The most epic boss fights in the God of War series

God of War was never about being subtle. While the series does explore interesting themes including anger in the face of loss and the danger of reducing a psyche down to a single emotion, it has always expressed itself in the loudest overstatement possible. Protagonist Kratos doesn't just kill: he annihilates anything in his path. Who wants to open a door when he can smash it open instead? If Kratos needs light, he doesn't get a lamp: he rips the head off the Sun God, Helios. Because of course.

A key to all this overstatement is scale. Huge locations, enormous enemies, and stakes that are as high as Mount Olympus. The series has been epic at every turn, infusing even minor moments with a hugeness that would make other games weep. So when it came time to design the boss battles, did the games' developers go small? Oh, no: they went as big as they could, as often as they could. Whether because the story had built the tension to near-unbearable levels for this particular fight, or because the consequences of the fight were so grand, or even because the boss monster was just that enormous, these are the most epic boss fights in a series that never seemed to run out of epic sequences, in ascending order.

Thanatos fights not one, but two Spartans

Originally made for the PlayStation Portable and later released for the PlayStation 3, God of War: Ghost of Sparta involved Kratos' search for his brother, Deimos. Kratos discovers that his old enemy, Ares, had snatched Deimos from the mortal realm and handed him over to Thanatos, the Greek Primordial God of Death. Thanatos imprisoned and tortured Deimos for years. Kratos, naturally, determines that he will find and kill Thanatos, because that's what Kratos does.

After battling, and then reconciling, with Deimos, the two Spartan brothers eventually reach Thanatos and challenge him together. The player thus gets to control two mighty warriors for this battle: Kratos as usual, and Deimos through a simple button prompt. Fighting alongside the estranged brother you have spent hours of gameplay trying to find, against the very God of Death himself: now that's a pretty epic moment.

But this being God of War, it wasn't epic enough! Thanatos soon grows from his mere human form into a gigantic creature, pitting the Spartans against an incredibly powerful force that fills the entire screen. The battle, of course, ends in Kratos' favor, as he reduces Thanatos back to human form, where he finally wreaks death upon the God of Death himself. But the casualties don't stop there: Deimos, too, is slain, after being freed from years of torment. It's not a happy ending. But it is pretty epic.

The Kraken is far more than just a fight

The legendary Kraken is an enormous, tentacled creature with a gaping maw hellbent on devouring Kratos. It lurches out of the sea, wrapping its tentacles around columns for support, stabbing and even vomiting at the Spartan from a towering height. Kratos can only defeat it by dodging the beast's piercing limbs until he can hack them off one by one; then, as the beast falls, Kratos has to use a moving bridge as a spear through the Kraken's mouth, which erupts in a geyser of blood.

And even still, this apparently wasn't epic enough on its own. So at the same time, Kratos encounters the last surviving Spartan, who then reveals to him that Kratos has been betrayed! Zeus himself, the King of the Gods, has descended upon Sparta and destroyed the entire city. We see this in a cutscene in which a colossal Zeus stomps and smashes his way through the entire city. Epic enough yet? Of course not! Because Kratos then enters a vision in which his wife enlists him for a final battle against all the gods of Olympus; except this isn't really his wife, but Gaia, Mother of the Titans. Whew! After all that, killing a giant sea creature doesn't seem so tough!

This is a battle that looms large over the entirety of God of War II, not just for the sheer size of the boss and his battle, but because of the massive story revelations that are layered onto it. And just in case you forgot, that geyser of blood at the end ought to cement it into your mind.

The Stranger (Spoiler Alert!)

It's safe to say Kratos has made his fair share of enemies throughout the years, and the primary antagonist of the 2018 God of War "reimagining" on the PlayStation 4 is no exception. You've barely found your footing in the game's new and northern setting when The Stranger (Thor's brother, the Aesir Baldur) arrives unannounced to your tranquil abode. This tattooed and tattered-looking Norseman knows who (and what) you are — and apparently you know something he wants to know (although it will take you the entirety of the game to find out precisely what that is).

