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God of War plot explainer: The story so far

When a single character has existed for so long that they’ve challenged the gods of not one but two mythologies, you just know they’ve had a lot of adventures. Kratos, star of every God of War game since the series’ debut in 2005, has hacked, slashed, and bludgeoned his way through seven core games, with his eighth launching soon in November. Each and every game has been a steady improvement, but it wasn’t until 2018’s semi-reboot simply called God of War that the series received near universal acclaim and monumental sales numbers.

Because each game has sold better than the last, it only stands to reason that most people have played the newest entry in the series without many, or even any, of the prior entries. While having no prior knowledge won’t ruin the experience, knowing the full history and series of events that lead up to the current events in Kratos’ life make his growth and struggles something you can really invest yourself into. There are a lot of games spread across multiple systems, though, which can make it a big financial and time investment, so the next best thing would be to check out our summary of the entire story of God of War so far.

Note: Spoiler Alert! This shouldn’t be necessary, but just in case it wasn’t clear, we will be spoiling the plot for every God of War game released! If you haven’t played a specific game yet and plan on it, read on at your own risk!

Further reading

Backstory

Kratos' silhouette chained up.

Before we start going through Kratos’ life game by game in chronological order, rather than release order for convenience sake, we want to briefly go over who Kratos is and what he’s all about. A lot of his character is based on things that happen before any of the games, so it’s important to set that up first to know why he is the way he is once we jump into the god-slaying.

Kratos is a demigod from birth, meaning he is half god and half mortal. His father was none other than the king of the gods, at least in Greek mythology: Zeus. Zeus was also his brother Deimos’ father as well, and when Zeus learned that there was a prophecy that one of his kids was going to kill him, he sent Athena and Ares to kill Deimos. Both of them were still kids at the time, and Kratos couldn’t do anything to stop them. Ares gave Kratos his first scar over his eye. To honor his fallen brother, Kratos gets his iconic red tattoos.

Fast forward to adulthood, and Kratos filled out to be an absolute brick of a Spartan soldier. He finds a wife and has a daughter named Calliope, but she’s not a very healthy kid and ends up catching the plague. If you saw 300, then you know how Spartans feel about weak kids. Well, Kratos isn’t about to let his daughter get tossed off some cliff to die and goes off to get the only cure: Ambrosia. He faces off against plenty of other warriors on his quest but ends up retrieving the mythic food, saving his daughter, and becoming a captain in the Spartan army. Life sounds pretty good for our hero so far, doesn’t it?

Well, things start going downhill fast from there. Kratos is a very good soldier. Like, seriously good. He loves killing so much that he becomes famous for it and ends up being a target of a barbarian army. Despite being a demigod, Kratos is actually about to lose here until he begs Ares, promising to serve the god of war if he saves him. Ares, with plots of his own in his head, is down for this deal and gives Kratos the Blades of Chaos. And by gives, we mean he burns the chains to his arms so he will never forget his promise.

After that, Kratos becomes Ares’ lapdog, pillaging and murdering in the god’s name. Now, if it wasn’t clear yet, gods are kind of jerks and will ruin people’s lives for a laugh if they feel like it. Ares figures that it would be really cool to teleport Kratos’ wife and daughter into a village Kratos is in the process of slaughtering. Obviously not expecting to find his family there, it isn’t until after the fact that Kratos realizes he accidentally murdered his family.

He cremates his family in a fire, where he sees a vision of Ares totally hyped about how losing his family will make Kratos a better, stronger soldier. Kratos, understandably, isn’t as pumped about this and swears revenge against Ares but is also cursed by an oracle to wear the ashes of his wife and daughter on his skin for the rest of his life. Bummer.

In short, the red tattoo is for his dead brother, the white skin is the ashes of his dead family, and the giant blades chained to his arms are the Blades of Chaos he got for promising to serve Ares. Got it? Cool. Let’s get to the games.

God of War: Ascension

Kratos holding his blades looking over his shoulder.

