Persona 3 is a fantastic game. It follows a rag-tag bunch of high schoolers as they venture into the Dark Hour, a hidden hour between midnight and the next day. During the Dark Hour, the group gains access to powers called Personas, reflections of the inner-self to fight shadows, manifestations of dark human desires. It blends this seamlessly with life-sim elements and a touching story whose themes hit like Mike Tyson.
One of its themes of death touch on heavy topics such as the loss of family and friends and the emotional impact it can have on the ones it leaves behind. You can see this through Yukari Takeba, whose father died in an accident that kicked off the game’s plot, and the unnamed main character orphaned as a young child after their parents died in a car crash.
Considering the themes of death and that personas tend to be based on creatures from various mythologies, it should be no surprise that one of the major personas in the game is the Greek God of Death, Thanatos. Welcome to a Thanatos Persona Guide
The Persona That’s Death Incarnate
Thanatos is a significant persona in Persona 3, considering how he’s a personification of death. Thanatos, or at least a being with a very similar appearance to Thanatos, caused the car accident that killed the Protagonist’s parents. The persona is given significant attention at the beginning of the game before fading into the background until the game’s final moments.
However, Persona 3 isn’t Thanatos’ only appearance. Namely, Thanatos is Elizabeth, the former-velvet room attendant’s persona of choice. We see her use it in all of her appearances following the end of Persona 3. She can be seen using it in the games Persona 4 Arena and Blazblue: Cross Tag Battle.
Thanatos also makes an appearance in the Persona 3 movies. Since the movies cover the plot of Persona 3, Thanatos’ role remains the same in both.
He’s also obtainable in Persona 5, Persona 5: Royal, Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, and Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth, but only as DLC rather than something in the story.
From a storytelling perspective, Thanatos seems to represent some in-between for the Protagonist’s soul. It’s used in a transitory process as the Protagonist goes from his starting persona, Orpheus. To his final persona, Messiah. The Protagonist’s bond with Pharos and Ryoji during the Death Social Link has Thanatos form the connective tissue between the two personas.
Read more: Persona Enemies Guide.
The Myth Behind the Persona
Hades and Thanatos often get their roles confused in mythology. Hades was the one who managed the underworld, while Thanatos was the one to bring souls there. He functioned like the Greek version of the grim reaper and had a semi-positive association, merciless in his duties, claiming the soul of Gods and men without discrimination. He was sometimes thought to be the bringer of peaceful deaths.
He was supposedly the son of the primordial goddess Nyx, alongside his brother Hypnos. Depending on your source, Erebus may be their father, or they might have no father. Thanatos featured in a few well-known stories, like the time he was outwitted by Sisyphus.
See also: Comprehensive Persona 3 Nyx Guide.
On the first occasion, Thanatos was supposed to chain Sisyphus to a boulder, only for Sisyphus to trick him into those chains. The God of War, Ares, eventually tired of no human being able to die, so he released Thanatos, who promptly dragged him to the underworld.
On the second occasion, now in the underworld, Sisyphus tricked Hades’ wife, Persephone, into letting him go back. Tired of these charades and games, Zeus sent Hermes after him this time and locked him in Tartarus, dooming him to an eternity of rolling a boulder up a mountain that would always roll back down.
That’s how we got the English word Sisyphean, which means trying to accomplish an impossible task.
The Inspiration Behind Death Itself
In the myth, Thanatos was often depicted as a beautiful man, but Atlus took a very different approach when designing Thanatos. Dressed head to toe in black leather with footless legs and a hiltless katana, this take appears to be more Atlus original than an inspiration.
Some parts of his design are emblematic of his role as a death god, such as the skull and crossbones on his belt buckle. The cape(?) of coffins at his back and his helmet, which is bone white, resembles the skull of a bird of prey.
Atlus also diverged from the source material with Thanatos’ personality. In Persona 3, he’s feral and terrifying. He tears his way out of Orpheus and slices up the Magician’s Shadow like it was nothing before letting out a roar. A stark contrast to the calm and noble Thanatos of myth.