Despite Kratos' best efforts at a peaceful life with his son Atreus, he's forced into conflict with this Stranger, who won't leave until he's killed. Although his bark at first seems bigger than his bite, you'll come to discover this pugilist has more than enough scrap in him to tussle with the ol' Spartan rager. Supposedly, The Stranger can't feel pain. And throughout the course of the initial encounter (this won't be the last), you'll go to great lengths to discover that supposition for yourself by putting The Stranger's superhuman speed and agility to the test. Before you know it, you're bashing the interloper around the far corners of the battlefield, over (and through) terrain, using hulking trees, your house, and a chunk of the very mountain itself as weapons against him. The result is a cinematic battle experience that proudly stands among the epic boss fights of the Greek era.

The Sisters of Fate can't escape their own doom

In classical Greek mythology, the Sisters of Fate wield more power than even the gods themselves. From their loom, they weave the very strands of destiny, locking every single person, whether divine or moral, into their future. Many myths involve wretched souls trying to change their fate, only to find that their own efforts doom them into the tragedy that was foretold. There is no escaping the Sisters.

So Kratos just kills them.

In one of the more involved combat encounters featured in the entire series, Kratos must square off against not one, but two Sisters of Fate. The first Sister, Lahkesis, can fly and shoot energy from a distance, forcing the player into a difficult game of dodge-and-counter. This would be tough enough on its own, except Lahkesis summons her sister Atropos into the mix. Atropos goes the extra mile by taking Kratos back in time: specifically, to the final boss battle of the first game! Kratos (from the present) must ward off an attempt to sabotage Kratos (from the past) in order to preserve his own life, and more importantly, his quest for revenge.

A duel across two Sisters of Fate, two times, and two Kratoses is a pretty huge undertaking for developer Sony Santa Monica to tackle, but they pull it off brilliantly in one of the franchise's most memorable encounters.

Poseidon is an ongoing battle across multiple sections

God of War III remains the most overstated game in a whole franchise built around overstatement. The Spartan's first foray onto the HD PlayStation 3, God of War III pulled out all the stops to become the biggest and most grandiose experience it could possibly be, and in so doing, the bar was set for sheer bigness in gaming. So how else could the game start but with an entire army of Titans climbing Mount Olympus so that Kratos can destroy the gods? And for an appetizer, Kratos takes on one of the most powerful of all gods: Poseidon, Lord of the Sea.

For a fight this big, Sony Santa Monica chose to construct this battle in a very different manner. Typically, a boss fight will just be an encounter in a large space between the protagonist and the boss; while it may go through a few stages, there's nothing between the start and end of the combat. Here, however, Kratos' battle with Poseidon is split up into various pieces, intercut with platforming, combat with normal enemies, and even puzzles. The overall effect is to make the battle appear larger, longer, and more epic than it already would be.

The fight itself involves Kratos dueling a kind of nightmare synthesis of maritime elements: an enormous 'shell' that Poseidon wears that is equal parts horse, crab, squid, and of course, water. In the end, however, Kratos pierces this huge form and snatches the human-sized god out from its heart. This does not end well for the God of the Sea. Or, indeed, the people of Greece: once Poseidon is dead, the seas rise and drown the world.

Hades and his battle are the stuff of nightmares

You might be thinking: wasn't the God of Death already on this list? Yes, but there's more! While Thanatos is an older god, Hades is the 'contemporary' Lord of the Underworld. And as he reminds Kratos when they meet in God of War III, the Spartan has killed off a number of his family. And so, Death and the fallen God of War must battle to the … death. Obviously.

The battle in question is like a living version of a Rodin or Bosch depiction of hell: writhing, intertwined human figures form the backdrop of a confined space where the two enemies slug it out. As the battle continues, the walls light into flame as the dreadful nature of the realm of Hades seeps into the very room. Meanwhile, the God of Death himself is represented as a scarred, boiled, practically melted thing, a combination of all the forms of death one might suffer. Oh, and he's big. Very big.

Eventually, Kratos rips away Hades' own chain-hooks, which he proceeds to use for the rest of the fight. These hooks can grab the very soul of an enemy and tear it from his body; Kratos turns this ability against Hades, killing Death himself. But doing so releases the endless spirits of the dead from the underworld, infesting the living world above.

