The best Call of Duty games, ranked from best to worst

Few video game franchises are as influential and successful as Call of Duty. What began as a polished World War II shooter has morphed into something else entirely over the last 15-plus years, with games going everywhere from the Vietnam War to the far reaches of space.

No matter the location or story, Call of Duty games usually deliver heart-pounding single-player campaigns and an intense competitive multiplayer mode. Even when 2018’s entry, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, switched it up and ditched the campaign, it brought another thrilling experience into the fold with its new battle royale mode, called Blackout. But not all Call of Duty games are created equal. Some were simply better than others, and we’re going to rank them from the best to the worst.

For this list, we’ll stick to the main entries in the Call of Duty series. This means excluding spinoff titles, as well as simplified games released for previous-generation systems like World at War – Final Fronts. Seventeen games were eligible, and we had them battle it out.

1. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare almost single-handedly redefined the modern first-person shooter with its thrilling campaign and endlessly customizable multiplayer component, so the bar was sky-high for Modern Warfare 2 when it released two years later. Somehow, Infinity Ward managed to outdo itself, delivering another campaign filled with twists, betrayals, and action-packed set pieces while also building on what made the first game’s multiplayer so successful.

The kill-streak concept was expanded to allow for even more ways to eliminate your enemies, and the progression system remained one of the most satisfying in all of gaming. Even a decade later, there’s just something about Modern Warfare 2’s pacing and map design that makes it a classic — it’s one of those games you could put in your Xbox 360 for months and never get tired of it. You can play a remastered version of its single-player campaign on modern consoles now.

2. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Where were you when you first played Crew Expendable in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare? In just minutes, Infinity Ward proved to players that the move from World War II to a contemporary conflict was worthwhile, as Captain Price and Soap MacTavish make their way through a hostile ship and eliminate targets with pinpoint precision. Not a second of time was wasted, and over the course of the legendary Call of Duty 4 campaign, that would still be true. All Ghillied Up is arguably the best mission in any first-person shooter, and it looks even better in the remastered version for modern consoles.

Modern Warfare’s competitive multiplayer put a renewed emphasis on personal performance rather than winning individual matches, with players now carefully eyeing their kill-to-death ratio as they modified their weapons with custom sights and grips. Call of Duty would no longer play second fiddle to any other series, and its reign would last for the next decade.

3. Call of Duty 2

The first Call of Duty game for many current fans — and a launch title for the Xbox 360 — Call of Duty 2 was the ultimate World War II shooter for those interested in the fall of Nazi Germany. Split across missions focused on Russian, British, and American soldiers, Call of Duty 2 took players everywhere from the beaches of Normandy to the deserts of North Africa, and its open-ended approach often gave you more than one way to approach a mission. Its scale was mind-blowing at the time, and the most cinematic moments still hold up today.

Call of Duty 2’s approach to multiplayer was more laid-back than some of the later games, and it wasn’t interested in throwing a million statistics at you upon completing a match. Despite this, the map design was unparalleled, and sniping an unsuspecting enemy from a window was incredibly satisfying.

4. Call of Duty: Black Ops

Treyarch was finally able to get out of Infinity Ward’s shadow and establish itself as a premier Call of Duty studio with 2010’s Black Ops. A thrilling mystery set during the Cold War and partially taking place in Vietnam, its ambitious story dealt with conspiracy theories and the role the United States could have played in the JFK assassination, along with the failed Bay of Pigs operation.

It even called back to characters and scenes from World at War, blending elements from the World War II shooter into the newer game. Top-notch voice performances from actors like Sam Worthington and Gary Oldman helped sell the whole thing, and we still yell about “the numbers” regularly.

Though it didn’t drastically reinvent the Call of Duty formula, Black Ops nonetheless delivered well-balanced combat across a variety of maps, ranging from the jungles of Vietnam to the famous Nuketown. The map was so beloved that it has been released in every Treyarch game to date, and they’d feel downright incomplete without it.

5. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

After assisting with the development of Modern Warfare 3, Sledgehammer Games was given the chance to lead its own project for 2014’s Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Taking the series further into the future than it had gone to date, its exo-suit gameplay and high-tech weapons promoted verticality and constant movement, making it difficult to master but incredibly rewarding. No longer were your enemies just coming from the left or the right, but possibly directly above your head.

Advanced Warfare’s techno-political thriller campaign addressed the public’s growing fear of private military contractors and the role they’ll play in society going forward. It was completely absurd, but Sledgehammer has a knack for blockbusters and the closing moment is quite satisfying. Despite its critical success, Advanced Warfare didn’t light the sales charts on fire, so a direct follow-up is unlikely.

Read our full Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare review

6. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

Confused by a game called Call of Duty: Modern Warfare appearing on our list alongside Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare? It gets even more confusing when you discover that the games share characters but are not narratively connected aside from the mention of a few events. Regardless of the naming conventions, the rebooted 2019 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare nails the atmosphere and tense first-person action of the older games’ campaigns, complete with several set-piece moments and a generous sprinkling of stealth.

Modern Warfare doesn’t disappoint as a multiplayer game, either, building on the foundation of its predecessors while adding new mechanics, such as reloading while aiming down the sights. Its straightforward progression system emphasizes continued play and doesn’t include microtransactions for unlocking any weapons. The new massive mode Ground War is a fantastic addition to its multiplayer offerings that should satisfy those left in the cold by DICE’s decision to skip a 2019 Battlefield release.

Read our full Call of Duty: Modern Warfare review

7. Call of Duty: Warzone

One of the world’s biggest video game series has become a free-to-play game, just months after releasing one of it’s strongest and more generous titles yet. Call of Duty: Warzone is, by and large, an extension of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare that uses its assets to build the sprawling Verdansk map. Capable of holding 150 players at a time, it’s the home of Call of Duty‘s second attempt to capture the hearts of the Battle Royale crowd.

With an interesting approach to mid-match respawns and plenty of familiar map sections from across the years, Warzone builds upon the foundation of the Call of Duty franchise to spit out a PUBG/Apex Legends competitor that shouldn’t be ignored. And with Plunder, a hectic “Grab the Cash” mode thrown on top, you get two modes for the price of none. To help get you started, we’ve found all Warzone bunker locations, the best weapons, and the best loadouts. Don’t forget to check our best settings guide to make sure you’re getting the most out of it.

8. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 could have been the game to kill the franchise. For the first time ever in the main series, Black Ops 4 opted to leave the campaign mode out completely, offering competitive multiplayer, Zombies, and the Go to Source