Ubisoft's stealth-action Assassin's Creed is arguably one of the most famous video game franchises of the modern era. The title takes players across history to different time periods and follows a millennia old secret war between two factions: the Order of the Ancient or Templar Order, and Hidden Ones or better known as the Assassin's Brotherhood.
The protagonists play a major role in every video game franchise, including Assassin's Creed. They are the ones whom the players follow, witnessing the narrative unfold from their perspective. Barring a few like Shay, Kassandra, and Eivor, the protagonists of the mainline titles have been assassins. But who amongst them are the best? Let's take a look and find out.
5 best protagonists the Assassin's Creed franchise has seen so far
From Assassin's Creed (2007) to Valhalla (2020), the decade-and-a-half old franchise has seen 11 protagonists (as well as two in modern day) across 12 mainline titles. From motivation to characteristics, the protagonists vary drastically across the franchise.
While one might find Shay "I make my own luck" Patrick Cormac cheesey, others might find him quite charming and funny.
As such, determining who the best protagonists are is a mammothian task. With that being said, the following list is the writer's own personal opinion. It should also be mentioned that protagonists from only the mainline titles are considered.
5) Arno Dorian (Unity)
Arno Victor Dorian is the son of an assassin, but was raised by a templar. In many ways, Arno’s story in Assassin's Creed Unity is one of the most tragic in the series.
He starts as a young boy having fun and getting into trouble. However, things turn very sour and real very quickly, as he is framed for the murder of his adopted father, the Grand Master of the Templar order, François de la Serre. In prison, he meets an Assassin, Pierre Bellec, who educates him on the way of the creed and invites him to join the brotherhood.
While Arno may appear to be a hopeless romantic stuck between two worlds on the surface, Unity’s brilliant storytelling elevates his character to be more than that. Throughout the game, Arno goes from a naive boy to becoming a man in his own right, and then losing everything.
Arno’s story is accorded further meaning by the Dead Kings expansion which explores Arno’s story burdened by the world, beyond the one with Elise. All in all, Arno Dorian from Assassin's Creed Unity is one of the best protagonists in the series.
4) Altaïr Ibn-LaʼAhad (Assassin’s Creed, Revelations)
Altaïr, the one who started it all. Prior to 2007, Assassin's Creed was a spiritual successor title to the Prince of Persia series, but Altaïr and Desmond’s story not only defined the franchise but set the precedent for the title to become a more or less annualized series and Ubisoft’s flagship franchise across the 7th and 8th generations.
When players are first introduced to Altaïr, he is an arrogant person who doesn’t think twice about breaking the tenets set by the creed. This results in not only him failing the mission and losing a fellow assassin, but being dishonored and losing his rank as well.
This is where the hero’s journey starts for Altaïr. While the first Assassin's Creed is often criticized for its repetitive gameplay loop that has aged poorly, one cannot deny the brilliance of Altaïr’s narrative arc. Throughout the title he believes in the creed and follows the orders of his mentor, but it all comes crashing down in the end, when he is betrayed by the same.
While the first Assassin's Creed introduced the character of Altaïr, some of the best parts of his character development are explored in the spin-off titles (Chronicles and Bloodlines) and Revelations. His saga of not only rediscovering himself as an Assassin, but reforming the creed for the future is worth the experience, and perhaps a retelling someday in an Assassin’s Creed remake.
3) Bayak of Siwa (Origins)
After years of diminishing returns and rushed games which resulted in Unity being released in an unfinished state, Assassin's Creed Origins served as a soft reboot to the franchise. It took the story back to Ancient Egypt — the furthest it had ever been — and redefined the series as an action RPG title by going back to the drawing board.
While fans were certainly excited to visit the beautifully recreated authentic world of Ancient Egypt, what kept them engaged was the brilliant storytelling and Bayak's journey as the former Medjay who created the Hidden Ones.
When players first meet Bayak, he isn’t a naive young boy like Ezio or Arno, nor is he looking for new glories like Edward or Jacob; he is fueled by the vengeance for the death of his son, which he defines as justice. As the story progresses, he discovers the Order of the Ancients and a deep winding plot controlling the fate of the land and its people.
As the plot progresses, he discovers that everything is not as black and white as it may appear, which is further highlighted when he gets betrayed by the monarch he trusted.
Throughout the journeys, he and Aya transcend from seeking vengeance to serving a greater purpose, preserving the freedom of the people, to “Work in the dark to serve the Light,” to become the Hidden Ones.
With Origins, Ubisoft aimed to tell the origin of the creed that has become a fan favorite over the years, and anchoring the narrative to Bayak was a great decision Ubisoft took. Bayak is considered to be one of the best protagonists of the series while Origins is considered to be one of the best titles in the decade-and-a-half old franchise.
2) Edward Kenway (Black Flag)
“In a world without gold, we might have been heroes.”
Edward Kenway is the Captain of the Jackdaw, a legendary pirate and assassin. When fans first meet Edward, he is a privateer fighting a losing war against the sea and an enemy ship.
Soon, a flashback reveals his reasoning for traveling so far from his home and becoming a privateer; a simple dream of providing a better life for his family. The greed soon turns him towards the life of a pirate and the rich Carribean Sea.
While Edward starts off with being greedy for gold, he finally realizes that he has lost everyone in pursuit of gold by the end. He starts the game by assuming the false identity of an assassin, but does he understand the creed by the end, he also decides to live by it and becomes a true Assassin.
The final scene of Anne Bonney singing ‘The Parting Glass’ as Edward reimagines all of his friends sitting together and enjoying a drink is truly heart-touching. The tragic tale of Edward Kenway transforms from the greed for gold into losing everything and dedicating the rest of his life to something greater.
To this day, Black Flag is considered to be the best Assassin's Creed title, and the character of Captain Edward Kenway plays a major role in achiving that by being one of the best protagonists the series has ever seen.
1) Ezio Auditore (II, Brotherhood, Revelations)
Ezio Auditore Da Firenze is arguably the best protagonist of Assassin's Creed. He is also the only mainline protagonist to be featured in not one, but three mainstream titles: II (2009), Brotherhood (2010), and Revelations (2011).
Throughout the titles, the player follows him from a youth avenging his family to a man reforming the Brotherhood to an older man traveling to a foreign country and discovering the truth behind the meaning of the decree.
Ezio has had the greatest character development across the series not only due to the longer span of three titles exploring different stages of his life, but a consistent writing that grows the character organically. While Assassin's Creed II is about loss and vengeance, Brotherhood is about establishing something new, and Revelations is about connecting the past and the future together.
Ezio Auditore Da Firenze is the best protagonist of Assassin's Creed, and his entire journey from birth in II to death in short story video Embers is worth revisiting every single time.