Let’s Rank The Assassin’s Creed Games, Worst To Best

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Image: Ubisoft
Image: Ubisoft

Nothing is true; everything is permitted… but you can trust this list ranking Assassin’s Creed games from worst to best.

The basic conceits established by the very first Assassin’s Creed have remained relatively unchanged. Take historical places and people and bring them into a large open world. Relive the lives of ancestors past via science and DNA samples. How does it work!? Stop asking questions and start climbing towers.

While the basic format has remained similar, a lot has changed. The series started with Desmond Miles and a group of friends trying to take down the evil Templars in the modern-day by turning to the past. But the modern-day stuff fell to the wayside until returning in the most recent games. And the series has often experimented in weird and sometimes successful ways.

Image: Ubisoft

Ubisoft has a habit of trying anything and everything in these games. One of them contained a tower defence mode. Some of them feature naval warfare. Some have multiple characters. And nearly every type of hacking and puzzle mini-game you can think of has appeared in over 14 games across nearly every platform released since the Xbox 360.

Through it all, the ups and downs, the series has been a favourite of many Kotaku staffers, so we all got together and yelled at each other and put together this list. In the end, we all mostly agreed with the ranking. (Some who don’t like Assassin’s Creed III were angry. Some who liked Unity were mad too.)

Something to note! Not every game in the franchise is on this list. We omitted phone games and browser games. We also didn’t count the Ezio Trilogy as a separate game and we aren’t ranking or taking into consideration DLC. The movie isn’t on here either. (If it was, it would be last.) Let us proceed.

Image: Ubisoft

14. Assassin’s Creed: Chronicles (2015)

I love it when Assassin’s Creed games try something new and different. It gives us games like Origins or Black Flag. But sometimes this experimentation can lead to complete misfires. That’s the case with Chronicles, which was really three smaller games collected together.

These games are 2.5D platformers that looked gorgeous. Sadly, they aren’t much fun to play. They feel sloppy and unimportant. The stories they tell are fine, but feel like they might have worked just as well as a comic or book. I also ran into bugs and other technical issues when I tried playing the games back when they first released. I think Assassin’s Creed could work as a 2D platformer, but this attempt did not.

Image: Ubisoft

13. Assassin’s Creed (2007)

The original that started this whole franchise. At the time it was an impressive game, boasting big crowds and lots of historical details. Today in 2020 it feels empty and barren, but there’s still a lot to like about this first game in the series. The modern-day narrative feels more connected and interesting than in later games, the mystery of Abstergo and The Templars was genuinely intriguing and the social stealth systems (hiding in a crowd) felt fresh and different.

Today, going back to Assassin’s Creed is hard. The controls are stiff, the combat is boring, and Altair feels underdeveloped as a character compared to later protagonists. Still, the basic elements of the franchise are still here and still work. The hidden blades, climbing big towers, assassinations, and weird conspiracy theory-inspired storytelling is all here. It’s just the whole package hasn’t aged nearly as well as other games in the franchise.

Image: Ubisoft

12. Assassin’s Creed: Unity (2014)

It feels bad to be mean to Unity after years of it being picked on and criticised. But it’s hard to like Unity, especially in 2020. Back when it came out it was a visual stunner, but everything else just didn’t work. The story was dull, the main character was boring, and the Paris setting, while pretty, was forgettable. I had to look it up before writing this list, and I played this game.

Today Unity isn’t as pretty or impressive, and its weird attempt at co-op feels like an interesting idea handled poorly. At this point, it seems most folks remember Unity as the broken Assassin’s Creed, which is a shame because it was eventually patched and improved. But even when it was running well, it just wasn’t much fun.

Image: Ubisoft

11. Assassin’s Creed: Liberation (2012)

Liberation was a big deal in the franchise for being the first game to let you play as a woman. And it was a handheld PS Vita game, which was impressive. It played a lot like Assassin’s Creed III, which was a good thing in my book. But being a Vita game limited it in scope and gameplay.

Don’t get me wrong, what’s here is solid and inspired. The idea of using different outfits to blend in to different social classes was a neat spin on the social stealth that had long been a part of the franchise. It’s a gamification of the concept of “passing,” which is not something many (if any) games deal with or include. It’s simplified and not handled perfectly, but still admirable to include at all. Sadly, the rest was also simple and limited — problems directly tied to the mobile platform — and the reason Liberation is so low on this list.

Image: Ubisoft

10. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (2011)

Like Brotherhood, Ubisoft built Revelations on the back of Assassin’s Creed II. But as the third game starring Ezio and using the same tech, it felt old and creaky. The narrative wrapped up the Ezio trilogy nicely, for those who were invested, but it was hard to get excited about another sequel to Assassin’s Creed II.

