What kind of a name is Call of Duty anyway, eh? Well, Call of Duty is the titular phrase of one of the most successful video game series in recent history. We all have a favourite, but which one is best?
In some form or another, nearly everyone has played Call of Duty at some point over the years. Whether it’s an impromptu quick-scopes duel on Rust, or a 30-round struggle on Der Riese… Call of Duty has provided countless of hours of entertainment and heartbreak to many and it’s proving time-and-time again to be the most popular FPS title out there.
This leaves a rather interesting question out there, though. Which Call of Duty is the best. This ranking won’t touch too much on the graphics of each game, but it will consider the mechanics alongside all the other major features. I will also include Metacritic scores in an effort to make this a little fairer.
Call of Duty Ranking
16. Call of Duty: Ghosts
I know, I know. Ghosts isn’t THAT bad. People hated on it, a lot. I mean, it did follow on from Black Ops II, which would be tough for any Call of Duty game. That, and it was the first one to be developed on the Xbox One and PS4. This, obviously, meant that there was a lot of expectations going into Ghosts. Sadly, it just fell short. It’s campaign was a little underwhelming, and Extinction was no match for Spec Ops or Zombies. It was a fine addition, but it felt subpar as a replacing game-mode.
It did however introduce a number of modes to the franchise, such as Gun Game and Cranked, which have since proven popular. Squads was kind of fun too? But… It wasn’t quite enough to merit it being placed higher. It got a Metascore of 78, fairly positive, but a User Score of 3.9. People mainly criticised the fact that it was a step backwards when compared to BLOPS 2. Ouch.
15. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
It’s difficult to pick where to begin with Advanced Warfare. It had so much promise and, by any account, it isn’t the worst game. The Zombies mode had an exciting cast, with John Malkovich, Bill Paxton, Rose McGowan, John Berthnal AND Bruce Campbell appearing. Hell, even the campaign had Kevin Spacey! If we look past his personal life, it’s still a cast of fantastic actors. However, there’s one thing that let it down…
The Exo-Suits. They were a great innovation that was carried on and improved in later titles, but they were just clunky in Advanced Warfare. I, personally, enjoy using them but you can’t deny that they weren’t the smoothest mechanic to be introduced. The rest of the game was fine, good in-fact, but the Exo-Suits affected every facet of gameplay and thus push it down the rankings. It got a Metascore of 83, though! Users gave it a middling 5.7, which seems fair.
14. Call of Duty 3
Now, I’m not out here to drag the PlayStation 2 mechanics because they were fantastic for the time. But… They just weren’t enough to rank Call of Duty 3 any higher. Not to mention Huxley’s annoying southern twang berating you for throwing a perfectly-arced Frag Grenade. Call of Duty 3‘s multiplayer was pretty great, though. This makes it a tight call to place it last out of the first three.
Generally, I find the earlier CoD campaigns are too spread out. Multiple perspectives is fine, but all three of the early Call of Duty titles seem to have multiple storylines that are just too disassociated from one another. This isn’t to say they aren’t linked, but… You get the idea. Call of Duty 3 got generally good reviews from critics and when you consider the fact that the team behind it supposedly had eight months to develop it… It’s a brilliant achievement.
13. Call of Duty 2
Call of Duty 2 is a fantastic continuation from the original title, but it doesn’t do a whole lot to really improve the series. I know this is harsh, given the fact that Call of Duty was really just finding it’s feet in these early stages, but… I said it. The campaign was fun, but nothing ground breaking when you consider the slew of Second World War FPS titles we had by this point. Medal of Honor games covered so much, with Allied Assault coming out a whole three years prior to Call of Duty 2.
The gameplay was better, as you’d expect, but the content wasn’t there. Call of Duty 2‘s multiplayer experience was fun for the time, and in no way a bad addition to the game, but it’s hard to justify this as a reason to place this title any higher. On the whole, critics gave the game high praise. It has scores of 80 and up at almost every establishment. Metacritic has it listed under an 86 Metascore, but this still sits it behind the original Call of Duty.
