Before Kratos became the dad of boy, he was the God of War. Before that, he was just a humble commander in the Spartan army. Alright, he was never humble, but he was good at getting his vengeance and wreaking chaos upon whomsoever crossed his path. Man, woman, horse, man-horse, god—if it was in his way, he killed it. Throughout Kratos’s journey from Spartan commander to hermit in the Norse wilds, he’s had to endure many personal and external hardships that brought him to the events leading up to God of War: Ragnarok. And while the best boss battles in the series may be debatable among fans, the most impactful moments are undeniable.
Talk about desperate! (God of War I)
The moment that started it all. In the face of death, Kratos’s pride takes hold as he screams toward the sky. He begs Ares to spare his life and kill his foes, and in return, he conscripts himself into the service of the Greek God of War. The Blades of Chaos are burned into the flesh of his forearms, and within seconds he decapitates his foe. Thus begins Kratos’s servitude to Ares. A moment of assistance for a lifetime of bondage. Talk about a deal!
Did I do that? (God of War I)
Intending to sever Kratos from his humanity, Ares sends him to destroy a village that worshipped the Greek Goddess of Wisdom, Athena. He is warned by an oracle that this is a mistake he will come to regret —and boy does he! Trapped in an insatiable bloodlust by Ares, Kratos slaughters everyone in the village. What may have once been a boon to protect himself and his family from the oncoming barbarian horde becomes his downfall. When his head becomes clear, the bodies of his daughter and wife lay before him, dead by his hand. To add to his trauma and despair, the oracle curses Kratos and infuses his skin with the ashes of his dead family. In the future, Kratos concludes that carrying ashes in a pouch is preferable to wearing them.
A Necessary Sacrifice (God of War: Ascension)
Enraged by Ares’ deception, Kratos decides to sever the lifelong conscription to the God of War. He is then imprisoned by the Furies, who try to destroy his resolve and return him to his master. While serving his sentence under the torturous sisters, Kratos escapes and allies himself with Orkos, son of Ares and Alecto (the head Fury). After slaying the sisters, Kratos discovers that he must kill Orkos to free himself from his servitude. Orkos accepts this truth and willingly allows Kratos to kill him. It’s one of the few times Kratos shows remorse for killing someone outside of his immediate family. Progress, right? Unfortunately, In severing the bond with Ares, all of Kratos’s suppressed memories come back in full force.
Sorry honey, daddy’s got work to do (God of War: Chains of Olympus)
Five years into his decade-long service to the gods, Kratos finds himself tasked with saving the Olympians from an eternal slumber set upon by Morpheus (the God of Dreams). On the tail end of his journey, the goddess Persephone offers him exactly what he wants: an eternal reunion with his daughter in Elysium. All he has to do is give up his powers and weapons. But, as the saying goes, it was too good to be true. Persephone reveals her true intent—to destroy the pillar that holds the world (and subsequently help fix poor Atlas’s posture). Brokenhearted but decisive, Kratos knows what he has to do. With input from the player, he pushes his daughter away—the most powerful moment in the game. Kratos reclaims the powers held by some of the souls of Elysium, sacrificing ever seeing his daughter again, and saves the world from Persephone’s machinations.
New god, who dis? (God of War I)
At the beginning of the game, Kratos is told he must kill Ares. After climbing out of Hades, opening Pandora’s Box, and finishing his mission, Kratos finally feels relief. He had been promised a release from his mental anguish upon completion of his task, and he had finally done it. He avenged his family and had been congratulated by the gods for his service to them. However, Kratos misunderstood his reward—though he was forgiven for the wrongs of his past, but he would never forget what he had done. Upon learning he will relive the slaughter of his family for the rest of his life, he casts himself off a cliff. Once he breaks water, he is recalled to Athena, who offers him the empty seat left in Ares’ absence. Kratos accepts and becomes the new God of War.
Can’t trust a god (God of War II)
To kill the animated Colossus of Rhodes, Zeus informs Kratos that he must drain his godly powers into the Blade of Olympus. The Blade becomes imbued with Kratos’s godhood and allows him to take down the massive statue, but not without taking heavy damage and forcing the Blade of Olympus from his grasp. As Kratos crawls back to the Blade to recover his strength, Zeus intercepts him and forces the shining blue sword through his chest. One would think that Kratos would learn from the time he gave up his powers and was immediately betrayed by Persephone, but no. He dies, but on his way to the Underworld is resuscitated by Gaia, who gives him a new mission.
Daddy issues (God of War II)
Have you ever tried to take a stab at your father and accidentally get your half-sister instead? No? Well, that’s what happens to Kratos late into God of War II. After an intense boss battle with Zeus, Athena interferes, shielding her father from Kratos. When Kratos is about to impale Zeus and finally exact his revenge, Athena rushes in front of the Blade of Olympus and takes one for dear old dad. A wounded Zeus scampers away while Athena unveils the shocking truth to Kratos: Zeus is his father, and he wishes to end the cycle of gods killing their parents.
“No,” Kratos replies. “I have no father.”
Remember the Titans (God of War II)
Upon his missions for vengeance, Kratos realizes he must alter fate itself to have any chance of killing Zeus. To do that, he needs to go through the Sisters of Fate. Since this is a God of War game, it’s safe to assume they don’t do him a favor willingly. After killing the sisters (gruesomely, I might add), he is given control over the Loom Chamber, which gives him access to the Threads of Time.
