Assassin’s Creed is up to 18 games and a Michael Fassbender movie. That’s more games than any other Fassbender movie franchise, including Shame. Honestly, you probably know more about Desmond’s family history than your own. You can name more of his relatives than there are Kardashians. You have been to more countries in these games than most people go to in their entire lives. Maybe even in your own life. With Assassin Creed: Origins coming out later this year, it’s time to look back at the massive franchise and remember the good times and the bad.
The unique franchise blends sci-fi and an abbreviated history lesson into open world gaming. The care the developers put into each game is seen in the detail of the maps from recreating Florence to making the Caribbean sailable. The gameplay mechanics in many games are fluid and feel authentic. It does not matter what time period you are in when your assassin does their leap of faith, it feels real. Escaping enemies across roof tops and through back alleys, creates an experience many gamers keep coming back too.
For all the good the franchise has done, it has also produced rushed and incomplete games that lack the feel of a great Assassin’s Creed game. When an Assassin’s Creed game falls short of expectations, it doesn’t just let gamers down, it lets the entire time period. It isn’t the American Revolution’s or the French Revolution’s fault their games are worse than the Crusades or even the Renaissance. They are awesome time periods that deserve better from the Ubisoft crew. Let’s hop in the Animus and travel back to rank all the Assassin’s Creed games from worst to best.
18 Assassin’s Creed: Unity
We have to start this list with the biggest failure of the franchise, both mechanically and publicly. Unity was supposed to be a revamp of the franchise from top to bottom, but served more as a teachable moment than blockbuster game. The game was glitchy and felt rushed, not just in the mechanics of the game, but in the new multiplayer Ubisoft built from the ground up for this title.
It was by far the largest game ever released in the franchise, with that same attention to detail when it comes to recreating a city as previous titles. Sadly, the game just tried to do too much all at once. The glitches, that are now memes, are all anyone really remembers about the game though. It did try to expand the assassination system and it did attempt to create puzzles that needed more than simple platforming abilities. There are just were too many issues that rendered it unplayable for even some diehard fans, which is a shame for the period because it was an excellent choice.
17 Assassin’s Creed: Altair Chronicles
After the success of the first Assassin’s Creed game, Ubisoft released two portable titles before returning to consoles. Altair Chronicles was the first of these two stinkers. The transition from consoles to mobile or portable games is a tough one because the game experience needs to be translated for the new device. Chronicles dumbs down instead of translating.
Altair is hunting for a magical item called the Chalice, but what gamers will remember is the limitede combat, repetitive missions, and lack of diversity when it comes to the environments. The game took a highly involved and complex system of climbing, jumping, stealth, planning, and sword fighting and made it into a basic hack-n-slash with some stealth thrown in. Luckily, this portable version did not sink the series before it got started.
16 Assassin’s Creed
The reason the first game is ranked as one of the worst is because how good the games that followed are. The game was not perfect, but no new IP is going to be flawless out of the gate. If anything, having the first game of any franchise as one of the worst is a good sign the developers got better at making games.
Compared to the best Assassin’s Creed games, the original falls flat into a hay cart. It is repetitive and bland with a seemingly unending list of tasks. These tasks may have you running through a new part of the city, but you are still collecting the same things. The combat has also come a long way since the original. The simplistic system that provides all fighting to be done with one button can no longer cut it. The game provided a solid base for the franchise, allowing gamers them to see what could be. Then there is that ending. It might be the worst in video game history. You just stand there in a room with a bunch of writing on the walls and nothing happens. It’s terrible.
15 Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines
The other portable game Ubisoft created in between Assassin’s Creed I and II was Bloodlines. This time they tried to focus on replicating the free running, open feel of the console games, but for the PSP. It was meant to be the bridge between the console games, but it left gamers on shaky ground.
The developers didn’t stress the fun, assassination aspect of the console games. That alone didn’t sink the game though. The combat and poor attempt at putting free running on a PSP really killed the game. While the story was compelling, focusing primarily on Altair and Maria Thorpe and less on Templars, the poor gameplay ruined any chance at the series first portable success. Bloodlines was a step in the right direction, it just over simplified what made the console games great.
14 Assassin’s Creed Identity
Identity was Ubisoft’s commitment to bringing the same level of quality from the console games to portables. The game was broken up into smaller, more linear segments with an RPG element added in to stand out. The game took place in Ezio’s time, but left out the enigmatic protagonist.