Chronologically, God of War: Ascension is the earliest point in the timeline where we play as Kratos, just a mere six months after murdering his family and becoming the Ghost of Sparta. Six months later, and Kratos is still firmly in the anger part of the seven stages of grief and is ready to break his promise to Ares by shoving his blades into his neck if possible. He gets some help from Ares’ son Orkos, who lets him in on Ares’ true plan for the Spartan. He wanted Kratos all big, strong, and pissed off so he could use him to kill Zeus to allow Ares to take over Olympus.

Ares actually has three kids, known as the three Furies, who are in charge of punishing traitors and putting them in a jail with a giant with a hundred arms. So, for Kratos to break his oath to Ares, he needs to kill the Furies. Simple, right?

Well, not so much. Kratos is put in said prison, tortured, and ultimately escapes and murders the Furies, including Orkos, who had only helped the entire time. This is one of the few times Kratos isn’t happy about killing a god.

God of War: Chains of Olympus

Kratos catching a spiked pillar.

Our next stop is the PSP title God of War: Chains of Olympus. This is still before the first game, and Kratos is basically an errand boy for the gods (except Ares, obviously). Most of this game has nothing to with anything, really, so we’ll cut to the chase.

Helios is kidnapped, totally messing up the sun and making a bunch of gods fall asleep. Kratos has to figure out what the deal is and ends up meeting Hades’ queen Persephone. She offers Kratos a chance at reuniting with his dead daughter in Elysium for the low, low price of all his powers. This is an obvious trick, and she turns out to be the one who plotted to kidnap Helios and use Atlas to break the Pillar of the World, which is kind of important. Kratos kills her, makes Atlas go back to holding the world on his back again, and sets everything back to normal.

God of War

Kratos holding burning blades.

After all those diversions, Kratos can finally get back to his main goal of killing Ares, which he’s been constantly screaming about for years. In fact, it’s been 10 years now since he’s been doing chores for the gods, and he’s finally on the last item on the list from Athena: Kill Ares. Well, isn’t that convenient? Only, you can’t just kill a god so easily, and Kratos will need to find Pandora’s Box to beat the god of war. It’s held in Pandora’s Temple, which is being carried on the back of the titan Cronos. Nothing is ever simple for Kratos, is it?

First finding the Titan Horn to summon Cronos like some sort of giant horse, Kratos fights his way up the titan, into the temple, and is totally sucker punched by Ares. Or, rather, sucker-impaled by a giant stone pillar. Normally, that would be the end of anyone’s quest, but Kratos is so pissed off that he climbs out of the underworld, grabs that stupid box, and opens it to gain godly powers.

Turning into a kaiju battle, a giant Kratos and Ares fight to the death, and wouldn’t you know it, wins! At this point, Kratos realizes that getting revenge didn’t actually solve his problems. Funny, that. When he tries to kill himself, Athena instead makes him the new god of war.

God of War: Ghost of Sparta

Kratos watching fire fall on a city.

As the old saying goes, Kratos would either die a hero or live long enough to see himself become the god of war (or something like that). Either way, Kratos is now a full-fledged god but is basically back where he started and is just taking orders from the other gods again. First up, go destroy the Ambrosia that Ares’ followers could potentially use to resurrect him. Kratos obviously doesn’t want that, so he’s down for the task.

On the way, though, he suddenly remembers he has a mom and wonders how she’s doing. So, one trip to Atlantis later, he reunites with her and learns that his brother Deimos is actually still alive! This is the first time in the games we’ve ever heard about Kratos’ brother, and boy, oh boy, does it sound like a major piece of fan fiction. He’s apparently being tortured by Thanatos, the death god. His mom then turns into a monster because… reasons, and Kratos has to kill yet another family member.

After killing his mom, Kratos finds and frees the titan Thera, which is kind of a mistake, as it causes Atlantis to sink. Bummer. Anyway, Kratos fights some gods and enters Thanatos’ temple to rescue his brother, only Deimos isn’t all that happy to see Kratos because, you know, Kratos never tried to save him. This is fair, but the two fight for a while until Thanatos shows up. The two team up, but Deimos still ends up biting the dust. Kratos adds this to his growing list of reasons to hate the gods.

God of War 2

Kratos fighting the colossus of rhodes.