12. Call of Duty
The OG really deserves a higher place up the list. It was an innovative title on a number of fronts. It did follow on from Medal of Honor, but it changed the way AI’s acted and pushed for more of a squad-based narrative in FPS titles. It also helped popularise the use of Iron Sights in FPS titles (I know! Imagine not having Iron Sights?!) and helped to bring realism to the genre in a new way.
All that aside, though, there’s a reason it’s the first CoD game. While the narrative was decent, it wasn’t ground-breaking and the gunplay wasn’t a lot better than it’s peers at the time. Still, Metacritic give it a massive Metascore of 91 and it’s generally favoured by everyone else. I know it’s tough to disassociate a game from it’s context, but Call of Duty isn’t the best game in the series… Even if it was incredible at the time.
11. Call of Duty: Black Ops III
Before I dive into it… Black Ops III‘s Zombies was it’s crowning achievement. Even if you take away the addition of Zombies Chronicles, Shadows of Evil was a fantastic Lovecraftian twist on the beloved Zombies format. The rest of Black Ops III, though, leaves a lot to be desired. It’s most controversial addition to the franchise, though, is both its’ saving grace and its’ downfall.
Black Ops III‘s movement system was both fantastic and horrendous. It provided players with fluidity via a momentum-based traversal system that included wall-running and thrust jumps, but it took a lot away from what makes a Call of Duty truly feel like a Call of Duty. Where the addition of Exo-Suits offered some enhanced movements in other titles, Black Ops III‘s movement system felt like a whole new beast. It got a middling Metascore of 73, but it’s User Score of 3.1 is telling. Sadly, Zombies cannot save the whole game.
10. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4
Black Ops 4 was, and is, the only Call of Duty title without a single-player campaign. Although many players focus primarily on multiplayer, this was still a controversial move. It did have a series of single-player missions, but they did little to compare to the grandeur of a Call of Duty campaign. What’s even more controversial is the fact that Black Ops 4 didn’t feature regenerative health like every other Call of Duty game. It also had predictable recoil patterns and a different ballistics system to the game before it. Predictive recoil patterns can raise the skill ceiling, as CS:GO has proven, but for the casual? It’s controversial.
One thing that Black Ops 4 did do well is introduce Blackout. Blackout was a pre-curser to Warzone in a lot of ways and wasn’t all that bad. When you combine this with the Zombies modes and maps that came with Black Ops 4, it’s hard to say it’s the worst game in the series. That being said, it’s nowhere near the best. Metacritic gave it a positive Metascore of 83, however the User Score is telling. It only hit 4.0 in total. It seems that the controversial changes weren’t quite pulled off.
9. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
This is where things get tight. The difference between every game going forward is minimal, as they’re all pretty excellent. Sadly, though… Modern Warfare 3 is ranked as the worst Modern Warfare title of the lot. It still scored highly on Metacritic, but it’s hard to say that it quite matched the heights of Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2. It had a brilliant campaign, as did Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2 and seals the trilogy as one of the best narratives in video game history. According to Activision, at the time, it also had the biggest entertainment launch in history.
However, it isn’t quite as memorable as the other ones… Is it? Other than the final scenes of Price smoking a cigar before a hanged Makarov, it’s hard to remember a lot of what happens. This is one criticism the game received from fans. Many said the narrative wasn’t anything different from the previous instalments, and in a way they’re right. It doesn’t mean it was bad by any account, but it wasn’t quite the best either.
8. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
This is where I am going to get the most flak. I know it. But, here it is. I think Modern Warfare is the eight best Call of Duty game. I know! Outragous, right? How dare he! That son of a —
Listen. Modern Warfare was good, damn good in fact. But, that’s only because none of the other Call of Duty games at this level had been created yet. I’m not about to belittle what Modern Warfare did for the series, and the genre as a whole, but I’m not going to use this as justification for it being the best. There are cleaner multiplayer experiences out there. There are better maps out there. There are wider-arrays of weapons and narratives that are equally as exciting.
