Explore the origins of the John Wick universe in the 1970s and witness the creation of New York’s most killer hotel, when The Continental: From the World of John Wick premieres September 22nd exclusively on Prime Video. Add it to your watchlist here.
There are few things as nerve-wracking and exhilarating in video games as executing a perfect, well, execution. Embodying our choice of cold-blooded killer, no matter for a noble or nefarious cause, we plan, we perfect, and we bide our time in wait for the golden opportunity. Like the best examples of career assassins in film and TV, our favourite video game killers come in all types and disciplines from the shadowy operators to the guns-blazing gangsters, but only the right combination of cunning, capable and character-driven make for the most memorable among the lot.
So with that in mind, here are the 12 video game assassins that we reckon earn a spot among the most iconic and the most deadly in gaming history:
Agent 47 – Hitman
There’s no way we could’ve produced a list like this without including the one, the only Agent 47. The star of arguably the video game assassination simulator, Hitman, Agent 47 has enjoyed an enduring legacy that’s seen him travel across the world from the streets of Sapienza to a futuristic private hospital in Hokkaido, donning disguise after disguise and executing his victims in every way imaginable from clean, to brutal, to abjectly hilarious. Despite a complete lack of empathy and cold gaze, this suited, bald statue of a man remains an absolute video game icon and easily one of the most recognisable fictional assassins out there.
Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad/Ezio Auditore da Firenze – Assassin’s Creed
When talking about iconic video game assassins it’s impossible to go past Altaïr, not just because he helped kicked off a hugely-successful video game franchise quite literally titled Assassin’s Creed but for forging a path ahead for the future of the Assassin Order, serving as Mentor and envisioning the spread of the guild throughout the known world and ages to come. Aside from being a cunning, athletic and finely-honed killer he’s also basically the Assassin Dad, earning him a spot on this and all future “Best Assassin” lists.
Of course, as important and essential as Altaïr is, when it comes to iconic Assassin’s it’s hard to go pas Ezio Auditore da Firenze. Whether it’s the timeless delivery of “Requiescat In Pace” as he lays his most high-profile victims to rest or his transformation from womanising lush living on his wealthy family’s coin to one of the most influential and respected fathers of the Assassin Order, Ezio is known just as much for his sharp mind as his deadly blade and through some incredibly abilities unique to him in his lineage helped pave the way for generations of assassins to come.
Travis Touchdown – No More Heroes
Few assassins on this list can claim that they’re the official #1 ranked assassin in the United Assassins Association, let alone that they faced and thwarted an entire alien invasion and saved planet Earth to become the best in the galaxy. A stylish and incredibly capable killer with a high-tech Beam Katana and a thirst for blood, Travis Touchdown also enjoys anime, video games and hanging in his crappy motel room with his cat, Jeane. Playtime is over!
Thane Krios – Mass Effect
From alien assassinators to alien assassins, Thane is arguably one of the Mass Effect series’ best companion characters and rumoured to be on of the best in the galaxy. One of Thane’s greatest qualities is his code of honour and deeply spiritual manner when it comes to his kills, which comes as a tragic result of his innate ability to perfectly recall every single detail of every murderous act he’s committed. Despite being immensely troubled by his deeds, Thane is still steadfastly loyal and absolutely someone you’d want accompanying you on any galactic mission with his sniper rifle in hand.
What’s worse than meeting your grisly fate at the hand of a masked assassin with four fingers on each hand and who speaks predominantly in haiku? Seeing a cheeky <3 emoticon flash up on their helmet as you take your dying breath. Zer0 is equal parts deadly, mysterious and ridiculous in the most Borderlands way possible, and since their introduction in Borderlands 2 quickly cemented themselves as a fan favourite.
Nina Williams – Tekken
How many fighting game characters find themselves worthy of their own action-adventure spin-off games? Actually, a fair few, surprisingly, but that’s not the point. Irish assassin Nina Williams has not only done it all from competing in every Tekken tournament to being cryogenically frozen for 15 years and being possessed by the God of Fighting, she got her very own starring role in 2005’s not-awful Death by Degrees, and despite keeping busy with fighting tournaments has maintained her business as a private assassin-for-hire. Talk about driven!
Corvo Attano – Dishonored
Talk about tough jobs. After being framed for the murder of Jessamine, his charge, secret lover and actual Empress, Corvo finds himself as a vigilante working for a conspiratorial organisation and granted mysterious, otherworldly powers. Those powers quickly transform Corvo into the ultimate assassin though, able to move through environments unseen and in the blink of an eye, will vermin and beasts to his bidding and turn his victims into literal ash to hide his deeds. Dishonored offers players a huge degree of freedom in how they perform (or don’t perform) their kills, and Corvo makes the perfect catalyst for some truly creative takedowns.
Shadow – Final Fantasy VI
Not only did Shadow have just one of the coolest character designs and dark and mysterious backstories in any Final Fantasy character of the 16-bit era (what else would you expect from the combo of Yoshitaka Amano and Tetsuya Nomura?) but, much like one of The Continental’s most iconic frequent visitors John Wick, Shadow gets around with a badass pup. This one’s name is Interceptor, and it regularly steps in during battle to block and counter attacks against its owner, making Interceptor an invaluable companion and also just a very good boy. This pair proves you can be dark, edgy and threatening with just a handful of pixels.
Gray Fox – Metal Gear Solid
There are definitely more than a few candidates across the Metal Gear/Metal Gear Solid for the title of “damned cool assassin,” but Gray Fox just has that edge. Granted, said edge is a result of a life of servitude as a child soldier followed by experimental gene therapy and the retrofitting of his near-deceased body with a cutting-edge exoskeleton at the hands of FOXHOUND, but still… cool cyborg assassin, am I right? It takes a truly unprecedented talent to earn the codename of “Fox” and it’s more than earned here.
Rikimaru/Ayame – Tenchu: Stealth Assassins
While many got their introduction to video game assassin-ry through the likes of Hitman or Assassins Creed, some of us have been around long enough to remember the tough-as-nails ninja sim, Tenchu: Stealth Assassins. While the pair would reappear in subsequent series entries, along with new allies in tow, it’s their starring role in the original game that solidifies them as top-tier video game assassins. Tenchu gave players all of the tools they needed to achieve their goals, but held absolutely nothing back, and so with every failure came the knowledge that you could come out on top, if only with more training. And who were the heroes and avatars of your hard-earned success? Rikimaru and Ayame.