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The gates of Hades have never held me!

–Kratos

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The Underworld.

Greek Mythology

In Greek Mythology, the Underworld was a misty, gloomy, and volcanic realm where all Mortals were judged in the afterlife and were either rewarded or cursed. It wasn't, however, called Hell, since even nice and virtuous souls were sent there after death, although the Underworld was split into different parts: the Elysian Fields, the River Styx, and Tartarus. Heroes of the ancient time dwelt in Elysium (Isles of the Blessed), and was ruled by the God, Hades.

In the God of War Series

Throughout the series, Kratos journeyed to the Underworld numerous times, but always eventually made it out.

God of War: Chains of Olympus

After he restored life to the Fire Steeds, Kratos was taken into the Underworld. While journeying through the dark realm, Kratos met and fought Charon on his boat along the River Styx. Charon managed to subdue Kratos and knocked him off his boat unconscious into the Pit of Tartarus, where the Titans were held. While he attempted to escape Tartarus, Kratos came upon the area where the mighty Atlas was supposedly imprisoned, and only discovered it empty: someone had released him. Kratos was eventually able to escape the dark pits of Tartarus, where he faced Charon once again and defeated him.

After he took Charon’s Ferry, Kratos followed the sunlight of Helios down the River Styx and came upon the Temple of Persephone. After he believed it to be a hallucination, Kratos saw his daughter, Calliope, on the shorelines of the temple playing her song on the wood-made flute that he made for her long ago.

Tracking her movements, Kratos finally arrived at the entrance to the Elysium Fields, where Calliope was kept. Instead of meeting his daughter, Kratos was welcomed by Persephone, who told him that in order to see his child, he would have to surrender all of his Powers to become worthy of entering Elysium. Kratos was finally able to hold his daughter in his arms again, but their reunion was short-lived when Persephone revealed her true intentions. She would obliterate everything by using Atlas to destroy the Pillar of the World. Kratos, after he was forced to leave his daughter, gained back his powers by murdering the resident virtuous souls of Elysium, and followed Persephone to the top of the pillar where they then fought.

Persephone fought Kratos and while she momentarily overwhelmed him, the Spartan managed to overcome her. However, before Kratos could finish her, Persephone used a spell to coax him into going back to his daughter which left him open for an attack from Atlas who had been called by Persephone to end the battle. But after he regained his senses, Kratos avoided the strike and used the Gauntlet of Zeus, took the chains of the pillar and bound the Titan, which stopped his interference. Kratos once more engaged Persephone by using the Sun Shield and the Gauntlet of Zeus. The Spartan defeated the Goddess who, while she died, stated: "You will never be free Ghost of Sparta." With that, she exploded, and the Queen of the Underworld was destroyed along with half the pillar. Atlas was still bound to the what remained of the pillar was forced to uphold the world on his shoulders forever. The Titan cursed Kratos for his deeds and asked why he would faithfully serve the Gods after what happened to him. The Spartan replied that by following the Gods, they would relieve him of the nightmares from his past sins and said that it was all he had to keep him going. Atlas laughed at the warrior's answer while he said that they would meet again as The Fates already deemed. Because of his actions, Kratos saved both Mount Olympus and the World from being destroyed, and helped Helios return to the sky. However, the journey and battle had left him weakened, but Kratos was saved just in time by Helios and Athena, and was taken to Suicide Bluffs where they took back their possessions, left the unconscious Spartan on the hills, and were thankful for his deeds.

God of War

After Kratos finally retrieved Pandora's Box, Ares learned of that and threw a pillar from the ruins of Athens far into the Desert of Lost Souls where it pierced Kratos through the chest. As he slowly died, Kratos watched helplessly as Ares' Harpies took the Box for their master.

Kratos fell into the Underworld along with many other souls. However, he did not give up so easily, and quickly grabbed onto the Captain of the ship that he was on at the beginning who had gripped onto the ledge of what appeared to be a massive bone. That same person was the man whom Kratos allowed to be swallowed by the horrific Hydra in the Aegean Sea. Kratos stabbed the ship's Captain, climbed on top of the bone, kicked him off the edge into the river, and was ready and willing to reach the surface of the Mortal World once again.

