The themes of hatred, revenge and family are almost always pretty hard to portray in video games— almost. The God of War franchise is one that’s practically known to get all three, and even more similar keynotes right. With God of War: Ragnarök’s release in 2022 for the PlayStation 5, another title has been added to the already expansive franchise. At times it’s quite infuriating when you’re figuring out where Kratos’ myth originally began.
To set things right, I’ve arranged this guide on how to play the God of War games in order. You’ll find both the release date and chronological order of the games below. That way, you’ll be able to experience Kratos’ journey in whichever style fits your forte.
God of War Games In Order of Release Date
You may have seen many IPs bearing the name “God of War” but in total, there are only 6 games as of yet that advance the main storyline. There has been 1 prequel game and 5 direct sequels that have been released over the course of many years. And here’s how you can play the games in the order of their release dates:
- God of War (2005) — Main
- God of War II (2007) — Main
- God of War: Betrayal (2007)
- God of War: Chains of Olympus (2008
- God of War III (2010) — Main
- God of War: Ghost of Sparta (2010)
- God of War: Ascension (2013) — Main
- God of War: A Call from the Wilds (2018)
- God of War: Mimir’s Vision (2018)
- God of War (2018) – Main
- God of War Ragnarök (2022) — Main
The titles with the “Main” tag are the bigger AAA games that were released as a part of the franchise. The ones without the tag, some of them are prequels to main games and are canon while others are just mini-installments for the diversification of the series onto more devices such as mobile. The mini-games released in 2018 are definitely a hard pass but don’t make the mistake of missing out on the other projects.
There Are Two Seperate Mythologies
God of War 1, 2, and 3 are direct sequels to each other, whereas God of War: Ascension is a prequel game for the series. All four of these mainline games were based around Kratos’ feats in Greek Mythology.
After Ascension is where things actually took a massive turn for the franchise, everything from the gameplay, visuals and even the setting had been changed to entirely something different. This was an attempt by the studio and PlayStation to bring the iconic odyssey of Kratos into a brand new light. And oh boy did everything turn out mind-blowing.
God of War Games In Chronological Order
Playing the God of War games in their release order does give you the original experience the Studio intended, but I understand that some may want to undertake this venture by going the chronological order route. While this choice will undoubtedly cramp up your playstyle due to the technological restraint as per the release dates, playing the God of War games in chronological order of the story could be more fun than the traditional route.
Below you’ll find the chronological order of how to play the series:
- God of War: Ascension
- God of War: Chains of Olympus
- God of War
- God of War: Ghost of Sparta
- God of War: Betrayal
- God of War II
- God of War III
- God of War (2018)
- God of War Ragnarök
If you end up choosing to play the God of War games in chronological order, you’ll get a better sense of the bigger picture later on. Ascension’s narrative is exceptionally well-made and it does a great job of laying out the foundation of the franchise, even despite the fact that it’s itself a later entry.
God of War: Ascension
Release Date: March 12, 2013
Platforms: PlayStation 3
Set 10 years before the events of the original, God of War: Ascension takes a look at the early years of Kratos’ vendetta against Ares. As we all know, Ares tricks Kratos into killing his wife and child. After which the young spartan vows to deliver the same end to the then God of War.
But when Kratos renounced Ares, the Three Furies came after Kratos and capture him. He is chained up and sentenced to a lifetime of enslavement. After bearing gruesome torture, Kratos manages to escape and attempts to seek justice for his family— even if it means fighting against hordes of insanity.
Overall, God of War: Ascension is an epic prequel that’s well-balanced in every manner. It’s easy to get into and does a great job of world-building, making it all that easier to understand Kratos’ roots.
God of War: Chains of Olympus
Release Date: March 4, 2008
Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable
God of War: Chains of Olympus was a title released for the PlayStation Portable in 2008. Later in 2011, a remastered version of it was launched as a part of the Origins Collection. Chains of Olympus is the first of two installments in the franchise that was created by Ready at Dawn instead of Santa Monica Studio. Primarily because both games by Ready at Dawn were intended for Sony’s PlayStation Portable originally.
The game is set in a time between God of War: Ascension and God of War when Kratos served the Gods of Olympus. Kratos ventures into territories unknown to rescue Helios while at the same time facing other threats as well. Flashbacks of Kratos’ tragic part are also a big theme of the game.
As for gameplay, it’s the classic combo-based system with an aerial view. It’s not something that works that often, but for the God of War games, it couldn’t have fit any more perfectly. While it’s not absolutely necessary to play, the game provides good insight into the lore of the franchise.
God of War
Release Date: March 22, 2005
Platforms: PlayStation 2
The original God of War was released in 2005 and its launch paved the way for the franchise’s acclaim that we can see today. Tasked by the goddess Athena to Kill Ares, Kratos travels to uncharted lands in search of the only thing that could possibly put an end to Ares’ terror— Pandora’s Box. But Athena’s order isn’t the only thing driving the Spartan as many years ago Kratos was tricked by Ares into killing his wife and child.