Thanatos was likely chosen due to his relation with Nyx in mythology, who also happens to be the final boss of Persona 3. The fact that Hypnos is the persona of Takaya Sakaki, who functions as Persona 3’s Protagonist parallel, only enforces the idea that the personas were chosen based on their relation to the final boss.
Related read: Comprehensive Persona Bosses Guide.
Thanatos’ Role in the Story
Chronologically, the first time Thanatos appeared was far before the beginning of the game as Aigis chased it down, eventually sealing the incarnation of death inside the Protagonist when they were still a child. This incarnation manifests as Pharos, the ghostly child dressed as a prisoner, and later Ryoji as the actual aspect of death. This process also seemingly spawned Thanatos as a Persona, which stays with the Protagonist even after Ryoji separates from the Protagonist.
The first time the player will see Thanatos is in the animated cutscene right at the beginning of the game when the Protagonist fights the first full-moon shadow. After summoning Orpheus, Thanatos rips itself free. It slaughters the full moon shadow in a horrifying display of power before Orpheus returns.
This is pretty much the last time Thanatos shows up until you’re most of the way through the story. In December, as the Protagonist is faced with the decision to fight Nyx or forget the Dark Hour, Ryoji will actually change into the form of Thanatos as he asks you to make your decision.
This is only canon to the Persona 3 Movies, but the Protagonist does bring Thanatos to his final fight with Nyx.
Back in the realm of canon, after the end of Persona 3, Elizabeth has left her role as Velvet Room attendant to look for a way to free the Protagonist from the gate that seals away Nyx. She evidently kept the Protagonist’s compendium with her because Thanatos is the main Persona she summons.
We see her first use it to slaughter Erebus, the final boss of the 2nd campaign of Persona 3: FES The Answer, at the beginning of her story mode in Persona 4 Arena. Considering it is just a persona and not a character, it doesn’t do too much during the actual event outside the story aside from being a tool used by Elizabeth.
How to Get Your Hands on Death
Thanatos is actually one of the easiest personas to obtain. He is the ultimate persona of the Death Social Link, meaning you will need to complete it before he’s fusible. However, the Death Social Link is a story Social Link, so you don’t have to do anything special to get it. Just progressing through the game naturally will be all you need to do. It’s impossible to even fail the Social Link.
The Death Social Link belongs to Pharos, who you will meet at the beginning of the game and throughout your journey. By the time the Social Link ends, you’ll have formed a bond with the boy, and Pharos will disappear. This is because Pharos is the aspect of death sealed away in the Protagonist, and by that time in the story, its been released and later reforms into the flirtatious Ryoji.
The only hard part of actually obtaining Thanatos is you need every other persona of the Death Arcana to fuse it. The same goes for the Persona 3: FES and Portable version of the game; however, you also need to add Ghoul to the fusion recipe since he was added in those versions.
In Persona 4 Arena and Arena: Ultimax, you don’t need to do anything special to obtain him. He’s tied to Elizabeth as a character who isn’t even DLC, coming with the base game.
In Persona 5, Persona 5: Royal, Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, and Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth, Thanatos is DLC that you have to download to obtain. Notably, in the Royal version of Persona 5, Thanatos is free since he comes with the Legacy DLC Bundle, which contains the DLC goodies from the base Persona 5.
The Tools of Death’s Trade
Thanatos is a high-level persona of the death arcana. In Persona 3, FES and Portable Thanatos take on the role of a disruptive support attacker. It’s a strange style where you inflict debuffs which then finish off why a physical attack, and it’s sadly not that good.
That’s mostly due to debuffs not being that good when the only enemies that should give you problems are bosses who are immune to it. Save for the Wheel of Fortune boss who can inflict himself with fear depending on your luck. I actually instantly killed him with Thanatos, thanks to that.
Persona 3, FES, and Portable
In all the persona 3 versions of Persona 3, it reflects dark and is weak to light, and is level 67. Its skills in the base Persona 3 game are as follows:
- Megidola: Costs 65 SP, deals heavy Almighty damage to all foes. It knows this skill by default.