We got the ever-popular Task Force 141 from Modern Warfare and none of us will ever forget Price’s immortal “Flashbang, through the door! Check those corners! Hit the targets!”. So, perhaps on another day I would rank it higher? But perhaps not. Here we are. You’ll be pleased to know that Metacritic believes that Modern Warfare is the best of the series, giving it a 92 Metascore. Also, seems reasonable.
7. Call of Duty: WWII
Call of Duty: WWII was the series’ triumphant return to it’s roots and brought about a mixed response from fans. It had a shorter campaign than most, which many didn’t like, and there was a change in the traditional expectations from the Zombies mode. It was pitched, and played, more like a horror feature that the previous entries. However, it’s hard to argue with the star-studded cast they assembled for this mode. In addition to this, when you look at the campaign… It was emotive and well-made. There was a nice mixture of action set-pieces and stealth sequences which spanned the length of the war. It was a complete, isolated narrative.
Call of Duty: WWII added loot boxes and microtransactions, which many criticised the game for. They also found that the regression into the Second World War setting came with a regression in quality as well. I find myself disagreeing with this wholly. It wasn’t a perfect game, but it changed the status quo and did it very well. It offered fans a break from the futuristic timelines and provided a hit of nostalgia that accompanied a well-made shooter.
6. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
Call of Duty fans are ruthless. That much is true. One step out of what they want, basically a clone of Modern Warfare, and they berate it. But, Infinite Warfare wasn’t that bad. In fact, it was pretty good. It took everything that Advanced Warfare did… Poorly, with Exo-suits, and made it work. It’s gameplay was fluid, but not the Titanfall-levels of fluidity of Black Ops 4. Sure, there were a few features that didn’t work as well as they could. Especially in the Campaign… But, it was an important and exciting experimentation that resulted in a pretty solid Call of Duty game.
The one saving grace of Infinite Warfare though, was it’s Zombies Mode. Zombies In Spaceland, Shaolin Shuffle… Each map was unique and exciting and jam-packed with Easter Eggs. They each had a unique feel, with unique mechanics that fit with the scenarios. Alongside a pretty decent multiplayer and an interesting take on a campaign, Infinite Warfare is the best of the “futuristic” Call of Duty games.
5. Call of Duty: World At War
Call of Duty: World At War was truly a spectacular game. It took everything that the fans loved from the origins of the series and made them brilliant. The campaign was well-done with fantastic performances throughout, the multiplayer was solid, and it introduced Zombies. However, it didn’t tread on the feet of those that came before it. The narrative focus was on the Pacific and Eastern fronts, as opposed to central Europe. It also took everything that Modern Warfare added to the series and tweaked it perfectly.
It isn’t the best Call of Duty, though, hence it’s place. It did add co-op mode to the campaign, which was a great addition, but it wasn’t quite… It. It didn’t quite change the Call of Duty formula enough to make it stand-out. It did provide a grittier experience than a lot of the other Call of Duty games and that’s why it ranks so highly. Metacritic has it listed with a Metascore in the mid-80s, with fans giving it generally favourable User Scores across the board. It is without a doubt one of the better titles in the series, and deserving of it’s place here on the list.
4. Call of Duty: Black Ops
Ever since it’s 2010 release, we’ve wondered what the numbers meant. Black Ops was a triumphant continuation of the World At War narrative into the 1960s. It tackled the under-handed espionage tactics that dominated the era’s conflict and included a star-studded cast. Sam Worthington portrays Alex Mason at the height of his career and it is a testament to an important turning point in Call of Duty‘s history. Call of Duty was popular. Like… Really popular.
