11. Assassin's Creed
The game that started it all isn't looking as hot as it was eight years ago, but it isn't quite falling apart at the seams yet either. Effectively a tech demo for what the franchise could become, the original Assassin's Creed gives you one thing to do (assassinate, if you hadn't guessed) and tells you to do it ten times over, with only the most repetitive of sidequests to break things up. Much of what earned it acclaim at the time of its release has also faded, as graphics have gotten better and Ubisoft honed the controls for AC games so you don't run up walls quite as much.
But what the original Assassin's Creed has going for it is a place close to the series' heart: you learn everything you can about your target, you plot the assassination, and you execute. The high-profile missions offer some variety in that regard, since each target behaves in a unique way that favors a different kind of approach. It's bare-bones, and it's been done better since, but the game isn't irrelevant yet.
10. Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China
Continuing fine tradition of AC side-scrollers, Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China perfects their best parts and improves on them by borrowing tricks from one of the best stealth games of all time (hint: it's the one with the ninjas). Stealth mechanics are integrated seamlessly and give the gameplay a lot more flavor, and true free-running segments create intense and welcome action. Add in a beautiful art style that disguises its lesser budget, and Chronicles: China is easily the best among Assassin's Creed's not-quite-2D library.
On the downside, its short runtime and basic setup don't allow for the exploration of a truly great Assassin's Creed, and the lack of variety between environments means that the world quickly becomes repetitive. Plus, protagonist Shao Jun's revenge plot is light on heartfelt storytelling, and instead unapologetically replicates that of her mentor, Ezio Auditore. But it's a fun and challenging title that advances the quality of the series' smaller offerings and redeems the format.
9. Assassin's Creed Unity
Let's get this out in the open: Assassin's Creed Unity had problems. An ambitious project that promised to revamp Assassin's Creed's standard battle mechanics, create a bigger world than in any previous title, and build a completely new multiplayer from scratch, it bit off more cake than it could chew and was an infamously glitchy mess at launch. However while that may be the story that lives on into gaming infamy, it's really not Unity's full story. With week one glitches ironed out, French Revolution Assassin, Arno's adventures are a beautiful and ambitious journey through a genuinely incredible Paris.
In addition to being gorgeous and upping the graphical standard for every Creed to come, Unity's assassination system is revolutionary, opening up new opportunities for creative killing by honing in on weak links in the environment's security. In addition, it offers up cerebral challenges in the form of murder mysteries and riddle solving, which are a lot more intricate and interesting than AC has seen in the past. If all Unity ever brings to the series is the ability to kill a man through the wall of a confessional and some serious brain teasers, its earned a place of esteem on this list.
8. Assassin's Creed Revelations
Pick a popular game, and chances are good that the protagonist is somewhere between 15 and 35 years old. They might as well be dead after that, because you're more likely to run across a unicorn in-game than a silver-haired main character. Ezio Auditore is not only an exception to that rule, but the best, thanks to the brilliant story at the forefront of Assassin's Creed Revelations. Featuring easily one of the most thoughtful and mature tales the series has yet woven, Revelations set the standard for every Assassin's Creed story since.
Admittedly, that brilliance isn't felt in every part of the game. Constantinople is fairly drab and forgettable, and the tower-defense mini-game added to territory-claiming is basically the worst. But that only speaks to the strength of Revelations' narrative, which focuses on sacrifice and loss in a painfully honest way that satisfies your heart as much as it breaks it. Both Ezio and Altair get the loving send-offs they deserve, because Revelations knows that there's strength in telling a different kind of story.
7. Assassin's Creed Brotherhood
On paper, Assassin's Creed Brotherhood sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. A direct, swiftly-produced sequel to Assassin's Creed 2 that restricts your movements to one city and de-emphasizes story: it had shameless cash-in written all over it. But those of us who prepared for disappointment were met with a pleasant surprise: Brotherhood is good. So good that it changed the face of the series forever by implementing brand new mechanics that influenced the series for years to come. Capturing territory, addictive multiplayer, and control over a legion of Assassins you can summon at your whim all came from Brotherhood.