First, he uses this time-control ability to claim the Blade of Olympus and fight Zeus (as seen in the previous entry). After Zeus escapes, he thinks a bit bigger. He goes back in time to the great war between the gods and the titans, recruiting Gaia and all her kin to assist him in the future. With Ares and Athena dead and Zeus weakened, the future is their best bet to defeat the Olympians. Clinging to a tree on Gaia’s back as she scales the mountain of the gods, Kratos yells: “Zeus! Your son has returned. I bring the destruction of Olympus!”
It seems like Kratos realized he does have a father after all.
Can’t trust a titan either (God of War III)
Imagine waiting three years to see the resolution of a cliffhanger. Tortured by an agonizing wait, fans of the series were eventually treated to an incredible spectacle as the game pit the player against Poseidon while riding on Gaia’s back. Once the God of the Sea is brutally defeated and discarded into the ocean (appropriate), Kratos once again takes a ride on Gaia as she continues to scale Olympus. But when Gaia is wounded, she leaves Kratos to fend for himself and tells him that he is but an expendable pawn in the titans’ war against the gods. Kratos is flung down into Hades (anyone sensing a pattern here?) where he realizes he’ll have no help from the titans.
Daddy Issues Resolved (Sorta) (God of War III)
God of War III is all about revenge: revenge against the gods, revenge against the titans, revenge against the captain Kratos found in the Hydra’s mouth… you get the picture. And, in the end, Kratos gets his vengeance. He kills every deity and titan who crosses his path. When he finally gets his hands on his father, Kratos pulverizes him until the screen is blanketed in layers of Zeus’ blood. With the last blow delivered, Kratos completes the task that had been in motion at the beginning of God of War II. Kratos perpetuates the cycle that Zeus attempted to end. Son kills father yet again.
Denied. (God of War III)
Athena, in her spectral form, reveals to Kratos that when he originally opened Pandora’s Box (back in God of War I), he unleashed all the evils it contained. But alongside the evil was a stronger weapon: Hope. While the evil infected Olympus, Hope instilled itself inside Kratos. Athena informs Kratos that Hope is her weapon to use and that Kratos must hand it over. In a final act of defiance, Kratos thrusts the Blade of Olympus into his chest, offering the Hope to humanity that the gods had so callously hidden.
Cottage in the woods for two, please? (God of War)
The blood trail at the end of God of War III had fans speculating for years. Either Kratos cast his dying body off into the ocean to enjoy an eternal slumber under the roaring waves, or he escaped. Given his stubbornness and unwillingness to stay dead, we should have known better. Off-screen, Kratos escapes to the Norse wilds, marries a woman named Faye, sires a son named Atreus, and—most importantly—grows a full lumberjack beard. We never get to meet Faye, unfortunately, as her death is the impetus for Kratos and Atreus’ journey in God of War. She wants her ashes spread upon the highest peak in all the realms.
No longer your monster (God of War)
An emotional moment for fans of the series. Knowing what he must do to save his son, Kratos returns home to retrieve the Blades he had so carefully hidden under the floorboards. The flames of his Blades are the one weapon that can deal with the ice-cold enemies in Hel. But upon returning, the spectral form of Athena taunts him. She tells him that he will always be a monster. “I know,” Kratos says, “but I am your monster no longer.”
Keeping it real (mostly) (God of War)
Maintaining emotional distance from Atreus seemed to be Kratos’s strategy for the entirety of his son’s life, but something gets in the way. His reluctance to tell Atreus of his true nature actually causes the boy physical harm. The suppression of the young god’s true self brings him to the brink of death, and Kratos learns that he must be honest with his son. Kratos informs Atreus that both of them are gods to which Atreus replies, “Can I… turn into an animal?” You gotta love a good bit of foreshadowing.
But being truthful with Atreus causes problems, too. As the boy begins to get too cocky for his good, he causes them to go to Hel, where they must escape from the world of the dead. If there’s an underworld, Kratos will find a way to get there—and then escape.
The cycle is over… maybe (God of War)
To save Freya, Kratos decides to end Baldur’s life. As a willing Freya allows her son to choke her, Kratos lifts Baldur off the ground and says, “The cycle ends here. We must be better than this.” Then, he snaps his neck like a twig. But, as the prophecy goes, the death of Baldur brings about the beginning of Ragnarok. As Freya hovers over her son’s body, she promises Kratos that she will bring every violation imaginable upon him. The once friendly goddess has now become a powerful enemy that will play heavily in the events of God of War: Ragnarok.
My son, the mother of Horses (God of War)
After bonding with his son and finally making it to the highest peak in all the realms, many truths are revealed on the inner walls of the Jötunheim mountain. Atreus’s mother was the giant Laufey—a surprise to both Kratos and Atreus. But, most importantly, Atreus’s mother-given name is revealed: Loki. Suddenly, many of the occurrences throughout the game begin to fall into place. For instance, it is said that Loki is the one to assist in the death of Baldur. Most importantly, it implies the possibility of a great many things in the future. Loki is the father of Hel, Jörmungandr, and Fenrir. He’s also the mother of Sleipnir, Odin’s steed (long story). But one thing is certain, Loki has a great many enemies in Asgard.
The God of War series has many twists and turns, but the most impactful have paved the road for its narrative structure and character growth. Each moment in Kratos’s life and every decision he has made has brought the series to a head: Ragnarok. How will Kratos and Atreus navigate Fimbulwinter? Which gods will be on their side? Will Atreus become the mother of Sleipnir? Who knows. But at least we won’t have to wait anymore to find out.