Believe it or not, but there’s actually eight different God of War games that have released ever since the very first game came to the PS2 back in 2005. During that time, we’ve seen Kratos develop as a person, breaking free from the rage-riddled chains that shackled him in his early ventures to become a more well-rounded person and, in his own unique way, a rather fantastic father figure. But not all entries in the series are equal. Some were great and others… namely Ascension, less so! With God of War Ragnarok now available on PS4 and PS5, we thought this was a prime time to return to our ranking and run through all God of War games from worst to best.
8. God of War: Ascension
God of War: Ascension was the prequel that nobody remembered asking for and it ended up receiving a lot of flack from those looking for a more of a story progression rather than another prequel. But, that doesn’t mean Ascension was a bad game, it was actually far from it. The main point of contention with this particular entry in the series is its choice of primary targets. Where all of the previous games in the franchise pit you against gods and titans, Kratos is after the furies this time around and, as cool to look at as they may be, they just don’t carry the same weight as individuals like Athena and Cronos.
Gameplay wise Ascension was your standard God of War affair. The introduction of multiplayer was actually a nice touch and it worked surprisingly well. Team on team combat with random arena events occurring throughout battles was a nice way of blending the single player with competitive play.
God of War: Ascension was a solid addition to the series that just failed to live up to the stories laid out beforehand. Sure it gave a glimpse into just how far the Ghost of Sparta was willing to go in order to exact his vengeance, but without the big mythological stars it fought an up-hill battle.
7. God of War: Ghost of Sparta
God of War: Ghost of Sparta was the second game in the franchise to be developed by Ready at Dawn, and the second one to appear on handheld. Taking place after the events of the first game in the series, Ghost of Sparta depicts the story of Kratos’ woes after finally taking Ares’ place on mount Olympus. This warrior who has been hellbent on wrath and vengeance just can’t seem to shake the troubles of his mortal life so he endeavors to delve into his past and eventually search for his long lost brother.
Even though this entry was on the PSP, it was Ghost of Sparta that helped push the franchises mechanics forward to what we see today. Being able to beat downed enemies, toss weakened foes across arenas, air attacks and even a combat arena for players to obtain some much needed practice before jumping into the fray against those same beasts in the actual game. Graphically this game was one of the most impressive considering the hardware it was intended for, and it managed to trump its predecessor God of War: Chains of Olympus (the first PSP title in the series) in scale by a rather large margin.
Ghost of Sparta also presented a more thought out narrative by slowing the game down and presenting more cutscenes. It was the first attempt at making the games more serious while still trying to retain the insane action that the God of War franchise had come to be known for, and it succeeded quite well.
6. God of War III
God of War III is getting a remaster, and for good reason. It is probably the most over the top entry in the series, and certainly one of the most brutal (I mean you slowly tear off a god’s head). But, there are a few reasons why it doesn’t manage to top this list. The action is as amazing as fans could hope for, and there are some welcome additions to the overall gameplay that really help push the series forward. The point where the game falls short is in its weight.
God of War III exists is on a much larger scale than its predecessors, there is no doubt about that. The epic battles against the gods and titans have never looked better (especially in the remastered version), and each successive set-piece trumps the last. But, there is but so long that you can hear Kratos spout his hatred and need for vengeance. Sure, this game finally manages to lead to some sort of conclusion to his issues with those who have sat on Mt. Olympus for far too long, but it lacks that darkness that made the first two entries instant classics.
Where the game turned it up a notch in terms of gameplay and stunning visuals, the story seemed to have taken a backseat this time around. Yes, we’re aware that Kratos wants to kill the gods, but this had been beaten into our minds by all of the previous God of War games. Sony Santa Monica had a chance to switch it up and really throw players for a loop, or to at least add something meaningful to Kratos’ tale. Instead, God of War III has a predictable plot, and a cliffhanger leaving the series open for future installments should the devs so please. Not exactly what was expected from one of the PlayStation’s biggest franchises.
5. God of War: Chains of Olympus
God of War: Chains of Olympus provides a rather interesting change of pace in terms of narrative for our pale protagonist. Set before the events of the first God of War, and shortly after those of Ascension, Chains of Olympus has players take on the role of being a servant to the gods. It is up to the Ghost of Sparta to save Helios and end the attack on Olympus by a devious titan.
Following the pattern of the previous games, this entry retains the same combo-based combat that is part and parcel of the entire franchise. Although, something must be said of the way Ready at Dawn masterfully made the whole system work on the PSP.
It’s the narrative here though that earns Chains of Olympus its spot on this list. Without being burdened by the need to constantly remind players that Kratos is out for blood, the developers were able to explore different, and arguably better, themes this time around with sacrifice being the most important of all.