During his journey through the Underworld, Kratos encountered creatures that were engulfed in flame, which were the strongest that he had faced yet. Large, axe-wielding, and demonic Minotaurs appeared in all sorts of hellish areas, and screeching Harpies attacked Kratos while he tried to cross and climb paths of rotating blades. Eventually, the Spartan Warrior managed to escape the clutches of the Underworld and was rescued by the Grave Digger, who provided him a means to escape.

The depiction of the Underworld in God of War was very different from its successive appearances later on, where most, if not all, of the landmarks were made of some kind of flesh and bones, as well as rotating blades with blood stains all over them. Below the falling Mortals lain the River Styx, which was depicted as being a current that was so strong even the most powerful Mortal could not escape it; however, the river itself was obscured by a red mist.

God of War: Ghost of Sparta

In his quest to find Deimos, Kratos made his way into the Mounts of Aroania, where he had an encounter with King Midas, who quickly fled at the sight of the Spartan. Later, Kratos found himself in the volcanic caves of the mountain where he again met with the weeping king, but that time, Kratos overlooked him from the other side of the river of molten lava that he knelt on. In his madness, Midas had a mirage of the Underworld and the River Styx, which led him to think that he was dead, and thus, placed his hand in the supposed water (which was actually lava), and burned his hand off. Midas then quickly fled in pain and agony.

God of War II

After Zeus killed Kratos with the Blade of Olympus, the Arms of Hades surfaced and reached out to Kratos’ corpse. Bringing him down with them, Kratos was met by Gaia who gave him the opportunity to resurface and change his fate. The wound that was left by the Blade of Olympus in his chest was healed, but was scarred over, and Kratos opened his eyes. Climbing upon the walls of the Underworld, Kratos was powerful enough to overcome the arms which tried to pull him down.

The depiction of the Underworld in God of War II was similar to God of War, but not very much of it was seen in the game. Kratos’ main goal was to escape by jumping from wall to wall and destroy the Arms of Hades. When Kratos resurfaced, the ground in which he climbed from the Underworld was put back together by a supernatural force.

During the fight with Icarus, Kratos fell into the Underworld, where Atlas still held the World upon his shoulders. The River Styx below him was still covered in the same red mist that was shown in God of War, but that time, it was like a lava river instead of a blood river. He climbed the Titan's hands and loosened the chains that bound Atlas. After a brief tussle and exchange of power, Atlas helped Kratos reach the Palace of the Fates.

God of War III

After the beginning sequence of the game, Kratos was unable to hold onto Gaia. He then fell into the River Styx and lost the Blade of Olympus in the process. He was left seriously injured and deprived of his Godly Powers. While he swam, Kratos was attacked by the souls of Hades, who took his health, magic, and even damaged the Blades of Athena. He cursed the name of Zeus, and, at that time, the Ghost of Athena appeared to him. She told him how to destroy Zeus by destroying the Flame of Olympus. She took the ruined blades and transformed them into the Blades of Exile. While he traveled in the Underworld, Kratos encountered Peirithous, who was tortured by Hades in a cage of bramble for presumably having an affair with Persephone. Peirithous offered to give Kratos the Bow of Apollo, but Kratos freed Cerberus to incinerate Peirithous and saw no need to keep him alive. He acquired the Bow and continued his quest. After he climbed a cliff, Kratos encountered The Three Judges. Kratos needed to complete the Trials of Erebus to have an audience with the Judges. Kratos ventured to the Palace of Hades where Hades awaited him. After the death of Hades, the souls of the Underworld were free from his will and escaped to the Mortal World. The realm that once belonged to Hades became a desolate place where hopeless spirits roamed forever in despair. While the people above still died, and the Three Judges destroyed, the souls were never judged or found peace.

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Trivia

  • The depiction of the Underworld in God of War III differed substantially than in previous installments. It was considerably more faithful to the Underworld in Greek Mythology. Overall, the appearance of the Underworld was much more natural. It appeared as a much darker place and the River Styx had a more transparent appearance instead of the blood red color that it had in the previous games. Yet, it was similar to God of War where the souls of the dead constantly fell.
  • It was unknown what happened to Kratos' body in the first game when he was impaled by a giant pillar that was thrown by Ares as he was seen falling into the Underworld with no abdominal scars and then seen crawling out of the Underworld via the hole that was left by the Grave Digger. It was possible that it was Kratos' soul that fell into the Underworld and became a physical being when he escaped. The body that was left in Pandora's Temple may have been eaten by the Harpies or was destroyed by some other means.

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