Not since 2008 has Ubisoft passed on delivering to players a brand new AAA experience in the massive Assassin's Creed franchise. What was born out of a Prince of Persia brainstorm has grown to be the French developer-publisher's most popular series in their history. Through AAA development, arcadey spinoffs, and even Facebook and mobile games, the tales of the centuries-long war between assassins and templars have been told in all parts of the world, spanning many vital moments in history, and featuring more famous faces than JJ Abrams' birthday party.
With the Hollywood adaptation of Assassin's Creed hitting the US today and other regions soon, we thought now would be a great time to reflect on all of our travels via the animus and decide which of them have been the best. We knew approaching any sort of rankings with regard to this series would likely result in a lot of debate. This series still has plenty of diehard fans after all these years, and opinions vary greatly on the quality of each release. Even we on staff had about four different versions of this list in contention for the final published version. Don't agree with how we ranked them? Give us your version in the comments!
Sam went to bat for the oft-overlooked last gen entry:
Assassin’s Creed III was one of the more controversial entries in the series, and I for one felt like it was a total mess narratively. In fact, by the end of it I was sympathising far more with the Templars. Perhaps that’s why I got on well with Rogue, which not only put us in Templar shoes but also gave us more time with Haytham Kenway, one of my favourite characters in the series. Shay Cormac wasn’t exactly the most engaging anti-hero to play, but exploring the North American coastline with Black Flag gameplay was pretty good fun, as was seeing how the Colonial Brotherhood originally fell to pieces.
The Portugal sequence at the beginning of the game was totally unexpected and remains one of the more memorable set-pieces in the franchise so far. It was also the first single-player outing for the series since Assassin’s Creed II, a relief to those of us that felt that the multiplayer aspect reached a new low in Unity. Many will have skipped this entry altogether due to its release on the previous generation, but if you have some love for the series Rogue is definitely worth picking up in a sale.
Once again, Sam defended a less beloved moment in the series' history:
A lot of people felt that Revelations was an early sign that the series was getting tired, and it’s hard to argue against that in terms of gameplay. The multiplayer was samey, the addition of bombs to the single player was pointless and Constantinople, while nice to look at, couldn’t hold a candle Ezio’s Italian landscapes. Revelations will always hold a soft spot in my heart though, and that’s because of the story.
I loved playing as old Ezio and old Altair as they struggled to understand the meaning of their Creed and the purpose of their lives, and I even liked the final monologue of Subject 16 -- a rare moment in which a modern-day sequence didn't cause me to mute my TV. The over-arching themes – the importance of passing on our stories, as well as the importance of letting go of the fight – make Revelations one of the more poignant stories. The mournful main theme by Lorne Balfe still gives me goosebumps, while Jesper Kyd’s beautiful “Istanbul” theme remains among my favourite tracks in the franchise.
The one that started it all. While in retrospect, the debut is severely lacking in countless ways compared to its successors, the basis of the game, open world parkour and the richly recreated time and place, was all on display in the 2007 debut. It seems not even Ubisoft knew how big of a hit their series would grow to become, but it got there owing a lot to this promising, albeit repetitive, first entry. It just scratched the surface of story elements that later entries would build upon, like the artifacts of the First Civilization. The rabbit hole runs very, very deep in the Assassin's Creed universe, and we had just barely fallen in with the first game. It's looked at fondly because of its role as the spark that ignited a centuries-long story, rewrote a genre, and made world history cool again.
Taking the two perspectives approach of Revelations to new heights, the most recent entry of the series, Syndicate put players in the shoes of the Frye twins, Evie and Jacob. Displaying a sort of finesse and force duality, the duo were fairly well developed and gave fans the most enjoyable protagonists since Ezio aged out of the animus. Combat was sleek and the birth-of-industry era London was both the series most modern and most alive setting to date. Though our resident Creed fan Sam didn't like the antagonist (he called him a "wet fish"), most people thought he was the first memorable "big boss" in a while.
It looks like Syndicate will be the last game in the series before its reinvention arrives within the next year or two. Ubisoft hasn't yet announced much of the next game, only promising that they're looking how to breathe new life into the franchise.
Fondness for the series runs deep on the TA news team, and Megan wanted to chime in with some words on the swashiest of all buckles, AC4:
After we bid a fond farewell to Ezio, gave a hearty goodbye handshake to Desmond, and kicked Connor out of the door faster than he could say bye, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag was born, and took us on a whole new assassin adventure. Where Assassin's Creed III touched on sea voyages, newcomer Edward (who brought a new twist on becoming an assassin) took us full pirate. Searching for hidden treasures, harpooning sea creatures and plundering ships of their goods, Edward's story may not have been a particularly heart wrenching one, at least not at first, but there's something irresistable about just being bad sometimes. Your nameless character in the present also has an exciting adventure happening at the same time, with surprises for them as well as Edward.
Brotherhood marks the beginning of a new era for Assassin's Creed games. It was the first non-numbered entry in the series and introduced annualization for the first time. In years to come this approach would prove to be harmful to the series and is the reason we didn't receive a new entry in 2016, but at that time plenty of people were still enthused to get more of Ezio so soon. To date, he remains the fan favorite protagonist.
Brotherhood introduced multiplayer which was a hit for many. It stood out in a sea of shooters as a never before seen hide-and-seek mode that captured much of what made the single-player so great. Before the story lost its way in later entries, Brotherhood built on the stunning conclusion to AC2 and, like its predecessor, left fans wanting more, which we got in the following year's Ezio finale, the aforementioned Revelations.
Megan had more to say on what is the the series favorite of hers, mine, and so many others:
Sometimes the game changer in a series comes at the start, sometimes it comes at the end and blows the rest of the series out of the water, but in Assassin's Creed's case, it came in the form on Assassin's Creed II. Desmond and Lucy escaped from Abstergo in the present day, and we delved into their lives a lot more. As for in the past, we were introduced to Ezio Auditore de Firenze for the first time, a protagonist it was pretty much impossible not to fall in love with. He had charm, good looks and wit, and his life was full of heartbreak and betrayal in a story you couldn't help but be drawn into. In between collecting additional story content, upgrading Ezio's home, and killing a whole bunch of people who probably deserved it, Assassin's Creed II captivated in a way that the original wasn't quite able.A series as storied and sequel'd as Assassin's Creed will surely merit countless versions of such a Best Of list. Maybe we left your favorite off the list entirely, or maybe you think we got the order a bit confused. If you're well-versed in the series, let us know what your rankings look like.