Few game franchises can keep going for more than a decade without releasing a single bad entry. Since 2005, Sony's God of War series has been one of those rare gaming giants. Not only has the franchise produced a steady stream of new entries, but it's also earned consistent commercial and critical success. On home consoles, portable handhelds or even the web, the God of War franchise is synonymous with excellence.
With God of War Ragnarok set to take the mythological series to new heights, we're looking back at Kratos' history to see which of these great games reigns as a god among them all.
Here are all the God of War games, ranked from worst to best.
9. God of War: Ascension
As the PlayStation 3's last proper entry in the God of War family, Ascension doesn't quite get the same love as its predecessors.
This prequel takes place before the events of the original God of War. The game follows Kratos as he struggles to break free from Ares' control and to stop the original god of war from laying siege to Olympus. The combat and presentation on this entry in the series were as strong as ever, and the boss battles were just as memorable as in any other God of War game. However, the story was a bit hamstrung by the attempt to wedge it into a particular time period, and the multiplayer mode was an unnecessary inclusion that didn't live up to the solo game.
8. God of War: A Call from the Wilds
Ahead of the 2018 God of War release, Sony and Facebook teamed up for a text-based adventure starring Kratos' son, Atreus. Playable entirely in Messenger, A Call from the Wilds plays just like a classic PC game from a bygone era, albeit with the trappings of modern convenience.
For example, you can leave and come back at any time without losing progress in the story. Call from the Wilds is a departure for the God of War series, which has always relied on action gameplay, but that doesn't make this title any less interesting. You can also earn some concept art, so you do get rewarded for the time you invest in Atreus.
7. God of War: Ghost of Sparta
The second God of War game to find success on the PlayStation Portable, Ghost of Sparta was another early Kratos adventure. This game saw the demigod attempting to free his brother, Deimos, from the hands of Thanatos, the God of Death. It wasn't surprising to see Kratos return to the PSP, given how well the formula worked in Chains of Olympus. But it did surprise us to learn that yet another facet of Kratos' life was so closely tied to the Greek pantheon.
Sadly, this was the last portable entry that God of War would get, as Kratos never got a dedicated adventure on the PlayStation Vita.
6. God of War: Betrayal
Like A Call from the Wild, Betrayal is one of the few God of War games available outside the Sony PlayStation ecosystem. Made for mobile phones in a pre-smartphone world, Betrayal was a side-scrolling escapade set prior to the events of God of War II. That Sony was willing to experiment with a canonical tale for Kratos beyond the PlayStation brand was one thing; that this title also happened to be a worthwhile game was another.
Sadly, unless you happen upon an ancient Nokia phone with Betrayal already installed, there's almost no way to play this game anywhere today.
5. God of War: Chains of Olympus
In his first portable adventure, Kratos had to stop the goddess Persephone from unleashing one of the fabled Titans to destroy the world. When the game first came out, there were plenty of skeptics who wondered if the PSP would be able to handle a franchise as robust as God of War.
The depth of gameplay in Chains of Olympus was virtually identical to that of the title's console brethren, and this title set a new standard for what games could accomplish visually on the PSP. Yes, you may have gotten severe claw-hand from how intensely you gripped the PSP for hours on end, but it was most definitely worth it.
4. God of War III
As the only proper sequel in the franchise to arrive on the PlayStation 3, Sony Santa Monica was under a lot of pressure to make God of War III a worthy successor. Fortunately for all parties involved, God of War III wasn't just a spectacular follow-up; it was also, without a doubt, one of the best games on the PlayStation 3.
The weapons, like Hercules' gauntlets, were deadlier; the the boss fights, like the one with the Titan Cronos, were more epic, and the story provided a great closing chapter for an era in Kratos' life. If this had been the actual end of the series, it would have been a fitting farewell.
3. God of War
The game that started it all is still one of the greatest action/adventure titles of all time. God of War didn't just introduce us to Kratos and his over-the-top brand of violence; it also redefined the action genre for years to come.
God of War pushed the PlayStation 2 to limits we never thought possible at the time, and it gave the system yet another exclusive feather in a cap already bursting with them. The first game was equal parts puzzling and punishing but never overbearing in its difficulty. It's a time-tested classic that still holds up amazingly well today.
2. God of War II
Just because Sony released the PlayStation 3 in 2006, that didn't mean the company was ready to abandon the PlayStation 2. God of War II debuted on the PS2 in March 2007.
The game took everything we loved about the first title — the endless combo-building combat, the vicious brutality, the engaging mythological narrative — and ratcheted it up tenfold to give us a sequel that blew past its predecessor in nearly every way. Maxing out just about every aspect of the PS2 hardware, God of War II was as epic a swan song as a console could hope for. And it set a stupendous stage for the next adventure in Kratos' god-killing career.
1. God of War (2018)
The latest entry in the God of War series is arguably the series' finest hour.
God of War (2018) is effectively a soft reboot. Though it follows Kratos' exploits, the core gameplay has been modernized. Unlike prior entries, the camera always remains focused on Kratos' back. This can take some getting used to, but it makes combat sequences feel more intimate and visceral. Puzzles still remain a crucial component and often toss in random elements to keep things lively.
More than any other title in the series, God of War has a greater emphasis on story and character development. Anyone can enjoy this title without playing previous installments, but there's an added weight for those who have been with Kratos from the beginning. New characters such as Atreus (Kratos' son) and Norse gods Freya and Balder are just as compelling as the main character. God of War (2018) was and is one of the best games released in recent years.