Like any franchise, God of War has had its lows, though they’ve been few and far between- some might even argue there haven’t been too many of them at all. Its highs, on the other hand, are as numerous as they are spectacular. Hopefully, the upcoming God of War Ragnarok will fall in the latter category, but while we wait for the highly anticipated sequel to arrive, here, we’re going to take a look back at the franchise’s past. Starting from its beginnings on the PS2 in 2005, right up until now, we’re going to talk about all God of War games, and rank them from worst to best.
#8. GOD OF WAR: BETRAYAL
God of War: Betrayal was a mobile game before mobile games as we know them today even existed. It was a 2D sidescrolling Java title and extremely limited in its scope as such, and honestly, you’d be forgiven for not even being aware of its existence. It exists though, and it’s part of the series’ canon- and you know what? It ain’t half bad. If you go in expecting a decent, enjoyable mobile game that successfully captures at least a fraction of what God of War is about, this delivers it. Expect anything more though, and you’ll be sorely disappointed.
#7. GOD OF WAR: ASCENSION
God of War: Ascension almost killed the franchise. It wasn’t a bad enough game to warrant that kind of a reaction by any means, but even so, that reaction was easy to understand and even empathize with. That’s because even though it was a perfectly fine God of War game that did what God of War games had always done, it was little more than that. Yes, it had some decent boss fights, yes, it had typically gory combat, and yes, it looked great for it’s time- but it was nothing we hadn’t seen five times before it. It was just more God of War, and it did nothing to advance or shake up the series’ formula – which was wearing thin by that time – in any way. It felt wholly unnecessary, and more than anything else, highlighted the series’ desperate need for a reinvention- which, of course, it ended up getting… but we’ll get to that later.
#6. GOD OF WAR: CHAINS OF OLYMPUS
God of War: Chains of Olympus had some tough expectations to live up to, seeing as it had the unenviable task of delivering a quintessential God of War experience on a decidedly less powerful handheld device that didn’t even have all the buttons and inputs that consoles did. But developer Ready at Dawn, who stewarded the game in Santa Monica Studio’s stead, did an excellent job. Chains of Olympus was everything one could want from a God of War game- only in truncated form. Maybe the game’s short length and relative lack of boss fights can be held against it, but it was still a brutal, adrenaline-fueled romp that delivered excellent action, looked great, and told a solid story that focus on Kratos’ personal arc in a way that no other game in the series has.
#5. GOD OF WAR (2005)
The one that started it all. Viewed from a different lens, the original God of War may very well have a shot at being the #1 game here, or at least being somewhere in the top 3. Its legacy can never be diminished, and at the time, it was an absolutely revolutionary experience. Of course, if we’re going purely by merit, we do have to knock some points- God of War is still fun to play today, but parts of the game have not aged very well and can feel a little rough around the edges, while there’s also no denying that it has been thoroughly outmatched by its many successors in almost every possible way. Even so, given what it is, and especially what it was when it first came out, no one will ever be able to deny that this is one of the all-time greats in the history of PlayStation.
#4. GOD OF WAR: GHOST OF SPARTA
Ready at Dawn was up to the task of delivering a solid handheld God of War game with Chains of Olympus, and naturally, the studio ended up exceeding it with its follow-up. 2010’s God of War: Ghost of Sparta remains an excellent game. It tells a captivating story that, once again, explores a corner of Kratos’ personal life that no other series instalment has cared to look at, and on top of that, its excellent, brutal combat, and its impressive visual fidelity, it also makes up for Chains of Olympus’ few shortcomings with a healthy roster of exhilarating boss fights. Again, length is a bit of a issue here, but given how incredible the game is from start to finish, that issue is, ultimately, rather easy to overlook.
#3. GOD OF WAR 2
This game right here is partly why the original God of War isn’t placed higher in this list- because God of War 2 is pretty much the perfect sequel. Put aside the fact that it’s got a story that falls apart the moment you look at the logic of its time travel shenanigans for more than a second- because from beginning to end, God of War 2 is just a monster of a game. From combat to visuals, from boss fights to the fiery rage this series has always been known for, this game took everything that was good about its predecessor and dialed it all up to eleven. Very rarely have video game sequels managed to up the ante as successfully and as drastically as God of War 2 did. If Ragnarok can accomplish even half of what it did back in 2007 in terms of expanding on its predecessor’s excellent foundations, it’ll be an absolute masterpiece.
#2. GOD OF WAR 3
God of War 3 is, simply put, the purest, ultimate distillation of what this series used to be before it was radically reinvented in 2018 (again, we’ll get to that in a bit). Buckets of gore, gleefully excessive violence, angst and rage, a truly unparalleled sense of scale, and, of course, incredible boss fights and set pieces. Since its inception, God of War has been about those things, and every single one of those elements was in prime form in God of War 3. It was a thrill ride unlike any other, an absolute rollercoaster that never failed to make you feel like a murderous badass. One after another, God of War 3 delivered unforgettable moments that we fondly remember to this day, from the Poseidon boss fight to the legendary Cronos encounter and so much more. There are many who’ll probably argue that God of War 2 deserves to be higher on this list than God of War 3, but as far as we’re concerned, God of War 3 is the zenith of the series’ formula.
Or, well, its old formula, at the very least. Speaking of which…
#1. GOD OF WAR (2018)
The most obvious #1 pick of all time, right? But it’s obvious for a reason. People have been waxing lyrical about God of War (2018) since the day it came out, ourselves included, so there’s nothing we can say that hasn’t been said before countless times already. But no amount of praise feels like it’s enough for this game. In so many ways, God of War (2018) is so diametrically opposed to what its predecessors was, from its more thoughtful and mature story and storytelling to its slowed, deliberate pacing to its over-the-shoulder perspective to its cavalcade of gameplay changes. And yet, in spite of all that, it still very much feels like a God of War game, like an extension and natural evolution of the franchise. Striking that sort of balance should be impossible, and yet God of War (2018) does it so convincingly and so confidently, you almost end up taking it for granted.