Call of Duty has to be the most recognizable franchise on the planet. They didn’t get that way by only making a handful of games.
COD has a long and storied career. Launching as a PC WW2 first-person shooter, Call of Duty has gone through numerous makeovers and been on just about every system. The series has gone through some serious highs and tragic lows. This time around we’re looking at the Call of Duty games ranked including the good, the bad, and the ugly.
28. Call of Duty: N-Gage (2004)
This did exist, and it was just as bad as you think it was. If you don’t remember the N-Gage, that’s okay, you didn’t miss much. Part phone, part handheld game console, part taco, the N-Gage solved a problem no one had. The important part though is that it had Call of Duty.
Call of Duty for the N-Gage is essentially a port of the original PC Call of Duty only much, much worse. You walked with a D-pad and aimed using other face buttons. It contained totally different levels from the PC version. And it ran at around, no joke, 10 frames per second. At the time many people were stoked to be playing any FPS on the go, but now there is no reason to torture yourself with this atrocity of a game.
27. Call of Duty: Wii version (Various games. COD 3, COD World at War, COD Modern Warfare: Reflex Edition, COD Black Ops & COD Modern Warfar 3)
This isn’t totally fair to COD on the Wii. Some okay Call of Duty’s were made for the Wii. And we got one of the worst titles, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare: Reflex Edition.
That being said, the Wii wasn’t great for first-person shooters. They tried with the gun and nun-chuck attachment, but every FPS on the Wii ended up being a pain to play. Also being stuck with terrible underpowered graphics from its contemporaries was a real buzz-kill to the Nintendo faithful. Every Wii COD isn’t the worse COD game, but each COD game on Wii is the worst way to play it.
26. Call of Duty: World at War: Final Fronts
Typically the more subtitles a game has, the worse it is. Call of Duty World at War: Final Fronts was the Playstation 2 version of the then next-gen COD, World at War. It was clear that World at War could not run on old hardware, but with so many PS2s out in the wild, Activision decided to port it anyway.
Calling this a port is actually a disservice to World at War proper. Final Fronts has no multiplayer, follows a totally different storyline, not to mention the capital R rough visuals and brain-dead AI. You almost have to feel bad for developer Rebellion as they were clearly the B-squad for the COD team. Thankfully they left the series alone after this.
25. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
The real issue with Infinite Warfare isn’t its bonkers space-traveling campaign. It’s not the weird Halo, Mass Effect-esque weapons and abilities that don’t fit into COD at all. It’s not even the bad multiplayer that tried too hard to turn COD into a sci-fi shooter.
The real issue was Activision trying to fit every single freaking recognizable face into this game. From Kit Harrington starring to cameos by Connor McGregor and Lewis Hamilton, it all felt a little much.
The Zombies mode for Infinite Warfare actually does rule, though. Among the Call of Duty games ranked, it barely scratches the list.
24. Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified
A Playstation Vita exclusive, Black Ops Declassified is a great concept in theory but missed the mark due to terrible execution. Black Ops Declassified is set between Black Ops 1 and 2. It was a fully portable COD on the excellent Vita system with a survival mode and 4 on 4 multiplayer. The potential this game had is what makes the final product that much more disappointing.
Rather than create an interesting story set between two stellar campaigns, the Black Ops Declassified campaign is boring vignettes with random details placing them in the Black Ops universe. Worse than that, the controls are poor, the AI is frustratingly bad, and the glitches are insurmountable.
This was developer Nstigate’s second attempt at making a standalone handheld title based on a console title. They were in charge of Resistance: Burning Skies, and after the poor reception from that, they changed their name from Nihilistic Software to Nstigate and were given one final chance with Black Ops Declassified. Unfortunately, even the Call of Duty brand couldn’t save this studio, which closed its doors after this shipped.
23. Call of Duty: Vanguard
Vanguard is the most recent Call of Duty on this list, but that doesn’t bring it up any higher. Over time, Call of Duty campaigns have been getting shorter while more focus and development time goes into the multiplayer component. At this point, though, you are better off with Warzone for your multiplayer fix.
The campaign is actually pretty good and compelling. Telling a WW2 story in a Tarantino-esque style by cutting to different points in time is a refreshing change. Laura Bailey gives a great performance as Polina Petrova, culminating in a beautiful snow level. It’s clear COD pulled a play out of Battlefield’s playbook. Focusing on small intimate stories rather than larger-than-life spectacles for the story.
We were excited about the Zombies mode, but it turned out to be just above fine. The multiplayer is serviceable. But with such a short campaign and better multiplayer to be found in the free-to-play warzone, Vanguard doesn’t justify its yearly release or price tag.
22. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019)
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare attempted to reboot the modern warfare series of COD titles. What they did instead was actually launch one of the best game modes COD has ever seen (more on that later). The bones of the game though are actually relatively solid, if not a little cringy in certain places.
The Modern Warfare reboot certainly nailed some things we loved about the original trilogy, but ultimately fell short of the very high bar it set for itself. The campaign is mid-tier. The multiplayer proper mode was just more COD with nothing life-shattering added. Still, there are much worse CODs you could be playing.
21. Call of Duty: Roads to Victory
Roads to Victory is by and large, not bad! Which is pretty good for a handheld FPS. Roads to Victory was released just a few months before COD made the jump from WW2 to the modern era. And this did not bode well for the portables reception.
Roads to Victory suffered from WW2 fatigue. Console gamers especially were tired of the European settings and longed for something new. Looking back now, though, Roads to Victory did a surprisingly good job bringing WW2 first-person shooter mechanics to a handheld. If we’re looking at Call of Duty games ranked as a whole, sure, it in no way compares to is big brother Call of Duty 3, but for what we had at that time, it was quite impressive.
20. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
It doesn’t really matter what one says about Advanced Warfare. It will always be remembered as the one with Kevin Spacey. Sure, Activision and Sledgehammer games didn’t know what would come out three years later, but it doesn’t make the game feel any less gross.
Anyway, the story kind of sucks. Spacey only makes that worse. The multiplayer is fine and the Zombies mode is slightly above average. I would skip it for pretty obvious reasons.
19. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Mobilized
Getting a first-person shooter to play on a DS was a tricky task. You walked and strafed with the D-pad, then controlled your crosshairs using a stylist on the touch screen. I played through this entire game in one sitting while recovering from oral surgery. I think the pain meds I took for my teeth subsided any excruciating hand cramps you would endure from playing this game.
Hand cramping aside, it’s actually pretty impressive that N-space was able to fit this much Call of Duty on the Nintendo DS. There’s a story that takes place in the same time frame as Modern Warfare 2. There’s online multiplayer. New weapons, mini-games, and even vehicle sections. You could definitely do worse with an FPS on a portable.
18. Call of Duty Black Ops 4
Black Ops 4 was the first COD to skip a campaign mode and instead focus solely on the multiplayer modes. While none of the modes were bad per se, the Black Ops series was built on its narrative. And forgoing a campaign seemed like a glaring omission.
The time Treyarch saved from making a campaign was put to good use though. Black Ops 4 features one of the better Zombies modes, the multiplayer changed focus towards a team-driven system, and the Blackout mode laid the groundwork for what would eventually be Warzone. The lack of any real single-player options does make re-visiting Black Ops 4 now a tough sell.
17. Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
We’re starting to really hit that middle-of-the-road stride here with COD. These mediocre 7/10 games often come on the backs of high expectations from tough to beat classic COD titles. Black Ops 3 wasn’t bad, but it certainly wasn’t good.
The story really went off the rails and didn’t feel at all like it belonged in the Black Ops universe. The gunplay and new mechanics were fine but again didn’t add anything special. While the zombies mode was certainly fun and even featured Jeff Goldblum, it didn’t live up to the hype of previous entries. The main praise for the game is that there is a lot of it.
Ultimately brandishing the Black Ops name and going totally sci-fi was the wrong call for this team. Giving it a Jacob’s ladder plot twist at the end doesn’t magically make it a Black Ops game. Even so, it could have been worse. And at least it included a single-player campaign.
16. Call of Duty: Finest Hour
Call of Duty: Finest hour was COD’s first foray into console gaming. It had only been a few years since Halo made FPS games feel possible on a console, and many were skeptical of how a WW2 shooter would play without a mouse and keyboard.
While Finest Hour was nowhere near as influential as some other shooters, it still deserves props for bringing the franchise to console. The three distinct campaigns ushered in the “campaign” verbiage used to describe single-player modes. And it offered up to 32 player multiplayer battles. Only available through Xbox LAN parties though. Still, COD Finest Hour was an important game for its time, and still not a bad play today.
15. Call of Duty: Black Ops: Cold War
I love when COD adds unnecessary subtitles. Black Ops Cold War takes place in the Black Ops universe during, you guessed it, the Cold War. Fans were excited to see Black Ops come back to the past and tell a story that’s based in reality. Hell, after Black Ops 4, they were just excited Treyarch was telling a story. It still gets weird for sure, this is Black Ops after all, but it happened with such a fun 80’s vibe that everyone kind of dug it.
Cold War feels like it’s on the cusp of being great. Warzone already exists, so there’s no need to shoehorn in a battle royal mode. The story is set a little more firmly in this universe which means we can go absolutely buck wild with zombies. And it includes probably the best version of Dead Ops Arcade! There are just a few things that kept it from being at the top of our list, including the short story and lack of innovation, but among Call of Duty games ranked from worst to best, it’s a moderate success and definitely worth playing.
