God of War Ragnarok's inspirations come from a surprising source

God of War collector's edition, Kratos shouting
(Image credit: Sony)

God of War Ragnarok might be a fantastic showcase of modern AAA gaming, but its gaming inspirations run deep.

God of War Ragnarok director Eric Williams discussed the games that helped shape his vision for the PS5 action adventure in an interview with IGN. All five are NES titles, some of which you can play right now via Nintendo Switch Online's streamable NES library.

Williams' picks range from predictable, to some rather deep cuts. He opens with The Legend of Zelda, stating that "playing in the woods as a kid made this game feel so familiar and fantastical all at the same time."

His other choices are actually a good deal more interesting, though. Williams also cites Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!, SNK slugger Baseball Stars, cult classic brawler River City Ransom and – perhaps controversially – Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest, a game series fans consider to be the early black sheep of Konami's kooky spooky franchise.

Feeling inspired

best PS4 games: Kratos turning to look at the camera in God of War Ragnarok

(Image credit: Sony Santa Monica)

Williams' selection of inspirations might seem odd at first glance, but he does explain his reasons behind each one more than adequately. "This game had a salary system that taught me the fundamentals of stats and economy systems, he says of Baseball Stars, for example.

Other picks don't come as much of a surprise. River City Ransom (known generically as Street Gangs in Europe) was quite ahead of its time. The game featured a non-linear world, unlockable moves and upgradeable stats. Its influence can be found to this day in works like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and the series' successor River City Girls.

Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest was similarly thought more outside of the box for its time. But arguably not for the best. The game feels pretty archaic by today's standards with its confusing overworld, cryptic progression and an infuriatingly-coded day/night cycle. Still, the game wasn't without promising ideas that would later be fully realized in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and other 'metroidvania' style games.

These NES games might be as old as the hills by today's standards, then, but it's clear they're still deeply influential. Even for modern AAA games that couldn't be further removed in terms of scope and budget. We're sure that many more of the best PS5 games took some retro inspiration, too.

Rhys Wood
Hardware Editor

Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.