The problem with the game is it suffered from free-to-play-ittis. The developers making money off of your need to move faster, kill quicker, and progress at a normal pace took precedent over the quality of the game. Making the game into smaller self-contained chunks also lost that living breathing city feel the console games had. Identity wanted to be the portable answer the franchise was looking for, but it was just too grounded in micro transactions to do it.
13 Assassin’s Creed II: Discovery
There are good Assassin Creed mobile games, I promise. Just hang in there. Ubisoft took a lot of missteps before they learned to fly on portables. Discovery was simply just a vehicle to give gamers a few more minutes and hours with Ezio while on the go.
Stealth is not stressed here because this 2D platformer plays like an endless runner, rather than a full-on Assassin’s Creed game. Yes, the main character is Ezio and yes, there are assets and elements that remind the gamer of the Assassin’s Creed brand. But the game itself is just bland. Sure, you fight guards along the way, but there is no finesse or planning that goes into each encounter. The game feels like a knock off version that is unfortunately made by original creators.
12 Assassin’s Creed III
Ubisoft thought they had it made when they chose the American Revolution for the setting of their next Desmond based Assassin’s Creed game. American history has Templars crawling all over it and the Tomahawk is a perfect Assassin’s weapon. The game, however, did not meet expectations.
This was the first game to toy with the idea of sailing, which Black Flag would later perfect. The biggest complaint from gamers and critics was the sheer number of hours it took before an assassination was even an option. Assassin is in the title of the game and this was technically the seventh game released in the franchise. The game was also plagued by bugs and poor controls, that left many gamers wondering if the American Revolution was worth it at all.
11 Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: Russia
The fact that the October Revolution in Russia did not get a better Assassin’s Creed game is disappointing, as the game writes itself.
Russia was the closing chapter in the Chronicles trilogy (with the other two taking place in China and India) and unfortunately it ended the series poorly. The game itself has lofty goals, from trying to recover important Assassin artifacts while fighting off Assassins and Templars alike to save an innocent girl. The gameplay is just too difficult for its own sake. The art style tried to mimic the cold harshness of Russia in 1918, but it ended up looking bland and sad instead. It felt rushed and, after the other two more successful Chronicle games, it doesn’t make sense.
10 Assassin’s Creed: Rogue
Released at the same exact time as Unity, which still baffles everyone outside of Ubisoft, Rogue only fared a tiny bit better. It did offer a groundbreaking new feature in gameplay, as gamers got to pay as a Templar. However, the only problem was it went over like the Arbiter levels in Halo 2.
The game itself was incredibly safe, even by Assassin’s Creed standards. The game was Black Flag with a few new places to explore. While, Black Flag is one of the best games in the franchise, creating a virtual copy of the game and asking gamers to fork over money is wrong. There were new places to explore like the Arctic, but it wasn't enough. The game was at least less buggy than Unity and didn’t rock the boat when it came to gameplay, but Rogue till became the forgotten child in the publicity nightmare that was Unity’s launch.
9 Assassin's Creed: Revelations
Ubisoft felt like Ezio and Altair needed one last ride together, but this time they set their sights on Constantinople. Ubisoft should be commended for attempting to have an older and mature protagonist, but that is where the praise ends for Assassin’s Creed: Revelations.
The game did not venture too far out from what was built in the previous games, Assassin’s Creed II and Brotherhood. As a result, the gameplay was more of the same and left little to no impression on gamers. The real take away from this game was saying good bye to the two characters that made the franchise into a household name. The story is the best part of Revelations. While you can’t fault Ubisoft for making a good story, you can fault them for not caring about the game the story is housed in. These characters deserved the narrative good-bye they got, just not the game they got.
8 Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India
Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India is a solid Assassin’s Creed game. It is the second game in the side series and it takes the player to India in 1841.
Stealth is stressed heavily in this game to succeed and progress, which is refreshing when you look back at other titles that skipped this step. The main take away from this title is the artwork. The vibrant colors and intricately designed puzzles add to the appearance that is instantly recognizable as both Assassin’s Creed and India. The game feels specially made for the time and place, which is a characteristic of great Assassin’s Creed games.
7 Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation
Liberation might be the most underappreciated titles in the Assassin’s Creed franchise. That is probably due to the fact it began its life as a Vita game before reaching consoles. The game is short, but it packs a real punch fit for any Assassin’s Creed game.
