Feature

Ranking The Entire Assassin’s Creed Series

by Joe Juba on Dec 13, 2015 at 10:45 AM

The Assassin’s Creed series has been around for eight years – not a lot of time when compared to industry veterans like Super Mario and Metal Gear. In that relatively short timespan, the series has become an annual fixture, reliably hitting store shelves with one new title (at least) every holiday season. As a result, we certainly have no shortage of Assassin’s Creed games, but how do they stack up against each other?

Ubisoft’s stealth/action juggernaut has some excellent entries, but the levels of quality and polish can vary from one year to the next. That’s why we ranked our favorite installments, highlighting the best moments and critical flaws in each.

Note: This list focuses on the titles we consider part of the main series. This means that various spin-off experiments (like Assassin’s Creed Chronicles) and expanded fiction (like the comic books) are intentionally excluded.

10. Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation (2012)
Even as the lowest entry on our list, we can’t say Liberation is a “bad” game. However, it was originally created for Vita (though an HD port was eventually made), and the system’s limitations are apparent in the design and gameplay. Apart from its gimmicky features and restricted scope, Liberation still feels like an AC game at its core. The combat is a fun balance of offense and defense, and the story does a good job exploring the gray area between Assassins and Templars. Heroine Aveline’s ability to use different personas to navigate New Orleans doesn’t pay off, but Liberation delivers solid action even if it doesn’t take the series into exciting new territory.

9. Assassin’s Creed III (2012)
Ezio would be a hard act for any hero to follow, and AC III’s Connor struggles to live up to his predecessor’s legacy. Without much initiative of his own, he mainly does chores for important historical figures – and is coincidentally at the heart of every noteworthy event of the American Revolution. Narrative plausibility aside, this entry introduces some important and interesting elements, like naval combat and homestead-building. The colonial cities and vast wilderness aren’t as fun to explore as Renaissance Europe, but this ambitious installment tries to provide a wealth of content and and tell a complex, generation-spanning story. It may not succeed at every turn, but you can’t accuse AC III of not trying.

8. Assassin's Creed Unity (2014)
You’ve probably heard the horror stories about Unity, or even experienced them yourself. There’s no diplomatic way to say it: This game was a disaster at launch. Fans playing in the first few weeks encountered so many problems that Ubisoft issued a formal apology. The damage was already done in terms of public perception, but here’s the surprising part: Unity actually got pretty good once the holes were patched up. Today, players can absorb a relatively hassle-free vision of the French Revolution, with fun co-op missions, an interesting levelling mechanic, and an uncharacteristically challenging approach to combat. Plus, the relationship between Arno and Elise is well done, adding a personal touch to the story.

7. Assassin's Creed Revelations (2011)
Up to this point in AC’s lineage, each entry in the series felt like a significant step forward. However, Revelations isn’t much different from Ezio’s other adventures; it has fun gameplay, cool missions, and a cinematic presentation. On one hand, it’s hard to complain about more of a good thing. On the other, that’s how franchise fatigue settles in. A tower-defense minigame is the only noteworthy addition – but it’s terrible and interferes with your enjoyment of the rest of the game, which makes the whole experience feel like a step down. Plus, even though Revelations brings closure to the Ezio/Altair storyline, Desmond’s modern-day arc stalls completely, so it doesn’t convey a larger sense of progress.

6. Assassin's Creed Rogue (2014)
Did you like Black Flag? Then you’ll probably like Rogue, because it is basically the exact same game with different characters and cutscenes. The biggest improvements are removals, not additions; the aggravating tailing and eavesdropping missions from Black Flag are nowhere to be found. Otherwise, the experience is a familiar one – except this time you’re a Templar hunting Assassins. Beyond that twist, Rogue leans heavily on the proven and entertaining parts of the AC formula. You sail around on a ship, deploy your fleet, capture territory, hunt for collectibles, and (of course) perform assassinations. While this stuff is always fun, Rogue plays it too safe to be truly impressive.

Next: Our picks for the top five Assassin's Creed titles.

5. Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (2013)
Since it throws out many of the series’ conventions and experiments with new ideas, one could argue that Black Flag is not a good representation of Assassin’s Creed. However, it’s still a ton fun. As a treasure-hunting pirate, you trade the tall buildings and political conspiracies of previous games for the danger of the high seas. A pirate’s life is exciting, from the thrill of exploration to the chaos of naval battles – not to mention the sound of your crew singing sea shanties. The story is underwhelming in every way, but you’re so caught up in conquering islands that you barely notice. If you think of Black Flag as a pirate fantasy rather than a traditional Assassin’s Creed game, you won’t be disappointed.

4. Assassin's Creed Syndicate (2015)
A series can acquire a lot of baggage over multiple installments, implementing more potential features in different games than could ever fit in a single entry. Syndicate sifts through the possibilities and gets back to the core of the Assassin’s Creed experience while still exploring new territory. The carefully crafted assassination missions (with great unique kills) and the compelling Victorian setting are the highlights fans would expect. However, the adventure still holds surprises; the new zipline reinvigorates traversal, and the upgrade system gives you a satisfying way to expand the abilities of the twin protagonists Jacob and Evie Frye. Syndicate feels like a return to form for a series that sometimes struggles with its identity.

3. Assassin's Creed (2007)
The original Assassin’s Creed may not have all of the expanded systems of later entries, but it has a clarity of vision and purpose that is masterfully executed. Most of AC’s open-world peers were about destruction in contemporary cities, but Ubisoft broke the mold by immersing players in a vast and mysterious ancient world that is still compelling today. The mix of stealth and action encourages you explore while being mindful of your surroundings, the combat is deliberate and unique, and the key assassinations have an almost puzzle-like quality. The missions preceding those assassinations were repetitive, but the hints of the larger narrative thread give players just enough to make them come back for more.

2. Assassin's Creed II (2009)
If Assassin’s Creed laid the foundation for the series, Assassin’s Creed II built the main structure. Fully embracing its open-world destiny, this sequel gives players denser cities to explore, more activities to undertake, and a more engaging combat system. The introduction of Ezio, who is remains the series best and most likeable hero to date, is just one of AC II’s pivotal moves. It also establishes other key elements, like building and upgrading a headquarters, finding neat collectibles (like “the Truth”), and earning income over time. This entry is also a visual treat, recreating the splendor of Renaissance Italy in full effect, from the towering cathedrals to the winding waterways. With so much to do and see, getting lost in Assassin’s Creed II is inevitable.

1. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (2010)
Brotherhood strikes an almost perfect balance between judiciously refining the best parts of its predecessor and making its own mark on the series. While many elements return from AC II, the new mechanics Brotherhood contributes to the formula make it a deeper and more rewarding experience – but just by a hair. You are able to be more aggressive in combat, performing chain kills rather than waiting around for attacks to counter. Instead of upgrading a single base, Ezio renovates the entire city of Rome, claiming territory and improving shops to build Assassin influence. He also recruits his own initiates, calling on them in combat and sending them on missions that complete automatically in real-time. This layer of management makes players feel like more than a single blade in the crowd; it conveys a sense of overseeing and steering the fate of the Assassin order as a whole. Add in a clever competitive multiplayer mode, and Brotherhood becomes the ultimate Assassin’s Creed experience against which all others are measured.