10 Best Assassins Creed Games Of All Time
10. Assassin’s Creed: Chronicles (China/India/Russia)
In theory, these Chronicles games should’ve been brilliant. The basic idea was to take Klei Entertainment’s side-scrolling take on the stealth genre, Mark of the Ninja, inject all the weaponry and historically-accurate AC trimmings and release them episodically, each taking the player to a new location not used in the triple-A editions of the franchise. You can just picture Ubi’s developers drawing up a list of locations they’d eventually get round to using, and although it’s Chronicles’ gameplay that lets it down, the visual flourishes and aesthetics for each set of levels remains a highlight.
That gameplay though, and like the main canon’s latter batch of releases, the execution just wasn’t there. It doesn’t help Ubi that Mark of the Ninja is an absolute masterclass in animation and mechanical execution; a perfect mix of ability upgrades and item iteration across a healthy runtime. By comparison, putting AC on a 2.5D plane only highlighted how much the series only really flourishes when you have options in an open world.
In fairness to the ideology behind such a genre-swap, there is a cool, arcady feel to piloting the various heroes across each level, and some novel mechanics such as first-person sniping segments in the Russian episode to help differentiate further. Sadly, for all its intentions and each episode’s identifying factors, the Chronicles games just aren’t that fun to play.
9. Assassin’s Creed: Unity
The go-to barrel-scraper itself, Unity should’ve been the best of the bunch. Touted as a return to the stealth-focussed original, melee combat was streamlined to remove the OTT group-kill animations the likes of Edward Kenway and Connor had used beforehand. Graphics were absolutely superb too, with some outstanding dialogue and performances from Dan Jeannotte and Catherine Bérubé as leading couple Arno and Elise, respectively.
Sadly, like AC III, Unity was a victim to both overhype and a lack of providing the goods at release. A risky idea to make like Tenchu Z and take stealth online for cooperative multiplayer didn’t pay off for a second, tanking Ubisoft’s servers as the game literally couldn’t run, the reality being a release that just hadn’t had enough time in production
In the end, the Xbox One version had to be completely replaced through a 150GB patch, an unprecedented cockup of timeless proportions that would paint AC in such a negative light, you wouldn’t find a single soul excited for Syndicate’s release the following year.
In fact, you can argue that Unity was the shotgun to the foot that put down Assassin’s Creed’s already shambling momentum; a truly historic entry in gaming history for all the wrong reasons.
8. Assassin’s Creed III
Whether it was through series fatigue on the fan or developer side, AC III arrived to lukewarm receptions across the board. For gamers it was the first time we’d moved on from Ezio’s titles in three years, and although the opening segment had within in a killer plot twist (you were playing as a Templar the entire time), it marked the first time AC truly started to feel like it could careen off the rails at any time.
The aforementioned opening sequence went on for a good 45 minutes, which just felt like padding once you got to the meat of the tale; a brilliant narrative set during the American Civil War, but that cast you as the era-appropriately-named Ratonhnhaké:ton, or Connor for short. The problem came after all this preamble (providing the Haytham Kenway stuff hadn’t made you run for the hills beforehand), as the game itself was the epitome of joyless busywork.
AC III’s story took a backseat as we were introduced to a Homestead-building mechanic that literally didn’t go anywhere. Graphics and general performance were lower than ever, with texture-pop present at all times, frame-rates tanking the experience and the general feel of play just not offering anything new. An Ubisoft interview at the time described Connor as being such a fearsome warrior in battle, that “enemies didn’t stand a chance” – a statement that made you question the very idea and point of Assassin’s Creed as a stealth franchise.
7. Assassin’s Creed: Rogue
The one year when we all went “Alright guys, it’s getting a bit much”, 2014 had Ubisoft try to release two ‘triple-A’ main instalments in the canon at once. We were already reeling from the annual rollout from for the previous five years, and Ubi had decided that rather than wait and take some time off, they’d instead deliver a dedicated next-gen instalment on new hardware, alongside a tried n’ tested iteration on Black Flag for the older machines.
Sadly it completely backfired as far as Unity was concerned, but Rogue was the sort of standard AC experience you already knew and loved. The game engine was exactly the same, with innovation coming in the form of Shay Cormac; an assassin who was rebelling against his own Order, setting up a cool concept – if not much else – as you attempted to dispatch assassins for a change.
In addition, Ubisoft fleshed out the amount of weapons on offer including an air rifle and grenade launcher, as well as delivering another large-scale map that favoured exploration and chasing the horizon. Sadly, whilst all these things came together into a solid enough package, its reliance on being so utterly formulaic and stagnant resigns it to the the bottom half of the lis
6. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
“Alright guys, your new weapon for this year is… the hookblade! It’s a blade, but you can use it to hook onto wires to traverse the environment.”
Seriously, back in 2011, you could hear the crickets resonate around the world at this announcement. For all the weight being put on Revelations as the finale of Altair and Ezio’s timelines – and the fact it already had one of the coolest trailers of all time in the run-up to release – when it came to what Ubisoft were pulling out the bag for such an important instalment, the result was a wet fart so loud, it’s still reverberating around the franchise’s history to this day.
Coming after Brotherhood helped Revelations immensely, as such a buildup of goodwill ensured even though there were gameplay shortcomings from a lack of innovation and the inclusion of pointless side-modes like tower defence (why!?), this final chapter closed out both characters’ stories in a truly touching way.
By contrasting Ezio’s advancing age with Altair reconciling himself to isolation until the end, Ubi managed to tell a tale that subtly pulled at your heartstrings, reminding you just how far the series had come, before putting a bow on everything to that point and prompting you to look to the future for what was coming next.
5. Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate
Potentially the last Assassin’s Creed we’ll ever see, depending on how much The Division takes off and whether Watch_Dogs 2 can make a foothold on the mainstream. Syndicate saw the Black Flag team return to the fore for their crack of the whip, actually pulling off a solid experience yet again.
If it had been any other year, or if Unity hadn’t soured things so much, this would’ve been regarded as the best yet, but instead it existed merely to bandage over the open wound that was the series’ reputation in 2015. Thankfully, the actual feel of gameplay was back to the front of the experience, with a world map positively stuffed full of things to do.
Victorian London was finally given the AC treatment, and that meant everything from accurately-rendered Buckingham Palace gates to the fur on the guards’ heads being perfectly modelled – an attention to detail that extended across all of The Big Smoke’s smoggy streets and cobblestone pathways.
The only problem with Syndicate was that it felt too much like it was designed by committee. More exemplary voice acting and crowbarred-in modern day cutaways were very much intended to address everything wrong with Unity, and for as much as that all came together objectively, it was ultimately a soulless, business-minded design choice that limits its appeal in the long run.
4. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
After AC III, it didn’t feel like Ubisoft knew where to take the series. Tailing, eavesdropping missions and slowly creeping towards a target with half-baked detection mechanics were now more by the numbers that Sesame Street’s bat-counting segments – basically, we were collectively checked out.
Then, Ubisoft revealed an ultra-cool protagonist wielding twin pistols and twin blades, your own customisable pirate ship, treasure maps, mythical creature hunts – the whole “life of a pirate” shtick. Put that through the Assassin’s Creed wringer and we had a game that was one-part “Yo-ho-ho and a bottle full o’ rum” and three parts sneaking, stabbing and group-based combat, the combination of which breathed new life into the otherwise stale formulae we’d all grown extremely tired of.
Anti-hero Edward Kenway only became an assassin through accident, too, giving his foray into the world of time-controlling artefacts and world-altering items a whole new perspective. His pursuit of nothing but wealth allowed for the right amount of distraction to indulge in side-missions and to raid passing ships, the entire thing being wrapped up in a gorgeous package highlighted by the best visual engine AC had seen so far.
3. Assassin’s Creed
Over the years, the original Assassin’s Creed has become known as the one with ‘all the ideas’, that thanks to being far too repetitive, just didn’t execute on them properly until the sequel. Whilst that is certainly true in terms of scope, the original AC remains the only entry in the series to have a realistic tone (minus the final boss) that encouraged stealthy play, scouting targets and actually being an assassin.
From here on out Ubisoft would embrace things like close-quarters combat and more overblown ways of killing your targets, going from a slower, Hitman-esque experience reliant upon studying your target until the perfect time to strike, into a twin-bladed stab-a-thon.
Needless to say, the hype leading up this inaugural instalment was unprecedented. The first major game from a major developer on the shiniest hardware money could buy? Just the mere concept of being a hooded assassin in the time of the Crusades was a winner from the get-go, and it only got better from there on out. It’s easy to forget what humble beginnings AC had considering how overblown and expansive the mythology has become, but this first game had an alluring sense of mystery for the modern day story that gave both sides of the Desmond/Altair coin a killer pace for its entirety.
2. Assassin’s Creed II
For many, AC II exists as one of those games that saw everything potentially great about the first, only to iterate on it, fix the problems and top it all off with a reft of features you didn’t even know you wanted.
Assassination animations were fleshed out to see you kill enemies from any angle, the feel of close-quarters combat was ludicrously brutal and satisfying allowing for chain-kills, ranged weapons and throwable blades, your Monteriggioni homestead had within it a solid sense of progression and unlockable abilities – and that’s without mentioning character customisation, great story and – man – the ending.
AC II’s final scene has within it one of the most defining video game moments of all time, the highpoint of the old-meets-new narrative as loveable hero Ezio went face-to-face with the Goddess Minerva. After you’ve battled your way through Rome and confronted the Pope (yes, really) she started talking about ‘Desmond’ a character she shouldn’t know, only to look straight at the screen and address both his presence watching the action, and by proxy, the player’s.
It was a genius move that Ubisoft wouldn’t be able to top going forward, but alongside solid mechanics that already made AC II a dream to play, iced the cake in the most satisfying way possible.
1. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
Middle chapters are always the best, and from Lord of the Rings to Jak & Daxter, Uncharted, Star Wars and now Assassin’s Creed, Brotherhood marked the apex of the Ezio storyline, effortlessly ticking all the boxes of AC II, before fleshing out more aspects of gameplay in awesome and enjoyable new ways.
Ezio was no longer the rookie we’d watched grow up, nor the old man he’d become in Revelations, instead Brotherhood asked that you be the first person to amass an Assassin Order, rescuing wayward NPCs and recruiting them to your cause. From there the best part came in calling them in to aid you in battle – with just one button press, Ezio would throw his hands in the air and your loyal subjects would dispatch a target of choice.
It. felt. BRILLIANT.
In terms of gameplay it was easier than ever to chain together kills both melee and stealth-based, a fact bolstered by the series’ most impressive amount of attack animations yet. You could wield all sorts of weapons, disarm foes and skewer them with their own blades, glide through groups of foes by altering tactics based on which ‘class’ you were up against. There were more excuses to pull off double kills, an upgrade tree worth pursuing, tons of customisability for Ezio himself, a gorgeous city worth exploring, the option to throw any weapon – absolutely everything you could possibly want, coming together to form the finest assassin’s sandbox of all time.
#10 Best Assassins Creed Games Of All Time