Best Ways To Play the God of War Series

    How to play through the God of War saga in 2023.

    Has the launch of God of War Ragnarok gotten you in the mood to revisit Kratos’ previous adventures and play the God of War series? Are you nostalgically revisiting his violent rampages in Greece? Perhaps you jumped in with the advent of the Norse saga in God of War (2018) and you’re interested in seeing the Ghost of Sparta’s past for the first time? Either way, this guide will tell you the best methods to access and play the God of War series preceding Sony Santa Monica’s most recent release. We’ll even address what order you should play them in!

    Official Ways to Play the God of War Series in 2023

    The God of War saga began with the release of the first game in 2005, exclusively for Sony’s PlayStation 2. Shortly after, God of War II was released in 2007 for the same system. These titles were later given an HD remaster on the PS3 just before their 2010 successor God of War III. This same remaster collection was later ported to the PlayStation Vita. These games and their respective consoles are all out of print, but are available for purchase secondhand and can be played in their original form. Sony’s modern consoles, PS4 and PS5, don’t feature backward-compatibility with PS1-PS3. So how does one play the first three games in the series without breaking out retro hardware?

    In the case of God of War III, a remastered port was released both digitally and physically for PS4 in 2015. As a result, it can be enjoyed natively on either PS4 or PS5. The first and second God of War games were unfortunately never ported beyond the PS3. However, there is a way to play select PS3 titles on PS4, PS5, and even PC through the highest tier of Sony’s subscription service PlayStation Plus.

    PS Plus tiers

    PlayStation Plus Premium gives users access to the “Classics Catalogue” which includes titles from PS1, PS2, PS3, and PSP. The PS3 HD remasters of God of War and God of War II are both featured within. Unfortunately, PS3 games are only playable through streaming and aren’t available for download. Streaming a game means depending on your internet connection and location, varying amounts of input delay (or “lag”) and visual distortion can occur. Your experience could be nearly perfect, or things could look and feel much worse than the game would if running on your console.

    PS Plus Premium allows users to stream the first two God of War games from PS4 and PS5 consoles, as well as PC. The service is available for $17.99 a month, $49.99 for three months, or $119.99 for a year. A free seven-day trial is also available for select users (likely players who are new to PS Plus).

    The God of War series also saw four spin-offs. God of War: Betrayal is the biggest departure from the signature gameplay style of the franchise, and was a 2007 2D mobile game. Regrettably, like many pre-smartphone mobile games, there’s no official way to access Betrayal. God of War: Chains of Olympus and God of War: Ghost of Sparta play much more like their PlayStation 2 progenitors, and were released for the PSP in 2008 and 2010 respectively.

    The last spin-off was God of War: Ascension, which was released to mixed reception in 2013. Ascension is a prequel that featured a competitive multiplayer mode and was the last game released in the Greek saga before a five-year hiatus and the release of God of War (2018).

    Like the first two games in the franchise, the PSP God of War titles received a PS3 remaster. Contrarily though, God of War: Chains of Olympus and God of War: Ghost of Sparta are not currently available on PlayStation Plus Premium. The only official way to play these two games currently is to play their original releases on PSP, play their remasters on PS3, or play them digitally on PS Vita. God of War: Ascension, on the other hand, is available to stream through PS Plus Premium.

    God of War 2018

    Lastly, there’s God of War (2018). Taking the God of War series in a new direction narratively and using an over-the-shoulder camera angle to ground the game’s action, God of War (2018) was the shot in the arm many thought the series needed after the perceived stagnation of Ascension. This title kicks off the Norse saga of the franchise that sees its conclusion in God of War Ragnarok and is available natively on PS4, PC, Steam Deck, and through backward-compatibility on PS5. If you own a PS5 and at least a base-level PlayStation Plus subscription, you’ll be able to download and play this game as a perk.

    God of War Ragnarok is out now and can be purchased physically or digitally for PS4 and PS5. PlayStation has only just recently changed its tune on how exclusivity works for their first-party titles, releasing games for PC after varying delay periods. It’s assumed that God of War Ragnarok will eventually come to Steam, but it’s unlikely to happen until at least 2024.

    Unofficial Ways to Play the God of War Series in 2023

    If your internet connection isn’t the strongest, or if you live in a location that doesn’t allow for an adequate play experience through PlayStation Plus Premium, there are unofficial ways to play the God of War series without latency or visual streaming artifacts. These methods also make some of the titles that were only available on PlayStation consoles playable on PC and Xbox Series X|S, though you’ll still need your own PS2 and copies of the games to remain on the right side of the law.

    God of War Ascension key art w/ Kratos in chains
    You don’t want to end up like this.