The multiplayer for Black Ops was pretty solid; on launch, it was one of the better-received multiplayer modes in the series. Sure, it wasn’t quite perfect but it was damn fine for what it was and when it was released. The Zombies Mode was also a huge step in the right direction from World at War. It brought a new level of scope and interaction to the co-operative mode which has undoubtedly enhanced the series. Metacritic gave Black Ops a Metascore of 88, and it has a higher User Score of 6.7. Again, Call of Duty players don’t always like change.
3. Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Black Ops II did a lot of great things for the series. It follows on from the first Black Ops, with the narrative being split over the 1980s and 2025. What’s interesting about this is that it is fairly non-linear due to this and there’s multiple endings. Not a lot of Call of Duty campaigns are this adventurous and it adds an important level of meaningfulness to the storyline. Critics praised the contents of the storyline as well as the way it was presented. It was a notable enhancement graphically on the previous entry and the gunplay was a lot more solid than the previous Treyarch entry.
It also revolutionised the multiplayer Create-A-Class system and introduced score-based Kill Streaks. This changed the way the game was played and ultimately complimented the introduction of the ever-controversial Skill-Based Match-Making system that was introduced. Whether you’re a fan of SBMM or not, it’s hard to deny that it brought about a positive change in the way multiplayer Call of Duty matches were played. Lobbies were more evenly balanced and it provided more of a challenge throughout. It also brought about an even larger-scope to the Zombies Mode. Things went far and beyond the simplistic Nazi Zombies of World At War and undoubtedly improved the mode. It received a solid Metascore of 83 and a middling User Score of 5.7.
2. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
Activision’s latest entry into the Call of Duty series is a soft-reboot of Modern Warfare and is the pinnacle of the series. Graphically, it is contemporarily stunning and stands out amongst it’s peers. The gunplay is continually evolving, meaning it remains relatively balanced, and there is a slew of free content for fans to enjoy. The narrative is one of the most impactful to date, with some missions taking place in central London. It also brings back a couple fan-favourite characters in Price and Nikolai, and introduces several new characters that rival the best of the best. Claudia Doumit’s performance as Farah and Barry Sloane’s rejuvinated Captain Price are highlights and are a testament to how Call of Duty is more than just a multiplayer FPS.
That isn’t to say the multiplayer portion of it is bad, by any account. Modern Warfare features a series of mirrored maps that aim to disrupt the traditional three-channel format of multiplayer shooters. It also brought the world Warzone, arguably the best Battle Royale on the market currently. There is some controversy around the subject matter Modern Warfare portrays, much like the previous entries into the sub-series… However, these bring to light important parts of modern conflict that are often ignored. On the whole, it plays well and looks good. There isn’t a lot to disagree with there. Metacritic have it listed with an middling Metascore of 80, and classically the User Score is divided and thus leaves it sitting on 3.3. Admittedly, there is a point behind some of them. Portraying Russians are the villain is an out-dated stereotype and there is a mild degree of false American exceptionalism in play. However, the fact that it even touches on these issues is a step in the right direction for correcting the current discourse on these issues.
1. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Right. I know this is going to draw a lot of ” 1v1 me on Rust” attacks, but here we go. Modern Warfare 2 is the best Call of Duty game. It follows on from Modern Warfare with a thrilling campaign and an exploration into Soap, who is now the best Call of Duty character? It has a solid multiplayer with some of the best maps in the series history alongside a pretty-good Spec Ops co-op mode that wasn’t bad by any account. It was the best multiplayer FPS contemporarily, and rivals the best of them today. It took everything Call of Duty had done well over the years and brought it into the realms of the blockbuster.
Metacritic have given the game a Metascore of 94 on both PS3 and Xbox 360, with the User Score being on the higher side of Call of Duty titles at 6.6. A lot of the criticisms are relating to the price of the game, however there are some complaints that it wasn’t a massive jump between Modern Warfare and this. Perhaps they’re right, but Modern Warfare was damn good and it only needed a few tweaks to make it great. That’s what Modern Warfare 2 did.
So, there you have it. Do you agree? Which Call of Duty is your favourite? Let us know in the comments!