Since bursting onto the scene in 2007, the Assassin’s Creed has become one of the most recognisable names in gaming. Now Ubisoft’s flagship franchise, the Assassin’s Creed series has traversed time and space through its many incarnations, from the ancient lands of Greece and Egypt all the way up the British industrial revolution. The series’ gameplay has gone through similarly drastic transformations, starting of as an experiment with ‘social stealth’ before transitioning into action-adventure, and, in its last few entries, massive RPGs. With 12 main games released so far, the franchise has certainly seen its ups and downs over its 15 year history – which is why we’re here today, with a comprehensive ranking of every main entry in the series to date.
8. Assassin’s Creed: Rogue (2014)
The swan song of Assassin’s Creed on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, Assassin’s Creed: Rogue offered fans the chance play as assassin-turned-templar Shea Cormac. Shea’s story was relatively slight (Rogue was almost invisible when compared to Unity, which released the same year, but for PS4 and Xbox One) but it was a chance to explore the other side of the classic assassin versus templar war. It was an exciting prospect, albeit one that never quite lived up to its promise, as templar life seems to be very similar to assassin life.
Based heavily on the systems introduced in Black Flag, Rogue plays incredibly. Naval combat is still fun, and the various locales are a joy to explore. Moving away from Black Flag‘s pirate-filled Caribbean, Rogue takes place in the Arctic waters around North America, which goes some way to setting the game apart.
What ultimately holds Rogue back from the upper echelons of the Assassin’s Creed series, is just how similar it is to Black Flag, just with some features removed. It’s an interesting enough story, but most of the gameplay on offer here is ripped straight from its predecessor, making it feel like Black Flag Lite than its own distinct entry most of the time.
7. Assassin’s Creed III (2012)
This was actually the first Assassin’s Creed game I played, back when I was looking for some more games to dive into in the early days of the Wii U. While divisive among fans of the series, I thoroughly enjoyed my time exploring pre-revolutionary America and clambering all over a burgeoning New York. Protagonist Ratonhnaké:ton, otherwise known as Connor, loathed by many for his seriousness, actually quite appealed to me. Sure, he might not have Ezio’s charisma, but then if every protagonist was just Ezio reskinned, things would get boring very quickly.
Assassin’s Creed III saw a rather hefty jump in the graphics department over the games that had come before – people look much more weighty and real than in the Ezio trilogy – and the addition of more wild areas meant we weren’t just confined to city environments like we had been in previous entries.
Initial reactions weren’t all that kind to Assassin’s Creed III, but I’m sure that if fans were to revisit the game now, they’d find more to love here than they originally thought. Well worth checking out.
6. Assassin’s Creed: Origins (2017)
After yearly releases from 2009 all the way to 2015, 2016 finally saw the Assassin’s Creed franchise take a year off. It was clear that franchise fatigue was starting to set in, with the latest entry in the series, Syndicate, feeling particularly stale for many. The series was in need of a shake up. So that’s exactly what developers Ubisoft did.
Arriving in 2017, Assassin’s Creed: Origins saw the series adopt RPG mechanics in a way that it never had before. Sure, the franchise had previously had the protagonists ‘level up’, but it never really meant anything. Now, it did. Enemies had levels for the first time, and players quickly found that whereas in previous games you could fight just about anybody from the beginning of the game, as long as you had the skill, those same tactics didn’t really work here, effectively blocking off whole areas of the game world until you’d progressed further, acquired new skills and armour and levelled your character.
Some of those skills also saw the franchise leaning more into the mystical than it ever had before. Now, Assassin’s Creed has never been 100% realistic, but it didn’t have arrows that you could control for long after they’d left your bow like Origins did.
The game’s setting was one of the aspects that initially appealed to me the most. The thought of climbing the pyramids, exploring lush areas of the Nile… It sounded fantastic. When I actually played the game, I did however find the world to be somewhat of a mixed bag. Sure, the highlights were up there with the best the series had to offer, but there were plenty of times that I found myself trudging through desert, just wondering how much more sand I could really bear.
5. Assassin’s Creed Unity (2014)
First things first: at launch, Assassin’s Creed: Unity was a mess. The game was practically a walking and talking glitch disguised as a game. Understandably, the shadow of that disastrous launch has long loomed heavy over any analysis of Unity as a game, with many fans unable to get over the disappointment they felt when they first started playing. It truly is a shame, because now that most of those issues have been patched away, Unity stands as one of the best experiences the Assassin’s Creed franchise has to offer.
After Assassin’s Creed III took things to a developing America, full of forest areas, and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag saw players sailing the Caribbean, Unity was a return to the core elements of the franchise. The game had a renewed focus on the stealth mechanics players had felt were gradually becoming less and less important – whereas in the last few entries, you could fight your way out of pretty much any encounter, Unity made you feel much more fragile. The assassination missions were also a joy – there were multiple paths players could take to approach their targets and do the deed, whether it be waiting for the right moment to drop down from above, or getting up close in disguise. Unity allowed players much more freedom in how they approached these missions than most previous games in the series, making it, in many ways, feel like the closest the Assassin’s Creed series has ever come to being a true stealth game.
It’s also important to note that Unity is stunning. While there were many other Assassin’s Creed titles to launch on PS4 and Xbox One after this, it wasn’t really until 2020’s Valhalla that Unity was truly bettered in the graphical department.
If you’ve been put off playing Unity because of its reputation, I’d strongly advise going back to it and trying it out now. It’s one of the most focused, pure experiences the series has ever offered, and it still holds up well today.