What is Ranked?
Ranked is a written series where I will go over games in a franchise and rank them from the best to worst in my opinion. Not every series produces amazing games that everyone loves and sometimes there are one or two that stick out as not as great. I'll discuss every game in a selected franchise and let you know why I think they are either worth trying or avoiding.
Call of Duty (2003-Present)
The Call of Duty franchise initially launched almost 15 years ago back in 2003. That's the same year that saw the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win their first, and only, Super Bowl and the Iraq War was kicked off by a US-led Coalition. Just a year prior though in 2002 a new video game studio known as Infinity Ward was founded. The team, led by Vince Zampella and Jason West, had left 2015, Inc. after working on Medal of Honor: Allied Assault to create their own franchise with Activision.
On October 29th of 2003 Call of Duty was released to the world on PC and was met with stellar reviews. Reviews praised the game to be as good or better than similar World War 2 shooters of the time. With this, the Call of Duty Franchise was launched and it hasn't looked back since. Over the last 15 years, Activision has published 14 main series Call of Duty games and 10 other titles for mobile devices and other consoles to varying amounts of success. Today I'm going to be ranking my favorite Call of Duty games from worst to best and describing why I ranked them where I did.
#14 - Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (Infinity Ward, 2016)
Listing Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare at 14 isn't really fair to the game or Infinity Ward but it has to go somewhere. Of all 14 Call of Duty releases, this is the only one I do not own because I just refuse to buy it. The previous two games in the franchise had a futuristic setting and by this point, I was bored with futuristic Call of Duty games. I also dislike how they bundled it with Modern Warfare Remastered to try and sell more copies.
At this moment in time, I was ready for Call of Duty to return to World War 2 or a modern setting. This wasn't what was delivered so I never bothered picking it up and instead just waited for Modern Warfare Remastered to be released as a stand-alone. This remains as the only main release Call of Duty game that I haven't played.
#13 - Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 (Treyarch, 2015)
When I first bought Black Ops 3 on sale in early 2016 I was really disappointed. The campaign was very confusing, I had some terrible experiences in multiplayer, and I just didn't care or have anyone to play Zombies with. For several months this game felt like a waste of $30 until I decided to redownload it late 2017 and give it another shot.
After coming back and finishing the campaign it finally made sense and reminded me of how Treyarch can tell a great story. The story in the Black Ops Trilogy is just as excellent and satisfying as the Modern Warfare trilogy. Like previous Black Ops titles, Black Ops 3 does a great job at throwing you a curve ball and making you question everything that has happened up to that point. Everything seems pretty straightforward until about halfway when everything starts getting a bit weird and confusing. After that everything starts going downhill and you have to start questioning if everything that has happened was real. You really have to play it all the way through to truly understand everything that occurred and only then can you understand the context.
I wish I could say the same about the Multiplayer though, the addition of jump jets, operators with special abilities, and the other futuristic additions just didn't sit well with me. When I first bought the game the lag was absolutely horrible, most enemies that I would meet head-on would turn into a slideshow that ended with me watching a kill cam. Thankfully this was not a problem for me in 2017 but by that point, I was so far behind that I didn't stand a chance. I'm used to more modern settings and Black Ops 3 went a bit too far for me.
Sadly, the lackluster (to me) Zombies and Multiplayer modes left me with a lot to be desired. Black Ops 3 has been one of the worst Call of Duty games for me because there just wasn't anything to keep me around and playing. Plenty of people will disagree with me and would probably put Black Ops 3 near the top and I understand that. For me though, it's just not worth it.
#12 - Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (Treyarch, 2012)
Just like Black Ops 3, Black Ops 2 left me a bit disappointed with the whole package. The campaign was great with the setting moving back and forth between the past and futuristic present. However, I was left dissatisfied with the Multiplayer and Zombies modes, so much so that I went back to previous titles such as Modern Warfare 2.
