Ranked: The 13 best Call of Duty games

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It’s official: Call of Duty is going back to World War II, and we’ll get the full reveal in a livestream tonight. The title? Well, it’s Call of Duty: WWII.

Activision’s shooter juggernaut hasn’t revisited its original setting since 2008 and, in the time since, we’ve seen it tackle modern timelines and the blast farther and farther off into the future – for better and for worse at times.

Before we see what’s next for the franchise, then, take a look back as we sort through Call of Duty‘s core releases, picking the best of the bunch and lamenting the less-memorable entries in the pantheon.

Did your favourite Call of Duty top our list? Find out below.

13) CALL OF DUTY: GHOSTS (2013)

What do you remember of Call of Duty: Ghosts? Is it anything at all?

We wouldn’t be surprised if the answer is “no.” Or maybe “The dog.” Infinity Ward’s first post-Modern Warfare entry was about as generic as could be within the franchise, treading familiar ground with its setting and lacking big, memorable moments and missions in the single-player campaign.

It was absolutely competent, of course, and still had rip-roaring multiplayer fun and sharp production values, but it felt like Call of Duty was treading water here. Ghosts is completely forgettable.

12) CALL OF DUTY 3 (2006)

Call of Duty‘s first notable misstep came early on, and it seemed to be a result of the sudden demand for annual entries: Activision needed something while Infinity Ward was off doing Modern Warfare, and so Treyarch whipped up this Call of Duty 2 successor.

That studio would go on to do special things in the franchise, but Call of Duty 3 wasn’t really one of them. It was buggy upon release, with big network issues in play, and the solid campaign lacked the finesse or standout scenarios of its predecessor. Again, it was fine back when, but there’s no reason to revisit it now.

11) CALL OF DUTY: ADVANCED WARFARE (2014)

Advanced Warfare was a step up from Ghosts, for sure, pushing the series farther ahead in the future with crazy exoskeleton suits that enabled special powers. Oh, and it had Kevin Spacey as a power-hungry private military corporation leader.

Still, on a list like this, it’s overshadowed by more compelling campaigns, and games that helped set the template that Advanced Warfare mostly just follows.

The jetpack-assisted multiplayer was the first step in a gradual departure that’s taken CoD away from boots-on-the-ground action, while the Exo-Survival co-op mode is totally unremarkable. Advanced Warfare is very good overall, but not essential.

10) CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS III (2015)

Treyarch’s last Black Ops entry ranks below its predecessors (keep reading), as this trilogy-capper delivers another solid, but somewhat uninspiring extension of the far-future formula.

The campaign plays some neat tricks with its sci-fi powers and weird mind-jacking abilities, but doesn’t really feel fresh overall. Multiplayer fares better here with some terrific maps and a move to a class-based system, but ultimately it feels a bit like a Titanfall knockoff. It’s a great, long-lasting package, but also sees the Call of Duty essence somewhat muddied as a result.

9) CALL OF DUTY: INFINITE WARFARE (2016)

It sort of feels like we’re just ticking off the most recent entries now, aren’t we? Infinite Warfare sheds any illusions about the series dipping its toes into sci-fi and dives right into the pool, sending you off to space and onto other planets.

Weird, right? And yet Infinite Warfare soars in spots: the universe feels really built-out, the presentation impresses top to bottom, and the campaign makes the most of the new setting, allowing single-player to feel fresher than it has in a while.

Many series fans loudly voiced their displeasure with the setting shift, however, and so the shift back to World War II should be warmly received. But there’s actually a lot to like in this one.

8) CALL OF DUTY: WORLD AT WAR (2008)

World at War was the series’ last main attempt at exploring a World War II setting, and it has since been framed as prequel of sorts to Treyarch’s later Black Ops entries.

World at War had a solid and expectedly glossy campaign, but suffered from the comparison to the previous year’s classic Modern Warfare and its own memorable moments. Furthermore, the game tried a bit too hard to come across as gritty and horrific, with the end result feeling crass and uneven.

