Have you played every COD game since the very beginning? How would you rank your favorites? Here’s the 10 best Call of Duty games, according to Dexerto.
Call of Duty has evolved over the years into a sprawling mega-franchise, comprised of various sub-series and one-off titles. The early games focused on battles from The Second World War before venturing into Modern Warfare and Black Ops (although the series has also ventured into dystopian futures and sci-fi).
The franchise has told some poignant and thought provoking stories through the medium of first-person gaming, but it’s mostly celebrated for its online multiplayer. When you think about competitive online shooters, it’s Call of Duty that springs to mind. But what are the best, most ground-breaking COD games, and how do they rank out of ten?
10. Black Ops 4 (2018)
Black Ops 4 didn’t reach the dizzying heights of its predecessors, and removing the single-player campaign was seen as a controversial move by many. However, the online experience helped players fall in love with COD again. Ghosts, Advanced & Infinite Warfare, and even Black Ops 3, to an extent, had all caused franchise fatigue to set in.
But BO4 reminded players of what COD multiplayer was supposed to be. The game delivered a tight, focused, and addictive experience that stripped away some of the frivolous elements of previous COD games.
9. Black Ops Cold War (2020)
Cold War doesn’t shine as brightly as some other entries on this list, but it deserves its place for several reasons. BOCW was the first full COD game to arrive on current-gen consoles and its integration with Warzone helped both go further. As the game was set during a different time period, this could have gone horribly wrong.
It also managed to differentiate itself from the Modern Warfare reboot and Warzone by offering a gritty spy story that reminded players of the first Black Ops title. The fact that the game also teased a shared COD universe going forward was also a tantalizing prospect.
8. Modern Warfare 3 (2011)
Modern Warfare 3 suffered from being the third, final, and least interesting chapter in a much-loved trilogy. It was more of the same in many ways, and what we got was excellent quality. It just wasn’t fresh, and gamers were starting to look elsewhere.
By 2011, online first-person shooters were dominating the gaming landscape and Call of Duty was no longer the only game in town. That being said, MW3 is still a stellar experience and one that wrapped up what could be the greatest COD story ever told.
7. Modern Warfare (2019)
By 2019, the MW series had become mythologized by fans as the greatest era of the COD franchise. Whether it is or not is a matter of opinion, but when Activision announced they were rebooting the series, the resulting hype was very real. MW (2019) retold the events of the original COD4:MW for a new generation.
But it also did so much more. The MW reboot also brought back the most beloved aspects of COD multiplayer and made them special again – without a jetpack in sight. It also served as a springboard for Warzone, which would reshape COD forever.
6. World at War (2008)
WaW would be the last COD game set during The Second World War until 2017. The game explored aspects of the conflict unseen in earlier games, such as what unfolded in the South Pacific and the Russian invasion of Berlin. But the game’s legacy wasn’t its hard-hitting story or return to WW2-themed multiplayer. It was zombies!
What started out as a fun little addition to the main game has since turned into one of Call of Duty’s most celebrated features. WaW was the first game to introduce zombies. While this mode was basic by today’s standards, it’s hard to imagine COD without zombies today.
5. Black Ops (2010)
After successfully helming COD’s return to WW2, and while Infinity Ward continued their work on the MW series, Treyarch turned its attention to a new project. Black Ops was uncharted territory for COD and took the series to Vietnam and the Cold War in a thrilling spy drama.
The game also revolutionized the series’ multiplayer, introducing the Nuketown map and other features that would continue to be a staple of future games. While BO wasn’t as popular as the MW games at the time, it built the foundation of a franchise that would eventually grow to rival MW’s popularity.
4. Black Ops 2 (2012)
Treyarch hit their stride with BO2 and the game’s multiplayer took the COD series in a bold new direction. BO2’s multiplayer was every bit as entertaining as the MW games, offering a funky and futuristic spin that wasn’t too far out of the realms of reality. It also brought back COD Zombies and turned the mode into the must-play feature it is today.
BO2 set the bar higher than ever, but it was also the start of the series decline in many ways. Later COD games attempted to emulate its success as Activision doubled down on the futuristic settings, they just did so without any of BO2’s charm.
3. Modern Warfare 2 (2009)
Until BO2, MW2 was the undisputed king of COD multiplayer. It took the format that MW1 laid down and expanded it, arguably making Call of Duty the household name it is today. COD is now an annual event, an inevitability, but in 2009 it was something to get unapologetically giddy about.
While MW2’s multiplayer exploded in popularity on all platforms, its campaign also told a deep and controversial story that no COD game has ever even come close to rivaling. MW2 is COD’s Empire Strikes Back moment, but of course, there was also a Return of the Jedi.
2. Warzone (2020)
Warzone has become an absolute phenomenon. It’s something that has changed the series forever by offering all the best parts of COD multiplayer in one free-to-play package. The game also acts as an umbrella under which all future COD games can huddle, each bringing something unique to the party.
COD Warzone scores so highly on this list because it’s completely rewritten the rules of COD. It could exist on its own without an annual game release if Activision wanted it to, but instead, it’s become the series core. This allows developers like Infinity Ward, Treyarch, and Sledgehammer to get creative, releasing games that push the envelope rather than predictable sequels.
The future of Call of Duty looks a lot like Warzone, and its evolution will dictate the direction of the entire franchise. It’s an exciting time to be a fan – but also an uncertain one.
1. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007)
Modern Warfare (2007) had to take the top spot because, without it, this list wouldn’t exist. MW1 took COD’s stale WW2 formula and literally modernized it – and the entire first-person shooter genre, too. It also made online multiplayer on consoles something all gamers needed to experience.
While MW2 arguably refined the game’s mechanics and delivered a better product, MW1 was a game that changed everything. The world’s obsession with Call of Duty began with Modern Warfare and it will always be the most significant turning point in the franchises’ history.
While Call of Duty has had other important milestones since 2007, told better stories, and delivered better multiplayer experiences, nothing will ever be as groundbreaking as Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.