The Campaign mode for Black Ops 2 was stellar as always and told a story that was started in Black Ops. The setting was constantly changing between the past, but after Black Ops, and semi-futuristic present. This constant change does a great job of telling how events in the past made an impact in the current time of the game. If you loved the campaign for the first Black Ops then Black Ops 2 is a great sequel that is worth completing.
The Multiplayer is a different story though. At this point in time, I didn't really bother purchasing the Season Pass or any of the Map Packs (actually, not much has changed) so the original maps for Zombies and Multiplayer quickly became stale. The game wasn't set too far in the future for me to not like it but it was just enough for me to not really care. I just don't think that futuristic and Call of Duty mix too well and this game was heading in that direction. My biggest achievement in Multiplayer is sadly getting gold camo for the SMAW, that's how bored of this I was. I've never been a big fan of Zombies but besides Black Ops 3 this was one of my least liked maps.
After finishing the story there just wasn't much to keep me occupied on this title until the next one arrived. With little to keep me around, I quickly moved on to other games like Modern Warfare 2 and 3 along with Battlefield 3.
#11 - Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (Sledgehammer, 2014)
This was one of the first games I purchased when I got my Xbox One back in 2014 and for the most part, I enjoyed it. The campaign was good but not great and the multiplayer was fine but there's just not much that makes this one stand out.
Even though it was futuristic I still enjoyed playing the Multiplayer as the guns felt great and didn't look too futuristic and the exo-suit was kinda enjoyable. I also really loved being able to customize my character's outfit and armor and the unique weapon variants were a cool idea.
Compared to other titles though, Advanced Warfare just falls flat. The campaign is surpassed by titles like Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops while the Multiplayer was surpassed by World at War and Modern Warfare. Even the addition of Zombies in the first map pack couldn't save it. By that time I was no longer interested in playing it regularly.
This was Sledgehammer's first Call of Duty game they created and it's just an alright Call of Duty game, not bad but not good.
#10 - Call of Duty: Ghosts (Infinity Ward, 2013)
To most Call of Duty fans, listing Ghosts above Black Ops 2 or 3 is just pure blasphemy. This was the 2nd Call of Duty game released by Infinity Ward after Vince Zampella and Jason West left to form Respawn and you can tell that the quality has gone down since then. The Campaign mode is probably the weakest of all 14 games and I never really felt attached to the characters or invested in what they're doing. It was completely forgettable and there isn't much reason to play or talk about it.
With that said though what kept me coming back and playing Ghosts longer than Black Ops 2 or 3 was the Multiplayer and Extinction modes. These weren't great but when compared to the lack of excitement I got out of Black Ops 2, Ghosts was a pleasant experience. The guns were alright, the maps were decent, and everything just felt okay. Not great, not bad, but just good enough to keep me playing for a few months.
The main attraction for me was the 4-player Co-Op Extinction mode that had you fighting waves of Alien Invaders. I was never a huge fan of how Zombies just keeps going on and getting harder to kill each round. I usually get bored pretty quickly but I always enjoyed coming back for more Extinction. It could be pretty difficult at times but it always felt satisfying to me to finally complete a level.
Ghosts was alright but the level of quality from Infinity Ward had fallen since 2010 and was really noticed here. Just a few months after Ghosts we saw the release of Titanfall from Respawn Entertainment. It was lacking in a few areas but the quality of the game surpassed what Ghosts brought to the table.
#9 - Call of Duty 3 (Treyarch, 2006)
Call of Duty 3 was Treyarch's first main Call of Duty title after working on the Call of Duty 2 spin-off, the Big Red One, and the only game not released on PC. I played Call of Duty 3 too late to try the Multiplayer but the story was enough to keep me satisfied with the game. It continued with the multiple stories in one that would start being phased out around Black Ops and stopped entirely after Black Ops 2.