14. Call of Duty: Black Ops DS
COD Black Ops on DS is a surprisingly fun handheld COD experience. Modern warfare mobilized showed that the DS could handle a barebones port of the console COD experience. Black Ops DS further proved this point by following a unique story set in the same Black Ops universe. They were even able to sprinkle in multiplayer and a zombies mode. It’s not the full COD experience, but it’ll do in a pinch
13. Call of Duty: Ghosts
People really hated this one, huh?
Call of Duty Ghosts was one of the rare one-off COD stories. They usually aren’t very good (see Advanced Warfare and Infinite Warfare) and while Ghosts isn’t a top-tier COD, it certainly wasn’t a bad game. It just fell short of the hype it was asked to live up to.
For this outing, Activision commissioned academy award-nominated screenplay writer Stephen Gaghan to write the story. The game starts with nuclear fallout in the middle east and takes place in a near-future where “Ghost” soldiers exist as a mixture of special forces and CIA agents. It all plays a little like a bad Tom Clancy novel, but it’s not too wild for Call of Duty.
There is also a super fun Extinction mode that plays on the traditional zombie’s mode by making aliens the enemy. Despite all the hate, you could do a lot worse when it comes to Call of duty
12. Call of Duty: WWII
Call of Duty WWII felt like a love letter to the original Call of Duty titles. After an exhausting run of futuristic titles, starting with Ghosts and ending with Infinite Warfare, WWII was a breath of fresh air.
It’s clear to see that Sledgehammer Games has a fondness for the COD of old and did their best to tell an emotional story set during one of the world’s darkest times. Those who have played it no doubt remember the epilogue that required the player to walk through an empty concentration camp.
It’s difficult to create a fun game while also remembering the atrocities of the Holocaust. While COD WWII doesn’t do it perfectly, its attempt to show the horrors of war without solely focusing on shooting people is admirable.
11. Call of Duty 2: Big Red One
Big Red One was an oddity. It was slightly more than an expansion, but also fell a little short of being a full game. Big Red One follows the American Army’s 1st Infantry Division. 1st Infantry has a strong reputation in the American military and it was fun to see Activision pay homage to the army in this way.
The game really leaned into the history as well, featuring Band of Brothers actors, Mark Hammil voice-over, and real footage from World War 2, Big Red One at times feels at times like playing through a History Channel Documentary.
10. Call of Duty 2
Before Call of Duty would be an annual release behemoth, COD 2 was just a sequel to an above-average WWII shooter. Call of Duty 2 kept the same campaign structure as the original COD, with three campaigns focusing on different locations of the war. But added a few quality of life improvements like regenerating health and sound attenuation.
Multiplayer existed, but not in the way we see COD today. Especially in the console market. Call of Duty 2 is a fun game that improved in many ways over its predecessor. It doesn’t have some of the standout features of other games in the series, but it’s a notable COD and one of the better from the WWII era which is why it’s one of the 10 best Call of Duty games to be developed so far.
9. Call of Duty: World at War
World at War is an odd one. It’s a return to WWII in a literal sense, but in a practical sense, it takes place in the Black Ops storyline. Featuring major villains like Viktor Reznov that appear in the later Black Ops games, this leaves the game with a bit of an uneven feel.
World at War was the introduction of Zombies and for that, we have to give credit where credit is due. The only thing more fun than shooting a nazi is shooting a zombie nazi.
8. Call of Duty
The OG. Call of Duty came out in 2003 and was originally thought to be little more than a Medal of Honor clone. What people found, though, when they first played Infinity Ward’s original three WWII campaigns, was a brutally hard and comprehensive first-person shooter that would change the genre for years to come.
The original COD didn’t reinvent the wheel, but they did bring WWII action to computer screens better than anyone did before. The game was way ahead of its time and with a multiplayer mode created with modders in mind, it was clear this franchise had staying power.
In many ways, the Call of Duty games ranked before and after this game were placed largely in their posts because of the framework this game set up for the future of the franchise.
7. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Modern Warfare 3 is the conclusion to the Modern Warfare trilogy. The story is set immediately after the events of Modern Warfare 2 and follows familiar favorites Soap MacTavish and John Price.
The release of Modern Warfare 3 didn’t feel as pivotal a moment as it deserved. Modern Warfare had been the dominant series for years at this time, but coming off the heels of the excellent Black Ops, and potentially succumbing to COD fatigue, MW3’s release wasn’t a whimper. But it wasn’t exactly a bang either.
