Every Call of Duty game ranked from worst to best

Nobody does warfare like Call of Duty, as evidenced by the series' staggering sales figures and universal critical acclaim. Over the years, we've seen the long-running series run the gauntlet from World War II to battling for the solar system, with virtually everything in between. However, as diehard fans will tell you, not all CoDs are created equal, and some are simply better than others. So which is the cream of the crop, and which aren't exactly the straightest of shooters? Let's wade through the trenches—both modern and futuristic—to find out.

(Note that this ranking only includes the series' console and PC entries. Handheld titles like Call of Duty: Roads to Victory and Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified are not considered.)

Call of Duty: World at War – Final Fronts

While developers Treyarch were hard at work creating a then current-gen World War II experience for the PlayStation 3, Wii, and Xbox 360, Oxford-based game creators Rebellion Developments Limited were tasked with providing the incredibly successful (but already outdated) PlayStation 2 with its own rendition. The result is Call of Duty: World at War—Final Fronts, and it's the worst Call of Duty to date.

Both enemy and friendly AI are atrociously stupid, and the way they look on the outside isn't much better. The graphics were bad by late-PS2 standards, and certainly seem even uglier now. The campaign is (usually) painfully easy, except when your own CPU-controlled squad-mates push you out from cover and directly into the line of fire. Even worse, a distinct lack of anything original or new left us all wishing our moms would take out a second loan for a PlayStation 3. On top of all that, a complete lack of online multiplayer cemented Final Fronts' hold as the worst mainline console Call of Duty to date.

Call of Duty: Finest Hour

As the franchise's console debut, Call of Duty: Finest Hour is far from what its name implies.

Instead of focusing on one character, Spark Unlimited's entry into the series has players bouncing between three forgettable soldiers from three different WWII armies (Russian, British and American) in a bland, simplified version of what PC gamers had running on their machines. A distinct lack of checkpoints often put a damper on the fun, especially when dealing with some absurdly long escort missions. In every way, shape, and form, Finest Hour would've been finer had it followed in its big brother's—the original Call of Duty's—footsteps.

It wasn't a total failure, of course, as the first CoD on consoles put us in control of some tanks, and plopped us in a particularly interesting North African campaign. However, with no shortage of first-person shooters available on the PlayStation 2, GameCube, and Xbox, Finest Hour is—truth be told—barely worth mentioning.

Call of Duty: Ghosts

With the launch of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, 2013 saw Call of Duty: Ghosts bridge the gap between console generations. Unfortunately, the bridge it built wasn't one for the record books.

The fact that Ghosts is still objectively a very, very good game is a testament to just how strong the franchise really is. Nevertheless, everything about the cross-generational title is just so "meh"—the single-player campaign is as action-packed as ever, but lacks both the star power of future titles and memorable moments of past installments. The story's "big reveal" is downright laughable, and it only goes downhill from there. Online, the implementation of field orders was more distracting than anything, serving only to encourage individually-minded play.

All in all, Call of Duty's first installment on 2013's oven-fresh next-gen hardware came out a little too undercooked.

Call of Duty: Black Ops II

It's safe to say that the Black Ops sub-series isn't exactly everyone's favorite Call of Duty storyline, and Call of Duty: Black Ops II is the worst of the bunch.

Treyarch took their sequel to Call of Duty: Black Ops where no entry in the franchise had gone before—into the future! Sadly, nothing about the gameplay was particularly advanced. The campaign is as typical as ever, with a heavy dose of the nonsensical, as you travel around the world shooting swarms of both bad guys and bad robots in what amounts to, at times, a glitchy, buggy mess. That said, Black Ops II does deserve credit for pioneering player choice in the series, while featuring branching storylines and multiple endings.

Regardless, it's the series' patented online multiplayer which ultimately made Black Ops II worth it. Changing killstreaks to scorestreaks rewarded team-oriented play, a solid starting kit kept newbies from feeling overwhelmed, and the majority of the maps were brilliantly designed—which all helped justify the game's record-setting success on the market.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

Going down as perhaps the most hated entry to date, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare was maligned as soon as it was revealed—perhaps unfairly so.

