After a long four-year wait, God of War: Ragnarok is finally upon us. Its predecessor, Santa Monica Studio’s God of War, is considered one of the greatest games of its generation, reimagining the original God of War formula and taking the series’ cinematics and storytelling to new heights.
But the one thing that all GoW games have in common are those visceral, often vomit-inducing kills and ass-whoopings Kratos dishes out throughout the series. There is no shortage of savage beat-downs to choose from, but here are our top ten most brutal God of War moments (so far).
Helios (God of War III)
Kratos and Helios had a complicated past leading up to their final encounter in God of War III. Kratos spent most of God of War: Chains of Olympus searching for and saving the sun god. But when Kratos and the Titans wage war on Olympus in GoW III, he and Helios meet again as enemies. Helios pleads for his life but Kratos, as he’s likened to do, shows no mercy.
The kill itself is easily one of the most brutal in the history of video games, let alone God of War. Kratos stomps Helios in the neck multiple times before wrapping his hands around the wounded god’s skull and yanking it right off of his shoulders…just not very cleanly. As Kratos pulls and twists you can see in nauseating detail Helios’s neck literally ripping apart. And as Kratos holds up Helios’s decapitated head, it lets out a final wail of agony as the power of the sun emanates from the eyes and mouth. Doesn’t get much more brutal than that.
Baldur – First Encounter (God of War 2018)
The 2018 reboot of God of War changed the DNA of the franchise in transformative ways, and the opening act of the game set the tone for the series’s new direction, showing Kratos as a dutiful father, leading a quiet life in the wilderness with his son, Atreus. The tranquility of that set-up is shattered completely with the introduction of Baldur. Kratos refuses to engage Baldur’s taunts at first, but what at first seems to be a mild misunderstanding soon escalates into an all-out god vs. god slobber knocker in the snow.
What makes this fight so brutal is how intimate, detailed, and up-close-and-personal it is compared to every other fight we’d seen in the series to that point. Kratos and Baldur beat the living crap out of each other, which isn’t anything out of the ordinary. But the generational jump to the PS4 allowed the developers Sony Santa Monica to get the in-game camera closer to the action than ever before, upping the graphical detail to the point where we can see drops of blood drying on Kratos and Baldur’s faces as they wince and strain during their literally earth-shattering clash. In this case, the brutality is in the details. There are no dismemberment or beheadings going on here, but you can feel every punch, and you can see the pain in the combatants’ eyes.
Poseidon (God of War III)
The boss fight with Poseidon that opens God of War III is all about perspective.
Battling with the god of the sea on his ascent up Olympus to take revenge on the Pantheon, Kratos puts a beating on Poseidon until he’s rendered all but defenseless. Then, the camera switches to a first-person view from Poseidon’s perspective as we watch Kratos relentlessly pulverize him. In a truly horrific moment, Kratos essentially sticks his thumbs into our eyes until they pop. Super gross. Then, the camera switches back to third-person just as Kratos throws Poseidon’s carcass off of Olympus. Honestly, though, it’s the eye thing that sticks with you.
Zeus (God of War III)
Like God of War III’s, opening boss fight with Poseidon, Kratos’s ultimate showdown with Zeus utilizes a first-person perspective, only this time we see things from Kratos’s point of view as he swings his Blades of Chaos at his father, beating him into submission.
It’s the culmination of Kratos’s war on the Pantheon, and the game gives Zeus’s death its just due. Staying in first-person perspective, the game allows you to punch Zeus’s face into oblivion, to the point where the screen is completely soaked in his blood. It’s one of the most monumental deaths in franchise history, and definitely one of the bloodiest.
Theseus (God of War II)
On his way to seek an audience with the Sisters of Fate in God of War II, Kratos engages Theseus in what is actually a largely forgettable boss fight in which Theseus spends an inordinate amount of time perched atop a giant doorway, shooting sparkly projectiles at Kratos while his minions do all the dirty work.