- Tempest Slash: Costs 13% of HP, Deals 1-to-3 hits of heavy slash damage to one enemy. It knows this skill by default.
- Evil Smile: Costs 10 SP, 40% of giving every enemy the Fear status effect. Knows this skill by default.
- Ghastly Wail: Costs 15 SP, and instantly kills all enemies with the Fear status effect. It learns this skill at level 67.
- Virus Breath: Costs 40 SP, depletes 25% of enemies’ HP, and has a 75% to give enemies the poison status effect. It learns this skill at level 69.
- 1hSwd Master: Passive, doubles the damage dealt by 1-handed sword attacks if the player has it equipped. It learns this skill at level 71.
Persona 3 also had the unique mechanic where personas would sometimes carry heart items that the play would gain when the persona is fully leveled up. Thanatos’ heart item is the Ring of Darkness, which is an accessory that grants Null Dark.
Honestly, as a persona, Thanatos isn’t that good. The best way to play Persona is to get press turns, but Thanatos lacks any way to do that. He doesn’t have any elemental attacks, so you’ll have to rely on getting critical when his best moves are Evil Smile, Ghastly Wail, and Virus Breath. You can save scum (creating a save before a specific action to redo it) from getting his heart item, which is probably the only reason you should fuse him, outside of cool factor.
In Persona 3: FES and Persona 3 Portable, Thanatos is similar to the base game but with some modifications. The first of which is that he now resists slash and strike damage alongside a reworked skill list, which is as follows.
- The skills it knows by default have changed. Ghastly Wail, Tempest Slash, and Megidola are the moves it knows by default in these versions.
- Mahamon: Cost 24 SP has a 35% chance of a light-based instant kill on all foes. It learns this skill at level 66.
- 1hSwd Master: Passive, doubles the damage dealt by 1-handed sword attacks if the player has it equipped. It learns this skill at level 68.
- Brave Blade: Cost 20% Hp, deals severe slash damage to 1 enemy. It learns this skill at level 71.
This might actually be worse than the version from the base game. It has Ghastly Wail but no way to inflict fear, so that’s one of its best strategies gone. The fact that it has Mahamon is nice, but it’s the light-based instant kill (on a dark-based persona?) with the worst accuracy, meaning it’s unreliable. It keeps the Ring of Darkness but also gives the Megidola skill card, which is neat but not enough to make it worth fusing.
In the epilogue scenario featured in Persona 3: FES called The Answer, you play as Aigis, and since Aigis uses a gun and not a sword, Thanatos got one of its skills replaced for the better. 1hSwrd Master became Maragidyne, cost 24 SP, and deals heavy fire damage to all enemies. It’s not a good skill, but it is an elemental skill, meaning Thanatos can finally hit weaknesses.
Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth
Thanatos is DLC, so you’ll have to buy access to him from Nintendo’s eShop. It’s a level 65 Persona that inherits Almighty skills, reflects Dark skills, resists Physical attacks, and is weak to Light.
- Flame Link: Cost 48 HP, A light Cut, and Fire attack to 1 enemy. Link’s damage with allies’ link skills. It knows this by default.
- Primal Force: Cost 178 HP, A heavy Stab attack to 1 enemy, ignoring their resistances and buffs. It knows this skill by default.
- Door of Hades: Cost 78 SP, One heavy Almighty attack over 3 turns with a high chance of an instant kill to all enemies. It learns this skill at level 71.
- Infinite Link: Passive, Boosts damage dealt with first hit and number of link skills. It learns this at level 72.
- Death’s Scythe: Passive, Greatly raises damage against enemies with status ailments. It learns this skill at level 73.
- Endure, Passive: Withstand any lethal attack with 1 HP remaining. It learns this skill at level 74.
- Heroic Gemini: Passive, Low chance of attack skills executing twice. It learns this skill at level 75.
- Colossal Swing: Passive, Low chance to add splash effect (damage partially hits enemies to the left and right of target) on single-target attack skills. It learns this at level 76.