Because God of War 2 was made before Ghost of Sparta, you can pretty much forget all that when jumping to this game. It opens with Kratos, still a god, leading a Spartan army in an assault on Athens, even though all the other gods are totally not down with him doing that. Zeus himself decides Kratos needs to be humbled and sucks out all his god powers, brings him the Colossus of Rhodes, and gives him the Blade of Olympus that drains even more of his power to beat the statue. After all those debuffs and being super tired from fighting the giant statue, Zeus comes in and finishes him off when Kratos refuses to be his errand boy. What a punk.

Back in the underworld — Kratos should seriously consider investing in his own property there considering how often he’s sent down there — the titan Gaia says she wants to team up against Zeus as revenge for him overthrowing the titans. She says he can rewind time if he finds the Fates so he can get the Blade of Olympus back, and thus regain his god powers that he needs to beat Zeus.

Kratos goes on a quest to find all these Fates, none of which want to help him, so Kratos asks extra nicely until they do. Just kidding, he straight-up murders them all and takes their time powers. Using them, Kratos goes back to his fight with Zeus, and this time, is poised to win. He’s about to deal the final blow with the sword when Athena pulls a “get down, Mr. President!” and takes the hit for him. Zeus gets away, and Athena tells Kratos that he’s destined to kill him, but that it’s a super bad idea. Like, end of the world bad, but Kratos is too pissed to care. He travels back in time once more to save all the titans from being killed in that war, and they all team up to make one final attack on Olympus itself. It’s go time — once the sequel comes out.

God of War 3

Kratos ripping Helios' head off.

After the biggest sequel tease since Halo 2, God of War 3 picks up right where you hoped it would: Kratos riding the titans as they climb up Mt. Olympus to take the fight to Zeus and whatever gods are left. This is a massive fight, with titans falling left and right, and Kratos having an epic, multi-phase fight against Poseidon. Killing the god of the seas turns out to not be that smart, and the ocean goes completely out of control, basically wiping out everyone in Greece, but that’s not really Kratos’ problem.

What is Kratos’ problem is when Zeus starts fighting him and Gaia, pushing them down to the underworld (yeah, again). Gaia, obviously not knowing who she’s dealing with, lets Kratos fall to save herself, calling him just a “tool.” Back in his home away from home, Athena appears as a ghost to help Kratos now and tells him how he can finally beat Zeus. The trick is to find the Flame of Olympus and put it out. Sounds simple enough, so Kratos begins his journey, putting down major players on the way, like Hades, Helios, Hermes, Hercules, Perses, Cronos, and Hera. Each fallen god sends the world into further chaos, like the sun going dark and plagues sweeping the land. Again, not Kratos’ problem.

On the way, Kratos also gets some sweet revenge on Gaia for letting him fall. He doesn’t kill Aphrodite, though, but does have a good time before killing her husband like a total Chad. He does all that, not just because he’s kind of a D-bag, but because Pandora, the actual girl, is the only thing that can put out the Flames of Olympus — and she’s the daughter of Aphrodite. She’s also the key to the box named after her, which is what the Flames of Olympus protect — a major oversight when you think about it.

Kratos kidnaps Pandora, takes her to the flame, and has to fight off Zeus while she sacrifices herself to put it out and free the box. When the box opens, though, it’s actually empty! What!? While stunned by this, Gaia, who wasn’t quite dead, attacks the two of them. Kratos uses the Blade of Olympus to finish off the pesky titan and impale Zeus in one efficient thrust. Zeus, not done yet, attacks Kratos’ mind, obviously his weak point, with his memories. He has to face up to all the terrible things he did, like, you know, killing his family, and manages to escape once he learns to forgive himself. Once he snaps free, Kratos beats Zeus to death with his bare hands.

Ghost Athena appears again and tells him that the first time he opened Pandora’s Box way back in the first game, it corrupted all the gods with fear but powered Kratos with hope. She wants that power to repair the world he completely trashed by killing the gods, but Kratos doesn’t let her have it. Instead, he performs a kind of Seduku with the Blade of Olympus to kill himself and give hope to all of mankind. How sweet, right?