For most hoping to play the God of War games in order, this may be their first title. And while the game’s age might make it sound underwhelming, the truth can’t be any further from it. To sum it up, God of War is a genuinely good game with a great feel of what it wants to be.
God of War: Ghost of Sparta
Release Date: November 2, 2010
Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable
God of War: Ghost of Sparta is the second title created by Ready at Dawn chiefly for the PlayStation Portable. It’s comparable to Chains of Olympus in many ways but there are some improvements and Ghost of Sparta is a longer game altogether.
Crowned the new God of War, Kratos may have got revenge, but the memories of his past still continue to haunt him. When he learns from the Oracle that his long-lost brother and mother may still be alive, he sets out to the Temple of Poseidon in search of answers.
God of War: Betrayal
Release Date: June 20, 2007
Platforms: Mobile (Java Platform, Micro Edition), Windows
God of War: Betrayal, besides being the only mobile game in the series, is also the only 2D entry. It’s a relatively simple hack-and-slash side scroller that’s about Kratos marching his army against Greece. He’s attacked by different monsters along the way and a couple of Gods as is the usual routine.
While it’s a short game and was never released on consoles, apparently it’s canon. There aren’t many handy ways to play the game, so I’d recommend watching a YouTube walkthrough instead.
God of War II
Release Date: March 13, 2007
Platforms: PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3
Picking up sometime after Ghost of Sparta, God of War II shows Kratos rampaging across Greece with his armies. This soon attracts the attention of the gods and eventually leads to Kratos being betrayed by Zeus. Sentenced to an eternity in the underworld, the Titan Gaia helps Kratos to escape his fate and get revenge on the King of Olympus.
Visuals, level design, more combat variety, and everything was bumped up by a lot in God of War II. So it didn’t come as a surprise when upon release it was receptive to critical acclaim just like its predecessor.
God of War III
Release Date: March 16, 2010
Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4
Kratos travels to the heights of Mount Olympus, tackling menaces of all sorts along the way so that he may find Pandora. With her help, he’ll be able to open Pandora’s Box, slay Zeus, and finally put an end to the rule of the Olympian Gods.
For the tenth anniversary of the franchise, Santa Monica Studio announced that a remastered version of God of War III would be coming to the PlayStation 4 in 2015. God of War III was already beautiful in its vanilla state. But with the remastered version, you’ll notice a ton of quality-of-life changes.
God of War (2018)
Release Date: April 20, 2018
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Windows
The 2018 God of War game felt like a soft reboot of sorts as initially most of what the series was known for had changed. Kratos somehow winds up in Midgard, a realm of Norse mythology, but it’s after many years the actual events of the game begin. The game revolves around Kratos embarking on a journey with his son, Atreus, to spread his wife’s ashes across the highest peak in all the realms.
While this request seems innocent at first, everything soon changes when the father-son duo is being hunted by the Norse Gods for reasons unknown. Along with the incredible story, God of War (2018) introduced a brand new combat system. The Leviathan Axe is Kratos’ main weapon, and it’s capable of things no one could’ve ever imagined; being thrown anywhere in the world and being recalled automatically with one press of a button— much like Thor’s hammer.
God of War (2018) received critical acclaim upon its release. Its narrative, combat design, world-building, and ability to introduce this long-running franchise seamlessly to newcomers were nothing less than unbelievable.
God of War Ragnarök
Release Date: November 9, 2022
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
In November 2022, the latest entry into the series was released which completed the Norse vision of Santa Monica Studio. God of War: Ragnarök picks up a few years after the 2018 installment. Fimbülwinter has now started, and against every try of Kratos to prevent the inevitable from happening, destiny keeps getting closer.
Ragnarök, the end of all realms, is a major dynamic of the game. And by the looks of it, Kratos and Atreus seem to be at its center in more ways than one. The father-son theme between Kratos and Atreus returns. But this time it’s different since having a teenage son in his rebellious phase is something Kratos has never experienced before.
The basic concept behind God of War: Ragnarök’s combat system remains mostly the same as with the 2018 iteration. But there are plenty of changes in weapons, and other gameplay mechanics that feel like a big upgrade and a very polished experience.
Now you’re good to go and dive right into Kratos and his trek across different mythologies. But if you want a few quick tips on getting started then keep reading.
If you decide to purchase the entire series then go for the “Origins Collection” and “Basic Collection” bundles. They are a pretty good deal if you’re contemplating your budget. The Origins Collection includes both Ghost of Sparta and Chains of Olympus. While the basic collection contains God of War 1 & 2.
Where the story heads next remains a mystery. But judging from how critically acclaimed every game of the franchise has been, I’m sure Santa Monica Studio will cook up something even better. In the meanwhile, here’s a look at another Sony first-party game.