A nightmare of hell from the most tortured mind, brought to life in a video game. That's terrifying. Except it's epic.

Hraezlyr (The Dragon of the Mountain)

Although Santa Monica Studio's 2018 offering to the God of War series doesn't feature the greatest number of boss battles in franchise history, it does feature a few of the most memorable. Point in case: the Dragon of the Mountain, Hraezlyr (aka the Mountain Terror).

Kratos' quest to reach the summit of the Midgard mountain will find him face to face with this Dark Souls-inspired dragon monstrosity of epic proportions. While you're aboard a rickety wooden ascending the mountain from within, Hraezlyr will rear his ugly head to terrorize you. This first phase of the encounter is easy enough to survive, but the combination of the enemy's size and the suspenseful setting (pun intended) result in a quick and deliberate taste of the tension to come.

Once you reach the top of the mountain, the real fight begins. Not only is Hraezlyr huge — one of the largest bosses in God of War history, no less — he's vicious, ugly, and shoots lightning out his mouth on top of the requisite bag of tricks like clawing and biting. You'll use this electric discharge to your advantage as you hurl Yggdrasil tree sap crystals at his gaping maw, exploiting the dragon's rather volatile nature. The epic coup de grace comes when Kratos stabs Hraezlyr in the throat with an appropriately oversized sap crystal. Kratos — much like any seasoned God of War player — emerges relatively unfazed. But we've got one shockingly good story to tell.

Skorpius comes out of nowhere

Typically, a boss fight in God of War has a certain amount of build-up. Kratos may see the monster or have some sense of it long before he engages in actual combat with it. But the Skorpius fight goes in the other direction. As Kratos is navigating his way through the Labyrinth, which is mostly a platforming section interspersed with a few small fights, the Queen of the Scorpions skitters in unexpectedly. Up to this point, there was no indication that she was here; indeed, she is not otherwise a character in this universe at all. Who knew there even was a Queen of the Scorpions? Why is she in the Labyrinth? No time to wonder: there's a boss to beat!

The Skorpius fight itself requires a high degree of dexterity from the player, since most of her attacks can't be blocked, and the fighting space is relatively small. In addition, the creature's armor is a type that can only be cracked with a specific weapon, which locks the player into a fighting style different from other bosses. This is a lot of fight tucked into a gameplay sequence that is, effectively, a sprung trap and a total surprise.

Pandora's Guardian gets up close and stays there

Towards the end of the original God of War, there's an extended puzzle and platforming sequence in an area of Pandora's Temple dedicated to Hades. Once solved, in the huge central room there are a pair of double-doors way in the back, being hammered … hammered … hammered. The beat is a warning to the player, a declaration that something is trying to get in. Something big. Something angry. Maybe almost as angry as Kratos.

When the moment finally comes, the game does not disappoint. The beast that bursts through can barely fit through the doorframe: an enormous minotaur clad in iron armor. Despite its size, the creature can bound across the room at great speed, so that Kratos can never have any breathing space. All around, lava falls in streams from the ceiling. And the key to defeating the beast is a strange device that the player would have discovered quite some time earlier: a lever that, when pulled, fires a projectile across the room.

That's a whole lot going in in a very confined little space, where Kratos has practically no room to maneuver. It's one of the most up-close-and-personal battles across the entire franchise, with a creature whose armor breathes flame, no less. And for all that, the opening cutscene shows the creature, which is gigantic, being stared down by the comparatively tiny Kratos. The Spartan may be a rampaging killer. But he is pretty cool.

The Colossus of Rhodes can only be defeated from within

The Colossus of Rhodes begins as nothing more than a statue behind Kratos as he helps to destroy the island nation at the beginning of God of War II. But a quick stab of energy from the goddess Athena, and the statue springs to life. Kratos spends the whole of the opening sequence of the game intermittently battling the living statue, which is so large as to be unbeatable even for the Spartan, who is now the God of War himself. He can hit it with his blades, and even stab it in one of its eyes, but it just keeps on going.