Even so, MW3 featured an excellent conclusion to the Modern Warfare storyline. It also added some killer features to multiplayer and returned the Special Ops mode from Modern Warfare. It even added a survival mode similar to Zombies for extra replayability. MW3 is a solid entry and one that deserves its place in the COD cannon.
6. Call of Duty Warzone
Call of Duty Warzone started off as a battle royale mode for the Modern Warfare reboot but has since turned into so much more. After the success of PUBG and Fortnite, it was only a matter of time before Activision took their highly profitable annual release and created a battle royale in that space. The first attempt was Black Ops 4’s Blackout mode. But Warzone has proven to be the killer app Activision was looking for.
Warzone has become Call of Duty’s go-to place for series announcements. It is constantly in the top rankings of Twitch streams and regularly sees new content delivered. With each new COD release, there’s a coinciding event happening in Warzone. And it will be interesting to see this game grow and expand over time.
5. Call of Duty 3
Call of Duty is the best WWII-era COD with the worst cover art. I mean, does that man even care that he’s at war? War is hell, and this dude showed up with a slight grimace.
Call of Duty 3 was the first COD developed by Treyarch, and they hit it out of the park. With four different campaigns, 12 on 12 multiplayer teams, and extra DLC content added post-release, Call of Duty 3 took the WWII shooter where it needed to go. And it also gave Infinity Ward the time they needed to make the big jump that breathed new life into the franchise.
4. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
Black Ops 2 continues the story of Alex Mason roughly 20 years after the events of the first Black Ops. What made Black Ops 2 so special was the care Treyarch took in their franchise.
Technically the third game in the Black Ops series, Treyarch was finally acting like they had a franchise that could compete with Modern Warfare. The story is bonkers, with multiple endings and a time jump to the future. Raul Menendez is one of the most fleshed-out characters, let alone villains in the entire franchise. And the zombies mode is fun and relates to the main story in a humorous way.
Black Ops 2 was released at a time when Activision could justify COD’s annual release. Even going against the cream of the cop, Black Ops 2 still shines as a worthy addition to Call of Duty cannon.
3. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Four years and five WWII titles after its initial release, Activision decided Call of Duty needed a drastic overhaul. Initially only seen as a WWII shooter, Infinity Ward thought they could do more with the Call of Duty brand. And bring the first-person shooter into a new era.
Upon release, Modern Warfare was almost universally loved and immediately recognized as one of the best Call of Duty games. Bringing the fundamental shooter mechanics Infinity Ward had fine-tuned so well and bringing them to a modern setting was a perfect fit. The game hit the culture zeitgeist at just the right moment. And two years after the release of Xbox 360 and PS3, the game felt right at home.
It’s hard to state how huge of a cultural impact Modern Warfare has had on the franchise and the gaming community as a whole. Modern Warfare was released right as online gaming had become more mainstream for console gamers and it took hold of the gaming community in a way no game has done since. The ripples of this juggernaut are still felt today, and it’s impossible to know where Activision would be if it weren’t for Modern Warfare.
2. Call of Duty: Black Ops
Black Ops is technically a continuation of the storyline from World at War, but you don’t need to have played it to understand what’s going on. Mainly because despite how hard you try, you won’t understand what’s going on.
Black Ops tells an incredibly compelling story, focusing less on war and more on tactical gunplay. The campaign mixes elements of real-life conspiracies like MKUltra and the Kennedy assassination with a fantastical story of brainwashing and covert operations.
The Zombies mode was the first to get truly bonkers, and the easter egg of finding dead-ops arcade is still one of my favorites in a video game. Black Ops was truly a special moment. Treyarch had hit their stride and created a franchise that was on par with Modern Warfare.
1. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
There are a few things that make Modern Warfare 2 truly special. The five different characters playable through the campaign felt more fleshed out and real than in previous installments. The multiplayer felt like a true leap with its addition of medals to its leveling system. The infamous “No Russian” stage led to the game being banned or heavily censored in certain countries.
The amalgamation of special moments in Modern Warfare 2 makes it more than the sum of its parts. Modern Warfare 2 started conversations about violence in video games. It dealt with war and PTSD. It made people uncomfortable because it tackled the subject matter head-on but still delivered fun gameplay. Let’s be honest, we all knew that Call of Duty games ranked from worst to best was going to end with Modern Warfare 2. It was a given.
Call of Duty has turned into a behemoth in the gaming world. It’s easy to forget where it started, and where it became more than just a franchise. I would argue the answer is here. A hard-hitting, question-asking campaign and fun as hell multiplayer experience. Modern Warfare 2 perfected the COD formula. Maybe one day they’ll do it again.
If you’re interested in more realistic war video games, check out our list of the 15 most realistic war games. If you want to argue about more lists, check out Every Super Mario game ranked. I’m going to go get my butt kicked in Warzone again.