With the Assassin’s Creed film adaptation on the horizon, it’s an ideal time to appreciate the gaming series’ most iconic and beloved Italian assassin, the charismatic Ezio Auditore da Firenze, an ancestor of Desmond Miles. While Altair could’ve been the easy pick seeing as how he headlined the first game, it was Assassin’s Creed II, the critically acclaimed sequel, that put the franchise on the map and its largely thanks to Ezio and his moving story of vengeance. However, what exactly makes Ezio such an iconic figure in gaming? Let’s take a Leap of Faith into the life and struggles of the definitive Assassin’s Creed protagonist.

2007 was arguably one of gaming’s strongest years thanks to the many new and exciting IP’s released that would become household names within the gaming community. BioShock made waves as a critical darling of the shooter genre, Portal reinvented the wheel of innovative platformers, and The Witcher kickstarted one of the most bold RPG trilogies known today. Ubisoft, however, had other plans in mind. Running short of a new Prince of Persia sequel to keep fans invested, the company turned to taking a risk with a new IP called Assassin’s Creed. While not too stylistically different from the aforementioned Prince of Persia, Ubisoft injected a good amount of stealth within the gameplay and a massive, populated open world that surprised many at the time. It was well received by critics and fans, and Altair was a noteworthy protagonist, but it wasn’t until its sequel that the franchise and its main hero became legend.

Assassin’s Creed II was released in November 2009, and marked the first chapter in the Ezio Trilogy. Desmond Miles returned once again as the central scapegoat to the Animus machine which let him enter the memories of his ancestor, Ezio Auditore da Firenze, during the Italian Renaissance. Mostly a tale of revenge, Ezio sort out to avenge the wrongful death of his family and end the conflict between Assassins and Templars, who both had ulterior motivations of their own. As Desmond dived deeper into the memories of his ancestor, more is revealed about the character of Ezio, which became the strong emotional backbone of the game.

One could consider Ezio a charismatic womanizer, stoic hero, and mysterious killer simultaneously. His offbeat personality certainly complemented his charm, but seemingly switched to brooding assassin when the moment called for it. This balance of character is essential to Ezio’s attraction as a believable and very likable hero to get behind, and one that the series definitely needed after Altair’s more one-note demeanor. A little while down the line, Ubisoft would go about perfecting their characterization of heroes and villains, particularly within the Far Cry franchise, but the roots of these interesting figures all may have begun with Ezio as a completely three-dimensional character that humanized the concept of the flawless assassin.

Ezio, by design, fell into the same bracket as Altair, sporting the now iconic (before that word got butchered by Ubisoft) assassin’s hood and secret blade. The look became synonymous with the franchise, but it’s Ezio that constantly headlines the series as the most recognizable protagonist beyond the hood. Although Ezio only rose into stardom more recently than most video game icons, his place among the greats of the video game world should not be overlooked. In fact, it should be applauded as Ezio single-handedly determined the fate of the franchise leading into their annual releases.

Ezio Auditore da Firenze is a name many gamers will remember as the now iconic protagonist of the Assassin’s Creed series. While the most recent entry into Video Game Icons, there’s no denying the impact left behind by the defining assassin of the gaming industry. Ezio continued to exist within the Assassin’s Creed universe through the spin-offs, Brotherhood and Revelations, both receiving major critical acclaim for their great character development, particularly seeing the character arc of Ezio come full circle. The series may have moved on to bigger and better ideas, but Ezio remains a staple in the series that defined what a true well-rounded character should be.