The Assassin’s Creed Heroes, Ranked From Worst To Best

Gaming

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Eivor stands on a battlefield.

Assassin’s Creed Shadows is adding two new heroes to the pantheon of brave and stealthy killers that span the centuries of the series’ historical fiction. One is Naoe, a ninja who will don the hood and hidden blade commonly associated with the titular Assassins of Ubisoft’s open-world action franchise. The other is Yasuke, a Black samurai based on the historical figure of the same name. We don’t know much about either character just yet, but thinking about new Assassin’s Creed heroes naturally makes us reflect on the Assassins we’ve inhabited over the years. So what better time than now to rank the heroes of the Assassin’s Creed franchise? Grab your hidden blades, it’s time to pit assassins against each other.

Altaïr draws his blade.

Altaïr, the protagonist of the first Assassin’s Creed, was the blueprint (derogatory) for how the franchise would portray its heroes. He was used to establish a format: a modern-day character uses the Animus, a virtual reality simulation, to view the memories of a historical ancestor. But in its first iteration, Assassin’s Creed seemed hesitant to make its hero more than an avatar for Desmond Miles, Altaïr’s modern-day descendant. He’s serviceable as a premise, but as a character? There’s probably a reason Ubisoft ditched him for Desmond’s far more popular ancestor, Ezio, in the sequel. — Kenneth Shepard

Arno points his blade.

“Discount Ezio” is the easiest, if not the nicest, way to describe the protagonist of Assassin’s Creed Unity. It’s also accurate. Arno lost his father and was raised by a wealthy family, making his origin similar to Ezio’s. They both do some brooding, too. But while Ezio is a charming vagabond who oozes personality and zest, Arno is the exact opposite. He spends most of Unity moping around, sulking, and being annoying. His story also runs out of steam by the end, but nobody really cares (not even Ubisoft) because everyone understandably forgot about Arno and moved on. -Zack Zwiezen

Connor talks to someone.

Poor Connor Kenway, born Ratonhnhaké:ton, he deserved better. Assassin’s Creed III is a mess of a game and the biggest victim is Connor. The son of a Templar and a Native American woman, Connor struggles with his place in the world. While he ultimately ends up an Assassin, he often questions and criticizes the white leaders he’s forced to work alongside. It’s an intriguing setup.

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But, sadly, Connor ends up acting more like a monotone broken record than a real character throughout the game’s main storyline. It doesn’t help that Ubisoft’s decision to make ACIII bigger than any previous game meant that Connor’s arc got covered in sidequests and busy work. -Zack Zwiezen

Aveline is perched on top of a building.

It’s a shame so few people played as Aveline de Grandpré when Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation launched on the Vita in 2012, because she’s an anomaly for the series even 12 years later. She was the first female protagonist in the series, and unlike future characters, she wasn’t a choice you could simply swap out, or sharing the spotlight with anyone else. Liberation follows her in the 1700s as the daughter of a freed slave who becomes inducted into the Assassin Brotherhood due to her attempts to free and protect slaves. The game makes great use of its period setting, and Aveline’s unique place in it, having her navigate different situations covertly by donning “personas” to blend in with different elements of New Orleans society.

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Thankfully, more people have gotten a chance to play her story in the years since its release on Sony’s handheld, as Liberation has been remastered and ported to every system under the sun. Still, there’s something damning about her resurgence, as it calls attention to the fact that Assassin’s Creed has been hesitant to give a character like her sole presence in the spotlight since. — Kenneth Shepard

Jacob stands in front of a clocktower

One half of the Frye twins who headline 2015’s Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Jacob is a likable scoundrel who, frankly, is overshadowed by his even more charismatic and captivating sister. Jacob certainly has his moments of roguish charm, the ability to deploy a winning smile and defuse all the exasperation you were feeling toward him just a moment before. He’s also, at times, a rousing leader, as he attempts to organize the exploited poor of Victorian London and thwart their oppressors. However, Jacob can also come across as a real jerk sometimes, and the fact that Syndicate focuses more and more on him (and less on his sister) as it builds toward its climax feels like a miscalculation. Jacob is…fine, but if one of the Frye siblings had to be second fiddle, it should have been him.—Carolyn Petit

Cormac points his gun at something off-screen.