Revelations might also contain the worst, dumbest mini-game in Assassin’s Creed history. The tower defence sections of Revelations felt out of place, poorly made, and just not worth the time. I was a fan of the franchise trying weird and different things, like multiplayer, but the tower defence was an example of the series going too far off the rails. And it wouldn’t be the last time this happened.

Image: Ubisoft

9. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (2010)

Building off the wonderful Assassin’s Creed II, at times Brotherhood felt more like a big expansion than a brand-new game. But even if it felt a lot like AC II, it managed to include some new ideas and locations to help it stand out. A big expansion isn’t a bad thing if it’s good, which Brotherhood was, though it did include a bit more bloat than previous games.

Brotherhood’s biggest new addition was multiplayer. On paper, it sounded silly and weird, but in practice it was wonderful. It played unlike any other online game at the time and to this day, there hasn’t really been another multiplayer game like it. Future installments would add more and more to the online mode and make it less of a novelty, but this first go-around was still a highlight.

Image: Ubisoft

8. Assassin’s Creed: Rogue (2014)

I skipped Rogue back when it first came out. It was another game built on the old tech of Assassin’s Creed III and it featured a lot of boat action, like Black Flag, but with not as many pirates. And at this point, the PS4 and Xbox One were out and Unity was the big, new, shiny Assassin’s Creed game. Well, now that I finally went back and started Rogue I feel like a fool.

Rogue is better than Unity in a lot of ways. It might not be as pretty, but it featured a more interesting roster of characters and a better narrative. The main hook was that you started out as an assassin but quickly become a templar. Playing as a member of the franchise’s main evil force was a cool way to shake up what could have felt like a lesser take on Black Flag. It still felt a bit like a budget title, and compared to later games it feels old, but Rogue shouldn’t be skipped. It might be a side story, but it’s a good one worth checking out.

Image: Ubisoft

7. Assassin’s Creed: Freedom Cry (2014)

Black Flag was excellent, so building a side game on top of that tech seemed like a good way to end up with something good. And Freedom Cry is good, but not just because of its tech or gameplay. It was a smaller adventure, about four hours long, and told the story of what Adéwalé was up to during his absence in Black Flag.

It’s revealed the former slave turned assassin was down in Haiti helping slaves defeat their masters, who happened to be Templars. Freedom Cry, unlike most other Assassin’s Creed games, was short and to the point. You kill racist slave owners and free people who need your help. It also helped change Adéwalé as a person, something that we see later on in other games and Assassin’s Creed stories.

Image: Ubisoft

6. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate (2015)

Syndicate took the tech and gameplay from Unity and built a more exciting game around it. The first game in the series to let you control two different assassins, Syndicate was more fun and upbeat then Unity. It also contained a more fleshed-out world, in which you could steal carriages and start gang wars in the streets.

The ending wasn’t great, but everything that lead up to it was, and the heroic Frye siblings were entertaining and loveable. This game also had some of the best side-quests in any Assassin’s Creed game, with some very creative missions. Oh, and the grappling hook was awesome.

Image: Ubisoft

5. Assassin’s Creed III (2012)

They called it Assassin’s Creed III, despite there having already been like five games before it if you count mobile titles and spin-offs. But the three in the name helped signal this was a big departure from what came before. AC III was slicker, more open, more modern, and featured improved controls and parkour. It was also the last game until Origins to feature a big focus on the modern-day narrative, wrapping up the Desmond story which started back in the first game.

AC III had problems, like an overly long intro and a lot of stuff on the map, a problem that would grow even worse in later games. But for all its problems I still love AC III. The setting was one of the strongest parts of the game. Getting to interact with historical figures from America’s past and explore the snowy woods of the U.S. east coast was nice. And that opening bait-and-switch caught me off guard.

Image: Ubisoft

4. Assassin’s Creed II (2009)

If the original game felt empty and more like an impressive tech demo and the first draft of a better video game, Assassin’s Creed II was that better game. Ezio was a vastly more interesting, well-written, and developed character than Altair. Nearly every aspect of the first game was improved in AC II: combat, climbing, mission variety, and the visuals. The location, Italy, was also a nice change of scenery.

Assassin’s Creed II was a bigger game. Eventually, the franchise got too obsessed with being bigger and bigger, but here it felt like a natural next step after the first game. The modern-day narrative got more time to shine and we start to see the connections to other parts of the franchise here, like the Isu and more history about the war between the Assassins and Templars.

Image: Ubisoft

3. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey (2018)

Odyssey reminded me of Brotherhood. Like that game, It took the base tech and gameplay from the previous game, Origins, and built a bigger world with it, complete with new mechanics and ideas. And like Brotherhood, Odyssey was great even if it felt a little too much like Origins at times.

