Which God of War Game Should You Play First?

Image credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment

The God of War franchise has evolved from simple hack-and-slash games to more complex, immersive experiences.

While the earlier titles focused on action, the newer ones have deeper storylines and focus on character development. Both the older and newer games have their own unique features but with so many titles in the series, where should you begin?

If you need help deciding which God of War game to play first, this article will provide an overview of what sets each game apart, along with my recommendations of where you should start based on your preferences.

The Older God of War Games

The gameplay is the first thing to consider when deciding which God of War game to play first. As mentioned before, the original games were mostly about defeating all the enemies in a room and moving on. 

Yes, there were some small sections of puzzle and platforming, but the biggest chunks of those games were about swinging the Blades of Chaos until there was no one left.

The games had a decent plot. The story was there and provided the context for some battles to be more satisfying or epic.

Unfortunately, that was about it. Kratos and the gods never really felt like complex characters, and the main focus of the games was not the story. 

That being said, if you enjoy old hack-and-slash games like Devil May Cry, there is a good chance you will enjoy the old God of War games.

As for which of the old games you should play, I’d say you should start with the original God of War. It was easy to overlook the initial issues when it came out because it was new, but it still remains an impressive title. There are some pacing issues, though.

The second game improved upon the first but only provided half of a story. If that doesn’t bother you, it is safe to say that you’ll like the second game just as much or even enjoy it more than the original.

God of War 3, however, is a bit controversial.

As for the story, it’s up to you to decide whether it’s a fit for you or not. The gameplay hasn’t changed much from the first two games, but it feels better.

Some weapons are similar to the Blades of Chaos, but some are pretty interesting. Most people will remember the Bow of Apollo and the Nemean Cestus when they finish the game. You go through the game with the Blades of Chaos and weapons that are extremely similar to them but have an elemental effect and a different color.

Generally speaking, the game is as epic as a God of War game can be, making it the best visual spectacle of the trilogy.

It helped that the third game was released on the PS3 instead of the PS2 like the first two. With all the success of the previous games to back it up, God of War 3 feels like a never-ending hype train where things just get more and more epic.

It’s fair to state that the first three God of War games can be seen as a timeless trilogy. They are classic games worth visiting again for many reasons, even if it’s just to add context to the new games.

Besides, they all follow the same fixed-camera hack-and-slash gameplay style, so if you like one of them, there is a high chance you will enjoy the others. With that in mind, why not start with the first game and play them all?

The Newer God of War Games

Kratos ran away from his past in more than a few ways. Firstly, the former god of war decided to leave mythological Greece and start living in the land of the Norse myths. Instead of seeing Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades, Kratos will be meeting Odin, Heimdall, Thor, and many other gods from many realms in Yggdrasil.

On top of that, this isn’t the same Kratos anymore. He is older and wiser, and he is a father now. That alone changes how the character behaves in many ways.

Unlike the first games, which were all about revenge, the newer god of war games are much more about change, paternity, grief, and regret. Kratos is an old man trying to find his place in the world and learning how to be the father of a child who just lost his mother.

There’s a clear shift in tone, theme, and gameplay. The newer God of War games adopt a more RPG-like style with equipment, side quests, three-dimensional characters, and complex stories.

The gameplay also changes a lot. Although there is plenty of hack-and-slash action, the progression system is very RPG-like, too.

You get experience points that make you stronger, and you can improve your equipment to keep up with the more powerful enemies you face throughout the game.

There’s more. The fixed camera is gone. The newer games let you turn around the camera as you please and adopt a base perspective from behind Kratos, very reminiscent of over-the-shoulder third-person games.

The new games are fantastic. There’s no doubt about that.

However, they are not for everyone. You might have to go back and forth, revisit areas, talk to NPCs, and explore a bit. This is very unlike the old games, which were basically long corridors of enemies with a few quieter sections to break the pace a bit.

Brace yourself for disappointment if you expect a game that is pretty much like all the previous ones. If you play any of these newer God of War games, you better know what to expect so you will experience them with the right mindset. 

Some players claim not to recognize the new Kratos in the newer games. Although I didn’t personally go through that and I love what they did to the character, it is not that hard to see where these people are coming from.

Which God of War Game Should You Play First?

This is much easier than choosing which Souls game to play first. Although personal preferences are a big part of this decision, you should consider a few things before choosing your first God of War game.

First, you must decide if all God of War games are for you. If not, based on what you now know about the games, ask yourself which ones didn’t make you particularly excited to play.

Suppose you only want to play a single God of War game to really feel what the franchise is about. In that case, you have to remember that God of War is basically two different series of games now.

If you want to see the old Kratos in action as a taster, God of War 3 will show the best of what the older games can provide.

It’s brutal and flashy, the mechanics are significantly improved, and the game gets more and more epic as you get closer to the end. You will miss out on the story since the entire game feels like a final chapter, but this is not an issue for many players.

If you want to experience the entire journey with as much hack-and-slash action as possible, and PS2 games are not a turn-off to you, play the first three games.

If you only intend to experience the new Kratos, start with God of War (2008). The graphics and gameplay are not different from its sequel, God of War: Ragnarok, and will provide a lot of context for what happens next in the franchise.

Although Kratos has a lot of baggage, you can learn about his past while playing the game when he reveals it to other characters.

Just in case you want the entire Kratos experience, it should be obvious, but play the first three games and then move to God of War (2008).