The Call of Duty series has become synonymous with multiplayer first-person shooters in the 21st century, and it has no lack of main series games to show for it. With the upcoming release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, the franchise will be celebrating its 20th entry with a new game coming out every single year since 2003. Each of these games still has its own dedicated fans to this day, so it’s good to know where every Call of Duty game ranks in relation to the others.
19. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare finds itself at the bottom of the ranking. The 2014 game attempted a departure from the traditional CoD formula, further doubling down on the futuristic elements that were played around with in games like Black Ops 2 and Modern Warfare 3, only this time, the separation was a step too far for most of the fan base. The game struggled on all fronts, delivering a less engaging campaign, more troublesome multiplayer, and an off-the-mark zombies mode that all combined to make Advanced Warfare a Call of Duty game that few will rush to defend.
18. Call of Duty: Ghosts
Call of Duty: Ghosts ultimately failed to understand what it wanted to be and suffered as a result. While not doing anything new isn’t a cardinal sin when it comes to the Call of Duty franchise, Ghosts does nothing new and doesn’t do anything particularly well with the old mechanics it continues to peddle. Extinction mode is the one interesting thing this game has going for it, and it is a shame that the failure of this game overall has resulted in that mode, ironically, going extinct.
17. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
Infinite Warfare contains somewhat commendable efforts to further infuse sci-fi elements into Call of Duty, but many fans were just tired at this point of how far the series had strayed from its roots. The game maintains its fans and defenders to this day, and it certainly isn’t the worst multiplayer experience for players into the boosted jumps and fast-paced slides of this era, but it’s simultaneously not surprising that this was Infinity War’s last attempt at this aesthetic.
16. Call of Duty 1
It’s kind of amazing to return to the original Call of Duty and realize how far the franchise has gone since its humble beginnings as a World War 2 shooter. The first game in the series came at a time when the FPS genre was still fairly new, and a sea of titles were all trying to make gradual improvements. Call of Duty stands out for having a feel to its combat and story that holds up surprisingly well to this day, although younger fans with less nostalgic connection will likely turn their noses up at how archaic it can be in many areas.
15. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4
In retrospect, Black Ops 4 isn’t the worst Call of Duty, but at the time, it certainly did feel like the game had failed to satisfy anything that fans were looking for. There was no campaign, the multiplayer continued down the path tread by Black Ops 3, which was fairly polarizing, the zombies felt significantly weaker than anything from the BO trilogy, and the series’ first foray into Battle Royale, Blackout, needed a lot of work. Many of these areas were improved throughout the game’s life cycle, but that’s not enough to make it a solid entry.
14. Call of Duty: WW2
Call of Duty: WWII aimed to return to the series’ historical roots for the first time in nearly a decade. It’s certainly nice and nostalgic for many to see this return to form, but the result is a game that feels inherently formulaic. Nothing in this game is done particularly poorly, but simultaneously, nothing is done well enough to warrant anyone remembering this title half a decade after its release.
13. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2022)
2022’s Modern Warfare 2 faced almost impossible odds. It’s no simple task for a new game to stand up next to a classic and be naturally compared by name alone. Does the 2022 MW2 compare to the more familiar one from 2009? Not by a long shot. At the same time, it isn’t bad, but it is another concerning step down the path of unfinished-feeling content that the series has been putting out recently.
12. Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
Black Ops 3 introduced a number of innovative features to its multiplayer and zombies, but the campaign is really where this game begins to crumble. Its convoluted plot falls incredibly short of the standards set by its two predecessors. The multiplayer is fun but also winds up falling short in comparison to prior games. That leaves the zombies standing alone as the sole reason to return to this game in the modern day, and it is a really good reason to return to the game.
11. Call of Duty: Vanguard
Vanguard handles the World War 2 storytelling and multiplayer far better than the series’ last attempt in WW2. It also does a much better job standing out with unique modes and multiplayer features. It stumbles in some of the new things it tries, especially its zombies mode. Still, overall, it lands on its feet as one of the better triple-AAA World War 2 shooters in recent years.
10. Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
Black Ops Cold War is a fairly polarizing game among many Call of Duty fans. Some consider it one of the best multiplayer and zombies experiences since the series’ heyday, and some consider it an absolute mess. A lot of the latter opinions come from the title’s undoubtedly rocky launch, sadly littered with bugs, but Treyarch did wind up fixing a lot of those problems, and it’s a much smoother experience in its present state.
9. Call of Duty 2
At a time when this series was truly focused on its campaigns, Call of Duty 2 tells one of the best stories that the franchise has ever seen. Similar to the first game in the series, there is some notable dating when revisiting this game in the present day, but it does improve in a fairly dramatic way over its predecessor, and it’s definitely worth a modern replay.
8. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019)
The first of the new Modern Warfare trilogy ushered in the current and ongoing era of Call of Duty games. An era defined by sweeping modernization that saw Activision drop paid DLC and adopt the free-to-play model for its undoubtedly most modern addition, the battle royale mode Warzone. There are a number of controversial problems that came along with these changes, many of which Activision has still yet to address, but Modern Warfare certainly renewed interest in the series for many players.
7. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (2011)
Modern Warfare 3 was initially fairly polarizing, although time has given this game a dedicated fanbase that still strongly defends it to this day. It’s hard not to look at this game’s campaign as the weakest of the original trilogy, but the multiplayer is one of the best the series has seen.
6. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2007)
The original Modern Warfare from 2007 singlehandedly redefined Call of Duty as a series that isn’t just about the Second World War. It also struck right at the perfect moment to capitalize on the burgeoning console online multiplayer market, and while both Call of Duty 2 and Call of Duty 3 had online multiplayer, this is the game many look back at and remember as their first online CoD experience. It naturally has growing pains as a result, but it’s still a great game.
5. Call of Duty: Black Ops 1
The original Call of Duty: Black Ops does so much right between its mysterious, heart-racing story, iconic multiplayer map designs, and major innovations to the zombies mode that it’s hard to even focus on its flaws. The flaws are still there, mostly regarding certain mechanics in the multiplayer, like the strange CoD Points system, but they’re small issues in the larger context of a great game.
4. Call of Duty 3
Call of Duty 3 improves on everything from the previous games: visuals, storytelling, combat, and more, all while having a very engaging multiplayer. Its improvements over its two predecessors make it the one that’s aged the best. However, its main flaw is still its age and lack of extra modes and features that later titles add on to make for a more varied experience. Those are minor complaints in the face of a bonafide series classic, though.
3. Call of Duty: World at War
World at War was simultaneously a final and first chapter in the series, being the last World War 2 shooter for nearly a decade and the first to introduce the landmark zombies mode that would spawn its own almost separate dedicated fanbase that remains loyal to this day. It builds on everything the first three WW2 shooters in the series had already accomplished, resulting in one of the best campaigns and multiplayer modes the series has ever seen.
2. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009)
2009’s Modern Warfare 2 takes all of the building blocks established by its predecessor for contemporary military gameplay and goes the extra mile with it. The game feels more vibrant, more fleshed out, and more exciting to this day than almost any other Call of Duty game. What this game continues to teach is that balance isn’t necessarily the formula for entertaining multiplayer. Is the series more balanced without nukes and akimbo 1887 shotguns? Absolutely. Is it more fun? There isn’t much more fun than Modern Warfare 2.
1. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
Treyarch manages the perfect blend of classic Call of Duty and its futuristic elements in Black Ops 2. The end result is the game that feels like the most unique and varied in the series, which has something for every type of CoD fan. Whether it’s an engaging campaign, an intense and complex multiplayer, or a wide variety of zombies maps the player is seeking out, Black Ops 2 has everything.