Like it or not, God of War III marks the end of the Kratos saga. We see a prequel with God of War: Ghost of Sparta, which will be next in the lineup of editorials featuring all of Kratos kills, but in God of War III, Kratos dies. Theres certainly speculation about another installment, and people coming back from the dead in Greek mythology is hardly unheard of, but for now Kratos is no more. We shouldnt plan to see our Spartan warrior again, but neither should we be surprised if we do. God of War III also features the single longest list of kills of any of the games, as well as the most impressive as Kratos tackles the entire Pantheon, killing the top three gods and all their underlings/children. And as with every other game, he starts off the butchery with something grandiose.
God of War III
Poseidon and Kratos have a history. Kratos destroys Atlantis, the city dedicated to Poseidon, in Ghost of Sparta, and though it might have been his greatest affront, it certainly wasnt his first or last. The way that Kratos destroys things associated with the god of the sea, whether it be a statue or a follower, is almost disdainful, like he considers water an afterthought. He never openly challenges Poseidon like he does with Zeus or Ares, but hes always messing with his junk. The opening fight of God of War III would prove to be one of the most epic fights of the entire series, and would prove that no one was beyond the reach of Kratos chained blades.
Mythologically, Poseidons history is vast. He was one of the top three gods, second only to Zeus in the Pantheon and arguably the most powerful of the trio of Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus, given his dominion over the most abundant resource on the planet. He was also father to some of myths greatest heroes, including Theseus (who Kratos also killed). The death of Poseidon sets a tone for God of War III. It also sends a messages to the other gods: anyone can die.
Peirithous is a figure most people wouldnt know from Greek mythology, and indeed hes even easy to overlook in the game itself as he is not a boss fight so much as a means to an end. The end is the acquisition of the Bow of Apollo; the means: Peirithous over a raging fire. In mythology, Peirithous was a son of Zeus and friend to Theseus, often adventuring with the more known hero and even doing a bit of womanizing with him. His greatest mistake was coveting the wife of Hades, Persephone herself (who Kratos had already slain by the time he meets Peirithous), and it was Peirithous attempt to journey to the Underworld and kidnap her that caused Kratos to find him in his eternal plight; encased in stiff brambles and unable to escape his hellish prison. Kratos frees him, then kills him. Such is the way of the Ghost of Sparta.
Possibly even more than Poseidon, Hades has a major chip on his shoulder in regards to our pal Kratos. As mentioned in a previous installment of Every Kratos Kill Ever, once upon a time Kratos journeyed on down to the Underworld and put a blade or two into Persephone, the unwilling wife of Hades. Whether or not there was any real love between the god and his goddess is debatable, but at the very least the possessive, manly type that Hades is would not have stood for such disrespect from a lowly mortal.
The Hades of God of War is actually quite different from most of his mythological depictions. In the game he is shown as a very physical, warrior type with a gladatorial aesthetic to him. In other mediums hes usually shown as something more devilish or death-like, appearances befitting his role as ruler of the Underworld. His status as one of the sons of Cronos is important because it means that hes one of the most powerful beings alive. He does seem quite powerful in God of War III, as his twin chain scythes possess the ability to drag even the biggest titans soul right from its body. Naturally, Kratos can defeat this soul pulling with a little mashing of the shoulder buttons, proving that even the most powerful abilities are weak in the face of Kratos fury (and the players finger dexterity).
Poor Helios. We knew even before God of War III was released that he would die. There were trailers depicting it, a demo showcasing it, and a plethora of screenshots showing our boy ripping off the sun gods head with his bare hands. Its a gruesome and painful way to die, even for a god. We first met Helios in Chains of Olympus, where he got smacked out of the sky and kidnapped by the vengeful Persephone.
