Hear that rustling in the night? Did you lock your doors up tight? Has someone put coin on your head? Are you going to wind up dead? Assassination is a trade as old as politics. Where there is competition of power, there is also often dissent or jealousy. And where venomous envy stews in those circles, sometimes coin moves in order to spill blood and silence competition. Assassination is a somewhat beloved topic in video games. It gives intrigue to a story or builds up a very interesting character.
Some great franchises are built around the ideas of assassins. Even right now, some of the top AAA titles on the way are centered entirely around them, but which ones are the best? What makes them the best? This list is based around the best examples given to us in the world of video games. These guys didn’t just slay their targets, they portrayed the concept in a way that left us coming back again and again for more: The Top 15 Assassins in Video Games.
15. Shadow (Final Fantasy III/VI)
Shadow is the epitome of a cold businessman in the realm of hired cutthroats. Originally a train robber that tried to go straight only to find his past hunting relentlessly after him, Shadow took on the persona of an assassin without emotion in order to keep those around him from getting involved in his complications. Outside of other characters mentioning that Shadow “would kill his best friend for the right price,” Shadow is demonstrably only concerned with money and his dog Interceptor throughout most of Final Fantasy III/VI. The player can never get used to having him in the party as he’s bound to leave at the most inopportune of times, even in the middle of a fight. Of all the assassins out there, none run quite as shrewd an operation as Shadow.
14. Zevran Arainai (Dragon Age Series)
Zevran is a man of duality and equal opportunity. As an elf raised amongst prostitutes and assassins in childhood, Zevran is equal parts lover and fighter. This comes in handy extremely well in his line of work. The assassin is very comfortable climbing into beds with politicians and other affluent figures… and stabbing them later. After being foiled in his attempt to assassinate the protagonist of Dragon Age: Origins, he can be spared and brought into the fold, which opens up not only looks into his life, but the mind of an assassin in general. In particular, his interactions with the vanilla and considerably naïve Alistair draw many amusing conversations.
13. Richard B. Riddick (Escape From Butcher Bay)
Richard B. Riddick is one bad customer. Well known in the Chronicles of Riddick movies there were just a couple glorious instances that we got to get behind his goggles and be the infamous Furyan. Riddick has a signature style about everything, from his ability to use almost anything as a weapon to his shined eyes that allow him to see in the dark with ease. Riddick has a cold demeanor that leaves him shunning most company and yet he all too often finds himself in situations that test his morals and push him to help those around him survive. Nonetheless, when it comes down to it, he is a calculating sneak with all the gravely perfection of Vin Diesel backing him, even in the games.
12. The Dark Brotherhood (The Elder Scrolls)
They might be crazy or cool depending on the game you find them. They might even fall apart at times. A few things are certain though: The Dark Brotherhood definitely are the folks people call on to make other people dead in a jiffy. It’s hard to think of any one of them on their own because it’s the whole entity that’s so damn interesting. Whether they act as a cult or simply a business, there’s a strange, almost familial bond within the ranks of the Dark Brotherhood, even if it’s mostly a bunch of outcast cutthroats. Make no mistake though, the Dark Brotherhood is a faction to be reckoned with throughout the realms of Elder Scrolls, even going as far as to engage an emperor at one point.
11. Jack (Bioshock)
What’s the most dangerous assassin? Is it the one who has trained strenuously or the loyal pawn who is willing to sacrifice even themselves in dedication to their mission? Is it the one with all the tools, gadgets and knowledge? Or maybe it’s the assassin that doesn’t even know they’re an assassin, even when they’re unwittingly on the job. Jack is a case of human programming so strong that even the player is meant to believe everything Jack is doing is a good idea or simply the next logical choice. Years later, it’s still breathtaking to think of the moment we find out that Jack himself was made to be Ryan’s perfect murderer all along. A man chooses, a slave obeys and a putter will make a nasty impression in a man’s face if a slave gives said putter a hard enough swing.
10. John Marston (Red Dead Redemption)
There aren’t many better choices of people to send after killers than another killer that used to run with them. John Marston gets the short end of many sticks throughout Red Dead Redemption. He’s a patsy, errand boy, and hitman to some bad people that have it in for him. That’s what makes John so endearing. He faces it all as simply the means to a peaceful life with his wife and child on their ranch. The more his past catches up to him, the more he takes it head on with all the skills in gunslinging and survival that he learned from it. In the end, it’s a fight he can’t win, but the journey is still a deeply touching one of just how far a killer-turned-farmer will go to grasp his happily ever after.
9. HK-47 (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic)
HK-47 is an assassin droid in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic trained to hunt and kill Jedi. That in of itself makes him suitable for any list about blood money, but HK-47 doesn’t just pack some heat and use it exceptionally well. He’s also a sardonic wit with a penchant for removing human threats from the galaxy. There’s few, if any droids in the entire Star Wars universe that do their job and seem to take pride in it so much. R2-D2 might be an exception to the rule, but unlike R2-D2, HK-47 has the linguistic abilities to let you know how much he’s enjoying the choices you make in allowing him to ruin any of your enemies. It’s so hard to find an assassin with a sense of humor for the job. Thank the stars for HK-47.