    Through emulators PPSSPP (PSP), PCSX2 (PS2), and RPCS3 (PS3), legacy titles God of War, God of War II, God of War III, God of War: Chains of Olympus, God of War: Ghost of Sparta, and God of War: Ascension are playable natively on PC. In the case of the PS2 games, to legally set up the emulator you will need to dump the BIOS (firmware) from a PlayStation 2 console that you own.

    The PSP and PS3 emulators however have no such requirement. To legally emulate any of these games, you’ll also need to own copies of them to make backups (ROMs). Please note that the distribution of these ROMs, whether uploading or downloading, can get you in trouble; make your own copies of the games from the ones that you’ve purchased.

    These emulators will allow you to play the games with various visual enhancements, including higher resolutions than their original PS2, PSP, and PS3 releases. Due to the demanding nature of emulating the PS3, you’ll need a fairly strong computer to effectively emulate titles for that system, and while Ascension isn’t available on modern consoles, God of War III Remastered on PS4 or PS5 will likely be a better experience than emulating that entry, specifically.

    Though both PlayStation and Xbox diehards may find it sacrilegious, PPSSPP and an Xbox-specific PS2 emulator, XBSX2, can both be installed on Xbox Series X|S, allowing God of War, God of War II, God of War: Chains of Olympus, and God of War: Ghost of Sparta to be played on the PS5’s rival consoles. XBSX2 has the same need for a BIOS as PCSX2, so you’ll need to own a PS2 system to power this emulator too.

    God of War: Betrayal, the aforementioned 2007 mobile game, isn’t available for purchase and has no physical release. As a result, sadly, there is no legal way to play or emulate this entry.

    What Order To Play the God of War Series In

    A thank you from Santa Monica Studios on God of War’s 17th anniversary in 2022

    This is debatable! If you’ve ever seen a guide online for watching a television or film series, you’ve probably seen threads or pages of arguments, with all sides having their own reasoning for what order to enjoy their favorite franchise. It’s subjective, but regardless, I wanted to make a case for the two ways I find the most appealing.

    Release Order

    1. God of War
    2. God of War II
    3. God of War: Chains of Olympus
    4. God of War III
    5. God of War: Ghost of Sparta
    6. God of War: Ascension
    7. God of War (2018)
    8. God of War Ragnarok

    This order would have you play the games as if you were following the series from its inception, experiencing each title as it launched. I believe this method will lend itself to enjoying each game for its contribution to the evolution of the core elements of God of War: action, puzzles, spectacle, mythology, gore, and Kratos. Conversely, playing the games in the order that their stories fit in the timeline would have you jump back and forth from games where problems had been ironed out, visuals had been improved, and fun new mechanics had been added, to titles from before those changes.

    Each game, as they were developed and released, built upon the foundation of the game before it. This is true even when the PSP titles required compromises to work on less powerful hardware. The stories (including prequel stories) were written with the context of games that had previously come out, so you’ll be experiencing the plotlines as they were created, too.

    Story Order

    1. God of War: Ascension
    2. God of War: Chains of Olympus
    3. God of War
    4. God of War: Ghost of Sparta
    5. God of War II
    6. God of War III
    7. God of War (2018)
    8. God of War Ragnarok

    In the spirit of God of War II‘s ending flowing directly into God of War III‘s intro, as well as God of War (2018) and Ragnarok‘s single-shot camera style where everything happens in order, this method has you play the game as the events in the story would occur. Your first two stops on this journey will be God of War: Ascension, the game with perhaps the most ambitious set design in the series, and then Chains of Olympus, the first title on a handheld weaker than the PS2.

    If you’re not someone who struggles to appreciate the visual presentation of older games, you’ll likely be able to tolerate this whiplash just fine. You’ll gain a clearer understanding of Kratos as you experience the events of his life in chronological order. Having more buildup before the climactic bloodbath that is God of War III should add even more impact to that entry’s plot as well.

    God of War III concept art battle

    In Conclusion

    Regardless of the way you end up playing the God of War series, you’re in for a great time. It’s rare to find a franchise where every entry so far is considered at least “good”. The lowest a game in the series has ranked thus far on Metacritic is God of War: Ascension and even that received a favorable aggregate score of 80. We hope this guide has assisted you in visiting (or revisiting) the origins of Kratos and his struggles against the Greek gods of Olympus. Stay tuned to Final Weapon for more guides, news, and reviews!


    BusterSwordBoy is a video game enthusiast who writes about them here, plays them live on Twitch, and talks about them endlessly to anyone who will listen. Subjectively believes that the PS2 is objectively the greatest console of all time, but also loves games from far older hardware, and new releases as well.

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