The Call of Duty franchise has had a large share of ups and downs, but with such a large number of games in the portfolio, it’s clear that Activision has a winning hand. A rotating development cycle between 3 developers means that each team has a large chunk of time to spend developing their new title while tweaking the formula and making each game as unique as possible.
With the impending release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, we thought it was time to revisit some of the titles that makes this franchise so special. Here are the 10 best Call of Duty titles, and what makes each great for their own reasons.
10. Call of Duty 2
Call of Duty 2 was a launch title for Xbox 360, and one of the best WWII FPS at the time. No, it doesn’t hold up to some of the other WWII games that have launched since, but I still have incredibly fond memories of the map design and multiplayer specifically. The varied campaign design from settings to protagonists was smartly nuanced for the technology at the time, and with a great story that manages to maintain its integrity today, the dated title won’t hold up against the improved mechanics from the rest of the franchise that has launched since.
9. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is a divisive game. It was the first step towards the boost-jumping futuristic titles that we got with Black Ops II, Infinite Warfare, Black Ops III, and Black Ops 4, but it still felt more grounded than those titles. Boosting in Advanced Warfare still felt weighty as your character fell to the ground. This made it more of a dodge than a flight mechanic, and remains stellar to this day. Add to that the addition of a strong antagonist with Kevin Spacey, and Advanced Warfare was moving the franchise in the right direction.
8. Call of Duty: World at War
Really, there’s one big standout that puts Call of Duty: World at War on this list, and it’s Nazi Zombies. I’m in the minority, I think World at War is a mostly unremarkable game that doesn’t deserve a lot of the praise that it receives, but Nazi Zombies was the start of something special for the franchise, and who didn’t love Kiefer Sutherland shouting at highlights during multiplayer matches?
7. Call of Duty: WWII
It was a big risk going back to a World War II setting after so many futuristic titles, and in some ways Call of Duty: WWII payed off, but in some ways it didn’t. The campaign was incredible, with an intimate story that manages to pull of some new things. The multiplayer was where this title faltered for me, with poorly balanced maps and weapons. It does return the series to boots on the ground, which is what players had been clamoring for at the time, and the hub world for multiplayer was a nice new addition that had additional hidden secrets in nooks and crannies.
6. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
I think Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 was a bit overrated. Sure, it’s a fun title, and mostly wraps up the series. It’s also the weakest of the three Modern Warfare titles, and with the bar set so high from the first two games, it struggles to keep up. Even the worst Modern Warfare game is still a good game though, which is what helped rank this a bit higher on this list than the previous five games.
5. Call of Duty: Black Ops III
I think that Call of Duty: Black Ops III had the best multiplayer across the franchise. Sue me. The fast, frenetic boost jumping, smartly designed maps, and an arsenal of guns that were a blast to shoot meant a multiplayer suite that I didn’t stop playing until I was Master Prestige. The Operators were a breath of fresh air, and added an extra element of strategy to the series. I also think that Black Ops III had the weakest storyline across the Black Ops series, and is one of the few Call of Duty campaigns I got really bored with and never finished.
4. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 picks up five years after Modern Warfare leaves off. The campaign features a number of returning characters, and much like Modern Warfare has a plethora of iconic moments. If I had to pick one Call of Duty series to play through, it’s this one, even if Modern Warfare 3 is the weakest of the bunch. Modern Warfare 2 also had my favorite mode across any title with Special Ops missions, a series of stand-alone missions that can be played in co-op with tough objectives, and a ranking system based on results. This is a mode that we will see return in the soft reboot of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare later this month, and something I’m really looking forward to.
3. Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Out of every Call of Duty release, Call of Duty: Black Ops II is one of the three games I’ve played enough multiplayer of to prestige multiple times. Every title on this list holds its own in the multiplayer department, but Black Ops II had not only a great multiplayer suite, but an extremely flushed out campaign mode that featured multiple endings. Treyarch has never been afraid to try new things, even if some of them only stick around for one or two entries.
2. Call of Duty: Black Ops
The first title in the Black Ops franchise: Call of Duty: Black Ops remains the cream of the crop for developer Treyarch. Going to back to the Cold War paid off for the franchise, and had some of the darkest moments in the series (remember Ice Cube dying?!) The series introduced some new multiplayer modes here that remain a franchise staple to this day, and kicked off the fan-favorite Zombies storyline that got crazier and crazier with each franchise release. Other than the number 1 pick on this list, Black Ops was probably the most influential Call of Duty game ever made, and developer Treyarch continues to push the boundaries of game modes and Zombies storylines.
1. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is easily the pinnacle of the franchise. The smart blend of tense storytelling, varied levels, and incredible multiplayer make it one of the best shooters of all time. It makes sense that Infinity Ward picked this one to remaster back in 2016 when Infinite Warfare launched. Modern Warfare has some of the most iconic stages, that remain classics to this day, and is probably the only Call of Duty campaign I’ve played through more than once.
Modern Warfare launches this Friday on October 25th. Preorders are still available here, and include a bonus weapon pack.