For 20 years the Call of Duty series has reigned supreme as the most popular first-person shooter franchise in the world, grossing more than $27 billion since the series began in 2003. Millions of players jump into the games daily, especially now that it has its battle royale game called Warzone. Speaking of Warzone, this list won’t feature any spin-off titles such as Warzone or Call of Duty Mobile and will just focus on the yearly releases.
As Modern Warfare III fast approaches, let’s take a look at the long history of the series, here is every Call of Duty game ranked from worst to best.
19. Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 took the unusual route of being the only mainline entry in the series to completely bypass the campaign, opting for the traditional multiplayer modes and the series’ first foray into the world of Battle Royale with its Blackout mode. This served as a precursor to the popular Warzone mode that would be released in 2020. Overall, it is a fun iteration of Call of Duty, but not having a campaign really hindered any long-term replayability once Warzone and the next entry in the series were released.
18. Call Of Duty 3
Call of Duty 3 is likely the game you haven’t played and you aren’t really missing much. This entry is the only one never to be released on PC, and with consoles being multiple generations ahead now, being able to go back and replay it is difficult, so it’s best to skip this and just start your Call of Duty journey with the next entry.
Infinite Warfare was Activision’s final attempt at taking Call of Duty into the future before going back to its roots with WWII. This is a game that often divides fans as it receives both praise and criticism depending on who you ask, but this marks the end of a dark period in the franchise and I think we can all agree that Call of Duty has seen much better entries in the years since.
16. Call Of Duty: WWII
Following three years of the Call of Duty series going into the future, Activision went back to its roots with a World War-era game. Although it was a good change of pace, Activision failed to deliver and it quickly became a forgotten title in the series as there have been better World War-era entries before and since. It is worth playing the campaign if you can get the game for cheap, but you won’t miss much if you bypass this entry.
15. Call Of Duty: Black Ops 3
After Sledgehammer Games took the series into the future with Advanced Warfare, Treyarch followed suit with Black Ops 3. As with other futuristic Call of Duty games, Black Ops 3 cemented the fact that the series doesn’t work as a Sci-Fi shooter. Black Ops 3 does have its moments though, including a great Zombies mode. But when compared to the previous two entries in the series, Black Ops 3 doesn’t hold up.
Like Infinite Warfare, Call of Duty: Ghosts is a game that divides opinions. Some players have fond memories of it while some think it is one of the worst entries in the series. Ghosts was the first entry in the series to release on the eighth generation PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, having released on the previous generation just ten days prior to the release on the PS4. This game did serve as a precursor for what would become more standard with multiplayer games in the future in that it featured various collaborations with pop-culture icons, including Snoop Dogg as an announcer and both Michael Myers from Halloween and Predator being playable characters on DLC maps.
13. Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare II (2022)
At the time of writing, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II is the latest entry in the series. Following on from 2019’s Modern Warfare, all eyes were on Infinity Ward to see what they had planned for the next entry, and unfortunately, it was a letdown. When it comes to the campaign it was one of the best that we’ve seen in a long time from Infinity Ward. But, when it comes to the multiplayer, the most popular part of the game, it was lacking. Many essential quality-of-life improvements had been removed and it just wasn’t very fun to play for long periods of time. Hopefully, Modern Warfare III fixes all of the issues and brings us a great entry.
You have likely seen people type “F” on plenty of social media posts but may not know the origin. During the introduction section of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, PC players must press the F key to pay respects to their fallen comrade, which created one of the most iconic memes still widely used today. Apart from this, the game is fairly mediocre, after a decade of releasing World War and modern war shooters, going into the future did make sense, but Activision fell flat at every turn, but this was their best attempt.
11. Call Of Duty: Vanguard
It was quite surprising to see the series go back to World War 2 once again with Vanguard and it did offer a more unique take on the era as it followed various points of the war in different countries but in a non-chronological order which helped to keep things fresh. The multiplayer had its moments and was fairly enjoyable for a while, but the Zombies mode is one of the worst in Call of Duty history and doesn’t offer much reason to go back to it after you’ve played a couple of rounds.
It was immediately clear after the first game that Activision had a winner on its hands, but few could have predicted the rise that it would go on to have. Call of Duty 2 is more of the same when compared to the first entry, with one of the most interesting facts being that it wasn’t released on PlayStation. This means that it is understandable if many players haven’t had the opportunity to play it, but it is one that is definitely worth hunting down if you haven’t played this great entry in the series.