Most Assassin’s Creed protagonists are heroes, more or less, but Shay Cormac is the big exception. As the star of Assassin’s Creed: Rogue, Shay lets us slide into the boots of someone who joins the Assassins and then leaves for the Templars after he loses faith in the Brotherhood’s motives and leaders.

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What makes Shay such a compelling character is that Ubisoft does a good job of making him sympathetic, and his turn to the Templars seems reasonable. In a series that rarely puts a microscope on the Brotherhood, it’s refreshing to see Shay and his journey. Sure, maybe the Templars are worse, but Rogue and its star, Shay, make the case that the Assassins might not be as noble as the legends and its leaders suggest. -Zack Zwiezen

Eivor wields two axes.

Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla’s Viking protagonist has a fair bit of baggage. Eivor is one of the more malleable playable characters in the series, as Valhalla is pretty entrenched in the choice-driven RPG genre that Assassin’s Creed has shifted into of late. But Eivor is also one of the weirdest attempts at dealing with canon while giving the player some freedom to make the character their own. Because of Assassin’s Creed’s mix of mythology and science fiction, Eivor is an incarnation of Odin, the Norse god. But you can play as either a male or female version of Eivor…only to find out that the male version is just Odin’s DNA being projected through the Animus.

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Ubisoft put this in as a solution to making a specific Eivor “canon,” because now no matter what you do, Eivor was a woman and her male counterpart is just her previous iteration’s DNA confusing the virtual reality technology. But all this late-game twist does is make you ask why Assassin’s Creed can’t have a sole woman as its lead. It even ends up complicating things like its slew of gay romantic relationships for a male Eivor, asserting that they were secretly heterosexual ones the whole time. Valhalla’s choice-driven structures invite the player to define who Eivor can be, only to pull the rug out from under them in the eleventh hour.

Pushing all the baggage away with all your might, Eivor is a very likable protagonist. She’s caring, loves her clan, and is, interestingly enough, pretty separate from the usual Assassins vs. Templars storyline. I appreciate some of the interesting narrative swings Ubisoft took with her, but Eivor ends up being a case study in how the modern-day framing of historical fiction is both an asset and a disadvantage to the Assassin’s Creed series this many years in. — Kenneth Shepard

Adéwalé steers a ship.

If it wasn’t for Adéwalé, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag protagonist Edward Kenway would likely not have joined the Brotherhood at all. So that alone makes it worth giving Adéwalé some extra credit. But Adéwalé is more than just a sidekick of Edward.

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He’s a slave who escaped that nightmare via the pirate’s life and who returns to help other freed slaves. As seen in the fantastic standalone DLC Freedom’s Cry, with Adéwalé’s leadership and skill, this group of freed slaves helped disrupt the slave trade and likely saved many lives in the process. It’s just a shame his adventure was so short. -Zack Zwiezen

Basim talks over a campfire.

Basim Ibn Ishaq was first introduced as a mysterious and possibly dangerous Assassin in Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla. And, spoilers for that game, it’s eventually revealed that he’s actually the reincarnated Issu god Loki. Don’t worry about it. Anyway, 2023’s Assassin’s Creed: Mirage reveals Basim’s origins, including his early life as a street thief and his journey within the Brotherhood. Throughout Mirage it’s clear that Basim is being manipulated and yet, even as people he trusts betray him, the assassin never stops trying to help people.

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And, like Ezio before him, Basim is a charming rogue, too. The people’s hero. Someone willing to always help the oppressed and fight the power, even if that means the Brotherhood itself. That makes the end of Mirage and Basim’s evolution into a more troubled villain—who appears in Valhalla—all the more painful. He was once better than that. It also makes him one of the more complicated and nuanced protagonists in the franchise. -Zack Zwiezen

Evie in her assassin clothes.