Chains of Olympus is the first time you get to see Kratos be a selfless individual and make a truly difficult choice for the sake of others. It’s a breath of fresh air that should not be passed up if you have the chance to play it.
4. God of War
The game that started it all and showed fans everywhere just how fun vengeance can be when given the right motivation. It has been ten years since Kratos has served the gods of Olympus, but he has grown weary. While the guilt of his past actions still weigh heavy on his heart, he can’t help but feel hate for the one he holds most responsible, Ares. Fortunately enough for Kratos, Athena informs him that if he slays the god of war, all of his past transgressions would be forgiven, and thus begins the journey that has captivated fans for year.
Journeying through Sony Santa Monica’s depiction of a mythological, ancient Greece amazed many. The feeling was multiplied the first time players got a glimpse of Ares in all of his intimidating glory. The quick, responsive combat, and the seemingly endless combos allowed for players to get lost in a blur of blood and speed. The fact that such an action-packed spectacle could be had on a PlayStation 2 is a wonder.
Quick, visceral gameplay, beautiful environments, awe-inspiring bosses and a hero plagued by one serious desire for vengeance helped define the series for years to come.
3. God of War (2018)
It was immediately clear that God of War (2018) was going to take the series in a bold new direction. A ‘soft reboot’ so to speak, the game saw Kratos traveling into the Nordic regions, leaving behind the scorched Greek lands behind him, for the bitter snap of frost and snow. The lone-wolf would ride solo no longer, either, as he embarked on an epic quest to scatter the ashes of his late wife, with their son, Atreus.
What unfolded was an epic, heartfelt narrative that saw Kratos melt away the indifference of his icy heart, and show his affection and love for his son in fleeting moments. Admittedly, Atreus was a rather whiny child, so we can understand Kratos’ patience wearing thin… as it tended to do pretty quickly throughout the adventure.
But it wasn’t just a new land the duo explored, Kratos had stowed away his Chaos Blades, instead opting for the hefty Leviathan Axe to do his violent bidding. While the Chaos Blades are eventually pulled out of early retirement, the game’s combat felt silky smooth and refined, providing a breath of fresh air from past entries in the series, without discarding the series’ legacy altogether.
With an abundance of side quests, an absorbing world and a colorful cast of characters, God of War (2018) installed itself as one of the very best PS4 games you can buy, and one of the greatest PlayStation exclusives of all time.
2. God of War II
Who would’ve thought that the death of Kratos would lead to the second best entry in the God of War series? After finally defeating Ares, Kratos has become the new God of War, but he can’t seem to stop his destructive ways. After numerous warnings from Athena, one of the few who actually cares about the Ghost of Sparta, Kratos still intervenes in human warfare and even goes as far as participating first hand in battles. Zeus becomes tired of this and seeks to put an end to the anarchy, thus triggering a new adventure with a much more powerful target for Kratos to overcome.
Our once again spurned protagonist must now fight through time itself so that he can face Zeus and overthrow Olympus and all of its control. To do so God of War II introduced plenty of new game mechanics such as the Golden Fleece, and the Wings of Icarus (ripped straight off of Icarus’ back mind you). New puzzle types help break up the action. And, although it follows the same vengeance song-and-dance, having a new more powerful object of hate (Zeus) lends itself quite well to the experience.
Gameplay this time had much more variety, and a greater emphasis on balance. Each item and magic ability obtained felt like it had its worth and lead to players actually using everything more often. Difficulty maintained its intense, fast paced gamut of obstacles and opponents, but it was more steady in the way it ramped up over time. All in all, God of War II took everything from the original game and refined it to a point that it completely out-classed it in terms of polish, scale and sheer awesomeness.
1. God of War Ragnarok
God of War Ragnarok is the absolute pinnacle of the series, blending stunning visual fidelity and modern-day technological advancements to create a world that’s truly magical and enchanting to exist in.
From its opening cutscene, right through to the final boss fight and beyond, Ragnarok will sink its hooks into you and not let go. It demands your attention as you explore the Nine Realms, challenges you to take on daunting foes, and puts your brain to task with its various Nornir Chests and other puzzles.
We’re going to spare you any major narrative spoilers here, but just know their are twists and turns aplenty. Ragnarok also takes many of the systems from the 2018 God of War and refines them, removing the rune system from the Leviathan Axe and implementing enchantments into an amulet instead. New skills, abilities and equipment also grants Kratos with a plethora of satisfying ways to slice and dice his way through countless enemies that never gets old.
Combining all of this with a narrative that takes the series to new cinematic blockbuster levels, God of War Ragnarok is a must-play for anyone with a PS4 or PS5. Once you’ve finished the 2018 game, of course.
Do you agree with the order we placed these games in? Feel some were short-changed? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.