He soon gets his comeuppance for sitting on the sidelines, though, when, at the end of the battle, Kratos impales Theseus with his own double-bladed sword and then slams his skull in the aforementioned giant doorway until it turns to mush. It’s not the most cinematic kill you’ll ever see, but it’s brutal and badass nonetheless.
Elephantaur (God of War Ascension)
There isn’t much to say about this one other than it’s insanely violent and might be one of the more underrated executions in the series. The Juggernaut/Elephantaur is a humanoid elephant mini-boss that you face in God of War: Ascension. The fight is nothing special gameplay-wise (hack, slash, QTE kill), but make no mistake; this is one of the most unnerving kills in the series if you let the true horror of it sink in.
First of all, the creature is way too pachydermal for comfort. It’s supposed to be humanoid, but it just looks like a jacked elephant walking on its hind legs. This isn’t disturbing in and of itself, but when Kratos gets it in a headlock and starts stabbing it in the skull repeatedly, things get really uncomfortable. The Elephantaur let’s out wails of agony that sound eerily realistic, and then Kratos takes his blade and splits the creature’s head wide open, revealing the pulsating grey matter inside. Something about this kill just feels wrong.
Hercules (God of War III)
Kratos vs Hercules in God of War III is the heavyweight matchup of a lifetime, with the two demigods beating each other to a pulp in a good old-fashioned fistfight. Kratos steals the deadliest boxing gloves ever, the Nemean Cestus, straight off of Herc’s hands and uses them to beat the oversized brute bloody.
In the end, Kratos uses the Nemean Cestus to bludgeon Hercules in the face repeatedly, eventually smashing his head straight through the floor, dropping them both into a dark pit where Herc meets his gruesome end. It’s an absolutely savage fight to the death between two muscly megabros. What’s not to like?
Magni (God of War 2018)
The boss fight with Modi and Magni in 2018’s God of War sees Kratos and Atreus engage in a two-on-two brawl with Thor’s appropriately beefy offspring. Beyond being an engaging battle gameplay-wise, Modi and Magni being played by Nolan North and Troy Baker, respectively, adds a layer of depth and drama to the proceedings.
Magni’s death comes in the blink of an eye and almost feels cursory, but its suddenness actually makes it all the more effective. Kratos buries his Leviathan Axe in Magni’s face, which is devastating enough. But the real kicker is Modi’s reaction as he screams in agony at the loss of his brother. It’s not often you feel sympathy for Kratos’s victims, but this new era of God of War seems to approach violence with more emotional complexity than earlier games in the series.
Hydra (God of War 2005)
Homage must be paid to the very first boss fight in God of War history: Kratos’s larger-than-life clash at sea with the Hydra.
At the time of the game’s release, the scene was mind-blowing. The scale was massive, the combat felt insanely tight, and the level of violence was exceedingly high for the time (Mortal Kombat was obviously a thing, but ultraviolence in adventure games was a rarity). The fight set the tone for the rest of the game. Kratos using his blades to stab the hydra through the damn mouth with the ship’s mast became an iconic visual that drew millions into the GoW universe and launched a franchise that, 17 years later, is as strong as ever.
Baldur – Final Encounter (God of War 2018)
Unlike the first encounter with Baldur in 2018’s God of War, Kratos’s final battle with the scorned god of light is intensely personal. The curse placed on Baldur by his mother Freya has been lifted thanks to Atreus, so when Kratos and Baldur lock up this time, the stakes are sky high.
The fight itself isn’t really the point here. What makes this moment such a punch in the gut are the moral and emotional implications of the actions of everyone involved. Freya’s essentially ruined her son’s life by being overprotective and robbing him of all feeling, and Baldur has no room left in his heart for anything but vengeance. When he decides to end his own mother’s life, she concedes…but Kratos intervenes, ending the “cycle” of generational hate and war once and for all. There have been far more violent deaths in the series, but Baldur’s is easily the most emotionally charged and will likely have a profound impact on the surviving characters moving forward.