The best Assassin’s Creed mobile game series you’ve never heard of

Before Assassin’s Creed Mirage, Jade and even Rebellion, there was a whole series of unique mobile games based on the hit Ubisoft franchise

The best Assassin’s Creed mobile game series you’ve never heard of
  • Assassin's Creed Mirage has just released for iOS to huge fanfare
  • But did you know that there was another, unique take on the series as far back as 2007?
  • This is the Gameloft Assassin's Creed series, a side-scrolling take on assassination

It’s a big year for Assassin’s Creed with Shadows building up hype for a new setting and style of gameplay, Assassin’s Creed Jade waiting in the wings, and of course, the hotly-anticipated release of Assassin’s Creed Mirage for the iPhone 15 Pro and select iPads.

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Yes, the emergence of a mainline Assassin’s Creed, open world and graphical fidelity untouched, is big news, and perhaps the biggest example of the series on mobile so far. Of course, Jade is shaping up to be a worthy entry on its own, and Assassin’s Creed Rebellion is a perfectly serviceable if far different entry for AC superfans.

But did you know that from the very beginning, this series has had a major presence on mobile? Yes, we’re not kidding. This is the (virtually) untold story of Gameloft’s Assassin’s Creed series.

The beginning

The first entry, simply called Assassin’s Creed, was released at the same time as the original back in 2007. For those of us of a certain age, we may remember pre-smartphone mobile gaming as being a strange age of Snake, Worms and other truncated experiences.

But Assassin’s Creed was far from that. A side-scrolling platformer that takes you through the main plot points of the mainline version, albeit in a much briefer fashion, it has all the iconic features of the original, like free-running, assassinations, and the hidden blade.

Released for early touchscreen and keypad phones (back in the day mobile phones had to have actual keys, shocking we know) the Assassin’s Creed games were an attempt to translate the experience to mobile. And while, as we noted, they were far more linear and sacrificed many core mechanics, they were just as good on their own merit.

The Gameloft series

You may recognise Gameloft from, well, everything, as the studio has worked on dozens of mobile games through both their main studio and subsidiaries over the years. The studio would go on to contribute to the Assassin’s Creed franchise with spin-offs on mobile.

These would follow the main series, with the exception of the spin-off Assassin's Creed: Altair's Chronicles in 2008. So from 2007 to 2012, every Assassin's Creed would receive a mobile version made by Gameloft, from Assassin’s Creed 2 to Revelations and Assassin’s Creed 3.

Gameplay from Assassin's Creed Revelations

Back in the early days of Pocket Gamer we gave the Assassin's Creed spin-off series many high scores, and for good reason. Despite problems like lacklustre controls, or the lack of voices, they still managed to deliver plenty of action and gorgeous (albeit purely two-dimensional) graphics.

Mechanics and design

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Gameloft’s Assassin’s Creed series is the sheer ambition behind them. These are not merely side-scrollers, but an attempt to translate many of the core mechanics of their console counterparts. Assassin’s Creed 3, for example, includes the guild management and ship combat sections that made the original so famous.

Gameplay from Assassin's Creed Revelations by Gameloft

Of course, these are not as fully fleshed out as they are in the originals, purely by necessity. But just the attempt to include them is admirable, even if it might have been better to sacrifice them in the name of polishing the more linear style of gameplay. Yet even so, it’s still impressive to see what exactly was achieved on both keypad phones and the very earliest touchscreen phones.

You only need to look as far as the sumptuous pixel art for Assassin’s Creed Revelations and its Ottoman setting to see how it stood out in not trying to emulate the 3D graphics of then top-shelf Assassin’s Creed series.

That and the inclusion of more unrealistic aspects makes them stand out; like the use of the flying machine in Assassin’s Creed 2 as a fast-travel method, or the nearly superhuman attributes of the main character and enemies alike that make this resemble something more like Assassin’s Creed: Symphony of the Night than anything more familiar to fans.

The issues

Of course, looking back at them now there were also more than a few problems. Movement-wise the fluidity of the originals was lost, and the sound was crunched to being virtually nonexistent aside from the occasional looping theme tune.

Assassin's Creed Revelations for mobile by Gameloft

However, for the time they were made and the likely restrictions of the licence, they are still impressive. And although they’re sadly no longer available officially, we’re sure that the APKs might be floating around out there somewhere for those interested.

What can we learn?

What’s perhaps most interesting about the Gameloft AC series is just how well it represents the change in approach by both developers and publishers towards mobile. The Assassin’s Creed titles show off the philosophy that mobile games had to be ‘versions’ of the mainline entries, a bit of a holdover from earlier generations of consoles where, for example, the NES and Sega Mega Drive versions could be vastly different.

While we still get the familiar refrain that many mobile games are just made to gouge money through microtransactions, it really wasn’t always that way. Had Gameloft’s Assassin’s Creed series released nowadays, we’re sure they would be up there as best-sellers, but very quickly the industry adapted to the idea of in-app purchases and ads to make money, instead of having premium offerings.

Gameplay from Assassin's Creed Revelations by Gameloft

It also makes us wonder just what might’ve been achieved if Gameloft had gone for a more creative approach. After all, further to our previous SotN reference, many of the mechanics in these AC spin-offs could’ve gone a long way to perhaps creating a great Assassin’s Creed take on a Metroidvania. But, sadly, we’ll have to file that under what could’ve been.

It’s also worth noting the last entry in this series, Assassin’s Creed 3 in 2013, came out only a year or so before Assassin’s Creed: Identity, one of the first full-fledged 3D mobile adaptations that, while it still sacrificed some elements, was far closer to replicating the console experience than Gameloft’s entries.

In conclusion

It’s been almost twenty years since the release of the original Assassin’s Creed, and Gameloft’s mobile spin-off. If you presented somebody with the kind of fidelity we now enjoy on mobile they’d probably assume it was space-age technology.

Gameplay from Assassin's Creed Revelations by Gameloft

But did we lose something on the way? After all, they say limitations breed innovation, and there’s doubtless something truly unique about Gameloft’s early titles that we won’t likely see replicated anytime soon.

It’s a shame as well because the Assassin’s Creed series has arguably been one of the best-represented on mobile, but also the quickest to lose them. Remember Assassin’s Creed Pirates (and its in-app purchases), or the highly-praised Identity? Interesting games that nevertheless didn’t get the long-term support they deserved.

It’s both a great example of what can be achieved when you develop creatively on mobile, and the shortcomings of a platform where great titles can all too often disappear into the ether, no matter how strange or special they may be.

Iwan Morris
Iwan Morris
Iwan is a Cardiff-based freelance writer, who joined the Pocket Gamer Biz site fresh-faced from University before moving to the Pocketgamer.com editorial team in November of 2023.