Except that, after the credits, we cut back to where Kratos supposedly killed himself and find that his body is not there, and there’s a trail of blood leading away.

God of War (2018)

Kratos and son in God of War.

While we never really get an answer as to how Kratos survived shoving a massive sword through his own chest, let alone traveled across the world into a new realm entirely, he at least does bear a scar. Also, a beard. Oh, and he also met a woman named Faye, married her, and had a son he named Atreus. Have questions? Too bad, because most won’t be answered. What we can assume is that a lot of time has passed and that all the world-ending stuff caused by killing the Greek gods didn’t impact places with their own gods — or something.

Anyway, Kratos and Faye never told Atreus about Kratos’ colorful past. In fact, based on how they interact, we can assume Kratos didn’t really talk to Atreus much at all growing up. The game opens after Faye has died, though, forcing Kratos to actually, you know, acknowledge his son for a change. She had two dying wishes. First, for Kratos to cut down some specially marked trees. Secondly, for the two of them to carry her ashes to the highest peak in the Nine Realms to scatter them. That first one turns out to be a super funny prank, since those trees kept the Norse gods from seeing them, and once they’re cut down, well, one shows right up to confront the god from another world.

Kratos and Baldur have a Dragon Ball Z-style fight, but Baldur is seemingly invincible and unable to feel pain. Kratos snaps his neck and throws him off a cliff, which keeps him occupied long enough for him and Atreus to grab the ashes, his new Leviathan axe (the Blades of Chaos are nowhere to be seen, but he still has the scars from their chains), and head off to climb the tallest mountain.

On the way, they meet a couple of friendly dwarf brothers that give Atreus some handy mistletoe arrows — though they are not friendly with each other — and a mysterious witch who tells them that something called a Black Breath is blocking the way to the top of the mountain. To get rid of that nasty odor, they’ll need the Light of Alfheim to clear it, which, wouldn’t you know it, can only be picked up in Alfheim. To get there, they have to go to Tyr’s Temple, which is in the middle of the Lake of the Nine, where they meet the friendly Jormungandr — aka the World Serpent.

One big diversion later, the two bring the light back, clear the Black Breath, and climb all the way up the mountain. At the top, a dude fused to a tree is being questioned by two brutes, Magni and Modi, who are two of Thor’s sons. Once they clear out, Kratos goes up and meets the poor horned dude named Mimir. He tells them that — uh-oh — this isn’t the tallest peak in the Nine Realms, but it’s actually the one in Jotunheim, the land of the giants. The only way to get there is with his help, so Kratos cuts his head off, hooks it on his belt, and the three friends go off for a boat ride, telling stories along the way (really, there are a ton of stories).

Mimir reveals that the witch they met is actually Freya, the estranged wife of Odin (also the mother of Baldur, hint hint), but they leave all that family drama alone. Still trying to get to Jotunheim, Magni and Modi track them down and force them into a fight under Odin’s orders. During the fight, to make another DBZ reference, Atreus pulls a Gohan and rages out, and they kill Magni. This rage, coming from the godly heritage he doesn’t know about, gives him a wicked cough. Freya can’t cure him without a special heart he can only get from Helheim (aka yet another underworld). Also, his Leviathan axe won’t do diddly squat there.

With no choice, Kratos goes back home and opens a secret compartment under his bed to retrieve the shameful secret he wanted to keep hidden from Atreus (no, not magazines): the Blades of Chaos. These weapons are perfect for killing underworld, or Helheim, monsters, and he’s able to get the heart and cure his little boy’s cough. He finally comes clean about being a god, which Atreus, just like any young kid would, is super excited about. Maybe he’s a bit too excited, though, and starts getting a little big for his britches, straight-up murdering Modi next time he shows up, getting the two sent down to Helheim by Baldur.

However, for Kratos, you should know that getting sent to Helheim would be a mere speedbump, and the two are back on the road to Jotunheim. Everything is set, but Baldur comes at them one more time. Freya shows up while fighting, obviously not wanting them to kill her son, but Baldur actually hates his mom for making him immune to pain, leading to a very awkward situation. Kratos stops Baldur from killing Freya, using his personal experience with killing his parents to talk him down, but Atreus hits him with a mistletoe arrow, his one weakness! Now able to feel and die, Kratos is forced to kill him to save Freya. She’s, like, really pissed about this, but she won’t do anything about it quite yet.

