Top 5 Call of Duty Games, Ranked

After disappointing modern releases, we look towards the past of the Call of Duty series and pick the elite five that reign supreme.

SUMMARY

  • The Call of Duty games of today are dramatically different compared to older entries in the franchise.
  • A heavier focus on multiplayer means campaigns are suffering, as proven by Modern Warfare 3.
  • Call of Duty games like Modern Warfare 2, World At War, Black Ops 2, and more are still the top five games in the franchise.
Show More
Featured Video

Although Call of Duty is undoubtedly the most recognisable name in and outside the industry, recent entries in the franchise have lost the magic the old games possessed. The earlier titles transformed the FPS genre as we know it, blending awe-striking campaigns with multiplayer modes you could sink hours into.

Advertisement

Today’s Call of Duty is dramatically different, with a much larger focus on multiplayer and live-service elements than the campaigns. Last year’s Modern Warfare 3 was a prime example of this, with its confusingly short, lacklustre singleplayer mode that faced industry-wide ridicule. Needless to say, the older CoDs still rank above the newer ones, and we’ve put together the top five.

5. Call of Duty: Black Ops (2010)

The iconic Black Ops cover art
The iconic Black Ops cover art

CoD fans revere the OG Black Ops for its trippy, non-linear story that was written unlike any previous entry. The CIA mind control element of the campaign meant trust was in short supply, even for you, the protagonist. The blending of reality and mental manipulation did wonders for Black Ops’ story, which also introduced characters like Frank Woods and Alex Mason, as well as the infamous line “What do the numbers mean, Mason?”.

Advertisement

The multiplayer deserves a mention too, which introduced classic maps like Firing Range and Nuketown, forever fan favourites even after multiple remakes. It also revolutionized progression with ‘CoD Points’, a system that remains relevant and engaging even today.

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

Call of Duty Modern Warfare
Call of Duty Modern Warfare

Modern Warfare modernised not only the Call of Duty franchise, but the first-person shooter genre as a whole. The campaign wasn’t just good, it was iconic, with unforgettable missions like “All Ghillied Up” and the explosive “Shock and Awe” ending. Even the epilogue’s “Mile High Club” became a legend in its own right, requiring a massive amount of skill to beat it on the hardest ‘Veteran’ mode.

Advertisement

Modern Warfare wasn’t just a game, it was a turning point in shooter history. The addictive XP system, prestige ladder, and killstreaks in Modern Warfare‘s multiplayer were also revolutionary, and their influence continues to extend to the CoDs of today.

3. Call of Duty: World At War (2008)

Call of Duty World at War cover art
Call of Duty World at War cover art

Stepping away from Modern Warfare‘s present-day setting, Call of Duty: World at War shifts the focus to the grittier realities of World War 2. The campaign is centred around the brutal Pacific Theatre and the Red Army’s triumphs against Nazi Germany. The intense close-quarters trench combat was in stark contrast to the more open playing fields of previous games. Moreover, WaW set a series-first with 4-player co-op for the campaign, but it didn’t stop there.

World at War also introduced “Nach der Untoten’ (Night of the Undead), the precursor to what we know today as the ‘Zombies’ mode. Adapting Modern Warfare‘s strengths for its multiplayer also helped make it a bona fide success.

Advertisement

2. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (2012)

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

Black Ops 2 pioneered the use of time travel to great effect. Taking Black Ops 1‘s non-linear story format and dialling it up to 11, BO2 introduces us to Raul Menéndez, who is arguably the CoD series’ best villain. His backstory is fleshed out extremely well, as are the pasts of Woods and Mason. The campaign bends your mind across timelines, and choice-driven moments offer multiple endings.

Beyond the top-notch campaign, Black Ops 2‘s multiplayer brought innovations with the Pick 10 system and Scorestreaks. Plus, the hilarious Zombies mode provided a welcome break from intense online battles. 2024’s Black Ops Gulf War will reportedly be a sequel to this game, which goes to show how relevant BO2 is even today.

Advertisement

1. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare 2 (2009)

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 cover
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 cover

Modern Warfare undoubtedly set a mountainous bar, but the sequel ripped through it with ease. Modern Warfare 2‘s campaign delivers a non-stop adrenaline rush. It’s a greatest hits collection of every CoD game that came before it. MW2 was a defining moment not only in the CoD franchise, but in pop culture itself, thanks to the Rio de Janeiro favela pursuit, gulag assault, and the controversial “No Russian” airport mission.

The jaw-dropping finale, where a certain character pulls a knife out of their chest to kill the antagonist, solidifies MW2 as a must-play for every FPS fan, and rockets it to the top of our list.

Avatar

Written by Viraaj Bhatnagar

Articles Published: 221

A lifelong gamer, lover of cars, and Master's student of Automotive Journalism, Viraaj Bhatnagar is a gaming writer at FandomWire who aims to be one of the greats. When he's not hunched over on his laptop typing out copy, he can be found lapping circuits in Gran Turismo or slaying draugr in God of War.