9. Call Of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War was the first game in the series to launch on the most recent ninth generation of consoles, the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. This is a game that often divides opinions with some really enjoying it and some thinking it didn’t live up to expectations, which makes it a great choice to sit right in the middle of this list. When it comes to the campaign, it was one of the most enjoyable campaigns that I’d played in quite some time, but the multiplayer did miss the mark in some aspects. If you’re a fan of the Black Ops series then it is worth checking out as it takes place between the first and second game.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 follows directly from the previous game and is more of the same, not that it is a bad thing at all. One of the more interesting things to note about Modern Warfare 3 is it seemed to release on everything, even the Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS, as well as Square Enix handling the Japanese version of the game. The marketing for Modern Warfare 3 was very extensive, with Activision working with the likes of Jeep and PepsiCo to promote the game. But, one of the more amusing parts of its marketing was that someone grabbed the ModernWarfare3.com domain before Activision and used it to promote EA’s Battlefield 3, leading to a lawsuit by the developer to acquire the domain name.
7. Call Of Duty: World At War
Call of Duty: World At War is the second game by Trearch in what would become the yearly trend of going back and forth with Infinity Ward. World At War felt like Treyarch was finding its feet and getting ready to become a dominant force in the franchise with the Black Ops series. This game also marked the first time the popular Zombies mode would be featured in the series and became a huge selling point for the game and is still worth going back to today if you’re a fan of the mode, it still holds up very well.
2019’s Modern Warfare was a soft reboot for the series following the dark times that saw Call of Duty go into the future and really lose its identity. Infinity Ward went back to what made the series great and recaptured the magic from a decade prior. If you enjoyed the series during its glory days in the late 2000s, then you will be satisfied if you jump back into the series from Modern Warfare onwards.
5. Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is often rightfully hailed as one of the best entries in the series. It features a branching non-linear campaign with multiple endings, a first for the series, and has one of the most solid multiplayer modes the series has ever seen. Black Ops 2 grossed over $500 million in its first 24 hours of release, a record that stood until GTA V was released in 2013. It also was the first game in the series to be released on the Wii U, although it is understandable if you never played that version of the game.
Following the departure of many Medal of Honor developers from 2015, Inc., they came together to create a new studio called Infinity Ward and set out to make a new World War shooter, which would quickly go on to become more successful than the Medal of Honor series. The original Call of Duty game was originally released as a PC exclusive, but it was eventually ported to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 as Call of Duty Classic in 2009 following the release of Modern Warfare 2.
3. Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Call of Duty pivoted away from the World War era and into the modern age with Call of Duty 4, a move that took the series to new heights. Modern Warfare was released in 2007, the same year as Halo 3, and helped to push online console gaming into the mainstream as millions of players jumped into the game to battle it out with other players across the world. Modern Warfare received universal critical acclaim, with its Metacritic scores ranging from 92-94 for its main platforms, although the Wii port didn’t score as well with just a 76 score, but who really buys a Wii for Call of Duty?
By the end of the decade, Infinity Ward had firmly established the Modern Warfare series and Treyarch needed its own sub-series for its bi-yearly releases. Black Ops is set during the Cold War in the 1960s and the opinion of which series is better is often fairly split, with some preferring Treyarch’s offerings and some preferring Infinity Ward’s. The game featured licensed music by the likes of Eminem and The Rolling Stones but notably included an original song by Avenged Sevenfold, a trend that would continue until Black Ops 4. This era was the peak of Call of Duty and I hope Activision can once again recapture the magic in the coming years as nothing has compared to 2007-2012 Call of Duty in the last decade.
1. Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009)
There will always be a divide as to whether the Modern Warfare or Black Ops series is superior, which means that the top two entries on this list could be interchangeable. But, Modern Warfare 2 helped elevate the Call of Duty franchise to new heights, and there’s a reason why the maps are being remade for the upcoming Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III. For those that play the campaigns, it offered the best story the series has seen, and the multiplayer mode made online console gaming mainstream along with games such as Halo 3. This is Call of Duty at its peak and Activision has been trying to recapture the same magic ever since.