The God of War franchise is one of the staples of the PlayStation brand and is an iconic jewel in the history of video games. This series is all about epic fights, dramatic storytelling, mythology, and, more recently, daddy issues. At the center of this franchise is the God of War himself.
The evolution of Kratos is what makes this franchise special. His journey from being a one-note rage machine to becoming a fleshed-out human being not only represents the maturity of the series but video game storytelling as a whole.
God of War has evolved significantly since the first game launched in 2005. Each subsequent entry has brought something new to the series, be it new power sets, fighting styles, and in the case of the 2018 reboot, a whole new combat system. Therefore, a major component in ranking every God of War game is that game’s impact on the franchise.
This qualification means the games like God of War: A Call From The Wilds and God of War: Mimir’s Vision will not be part of this list because they are companion pieces to God of War 2018.
The ranking of each God of War title in this article is based on several factors, including their Metacritic scores, audience reactions, narrative, and artistic impact. This article includes every God of War release on PlayStation and mobile platforms.
Here is are our ranking of each God of War game from worst to best. Of course, God of War: Ragnorok has been omitted for the time being because it has yet to release.
God of War: Ascension
God of War: Ascension is at the bottom of this list for a couple of reasons. The first and foremost reason is that the story was not up to par. The story is not the primary factor in whether a game is good or not, but seeing as this was the seventh entry in the series, fans expected more than what they got.
The story takes place shortly after Kratos murders his wife and daughter. Unfortunately, by the time Ascension was released, this narrative beat was worn thin. The disappointment also stems from the lack of creativity in the game’s narrative. As a result, Ascension put the series into cryogenic stasis for several years.
It is not all bad. God of War: Ascension maintained the series fun and addictive gameplay, and even some reviewers thought it to be the best in the series. The problem was that Ascension did not do enough to move the needle forward and left fans and critics indifferent to the game as a whole.
God of War: Betrayal
God of War: Betrayal seems to be the forgotten child of the God of War franchise. First of all, it is a 2D sidescroller released for mobile phones back in 2007. A unique decision, seeing as the PSP might have been an ideal platform for a game of this style. Regardless, Betrayal was something special and looked and played great despite being a phone game.
We understand that it might seem insulting to God of War: Ascension to put it underneath a phone game from the mid-2000s, but hear us out. God of War: Betrayal feels far more creative despite its technological limitations.
The story is intriguing, and the gameplay was a solid recreation of the original games. That is no easy task when you are moving from 3D to 2D. Now it is nowhere close to the rest of the games on this list. That said, Betrayal deserves some recognition for what it managed to accomplish.
God of War: Chains of Olympus
Speaking of the PSP, the next entry on our list is the first God of War to come to that platform. God of War: Chains of Olympus was what fans wanted for a portable version of God of War. Primarily, the developers at Ready at Dawn successfully brought over a console-level gameplay experience to a handheld system. Moreover, the story was incredibly intriguing and one of the best in the series.
Naturally, there were some shortcomings with this game. Most notably when it came to its length. Additionally, reviewers felt the lack of substantial boss fights and epic combat moments made the game a little lackluster compared to its console counterpart. These issues might have held the game back from reaching its full potential, but Chains of Olympus managed to build the groundwork for future God of War games on the PSP.
God of War: Ghost of Sparta
God of War: Ghost of Sparta is a fantastic follow-up to Chains of Olympus. It takes all the knowledge Ready at Dawn learned from their first PSP game and fleshed those concepts out. The game was longer, the graphics were great, and it felt like the game maximized the experience you could have on the PSP. It is also the last handheld original God of War game that we ever got to play.
Ghost of Sparta is the only game in the series to explore the time between God of War and God of War II and therefore gives greater context to God of War II and III. The only shortcoming is that Ghost of Sparta seemed to rely too heavily on the God of War formula. By this point, the first trilogy was complete. Plus, the series was starting to reach its saturation point. After all, there are only so many times you can pull the Kratos is sad then mad card.
God of War
Here we are, the game that started it all. The original God of War was a revelation for PlayStation and a massive success for the PlayStation 2. Not to mention that it was critically successful and well awarded too. Its impact was monumental in the games industry and set the bar for AAA gaming, especially within PlayStation studios. It also came in hot with energetic gameplay that holds up today.
Additionally, the story was also compelling. Sure, plenty of games have topped the original God of War in terms of storytelling, but God of War was among the first to tell a story with a cinematic touch. The first God of War will remain a cultural touchpoint in PlayStation history, and its legacy is one of the best in the entirety of gaming.
God of War Ii
There was a lot of pressure for God of War II to live up to the first game. Fortunately, Santa Monica Studio was up to the task and delivered an even better story and gameplay than the first. The level of polish in God of War II was a massive step up, and it fulfilled the initial vision set up in the original God of War. Plus, this game marks Cory Barlog’s first time directing a God of War game.
God of War II antes up the story and culminates in one of the biggest cliffhangers of all time. Moreover, Kratos becomes a more interesting protagonist, and his backstory is fleshed out. As for the gameplay, God of Wars II improves the fundamentals by adding more weapons and developing interesting abilities. All these improvements led to the perfection of the original God of War formula.
God of War Iii
You may have noticed a trend in the latter half of this list. Yes, each game is a direct sequel to the last. God of War III is the epic conclusion to the original trilogy. There are few moments in God of War III that are not grandiose. It is the perfect conclusion to the original storyline, but God of War III is more than a grand story. One of the best parts of this entry is its focus on boss fights and the brutality of these encounters.
The variety of combat situations that occur in God of War III keeps the formula fresh and exciting. As you play through the campaign, you feel Kratos’ power and strength increasing as he becomes a god. It is a no-holds-bar thrill ride that is exhilarating to play. That kind of fun in a video game is special, and that is why it takes the number two spot on this list.
God of War (2018)
We’ve reached the end of this list, and of course, we end on the 2018 reboot of God of War. What is there to say about God of War that has not been talked about before> God of War 2018 is a harmonious marriage between gameplay and storytelling. The feeling of combat in God of War is virtually unmatched in the pantheon of video games. For instance, the Axe stands out as one of the greatest weapons in video games of all time. On top of that, the return to the blades of chaos towards the end of the game, good lord.
The story in God of War 2018 is on a whole other level. The narrative is a masterpiece, and the choice to portray Kratos as a man conflicted by his actions and wanting to break the cycle his father started is inspired. As we mentioned in previous entries on this list, the God of War franchise began to feel fatigued. This reboot addresses those concerns and adds a whole new perspective to how we see the character of Kratos.
The technical choices like the single-take camera and seamless cutscenes generate a cinematic quality and fulfill the initial vision of the God of War franchise, which sought to create a cinematic experience. It is a virtually perfect game and the best God of War game ever made.
What is your favorite God of War games? Do you agree or disagree with our list? And where do you think God of War: Ragnorok will place?