In Call of Duty 3 you played through several different campaigns as an infantryman in the US Army, a British SAS member, an infantryman in the Canadian Army, and a tanker in the Polish Army. The gameplay was a bit quirky at times but overall I loved the campaign and the different settings. I especially loved playing through the Polish missions and taking control of a Sherman Firefly tank taking on German Armor. Their final mission at the defense of Hill 262 is still of one of the best missions in Call of Duty and is satisfying all the way through. I've played this game multiple times and it still doesn't disappoint me to this day.
By the time I started playing Call of Duty 3 years after its release the multiplayer was already dead. From looking at what was included though it seemed to be an interesting addition that I'm sad to have missed.
It received decent reviews but it is kind of forgotten now when looking back and thinking about good Call of Duty games. Treyarch's storytelling was on point for Call of Duty 3 and would only improve as time went on.
#8 - Call of Duty: World War 2 (Sledgehammer, 2017)
If I wasn't playing World War 2 so much right now it would probably be listed lower because there are plenty of faults in this game. The Campaign was uninspiring and several choices just left me thinking wondering why? They promised a realistic World War 2 story and this left me pretty excited but after finishing the campaign I was thoroughly disappointed.
The characters were alright but again I just wasn't invested in them or their struggles and the game tried a bit too hard to make me care. The only redeeming quality for me was the Squad system where I could request Ammo, Healthpacks, and other items from my squad mates. I loved how this was implemented but I just wish the story surrounding it was better.
As for Multiplayer, it is definitely boots on the ground like older Call of Duty games but everything else is different. If you aren't using an SMG while camping somewhere then you've lost and might as well give up. The Headquarters Social Hub is an alright feature but the game could have done without it but the best part of the Multiplayer is here, the 1v1 pit. It's simple and yet super entertaining when you have several people competing with you. I've spent almost an hour or more at a time doing 1v1s instead of playing the actual multiplayer.
Lastly, we have the Zombies mode which has changed a lot from the last Zombies I played in Advanced Warfare and Black Ops 2. After playing it for a while though I enjoy playing it and don't mind playing a single game for an hour or more. Previously I would have hated playing a Zombies mode for this long and would have given up long ago, but not here. With goals clearly labeled on what to do, I can better stay focused on doing something rather than just mindlessly murdering zombies. Some people may not like it but this is the best Zombies mode I have played. I'm just sad that I'll have to wait for map packs to come out to get more maps.
The Campaign and Multiplayer modes of World War 2 are really nothing special but so far the Zombies is great. With that said though this is definitely a game to wait and buy on sale and even the most people probably won't like it.
#7 - Call of Duty 2 (Infinity Ward, 2005)
For the most part, I've played the Call of Duty games out of order. This means that I actually didn't get around to playing Call of Duty 2 until about 2016 when I bought the Call of Duty Warchest. With that said though, Call of Duty 2 continues right where Call of Duty left off with a multi-setting narrative that puts you in the boots of a soldier in World War 2. For someone that loved the first Call of Duty this game was a dream.
While I haven't finished the Campaign yet (I've been a bit distracted) what I have finished is amazing and is one of the best Campaigns in a Call of Duty to date. You're not the hero to save the day, you're just another average Joe fighting to end the war and stop the Nazis. It's part of what made the early games so great, by making the narrative a more team-oriented affair and less of a single super-soldier sort of thing like new titles. The game doesn't make you the hero of the war that ended it by yourself and that's perfectly fine.
What ranks Call of Duty 2 so low on my list though is that by the time I did get around to playing it there is hardly any multiplayer servers up. As such, I haven't actually played a single round of multiplayer to date. If it was anything like Call of Duty though then I'm sure it was great.
#6 - Call of Duty: Black Ops (Treyarch, 2010)
Black Ops marks the time when I started playing a lot of Call of Duty multiplayer on Xbox 360. Before this, I never had a Gold Membership and only played the Modern Warfare 2 Campaign by myself or the Spec Ops and Local Multiplayer with my brother. We had a ton of fun playing with and against each other but I was really yearning to play online with other people.
