High-octane shootouts and action-packed setpieces are what Call of Duty campaigns are known for. With twenty-plus games in the franchise portrayed in various settings, there’s a lot on offer for players. Whether you’re a fan of jetpack shooters or gritty narratives, Call of Duty has it all, or at least most of it.
While there are several intense missions for players, not all are worth it. To help players decide which Call of Duty to spend on, we’ve ranked all the campaigns from worst to best. Our ranking is based on user opinions, Metacritic scores, and universal reviews. Naturally, there’s a bit of personal opinion sprinkled into the mix.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (2023)
In the Modern Warfare 3 remake, players must face world-ending threats again. The stakes are higher than ever, yet the narrative fails to maintain consistency. The game lacks a clear identity, which is most evident when missions detract from action sequences.
Unfortunately, this run time is also the shortest of the bunch, with the average playthrough being just over four hours. However, the weakest part of the campaign is the mission design. Instead of scripted setpieces and linear gameplay segments, Modern Warfare 3 has open areas for players to explore.
Don’t get us wrong; the game still has plenty of cool segments. They’re just few and far between. That said, one of the missions is a remake of the infamous “No Russian” mission. Without diving too much into spoilers, it gets the job done, albeit in a different way.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 (2015)
Black Ops 3’s single-player implements several new features previously unseen in Call of Duty. These features include a central hub for players to roam, plan missions and load-outs with, and more. Unfortunately, most of these new features felt gimmicky rather than actually intuitive.
The narrative takes place decades after its predecessors with entirely new characters. There’s little to place it in the same universe as the other games apart from the name. The story itself is confusing at best. Players can explore and find lore independently, but it isn’t presented during gameplay.
One of the new features is playing missions cooperatively online or split-screen. Playing with friends is surprisingly fun, while the campaign feels lackluster when played alone. Overall, it’s an okay campaign, but not one that players will remember.
Call of Duty: Vanguard (2021)
Vanguard was made by the same developers who produced World War II. Unsurprisingly, the campaign is also set in the same universe and setting. However, unlike its predecessor, Vanguard focuses more on arcade-like setpieces than portraying the war realistically.
While there isn’t anything wrong with the single-player mode, it doesn’t stand out. The characters aren’t memorable, and the story has been attempted in multiple media forms several times. The result is a campaign that, at best, gets the job done but is subpar compared with the franchise’s best.
We do have to give credit to the awesome setpieces. It’s true that they detract from being true to life yet are epic in scale. The train sequence in “Project Phoenix” cements itself as the best mission in the game.
Call of Duty: WWII
Call of Duty World War II was released at a time when the intense jetpack gameplay burned out gamers. They just wanted a Call of Duty where they could run around with boots on the ground like the good old days. For the most part, World War II got the job done and had an okay-ish campaign on offer.
Players were most excited for World War II’s realistic portrayal of the second war. The campaign is relatively real and includes true-to-life events, at least on the surface. The narrative follows a tight-knit group of soldiers navigating their way through the hardships of war. Unfortunately, the characters aren’t memorable, and emotional story beats are hit or miss.
Our favorite thing about this game’s campaign is the balance between realism and arcade gameplay. The narrative also doesn’t shy away from the harsh aspects of war and can get dark at times.
Call of Duty: Cold War
The premise of Cold War’s campaign was unexpected, to say the least. The narrative focuses on bridging the gap in the events between Black Ops 1 and 2. The lengthy gap between the development of the Black Ops series and Cold War is prominent.
Fan-favorite characters like Woods, Mason, and Hudson feel and sound different. The game also shies away from its spy-esque stealth missions towards a more all-out guns-blazing approach. However, they still play like traditional Black Ops-style missions and flow similarly.
We love the sound design of this game. Gunshots pop, and explosions linger in your ears. It’s especially evident when engaging enemies in tundra environments as gunshots echo. Unfortunately, the narrative isn’t as well made as its predecessors and could be better. It feels unnecessary and detracts from the story set in stone by other games in the series.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II (2022)
The Modern Warfare 2 remake had much to live up to after the stellar showcase by its predecessor. In this game, the campaign shifts from gritty realism toward more action-packed scenarios. We can’t say that’s a welcome change from our perspective, but it’s a personal preference.
The narrative builds on the fundamental story beats of the previous game and picks up the pace quickly. Returning characters look better than ever, and new entrants also manage to hold their ground. Each mission is visually a treat and takes players through varied environments. Most of the levels are well-designed except for a few. There aren’t many setpieces in the game, but the ones present are high quality.
The way the story plays out is arguably the weakest point of the campaign. The narrative feels different in tone and execution. The stakes feel low, and the characters must translate better between the games. We wish its predecessor’s realism and subtly dark tone also seeped into this game.
Call of Duty: Ghosts (2013)
Call of Duty Ghosts’ campaign is criminally underrated. It’s rare for a game in this franchise to be set after all the bombs have dropped. As a result, this game’s semi-post-apocalyptic environments are some of the best in the franchise.
In hindsight, Call of Duty Ghosts’ campaign has it all. It has an intriguing villain, impressive setpieces, and well-designed missions. The highlight of the game is having Riley as your sidekick. This ferocious canine looks adorable yet is lethal in multiple ways.
In terms of drawbacks, the narrative lacks consistency and emotion. Certain scenes intended to be emotional are let down by subpar voice acting and inadequate music choice. The final act is arguably the weakest and fails to conclude the story effectively.
Call of Duty: World at War (2008)
World at War was the game to beat for many years when it came to gruesome World War shooters. This was partly due to the game’s gripping narrative and dark tone. The jump in visual fidelity from previous entries helped enable mission design previously impossible.
