The Assassin’s Creed games are archetypal historical games and among the best games for ‘reliving’ history. A series that has portrayed medieval Crusader states, Renaissance Italy, Ptolemaic Egypt and beyond, each Assassin’s Creed game invites players to journey into an impressively rendered albeit heavily fictionalised version of the past.
Since the first game released in 2007, Assassin’s Creed has continued to fortify its best-selling status with beguiling variations of historic people and places. Here are the most notable Assassin’s Creed games in order.
2007: Assassin’s Creed
The first Assassin’s Creed game was released in November 2007. It took place during the Third Crusade in the Levant in 1191, and turned the cities of Jerusalem, Acre and Damascus into open world, parkour playgrounds. Assassin’s Creed introduced main character Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad as a member of the historical Order of Assassins, albeit thrown into a fictionalised conspiracy plot which enrolled the voice talents of Nolan North and Kristen Bell.
In the words of long-time Art Director Raphael Lacoste, “The world of Assassin’s Creed was created to stir the imagination, to travel in time in order to discover epic locations and witness some of the world’s most pivotal moments in history.” This is where that journey begins.
2009: Assassin’s Creed II
Set mainly in Florence and Venice, Assassin’s Creed II was Ubisoft Montreal’s next game, which they brought to market with a development team triple the size of that which created the original Assassin’s Creed. The sequel continued an overarching speculative fiction thread, while situating the game in Renaissance Italy between 1476 and 1499.
The game fleshed out the science-fiction of the Assassin’s Creed universe and elaborated on the technology of the animus, which allows 21st century character Desmond Miles to relive the “genetic memories” of his ancestors. In this case, players control Ezio Auditore da Firenze as he roams through Venice, Florence and San Gimignano.
2010: Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood
Assassin’s Creed II sold over 9 million copies, and led to two direct sequels in Brotherhood and Revelations. Brotherhood expanded the city of Rome, which is briefly glimpsed in Assassin’s Creed II, and takes place during the years 1500-1507.
Making allegiances with characters such as Niccolò Machiavelli, Ezio challenges the rule of the Borgias in Rome and pursues Cesare Borgia for control of an ancient technology. Brotherhood also added a multiplayer mode to the series for the first time. Within a year, Brotherhood had sold 7.2 million units.
2011: Assassin’s Creed Revelations
The fourth major instalment in the Assassin’s Creed series wrapped up Ezio’s storyline, while resurrecting Altaïr in a brief cameo. Revelations was set in Constantinople at the peak of the Ottoman Empire. Its fictional history spans the years 1511-1512, and features historical figures such as Manuel Palaiologos, Prince Suleiman, Piri Reis and Niccolò and Maffeo Polo.
The artists working on revelations drew on fascinating historic sites, and washed them with a darker colour palette. The Grand Bazaar is rendered as a maze of colourful stalls, at a reduced scale, while the ruined Hippodrome recall classical Greece. The ancient underground city of Derinkuyu, Turkey, inspired a locale in Cappadocia.
2012: Assassin’s Creed III
Revelations was swiftly followed by Assassin’s Creed III, the first game in the series to be set in North America. Through the sci-fi animus technology, series protagonist Desmond Miles relives the experiences of his English-Mohawk ancestor Ratonhnhaké:ton, alias Connor. The game had entered development two and a half years earlier, after the release of Assassin’s Creed II. It sold 12 million copies.
Assassin’s Creed III allows players to collude with and confront historical figures from revolutionary North America, including Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Paul Revere and Marquis de Lafayette. Each is created first as a character within the story, then as a historical figure.
2012: Assassin’s Creed Liberation
A spin-off called Assassin’s Creed Liberation was released the same year, developed by Ubisoft Sofia. Taking place alongside the story of Assassin’s Creed III, Liberation is set in late 18th century Louisiana and focuses on the series’ first female protagonist, French-Haitian Aveline de Grandpré.
2013: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
Black Flag is one of the most warmly regarded entries in the series for its introduction of ship-based exploration on a seamless open world map. It took place in the Caribbean during the Golden Age of piracy in the early 18th century, and followed Welsh pirate Edward Kenway.
It was one of the best selling games of the year, with 15 million copies sold by 2020. An Aveline expansion pack for Black Flag continued the narrative established in the Assassin’s Creed Liberation spin-off.
