Top 100 Games of All-Time: #76

God of War

Release Date: April 20, 2018

Platform Played On: PS4

2018 Placement: Unranked


What It Is:

God of War was a series that took the video game universe by storm when the first game released on PS2. It’s a setpiece-filled action romp with tons of combos and cool weapons. I remember being utterly blown away and wowed by the hydra battle, which is basically the intro boss so there was so much more to come after it. However, as the series progressed the protagonist Kratos became more and more of an asshole, to the point that he was one of the most irredeemable figures in gaming because all he did was be angry and violent and murder in his quest for vengeance. God of War became not fun because the character was not remotely likeable or interesting anymore.

Queue the reboot in 2018 where Kratos is now older, wiser, and a father hiding out in Norse country. The character is the same and you can tell the rage is still there, but time has passed and suddenly he’s a worthwhile protagonist again mostly due to his relationship with his son, Atreus. Armed with the Leviathan Axe, one of the coolest weapons in all of gaming, you set out on a trek filled with action and adventure to spread Kratos’ recently deceased wife’s ashes – a very “small” story compared to the previous iterations of “kill God” as the main plot.

Why It’s Important To Me:

I’m a huge fan of mythology (Greek in particular) so the original God of War was one of my favorite games for a long time (before my distaste for Kratos as a character mildly ruined the series). I was so excited to see Greek myths and characters in 3D action. And while mythology has gotten a little more widespread in games now, I still have a special place in my heart for this series. This version moves on from Greek and started interweaving Norse mythology, which was pretty sparse in video games before this.

But really there’s so many things to love about this game: the story is top-tier and the interactions between Kratos and Atreus over 20 hours of gameplay are just phenomenal. The Leviathan Axe just feels amazing to use: it’s so satisfying to throw and recall and all of its attacks feel like a natural, fluid extension of Kratos. The game’s cinematography is also gorgeous: the entire game taking place in one long one-shot camera take which, while not as hard to do in a game as a movie, still makes the cinematic presentation of the game second to none. But most importantly: it took a character that everyone thought had nowhere else to go and gave him more depth that anyone thought possible. It’s just a damn fine video game that raises the bar both mechanically and artistically.

My Strongest Memory:

There are two: the first is meeting Jormungandr for the first time. Yes, it was in all the trailers and advertising material for the game but it was still such an impressive and wondrous moment to boat out onto the lake and have the giant world serpent rumble up and speak in a deep, untranslatable language. Just dwarfing Kratos and Atreus. I think that was when I was truly wowed by the game’s presentation and thought “oh this is going to be amazing, isn’t it?”

The second one is when the Blades of Chaos make their return. Kratos’ signature weapon from the first three games don’t appear until the second half of the game and the entire sequence leading up to him acquiring them again is just absolutely fantastic dramatic storytelling. It’s a moment that doesn’t exist without the previous God of War games that turned Kratos into a vile scourge. The game uses the distaste people had for Kratos’ actions so well in showing his development and change between the last time we saw him and now. It’s powerful and a testament that video game characters can be allowed growth if developers and writers don’t want to just iterate and make the same game over and over again.

Why It’s #76:

Again, we’re getting into the territory where every game I talk about I’m going to have nothing but glowing things to say. God of War is a masterpiece of video game storytelling and direction. It’s in the running for the overall best game of the last generation of consoles just by sheer quality. So why is it #76 and not #1? Well, it’s missing the personal connection for me. Playing God of War is like watching an Oscar-winning film, appreciating the cinematography and acting, and going “yeah, I get why that won awards.” But it’s missing the connection of the movies I’ve watched 50 times because they’re my comfort food, or trigger other memories in my life. That’s all.