It's hard to believe that it's only been ten years since the release of the first Assassin's Creed game. As a unique mixture of action, stealth, parkour, and historical tourism, it was an instant hit, and Ubisoft wasted no time expanding on what would become one of the biggest franchises in gaming.
There have been nine "main" games released in the franchise for home consoles (with a few more for portable systems) and a tenth, Origins, will be released later this year. Last year, the franchise made the jump to the big screen, albeit with mixed results.
Almost every game has come with a new historical time period to explore, and a new assassin to embody. Some of them have become icons of the gaming industry, while others have been a little more forgettable.
How do they all stack up? We're going to try to answer this question now by ranking all of the playable assassins featured so far (plus the one from the movie, for the sake of completion).
Here are is Every Assassin's Creed Assassin Ranked, Worst To Best.
15 Aguilar de Nerha
Played by Michael Fassbender, the Spanish assassin Aguilar de Nerha resides at the bottom of our list. This is partially to keep him separate from the game characters, but also because he's just not all that memorable. In his defense, the movie spends more time with his descendant Callum in the present day, so Aguilar doesn't drive the narrative like his video game counterparts do.
Living in the late 1400s during the Spanish Inquisition, Aguilar and his fellow assassin Maria are tasked with protecting the son of a Sultan and securing the Apple, a "Piece of Eden" (mystical doohickey) that can dominate the free will of all mankind. In keeping with the historical tourism aspect of the franchise, Aguilar ultimately regains the Apple and hands it off to - who else? - Christopher Columbus himself.
14 Nikolai Orelov
There are plenty of iconic historical time periods and settings that Ubisoft has not yet had the time or inclination to utilize for a full-sized game. However, three such time periods did feature in smaller, "2.5D" side-scrolling titles in the Chronicles trilogy.
The first Chronicles assassin on our list is Nikolai Orelov. His adventure is set in Russia during the Russian Revolution of the early 20th century, when the Tsar and his family were overthrown and executed.
Assassin's Creed excels at putting a unique spin on history, and this installment is no different. Nikolai flees Russia, but not before witnessing the execution of the Tsar's family. However, in a nod to one of the great historical mysteries of all time, he is able to save Princess Anastasia, spiriting her away to a new life.
13 Connor Kenway
Assassin's Creed 3 may be the most divisive entry in the entire franchise. It was meant to herald a new beginning for the series, and there is some good stuff in the game: the American Revolution is a great setting, allowing players to meet historical luminaries like George Washington, Paul Revere, and Thomas Jefferson.
It also opens the series up by allowing players to explore the wilderness of the frontier, and introduces the much-loved naval element with ship battles on the Eastern Seaboard and in the Caribbean. However, the protagonist, Ratonhnhaké:ton/Connor Kenway, leaves a lot to be desired.
While it's great to experience American history from the perspective of a Native American, Connor himself just isn't much fun to be around. The developers were obviously trying something different after three games with the charming Ezio Auditore, and their effort to mix things up is commendable. The perpetually angry and dour Connor, however, goes too far in the other direction: his father, the Templar Grand Master Haytham, is much more fun.
12 Arbaaz Mir
The second Chronicles hero on our list, Arbaaz Mir, takes the reins for an entry set in India during the waning years of the Sikh Empire.
Arbaaz's quest involves the acquisition of the Koh-i-Noor; the famed diamond that was seized by Queen Victoria in 1849 and currently on display in the Tower of London. In Assassin's lore, the Koh-i-Noor is actually a Piece of Eden (naturally) and Arbaaz must keep it out of Templar hands. The game features beautiful vistas depicting the lavish Indian Empire, as well as unique weapons like the urumi and the chakram.
Aside from his starring role in Chronicles: India, Arbaaz is also notable for being the father of Jayadeep, who later takes the name Henry Green and becomes Mentor of the London Brotherhood (and a supporting character in Syndicate).
11 Desmond Miles
As a unique character in Assassin's lore, Desmond Miles was the modern day descendant of a number of legendary assassins. When placed into the Animus, his DNA allowed him to relive the adventures of his ancestors, including Altair, Ezio, and Connor.
