In honor of Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War’s release, it’s time to look back on the five best Call of Duty games that came before it.
Call of Duty is a juggernaut – no pun intended. Just look at the numerous sales records it breaks every year. Even with its controversies, Call of Duty still hooks players with an exceptional multiplayer experience and decent campaign mode.
It’s common to see a Call of Duty title make more than $1 billion during its lifecycle. As a whole, the series has sold more than 300 million copies, with Guinness World Records verifying it as the most successful first-person shooter series of all time.
Considering Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War is just around the corner and is looking like another hit, it’s time to look back and rank the previous games. And so, here are the five best Call of Duty games.
5. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019)
The newest installment, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (MW 2019), is a soft reboot of the Modern Warfare series, and the campaign certainly seems to lean into it.
The campaign is the most engaging in years. Instead of playing as the typical “good guys,” MW 2019 does a great job of blurring the lines of who is “good” and “bad.” It shows war isn’t just black or white; every side is a shade of gray.
Meanwhile, multiplayer is the bread-and-butter. The same frenetic action remains, and with the inclusion of Warzone, MW 2019 has a mode that can last multiple console generations.
MW 2019 broke numerous sales records as well, topping more than $600 million in three days. It’s also one of the best-selling Call of Duty games with over 30 million copies sold and is the most-played Call of Duty multiplayer in the most recent console generation.
MW 2019 is a solid reboot and is the fifth-best game in the series.
4. Call of Duty: World at War (2008)
Following up 2007’s Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is no easy task. That’s why when Treyarch announced Call of Duty: World at War (WaW), the World War II setting was seen as a step back. However, what differentiated WaW was its realistic depiction of how hellish war truly is.
The campaign is filled with utter destruction that will leave players aghast at the brutality; the multiplayer, while fun, carries over the same violent nature; and “Nazi Zombies” is the embodiment of bonechilling. Originally not meant to be included, “Nazi Zombies” took a life of its own and is one of the highlights of any Treyarch Call of Duty game.
Altogether, Treyarch’s dedication to making a brutally realistic World War II shooter showed in WaW; it was well-received by the general public and was praised by reviewers.
Call of Duty: World at War is perhaps one of the best examples of a World War II first-person shooter. That’s why it’s fourth-best.
3. Call of Duty: Black Ops (2010)
Treyarch’s third installment in the series, Call of Duty: Black Ops (BO) gave players the experience of playing through one of the most turbulent times in modern history: the Cold War.
While reviewers enjoyed the game, players weren’t as high on BO, garnering an average score of 6.6 on Metacritic. Nonetheless, BO sold exceptionally well: within 24 hours, 5.6 million copies were sold and after six weeks, it had exceeded $1 billion in sales. BO’s three game modes undoubtedly helped sales.
BO had a campaign mode focusing on the covert operations of the 1960s; an enhanced multiplayer that allowed players to buy weapons and attachments; and a Zombies mode filled with intrigue and easter eggs.
That said, BO is a fun game all around and is the third-best game on the list.
(A quick note: BO and WaW has great Zombies music. Take a listen.)
2. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009)
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare’s sequel, Modern Warfare 2 (MW2) upped the ante. From the campaign mode – featuring a war-torn United States amid a global conflict – to the upgraded multiplayer mode featuring new camos, killstreaks and weapons, MW2 was an improvement in every way, including sales.
MW2 sold 4.7 million copies in the United States and United Kingdom combined in the first 24 hours, totalling more than 25 million copies. More impressive is the fact that MW2 was released in the midst of The Great Recession.
It’s important to note that MW2 helped a generation cope with the recession through video games. Be it getting a nuke in the fastest time or “1v1-ing” someone on Rust, MW2 provided stability in an unstable time.
Though MW2 was important to a generation of gamers, it’s not as important to the series as the next game, which is why it’s only second-best.
1. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007)
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (CoD 4) may not have sold the most or made the most money, but it was instrumental in turning the series into a juggernaut. First released in 2007, awestruck critics and fans couldn’t stop raving about CoD 4.
The photorealistic graphics made characters and environments look lifelike and the campaign was engaging as it was shocking (“Shock and Awe,” anyone?) Infinity Ward took a chance by shifting the series from World War II to modern combat and it worked: fans enjoyed CoD 4 and helped it overtake Halo 3 as the most popular game on Xbox Live.
The reason for CoD 4’s success? The reworked multiplayer.
Instead of playing for little-to-no progression, players could level up, customize their loadouts with perks and camouflage for their weapons, and killstreaks added a new dimension. CoD 4’s multiplayer was the basis for all future Call of Duty multiplayer modes and it’s indescribable how much of a game-changer it was.
In all, CoD 4 was a monumental shift for the series and for first-person shooters as a whole. Without it, it’s very likely that Call of Duty wouldn’t be what it is today. That’s why Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is the greatest Call of Duty game of all time.
Overall, the Call of Duty series has had its fair share of ups and downs. However the aforementioned five are no doubt the high points in the series and that is why they are the best Call of Duty games.