2016 was an absolutely epic year for shooters, as it saw the releases of Doom, Titanfall 2, Gears of War 4, Battlefield 1, and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. Amidst such a sea of quality competitors, Infinite Warfare failed to stand out from the crowd—and ultimately loosened the franchise's vice grip on the genre. A blockbuster campaign of solar proportions fell victim to some pacing issues, and even Game of Thrones' Kit Harington failed to make a lasting impression. Worse yet, the multiplayer might have even been a downgrade from the previous year's Call of Duty: Black Ops III, though throwing zombies in space was just outrageous enough to work.

Many fans of the series stomached Call of Duty's futuristic push with the phrase: "As long as they don't make Space CoD…" Well, Infinity Ward did make Space CoD—and it didn't go well.

Call of Duty 2: Big Red One

Call of Duty 2: Big Red One officially marked the start of the series' console dominance, though there was still plenty of room to grow.

By focusing on telling the story of America's "Fighting First" Infantry Division, a.k.a. the Big Red One, Treyarch's supplement to Call of Duty 2 provided—for the first time—the action-packed, playable war movie the series is now known for. Gameplay mechanics were tight, the action was heavy, and the missions were visually stunning…though the story itself wasn't particularly award-worthy.

Big Red One also allowed for 16-player multiplayer matches on Xbox and PlayStation 2. The modes, however, were anything but revolutionary, with your standard Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and Domination rulesets playable across a variety of maps. While PC gamers might have scoffed at the offering, online multiplayer wasn't yet on mainstream console gamers' radars—so its inclusion was commendable nonetheless.

Call of Duty: Black Ops III

Call of Duty: Black Ops III falls victim to the same thing that dogs most "subpar" (but still great) entries in this list—a lack of ingenuity.

Online, things were quite promising. The implementation of a Specialists system changed online multiplayer for the better, allowing players the ability to explore a wide range of characters with unique advantages and disadvantages. However, the fun stopped there, as everything else about Black Ops III's multiplayer felt familiar—which isn't necessarily a bad thing, since (arguably) nobody does competitive online first-person-shooters like the Call of Duty franchise.

Black Ops III's new film-noir take on their now-patented zombie mode was as fresh and unique as it was challenging, and Treyarch's new Nightmare mode put their cookie-cutter campaign to shame. In fact, the single-player campaign is one of the worst they've ever made, forcing you to slog through level after level of whack-a-mole shooting galleries and on-rail action sequences—ultimately weighing this game down to the realm of mediocrity. (Only in comparison to other CoDs, of course.)

Call of Duty: Black Ops

Call of Duty: Black Ops was met with mixed reviews—and for good reason, since the game is easily the most middle-of-the-road entry in the series' history.

Optimists praised the game's single-player campaign for providing plenty of variety and a memorable atmosphere, while naysayers found Treyarch's attempt at making a psychological thriller ham-fisted and clumsy. The truth is ultimately somewhere in between, as the campaign undoubtedly provided the series with a nice change of pace, while still tripping over itself more times than we would have liked.

Where Black Ops really shined, however, was online. Treyarch built upon the series' already well-established and dominant online multiplayer by implementing both a currency and contract system, neither of which intruded upon one's enjoyment of the game. Wager matches upped the ante for those who were interested, Combat Training made multiplayer enjoyable for anyone, and the return of a zombies mode—while not as remarkable as World at War's—rounded out the very solid package.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

Call of Duty's first proper entry on current-gen consoles was a treat, indeed—but still had a few chinks in its exo-suit.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare featured an excellent campaign, packed with near-futuristic weaponry and powerful exo-suits, and featuring House of Cards' Kevin Spacey as the primary antagonist, with voice acting titan Troy Baker as the primary protagonist. The introductory missions were among the best in the series' history, with a modernized South Korea providing a beautiful backdrop to shoot down clouds of drones. However, the story itself ultimately fell flat and definitely didn't warrant a second playthrough.

