With the latest God of War released to universal acclaim, I think it's about time to look back at the original series that's entertained fans for the past 12 years.
God of War holds a special place in my heart. The original was one of the very first M-rated games I ever played (at the tender age of 14), and I was hooked by the game's bloody combat, giant monsters, rage-filled protagonist, and tons of nude women (again, I was 14 years old). Looking back, I see God of War as something akin to the death metal craze that swept the 80s.
It wasn't until a bit later -- once I started to appreciate the skill-based combat, dramatic storytelling (and not-so-dramatic stories of some installments), and darker take on Greek mythology -- that I got it.
So I decided to boot up my PS4, subscribe to PlayStation Now, and take a look back at the series that helped define myself as a gamer.
The first prequel to the series, as well as the first handheld installment, God of War: Chains of Olympus took us six months in to Kratos' early days of work for the gods, so he could get his revenge.
Chains of Olympus was hailed in its day for being one of the best portable games of all time since it managed to put everything you wanted in a God of War game on to a handheld system. That said, Chains of Olympus hasn't aged that well, especially compared to the series' other handheld title.
Chains of Olympus feels much more simple when compared to other installments. It's mostly just filled with combat, at the cost of variety and the epic boss battles that previous games had.
The story, despite having a great ending, doesn't really add much to the series lore, and the characters introduced here aren't that memorable. It's still a decent title, with the trademarked combat being up to snuff, but it's just one that feels like a product of its time.
"Before he was a god, he was a man" was the quote that tried to sell us on God of War: Ascension. In many ways, that stands true, as Ascension was the first game in the series that showed us that even the greatest franchises can let us down.
To this game's credit, Ascension did try to make some changes to the formula, and it was an extremely polished game. The combat was fun, with some changes made for the better (like how Magic worked), and it still had some great set pieces and boss battles.
But while the story did do a better job as a prequel than Chains of Olympus, it lacked any sort of tension or surprise; we knew what was going to happen to all of these characters by the game's end. It also didn't help that some changes, like the reworked Rage meter, were made more for the worse.
It ultimately just didn't really do much to evolve the series, especially after God of War III, making it feel like a game that was made so they could squeeze another title out before the PS4 came out. Ascension is a solid game, but it's one that feels pretty minuscule when compared to the more epic servings we got before.
Oh, and the multiplayer was dull. Did I forget that? Well, so did the rest of the world.
The game that started it all, the original God of War is considered one of the best action games of all time, and a lot of it still holds up. The dark story of Kratos seeking revenge against Ares is just as strong as it was back in the day, the combat is still bloodily satisfying, and the bosses remain amazing.
So, why is it in the lower half of this list if it's a classic? Well, there are some things about the original that haven't aged well.The second act can feel somewhat padded out, the combat isn't quite as robust and responsive as it was in later games, and a few puzzles can get annoyingly difficult.
However, those are manageable when compared to the awful platforming, climbing, and balancing sections of the game. Sure, God of War's platforming isn't what people remember, but you know what will stick in people's minds? Sections where you can't judge your jump and you die over and over again.
Oh, and that section where you climb out of hell before you can take on the last boss can go right up Hades' ass: It's broken beyond belief.
The second and last handheld God of War game proved to be one of the best installments in the series. Ghost of Sparta takes place sometime after the original and has Kratos looking for his brother, Demos.
It's a surprisingly well-told tale that helps humanize Kratos, showing a bit of his childhood and explaining why he comes to despise his fellow gods. This installment also still keeps the great combat from past games and manages to outshine its predecessor (Chains of Olympus) in every way, with better pacing and some great additions, like adding fire to your blades.
It may not have as many of the great bosses that we've come to expect from the series, and it was on the short side, but it's one that's still worth playing.
With the original becoming a classic, it's obvious Sony wanted to continue on with a sequel, and boy did they deliver with this sequel, which sees Kratos disobeying the gods and abusing his power before he's betrayed by Zeus and off on another quest for revenge.
God of War II improves upon nearly every aspect of the original, with fewer platforming sequences, improved puzzles, and much more. The combat is the same, but if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Along with some new additions, like gliding and slowing down time, God of War II also featured great set pieces, tons of boss fights, and outstanding art design, helping to elevate it over the original by a landfall. It made for the perfect game to close out the PS2 era of gaming.
The last game in the original series (chronologically speaking), God of War III promised us amazing visuals, improved combat, epic boss fights, and a final confrontation with the remaining gods of Olympus. Luckily, God of War III did all of this and more.
Additions like grappling enemies were welcomed, the combat was just as great as ever, and the kills you got bordered on realistic. You really did feel like those creatures were real, and the devs spent a lot of time killing them in every way so they could get every finishing move just right.
Along with all of that were amazing boss fights and excellent pacing, where you never got bored and were basically killing one god after another. Few games can match God of War III's sense of scale and action. This game does all of what God of War games do so well, and that it easily makes it the best game in the series and a must-play action game.
What did you think of this list? How would you rank the original God of War games? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to stick with GameSkinny for all things God of War, including our guides on the latest masterpiece!