The best ‘Call of Duty’ games, ranked

The main characters of Call of Duty Modern Warfare II
Image via Infinity Ward
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On November 17, 2022
Last modified:November 17, 2022

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The Call of Duty franchise is anything but new, boasting 20 different mainline entries in the series. While there have been some great entries over the years, not all of them have equal footing. So let’s take a look at the greatest first-person shooter franchise of all time, and rank the best Call of Duty games. However, before we begin it’s important to explain how these rankings will work. Every mode in the game is taken into account if it was released with the game, and extra downloadable content is not included, so we won’t be talking about any of the many extra Zombies maps. Spinoffs also are not included, so any ports to the Nintendo Wii or the PlayStation Vita do not count, and unfortunately, neither does Call of Duty: Warzone. Let’s kick it all off with number 10.

10. Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War

Call of Duty: Cold War is the tenth-best game in the Call of Duty series. The multiplayer — while some believe it was a step down from its predecessor — is a return to form to the Black Ops series, after Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. “Miami,” “Satellite,” and “Express” were great maps, as was “Nuketown ’84,” a variation on the famous Black Ops map. But even though their Fireteam mode was a good idea and the maps for that mode were great, it did not hold a candle to Call of Duty: Warzone and did not run nearly as well.

The Zombies modes in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War are the best part of the game, with the original map “Die Maschine” and their Dark Aether Saga improving upon the objective-based Zombies modes in the past. The combat feels fluid like the multiplayer, and it feels satisfying to mow down zombies and radioactive brutes both above and underground. “Dead Ops Arcade 3” is also a fun sequel to their arcade-like Zombies mode. The campaign is where the game falls short. The story of the campaign is good, splitting into two directions toward the end of the game depending on your actions. But you cannot help but compare the political thriller set during the Cold War to the original Call of Duty: Black Ops, which is better in nearly every way.

9. Call of Duty: World at War

The second-oldest game on this list comes in at number nine with Call of Duty: World at War. The game has the first Zombies mode in the Call of Duty franchise, and even though the map, “Nacht der Untoten” is fairly simple, it is still extremely fun killing Nazis in their undead form after obliterating them during WWII. The multiplayer also consisted of some solid maps, with “Downfall” and “Dome” being the standouts, especially as “Dome” has since been remade recently with Call of Duty: Vanguard.

There are two stories mixed into the campaign, the American side and the Russian side. In most of the Russian side, you play alongside the hardened Russian Sergeant Viktor Reznov, voiced by Gary Oldman, whereas on the American side you play alongside Kiefer Sutherland’s Sergeant Roebuck. The campaign features one of the best missions in the franchise as together with Reznov, you storm The Reichstag on April 30, 1939, the day that Hitler committed suicide, killing Nazis with all the spectacle of a Call of Duty game. Overall, the game suffers from a few bugs and obviously does not hold up graphically as much as some of the more recent entries, but it still remains to be a fun time and is definitely worth replaying, or a remake. 

8. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare was released in 2016 and takes the eighth spot on our list. While at the time of release, fans were clear that they did not like the “future shooter” direction that Call of Duty was going in, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare may have been the best of that bunch. The worst part of the game is multiplayer, which does feel exactly like what fans did not want out of the franchise. But the campaign is a nice blend of spectacle, space, and robotics, telling a brilliant story as you float in space and hang out with your robot friend Ethan, or E3N. 

The pinnacle of this game remains the Zombies mode. “Zombies in Spaceland” is the one map included with the game and if you like the ’80s, theme parks, and zombies, this map is definitely for you. You have the ability to summon David Hasselhoff to play with you while blasting zombies away to the sounds of “The Final Countdown,” “Sunglasses at Night,” and “Relax.” And if none of that is your vibe, feel free to go to the Spaceland arcade and play basketball and ski-ball or go to the rollercoaster and shoot the targets and zombie clowns along the way.

7. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019)

After a streak of messy multiplayer, the second Call of Duty: Modern Warfare delivered a tight and grounded style in both its multiplayer, and its thoughtful campaign. The game launched with three different modes, the campaign, the multiplayer, and some Special Ops missions. Starting with the multiplayer, while the shooting felt hefty and grounded, there was not much map variety at launch and no amazing maps either, but it does not make the multiplayer any less enjoyable.

The campaign missions were brilliant, opting not to make a straight remake of the original game, instead using its characters to tell a new story grounded in current times. With stealth missions, sniper missions, and a mission where you avoid capture as a child, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare contains one of the best campaigns of the franchise in recent years. Unfortunately, the Special Ops missions are what lets the game down as they attempt to blend the arcade stylings of the past with the weighted combat, ending in a disappointing side mode.

6. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2022)

The latest entry in the franchise and the second of its name, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2022) takes the sixth spot on our list. The combat in the game is similar to its predecessor, but with better maps at launch. The campaign is where the game truly shines, taking the story of the original Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, keeping the main elements but ultimately shaking up the story, with an ending scene that will make any Modern Warfare fan smile. The missions in the campaign are also fantastically varied, with sniper missions, stealth missions, underwater missions, and vehicular missions. The stealth missions, while they might not be everybody’s cup of tea, are extremely well designed, with “Alone” being maybe the greatest single campaign level in the franchise.

