The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles recently came out to the Western market (finally), so that means I can now do a more comprehensive ranking of all the Ace Attorney games! I also think it’s time for a re-shuffle, as in hindsight I was overly harsh / lenient to some entries.
I won’t be doing a ranking of the cases like I did last time with this list, as I think that deserves a ranking of its own (coming soon!). In the meantime, how would I rank all 10 games in the Ace Attorney franchise?
You can check out some of my related lists below:
10 – Investigations
Coming in at the bottom of my list once again is the first Investigations game, and I’d be surprised if anything ever managed to fall under it in my rankings.
It was admirable that they tried putting a unique spin on the formula, and having it centred on Edgeworth (my favourite character) was always going to work in its favour, but this is one the blandest and most forgettable mystery games I’ve ever played.
The overarching plot points are nowhere near good enough for a series as renowned as Ace Attorney, and all but one of the cases are dull experiences that I hope to never play again. “Turnabout Reminiscence” was pretty neat I guess, but on the whole “Investigations” has actually gotten worse the more I think about it.
9 – Apollo Justice
I think people are a little too harsh on Apollo Justice, as while it’s definitely the weakest of the main series I think it’s not too far off being a “Good” Ace Attorney game.
It’s all relative, however, and it’s clearly not up to the standards of the rest of the series. Apollo Justice is a big step down as a protagonist from Phoenix, who himself was demoted to hobo, and most characters introduced hardly made their mark.
The first case is by far the peak, and it may even be the best opening case in the series with the way it sets up the mystery. Unfortunately it’s all downhill from there though, as we get two sub-par filler cases and a lacklustre finale that pales in comparison to the other final cases in the series. If they had just given the ending a bit more of a punch, and if Apollo had been more fleshed-out as a character, I reckon people would think of this game in a more positive light.
8 – Justice For All
Justice For All is always an oddball in lists like these, as depending on what you’re looking for in an Ace Attorney game this could be way up there.
If you’re willing to look past a pathetic opener and filler, this game is pretty darn amazing – unfortunately I can’t ignore the worst opening case in the series (The Lost Turnabout) and the worst case in the series, bar none (Turnabout Big Top).
Strangely, while it has two of the worst cases in the series, Justice For All also boasts two of the very best – “Reunion, and Turnabout” is a great underrated case that hits all the right notes, and “Farewell, my Turnabout” is a bombastic finale case that is either peoples’ absolute favourite or at least in their top 5. If cases 1 and 3 were as remarkable as 2 and 4, this could have been an amazing game that eclipsed the original.
7 – The Great Ace Attorney
If you’ve played Chronicles, you’ll know it’s quite hard to separate the experiences of the first game and the second – their stories are intrinsically linked in every way, and it’s hard to comment on one without talking about either the setup or payoff of the other.
I did enjoy my playthrough of the first game in the duology, but I definitely had my gripes with it. The pacing is all over the place, and some trials feel like they go on for twice as long as they should’ve. Case 3 is really where the game starts to come into its own, and the final case was one of my favourite finale cases ever.
I definitely didn’t like it as much as the sequel, though, so in hindsight it felt a bit lacking – but I can’t deny what an excellent job it did setting up all the plot points and characters.
6 – Dual Destinies
For whatever reason “Dual Destinies” seems to get as bad a reputation as “Apollo Justice” nowadays, and I’m not entirely sure why. Sure, it’s a shame they don’t really reference any previous games, and they hardly take any huge risks, but the overall game is still heaps of fun.
Other than “The Monstrous Turnabout”, every case was a great experience that I enjoyed a lot, and it’s always good seeing Phoenix back in the courtroom as well. The whole Athena / Blackquill story is also a great background case, and it all comes together nicely in the final two cases. It’s flawed, sure, but a damn good time for anyone to enjoy.
5 – Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
I’ve always had a soft spot for the original, and rightfully so – it set up all the aspects of the franchise that I love so much, and the fact it does so many things right straight out of the gate is truly commendable … but I think I may have been overly positive about it as a result.
The final two cases completely overshadow everything else and provide a gaming experience like no other, but that shouldn’t mean I can ignore the shortcomings of the first three. While none of the initial cases are bad, they certainly don’t hook you as much as the final two, so I can’t rank the original any higher because of that.
4 – Spirit Of Justice
When I sat myself down and forced myself to really think about it, I came to a startling conclusion – “Spirit Of Justice” is actually better than the original. Blasphemy, I know, but all of its cases are super consistent (excluding the Case 4 filler, but that’s over quickly), and all of the updated investigation and trial gimmicks since the original prove how far the series has come.
I will say though that it has the worst set of prosecutors in the series, and possibly the most egregiously filler case ever, but the fact they managed to balance both Apollo and Phoenix at the same time still amazes me (especially after failing to figure it out twice previously). It doesn’t quite have the “It” factor of the top 3 games, or even arguably the original, but it’s a more coherent story from start to finish.
3 – Investigations 2
The top 3 games on my list all have one thing in common – consistency. Every one of their five cases is at the very least a decent bit of fun, but more often then not they’re actually one of the best Ace Attorney cases ever.
In terms of pure consistency, Investigations 2 is the best Ace Attorney game we’ve ever had. Every case is a top 20 case ever, and the overarching story is one of the most tightly written and engaging plots in the series.
The whole theme of “what does it mean to be a prosecutor?” is handled to perfection this time around, and any shortcomings gameplay-wise from the first game have been eradicated completely. It’s quite sensational that they managed to do it all in one concise 5-case story, so if it wasn’t for the fact the other two games on the list hit me more emotionally then it could have easily come out on top.
2 – The Great Ace Attorney 2: Resolve
Like I mentioned with Great Ace Attorney 1, it’s extremely hard to separate both games in the duology. This second game is effectively a 5-case climax to the story set up in the first game, so if I look at Resolve individually then of course it was going to be one of the best.
Every case is phenomenal, all of the characters are memorable, and the plot has never been more in depth and captivating. All of the sub-plots with The Professor, The Reaper, van Zeiks’ past, Sholmes’ deception etc. all coalesce beautifully in the final few cases, and you can tell how deeply all of the characters involved are being affected.
Case 1 gets the ball rolling, Case 2 is a surprisingly fun filler, Case 3 may be the most perfect case we ever get, and Cases 4 & 5 wrap up the story in an immensely satisfying way. In all honesty, Resolve could have been number 1 on this list if not for the nostalgia I have for the final entry.
1 – Trials & Tribulations
Still just about topping my list, despite some incredibly fierce opposition from the new entry, remains the incredible “Trials & Tribulations” – the culmination of everything that the first two games in the original trilogy set up.
It certainly has its flaws, like strange characters and logic that might make you roll your eyes, but you’ll forget all of that once the experience is over. The story is my favourite in the series, and Godot makes for such a fantastic prosecutor. Even Case 3, the weakest of the lot, is brimming with fun and style.
It would have been an excellent game just from the first 4 cases, but the final case “Bridge to the Turnabout” still remains to this day my favourite of all the Ace Attorney cases, and the way it brings 15 cases worth of story together still blows my mind. Maybe one day “Resolve” will garnish the same nostalgia and top future editions of this list, but I’ll never forget the gaming experience I had with “Trials & Tribulations”.
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