Advanced Warfare's multiplayer was also quite excellent, providing ample opportunity to test out the game's fancy new hardware and move sets. Lacking in content it was not, with Call of Duty: Black Ops' Hardpoint making a triumphant return, and Uplink serving as another form of capture the flag for those not interested in literally capturing a flag. Co-op survival was also good fun, assuming you had a friend to help you flip the map.

Call of Duty

It all has to start somewhere.

In Call of Duty's case, it started in 2003, with a PC-only WWII shooter largely modeled after the now-slumbering Medal of Honor series. Amidst a sea of WWII games flooding the first-person-shooting space, the series' debut stood out as one of the most authentic, action-packed, and fun to play. Instead of providing something truly innovative, Infinity Ward took the best parts of every other WWII game they could get their hands on—such as Medal of Honor: Allied Assault and Battlefield 1942—melded them all together, and fired out a warning shot.

In the online space, the implementation of a kill cam was truly a game changer, but ingenuity stopped there. Instead of rewriting the book, Call of Duty simply relied on tight mechanics, a solid single-player offering, and top-notch graphics.

Call of Duty 3

As the only major Call of Duty entry to not make an appearance on PC, Call of Duty 3 gave console gamers something to brag about.

Treyarch took the already great gameplay mechanics of Call of Duty 2 and made them even better for seventh-generation consoles. Call of Duty 3 first gave players the ability to throw enemy grenades back, while also selectively adding in some timed-button sequences to spice things up. The campaign itself was stunningly gorgeous for its time. Combined with a beautiful score, Call of Duty 3's presentation made for the most cinematic playable war experience we'd ever seen.

Call of Duty 3 also started to properly build the foundations for its killer online multiplayer, allowing 24 players to compete in your standard selection of game modes on Xbox Live. There was no experience-tracking system, but Xbox's online service certainly benefited from Treyarch's call to arms.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Coming in as the worst of the franchise's exceptional Modern Warfare series is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3…which is still miles better than even the best Black Ops title.

Modern Warfare 3's single-player is its biggest triumph as well as its greatest flaw. For the first time, Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer got the scripting right, correctly balancing the story—which underlies actually getting from point A to point B—with non-stop, shoot-'em-all action. Each mission, when taken alone, is exciting and interesting. However, when taken together, Modern Warfare 3's campaign has the least amount of variety, making it feel like a mindless slog through an on-rails shooting gallery without any unique gameplay elements in place to change up the pace.

By this point, however, Call of Duty's online component had become its claim to fame, and Modern Warfare 3 delivered in a big way. You'd be hard-pressed to find a single level which isn't objectively brilliant, and balancing tweaks made the game more legitimately fair than ever. The game's progression system is near-perfect, meaning the only thing stopping you from playing more of MW3's online multiplayer is…well…you.

Call of Duty 2

It's easy to forget that there once was a time when high-profile, cinematic war experiences weren't available to play on your home console every single year. Call of Duty 2 was one of the first games to truly realize this vision.

Never before had a video game so accurately provided the feeling of being an anonymous soldier in the Second World War. Death chases you from every direction as high-quality sounds of explosions, gunfire, and screams belt out from your sound system. The jump to 720p or 1080p resolutions made the brutality more real than ever, as every detail seemed finely crafted—and every enemy seemed ready to capitalize on your failure to act. The sense of helpless terror amid all the chaos added such sensory overload that one could be forgiven for taking it in small doses.

With solid online and split-screen multiplayer laying the groundwork for the future while adding the icing to an already magnificent cake, Call of Duty 2 remains one of the finest World War II games ever created.

Call of Duty: WWII

It's been nearly a decade since the Call of Duty series last returned to its roots, and 2017's Call of Duty: WWII does so in spectacular fashion—offering great renditions of the series' flagship campaign, multiplayer, and zombies modes.