World at War’s story is technically set in the same universe as the Cold War and Black Ops titles. Players battle across the Eastern Front and Pacific in this game from two perspectives. Unlike recent titles, the stakes are high, and the game isn’t afraid of gore.
There’s not much wrong to say about this game. As a Call of Duty, it had a solid campaign, fluid multiplayer, and pioneered the now famous zombies mode. Not to mention, it has one of the best endings in Call of Duty history.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (2016)
Infinite Warfare was unfortunately released when players had already had their fill of jetpack shooters. As a result, many chose to skip this game and missed out on the insanely awesome campaign. While many players thought a Call of Duty set in space wouldn’t work, it did, at least from a narrative standpoint.
The story is unpredictable in this game, which is rare for a Call of Duty. After the massacre in the prologue, players are thrust into space, diving into the unknown. There’s a sense of mystery and wonder in each mission. The characters are surprisingly relatable and will stay with players long after the credits.
The campaign was solid all the way through to the end. It remains consistent, keeps attention, and is interesting enough for players to want to find out more.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (2014)
The marketing for Advanced Warfare went off the rails, promising a new way to play Call of Duty. This new way was the first of many implementations of the jetpack system. Advanced Warfare was the first Call of Duty set in the distant future with next-generation technology.
Sledgehammer Games wanted to nail the campaign and did so for the most part. Many of the game’s missions attempt to recreate classics such as “All Ghillied Up,” albeit with a few touch-ups. While the characters are fleshed out, the way the story plays out is predictable. That said, Kevin Spacy, as the main villain, never fails to not be awesome.
It’s clear that this game isn’t a reskin of previous entries. New features such as gloves that stick to walls, double jumps, and more make a difference. The setpieces are also bombastic and some of the best in the series.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Instead of continuing the storyline in its predecessor, Black Ops II takes the story several years ahead. In this game, players play as the previous protagonist’s son in a future where the world is on the brink of war.
This is also one of the few Call of Duties where players can make choices during the campaign. These choices often have missions play out differently and may or may not affect the ending. From a narrative standpoint, it works, and some missions are crazy good.
While the narrative is mainly excellent, the characters could have been better. Only a few of the new characters are memorable and lack personality. That said, Menendez, the main antagonist, is an exception and manages to be menacing throughout.
Call of Duty: Black Ops (2010)
The original Black Ops has one of the best campaigns in Call of Duty history. It’s set during the brink of the Cold War and has players carry out unsanctioned missions in the gray.
The way the story plays out and how the mission design compliments it is nothing short of excellent. Each mission inches the player one step closer to the central mystery. The payoff is well worth it without spoiling anything and leads to a grand finale.
From a gameplay perspective, the campaign is also entertaining to play. The missions are genuinely captivating, and each is unique in its own way. Whether players are breaking out of a high-security prison or leaping from buildings while getting shot at, they’ll be having the time of their lives. The narrative is engaging and possibly one of the best Call of Duty campaigns Treyarch has ever made.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (2011)
Modern Warfare 3 is the weakest of the original trilogy, but that isn’t because it’s a bad game. On the contrary, it’s an excellent title with a well-designed campaign that concludes the story satisfyingly. It’s just that it’s compared to two of the best Call of Duty campaigns set in the same universe.
The world is at war in this game, and players must battle across various famous landmarks. Being the final game in the trilogy, it also has several emotional moments and set pieces that stay with the player.
By all accounts, the missions surpass most other titles in the franchise. The outstanding soundtrack only builds up the tension in intense moments or makes emotional beats hit harder. While the ending could be better, it’s good enough, and only some will have a problem with it.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2007)
The original Modern Warfare is still, to this day, one of the greatest first-person shooters to exist. The most significant reason is the killer campaign and revolutionary level design. At the time of release, a shooter had rarely constructed a narrative as fascinating as this game’s.
The characters presented in the main storyline are being recreated even today in remakes and reimaginings. The story is told from several perspectives and helps give the players context before it picks up. The story is not only unpredictable but takes risks.
The highlight of the campaign has to be the mission variety and design. For the longest time, future Call of Duty titles based their missions on this game’s. “All Ghillied Up” is still praised for delivering on-the-go stealth action like no other.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019)
At a time when Call of Duty was seemingly dying out, the Modern Warfare Remake rekindled the fire. This game felt like a true generational leap over all of the games before it, much like the original Modern Warfare. Instead of recreating the same formula, Infinity Ward doubled on realism and gritty storytelling.
Missions are designed uniquely and stray from traditional level-making patterns. The realism in the narrative also seeps its way into gameplay. Not everyone is an enemy; players must pick their shots carefully. Similarly, running with guns blazing isn’t always the best option, especially on higher difficulties.
The narrative in this game isn’t told in a black-or-white manner. Every returning and new character has a fleshed-out personality. To say the story is compelling would be an understatement. The Modern Warfare Remake campaign is one of the best in the franchise by a long margin.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009)
Modern Warfare 2’s campaign remains to be dethroned despite several new releases in the franchise. Simply put, this game did something not many players expected was possible. It improved upon its predecessor in a significant way in almost every aspect.
By this point in the story, players are invested in the characters. You would think Infinity Ward would play it safe with the campaign, but that is rarely the case. The story goes places players wouldn’t expect it to go. The ending, in particular, is the best it has ever been in a Call of Duty.
The missions are highly engaging and expertly crafted. Almost every single level of this game is memorable and fun to replay. Despite being released over a decade ago, many gamers credit Modern Warfare 2 with having one of the best Call of Duty campaigns ever.