With a limited map and plot, Liberation introduces a new mechanic that should return in a later title: disguises. Aveline can disguise herself as a slave, a maiden, or an Assassin. This give the game a new depth and edge that keeps the gamer interested, even with the shorter gameplay. It also plays on Aveline’s race and how race is perceived in her time and place without being too heavy that it becomes the game’s defining feature. Liberation is worth a playthrough for its unique story and attempt at utilizing the time period to create a worthwhile mechanic.
6 Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China
The best Assassin’s Creed Chronicles game is undeniably Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China. The game follows the formula of the console games and manages to translate it in a fun and not frustrating way. The scoring system does not penalize your play style which allows gamers to have true freedom found only on the consoles.
The developers really embraced the setting and time in the art style. Combat and stealth feel natural to both the platform it’s running on and the gameplay. The protagonist, Shao, creates an intense and captivating narrative that hasn't always been seen in the franchise.
5 Assassin’s Creed IV: Freedom Cry
Freedom Cry was a DLC that got so big and was made so well, that Ubisoft made it into a standalone installment. Thank goodness they did because it is one the most well written and exciting games on this list.
Built on the back of Black Flag, Freedom Cry puts the gamer in control of a former slave tasked with revenge and freedom for other slaves. The game uses all the great parts of Black Flag, but adds in a heavy and emotional story about the slave trade that should not be missed by any Assassin’s Creed fan. The unflinching dedication of the developers to shed light on this subject is commendable. Giving it such a prominent position in the franchise is what makes this title stand out. It is unique, well crafted, and out of the ordinary for Assassin’s Creed games.
4 Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
The failures of Unity were turned around and fixed with the release of Syndicate. Where the French Revolution could not succeed in breathing new life into the franchise, Victorian England filled its lungs with fresh air straight from the Industrial Revolution.
The two protagonists offered gamers a fun and memorable experience that encouraged gamers to be distracted and explore London. Jacob and Evie feel like different characters through their playing styles, which is exactly want you want when a game has two protagonists. Allowing them to be funny was also new territory for Ubisoft. The developers did an excellent job making it feel authentic and not stilted.
The update to the graphics and fighting system built a great foundation that gamers really responded too. Syndicate righted the ship for the next installment, Origins. The pressure is back on to keep up the high quality.
3 Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
Black Flag was Assassin’s Creed III’s redemption. Ubisoft answered the simple question, what goes great with assassinations? Clearly, it’s pirates. Some gamers would argue that this game belongs as the best gam, as it was one of the most fun to play. It was also a brave and brand-new style of assassin, after Ezio’s story concluded. But the game is a pirate assassin game first. Which is not a negative thing to be, it just isn’t the best Assassin’s Creed game.
Removing the gamer from the crowded city streets and high vistas of old churches allowed Ubisoft to figure out how far this franchise could go. While the majority of games that followed Black Flag abandoned the free sailing feature, they built on the combat and fun that Black Flag excelled at. It was a risk, like a few other games on this list, but it was done so well that future installments should absolutely copy Black Flag’s approach to the franchise. A pirate's life offers endless amounts entertainment and can transition into assassinating Templars very easily.
2 Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
Ezio already had an amazing Assassin’s Creed game, so sticking with him for a follow up was not a guaranteed success. Brotherhood had to stand out. It did so by adding a realistic multiplayer, for the franchise, as well as a story that was worth telling. It wasn’t just Ezio’s other fun adventures in Rome. It was a near perfect Assassin’s Creed game.
Rome was huge as it should be in a game franchise where the city is a main character. The mechanics of adding multiple assassins to command and fight alongside the gamer took the franchise in an exciting and new direction. The series became more about Assassins versus Templars and less about one Assassin fighting all the Templars.
Territory capture also gave the game a new dynamic that has continued in subsequent games. Brotherhood was Ubisoft realizing the potential this franchise could have if they were bold and stayed true to what makes the franchise work. Black Flag would not exist without Brotherhood.
1 Assassin’s Creed II
The second installment can make or break a franchise. Assassin’s Creed II took this interesting new idea and solidified its potential. The back drop of the Italian Renaissance only added to its charm and wonder. Gamers were delighted to explore a larger, more intricate map as well as upgraded weapons. Ezio was also a fantastic protagonist to lead this game. He felt real and genuine, and gained gamers’ empathy in a way that Altair never could.
Ubisoft took the lessons they learned from the first game and improved the little things like the climbing, crowd interaction, and item customization. They took care creating an experience that did not have repetitive missions leading up to each large-scale assassination. They improved the big assassinations as well, crafting unique stories and situations around each one. The game is the bedrock that the franchise is built on and it will be hard for future installments to knock it off the top.