A way better persona than what we got in Persona 3. It has an elemental attack, a piercing-physical skill, a butt-load of really good passives like Infinite Link and Endure, and Door of Hades, its signature skill, is super helpful. The only downside is that it’s level 65, so you’ll be either done or on the final dungeon in the game by the time you make it, so perhaps it’s not worth your money for the little time you get with it.
Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth
Thanatos is DLC, so you’ll have to buy access to him from Nintendo’s eShop. There are two versions of Thanatos. The regular version and the Picaro variant is a stronger version of the Persona.
The normal version is level 36 and of the Death Arcana. The skill that can be extracted from them is Endure Genius. Its skills are as follows.
- Door of Hades: Costs 78 SP, One heavy Almighty attack over 3 turns with a high chance of an instant kill to all enemies. It knows this skill by default.
- Megido: Costs 14 SP, and deals medium Almighty damage to all enemies. It knows this skill by default.
- All Guard: Costs 9 SP, raises defense, and protects all allies. Grants extra defense while protecting. It knows this skill by default.
- Dodge Arts: Passive, Moderately raise evasion against all attacks. It learns this skill at level 37.
- Endure Talent: Passive, Increase En by 3. It learns this skill at level 38.
- Endure Genius: Passive, Increase En by 4. It learns this skill at level 39.
A fairly good defensive persona that’s capable of dealing some damage thanks to Door of Hades and Megido. Its most valuable skill is All Guard due to the sheer amount of survivability it grants.
The Picaro version of Thanatos is level 48, and the skill that can be extracted from it is Runic Shield. Its skills are as follows.
- Door of Hades: Costs 78 SP, One heavy Almighty attack over 3 turns with a high chance of an instant kill to all enemies. It knows this skill by default.
- Megidola: Costs 32 SP, and deals heavy Almighty damage to all enemies. It knows this skill by default.
- Death Counter: Costs 32 HP counter-attacks whenever the user’s row is attacked for 3 turns. It knows this skill by default.
- Runic Shield: Passive, high chance to null Fire, Ice, Electric, Wind, Physical, and Nuke damage to user’s row. It learns this skill at level 49.
- Broadshot: Costs 68, deals heavy physical damage to 1 enemy that pierces the back row. It is stronger in boost. It learns this skill at level 50.
- Megidolaon: Costs 48 SP, deals severe Almighty damage to all enemies. It learns this skill at level 51.
It’s strange. Thanatos is meant to be an offensive persona, but they keep giving him some of the best defensive moves. Runic Shield is CRAZY. Especially if you use skills that draw enemy fire with it, and suddenly, your entire party will barely be taking damage.
Persona 5, Persona 5: Royal
Like I said above, Thanatos is DLC, meaning you have to download him from the PSN store. He’s free if you have the Royal version, but you will need to spend money if you own the base game. Thanatos has the same skills in both Persona 5 and the Royal version.
The item the persona drops from the electric chair is the Darkness Ring, which carries the Evade Curse skill. It’s level 65, and its skills are as follows.
- Door of Hades: Costs 32 SP, Deals heavy Almighty damage to all foes. Medium chance of an instant kill. It knows this skill by default.
- Maeigaon: Costs 22 SP, Deals heavy Curse damage to all enemies. It knows this skill by default.
- Mamudoon: Cost 34 SP, Medium chance of a Curse-based instant kill to all enemies. It knows this skill by default.
- Curse Amp: Passive, strengthens all non-instant kill Curse attacks by 50%. It learns this skill at level 66.
- One-Shot Kill: Costs 17% of HP, Severe Gun Damage to 1 enemy with a high chance of critical. It learns this skill at level 68.
- Fortified Moxy: Passive, Increases critical rates if you successfully ambush your enemies. It learns this skill at level 79.
- Enduring Soul: Passive, survive one fatal blow with HP fully restored. It learns this skill at level 70.
A pretty good offensive persona. It’s got a few curse-based attacks, and for when those skills aren’t working, you can just start spamming Door of Hades, and it will likely instantly kill most of anything in front of you. It’s a pretty useful skill.