The campaign is heart-poundingly intense and feels more grounded than many of its competitors—expect to die multiple times while storming the beach at Normandy. Lending further realism to the campaign is the removal of regenerating health, forcing you to use medpacks in order to heal your battle wounds in addition to a relying heavily on squadmates for assistance.

Those unhappy with the increasingly fast-paced, arena shooter-like multiplayer mechanics of recent Call of Duty entries will love WWII, which slows things down in a major way. No more wall-jumping. No more futuristic weapons. All that's left is a classic, grounded multiplayer shooter with extremely well-designed maps—with the welcome additions of an objective-based War mode and Destiny-like pre-match social hub.

Rounding out the superb package is a revamped Nazi zombies mode, which favors the original's horror over recent renditions' campiness. The Nazi experiments are more grotesque than ever, and with multiple ways to progress through the campaign, there's something for zombie fans everywhere.

When all three modes are combined, Call of Duty: WWII is one exceptional package.

Call of Duty: World at War

As the last Call of Duty title to feature a World War II setting (until 2017's Call of Duty: WWII), Call of Duty: World at War remains a stalwart defender of everything great about the series, while also one of the few games to truly push the envelope.

First and foremost, World at War smartly used the exact same game engine as Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, making for silky smooth gameplay and impossibly tight mechanics. Secondly, the game's brutality is unmatched by any other entry in the long-running series, truly reminding players just how much they really wouldn't want to be there. WaW is also, by far, the goriest entry to date, and Call of Duty has since toned back the often visceral reminders of what trench guns really do to a human body. And then—of course—there's the flamethrower, which expertly caused the environment to sizzle and burn as you unleashed hell upon the Japanese army.

While not everyone was a fan of World at War's multiplayer, the title also lays claim to creating what is now a franchise staple: zombies. To this date, little can match the excitement and terror of holding down a boarded-up building in some late-night, lights-off couch co-op while wave after wave of Nazi zombies descend upon you from all directions, until you're all inevitably eaten alive.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

By now, you've undoubtedly figured out which Call of Duty holds down the top spot as the greatest entry in the series to date. But nonetheless, with such massive shoes to fill, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 managed to meet—if not exceed—everyone's expectations.

Modern Warfare 2's campaign maintained the excellent standard of quality fans had come to expect from the series with action-packed set pieces and enough drama to keep you on your toes—including a controversial terrorist attack on an airport, in which you and your crew lay waste to hundreds of innocent civilians. However, the campaign was just a bit too short, and the story itself wasn't nearly as cohesive as its predecessor.

Where Modern Warfare 2 manages to actually surpass its older brother is in its online multiplayer. Revamping the loadout system allowed for more customizable gun combinations, while the restructured perk system allowed for them to be upgraded through use, granting secondary abilities. Of course, customizable kill streak rewards permanently changed the game for the better, helping make Modern Warfare 2's online multiplayer not only the best in the series, but one of the best competitive multiplayer experiences ever made.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Was there ever any doubt?

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is not only the greatest game in the series, it's one of the greatest games ever made. The single-player campaign is absolutely packed with memorable moments, from the heart-stopping nuke twist to the ghillie suit climax, ensuring even the most uninterested player can't help but love it. Still, it isn't without its flaws. The single-player campaign is short and it doesn't make a lot of sense, but that doesn't really detract from the overall experience.

While previous entries laid the groundwork for solid online multiplayer, Modern Warfare built an indestructible palace. Sure, Modern Warfare 2 did it better, but one can't discount the fact that Modern Warfare did it first, did it foremost, and did it perfectly. With lightning-fast respawn times, pixel-perfect mechanics, and the assurance that even the best player could get picked off, the non-stop action never ceased to impress. Indeed, it was near impossible to put down, and truly made Call of Duty's online multiplayer the staple it is today.

Modern Warfare is so revered by fans, Activision even remastered it in 2016—proving that the great CoD is just as good today as it was in 2007.