I had an awesome experience with Odyssey, and it is one of my favourite games in recent memory. But it also felt even less like an Assassin’s Creed game than even Origins. There was a bigger focus on loot, RPG mechanics, and special abilities. A lot of this stuff felt out of place in an Assassin’s Creed game, and I get it. For diehard fans of the older games, Odyssey was a step too far away from the classic format. No hidden blades, no Templars or Assassins, and no big assassinations. But I think the franchise is flexible enough to expand beyond the classic format. These experiments may not always work — see Chronicles — but I don’t think Assassin’s Creed games all need to hew to the exact same formula.

Image: Ubisoft

2. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (2013)

At a few points in Assassin’s Creed III, you got to command a ship. That was fun, but not a huge part of the overall game. Black Flag took that gameplay and expanded it into a huge pirate simulator, resulting in one of the best games in the series. Black Flag improved some of AC III’s shortcomings too, like allowing you to freely board and leave your ship without a loading screen.

Black Flag’s modern-day story took a back seat to the main historical action and drama, which was set in the Caribbean sea. This was the right choice. After six games following around modern-day assassins and friends, that side of the story was feeling dull and overly complex. Black Flag instead focused on Edward Kenway, the grandfather of Assassin’s Creed III’s main character. He was a pirate and you get to meet famous pirates like Blackbeard and go explore the sea as you see fit. There are even sea shanties and buried treasure. It was fantastic and felt like the perfect evolution of the franchise.

Image: Ubisoft

1. Assassin’s Creed Origins (2017)

Origins wasn’t like previous games in the franchise. It was bigger, sure, but it also played more like an open-world RPG, not unlike The Witcher or Skyrim and less like the older, stealth-focused Assassin’s Creed games. This sparked a debate among the fanbase. Some enjoyed this different style of Assassin’s Creed and others missed the classic games. As someone who loved the old games, I was ready for something new and Origins delivered that in every possible way.

The ancient Egyptian setting was brilliant and gave it a look and feel unlike any other AC game. The updated combat utilised the controller’s triggers and focused less on counters. Parkour was downgraded but climbing became more powerful, letting you climb almost anything. And the modern-day narrative enjoyed more screen time and greater care. Layla Hassan took the place of Desmond; a former Abstergo employee, she goes rogue and becomes an ally of the assassins.

But the main historical drama was the real star. Bayek is the best Assassin’s Creed protagonist in the series and his story and his reasons for becoming the first “Assassin” are memorable and touching. I cared about him and his family. Rooting for him helped get me through the game, which was considerably longer and larger than older games.

Origins was a great game and is the best Assassin’s Creed game ever made. Maybe Vallhalla will be even better, but it’s going to be hard to top Origins. But I’m excited to find out.

Comments

  • Swap the top order to 1. Black Flag, 2. Odyssey, 3. Origins and we might have something here! Kassandra is a more badass character than Bayek (no matter how ridiculously swoonworthy his smile) and her family is just as… interesting, if not lovable. And nothing beats pirates and the high seas in the age of sail. Especially
    nothing matches pirate sea shanties. Nothing. They need to stop trying, it’s sad.

    • Yeh I like your order of top 3

      It seems most people prefer origins over odyssey but i felt like odyssey perfected everything origins was trying to do. Removing a lot of the old, and honestly very outdated, assassins creed mechanics is what made these 2 so good.

      • Odyssey is by far my favourite. Followed by Origins then Brotherhood. I remember being faintly disappointed that the wrist blades were no longer a thing in Odyssey but the combat was otherwise so, SO much more refined that I have all but forgotten about that omission.

    • The sea shanties are my favorite collectible in any game ever. I loved the way they added to your crew’s repertoire. I missed that in Odyssey.

      I personally preferred Origins to Odyssey, simply because I found Bayek of Siwa a more interesting character than Kassandra, and playing her brother was oddly annoying. I also miss being able to pat cats.

      So my top 3 is Black Flag, Origins then Odyssey, with the Ezio trilogy a close 4th.

  • i havent played half the games on this list. but i just cant understand placing 3 so high. ive made 3 attempts at playing the game, never getting more than about 5 hours in before throwing in the towel. only listing the games i’ve played, my order would have to be (best to worst):
    1. Origins
    2. AC2
    3. Brotherhood
    4. Revelations
    5. AC1
    6. AC3

    but thats just me. the reason I havent played any of the games between 3 and Origins is entirely due to 3, its what made me lose interest in the series.