I admit, I haven’t played Syndicate since its release almost a decade ago, and I don’t deny that some of my enjoyment of Evie at the time rested in the novelty of her being (at long last!) the first playable female character in a mainline Assassin’s Creed game, albeit one who had to share the spotlight with her brother. But there’s more to her greatness than that. Where her hotheaded brother Jacob is reckless and unreasonable, Evie’s ability to stay cool under pressure makes her the real brains of the operation, making it all the more frustrating that the story increasingly focuses on Jacob as it progresses. She’s also genuinely charismatic and likable, which is especially important given how bleak and oppressive the streets of Victorian London can often feel. Evie isn’t naive about the horrible conditions of the city she lives in; far from it, she’s determined to do something about them. But rather than letting the gloom of it all infect her, she stays focused, clever, hopeful, and capable. And her battle-of-wits rapport with her brother is often delightful, leaving little doubt as to who’s the smarter and sharper of the two. Thankfully she wasn’t the last female protagonist in a mainline AC game, but as the first, she proved to be a terrific demonstration of how empty and absurd an excuse for their absence “women are too hard to animate” had always been.—Carolyn Petit

Edward standing on a ship as a whale passes by.

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag holds a special place in fans’ hearts for its sea-faring pirate spin on the franchise. A big part of why that tonal shift works so well is thanks to protagonist Edward Kenway. As a swashbuckling, brash assassin, he’s the opposite of what we’d been taught to expect from this series’ heroes. No sly, subtle shadow operative, he’s more synonymous with bar fights and ship battles reeking of gunpowder. As such, he’s a rollicking, exciting hero to play whether he’s on land or sea, but he also has moments of quiet reflection that round him out. Shoutout to Constantine actor Matt Ryan for capturing the character’s emotional range in his lone video game credit. Get him in more games, I say. — Kenneth Shepard

Kassandra readies to deliver a killing stab.

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey’s Greek heroes, though distinct characters in the canon, serve the same role in the game regardless of which you choose to play as. Though Kassandra is technically the canonical choice, as per her appearance in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, both embody the same bold, heroic nature. Like Eivor, Kassandra and Alexios are RPG protagonists that are somewhat defined by player choice, but they’re known for their headstrong and witty nature, which makes their heroics and human interactions memorable. Their journey culminates in a stunning final scene in which they survive until the modern day by using the Staff of Hermes. It’s fascinating that Kassandra and Alexios both set things into motion in their prime in Greece, and survive long enough to nudge the course of history once more in the present. They are heroic, charismatic, and some of the most memorable characters in the series. — Kenneth Shepard

Ezio with his hood up.

It’s almost impossible not to feel like Ezio Auditore da Firenze epitomizes Assassin’s Creed. First introduced to players in Assassin’s Creed II, the suave Italian stuck around longer than any other protagonist in the series. He got not one, not two, but three mainline games. What makes Ezio so enduring as an Assassin’s Creed protagonist is his undeniable charm and transformative story.

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He starts as an uncaring rich boy and soon finds himself thrust into the path of the order after his father’s death. Assassin’s Creed II gives us the journey we all wanted from an AC game: the one that takes us from nobody to master Assassin. But Ezio’s story doesn’t stop with that. Starring in a trilogy turned Ezio into a much more complex character that players grew with through different stages of his life. It’s what makes his last outing, Revelations, remain so interesting. Whether an old man weighed down by a heavy life or a young brash kid out for revenge, Ezio is human and exceedingly well-portrayed in the series. There will simply never be another protagonist like him. — Willa Rowe

Bayek enters a tomb.

As was said in our ranking of the Assassin’s Creed games, Origins main star, Bayek, is the best protagonist in the franchise’s history. He’s both a nobleman trying to bring justice and peace everywhere he goes and a father mourning the loss of his child. Watching him try to help people while also dealing with so much rage leads to some of the best moments in Origins. It also doesn’t hurt that Bayek is extremely likable, and written with just enough charm and wit that he doesn’t feel like a boring vessel meant only to be controlled by the player.

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Bayek and his wife, Aya, are also very important characters in the AC universe. They both essentially founded what would become the Brotherhood of Assassins out of the grief of losing their son to an evil man, and their journey for revenge would both destroy their relationship and change history forever. -Zack Zwiezen

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