8. Thane Krios (Mass Effect Series)
It’s hard to think of another character as complex as Thane. He has a troubled past, having lost family and given himself entirely to his job, but he’s spiritual, praying for his targets and himself before and after each hunt. If that weren’t enough, Thane is a character running on borrowed time when Shepherd enlists him in Mass Effect 2, revealing that he has a terminal illness that is slowly killing him. At the time, Thane wanted to die and saw Shepherd’s suicide mission as the means to his end. It’s easy to see the pain and regret in Thane from chatting with him. His memory is perfect to the point where he practically relives experiences, including kills, as he speaks with Shepherd. As assassins go, Thane isn’t just amazing for what he does, but how incredibly interesting he is.
7. Sam Fisher (Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Series)
Sam Fisher is the epitome of an evolving style of assassination. Already a master of espionage and subterfuge, Sam does his part for his nation in removing threats and procuring precious objectives. Everything in the first Splinter Cell games is clean and by the book. Later entries task Fisher much more though, forcing him to go under disguise in a prison as an inmate or going to the limit to uncover a conspiracy around his daughter. These force Sam to adapt and become a bit more ruthless in his methods. Throughout the series, we witness Sam turn from a master spy and clean iceman into a relentless hunter that is willing to push the limits (and a man’s teeth down his throat) to get to his goal.
6. Ezio Auditore (Assassin’s Creed)
Assassin’s Creed hosts a ton of pretty cool assassins such as Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad, who literally wrote a guide from which most of the characters in succeeding Assassin’s Creed learned. Ezio has an edge though and it’s hidden behind a veil of charm. Altaïr had little in the way of an intriguing personality, seeming to serve as little more than an avatar for his job most of the time. Kudos for being a busy body, but Ezio, besides learning all of Altaïr’s tricks throughout the course of his career, also has the charisma to make waves amongst those useful to him, but to lead in the creation and operation of a new order of assassins. Altaïr might have written the book on being an assassin, but Ezio read it, lived it and organized it into a group of exceptional killers.
5. Corvo Attano (Dishonored)
Corvo was a hell of an assassin as just a normal human being. Even after he was framed for the murder of his beloved charge, the Empress Jessamine Kaldwin, and the kidnap of her daughter, Emily, guards found throughout Dishonored can still be heard giving him praise for his skill, noting his ability to fight “three to one in practice.” He knows his way around blades, firearms, and gadgets that would make Batman blush, and his acrobatic skill makes him perfect for traversing the deteriorating city of Dunwall and giving its shady elements a reason to fear bumps in the night. Add to this his contact with The Outsider and the procurement of supernatural abilities that add to his already impressive repertoire and Corvo is the full package behind that frightening mask of his.
4. Sarah Kerrigan (StarCraft Series)
As a ghost, Sarah Kerrigan was already part of an elite force of the Terran armies, broken down in youth and reformed as a master of espionage and assassination. When Arcturus Mengsk left her to die at the hands of the Zerg in the first StarCraft (partially because she assassinated his father), she instead trailed down a path that made her the Zerg’s undisputed leader. As the Queen of Blades, Kerrigan not only led the Zerg in a brutal campaign against the Protoss and Terran forces, but also cut a swath on her own personal vendetta against Arcturus Mengsk. Kerrigan may bounce back and forth between being a queen of creepy and a complicated Terran love interest for Jim Raynor, but she’s still responsible for getting down and dirty in the murder of more notable characters in the StarCraft series than any other character.
3. Solid Snake/Big Boss (Metal Gear Solid Series)
Technically, Solid Snake and Big Boss qualify for many labels. They are soldiers, mercenaries, idealists, etc. However, when it comes to getting behind enemy lines and removing threats, they are definitely two of the best assassins that we’ve ever had the pleasure of playing as. There might be many heavy-handed messages about the futility of war and the idealism of a world without it in the Metal Gear series, but Snake and Big Boss are certainly not shy about sneaking around, snapping necks, wrecking military leaders and sabotaging giant nuclear bipedal tanks between long monologues about humanity and soldiers. Good thing too because they’re pretty much better than anyone in their universe at it.
2. Agent 47 (Hitman Series)
There’s a problem with most of the other assassins in gaming: They’re easily recognizable. You’d think Ezio would change outfits once in a while, but no, same old cowl and cape for a good long time. That’s why none of these other killers, albeit good, are sitting in this spot. Agent 47 was made for his work, literally. The perfect culmination of a long series of cloning and forced training led to this fellow. Skilled in firearms, military equipment, improvised weaponry, and unarmed combat, there is little Agent 47 is unprepared for. He is an ice man, through and through, non-descript, able to blend into any setting, and practically devoid of emotions. This ability to kill and then hide in plain sight puts him a cut above most all video-game assassins, save one.
1. Alex Mercer (Prototype)
Here’s a terrifying thought: Even if you took away the fact that Alex Mercer could turn his body into a weapon, move faster than most vehicles, and climb most buildings with ease, he could still shapeshift into any person he had consumed. Not just put on an outfit, but also become them; their face, body, and even memories. That means anyone near you could be Alex Mercer, more likely if you were involved in any of the organizations that screwed and tried to murder him. Take Superman’s powers and give them to the monster from The Thing or Mystique from X-Men and you have a basic idea of what Alex Mercer can do. The premise of Alex’s sheer ability to kill, adapt and fade into his surroundings prompted the sequel’s point: the only thing that can stop Alex Mercer is someone like Alex Mercer.