Still, World at War gave us Nazi Zombies, the weird-yet-delightful co-op side mode that has become a mainstay of the series, and the multiplayer was rather strong, too.

7) Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (2011)

How do you follow up two of the most beloved and acclaimed shooters of all time? Well, you make another one – and that’s what happened with Modern Warfare 3. Truly, MW3 lacked the seismic impact of its predecessors, but as a game, it’s hard to find much fault here.

The campaign has lots of big set pieces and exciting moments, and it’s streamlined and intense – and more consistent than MW2. Multiplayer, meanwhile, was frenzied and fun, even if MW2 had the better maps. It’s iterative more than innovative, but it’s still a slick Call of Duty thrill ride.

6) Call of Duty (2003)

You might have missed the original Call of Duty, as it was initially a PC exclusive and wasn’t yet a world-conquering franchise, but Infinity Ward’s debut laid the foundation for the series’ later brilliance.

Granted, it’ll seem rough around the edges now, but Call of Duty offered a strong campaign that shifted between heroes from different allied forces, and delivered sharp online shootouts. It played a lot like Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, admittedly, due to sharing a lot of the same developers, but the unique gameplay flourishes here helped build a legend.

5) Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=429l13dS6kQ

Truth be told, Modern Warfare 2 might not have had a real chance of surpassing the now-iconic original – but it went hard trying to do so, and turned out some of the top campaign moments of the entire series. Remember the “No Russian” mission? Gripping, electrifying stuff.

The rest of the campaign was a bit up and down, but it was still a blast to play through, and the multiplayer component built upon its predecessor, adding further depth and some of the series’ best maps to date.

4) Call of Duty: Black Ops II (2012)

With the last few entries embracing futuristic tech and shaking up multiplayer with jetpacks and other augmentations, Black Ops II still stands as the last best example of the series’ boots-on-the-ground online action. Good thing it’s backwards compatible on Xbox One now.

The Pick 10 multiplayer loadout system was a heavily tweakable delight, and the online shootouts still hold up today. Black Ops II is also noteworthy for offering branching narrative paths in the campaign mode, along with missions split between the Cold War and the future.

3) Call of Duty: Black Ops (2010)

Black Ops II has the more enduring multiplayer mode, as mentioned above, but the original Black Ops had excellent online play for its time – and a much more memorable campaign mode. It’s one of the best in the entire series.

Spanning events from Vietnam and the Cold War, Black Ops offers historical action with plenty of edge and intensity, along with a storyline that gets pretty surreal as it goes. Black Ops might have the best complete package of the series, with excellent campaign, multiplayer, and Zombies alike.

2) Call of Duty 2 (2005)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYjNA-lKGUw

Call of Duty 2 blew some minds when it hit PC and Xbox 360 in 2005, with dazzling graphics and realism despite mining familiar World War II terrain. It established Call of Duty as the premier war series in a way that its predecessor didn’t, and although the respectful, historically-accurate tone is way different than what followed in the series, it was brilliant for its time.

Even after all this time, it remains one of the absolute best World War II games, and a high bar for Call of Duty: WWII to hit – we still remember that utter feeling of awe encountering it for the first time. And while multiplayer wasn’t nearly as fleshed out as it is today with killstreaks and the like, it was still a blast.

1) Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007)

Was there really any doubt? Modern Warfare is one of the most influential shooters of the last decade, pushing the military side of the genre away from historical recreations and towards gritty, gung-ho storytelling of near-future terrorist hunts.

From the opening tanker infiltration and escape to “All Ghillied Up” and the nuke, Modern Warfare remains consistently tense, surprising, and unforgettable. And this is where the series found its multiplayer footing with player customisation, frequent unlocks, killstreaks, and plenty more defining features that pulled you in and gave you reason to keep coming back.

It’s been a decade since the original release, but last year’s Modern Warfare Remastered is the definitive way to experience it now. In fact, it’s the best Call of Duty release in at least a few years.

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