Kratos escapes from it time and again, mixing up the gameplay with platforming, combat encounters with smaller enemies, and even a sex scene with not one, but two ladies (priorities!). When he does encounter the Colossus directly, they are in large, open spaces where Kratos can maneuver enough to avoid the statue's attacks while getting in a few hits of his own. Kratos' primary assaults, though, come in the form of cinematically breathtaking, if mechanically simple, quick-time events. The whole thing gets the franchise's first sequel off to a roaring start that pushes the then-phasing-out PlayStation 2 to its very limits.

In the end, not even Kratos can defeat this being in a conventional way: he has to travel inside the statue and solve an extended platforming/puzzle section, thereby destroying the Colossus from within. The Colossus fight is, indeed, a colossal achievement, and one of the most memorable moments in the whole franchise.

Ares and the battle for the title of God of War

The franchise is called God of War, but who exactly that title referred to changed throughout the series. But back in the beginning, it was the original Greek divinity himself, Ares. Kratos, desperate for martial victory, had sold himself into servitude to the war god; yet Ares betrays him by sending him into a rage that kills his own family. For the whole of the first game, Kratos hurtles towards his revenge.

Did you think he wasn't going to get it?

The final battle of the first God of War is a lot of things wrapped into one: it's the culmination of Kratos' antihero's journey; it's the pivotal moment that dooms the gods of Olympus forever, and which is referenced again and again throughout other games; and it's big. As in, Kratos grows to physically gigantic proportions to fight an equally monstrous god. The scale of this event is manifested in their actual scale.

Ares is a difficult opponent, as all final bosses should be, and the fight includes a moment in which it appears that Kratos has lost. But he rallies and eventually triumphs, killing the very God of War and claiming the mantle for himself. Which brings us back to the question: who does the game's title refer to? Ares, or Kratos?

Zeus and the end of the beginning of it all

So at the end of the first game, Kratos kills the God of War. How can it ever get more epic than that? Simple: by killing the King of the Gods himself, Zeus. At the start of God of War II, Zeus deceives and betrays Kratos, stripping him of his hard-won divinity and killing him. Game over!

Except, it isn't, because Kratos isn't the kind of guy to let a silly thing like death get in his way. The rest of the game is a bloodbath as Kratos sets his sights on one goal: claiming his revenge (again), this time on Zeus instead of Ares. After many battles (some of them on this list) and changing fate itself, Kratos returns to the land of the living and challenges the King of the Gods.

Kratos and Zeus do battle, and in the process, Zeus grows from human size to a monstrous scale and back again. It weaves together everything the player has learned so far. It's a classic final boss battle, except that once again, the game surprises the player. At the critical moment, when Kratos is about to kill Zeus and ensure his own victory, the goddess Athena sacrifices herself to save Zeus. The King of the Gods escapes. Kratos has failed, and what's more, killed the only ally he had on Olympus.

Zeus, in other words, escapes to fight another day; specifically, as the final boss in the next game as well, God of War III. In a way, then, this boss fight is an entire game long. Epic enough for you?

Cronos is everything in the franchise, all in one

Of all the physically large characters and monsters across the franchise, and there are a lot, the biggest was the defeated Titan Cronos. In the first God of War, he is more location than person: Pandora's Temple is chained to his back, and Kratos spends a large portion of that game there. But in God of War III, Cronos meets Kratos face-to-face. And he is not amused. Cronos has been banished to the Pits of Tartarus, and he blames the Spartan. And so, Kratos must do battle with a being the size of a living mountain.

In a franchise defined by grandiose scale, this is its crowning achievement. Again, the raw size of Cronos makes him more of a location than a monster, and the battle itself reflects this: Kratos spends a good portion of this fight platforming on the being he's fighting. But that location moves and shifts, so that one moment Kratos may be running flat, the next climbing up a vertical wall, and the next hanging from a suspended ceiling: and all of that is just Cronos' hand.

Combining platforming, small combats, quick-time events, and pure spectacle on a (literally) titanic scale, the Cronos battle is not only the single most epic boss fight in the God of War series, but one of the most epic encounters in all of gaming. The entire sequence is a testament to Sony Santa Monica's unique ability to weave different design elements into a single magnificent achievement. It's just so God of War.