Mythologically, Helios is often mixed up with Apollo, the other sun god. The God of War series never chooses to include Apollo in their games, aside from a bit of weaponry nomenclature here or there, leaving us with this watered down version. It is Helios who drives the chariot of the sun across the sky every day. Without him, even gods slip into the realm of Morpheus, god of sleep. Oddly enough, after Kratos rips off Helios head, people dont just start dropping off into deep slumbers. Apparently if hes kidnapped, things go to hell, but if hes just killed, everythings peachy.
The Hermes fight is an interlude in God of War III thats nearly comic in its relief. Kratos chases Hermes down, which is difficult given Hermes possesses the speed of wind itself. He dashes around like a manaic, until finally Kratos catches him and brutalizes him horribly, cutting limbs away as though they were branches on a dead tree. Hermes himself was indeed a god, the son of Zeus and Hera, but was really just their messenger boy. He scampered all across Greece in the role of a glorified mailman, and while he did plenty of godly breeding and partying, he never really does the kinds of godly things we associate with the rest. Thankfully, he does have some redeeming qualities being also the god of thieves and liars, but none of these skills help him against the god of serial murder that is Kratos. His end is grisly, and as with so many young men these days he is killed for a simple pair of shoes.
There is little doubt that Hercules is the most well-known hero in Greek mythology. Hes a household name, even in the 21st century, and whether this is due to Kevin Sorbos immaculate representation of him in the 90s, or to the Disney movie that enshrined him in a classic series of films, is irrelevant. The fact is, hes popular, and theres a reason for it. Hercules twelve labors stand as some of the best reading in Greek mythology, and his story has both elements of tragedy and victory in it, much like our Kratos.
In God of War III, the fight between Kratos and Hercules is set an arena, and it is a battle of brothers. Hercules opens the match accusing Kratos of being Zeus favorite, something anyone who has been following the story would scoff at, but Hercules was never known for his wits. Hercules actually does a fair job of withstanding Kratos blades, but when he starts getting arrogant and posturing to the crowd, Kratos shows him just how useful his hubris is, ripping away his gauntlets and using them to smash the heros head into pulp.
How does a man-sized man, even one as ferocious as Kratos, slay a titan, a being whose fingernail is twice as big as its attacker? Cronos is the size of a skyscraper, and though old and burdened with an entire city on his back, remains a nearly invincible foe. Not even Zeus could properly slay the supreme titan. But Kratos does, and in some of the most brutal ways youll probably ever witness in a video game. Cronos is actually the father of Zeus, and his two brothers, and it was the original war between the newer gods and the titans that provides much of the impetus of God of War III. Its all irrelevant to Kratos, he just wants revenge, but it provides a good background for him to travel about in. The myths about Cronos vary. In many instances, Zeus chops him up and scatters him throughout the realm of Tartarus so that he can never again rise to power.
In the Kratos-verse, he is chained and forced to carry around the labrynth in which Pandoras Box resides (which fans might remember from the very first game). This time Kratos needs a simple stone from within the body of Cronos, but even after acquiring said stone, he doesnt stop. Oh no, he doesnt stop.
Its difficult to call Hephaestus a god. He is certainly of godly lineage, and his ability to create masterwork weapons and armor is nothing short of godly, but he does not act like an immortal. In nearly every myth, hes a cringing, hideous crybaby who, despite marrying the most stunningly beautiful creature in all of mythology, still manages to secrete an aroma of the pathetic. In God of War III, he is large, imposing, and a complete coward. Kratos pleasures his wife, multiple times for those of a seedier nature, forces him to create a weapon, and then shocks him to death with it. Hephaestus attempts a bit of trickery, but it amounts to nothing as Kratos wins and the god of forges loses again.
In mythology, Hephaestus is known for a few things. He is the ugly god, the crippled god, the god of forges, and the god who managed to win Aphrodite, despite her protests. Even in his victories, he loses as Aphrodite blatantly and openly has multiple affairs with Ares, and probably countless other mortals and/or deities. Heck, even I tapped that.
