games for the PS2. The story isn’t as widely celebrated as that of God of War (2005), but the gameplay changes are well-regarded.
- Release Date: March 13, 2007
- System(s): PS2
2. God of War (2005)
God of War (2005) is the first installment of the God of War series, though the third chronologically. Players are introduced to Kratos for the first time as he receives instructions from Athena to kill the god Ares. Kratos bears a personal grudge against the god of war, and agrees to help Athena find Pandora’s box, which contains the power needed to stop Ares’s reign of terror.
Gameplay consists primarily of combo-based hack-and-slash action and quick-time events using the Blades of Chaos. Players can also unlock additional magical abilities that offer ranged and multi-target attacks during combat. After completion of the primary campaign, added challenges with unlockable bonus content become available.
The game made waves as one of the most violent games on the market, a reputation that followed the franchise through its future installments. At the same time, it was widely celebrated for its complex story and compelling protagonist.
- Release Date: March 22, 2005
- System(s): PS2
1. God of War (2018)
God of War (2018) resumes the series with an older, grizzled Kratos living somewhere in the Norse wilds. After the death of his wife, Kratos must take his young son Atreus to scatter her ashes according to her last wishes. Throughout the game, Kratos must struggle to temper his own violent nature while teaching the same control to a son that’s unaware of his own divine blood.
The game introduces new combat mechanics alongside the Leviathan Axe, Kratos’ new ice-powered weapon of choice. The axe can be thrown and recalled at will, as well as imbued with runic powers that unlock special moves and/or combo attacks. Players can also upgrade Atreus’s archery abilities for more effective use in combat and puzzle-solving.
The latest installment of the God of War series was extremely well-received due to its deep, emotional story and the major changes to its protagonist and gameplay mechanics. Critics also appreciated that the story stood well on its own while including references to earlier games for loyal fans of the series. It’s considered to be a major contributor to the phenomenon known as ‘the dadification of video games,’ and has won Game of the Year from multiple media outlets.
- Release Date: April 20, 2018
- System(s): PS4
Closing Pandora’s Box
Thanks for reading! If you’re a fan of the God of War games and have a different ranking in mind, please leave a comment — we always love to hear from you. For more of High Ground’s game roundups, check out the links below!