The Picaro version for Thanatos is very similar, with only two skills changed. It drops the Maeigon skill card when put in the electric chair, and its two new skills are as follows.
Curse Amp becomes -> Mudo Boost: Passive, Boost the odds of a Curse-based instant kill succeeding.
Fortified Moxy becomes -> Adverse Resolve: Passive, Increases critical rate when being ambushed.
Persona 5: Royal came with the addition of special persona traits, which are unique benefits that certain personas have. Thanatos and its Picaro version have Iron Heart, which cuts SP cost in half after a successful baton pass. And during an alarm in the Velvet Room, the normal version of Thanatos gives the Darkness Ring R, which has Evade Curse and increases magic by 5
. Thanatos Picaro drops the Maeigaon skill card, and during an alarm, he drops the Demonic Decree skill card, which is a cursed-based skill that halves enemies’ HP.
Persona 4 Arena, and Arena Ultimax
Thanatos is tied to Elizabeth as her Persona of choice, and it retains a lot of its identity. Elizabeth’s gameplan and, by Extension, Thanatos’ is built upon Elizabeth having Invigorate, which will passively regenerate SP for her to use, combine that with her ability to inflict Fear, and enter Awakening state with Mind Charge and then recover the lost HP with Diarahan, she can very easily deal some of the most damage in the game. This is kneecapped by her relatively bad buttons, her reliance on meeting these risky conditions, and being tied for the lowest HP in the game.
She’s a high commital character that requires someone experienced with the system mechanics to carefully manage her risk for successful play, making her ill-suited for beginners to fighting games. Even those familiar with fighting games struggle with her due to he reliance on the game’s unique mechanics.
Those Close to Death
Thanatos’ only real key relationships come from the game he was introduced in, Persona 3. To begin, he is Ryoji: A fragment of Nyx that must return to her to make her whole again so she can destroy the world. His time spent in the Protagonist’s soul and the bond they and Ryoji formed is what gave rise to Thanatos as a persona.
It’s a very strange relationship where it’s hard to tell the exact dividing line between Ryoji as the fragment of Nyx and the persona. The two existences likely only split late into the game of Persona 3, when Ryoji manifests as his own person. This, by extension, gives Thanatos a relationship with Aigis, since it is what she was trying to kill all those years ago when she locked it away in the Protagonist.
Question: How do I get Thanatos?
Answer: Depending on which game you have, you may need to buy him as DLC as you need to do with Persona 5, Persona 5: Royal, Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, and Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth. In regards to Persona 3, you only need to complete the Death Social Link with Pharos, which progresses automatically. Since there are no Social Links in The Answer Epilogue, you can go ahead and fuse Thanatos once you meet the required level.
Question: Who is Thanatos’ inspirations?
Answer: Thanatos was inspired by the Greek God of the same name. The actual inspiration personality and character-wise are loose, if not non-existent, but Atlus likely choose Thanatos due to his relation to the game’s themes of death and how well he thematically fits with the rest of the game’s characters, like being the brother of Hypnos and the son of Nyx and Erebus.
Question: Does Thanatos appear again in the series?
Answer: While yes, Thanatos does appear later in the series, it’s usually as non-canon DLC. The only time he does have some bearing on canon events is in Persona 4 Arena and Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, where he is used by Elizabeth on her quests to free the Protagonist of Persona 3 from the seal holding Nyx.
We End It Thus
Thanatos is a really cool persona. From the first time he was seen in the animated cut scene, he really left a mark on me. This savage thing hidden inside the calm and meek protagonist breaks free, and attacks with ruthless abandon. The only sad part is that Thanatos is honestly kinda rare in the grand scheme of Persona 3’s story. The beginning is the only time we see Thanatos until the tail end of the game.
At least his rarity in his home game is made up for with his slew of DLC appearances in the rest of the series. The fact that he’s Elizabeth’s persona of choice does say something touching about the relationship between the attendant and the one she served.