In the early years of the franchise, Desmond essentially acted as the player's proxy. Unlike the average gamer, though, Desmond slowly began to assimilate the abilities of his ancestors, eventually becoming a skilled assassin himself.
Voiced by the ubiquitous Nolan North, Desmond seemed destined to eventually get his own game set completely in the modern world. However, instead, he was killed off at the end of Assassin's Creed 3 (while saving the world, at least). Since then, the games have focused less and less on the modern day action and more on the historical side of things.
10 Shay Cormac
From an in-universe perspective, Shay Cormac should be at the bottom of this list, or not on it at all. As the star of the often overlooked Assassin's Creed: Rogue, Shay is a novice assassin who grows disillusioned with the Order and ultimately defects to the Templars.
In doing so, he almost single-handedly decimates the American arm of the Brotherhood, leaving it in the ruined state Connor finds it in during Assassin's Creed 3.
The Templars have always been portrayed as villains in the series, but this game casts a bit of a harsher light on the assassins themselves, especially the American Mentor, Achilles. Cormac turns against the assassins after their efforts to secure a Piece of Eden results in a devastating earthquake in Lisbon.
There are definitely some misunderstandings that contribute to Cormac's disillusionment, and the Templars take advantage of this, but the assassins are hardly innocent.
9 Shao Jun
The final Chronicles character on our list, Shao Jun is a young Chinese assassin who battles the Templars in the sixteenth century. Before her starring role in Chronicles: China, Shao Jun was introduced in the digital short film Assassin's Creed: Embers, in which she visits an elderly Ezio Auditore during his final days. Ezio gives her some training and guidance, and Jun returns to China to reestablish the Brotherhood there.
Ancient China is a fantastic setting with a ton of potential, so it's a little surprising Ubisoft relegated it to the Chronicles series. Of course, they could always revisit it (and Shao Jun) later with a full-sized game.
Still, the 2.5D format is sufficient in showing just how cool Shao Jun is, as she slices her way across the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, and other historic locations in her battles with the Templar-aligned Eight Tigers.
8 Aveline de Grandpré
The beautiful assassin Aveline stars in Liberation, a portable game (later ported to consoles) released as a companion piece to Assassin's Creed 3. While Connor is dealing with the American Revolution in the north, Aveline is coming of age in New Orleans during the French and Indian War.
A young French-African woman, Aveline was born to a wealthy French merchant father and a slave mother. Her unique ancestry gives her a unique status in life that she is able to use to her advantage as an assassin.
In a clever gameplay twist, Aveline is able to wear her traditional assassin outfit as well as a pair of disguises. In the elaborate garb of a noblewoman, she can't fight or move very quickly, but she can infiltrate high society gatherings and use her feminine wiles on unsuspecting targets. In the meager dressings of a slave, meanwhile, she can go largely unnoticed by the authorities.
7 Jacob Frye
Syndicate is set in Victorian London, and instead of focusing on one protagonist, it features two: twin siblings Jacob and Evie Frye. Though they are fiercely loyal to each other, the Frye siblings are quite different. Where Evie is a true believer in the assassin cause, the dashing Jacob is more interested in amassing a loyal gang of followers at his back.
While Evie takes care of the planning and strategy, Jacob strides out into the spotlight and becomes the bombastic face of the assassins in London. He's full of confidence and swagger, but he's got the fighting skills (and brass knuckles) to back it up.
Jacob may be the more charismatic of the two, but Evie is a great character in her own right.
6 Arno Dorian
There's no sugarcoating it: the launch of Assassin's Creed Unity was a disaster. The game was riddled with bugs-- some game-breaking, others just annoying-- while Ubisoft added in a bunch of ill-advised mobile tie-ins. Hardly any of it worked, and a lot of people had given up on the game by the time all the bugs were finally fixed, leaving Unity with a bad reputation.
This is a shame, because it's actually one of the better stories in the Creed franchise, set during the upheaval of the French Revolution. It also features a great protagonist. Arno Dorian is a child when his assassin father is murdered ( by a certain "rogue" Templar...), and, as a young man, he is framed for the murder of the Templar Grand Master who raised him.