Finally, in Jotunheim, Kratos and Atreus learn that Faye was a giant and that they all seem to be dead. They also see some very disturbing wall art heavily implying Kratos might be in some serious trouble soon. While scattering the ashes, we learn that Atreus was the name Kratos wanted for his son, but Faye had given him the giant name of Loki. If you know anything about Norse mythology, that’s a big uh-oh right there.

Going home for a well-deserved nap, Fimbulwinter, a magic winter that’s extra cold that comes before Ragnarok, starts up. That’s weird, because it was scheduled to come 100 years later, so it’s a bit early.

God of War: Ragnarok

Kratos and his son stare down a wolf in God of War Ragnarok.

God of War: Ragnarok hasn’t launched yet, but we do know a few points about the game from marketing materials and some brief descriptions. First, this game will jump ahead a few years, as indicated by the obvious aging up of Atreus. We also see the return of Mimir and a very angry Freya who will probably be one of the main antagonists. We also get a glimpse of Kratos and Atreus meeting the Norse god of war Tyr, presumably to recruit him to try and stop Ragnarok, which should be a very interesting encounter.

A full plot synopsis was posted on the official store page for the game, which reads as such:

“Fimbulwinter is well underway. Kratos and Atreus must journey to each of the Nine Realms in search of answers as Asgardian forces prepare for a prophesied battle that will end the world. Along the way they will explore stunning, mythical landscapes, and face fearsome enemies in the form of Norse gods and monsters. The threat of Ragnarök grows ever closer. Kratos and Atreus must choose between their own safety and the safety of the realms.”

That doesn’t say much we didn’t already suspect, except for the fact that this time around we will apparently be visiting every one of the Nine Realms. How much time we will spend in each and how expansive each one is remains to be seen, but that is a very interesting prospect to consider. For those unaware, all Nine realms are:

  1. Niflheim: The realm of fog and mist. Considered the darkest and coldest realm, it is home to the oldest spring in the world called Hvergelmir, which is protected by a dragon named Nidhug.
  2. Muspelheim: The land of fire. We went here in God of War (2018), though it was a very small and not plot relevant area.
  3. Asgard: Home of the gods. This is the Norse equivalent of Olympus and where Odin and the other great gods live. If Kratos ends up taking the fight to Odin himself, this is probably where the final battle will happen.
  4. Midgard: Home of the humans. This is the “normal” world where you spent most of the game in 2018 and likely will again in this one.
  5. Jotunheim: Home of the giants. The final location of the last game, it’s unclear why we would go back here since all the giants are apparently dead. Perhaps there’s some artifact or weapon here they need to collect.
  6. Vanaheim: Home of the Vanir. Vanir are the older branch of gods in Norse mythology. They had a war with the Aesir (Odin and those “newer” gods) and only three survived: Freya, Njord, and Freyr.
  7. Alfheim: Home of the light elves. Another realm we spent a good amount of time in in God of War (2018). However, last we saw it, this place wasn’t doing so well.
  8. Svartalfheim: Home of the dwarves. Brok and Sindri are the only two dwarves we’ve met, and these talented blacksmiths are sure to play a big supporting role in Ragnarok. Considering they often need special, rare, or otherwise magical objects to improve the things they can smith, it would make sense that they send you to their home for a new tool or something to give you a weapon capable of taking down the gods.
  9. Helheim: Home of the dead. If there’s one place you can count on going at least once, it’s the Norse underworld. It wouldn’t be a God of War game if Kratos didn’t get sent here at least once. According to the myth, Hel, the ruler of Helheim and daughter of Loki, will unleash all the dead in Helheim at the beginning of Ragnarok to attack the gods at Vigrid, so perhaps killing her will be plot critical if they want to prevent the apocalypse.

God of War: Ragnarok is also confirmed to be the final chapter in the Norse saga, so while it may not necessarily be the end of Kratos or Atreus’ journey, if either or both survive, any future adventures will be in another place and or time.

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