Advertisement

The best Assassin’s Creed games, ranked: from Black Flag to Odyssey

 (Ubisoft)
(Ubisoft)

For 15 years, Assassin’s Creed has allowed gamers to sneak, stab and strangle unsuspecting victims in historical locations across the world: from Ancient Egypt to Victorian London by way of Renaissance Italy.

Ubisoft’s flagship series has made its own gaming history, becoming one of the best-selling video game franchises of all time (as of September 2022 the franchise had sold more than 200 million copies) as well as one of the most lauded.

Not all of them have been hits, of course: for every Assassin’s Creed 2 there’s an Assassin’s Creed Unity, about which the less said, the better. As the Assassin-y universe continues to expand, here are all the games from the main franchise ranked from worst to absolute killler.

Assassin’s Creed (2007)

 (Ubisoft)
(Ubisoft)

It’s a mark of how good the franchise went on to become that the first AC game is the lowest-ranked on this list. Number one, which follows assassin Altaïr as he sets out on a mission to regain his honour, introduced the concepts of what would go onto become really great mechanics (such as, say, the actual assassination) but would ultimately be perfected by the legendary AC 2. At the time, the gameplay and world were impressive; these days, not so much. Best avoided.

Assassin’s Creed Rogue (2014)

Clearly Ubisoft were running out of ideas for Rogue: step-for-step, this feels like a pale imitation of Black Flag, without the engaging storyline. You do play as a Templar for most of the story, rather than an Assassin – which could be intriguing, but ends up being surprisingly boring. Onwards.

Assassin’s Creed 3 (2012)

AC 3 is a testing ground for the ideas that would become great in Black Flag – here they feel very underdone. Despite the intriguing premise – playing as Connor, the half-British, half-Mohawk Master Assassin in 18th-century America – the game fumbles the catch spectacularly. The baddies are laughably bad, the quests are almost always boring and the narrative surprisingly unclear. Also, it’s very buggy: an entry best forgotten.

Assassin’s Creed Unity (2014)

The game that has gone down in history as the buggiest AC entry of all time – not a great moniker, and overall Unity fails to live up to its promise. It’s set in Revolutionary France, which should be an open goal, but protagonist Arno is eminently forgettable, the enemies are just as bland and the story is muddled. That said, the Animus glitches that let you hop through time to Paris in the First World War and the Middle Ages are Unity’s saving grace.

Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood (2010)

The second game in the Ezio ‘trilogy’ moves the action to Renaissance Rome – and despite staying there for the entirety of the game, there proves to be a surprising amount to do. For instance, there’s an Assassin School to be built, tombs to find, and (of course) multiple assassinations to carry out, though the mechanic that lets you essentially recruit assassins feels a bit contrived.

Assassin’s Creed Revelations (2011)

Revelations is a bit of a mess. The third installation of Ezio’s story brought the action to Constantinople, among other places, in his quest to finish the Templars once and for all. It sounds promising, but the game failed to introduce any meaningful development in terms of combat or stealth mechanics. The minigames are unnecessary, the side-quests feel cluttered – but still, getting to zip around the city on all the handily-placed zipwires is fun.

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate (2015)

Is there any place more atmospheric than Victorian London? Syndicate makes full use of its gorgeous setting, telling the story of gangster twins Jacob and Evie Fry. Sneaking around factories, racing horse-drawn carriages down the street and being sent on assassination missions by Charles Darwin are all the order of the day, complemented by a gorgeous soundtrack. Plus, the addition of a grappling hook lets you swing around the city like Spider-Man.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (2021)

The problem with RPGs is that they can get awfully bloated – and with up to 200 hours of gameplay, Valhalla suffers from a serious case of bloat. This is still a fun game, even if the setting of Viking-era Britain is a tad uninspiring, location-wise. The series leans harder into fantasy than ever before, but Valhalla manages to blend it with the historical setting in a believable way; loot feels more earned and replacing the quests with ‘world events’ that impact the map and story makes it feel much more engaging. But it’s just so long.

Assassin’s Creed Mirage (2023)

Originally conceived as a DLC (expansion pack) for Valhalla, Mirage was eventually spun out into its own 18-hour game – and thank goodness for that. It tells a villain origin story for Basim, Valhalla’s antagonist, but the true joy of Mirage is running through ancient Baghdad and revelling in the combination of modern-day graphics with old-school AC mechanics, which bring the focus back to stealth rather than open combat. Though, if you’re seen, there’s plenty of that too.

Assassin’s Creed Origins (2017)

After years of stagnation, Origins breathed fresh life back into the AC series – by making it a more adventure-style RPG as opposed to a level-based stealth game. Set in a truly huge open world, it was packed with things to do, people to meet (including Cleopatra and Julius Caesar) and fun new combat mechanics. Ancient Egypt is beautifully brought to life (in fact, AC games have rarely looked this pretty) and the story’s central narrative – that of honourable soldier-turned-assassin Bayek – is pleasingly tragic. And did we mention how excellent the trailer is?

Assassin’s Creed 2 (2009)

The game that launched the franchise into the mainstream – and though its graphics look decidedly dated now, the story still holds up. Both Venice and Florence are a gorgeous setting for any video game, and getting to wander through them as Ezio as he sets out on his stabby quest for revenge is a joy. AC2 set the standard for all the games that followed: the stealth-based mechanics, the dynamic assassinations, the improved mobility and parkour. No wonder people keep coming back to it – plus, where else do you get to fistfight the pope?

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (2013)

Assassins, but make them pirates. One of the first games to veer away from the stealth kill aspect of the series, it instead just took its protagonist Edward Kenway and made him a buccaneer sailing the high seas in search of loot. With truly unparalleled ship combat (improved upon from the third game), islands to plunder and four (four!) pistols to use in the heat of fighting, Black Flag is as its best when it gives full rein to the players’ imagination. That said, the less said about the plot, the better.

And the winner is... Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (2018)

Released in 2018, this tells the story of Kassandra (or Alexios), a mercenary with a magic dagger who sets out on a quest to destroy an evil cult. The huge open world is simply jam-packed with stuff to do and baddies to defeat; there are living myths walking around and the ship combat is good fun; also bonus points for finally (finally!) introducing a female lead character. Assassin’s Creed excels at bringing the past to life, so simply to wander around Ancient Greece is also a treat: chef’s kiss.