Ezio's second adventure in Rome might not have the multiple locations of its predecessor - except a heartbreaking section in Monteriggioni we still can't get over - but this is a city of constant discovery. Atmospheric lairs lie beneath the streets and Da Vinci offers up even more fun Renaissance Bond gadgets for you to play with. Parachute, anyone, or poison dart launcher? How about driving a 15th century tank? Brotherhood even hides emotional slices of plot for the curious to find, and Rome itself is so diverse that you're never left wanting for much more.
6. Assassin's Creed Syndicate
In a world where steampunk is basically its own genre, Victorian London has been done to dapperly-dressed death. Yet when Assassin's Creed Syndicate showed up to the party fashionably late in 2015, it took to exploring the city with such unbridled amusement and sincerity that it was hard not to love, and had us asking for more like pitiful movie orphans.
Remembering to have fun where stiff-lipped Unity forgot (ironic, given that a stiff upper lip is sort of England's thing), Syndicate makes sure its many diversions are worth getting distracted by. Whether you're zooming across an impromptu zipline from your hidden blade or solving paranormal mysteries with Charles Dickens, Victorian London is never less than entertaining and sprawling and beautiful to boot.
Charming twin protagonists, Evie and Jacob Frye both of whom you can play at your leisure, add to that enjoyment with snarky banter that never feels snide or off-putting. These feel like real people you'd want to have pint with. Just maybe don't make any jokes about Templars. Letting you play happily with everything and even hurtle through the city in carriages, causing absolute chaos, Syndicate brings together the best parts of the entire Assassin's Creed series under one fancy umbrella, showing what the series is capable of when it tries.
5. Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag
While AC2 soared to success on an updraft of enthusiasm for a burgeoning series, Assassin's Creed Black Flag arrived on the heels of the disappointing AC3, when confidence in the series was at an all-time low. It faced a hostile climate with little faith that a game about pirate Assassins could possibly succeed. And in proper buccaneer fashion, it blew the doors right off the place, taking every piece of the Assassin's Creed franchise and turning it to gold. Pirate of the Caribbean Assassin, Edward Kenway, is an irresistible rogue and absolutely cancels out his poe faced grandson Conor.
There's almost nothing about the Assassin's Creed series that Black Flag didn't either invent or radically improve; against all expectations, it offered up the biggest and richest game world the franchise had yet seen, an incredible variety of addictive missions, ship combat that was suddenly fun, and an effortlessly beautiful soundtrack that you've probably listened to at least once while nowhere near the game. Plus, Black Flag goes beyond the video game basics, gives an honest treatment of an often misrepresented historical period, and deftly tells the tale of a time, a place, and a people that ultimately came to ruin. It's masterfully crafted, jaw-droppingly beautiful as whale tails rise and fall on the ocean wave, and we're still singing the sea shanties in the shower.
4. Assassin's Creed 2
You've seen the numbers already, you know what this means. Assassin's Creed 2, the previous gleaming jewel in the Brotherhood's hooded crown has been finally surpassed. But why has the 2009 classic remained the pinnacle of the franchise until now? It's simple. Everything. Assassin's Creed 2 took the mechanics of its drab predecessor and breathed life into it. From the moment of Ezio's birth - yes, you do have to use face pad buttons to control his little chubby arms and legs - this is a game that delivers heart, soul and a world so gloriously expansive you feel like a kid in a murderous sweetshop.
Florence, Rome, Venice, the glorious Italian Renaissance becomes your playground and with it's gradually unfolding narrative, Assassin's Creed 2 keeps handing over fresh toys. One hidden blade, two hidden blades, undiscovered tombs hiding deep below Italian cities, THAT Jesper Kyd soundtrack, everything keeps delivering long after you've finished the main story. The endless charm of Ezio, the seas of extra missions that enrich the world and even the relentless pursuit of a perfect Monteriggioni combine to make Assassin's Creed 2 everything that the franchise promises to be. Plus, the modern day elements are where you're truly introduced to the 21st century Assassin order. Danny Wallace's grumpy Shaun Hastings comes into play and an intriguing series of events in the present day gets the ball rolling for every AC game since. In short it was pretty perfect. Until...