2014: Assassin’s Creed Freedom Cry
Assassin’s Creed Freedom Cry is a spin-off from the main series. It centres on a slave revolt in Haiti in the 1730s, following protagonist Adéwalé who establishes a fictionalised covert network in Port-au-Prince. For historian Alyssa Sepinwall, Freedom Cry is notable because it “leads players to sympathize with enslaved people fighting against oppressive enslavers.”
2014: Assassin’s Creed Rogue
While Ubisoft Montreal continued work on Assassin’s Creed Unity for a new generation of consoles, Ubisoft Sofia were working on Assassin’s Creed Rogue. The seventh major instalment in the series, Rogue was intended to finish the North America saga while building on the fan-favourite sailing feature.
Rogue was set during the Seven Years’ War, with players sticking with Shay Patrick Cormac, an Irish immigrant from New York. But one of its most important moments takes place in Portugal in 1755, during the devastating Lisbon earthquake which remains one of the deadliest in history.
2014: Assassin’s Creed Unity
Assassin’s Creed Unity launched on the same day as Rogue. It distinguished itself with its large-scale version of revolutionary Paris. The game’s main storyline opens with a crowd of Parisian citizens storming the Bastille on 14 July 1789. Unity proceeded to cover a number of famous landmarks from revolutionary Paris in one of the most impressive city recreations in the series.
2015: Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
Syndicate was set in Victorian London. It introduced twins Jacob and Evie Frye to the series, both of whom could be controlled. It also let players pilot carriages around 19th century Bloomsbury. After 2013’s Rogue, Syndicate was the second major entry in the series not to be made by Ubisoft Montreal. Instead, Ubisoft Quebec led development, having previously served as a junior partner in the series.
Syndicate introduced players to the Industrial Revolution, and Ubisoft’s gas-lit London is populated by themes of technology, poverty, banking, pollution and mass production, as well as empire.
Historical characters featured in the game included Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Florence Nightingale and Duleep Singh, the last Maharaja of the Sikh Empire who lived in the United Kingdom after being deposed by the British Crown.
2017: Assassin’s Creed Origins
Origins effectively reset the series formula, releasing two years after Syndicate and energising the series with cues from leading RPGs like The Witcher III: Wild Hunt. Its sophisticated ancient Egypt setting benefited from inspiration from archaeologists and historians.
The vast, video game interpretation of Ptolemaic Egypt became the first setting in the series to host Assassin’s Creed innovative Discovery Tour mode. In Origins, Discovery Tour took the form of a walking tour through the game’s historical landmarks. Players can wander around the ancient world, taking in the sights accompanied by audio commentary, timelines and textual information.
2018: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was developed in parallel with Origins by Ubisoft Quebec. It explores the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta in the 5th century BC. By 2020 it had sold 10 million copies. Discovery Tour made a reappearance, encouraging players to explore places like the Amphitheatre of Cyrene and subjects such as democracy in ancient Athens.
2020: Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
After the release of Origins in 2017, Ubisoft Montreal focused on Valhalla. Valhalla presents a virtual recreation of early medieval England and has the player control a Viking raider named Eivor Varinsdottir. It was launched and partly developed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and was the biggest launch in the series to date.
Additional content for Valhalla took the action to Viking-era Ireland and to Francia during the reign of Carolingian emperor Charles the Fat. History Hit explored 12 historical locations from France that make an appearance in the Siege of Paris DLC.
Which is better: Odyssey or Valhalla?
While the vividly recreated early medieval world of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has its virtues, the enchanting Aegean in Odyssey is hard to escape. This is partly because of Odyssey’s tantalisingly sun-bleached setting, while its drama is arguably heightened by its dovetailing into more familiar stories and legends.
Assassin’s Creed “Infinity”
In July 2021, Ubisoft announced Assassin’s Creed Infinity. Infinity is a codename for a project co-developed by Ubisoft Montreal and Ubisoft Quebec. It will reportedly take the form of an online live-service game that receives continual updates over time, as with Fortnite, Warzone or Grand Theft Auto Online.
Can you play the Assassins Creed games in any order?
You can play Assassin’s Creed games out of order, given each title presents a self-contained narrative, while linking into the larger story of the series. A few games stand out, though, especially the more recent open-world titles. The dedicated player with a lot of time on their hands can play the series in order without missing out on any story beats.