After World at War, Treyarch was known for writing and creating high-quality Call of Duty games and Black Ops was no exception. After playing through and learning what was actually going on with Reznov had me pondering what had actually happened throughout the game for a few days and then prompted my second playthrough. From beginning to end the Campaign is one of the must-play stories of the entire Call of Duty franchise. While I initially thought that it would be more focused on the Vietnam War, it is still amazing. The Cold War setting for all the black ops style missions was something we just don't see a lot of in video games.
This greatness continued over to the Multiplayer and Zombies modes as well. Multiplayer took what worked from Modern Warfare 2 and World at War and fixed what didn't. There were tons of killstreaks and weapon customization to make your weapons your own. Along with this, they added the ability to create your own unique emblem instead of more generic emblems like those in Modern Warfare 2. You could make each weapon and emblem a one-of-a-kind that fit your style. Treyarch did a lot of things to innovate Call of Duty and several of those are still present today.
The Zombies maps were also pretty good, including the map packs, and they even added the original Zombies maps from World at War. Black Ops probably has the best Zombies experience you can get from a Call of Duty game. There's just so much that makes this game great but just not as great as my top 5.
#5 - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (Infinity Ward, 2011)
Modern Warfare 3 was the first Call of Duty game that Infinity Ward released after Vince Zampella and Jason West left. It wasn't as great as Modern Warfare 1 and 2 but it was much better than their future titles.
The Campaign picks off right where Modern Warfare 2 left off and continues the fight between NATO forces and Russia that was started by Makarov. It literally starts off with your squad of Delta Force operators halting the Russian advance into the USA and follows it with pushing them out of Europe. On the other side of things, we see Captain Price and Soap following different leads trying to find and stop Makarov to end the new war. The story is a perfect ending to what we've been playing through since 2007.
Just like Modern Warfare 2, it featured a Spec Ops mode that let you and another friend take on numerous challenges such as clearing a Russian submarine or capturing the Russian President all Mile High Club style. Along with this it also added a Survival mode that let you try to survive multiple waves of enemies across all the Multiplayer maps. These were tons of fun to challenge yourself to try and get better and better.
On the Multiplayer side of things, you have more of the same from Modern Warfare 2 with some new additions. There were plenty of new and changed weapons, killstreaks, game modes, and customization items. Modern Warfare 3 was and still is a good game to play for Multiplayer. If you've played and enjoyed the other Modern Warfare games then there is no reason not to play Modern Warfare 3.
#4 - Call of Duty: World at War (Treyarch, 2008)
World at War came at a bad time, Modern Warfare took the world by storm the year before and changed the game for multiplayer shooters. By this time, the World War 2 shooters of years past had gone stale and people were ready for new settings. With the success of Modern Warfare, plenty of people weren't ready to come back to World War 2 for World at War but once they did it was worth it.
The Campaign followed two different stories, one as a US Marine in the Pacific Theatre and the other on the Eastern Front as a Russian soldier. Great writing and casting made this one of the best stories of the World War 2 Call of Duty games. I grew attached to soldiers and became heartbroken when some inevitably kicked the bucket. It was gritty and did a tremendous job of showing the hell that soldiers and both fronts endured during the war.
This was followed by a Multiplayer mode similar to Modern Warfare, with customizable classes, weapon attachments, and three killstreaks. World at War took the Modern Warfare Multiplayer and took it back in time and made it work well. The game had plenty of great and memorable maps along with a few new additions that made the game unique such as Attack Dogs instead of an Attack Helicopter and tanks on certain maps.
World at War also saw the addition of Zombies mode for the first time and this is what blew everyone's mind upon release. It was hidden until you finished the campaign but it was the reason World at War did so well and has since become a staple of Call of Duty games. While the base map was very basic, Treyarch added more depth in the map packs for by adding Perks, Pack-a-Punched Weapons, and a set of four memorable characters with different personalities.
