The journey of Kratos has been a long one, taking him and the player across mythologies and console generations in his endless pursuit of redemption and revenge. Whether its involved battling the Olympians or facing down the worst of Norse monsters, the God of War series has presented some of the most memorable experiences in modern gaming. Ranking them, therefore, is no easy feat. But as a mega fan of the series, I will try my best. I’m only looking at the mainline games developed by either SIE Santa Monica Studios or Ready at Dawn (sorry God of War: Betrayal).
And obviously, this is only my opinion. There is no correct answer to what’s the best God of War game, and I am merely presenting my personal taste in the series. So, let’s get to it.
7. GOD OF WAR: ASCENSION (2013)
Not a controversial pick for the worst game in the series, but there are enjoyable aspects about God of War: Ascension. The game took some steps in the right direction by portraying Kratos as more human and the combat was as tight as ever with the added focus on the Blades of Chaos. However, if there is one word to describe this game, it would be “unnecessary”. I was over the prequel stories at this point and was desperate to see how the series would evolve after the conclusion of the original trilogy. As such, nothing in God of War: Ascension has a big impact on the overall narrative and continually fails to justify its existence.
And then there’s the multiplayer. I actually remember enjoying the co-operative mode quite a bit as teaming up with a friend to brutally massacre Greek monsters is always going to be a good time. But the competitive stuff was often messy and confusing, unsuccessfully translating God of War’s signature gameplay over to a PvP format. Outside of that, the rest of the game felt barren with a depressing lack of additional content, a la the Treasures from previous games. While far from being awful, God of War: Ascension descends to the bottom of my rankings.
6. GOD OF WAR: CHAINS OF OLYMPUS (2008)
Ready at Dawn did a seriously impressive job converting the huge scale of the console games over to the PSP’s 4.3-inch screen with God of War: Chains of Olympus. Everything from the set pieces to the boss fights are designed with as little compromise as possible, resulting in an experience worthy of the God of War name. With that said, there are certain things that hold Chains of Olympus back from outright excellence. The biggest issue is the game’s length, which can be beaten in under three hours. While I appreciate the developers making the effort to pack that time with quality content, I can’t deny it leaves a bit to be desired when the credits start rolling.
However, I find myself connecting way more with the story of this game than God of War: Ascension, as Kratos’ quest to find his daughter feels appropriate to his character development. That’s not to say the Ghost of Sparta has gone soft, but there is something refreshing about seeing Kratos commit a selfless act at the end of this game – even if he’s still grumpy about it. God of War: Chains of Olympus may not be the biggest or best game in the series, but it’s a worthy addition that paved the way for even greater achievements to come.
5. GOD OF WAR III (2010)
I’m guessing having this game place so low in my rankings will upset some people. However, I believe it’s a testament to the consistent quality of the series that God of War III only just cracks my top 5. The game is truly massive in scale and places Kratos in some of the most jaw-dropping scenarios yet. I also believe this game has the best roster of bosses in the series – not to mention some of the best in all gaming – with the likes of Cronos, Poseidon, and Zeus being all time classics.
But while the spectacle was turned up to 11, I feel like the plot fell flat in certain areas. Kratos is little more than a shouting maniac who is too hyper focused on revenge and I’ve never liked how the ending tries to shoehorn in a resolution to his character arc. But every time I revisit God of War III, I am immediately in awe of everything it does succeeds at. The graphics are still gorgeous after 10 years and the combat is probably the most polished of the classic formula. This installment provides the original trilogy the conclusion it deserved.
4. GOD OF WAR II (2007)
God of War II somehow managed to follow up the smash success of the original game by building on every design aspect to create something special. This is the longest of the Greek-based games, and I love the journey through the Island of Creation as Kratos looks to change time itself. The story has a fantastic setup that immediately grips the player, even if it can drag at times during the middle and doesn’t get fully resolved until the third game. With that said, the Sisters of Fate and Zeus still made for interesting villains who added an extra dimension to Kratos’ story.
The new weapons and magic abilities really made combat feel more diverse and experimental while setting a strong precedent for the games to follow. And levels such as Typhon’s Lair and the Palace of the Fates remain some of the most memorable in God of War. While the original game may have kickstarted the series in style, God of War II is the reason why it has had such an enduring legacy.
3. GOD OF WAR (2005)
As great as its sequels were, my favorite game from the original trilogy is still the first God of War. David Jaffe’s vision for the series was fulfilled from the beginning. We get introduced to the fallen warrior Kratos on his quest to slay the god who wronged him. His story of revenge is set to the backdrop of Greek mythology; a novel concept at the time that influenced the game’s weapons, locations and enemies to great effect.
But most impressive about God of War is how well it holds up after 15 years. The Blades of Chaos became instant icons with how they brought a unique flow to combat that appealed to gamers of all skill levels. The music elevates the scope of everything and some of the set pieces continue to amaze – even on PlayStation 2 hardware. I can still lose hours to this game as I make my way from the Hydra-infested shipwrecks to the climatic final battle against Ares, and I have no doubt its influence will continue to be felt around the industry for years to come.
2. GOD OF WAR: GHOST OF SPARTA (2010)
God of War: Ghost of Sparta may not place this high in a lot of people’s rankings, but for me, Ready at Dawn’s second attempt at the series stands tall as the apex of the Greek mythology games. The game takes a deep dive into Kratos’ twisted past and explores the hardships that have plagued him from an early age. It provides all the answers to how his rage came to be while taking him to some of the coolest locations in the series – I’m looking at you Atlantis and Domain of Death.
And for a PSP title, Ghost of Sparta pulls no punches. Thera’s Bane gives the Blades a fresh coat of fiery paint and the Arms of Sparta evoke 300 in the best possible way. I still don’t know how the developers managed to fit some of the boss fights onto the handheld, not to mention cramming in all the additional content with the most robust selection of Treasures yet. I adore this game and my hope is it’ll gain more recognition overtime as the unique, exciting entry that it is.
1. GOD OF WAR (2018)
The God of War series was in dire need of reinvention when the PlayStation 4 rolled around, and yet I don’t think any of us could have predicted Cory Barlog’s answer to this crisis would result in one of the greatest action-adventure games of all time. The switch to Norse mythology breathed new life into the game’s world and the added focus on exploration created an immersive experience that sucked me in. The combat overhaul made each encounter feel incredibly intimate by mixing the visceral action with an over-the-shoulder camera angle. Not to mention, the Leviathan Axe is already on the same level of iconic status as the Blades of Chaos.
But it was the father-son dynamic between Kratos and Atreus that lends God of War an emotional weight unseen in other games. Their chemistry and relationship growth are powerful to witness and demonstrates the maturing approach to storytelling that the series was crying out for. Everything about this game is finely tuned to be masterful, from the stunning visuals to the genius level design to the memorable cast of characters. I have no reservation crowning it as my favorite in the series, and one of the most complete games I have ever played.
If you need more convincing, check out our God of War review.
And that concludes my ranking of the God of War games. Feel free to disagree and I understand that your list may look completely different to mine. I’m sure there is someone out there who has God of War: Betrayal as their favorite. I salute that person.