If you thought Kratos was too noble to kill a woman, you were certainly wrong! He kills several women in God of War III, though Hera is the only immortal. Theres no boss battle. She doesnt fight it. She gets drunk, and he snaps her neck, using her body as a weight to solve the puzzle of her gardens. Not a great ending for the Queen of the gods. I suppose the worst part is that no one even tries to come to her defense. Is Kratos really so frightening? Wait he actually is.
Mythologically speaking, Hera was no warrior. She was the godly equivalent of a housewife. She looked the other way on most of her husbands dalliances, and kept his throne room nice and cozy for his return. Its interesting from a gender standpoint to see that many of her children were accorded high places of power, particularly Athena and Artemis, but Hera herself never displayed any kind of destructive prowess at all. Maybe that was also the point. Shes depicted in God of War III as a matron, somewhat aged, but still rockin a sleek dress and some flashy bling. Also note, do not insult Pandora. I repeat, do not insult Pandora.
At the end of God of War II, Kratos made an alliance with Gaia to overthrow Olympus. This alliance carries into God of War III, and indeed Kratos begins the game astride her back as she climbs the great mountain. But she gets trecherous, and when the time comes tosses him off on the long plunge into the Underworld. From then on all bets are off, and Kratos is at war with everyone.
In the mythology, Gaia is actually the mother of all life. Cronos, Uranus, Zeus; they all owe their existence to her extra-large womb. She was born first of everything and created it all to suit her needs. In God of War, she seems to have a lesser role, though she certainly does manage to lead the titans in Cronos absence. She is depicted like we might expect, however, with Earthen tones and trees and shrub growing all over and around her. She also narrates the entire saga, until God of War III when Athena takes over. In the end she dies, like everyone else, and not even through any direct interaction but simply for getting in the way of Zeus and Kratos duel.
Zeus is an odd character to have as an antagonist. I suppose this makes sense as Kratos is an odd hero. Throughout most of Greek mythology, Zeus is the father figure, the kind, bearded god that mortals and immortals alike looked to for inspiration or assistance. Sure, he dabbled in a few extramarital affairs, and not every god loved him (a few conspired to overthrow him), but he is what we imagine when we think of mythology. He sits on a cloud throwing lightning bolts. The Zeus of Kratos world isnt that much different, honestly. He is bearded, his eyes glow, he hurls bolts of lightning. Im not sure he ever sits on a cloud, but he might as well (sounds comfortable to me).
However, hes much more villainous than in anything Ive ever seen him in. He hates. He hates Kratos, for sure, but he seems to hate just in general. We never see him smile or break scowl for anything. In the end, we would see that this hate came from the evils released from Pandoras Box. His battle with Kratos spans games, and despite his status as father of the gods, he eventually falls to the sheer unstoppable force that is the Ghost of Sparta. Their final battle spans four stages, takes on various forms, and ends when the player says it ends (literally, you can sit there for days smashing the guys face in if thats your thing). The death of Zeus basically destroys the world, and despite ghost-Athenas interventions, its all in limbo as to how the world of that mythology will continue on, or if it will at all.
In the end there was really only one way for Kratos to go. Perhaps ideally it would have been in battle, the way that any true Spartan seeks death, but the saga of Kratos was hardly ideal for him or anyone in his path. Would anyone have guessed that he would take his own life in the end? Probably not. It seems a melancholy way for a man of such passion to flicker out, but he certainly had his reasons, and better a blade through his chest than a slow withering into old age (if such a thing were even possible for whatever type of being Kratos had become by the end).
Perhaps its also the only fitting way that Kratos could die. No one else could kill him, no matter how hard they tried or how many monsters they threw in his path, no one could do it. Maybe in the end, the only person who could kill Kratos, was Kratos himself. Whether you like it or not, its a poetic conclusion to one of the greatest epics in video game history. And while many question as to whether he actually dies, given the post credits scene of God of War III, a scene that shows him being dragged off by an unknown body-snatcher, at least for now our hero of Sparta has passed on into whatever twilight realm heroes of his stature belong to.