This was Treyarch proving that they could make a good Call of Duty game and they haven't looked back since. Zombies are now included in just about all new Call of Duty games and Treyarch has made some of the best stories in the franchise.
#3 - Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (Infinity Ward, 2007)
Call of Duty 4 was the turning point for the Call of Duty Franchise, from World War 2 FPS to a triple-a FPS game that set industry standards for first-person shooters. Modern Warfare brought Call of Duty out of the 2nd World War and into the Modern Age, bringing a change in first-person shooters that people had been waiting for.
The Campaign is some of the best storytelling that Infinity Ward has done and laid the foundation for the Modern Warfare trilogy. It brought us on a journey through a modern conflict in the Middle East with US Marines and a special forces journey with the British SAS across eastern Europe to stop a third World War. It is a great experience worth playing a few times but it isn't even the best part of the game.
Infinity Ward set the standard for future multiplayer shooters with Call of Duty 4. The game featured numerous new additions such as the inclusion of custom classes, killstreaks, and weapon camos. For the first time in a Call of Duty game, players could make their own classes to have whatever gun they wanted and with a choice of perks, grenades, and secondaries. This allowed players to create their class the way they wanted to play instead of only picking from a couple weapons for each team. The multiplayer seems a bit basic looking back but at the time it was groundbreaking and is what made the game so amazing.
Call of Duty 4 was the 2nd game in the franchise that I played on PC and I loved every minute of it. This game was amazing and a definite game changer in 2007.
#2 - Call of Duty (Infinity Ward, 2003)
This is the game that started it all 15 years ago. Call of Duty was an immediate hit with all game reviews and players at the time. Compared to other games in the franchise it is very basic but it's the game that started it all for me. I played hours upon hours of this game around 2006 when I first got it. The Campaign was great and the Multiplayer was alive and well when I started playing.
The Campaign was in similar style to other World War 2 games of the time. You weren't the hero that's going to end the war by yourself but instead you were a cog in the machine working to stop the Nazis and end the war. The American and Russian Campaigns had you participating in conventional warfare against the Germans while the British Campaign saw you joining the SAS on special missions behind enemy lines. The storytelling and gameplay of the campaign were amazing and is still worth playing to this day.
The Multiplayer was also very basic nowadays but it did the job back then and I enjoyed it. You chose what weapon you wanted based on your team and then went to town. As the first major first-person shooter I played online this game left me with many great memories. It just saddens me to know that there are no longer any servers running for it for anyone else to enjoy. This is a game that changed who I was at the time.
#1 - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
We're finally here, my number 1 Call of Duty game of all time. Modern Warfare 2 is a game that I still play now and again to this very day. This was the first game I got for my Xbox 360 in 2009 and I played as much of it as I could. I was still mainly a PC gamer at the time and as such I didn't have Xbox Live. I still played a ton of Modern Warfare 2 by myself and with my brother whenever we had the chance. Getting Xbox Live though only improved my experience with Modern Warfare 2.
The Campaign picked up where Modern Warfare left off and turned everything up to 11. The Conflict with Russia had rapidly heated up and resulted in the invasion of the US. Elsewhere in the world, a special forces group known as Task Force 141, led by "Soap" MacTavish was working on finding the man behind everything, Makarov. The campaign was a rollercoaster and is amazing the entire way through. The Spec Ops mode is where my brother and I spent most of our time. We were always trying to get better scores and times, and just generally having fun. There are plenty of missions to play through that only get harder the farther you go.
My favorite part of Modern Warfare 2 was multiplayer when I finally got Xbox Live. I spent a great deal of time playing Modern Warfare 2, from standard TDM with friends to running alone in Bare Bones to mess with people boosting. The expanded class customization, player customization, and numerous new killstreaks were a great addition to the formula that Call of Duty 4 brought to the table.
I can't remember a single bad moment playing Modern Warfare 2 and for that, it is my favorite Call of Duty game, of all time.