3. Assassin's Creed Origins
Assassin's Creed Origins journey through Ancient Egypt doesn't just deliver a, y'know, origins story for the Brotherhood, but a beautiful world so rich and expansive that every step in any direction has the equal chance of serving up some new hidden treasure, or just a lion that really wants to eat your head. Bayek of Siwa, our new proto Assassin, and his equally murderous wife Aya are a new kind of heroes for the franchise, entirely oddly relatable despite their slaughtery quest for revenge across Egypt.
And what an Egypt. The country is the true star of AC Origins and you'll be clambering up the tallest towers not just to improve your eagle Senu's perception - yes, true eagle vision - but just to take in the sights of this glorious world. Never has a photo mode felt so welcome. Your screenshot button isn't going to know what's hit it. Origins isn't just a pretty face though. Assassin's Creed has had the big reset button well and truly pressed. Combat has been entirely revitalised with light and heavy attacks on your right shoulder buttons, dodge is key, and you're going to have to fight tooth and nail to survive. The revitalised levelling system means you'll need to tread carefully to make it to the next battle.
An RPG quest system too means you've got endless choice of how to play. Origins takes away all the irritants of previous Creeds and makes it all about you. Kill how you please, ride where you want, climb every wall, find every loot chest of endlessly fun weaponry and ridiculous bows and arrows. There are no restraints here and tailing missions have been well and truly ditched. This is a new Creed, a perfect evolution of everything that has come before and even has a new modern day element that means you might just care what happens next.
2. Assassin's Creed Valhalla
There are two types of people in the world. Those who have taken their antihistamines and enjoy clambering into piles of hay to lie patiently in wait for passing villains, and those who would rather shatter castle gates with flaming battering rams. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla then, happily, is for everyone. With a renewed focus on the stealthier side of the Brotherhood via an actual ‘Hidden Ones’ hut in your settlement of Ravensthorpe, it brings back the heart of the series. But miraculously, Eivor’s adventures do this without taking away everything we love about the new Creeds.
Story is vital across this sprawling beautiful world and everything you do here feels like it genuinely matters. Whether that’s experiencing the glorious mini world events, selecting an Ealdorman for a county, or crashing your longship onto a beach and blowing your horn before pillaging to your heart’s content. This campaign is a true saga too, full of characters who’ll sneak into your heart whether you want them to or not, making every region and adventure a genuine risk. Stopping to take in the scenery is an ideal way to exercise your screenshot button and appreciate the incredible world-building but also compose yourself for the next potentially emotional narrative pummeling.
Then there’s the mythical realms, the whole other countries, the satisfying new combat switcheroo and expansive skill tree. Finding your feet in England is a true rise to glory for Eivor and there’s an almost overwhelming amount to do. But therein lies the joy of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. Whether you want to fish, take in the scenery from the back of a wolf, hunt down Thor’s armour, or even Excalibur, this is a world where it all quite comfortably fits. Choose your weapons, pick some targets, hunt them down and then do something else entirely tomorrow. Valhalla is relentlessly, terrifyingly brilliant.
1. Assassin's Creed Odyssey
Read everything we said about Assassin's Creed Origins above, and then imagine if that was all done again, but in Ancient Greece, oh and about 100% more in depth. Welcome, fellow roof wanderers, to Assassin's Creed Odyssey. It takes players back to way back before the Order was even a thing, and tells a story through the medium of two new protagonists - Kassandra and Alexios. You actually get to choose who you play as right at the start, and then the rest of the game plays out according to your choices. And boy, will you have a lot of choices to make. This game is huge.
But not huge in a way that you end up feeling like there's too much, or too little, to get involved with. This is a world that is filled with side quests and distractions galore, with each one being deal with the same quality and finesse. Not a boring fetch quest in sight, my friends. Just hours of glorious cutscenes, incredibly memorable characters and a whole lot of romance.
The combat's had a load of tweaking too, ironing out some of Origins' quirks in favour of an expansive abilities tree and upgradeable / moddable armour and weapons that might just give Destiny 2 Forsaken a run for its money. This is the most customisable Creed ever, and you won't begrudge any of the time you spend tweaking your gear in menus, because it'll immediately pay off in the combat. No-one's made an open-world RPG with this much depth and brilliance since The Witcher 3. This really is the ultimate Creed.