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Assassin’s Creed is one of the most prolific series in modern gaming. Since it started way back in 2007, the series has grown to encompass 12 games in the main series alone, with a sizable number of different spin-off titles as well. On top of that, it has one of the most complicated stories in gaming outside of Hideo Kojima’s fever dreams, and that’s saying a fair bit.
If you’ve not managed to play all of the games in the series yet, then you’re not alone. With so many titles it can be difficult to even figure out which games are worth your time, and which ones should probably be consigned to history for good (pun intended.) So, we’re here to help. Below we’ve provided a list of all the best titles available in the Assassin’s Creed series from the early days all the way up to the modern iterations.
Assassin’s Creed II
Where better to start off the list than with the game in the series that really solidified it as a staple of modern gaming? While the original Assassin’s Creed title was a great adventure, it did have some problems that made it a bit less enjoyable than it could have been. On top of that, being a very early title for the Xbox 360-era it’s incredibly clunky when it comes to controls, so going back to it these days is not a fun experience for most people. However, Assassin’s Creed II feels a lot smoother, even to this day, and also introduced a protagonist that the series wouldn’t be able to escape for 3 whole games.
Assassin’s Creed II introduced various features that would go on to become absolute staples of the series. For one, you no longer got reset for accidentally landing in the water, because Ubisoft reasoned that a wealthy, trained assassin should probably be able to swim (thank god). As a result, moving around the city was much easier, and you didn’t have to worry about being constantly killed because your character widely misinterpreted your jump commands. Another big addition was eagle vision, or rather the ability to use eagle vision in the third person and while you were on the move. Previously, the ability had been relegated to first-person view and wood disable itself when you moved.
Combat was also re-assessed for Assassin’s Creed II, ditching the focus on escaping and hiding that the first game hides up until the final mission. If you’ve played an AC game, or hell a lot of different games, in the past 15 years, you’ll probably be familiar with the combat system. It’s all about parrying and reposting your opponents, countering their blows even when you’re facing off against multiple opponents. The combat system was so beloved and successful that it appeared in an insane number of other games, from Arkham Asylum to Shadow of Mordor.
It’s not all about the ancillary features though, AC2 had a big impact on the stealth and murder parts of the series as well. Hiding was much easier, with an even broader array of different locations to conceal yourself in, including the ability to blend into any sufficiently sized crowd. This had a knock-on effect on assassination because you could walk right up to a target in some cases and they wouldn’t even notice you. There’s a lot to praise this title for, from the expansion of key elements of the series to the streamlining of controls and gameplay. To this day, going back to AC2 is a lot of fun and a great reminder of the series’ roots.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
For many people, Assassin’s Creed II was their first AC title, but for a lot of those same people, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag swiftly became their favorite. While older games had certainly done a fair bit to expand on the series’ gameplay, by the time Assassin’s Creed III came out in 2012, the whole franchise was starting to feel a bit stale. After all, there are only so many ways in which you can sneak around and murder people, and releasing a game every year means you’re gonna run out of ways fast. As it turns out, turning Assassin’s Creed into a swashbuckling pirate adventure is exactly what Ubisoft needed to do to make everything come to life again.
The series’ staple gameplay elements were all here, as they had been for all the previous entries since AC2. You still had eagle vision, stealthing, stabbing, and hiding in crowds. All that good stuff. But, you also now had basically an entire second part to the game where you were a treasure-hunting pirate who had his own ship and crew who could sail all over the Caribbean sea. Not only was this a great way of breaking up the standard gameplay of the series to keep things interesting, but it also had the side-effect of making the huge amount of money you earned throughout the game actually worth something.
See a major issue that most Assassin’s Creed titles had was there was so much to do that would give you piles upon piles of money. That doesn’t sound like an issue, but the only major things you had to spend your money on were a few upgrades for your equipment, and a lot of upgrades for your villa or township, or whatever the new thing in each game was. That was a problem because the villa or whatever that you pour money into, really only exists to pour even more money back out again. Instead, with Black Flag, you pour that money into your ship, and instead, you get actual gameplay benefits that make the game more fun to play.
There are other reasons why ASsassin’s Creed IV is easily one of the series’ top titles. One of the major advantages of the game is probably the fact that it is drenched in atmosphere from top to bottom. As you sail around the world your crew sings shanties amongst the sounds of the waves hitting the bow of the boat. You also have the beautiful visuals of the strong Caribbean sun hitting waves and natural landmarks, bouncing around as you jump from your ship and dive into the sea hunting treasure or pearls. It’s really easy to just turn on the game and lose yourself in its setting.
Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
After Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate was released, the series went on a bit of a break to rediscover itself. After releasing a game every year for nearly 10 years, things had started to get a bit stale, and that meant that Syndicate wasn’t overly popular or successful, especially when compared with previous entries. So, after taking a year off, Ubisoft returned with Origins, and it got a lot more people back into the series. Then they released Odyssey and if anything it was an even more refined version of the gameplay that revitalized the series in the first place.
Since the previous entry, Origins, Assassin’s Creed had been turned into an RPG, rather than an action-adventure game. By the time Odyssey came out, the entire experience had been expanded an insane amount. It’s not hyperbole to say that the scope of the game was unlike anything that the series had experienced before. The campaign of Odyssey took as long as the campaign and DLC of Origins put together, so you can say that Odyssey was really living up to its name.
More than just the sheer size of everything, a lot of the reason that Odyssey was so good was the same reason behind Black Flag being so good: the worldbuilding. Once again, Ubisoft had succeeded in creating a world that felt real, from the atmosphere as you wander around ancient Greece. It was made even better by the fact that you had a pet hawk, and could effectively warg your way inside of it and get a literal bird’s eye view of the impressive landscape slipping by below you. Not even the grappling hook from Syndicate can offer these sorts of views.
Of course, there’s also the new RPG mechanics that were improved upon since Origins and are now running at full tilt. Combat is a highly refined version of the same RPG combat from the last game but is now backed up by some of the most interesting characters and storylines that the series has ever had. All of that combined easily puts this game in the top 3 of the entire series and makes it one of the most engrossing experiences that Ubisoft has ever put out, with the only potential contender being with previous entries in the very same Assassin’s Creed Series.
Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China
While the main series of games is a lot of fun, it’s not the only thing that Assassin’s Creed has been working on over the years. Since the early days, there have been a pretty sizable number of spin-off titles from DS games, to side-scrollers, even mini-AC games that were basically minor plots with similar mechanics to the main series. It was one of these side-scrollers that really managed to boil the gameplay down to its purest form and make it enjoyable despite the loss of an entire dimension. It also helps that it came out during the year-long break from the main games. Enter, Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China, the first entry in the Chronicles spin-off series.
Part of the reason that we chose China over the other entries in the series is that AC Chronicles: China is easily the most focused game in the side series. The gameplay is mainly focused on stealth, either completely avoiding or silently murdering all of your enemies being the optimum strategy for making your way through the game. There is also more direct combat available, but your character spends a lot of the game with a small enough amount of health that getting into combat is more like a mistake than a decision. Either way, the focus on stealth as a dominant method means that game feels closer to the pure stealth experience we haven’t seen since the original game.
Part of the reason that the gameplay works so well is that it seems to have taken a few hints from another 2D stealth game: Mark of the Ninja. It didn’t bring over the light/shadow aspect of the stealth from that game but felt incredibly similar to the slick stealth adventure. If anything, stripping stealth back to being based mostly on vision cones and the level of sound your making, meant it was much easier to get into ACC: China for those folks who weren’t that into stealth games already.
The story isn’t really anything special, The main character is seeking revenge against someone, which is about as cliched a plot as they come, but it’s not really too much of a problem. Chronicles: China looks decent, plays really well, and gives you something set in the world of Assassin’s Creed that is unlike any game in the series before or since then. While it’s not as deep or as engaging as the games in the main series that came both before or after it, it is a nice, bite-sized adventure that gives hardcore fans of the series something a little different to play without abandoning the things that make a game an assassin’s creed game.
The Final Word
There you are, a list of some of the best games in the Assassin’s Creed series. With such a huge series it was almost impossible to strip it down to just a handful of titles, so there are certain games that we may have missed on this list. Let us know below if you think there are other games in the series that deserve a spotlight. You should also consider checking out some of our other ‘best of’ lists. We’ve covered everything from Call of Duty to the best idle games out there.
For as long as he can remember, Charlie has always been interested in computers and gaming. It all started with the Sega Mega Drive and then evolved into PC gaming in his early teens. CS 1.6 was his first go at competitive gaming which soon evolved into CS:Source and now CS:GO - a game that he still plays (almost exclusively) today. Throughout that period he has also been a keen PC builder and enthusiast - dedicating a large portion of his time to the craft. My current rig is an ASUS 5700XT with AMD's Ryzen 3600X.