Seeking revenge, Arno is drawn into the Assassin Order while his true love Elise follows her father's footsteps and joins the Templars. It's the Assassin's Creed version of Romeo and Juliet, and it works.
5 Altair Ibn-La'Ahad
The first Assassin's Creed game was a great "proof of concept" for what the franchise would become, in spite of its imperfections. Players were set loose in the historical playground of the Holy Land during the Third Crusade, taking on the role of the headstrong assassin Altair.
Cocky and overconfident, Altair botches a critical mission and is stripped of his rank (and all of the best tools of his trade). To regain his station and honor, he is tasked with hunting down a number of high-ranking Templars throughout the Holy Lands. His trials temper his arrogance and he ultimately gains a new understanding and respect for the Order, even after his master Al-Mualim's betrayal.
The first Creed game covers a short period in Altair's life, but in later appearances in the series (most notably Revelations) we see him grow old, become Mentor of the Brotherhood, and finally die.
The franchise has delivered some great DLC, from Assassin's Creed 2's Bonfire of the Vanities to Syndicate's Jack The Ripper. However, the best of these bonus adventures may be Black Flag's Freedom Cry, which expands on the story of Adéwalé, the slave-turned-pirate-turned assassin.
Adéwalé is one of the most intriguing characters we meet in Black Flag. Born into slavery, Adéwalé seized the opportunity to escape when pirates raided the plantation he worked on. Taking up piracy himself, he eventually became Edward Kenway's trusted first mate, but a life of crime and debauchery wasn't enough for him, and when he discovered the Assassin's Order he found his true calling.
Adéwalé lives a fairly long life for an assassin, helping to strengthen the Brotherhood in the West Indies and helping to free slaves throughout the region. As Shay Cormac in Rogue, however, gamers are given the heartbreaking task of killing the legendary assassin.
3 Evie Frye
Prior to the release of Syndicate, Liberation's Aveline and Chronicles: China's Shao Jun were the only playable female protagonists in the Creed series. Ubisoft heard their fans clamoring for another heroine, and Evie Frye was born.
Alongside her twin brother Jacob, Evie helps the Brotherhood retake the great city of London from the Templar Order. Though Jacob takes a more visible role in that effort (and also in a lot of the game's marketing materials), even he acknowledges that Evie is the better assassin. She's also, arguably, the more interesting character.
Fully devoted to the cause of the Brotherhood, Evie immerses herself in the Order's history and studies tirelessly. She's also a formidable warrior, battling with Templar agents and throwing punches at men twice her size in the local fight club.
2 Edward Kenway
Black Flag and Assassin's Creed 2 are often held up as the best games in the franchise, so it's no surprise that their protagonists are also the most popular.
The fourth main game in the series was so popular specifically because it stepped away from the trappings of previous Creed games and allowed players to live a pirate's life. Sailing across the Caribbean, engaging in ship-to-ship battles and diving for treasure made Black Flag a truly refreshing experience, as did its charming lead.
As a scoundrel with a noble streak, Edward Kenway is as dashing and charismatic as a pirate lord should be (it's hard to believe his grandson Connor shares his genetics). Kenway also enjoys some genuine character growth during his journey, starting as a rascal who cares about gold and little else, and becoming a principled warrior for good.
1 Ezio Auditore
Ezio Auditore is the consensus pick for Creed's best assassin, and it's hard to argue. After all, he's the only main character to be given not one, not two, but three games of his very own.
The story of Ezio spans decades through his trilogy of games, the short film Embers, and even a few novels for good measure. Starting life as a privileged nobleman, Ezio witnesses the unjust execution of his father and two brothers. Learning that his father was an assassin and that the Templars arranged his execution, Ezio vows revenge and joins the Brotherhood.
Ezio is fueled by vengeance, but he isn't consumed by it. Even in light of his family tragedy and search for retribution, Ezio remains a charismatic and charming leading man, wooing the ladies of Renaissance Italy, forging friendships with Leonardo da Vinci and Machiavelli, and generally having a ton of fun as a dashing vigilante.
Who is your favorite Assassin's Creed assassin? Let us know in the comments!