God of War originally made its name in 2005 as one of Sony’s flagship series for the PlayStation 2. Since then, the series has had multiple sequels and spinoffs. However, some of these titles are better than others.
The God of War series started off strong with its first game in 2005. The ultra-brutal series made a name for itself based on its gory combat mechanics and amazing narrative. It focuses on Kratos, the Ghost of Sparta, a Greek warrior whose unparalleled strength and rage lead him to challenging the gods themselves. Kratos is ruthless and unstoppable, but his tragic past makes him a sympathetic anti-hero, even as he commits atrocities.
For the most part, God of War titles are at their best whenever they appear on home consoles instead of mobile platforms. The strength of the series relies on the quality of its combat and the caliber of its story. The best God of War games make players feel as overwhelmingly powerful as a god while telling an emotionally potent and relatable story.
God of War: Betrayal might be the most unique title on this list. Unlike all of its siblings, Betrayal did not release on a Sony machine. Instead, this God of War spinoff appeared on iOS and other mobile devices. This works more to its detriment than anything else, especially since its difficult to acquire years after the fact.
It’s fair to say that Betrayal is the least “God of War” game in the entire series. Instead of being a 3rd-person hack-and-slash title, it’s a side scrolling 2D beat-’em-up made to run on cell phones. As a result, comparing the overall experience to more traditional God of War games is difficult – especially when looking at the gameplay.
This is not the case for the story, which is considered canon by God of War‘s creators. However, it is mostly a filler story that takes place between the first and second God of War games. Over the course of the game, Kratos’ constant warmongering increasingly angers his relatives on Olympus. It concludes with Kratos killing the Olympian Ceryx, ensuring retaliation from Zeus. Most of these events aren’t especially critical to God of War‘s overall story. They are seldom, if ever, referenced in the rest of the games. It’s hard to think that anyone but a God of War fan would seek it out.
Aside from Betrayal, God of War spinoffs are generally excellent titles, starting with Chains of Olympus. Players should not be fooled by this prequel’s origins on the PSP; it is a fully-fledged God of War experience with robust gameplay and a legitimate story that adds context to the later games. It even controls similarly to the console versions, though some controls have been changed to account for the PSP’s limited buttons.
Despite this, it’s still not entirely necessary to understand the series’ core plot. It takes place before the first game, so it’s not required to understand the events of the mainline God of War titles. Still, it is referenced in other games, and is highly recommended for those interested in the series’ lore. Those seeking this game out should pursue the PlayStation 3 port in God of War: Origins Collection. This HD version of the game corrects some of the quirky PSP controls, making it the overall definitive version of the game.
The original God of War is a classic of the PS2 era. Like its successors, God of War delivered the ultimate power fantasy backed up with a genuinely engaging tragedy for a story. It interprets and twists Greek Mythology in a way that feels familiar, yet unique, and is a must-play for anyone trying to get into the series.
In spite of that, the original God of War has its faults. While it is still an incredibly fun and rewarding experience, it isn’t quite as refined as later games in the series. Major sections, especially towards the end of the game, were not as thoroughly tested as other parts of the game. As a result, players often find them incredibly frustrating. For that reason, even an awesome game like God of War falls short of the majority of its children.
Ghost of Sparta was the second (and final) PSP game in the God of War series. It is remarkable for being marginally more plot-relevant than Chains of Olympus. In addition, the gameplay is considerably more polished than the original God of War thanks to the more-experienced development team.
The game takes place between the events of Betrayal and God of War 2, and covers the most important events during Kratos’ tenure as Ares’ replacement. The plot distinguishes itself from other games by delving into the human side of Kratos’ family as he journeys to the Underworld on a quest to save his twin brother. Despite being one of the series’ more important spinoffs, it is still not wholly critical to the stories of the mainline games.
Another prequel to the first game, Ascension is unique in the series for being the only God of War title with multiplayer. The multiplayer was pretty-well fleshed out, featuring multiple classes, game modes, and even some light plot elements that tied into the single-player story. Likewise, God of War: Ascension’s story mode was a serviceable follow-up to the high standards for plot and gameplay set by previous games.
Despite this, it suffers the same flaw as any other God of War spinoff title. They only tell stories that enhance, not detract from, the plot of the mainline games. As a result, they are easily skipped over by people just trying to get the essentials. On the whole, its quality gameplay and exclusive multiplayer modes make Ascension a better game than many other in the series. Still, even it does not hold up when compared to God of War titles with more relevant story and a comparable gameplay experience.
God of War 2 took the high bar set by the first game and raised it even higher. The graphics and animation were greatly improved, the gameplay was more elaborate and polished, and the story had a similar level of care put into it. Fans at the time had one major complaint, but it still stands out as one of the series’ more distinguished entries in both story and gameplay.
It’s reputation was initially hampered by one gripe amongst the fanbase. Unfortunately, God of War 2‘s ending is a rather disappointing cliffhanger. Fans spent hours conquering each of the game’s challenges, only to feel robbed when the main villain runs away at the last second. Fans were forced to wait years before getting another cracking at killing Zeus.
Aside from that, however, the only thing keeping God of War 2 from surpassing other titles is time. God of War 3 and the 2018 reboot have gameplay that is similar or superior to GoW2‘s mechanics while sporting amazing graphics. They are also arguably just as good at telling a story. Meanwhile, God of War 2 is the last title where the pre-rendered graphics looked demonstrably worse than the in-game cutscenes. There’s simply no competition when it comes to aesthetics.
God of War 3 was supposed to be the epic conclusion of a monumental revenge story and the peak of refinement for the series’ gameplay. In many ways, it succeeded. It did finally lay Kratos’ conflict with Zeus to rest, and delivered satisfying payoff for all of the character arcs it had set up throughout previous games.
Likewise, God of War 3’s combat proved to be as enjoyable ever. It had more weapons and abilities to play with, maintained the series’ long-held tradition of wanton brutality. Kratos’ kills are as gut-wrenchingly gory as they would ever get. It was everything a God of War finale should have been.
Yet somehow, it wasn’t the finale. While it did conclude the initial story, it would not be the end for Kratos’ character. Most recently, he would appear in a new game that, while different, simply overshadows its predecessors in almost every field. God of War 3 is the best of the original games, but it still pales in comparison to the what came after.
It may not be as brutal or overtly sexual as its predecessors, but the 2018 God of War is easily the best entry in the series. Taking after other cinematic Sony games, such as The Last of Us, this God of War is about Kratos’ relationship with his son years after the events of the original series. The ensuing tale, which deals with the Norse gods, is easily the best God of War‘s story has ever been.
At the same time, it departed from the series’ usual form of gameplay. It’s still a 3D hack-and-slash, but with more RPG mechanics and many more options. Players are free to build a Kratos that caters to their own gameplay preferences.
Likewise, God of War (2018) has much more content. There are dozens of side quests and secrets to find throughout the game. In terms of sheer content, it dwarfs every other entry in the series. Best of all, it does so without having any major dips in quality. It is an enjoyable experience from moment one, with hours in store for players to enjoy.
A minor gripe against the game in general is that it does require the player to know or infer certain information about the past games. Even though it’s possible to play the game without the context of previous entries, knowing Kratos’ history really makes a great game even better. Despite this, God of War (2018) easily beats out its predecessors, and has fans eagerly awaiting the game’s upcoming sequel.