    • When I played AC3 at launch I almost quit on the franchise entirely, there was too much Desmond, the bland shacklike setting was boring compared to wonders of renaissance Europe, and at the time I felt all the characters sucked.
      But over the last 8 years I’ve played through twice again and it’s grown on me more and more since.
      I now think it’s the deepest story about race and divide, and Conor is my fave assassin by far, he pretty much had 0 support in North America the whole time he was an assassin.

  • The world design in Odyssey (Water! Islands! Peninsulas!) pushes it over Origins for me (Rocks! Sand! More sand!) for me. Gameplay felt a bit tighter in Odyssey as usual for the second game in an engine. Also I never understood why you play as Bayek in Origins instead of Aya, who explicitly had the same motivations and ability as Bayek but was more connected to the historical events happening around them.

    • Can’t edit comments so I can’t hide the fact that I said “for me” twice. I’m gonna lose sleep over this.

        • Yep. I’m having some trouble adapting to the new site.

          The comments section. Logging in. No record of my historical comments or updates when people reply.

          I mean, I can’t find any links to 8 year old stories. Did anyone even test this?

          At least we still have pages of irrelevant ads.

          • I’ve said it in other threads. The new comments section is pure rubbish. We’ve lost the ‘count’ of our comments 🙁 We can’t see when someone’s replied to our comments (no ‘alert’), there’s no upvotes or downvotes. What even is the point of having an account? A name? Kotaku’s lost it’s identity by doing this.

            Whoever your I.T dude is who made this call to change the talkback format? It was a horrible choice.

          • The ads would be a lot less irrelevant if you simply provided all that personal info websites keep requesting from you. Instead, you’re left with ad dregs from companies that couldn’t care less what demographic category their crappy product is sold to.

  • I owned AC 3, Black Flag, Unity, Origins and Odyssey.

    Super Fave: Black Flag
    Almost Super Fave: Odyssey
    Fave: Origins and Unity
    Not Even Close 2 Fave: AC 3.

    Controv much?

  • Everyone always hates on ACIII, but I’m playing it for the first time right now and I’m enjoying it. I think it would be hard for any Assassin’s Creed game to follow on from II/Brotherhood/Revelations because Ezio was such a strong, well-developed character (over three games) that any character that was in a game directly after his would pale in comparison.

    The only thing I’ve found weird about ACIII is that first it introduces Haytham Kenway and then SUPRISE PLOT TWIST then you have to start all over again getting to know Connor. It was a little jarring!

    • The only thing I’ve found weird about ACIII is that first it introduces Haytham Kenway and then SUPRISE PLOT TWIST then you have to start all over again getting to know Connor. It was a little jarring!

      That was the coolest, bestest bit. Besides all the other good bits.

    • I thought it was more jarring that you started playing as someone who looked nothing like the guy on the front of the box. Switching protagonists to the guy on the box didn’t feel too surprising, but it did make it seem like an awfully long prologue.

      • youre one of those people that only see someones appearance? i remember that problem going into mass effect. oh shit, i look nothing like commander sheperd. fuck game ruined. get some perspective.

    • I just really disliked Connor and would’ve preferred to continue playing as Haytham. The proto-sea-stuff was frustrating, the house crafting felt pointless, and I really, really, really disliked the Forrest Gumping across key points of US history like poorly written fanfic in a controversial (yet somehow still boring) setting.
      .
      Of course, as bad as all of that was, I might’ve put up with it enough to finish the game if it weren’t for the god-awful bonus objectives. I know the developers’ intention was that you could go back and replay memory sequences for completion’s sake AFTER you’ve finished everything the first time, but many of those objectives were after dozens of checkpoints and tediously frustrating game mechanics (horse chases, anyone?) so when you realized if you wanted to fully complete that memory sequence you’d need to come back later and redo all this shit that you just did and hated every moment of, it seemed a better long-term use of time to just retry from the most recent checkpoint instead of staring down the barrel of doing the whole thing over again.
      .
      Ultimately, the better long-term use of time was to go play something that was actually fun. 😛

      • @ transientmind awful bonus objectives. I know the developers’ intention was that you could go back and replay memory sequences for completion’s sake AFTER you’ve finished everything the first time, but many of those objectives were after dozens of checkpoints and tediously frustrating game mechanics

        this is probably what soured me on the game. i could complete everything thrown at me in AC2 – brotherhood – revelations. but come AC3 it was desynchronised after desynchronised. i got no enjoyment out of it.

  • Odyssey is one of the worst AC games.
    It is less comoelling than Liberation, less originak than AC1, and is as compelling as a bag of hammers.

    The grind, mass microtransactions, ridiculous immersion-breaking online events and stores.

    I had to cheat my levels up just to play the main story because I was sick of Side Quests that added nothing and offered nothing.

    It is an unmitigated snoozefest.

    Even Unity was more compelling to grind through.

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