What unfortunately weighs down the game, like its predecessor Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019), is the co-op mode. The game has three co-op maps, and while the maps are large and interesting, the third map even contains a remake of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3‘s “Dome” map, they are not fun to play. Both the multiplayer and the campaign feel like they have a purpose and have some weight to them, whereas the co-op missions feel empty and devoid of life, taking a step back in a game that otherwise takes a step forward.

5. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, which was released in 2012, takes the fifth spot on our list. The Zombies mode is an awesome iteration of its predecessor, connecting the different and smaller Zombies maps by hopping in a bus driving through the apocalypse in a mode called “TranZit.” The multiplayer was great as well, featuring some of the best maps in the entire franchise like “Hijacked,””Raid,” and “Express.”

Unfortunately, the campaign is where the game is the weakest. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 bridges the game between the “future shooter” and the realistic war shooter of its predecessors, and it does so somewhat unsuccessfully. The story tries to throw you a curveball multiple times with twists but telegraphs them so much right before the twist that it loses most of the impact. The main plot point that does this is Alex Mason’s death. The one mission where you aren’t playing as Mason also just so happens to be the one mission where you are asked to kill somebody with a potato sack over their head. It was cheap, and lessened the impact, essentially ruining the characters from its predecessor.

4. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

The original Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is the fourth-best Call of Duty game. Released in 2007, it was developed by Infinity Ward and marked a new direction for the franchise, moving away from wars of the past to reflect the weaponry of more modern wars. The game launched with two main modes (and a weird arcade mode), the campaign and the multiplayer. Note that the trailer above is for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered, not for the original game.

The campaign introduces Captain Price and Sergeant Soap MacTavish and was groundbreaking in its mission variety, using night vision missions, sniper missions, and gunship missions to make it feel like modern warfare. The missions in Pripyat with the ghillie suit, with radioactive boundaries, like “All Ghillied Up,” are a highlight. The multiplayer, while it is extraordinary, does not feature as many great maps as the other games do, with “Shipment” as its best map. But it is still incredibly fun to play.

3. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

“All warfare is based on deception.” There are a few perfect Call of Duty games, and 2011’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is one of them, taking third place on our list. The campaign serves as a satisfying follow-up to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and its cliffhanger ending. There are always stand-out missions, even with their mission variety, and in this game it might be “Turbulence,” where you attempt to keep the Russian President’s daughter safe while his plane gets hijacked. 

The Special Ops mode has two modes, and both are fantastic, with the Mission Mode being a fun twist on the campaign missions, and the Survival Mode adding a wave arcade shooter similar to the Zombies modes. While Modern Warfare 3’s multiplayer modes are rarely brought up in the multiplayer conversation, it did have some of the best maps in the franchise, boasting “Arkaden,” “Underground,” “Village,” “Carbon,” “Mission,” “Dome,” and “Hardhat.” There has not been a Call of Duty with as many great maps at launch since Modern Warfare 3.

2. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

The original Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 takes the second spot on our list. The campaign is one of the best campaigns in Call of Duty. The emotional ride you are taken on by the end of the campaign is phenomenal. You love Ghost, his skull mask is awesome, so when Shepherd betrays your team and kills both Roach and Ghost you are motivated to take him out. The cliffhanger at the end game is as awesome as it was in 2009 – not to mention the varied and interesting missions the game throws at you, including the iconic missions”‘No Russian” and “Loose Ends.”

Ask anybody who has played Call of Duty’s multiplayer modes over the years, and their answer to which mode might have been their favorite will most likely be Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. There were so many great maps in the game with “Estate,” “Highrise,” “Rust,” and the infamous “Terminal.” While the Special Ops missions are not as good as the endlessly replayable Zombies modes, the missions in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 are some of the greatest in the entire franchise and they should be something that the franchise goes back to. Killing Juggernauts in close-quarters maps or playing cooperatively with a friend who is providing cover support has never been more enjoyable to play than in this game.

1. Call of Duty: Black Ops

Ultimately, Call of Duty: Black Ops is the best game in the franchise so far. Developed by Treyarch and released in 2010, Call of Duty: Black Ops had three modes and each mode is everything you want out of a first-person shooter. The multiplayer contains some of the best maps in any Call of Duty to date, with “Firing Range,” “Launch,” and “Summit.” There is also a reason why they have remade “Nuketown” as many times as they have.

The campaign might also be the best campaign in the entire series. You play as Alex Mason, voiced by Sam Worthington, as he fights his way through the Cold War and Vietnam with his fellow soldiers Bowman (Ice Cube) and Woods. Gary Oldman returns as Viktor Reznov, although for a majority of the game he is a side-effect of Mason’s brainwashing. The story is part war hellscape and political thriller with Mason working with C.I.A. agent Hudson to stop the Russians from launching their Nova 6 bombs. It might be the most memorable campaign from “The numbers Mason, what do they mean?” to “Dragovich, Kravchenko, Steiner, they all must die!” burned into the brains of anyone who played it.

And if “Kino der Toten” wasn’t the most iconic Zombies map in existence — which it is — at the end of the campaign you are given access to “Five,” where you get to fight zombies as John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Fidel Castro, and Robert McNamara in the Pentagon. And even if “Black Ops Arcade” was not your thing, it was still pretty cool – well that and Zork. Call of Duty has never been better.

Did we miss any games you would have otherwise put on your top ten games in the Call of Duty franchise? Or did we just get you in the mood to go play some Call of Duty? Go play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 or Call of Duty: Warzone 2.0, which is available for free on all major platforms now.