It’s one of the biggest videogame franchises for a very good reason but, just like any long-running franchise, there are certainly going to be a varying amount of ups and downs. With Assassin’s Creed Valhalla currently showcasing the power of the next generation, the time has never been better to take a stab at ranking the mainline entries in this cloak and dagger simulator. Ranked!
#10 – Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate (2015)
If you told me pre-2013 that an Assassin’s Creed game would be set in the Victorian Era, my favourite period of modern history, then I would have been elated. However, despite my love for the series and the time period, I never actually finished the game until the summer of this year.
Why is this exactly? Whilst exploring the city is as beautiful as ever, the story, combat and characters left a lot to be desired. Starrick and Thorne were lame antagonists, and I didn’t care much for the Fyre twins apart from one or two touching moments near the end of the narrative. Suffice to say, the combat is what kills this game, that’s the reason I never finished it until lockdown plagued the world, it’s mind-numbingly boring and tedious. I hated playing this game half the time, breaks my heart as this should have been amazing. I will never touch it again.
#9 – Assassin’s Creed (2007)
The original, where it all began. As with any entertainment entity that lives for over a decade, it’s apparent that the first entry in the series has aged without grace.
I’ve had my fun with this title over the years, but revisiting this one does little for me nowadays. I love the characters, world building and overall story, but the mission structure and general repetitive nature of the core gameplay loop really makes Assassin’s Creed a tough pill to swallow in 2020. We’ve come a long way.
#8 – Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
I’m going to preface this decision by saying that I absolutely adore Ezio Auditore, and this game was a worthy send-off to his character. Problems arise however when marathoning the Ezio trilogy, the best way to experience these titles.
The setup and story are great, but Constantinople lacks the visual appeal of Venice and Rome. Equally vacuous is the main antagonist, a man so forgettable that I actually had to look it up while writing this, it’s Prince Ahmet by the way. The Borgia he is not. This was when the gameplay was beginning to feel very long in the tooth, iteration over innovation worked to a degree, but returning to Revelations is the lowest point in the trio for me.
#7 – Assassin’s Creed III (2012)
There was a time where this was my least favourite in the franchise. Though I’ve softened up to it in recent years. Yes, the main campaign can occasionally be sleep inducing, and Connor has the personality and charisma of cement, but the gameplay loop of fighting, hunting and sailing is too enjoyable to deny.
Credit to the developers, when this time is firing on all cylinders, it’s a thrilling experience, proving that the upgrade to Anvil Next and change of setting were for the better. Once said too, I remember Haytham Kenway, Charles Lee and many historical events as presented in the game. Something that I can’t say for the entries below. Far from perfect, but I was awake most of the time. If you do give this one a shot, get ready for a slow opening.
#6 – Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey (2018)
The second RPG released following a hiatus period, Odyssey wasn’t quite as strong as one game that’s coming up on this list, but shook things up for the better. Gone are the cloaks and hidden blades, instead replaced by golden Spartan armour and the spear of Leonidas respectively.
And you know something? It works! Sailing around this gorgeous and expansive recreation of Ancient Greece was a feast for the eyes, and the ability-based combat system never got tired even after close to 50 hours. I played with Kassandra, and the game was improved by it. I’ll keep spoilers light, but it’s a real journey. I overlooked this one for years, once again finishing it only a month ago for the first time, and I’m happy I finally took the dive in. The only reason it doesn’t rank higher is because it’s not an exceptional Assassin’s Creed game, for whatever that means in 2020.
#5 – Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (2013)
In many ways a precursor to the likes of Origins and Odyssey, Black Flag ditched the boring tale of American Independence for the swashbuckling colours of the Carribbean.
Edward Kenway is one of the best protagonists in recent years, with the story and supporting cast being equally as strong. The biggest downfall of this lovely pirate simulator is when it’s still trying to be Assassin’s Creed. Tailing missions and escort quests are by far the worst parts of Black Flag. It just goes to show that innovating and taking risks goes a long way.
#4 – Assassin’s Creed: Unity (2014)
What about when Assassin’s Creed rediscovers their roots? You get Unity. I’ve always been lucky running this game, never encountered any bugs of any kind, and was smooth sailing for the newly refined stealth and combat mechanics.
Story and characters will win no awards, but it’s a testament to how solid the gameplay loop here is when Unity is trending on YouTube over six years later. The combat had a learning curve that made it very satisfying, the parkour is still the best in the series to date, and the stealth system, whilst borrowing from the last two Splinter Cell games, has yet to be surpassed. When it works, it’s incredible. Just fast forward the narrative to get to the good bit.
#3 – Assassin’s Creed II (2009)
This was my first experience to the franchise and it will always have a special place in my heart. That said, AC2 has aged poorly, but it’s been over a decade, that should be expected.
Ezio is one of the best protagonists in not only the series but modern gaming as a whole, and the story is just as great. That’s not the problem here. Flaws start showing when the nostalgia goggles start fogging up. Clunky combat and poor parkour make the second entry in the series a little less enjoyable than you remember. It really is the strong writing and character arc of the main protagonist that make this game one to see through to the end every time.
#2 – Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (2010)
This won’t win me any new friends. Take the groundwork laid by the prior entry, tighten up the gameplay and flesh the story out to a grander scale and you’re left with a much superior game overall.
Cesare and Rodrigo Borgia are without question the best villains in the series history, and Rome is the greatest single city ever featured. Not a moment of the runtime is wasted here, combat is faster and more deadly, and the parkour works flawlessly. You feel very strong in this game, you’re a master assassin after all, and it certainly feels like it. This is the perfect Assassin’s Creed game, for the time.
#1 – Assassin’s Creed: Origins (2017)
Following a year of absence from annual releases, for the first time in franchise history, Origins borrowed from titles such as The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and completely reinvigorated Assassin’s Creed in a way that the series desperately needed.
To put it down into words is doing the game a disservice. I feel as though Origins will be grossly overlooked for being ‘another AC game’ but it couldn’t be further away from the truth. A stunning and expansive game world of Egypt, a brutal story, phenomenal graphics and unforgettable characters, Origins is undoubtedly the best in the series yet.
How am I so sure? Play it, it all just flows flawlessly. The combat took heavy inspiration from Dark Souls, finally delivering an enjoyable fighting system for the first time, and the addition of ranged weaponry added a new dynamic to proceedings.
I really could continue to gush about exactly why I love this game, but frankly we would be here all night. Instead, I’ve relisted an old review that I wrote several years ago when this website was in its infancy, something you can find below. How will Valhalla place? I’ll let you know as soon as I get my hands on it.