Fight Club and The Incredible Hulk actor Ed Norton was a key inspiration for the appearance of Kratos in the original God of War.
In the latest issue of Retro Gamer magazine, God of War director David Jaffe explained how Norton's portrayal of neo-Nazi Danny Vinyard in the 1998 crime drama American History X helped narrow down Kratos' look. Jaffe says that while watching the movie - in which Norton appears shirtless and with a shaved head - his ex-wife said "I hate to say this because he's a scumbag Nazi, but [Norton's] fucking hot."
That comment spurred Jaffe's eventual design for Kratos. He claims that it had previously never occurred to him to have a blad, half-naked protagonist, especially since that would differ from depictions of the Spartan warriors that the character is linked to, who kept short hair before puberty and grew dreadlocks and braids later in life.
While the God of War team took plenty of creative licence to help make Kratos "look Greek enough," one key element was his iconic tattoo. Retro Gamer explains how art director Terry Smith and concept artist Charlie Wen came up with a design based on the Greek key motif. Smith says that that design "is something that you would see in a comic-book hero. But you're creating this ancient Greek god or superhero, so you can't exactly put him in Spandex."
While visually striking on its own, Kratos' stripped-back design also had its drawbacks, as the God of War began to blend into the melee during intense fight scenes. Inspired by Dante's cape from Devil May Cry or Hotsuma's scarf from Shinobi, Jaffe decided that Kratos needed his own gimmick.
That gimmick came from level designer Jo Wright, who came up with the idea of tethering Kratos' swords to his arms. Jaffe outlines how "she started explaining how we could put particles on them and light them up and swing them around, so wherever you were you would always see the chains”. Another idea for the blades was for them to "bite" into Kratos' flesh when sheathed, but this idea eventually had to be scrapped in favour of making the fire "look more robust".
Kratos' design has continued to change over the years, all the way up to his bearded, nordic look in 2018's soft reboot of the series, but it's interesting to learn that it was Edward Norton who kicked off that process.
Kratos is still kicking nearly 20 years later, so here's everything we know about God of War Ragnarok.